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Madera with a View

Friday, 13. June 2014 5:25

Hamachi crudo with strawberries at Madera in Menlo Park.

Hamachi crudo with strawberries at Madera in Menlo Park.


Majestic is the word all right for Madera restaurant in the Rosewood Sand Hill resort in Menlo Park.

It’s got to be one of the most breathtaking dining rooms in the Bay Area, what with its floor-to-ceiling windows and wide terrace with a panoramic view of the Santa Cruz mountains. It’s easy to forget you’re in the thick of the hustle-bustle of Silicon Valley and not on vacation instead.

Over the past five years, with its proximity to all the venture capitalists on Sand Hill Road, it’s turned into a hot spot for business wheeling and dealing, as evidenced in my recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle. Even if it’s well known among the VC and CEO set, it’s still rather under the radar for the rank-and-file tech employees, says Chef Peter Rudolph, who is always surprised when he does corporate events at how few people have even heard of Madera.

That’s a shame because it’s such a lovely oasis. And we sure need more of those, don’t we?

Madera boasts a lofty feel with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Madera boasts a lofty feel with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Chilled wine awaits.

Chilled wine awaits.

I ate at Madera when it first opened. Although I liked the food, I found many of the dishes had just too much going on.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I was invited in to dine as a guest of the restaurant. The dishes are still far from simple, but they felt more reined in than previously.

Dinner is not inexpensive — starters are $15 to $20, and mains are $33 to $41. But to put it in perspective, this is also a place where tech folks are known to celebrate by ordering premium scotch for $500 a shot (again, see my link to my Chronicle story above). There’s also an impressive 2,000 wines to choose from.

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants | Comments (3) | Author:

Of Fathers, Husbands and Vanilla Ice Cream

Wednesday, 11. June 2014 5:26

A vanilla ice cream that husbands and fathers are sure to love -- if not everyone else on the planet.

A vanilla ice cream that husbands and fathers are sure to love — if not everyone else on the planet.


My husband likes to joke that I married my father.

And it’s true — they are uncannily alike in many ways.

My Dad couldn’t get enough of cop shows on TV. Neither can my husband.

Both like to eat and run. I’d barely have time to swallow the last spoonful of dessert at a restaurant, before my Dad would be jingling his car keys and pushing his chair back to head home. My husband, as much as he hates to acknowledge it, has been known to do the same.

My Dad also liked nothing better than to end a meal by indulging in a scoop of ice cream. He’d go to the freezer, take out the tub and carefully fill a coffee cup, before digging a spoon in, contently. If there’s no ice cream in our house, my husband will feign wanting to go for a walk, just so he can stop by the neighborhood ice cream shop on the way home.

Their flavor of choice? Vanilla. Always.

Me? I usually zero in on the Chunky Monkey, the Sicilian Pistachio, the Basil, the Strawberry Balsamic. Anything but vanilla.

I never understood why, when faced with so many more unusual flavors, anyone would choose vanilla.

But now that I’m older, I get it.

You always hear how the tell of young chefs is that they’re prone to adding as many ingredients and techniques on one plate as they can. But as chefs mature, they pare back, realizing that simplicity is not only harder to execute, but also in the end if done well, more meaningful and memorable.

The same with vanilla ice cream.

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Category:General, Recipes (Sweet) | Comments (9) | Author:

Tacolicious’ New Sauces and Salsas

Monday, 9. June 2014 5:26

Tacolicious makes it easy to enjoy Mexican mole at home.

Tacolicious makes it easy to enjoy Mexican mole at home.

Four casual eateries in the Bay Area.

A cookbook debuting in September.

And a new line of sauces and salsas now selling exclusively at Williams-Sonoma.

San Francisco’s  Tacolicious is fast on its way to becoming its own mini empire. The restaurant was established by Owner Joe Hargrave in 2009, who is married to San Francisco magazine editor, Sara Deseran, who, not coincidentally, is the author of the upcoming cookbook, “Tacolicious” (Ten Speed Press).

I had a chance to try samples of the new line of salsas and cooking sauces. Proceeds from the sale of the products go to the Tacolicious School Project, which supports neighborhood public schools in San Francisco.

Break out the chips.

Break out the chips.

The cooking sauces come in three varieties: Tacolicious Mole Rojo Braising Sauce, Tacolicious Shot & A Beer Braising Sauce, and Tacolicious Guajillo Braising Sauce. Each 16-ounce jar is $12.95 and is printed with a suggested way of using it.

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Category:General, New Products, Restaurants | Comments (4) | Author:

Rah-Rah for Raspberry Almond Bars

Friday, 6. June 2014 5:26

My freezer is a repository of odds and ends, a treasure chest packed with the promise of delicious culinary endeavors to come.

Rinds from parmesan wedges saved for hearty vegetable soup pots in the days ahead.

Over-ripe bananas tucked away for spur-of-the-moment banana bread-baking.

Heels of bread for making crumbs to dredge chicken thighs in.

And for this recipe.

“Raspberry Almond Bars” appealed to me because they make use of almond flour (also found copiously tucked away in my freezer) and bread crumbs. In fact, there’s no need to measure out any all-purpose flour because the batter gets its foundation from the former two ingredients, plus a generous amount of eggs. The recipe calls for 6 extra large eggs. Since I only buy large ones, I just upped the number of those to 7 for this recipe. It also calls for superfine sugar. You can just whirl regular granulated in a food processor to make it finer. Or truth be told, I just used the regular granulated as is without a problem.

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Category:Fruit, General, Recipes (Sweet) | Comments (10) | Author:

Join the Food Gal and Chef Jose Esparza of Hult’s at Macy’s Valley Fair

Wednesday, 4. June 2014 5:26


If you haven’t yet had a chance to check out Hult’s, the farm-to-table restaurant that opened in Los Gatos late last year, here’s your chance to get a first taste.

Hult’s Chef Jose Esparza will be joining me for a cooking demo at 6 p.m. June 12 at Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara to cook up one of his specialties.

Hult’s was opened in the old Hobee’s locale in downtown Los Gatos by Alexander Hult, a former professional hockey player in Europe who was once drafted by the San Jose Sharks. He grew up in Sweden, where in between hockey seasons, he would help his mother in the restaurants of the hotel she managed. He created his own restaurant, Hult’s, with his wife, Sarah Chapman-Hult, a native of San Jose who in 2011 was crowned Miss Nevada USA.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, General, More Food Gal -- In Person | Comments (3) | Author: