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The Lexington House Makes A Splash in Downtown Los Gatos

Friday, 28. February 2014 5:26

The dramatic bar is the focal point of The Lexington House.

The dramatic bar is the focal point of The Lexington House.

With its speakeasy vibe, complete with exposed brick wall, stone arches and impressive back-lit shelves stacked high with small-batch spirits, The Lexington House would be perfectly at home in San Francisco’s eclectic and electric Mission District.

But the surprise is that it’s actually in downtown Los Gatos.

No disrespect to that South Bay city intended. It’s just that this lively spot has a hipster personality that’s rare in this region.

That’s probably due in large part to its owners, Stephen Shelton and Jimmy Marino, who took the former Domus lifestyle store back to its roots, playing up its architectural features to the hilt. You can tell Shelton and Marino harbor a sense of fun just from the descriptions on the restaurant’s Web site, which state that, “Unattended children will be given espresso and a free puppy,” and that there is no dress code for diners, ” But please have all your most private areas covered at all times. Yes, that means you.”

The Lexington House opened last September. Already, it’s packing in the crowds, as evidenced by a recent Wednesday night when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

Co-Owner Stephen Shelton carefully crafting a cocktail.

Co-Owner Stephen Shelton carefully crafting a cocktail.

The Winter Fashion cocktail (front) and Pranqster beer (back).

The Winter Fashion cocktail (front) and Pranqster beer (back).

Shelton and Marino often can be found behind the bar, crafting the restaurant’s signature cocktails, such as the Winter Fashion ($12), a blend of cognac, walnut liquor, gum syrup and bitters. The cocktail menu is arranged from lightest to heaviest options. The Winter Fashion was positioned in the last third of the menu, and it was plenty strong yet caressed the palate with its orange notes and hints of nuttiness.

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants | Comments (5) | Author:

A British Columbia Mussel Flexes Its Muscle in the Bay Area

Wednesday, 26. February 2014 5:25

A simple pasta dish made extra special with new Honey Mussels.

A simple pasta dish made extra special with new Honey Mussels.

 

There’s a new mussel in town.

And is it ever extraordinary.

You can’t find it in retail stores yet. But you can enjoy it at some of San Francisco’s most discriminating restaurants, including Rich Table, Bar Tartine, Parallel 37, Foreign Cinema, and Ragazza.

The Honey Mussel is so named because of its amber-hued shell. It doesn’t taste of honey per se, but there is a hint of natural sweetness about it. It’s also impressively sized — with its meat taking up almost the entire interior of the shell. Even after cooking, there’s little shrinkage, as I found when I had a chance to cook a sample at home in a simple pasta dish. Indeed, it’s probably the plumpest, most tender mussel I’ve had the pleasure of eating.

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Category:General, New Products, Recipes (Savory), Seafood | Comments (10) | Author:

Cococlectic Delivers the Chocolatey Goods Plus a Food Gal Giveaway

Monday, 24. February 2014 5:25

One of the Twenty-Four Blackbirds dark chocolate bars in February's Cococlectic delivery

One of the Twenty-Four Blackbirds dark chocolate bars in February’s Cococlectic delivery.

Imagine getting a package of four premium, handcrafted chocolate bars delivered to your door every month.

If that isn’t a chocoholic’s dream, what is?

San Francisco’s Cococlectic is a craft bean-to-bar club that does exactly that.

The new company was started by Doreen Leong, who grew up in Malaysia and moved to the Bay Area to pursue an MBA. She worked in the corporate world for many years, but never felt fulfilled. Then, she hit on an idea inspired by her relationship with her sister, to whom she’d regularly send gifts of chocolate. Why not start a company for chocolate lovers like her who are always eager to try a great new bar?

Leong looks for unique products made in small batches from bean to bar. They are all dark chocolate, the favorite of chocolate connoisseurs. Plus, she likes the fact that dark chocolate has been reported to have certain antioxidant properties. None of the bars selected contain nuts or fruits or additional ingredients that might detract from the purity of the chocolate, itself.

Membership levels start at $27 per month. Each monthly shipment includes four chocolate bars. Membership also allows you to purchase more of the same bars if you find you can’t live without them. Those who sign up for a six-month membership receive a 1-month free trial membership for a friend.

Recently, I had a chance to try a sample box. February’s featured chocolate maker is Twenty-Four Blackbirds, which was founded by Mike Orlando in Santa Barbara. Chocolate making started out as a side passion to his real job as a marine biologist. His bars are hand-made from only two ingredients: organic cacao beans and organic sugar.

My box contained four bars: 68% Dominican Republic, 75% Madagascar , and two of the 75% Bolivian Palos Blancos.

An example of Cococlectic's monthly chocolate box.

An example of Cococlectic’s monthly chocolate box.

The bars are quite smooth on the palate. The 68% Dominican Republic, sourced from a cocoa-farming cooperative, boasts a lot of berry fruitiness with a fair amount of acidity. The 75% Madagascar is full of cherry and blueberry flavors balanced by earthiness and a hint of tangy citrus. The 75% Bolivian Palos Blancos is extremely creamy, with almost a vanilla presence, and hardly any bitterness or acidity.

Additional Twenty-Four Blackbirds bars (1.41 ounces each) sell on the Cococlectic site for $8 each.

CONTEST: One lucky Food Gal reader will win a sample gift box of chocolate bars from Cocoeclectic ($34 value). Entries, limited to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST March 1. The winner will be announced March 3.

How to win?

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Category:Chocolate, Enticing Events, General, New Products | Comments (17) | Author:

Chicken Wings: Low, Slow, Let’s Go!

Friday, 21. February 2014 5:26

Steaming soy sauce chicken wings -- straight out of the oven after a long, gentle bake.

Steaming soy sauce chicken wings — straight out of the oven after a long, gentle bake.

 

When it comes to cooking, culinary teacher Andrew Schloss wants us to take it low and slow.

How slow?

Think meatloaf that takes up to eight honors in the oven or a Black-Bottom Banana Custard Pie that bakes for as long as six hours.

Before you scoff, though, consider that all of that is fairly unattended cooking. Slide it into the oven and go about your day. Meantime, all that extended time under gentle heat does its magic by rendering food soft, supple and suffused with flavor.

You’re essentially turning your oven into a giant slow cooker. But unlike a slow cooker, which has a tight-fitting lid, oven-cooking allows for more evaporation. That means flavors get much more concentrated, Schloss says.

I’d have to agree after receiving a review copy of his book, “Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More” (Chronicle Books). Many of the recipes intrigued, but I decided to try one already familiar to me to get a real sense of what a difference this style of cooking might make.

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Category:Asian Recipes, Cool Cooking Techniques, General | Comments (8) | Author:

Bay Area-Made Sosu Sriracha

Wednesday, 19. February 2014 5:26

Sosu Sriracha is aged in oak whiskey barrels for three months.

Sosu Sriracha is aged in oak whiskey barrels for three months.

 

Did you go through withdrawal last year over a feared shortage of sriracha sauce?

When Southern California’s Huy Fong Foods, maker of the ubiquitous Red Rooster brand, had to shut down temporarily after neighbors complained about the chile fumes, hot sauce lovers grew desperate.

But Red Rooster’s not the only game in town. In fact, the Bay Area has its own sriracha savant: Sosu Sauces.

Co-founder Lisa Murphy’s company started out on a whim when she decided to try her hand at making a better ketchup. From her upbringing in China and travels throughout Southeast Asia, she learned that ketchup actually has Chinese origins. So, after creating a Classic Ketchup, she concocted Srirachup (a blend of her ketchup and her sriracha), and finally a limited-edition Barrel-Aged Sriracha that’s available only through her Kickstarter campaign.

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Category:General, Great Finds, New Products | Comments (7) | Author: