Category Archives: Ginger

Gingery Sips

Three new ginger ales by former Bay Area chef, Bruce Cost.

Long-time Bay Area foodies probably remember the addicting fresh ginger ale served at the now-shuttered restaurants, Monsoon in San Francisco, Ginger Island in Berkeley and Ginger Club in Palo Alto.

Now, Bruce Cost, the chef and proprietor of those restaurants, has finally bottled that fizzy goodness. His “Fresh Ginger, Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost” says it all. The soda is made with cane sugar and fresh, whole ginger. In fact, you can see bits of actual ginger root floating in the soda, which is left unfiltered.

Cost, who went on to start the Big Bowl and Wow Bao restaurants in Chicago, brews and bottles the ginger ale in Brooklyn.

The ginger ale comes in three varieties: “Original,” “Pomegranate with Hibiscus,” and “Jasmine Green Tea.” A 12-ounce bottle has 160 calories.

The "Original'' with lovely bits of ginger floating in it.

The “Origiinal” has nice heat with balanced sweetness. There’s a real purity of ginger flavor here. The “Pomegrantate with Hibiscus” has the most subtle ginger flavor of the three varieties. It’s a beautiful ruby color, too. My favorite was the “Jasmine Green Tea,” which is infused with whole leaf green jasmine tea from Taiwan. The warm spiciness of the ginger is a wonderful match for the floral, slightly tannic notes. It’s a memorable sip, indeed.

It’s now being served at restaurants such as the Slanted Door in San Francisco, and is available for about $2 per 12-ounce bottle at select Bay Area Whole Foods, Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, and the Pasta Shop in Oakland and Berkeley, where I bought a bottle of each to try recently.

Another refreshing ginger beverage is Fentiman’s Ginger Beer. Made with ginger root extract, it has a more medicinal taste than the Bruce Cost beverage, as well as a faint citrus note.

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Wing-ing It

Asian-style chicken wings from a talented Basque chef.

They are sticky, sweet and just a little spicy.

They’re everything you want in a finger-licking good chicken wing.

And would you believe these Asian-influenced wings were created by a Basque chef?

That would be the talented Gerald Hirigoyen of Piperade and Bocadillos restaurants, both in San Francisco. With both of his establishments within walking distance of Chinatown, he’ll often head to a nearby Chinese restaurant when he’s craving something different than his own food.

This dish, from his cookbook, “Pintxos” (Ten Speed Press), has become a favorite staff meal with rice at his restaurants.

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For the Year of the Rabbit, Roast a Chicken with Soy and Whiskey

A refined version of a Chinatown classic.

Are you pleasant, affectionate, gentle, artistic, sophisticated and cautious, and think you have just so much in common with Francis Ford Coppola, Jet Li and Brad Pitt that it’s uncanny?

Then, you my friend, were born under the Year of the Rabbit, as were those celebs, according to Bay Area writer Rosemary Gong’s educational “Good Luck Life, The Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations and Culture” (Harper Paperbacks).

Those of us not lucky enough to be born under that fortuitious sign can still celebrate the start of the Lunar New Year on Feb. 3 in a glam way with this “Roast Chicken with Ginger and Soy-Whiskey Glaze.”

The recipe is from revered Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s “Simple to Spectacular” (Clarkson Potter).

A whole chicken is always a dramatic centerpiece, but even more so on Chinese New Year, because whole poultry is a symbol of health and unity of family.

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Parsnip Pie, Please

Nope, not pumpkin pie, but parsnip pie.

People who know me well will tell you that I’m not the world’s biggest fan of pumpkin pie.

No, siree.

Which, of course, makes no sense when you realize that I love pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin cake and just about everything else pumpkin.

So, I’m always on the lookout for alternative desserts for Thanksgiving.

That’s why this “Parsnip Buttermilk Pie” caught my attention. So much so that I saved it from the Dec. 2009/Jan. 2010 issue of Fine Cooking magazine, intent on trying it this holiday season.

After all, I adore parsnips, especially when they’re just simply roasted, amplifying their sweetness and nuttiness.

Sweet parsnips.

For the filling in this pie, parsnips are boiled, then mashed, and finally mixed with buttermilk, dark brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, grated nutmeg and cloves. It’s poured into an all-butter crust that’s first blind baked.

After the pie is cooled to room temperature, it’s ready to serve. Or  you can make it the day before, and bring it to room temperature before cutting into slices the next day. A dollop of slightly sweetened whipped cream is a perfect crowning touch.

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Decadent Bourbon Steak

Medai snapper (foreground) and Tasmanian sea trout (background) cooked to perfection at Bourbon Steak.

Dining at a Michael Mina restaurant is always an exercise in excess.

In the best of ways, of course.

After all, this is the chef who popularized the idea of trios, where it’s not simply enough to present just one rendition of a dish, but three different ones simultaneously on one plate.

It takes skill, timing and sophistication to do that well.

And that’s just what’s on display at Mina’s new Bourbon Steak in the Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square. Bourbon Steak takes the place of the former Michael Mina flagship restaurant there, which has moved to the old Aqua restaurant space on California Street.

The once chic white and eggshell blue 102-seat dining room has been transformed with a more masculine atmosphere with dark charcoal floor-to-ceiling columns and hues of deep cognac and sand. The logo of a steer can be found subtly echoed on the Mondrian-like window treatments and water is brought to the tables in whimsical glass milk bottles.

This marks Mina’s fifth Bourbon Steak nationwide. And he has the formula down pat.

Executive Chef Omri Aflalo, who did an externship with Mina while at the Culinary Institute of America, is at the helm of the San Francisco locale.

The broad menu includes some of Mina’s greatest hits, including his addicting lobster corn dogs ($16), black truffle popcorn ($15), and lobster pot pie (market price). Since it is a steak house, you’ll also find the likes of a 28-ounce Porterhouse for $68, an 18-ounce bone-in rib-eye for $42, and a 6-ounce Australian Wagyu strip (market price).

Recently, I was invited to dine as a guest of the restaurant to enjoy a special tasting menu.

Duck fat fries with three dipping sauces.

You know you’re in for something when the first thing that arrives at the table is a trio of duck-fat fries with a sour cherry ketchup, a smoked onion aioli that tasted almost of bacon, and a zingy yuzu sauce. You tell yourself you’re going to eat just a couple, but then you finish every one. Every restaurant should take a lesson in fries from Mina, as these are as perfect as they come.

A tiny and rich bite of foie gras.

The decadence continued with a small rectangle of foie gras terrine with huckleberry glaze that just melted on the tongue.

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