Category Archives: General

Getting To Know Amarone

Dry-aged beef to go with a wine made with semi-dried grapes.

Dry-aged beef to go with a wine made with semi-dried grapes.

 

With a charred juicy steak, my drink of choice is usually Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon.

So when the folks at Masi Agricola asked me to try a sample of one of their Amarones with a prime steak instead, I was game to see what that pairing would be like.

It’s an unusual type of wine in that it’s made from semi-dried grapes. An age-old tradition in Italy’s northeast Veneto region, it involves laying out the grapes on drying lofts for up to four months to concentrate their sugars before pressing.

Masi Agricola is the leading producer of Amarone. Its Masi Agricola Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2011 ($62.99) is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes. Of the three varietals, the Corvino is the only one to develop botrytis or noble rot, the prized fungus that causes the grapes to lose nearly all their water content, thus concentrating their flavors to the max.

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Momofuku Ssam Bar’s Simplified Sichuan Pork Ragu

Comfort noodles -- Asian/Italian-style.

Comfort noodles — Asian/Italian-style.

 

Imagine a tangle of noodles that’s the “bastard love child of Bolognese and mapo tofu.”

How could that not be good, right?

That’s the apt description of this “Sichuan Pork Ragu” from the cookbook, “Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes” (Clarkson Potter) by Peter Meehan and the editors of Lucky Peach magazine.

The clever cookbook is a showcase of familiar Asian dishes (“Green Papaya Salad”), with some creative liberties taken at times (“Miso Clam Chowder), that’s highly seasoned with irreverent musings.

LuckyPeachAsianCookbook

Take the “Rotisserie Chicken Ramen,” in which the editors anticipate your question of “Do I really need to cook this for TWO HOURS??” The answer is yes, if you want the flavor at its peak. There’s the recipe for “Dashimaki Tamago,” the traditional Japanese sushi egg omelet, in which the editors offer encouragement by writing, “I always thought making this kind of omelet was some next-level ninja thing until we started working on this book. Now I know it can be made in 10 minutes flat, and the worst thing that will happen is that it won’t be as pretty as the one in this picture.”

This Sichuan ragu is a simplified version of one from Chef David Chang’s Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York. I love this sweet-spicy, chunky ragu because it’s a change-up from the usual Italian pasta dish, yet it’s as easy and comforting as one. It’s also faster to make than an authentic bolognese.

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Food Gal #Foodtography Event at the Four Seasons San Francisco, Le Cirque Dinner Event, And More

FourSeasonsFoodtographyYou’re Invited to #Foodtography

Join yours truly and award-winning photographer Craig Lee, when we host #Foodtography, 7 p.m. May 25 at the Four Seasons in San Francisco.

In this age of food-ecentric social media, this fun event will teach you how to be a better food critic and how to take better food photos.

You’ll get to sample gourmet tastes from the Four Seasons’ Chef Alexander La Motte — after you get a chance to photograph the dishes, of course.

At the end of the evening, you’ll take home a copy of “San Francisco Chef’s Table” (Lyons Press), my cookbook that was photographed by Craig. We’ll personally sign it to you, too.

The event is $35 per person. If you don’t take public transportation, and need to park your car, the hotel is offering a discounted valet rate of $15 that evening. RSVP to erissa.kido@fourseasons.com.

“A Taste of Le Cirque” in San Jose

San Jose’s Capital Club, normally open to members only, is opening its doors wide for a special event this Friday, May 13 that celebrates the fabled New York restaurant, Le Cirque.

A Taste of Le Cirque” will feature Le Cirque’s corporate executive chef Massimo Bebber cooking a five-course dinner paired with Sicilian wines.

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Little Gem Is A Gem

Pork shoulder at Little Gem.

Pork shoulder at Little Gem.

 

Imagine a restaurant, in which all the food is gluten-free. And dairy-free. And sans refined sugar.

No doubt, you’re probably fearing it also will be flavor-free and dismally low in satisfaction.

Not so. Not when it’s Little Gem in San Francisco, which opened in December.

After all, when the head chef is Dave Cruz, formerly of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Yountville, you’re guaranteed to be in good hands with the food, as I found out when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant last week. Little Gem’s other partners are Eric Lilavois, former chief operating officer of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, and John DiFazio, an investment banker, who has such an appreciation of good food that he did an apprenticeship at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York.

Chef Dave Cruz, formerly of Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc.

Chef Dave Cruz, formerly of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc.

The compact kitchen.

The compact kitchen.

This is clean eating the way it should be — with bold flavors, freshness, finesse but not fussiness, and great ingredients from purveyors such as Marin Sun Farms, Five Dot Ranch and Rancho Gordo.

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Five Favorite Memories of My Mom

Mother's Day morning was made for Morning Glory muffins.

Mother’s Day morning was made for Morning Glory muffins.

 

1. My Mom was the epitome of lady-like. She always wore dresses or skirts — even on the weekends. I cannot even fathom her ever donning a pair of jeans. In fact, the only time I saw her in slacks was in photos from the cruises she took with my Dad, when pants were required attire for some events. Even today in my mind’s eye, that’s how I still picture her — with her hair coiffed perfectly, and dressed in a silky blouse tucked into a knee-length skirt.

2. She taught me how to sew and knit — and in so doing, the importance of a job done right. Eager to finish the scarf or jacket I was making, I’d often race through it if I could. But my Mom’s eagle eyes would see the dropped stitch that created that wayward little hole in the pattern or the seam that wasn’t exactly straight. I’d point out that the seam was on the inside and nobody would ever see it, only to have her tell me that I’d always know it was there even if no one else did. So, of course, I ripped it out and started over again until it was the way it should be.

3. Even though she worked full-time while raising three kids, cooking never seemed to be a chore to her. Not on harried weeknights. Not on weekends, either. In fact, when she suffered a stroke, it was cooking that she missed most. After enduring months of rehabilitation to regain her sense of balance and the strength in her arms, it was almost as if being able to stand at the stovetop with her trusty wok again was her greatest triumph. That was when I realized just how much feeding her family truly meant to her.

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