Category Archives: Great Finds

Heavenly Hummus

Miso makes this hummus something special.

Miso makes this hummus something special.

 

There are few things I’m fanatical about.

Hummus happens to be one of them.

It all started when I tried the one at Oren’s Hummus Shop in Palo Alto. It took awhile, though, since the small cafe always has a line out the door, no matter what time of day or night. But it also has tubs of hummus to grab-and-go at a refrigerator case.

After one taste, I was hooked for life. And no other hummus would do.

That’s because Oren’s hummus is the smoothest, creamiest version ever. It’s like the creme brulee of hummus. And I can eat it by the spoonful — non-stop.

The Palo Alto shop, as well as the second one in downtown Mountain View, was opened by start-up investor Oren Dobronsky, who is so finicky about his hummus that he imports the garbanzo beans from Israel.

So, when I spied a recipe for “Hummus with White Miso,” I was intrigued, but dubious. Intrigued, because I wondered what the addition of miso would impart. And dubious, well, because how could it be better than the hummus at Oren’s?

Seven Spoons

The recipe is from the new cookbook, “Seven Spoons” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. It was written by Tara O’Brady, a celebrated food blogger in Canada.

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Great Cheap Eats in Los Angeles

Finally -- the elusive fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man!

Finally — the elusive fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man!

 

On a recent trip down to Los Angeles, I had a chance to try some new favorite eats. All satisfying. All affordable, too. The best kind, don’t you, think?

Donut Nirvana

I’d heard about it, seen pics online and salivated over it on the Food Network. But try as I might, I never seemed to be in Los Angeles at the right time of year to snag a fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man in Glendora.

Until this trip.

Let me tell you, it was definitely worth the wait and lived up to all the hype.

Imagine a fresh brioche donut split in half, then stuffed to the gills with fresh, juicy whole strawberries that have been macerated in just a smidge of syrup.

What I love is that it’s not overly sweet at all, thanks to the fact that the donut, itself, is not glazed. As a result, the flavor of the berries shine through.

It’s sort of like strawberry shortcake. Only better.

Of course, after making the drive, you've got to get more than one donut. You've got to get a box-load.

Of course, after making the drive, you’ve got to get more than one donut. You’ve got to get a box-load.

A beloved institution for more than 40 years, The Donut Man is sort of in the middle of nowhere. It’s essentially a humble kiosk with a walk-up window in a parking lot shared by a martial arts school, of all things.

If you’re anywhere in the vicinity, do make the drive.

Now, if I can only make it back one later in the summer when the fresh peach donut is available. Yes, same as the strawberry one, but with fresh slices of yellow peaches instead. That’s definitely worth making a return trip.

Grand Central Market is Plenty Grand

Think the Ferry Building in San Francisco — but a version that keeps it a little more real.

That’s Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, a market arcade that originally opened in 1917, but was infused with new life two years ago.

Sure, there are upscale food vendors now such as Belcampo Meat Co., and Bombo, esteemed Chef Mark Peel’s seafood-centric cafe.

Inside Grand Central Market.

Inside Grand Central Market.

But there are also old-school, ethnic outposts such as China Cafe, which dishes up chop suey and egg fo yeung; Valeria’s, which offers a well-stocked Latin pantry of items, including fresh mole pastes to take home to cook with; and La Casa Verde, a large produce market with very down-to-earth prices.

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Icelandic Yogurt — Oh, Yes!

Push aside the Greek. Make way for Icelandic yogurt. This one is full of shreds of coconut.

Push aside the Greek. Make way for Icelandic yogurt. This one is full of shreds of coconut.

 

Remember the first time you went gah-gah for Greek yogurt?

Then, prepare to go insane for the Icelandic style.

I admit I’d never had Icelandic yogurt (skyr) until recently when Petaluma’s Smari sent me samples to try.

In short, they blew my taste buds away.

Icelandic yogurt has been made for generations from nonfat milk that’s heated with a culture, then strained and strained again. Smari makes its from organic, grass-fed Jersey and Guernsey milk, which is thicker, richer and more nutrient-dense than most. While its original yogurts were made from skim milk, it recently introduced the first Icelandic-style yogurts made with whole milk.

What you notice with these yogurts is how exceedingly creamy and thick they are, especially the whole milk varieties. They’re the consistency of a decadent pudding.

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A Visit to the Kogi Truck at LAX

Yup, you can find this at Los Angeles International Airport.

Yup, you can find this at Los Angeles International Airport.

 

LOS ANGELES, CA — Flying from the Bay Area to Maui is a long trek, even in the best of circumstances on a nonstop flight.

So, my husband and I might have been a bit cranky two weeks ago at the thought of having to suffer through a layover in Los Angeles — if not for one delightful development.

We were scheduled to change American Airlines planes in Terminal 4.

Yes, the home of the permanently parked Kogi Truck, situated in the food court there, which opened in December 2014.

Imagine bypassing the usual fast-food chains and other tired-looking airport offerings for Chef Roy Choi’s clever mash-up of Korean and Mexican food instead. We’d chased down Choi’s original Kogi Truck in Los Angeles before, so we were no stranger to his kimchi-laced tacos, burritos, quesadillas and sliders, which essentially ignited the modern-day food truck craze.

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A Whale of A Meal at La Balena in Carmel-By-The-Sea

A trio of outstanding pastas at La Balena.

A trio of outstanding pastas at La Balena.

 

There are many reasons to adore Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s as picturesque as it gets, full of romance, and boasts a white sand beach that just begs you to doff your sandals and relax a long while.

Now, I have another reason to love it: La Balena.

The three-year-old restaurant is owned by Emanuele Bartolini, who used to work front-of-the-house for Mario Batali in New York. After vacationing here regularly with his wife, Anna, the couple finally decided to make the leap to this West Coast hamlet.

Bartonlini named his restaurant La Balena (“The Whale”) after those magnificent sea creatures he used to view when he served aboard ships in the military in Italy. It’s also a nod to the giant whale in his favorite story of “Pinocchio,” which was written by Carlo Collodi, a children’s writer who grew up in Florence, near where from Bartolini hails. In fact, his second restaurant, set to open in April just steps away, will be named Il Grillo (“The Cricket”), in reference to Jiminy Cricket.

La Balena's namesake.

La Balena’s namesake.

The pretty back patio.

The pretty back patio.

This is Italian food with true soul wrapped around an abundance of fresh, local ingredients. Executive Chef Brad Briske describes it as “Monterey Bay Tuscan” food. He buys whole and half pigs, and butchers them, no easy feat in such a compact kitchen. All the salumi is made in-house, as well as almost all the pastas, with the lone exception being the spaghetti. But that may change in the future, as the restaurant just purchased a pasta extruder.

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