Category Archives: Great Finds

Take A Load Off At El Molino Central

A trio of pork tacos at El Molino Central.

A trio of pork tacos at El Molino Central.

 

When a noted chef tells you the name of a restaurant he thinks is the very best in the Bay Area, your ears can’t help but perk up.

And when he reveals that it’s an unassuming taco joint, you really get intrigued.

Such was the case when I recently interviewed Chef Louis Maldonado for a story in the San Francisco Chronicle Food section about his favorite places in the Healdsburg area.

Maldonado, former chef of Spoonbar in Healdsburg and now culinary director of Mugnaini Imports in Healdsburg, was effusive in his praise for El Molino Central in Boyes Hot Springs. So much so that when I found myself in the area last week, I just had to try it, paying my own tab at the end.

The back of the restaurant.

The back of the restaurant.

El Molino Central is a tiny place with a tamale-sized kitchen. Inside, there’s barely room for two small tables, and the counter where you place your order. Lest you think you’ll have to eat your food standing up, you will find a cheerful patio in the back with picnic tables, covered by a trellis and a revolving ceiling fan. You’ll have to walk through the compact kitchen to get to it, though — or go out the front door and walk around the building to the back.

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Trestle Serves Up An Astounding Prix Fixe — For $35

Huckleberry cake at Trestle in San Francisco.

Huckleberry cake at Trestle in San Francisco.

 

I’ve had many wonderful meals at restaurants, but never have I left at the end of an evening overcome with the emotions that I had at Trestle in San Francisco.

As Co-Owner Tai Ricci bid me adieu, I just wanted to hug her for dear life and implore, “Please, please be profitable and be around for a very, very long time!’

If you’ve found your eyes bulging out of their sockets at the stratospheric prices of some of the Bay Area’s tasting menus lately, you’ll find your peepers popping out at Trestle for another reason:

You’ll wonder how they do it — serving an extraordinary three-course dinner nightly for all of $35 per person.

The cozy, contemporary dining room.

The cozy, contemporary dining room.

We’re not talking a slap-dash affair, either. This is food, where it’s immediately evident that great care is taken. Soup is poured tableside by your server. The skin on a fish fillet is seared till perfectly golden and crisp as a perfect potato chip. Desserts are not just plopped into a bowl, but artfully arranged with whimsy.

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Sprogs — A Fun-To-Eat, On-The-Go Snack

Front to Back: Bacon & Egg, Kale & Kimchee, and Coconut Red Lentil Sprogs.

Front to Back: Bacon & Egg, Kale & Kimchee, and Coconut Red Lentil Sprogs.

 

Are you a fan of onigiri — the Japanese rice balls wrapped around centers of pickled plum, cooked seafood, veggies, and pretty much anything else the imagination can come up with?

Then, you’ll love Sprogs, the small “rice scooters,” that take them to the next level.

The San Francisco company was created by Ching-Yee Hu, a busy mom who was looking for the perfect snack for her kids, as well as herself. When she couldn’t find exactly what she was craving, she decided to make it, herself.

It’s such a brilliant concept that you wonder why someone didn’t come up with it sooner. Hu was already making pressed fresh brown-rice squares for her kids when she decided to expand on the idea with more inventive flavorings.

She uses Northern California haiga brown rice that is partially milled to remove the tough outer bran to make it easier to digest yet retains the nutritious germ inside. Then, she created both “Veggie” (vegan) and “Meatie” varieties.

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Annieglass Debuts New Spring Collection, Plus A Food Gal Giveaway

https://www.annieglass.com/shop/product/grove-large-plank-cheese-board

A stunning hand-made glass cheese board by Annieglass. (Photo by Annieglass)

 

Looking for a perfect bridal shower gift? Or wedding gift? Or perhaps just something new and pretty for your own entertaining needs?

Annieglass has you covered with its new spring line.

Watsonville designer Annie Morhauser has been handcrafting unique glassware for more than 30 years. Made in her Watsonville studio, her elegant pieces have been featured at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, and at the Four Seasons resorts. Celebs Jennifer Aniston and John Grisham are reported fans, too.

You’ll find the designs at her store, which opened last year in San Jose’s Santana Row.

Annieglass debuts new collections only twice a year. The new spring collection is all about spring blooms with bowls and glasses with scalloped, petal edges. The pieces range in price from $67 to $240.

The new spring collection by Annieglass. (Photo by Annieglass)

The new spring collection by Annieglass. (Photo by Annieglass)

CONTEST: See that gorgeous Annieglass large Grove Plank Cheese Board at the top of this post? The wood grain and knots were actually textured using wood grain from an actual tree. The 15-by-8-inch hand-made glass board (valued at $113) is durable, chip-resistant and dishwasher-safe. It’s one of Annieglass’ best sellers.

Imagine serving cheese, crackers, fruit or canapes to friends and family from that stunning piece. You can — if you’re the winner of this contest.

One lucky Food Gal reader will receive that glass board. Entries, limited to those on the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST April 16. Winner will be announced April 18.

How to win?

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Fill’er Up in Los Angeles

How pretty is this lemon cake from Sycamore Kitchen?

How pretty is this lemon cake from Sycamore Kitchen?

Sycamore Kitchen

Sure, they serve lunch, but I was there for the baked goods. But of course.

Husband and wife owners Quinn and Karen Hatfield cooked for a spell in San Francisco, before departing for Los Angeles to open Hatfield’s. In 2012, they also opened the Sycamore Kitchen, an urban cafe and bakery with a large outdoor patio.

Karen is a long-time pastry chef, so it’s no surprise that the pastries excel here.

How good are they?

Let’s start with the buttercup ($3.50), the renamed version of a kougin-amann. It’s buttery alright. It’s also the closest kouign-amann I’ve found to that of Belinda Leong’s of B. Patisserie in San Francisco and John Shelsta’s of Howie’s Artisan Pizzeria in Redwood City (he trained with Leong). It’s golden and crisp, with airy layers that are just a smidge heavier in texture than Leong’s and Shelsta’s versions. It’s a dream to nibble on.

The buttercup (kouign-amann).

The buttercup (kouign-amann).

Yes, this is a babka.

Yup, this is a babka.

Then there are the cookies. At first glance, they look incredibly flat and thin — almost as if they were a mistake. But take a bite of the rice crispy cookie ($2.50) and the oatmeal toffee cookie ($2.25) and you know they were baked with purpose. The thinness means they are somehow crisp and chewy through and through. Brilliant.

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