Category Archives: General

A Visit To Hall Winery

Merlot grapes on the vine at Senza Hotel.

Merlot grapes on the vine at Senza Hotel.

 

Love big, bold Cabs? And big, bold art?

Head to Hall Winery in St. Helena the next time you’re in the Napa Valley.

There, you’ll relish both in the sprawling winery estate created by Kathryn Hall and her husband Craig Hall.

Kathyrn Hall comes from a grape-growing family, as her parents owned vineyards in Mendocino. But it took awhile before she delved into it, herself. After graduating from Hastings Law School and U.C. Berkeley, she embarked on a career as an attorney; worked on Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign; joined Safeway, where she developed one of the nation’s first and largest affirmative action programs; and eventually became the U.S. ambassador to Austria (she’s fluent in French and German).

Along the way, she met and fell in love with Craig Hall, founder of Hall Financial Group, who was equally accomplished, having bought his first apartment complex at age 18 and became a millionaire by the age of 21. At one point, he was the youngest co-owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

After marrying, this power couple decided to move to the Napa Valley to make wine. And what wine it is — garnering more than 170 scores of more than 90 points by noted wine critics.

A tasting of Hall wines.

A tasting of Hall wines.

A comparison of Cabs.

A comparison of Cabs.

The Hallmark Tour ($40, an hour+ in length) is a great way to get acquainted with the winery, as I found out when I was invited as a guest on it recently.

You check in at the host stand, then are given glasses of chilled Sauvignon Blanc as you await the tour to start. It’s a nice way to cool off on a warm summer day in Wine Country, too.

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Miminashi: A Taste of Japan in Napa

Miminashi's onigiri -- one of the best I've ever had.

Miminashi’s onigiri — one of the best I’ve ever had.

 

When Chef Curtis Di Fede first visited Japan nearly three years ago, he was smitten.

So much so that he’s been back nine times since then.

It also prompted him to leave his partnership with the Southern Italian restaurant Oenotri in Napa in 2014 to strike out on his own to open his own version of a Japanese izakaya, Miminashi, this summer in Napa. I had a chance to try it recently, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

The space is moody, incredibly dim, and intimate with its substantial, block wood tables and simple wooden chairs. It makes you feel as if you have stumbled inside a special little place that only insiders know about.

The grill.

The grill.

That’s especially true because the entire doorway is made up of hand-carved wood. You have no clue as to what lies inside until you pull open the door to reveal one of the most dramatic ceilings I’ve ever seen. It’s made entirely of wood, pitched like a temple, soaring upwards and narrowing the higher it ascends.

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Memories of Mint Chip Ice Cream

Mint chip ice cream made with plenty of fresh mint leaves.

Mint chip ice cream made with plenty of fresh mint leaves.

 

When I was a kid, Baskin-Robbins may have touted its 31 ice creams.

But in my book, there were only two that really mattered.

Chocolate chip. And mint chip.

OK, so my palate was not very expansive at that time.

But I knew what I liked.

And to me, you couldn’t go wrong with vanilla ice cream with crunchy bits of dark chocolate throughout. Or its green cousin with an unmistakable hue and a taste as invigorating as a light wind blowing across your face on a warm summer afternoon.

As an adult now, I still love those two flavors. But I am more finicky. I so appreciate a mint ice cream that gets its flavor from real mint leaves, not just a bottle of mint extract.

So when I spied this recipe for “Mint Chip Ice Cream” that infuses a heavy cream-milk base with a heap of fresh mint leaves, I was smitten from the get-go.

theresalwaysroomforchocolate

It’s from the new cookbook, “There’s Always Room For Chocolate: Recipes from Brooklyn’s The Chocolate Room” (Rizzoli), of which I received a review copy.

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True Food Kitchen — The New Face of Healthy

True Food Kitchen emphasizes anti-inflammatory foods. And hey, dark chocolate, in a flourless cake, qualifies.

True Food Kitchen emphasizes anti-inflammatory foods. And hey, dark chocolate, in a flourless cake, qualifies.

 

Perhaps it’s only appropriate that the new True Food Kitchen, which opened this week in the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, is steps from SoulCycle and a Peloton indoor cycling bike showroom. What’s more, there’s even an art piece on the main wall that depicts a cyclist.

After all, this casual restaurant chain, which has 14 locations around the country and will debut a second Bay Area location in Walnut Creek at Broadway Plaza on Oct. 18, is all about a healthful lifestyle.

In fact, founder Sam Fox of Fox Restaurant Concepts, established True Food Kitchen with Dr. Andrew Weil, a physicianm noted guru of holistic health and alternative medicine, and proponent of the anti-inflammatory diet. That diet emphasizes whole grains, extra virgin olive oil, omega-3 fatty acid fish such as salmon and sardines, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. It cautions against too much saturated fat and animal protein, and recommends tea over coffee, and red wine of any other alcohol.

The new restaurant opened this week in the Stanford Shopping Center.

The new restaurant opened this week in the Stanford Shopping Center.

The large dining room at True Food Kitchen.

The large dining room.

To that end, the restaurant offers a wide selection of gluten-free, organic, vegetarian, and vegan options.  

But that’s not to say the food is austere by any means. Or hippy-dippy.

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Cooking by Comic Book

A spicy, savory Korean pancake that cooks up in no time.

A spicy, savory Korean pancake that cooks up in no time.

 

For me, comic books were something my older brothers and cousins collected — first-edition superhero ones that surely would be worth a fortune now, had my aunt not thrown them out years ago, alas.

But to cook out of a comic book?

Now, that’s a new one on me.

But Robin Ha’s delightful “Cook Korean! A Comic Book with Recipes” (Ten Speed Press), lured me to do just that. The unique, whimsical cookbook, of which I received a review copy, was both written and illustrated by Ha, a professional illustrator and creator of the blog, Banchan in 2 Pages, who was born in Seoul and now makes her home in New York.

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