Category Archives: Great Finds

Real-Deal Italian Food at Ca’ Momi

Ca' Momi holds three certifications for authentic Italian pizza.

Ca’ Momi holds three certifications for authentic Italian pizza.

 

Veneto-born Chef-Restaurateur Valentina Guolo-Migotto proudly says that when Italians dine at her Napa restaurant, Ca’ Momi, they tell her the food is better than what’s in Italy.

That pleases her to no end.

It’s easy to agree heartily after eating there, too, as I did earlier this spring when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

This is one of those places, where you want to shout to the rafters, “Where have you been all my life?”

Because it is that glorious.

It is a touch of Italy — the real Italy — in the Napa Valley.

The fun bar, well stocked with Italian amaro.

The fun bar, well stocked with Italian amaro.

It's always "movie night'' here.

It’s always “movie night” here.

The rustic downtown restaurant makes most everything in-house, even its own wines, beer, vodka and gin. They’re also experimenting with making amaro, the bitter Italian herbal spirit, of which they have a large selection to choose from.

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Paula Wolfert’s “Unforgettable” Duck You Can Eat With A Spoon

With crisp skin and flesh so tender you can cut it with a spoon, this duck by Paula Wolfert is a masterpiece.

With crisp skin and flesh so tender you can cut it with a spoon, this duck by Paula Wolfert is a masterpiece.

 

She is not a star of the Food Network. She doesn’t own a four-star restaurant that has a three-month wait for reservations. And she doesn’t write pithy food articles laced with expletives and bro-talk that everyone feels the need to read, dissect, and re-post again and again.

But Paula Wolfert should be as revered and renowned as any of those folks. More so, even.

She is one of the most influential cooks of our time — a woman who has dived deep into authentic Mediterranean cuisine long before most of us ever knew what a cassoulet or tagine was.

Over the years, she published eight seminal cookbooks. But when her friend, Emily Kaiser Thelin, a former editor of Food & Wine magazine, pitched the idea of writing a biography of Wolfert, no publisher would give it the green light.

So in a modern-day version of a barn-raising, Thelin rallied her friends and colleagues to the mission, recruiting photographer Eric Wolfinger, designer Toni Tajima, and cookbook author Andrea Nguyen to do editing duties. They mounted a Kickstarter campaign, which more than 1,100 folks supported, including yours truly.

UnforgettableCookbook

The result is “Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life” (M&P) by Thelin.

The title has dual meanings — and hints at why Thelin and her team were so driven to put Wolfert’s life and recipes down in perpetuity. Wolfert was diagnosed with dementia in 2013. The woman who once prided herself on studying up on almost a dozen languages in order to converse with cooks around the world, now finds most of those once familiar foreign phrases elusive. Even reading in English now and retaining its contents is difficult for her.

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California’s Olive Queen Olive Oil

You might just feel like a queen when you taste the Olive Queen's extra virgin olive oils.

You might just feel like a queen when you taste the Olive Queen’s extra virgin olive oils.

 

California produces 3.5 million gallons of extra virgin olive oil annually from more than 400 growers/producers, according to the California Olive Oil Council.

Rob Akins and Mark Berry of Olive Queen Olive Oil in Forestville are among the smaller growers. But they make up for that in quality. The oils they produce are exceptional, as I found out when they sent me some samples to try.

Akins and Berry moved from Southern California to Sonoma County to buy an old, forlorn apple orchard, which they replanted with olive trees.

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Eating Adventures in Los Angeles, Part II: Connie & Ted’s, RiceBar, Apple Pan and Shake Shack

A fun place to indulge your cravings for seafood.

A fun place to indulge your cravings for seafood.

Connie & Ted’s

Chef Michael Cimarusti has the utmost reverence for seafood. After all, his haute Providence has won every acclaim imaginable for its attention to seafood.

Now comes Connie & Ted’s, a West Hollywood seafood joint at the other end of the spectrum, a modern-day clam shack that treats seafood with equal esteem but in a much more laid-back atmosphere.

On a sunny day (which of course is most every day in Los Angeles), there’s no better place to be.

A mid-century-modern look at Connie & Ted's.

A mid-century-modern look at Connie & Ted’s.

A trio of chowders.

A trio of chowders.

Clam bellies and perfect onion rings.

Clam bellies and perfect onion rings.

There are three chowders on the menu: New England, Manhattan, and Rhode Island. The best part is you can get a sampler of all three ($11), which comes with baby doll-sized oyster crackers.

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Eating Adventures in Los Angeles, Part I: Taco Maria, Shibumi, and Mian

Mussels, clams, lima beans, cherry tomato and chile -- a third-course on the Taco Maria prix fixe.

Mussels, clams, lima beans, cherry tomato and chile — a third-course on the Taco Maria prix fixe.

 

I may have been in Los Angeles last month for only four days, but I did some major eating in that short time. Come along for a taste.

Taco Maria

In a building inside SoCo design complex in Costa Mesa is the OC Mix, a mini marketplace of fun trendy shops and small cafes.

It is here you will find Taco Maria. Its artsy locale is fitting because this is high-concept Mexican food by a chef who used to cook at Coi in San Franciso and Commis in Oakland.

Nope, this is not your standard enchilada- or burrito-drowned-in-cheese kind of place. While it serves a la carte lunch, it turns into prix fixe-only at night. And what a fine parade of dishes you’re in for with the $75 four-course meal (wine pairings are $35 extra), which is quite reasonable for what you get.

Sitting at the counter, you are up close and personal with the cooks preparing your food.

Sitting at the counter, you are up close and personal with the cooks preparing your food.

Each course offers a choice of two dishes. So if there are two of you dining, you can order the entire menu and share tastes of everything, which is what my husband and I did. Sit at the counter in front of the small kitchen, and you can watch the cooks in action.

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