Category Archives: General

Your Chance To Win A $50 Gift Card to La Pastaia in San Jose

Cassarece pasta at La Pastaia. (Photo courtesy of La Pastaia, Hotel De Anza)

Cassarece pasta at La Pastaia. (Photo courtesy of La Pastaia, Hotel De Anza)

 

Located in the historic Hotel De Anza in downtown San Jose, La Pastaia was always one of my favorite restaurants when I worked in that city.

After all, I unabashedly love my carbs. And La Pastaia’s pastas always had a way of winning me over. Executive Chef Juan Zaragoza, who has been at the restaurant for a decade, turns out Italian favorites such as spaghetti vongole ($22) and cacio e pepe ($16), and standards such as a pork chop with warm farro salad ($27) and pan-seared salmon with toasted orzo ($25).

The hotel’s Headley Club Lounge, which features live jazz, has a sophisticated yet laid-back vibe that’s perfect for enjoying a cocktail or glass of wine. I’ve had many a reunion or good-bye party there with friends and colleagues.

Salmon at La Pastaia. (Photo courtesy of La Pastaia, Hotel De Anza)

Salmon at La Pastaia. (Photo courtesy of La Pastaia, Hotel De Anza)

CONTEST: One lucky Food Gal reader will win a $50 gift card to La Pastaia.

Entries, open only to those who can actually use the gift card within a year, will be accepted through midnight PST June 18. Winner will be announced June 20.

How to win?

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Please Pass the Plum Streuselkuchen

Instead of greased parchment paper, you also can used greased foil, as I did, to bake this streuselkuchen.

Instead of greased parchment paper, you also can used greased foil, as I did, to bake this streuselkuchen.

 

Studies recommend we get at least four servings (about 1/2 cup each) of fruit a day.

I admit that once summer hits, I like to get part of that daily requirement in a fresh baked pastry.

I can’t help myself.

But you won’t, either, not when you try “Plum Streuselkuchen.”

Just what is a kuchen? It’s a coffeecake made with a yeast dough.

It’s kind of cake-like, and a little bread-like, in that the tender crumb is light, fluffy, and a smidge springier than a full-on cake.

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Join The Food Gal and Pastry Chef Dries Delanghe of Alexander’s Patisserie For A Baking Demo

MacysAlexandersPatisserie

Get ready for the sweetest demo ever when Pastry Chef Dries Delanghe of Alexander’s Patisserie in Mountain View joins me for a baking demo at Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara, 6 p.m. June 14.

The Belgium-born, acclaimed pastry chef starting baking at the young age of 14. After graduating at the top of his class with a bachelor’s degree in pastry techniques from a program in Bruges, Delanghe moved to Paris to train with the legendary Pierre Herme.

He followed that up with a stint as pastry sous chef at Joel Robuchon’s Las Vegas restaurant, before being hired as the executive pastry chef of Alexander’s Patisserie when it opened its doors in 2014.

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Good Things Come — In Boxes

A peek inside the "Silicon Valley'' Sojourn Box.

A peek inside the “Silicon Valley” Sojourn Box.

 

With graduation fetes, Father’s Day, and summer birthday celebrations to come, everyone’s got gift-giving on their minds. Recently, I had a chance to check out samples of three new artisan gift box deliveries. Here’s the lowdown:

Sojourn Box

The word, “sojourn,” refers to a “temporary stay.”

And Sojourn Box aims to do something similar — to transport you briefly to another place.

The Santa Cruz-based company packs curated artisan products in boxes, each of which has a different Northern California geographic theme, such as “Monterey,” “San Francisco,” and “Santa Cruz.”

The “Silicon Valley” one was sent to me, befittingly since I reside there. I received the “taste-size” box ($38). If you like the products, you can reorder and choose the “full-sized” box ($70) with — you guessed it — full-sized versions of each product.

With the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley life, this box was definitely made for unplugging and getting away from it all. It’s also a box designed more for a woman than a man, what with its Lavender Herbal Bath Soak salts from Sylvie James, and Lemongrass Tangerine Soy Candle. Hey, just saying.

There’s also a tiny sea urchin shell holding the teeniest air plant; Smoked Sugar from Whiskey Oak Seasonings; a Cantaloupe Mint Green Tea bag from Thao Tea; and Coconut, Cacao + Raisin Granola Bites, which taste much more healthy and austere than most granolas on the market.

Granola bites to enjoy.

Granola bites to enjoy.

Each product is sourced locally. Each box also includes a little printed booklet containing fun facts about each region, including the “Top Five Places to Eat,” and “Top Five Places To Shop.” There’s also a card listing the “Top 10 Songs” in the area. Who knew that Dogcatcher’s “It’s You, It’s Me,” was tops in Silicon Valley.

Good For: A favorite female in your life whom you want to pamper.

Chococurb

For the chocoholics in your life, there is Chococurb.

This Seattle company delivers a box of chocolates monthly — or as a one-time gift. A full-sized box of five to seven chocolate products is $35. A mini box of three chocolate products is $20. Choose a three-month or six-month subscription and the price per box goes down.

It’s also a full e-commerce site, so if you or your recipient is enamored of a particular chocolate, he or she can re-order it easily.

Chococurb's full-sized box.

Chococurb’s full-sized box.

Of the offerings included in my sample full-sized box, I especially enjoyed the Cabruca walnut and fig bar, with its unusual undulating shape and its candied fig pieces decorating the top.

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Itani Ramen — Where Noodling Around Is Fun And Delicious

 

A rice bowl with eggs three ways at Itani Ramen.

A rice bowl with eggs three ways at Itani Ramen.

You have to smile at place where the bathrooms are identified as: “raMEN” and “raWOMEN.”

Itani Ramen takes its food seriously, but everything else with a sense of humor.

The second restaurant by Chef Kyle Itani of Hopscotch in Oakland, Itani Ramen opened a month ago in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood.

I had a chance to try it two weeks ago when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. It happened to be a night when Itani’s good buddy, Chef Daniel Holzman of New York’s The Meatball Shop empire, happened to be helping out, serving dishes and chatting up diners. Holzman also assisted in the kitchen when Hopscotch first opened. And it’s his photographs of colorful street scenes in Japan that grace the walls of Itani Ramen.

Chef Brian Ikenoyama, Chef-Owner Kyle Itani, and visiting-Chef Daniel Holzman.

Chef Brian Ikenoyama, Chef-Owner Kyle Itani, and visiting-Chef Daniel Holzman.

The long restaurant is industrial-zen looking with unfinished wood on the back wall that gives it an almost shoji-screen-like look. Packages of Japanese instant ramen and bottles of sake decorate shelves above the bar and open kitchen.

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