Category Archives: Great Finds

You’d Be Wise To Stop In At Wise Sons

Wise Sons chocolate babka to make you weak in the knees.

Wise Sons chocolate babka to make you weak in the knees.

 

I did not grow up in New York. But I can still appreciate a good bagel, nevertheless.

A native San Franciscan, I found my standard bearer to be the home-grown House of Bagels.

While there has been a proliferation of bagel chains lately, too many disappoint. Ginormous bread bombs, bagels should not be.

Wise Sons of San Francisco, however, is an exception. Its bagel bakery opened at 1520 Fillmore St. in January. And it is the real-deal.

They make them in the wee hours of the night, the time-honored way by boiling them before baking them.

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Yossy Arefi’s Soft Chocolate and Fig Cake

You'll fall hard for this chocolate fig cake. I sure did.

You’ll fall hard for this chocolate fig cake. I sure did.

 

Imagine a deliriously, deep, rich chocolate-y cake that’s like the love child of a brownie and a molten lava cake.

It’s the stuff of dreams, isn’t it?

It surely is my fantasy come true, especially with its scattering of plump fresh figs on top. So much so that I can’t stop myself from digging a fork into it again and again in utter bliss.

That’s what “Soft Chocolate and Fig Cake” will do to you.

This incredible — and incredibly easy — cake is from the new cookbook, “Sweeter Off The Vine” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

SweeterOffTheVine

It’s from the super talented Yossy Arefi, a Brooklyn-based food photographer, food stylist and baker, who created the charmingly named blog, Apt. 2B Baking Co., where she chronicles her baking endeavors.

This is one of those must-have cookbooks. And I don’t say that lightly, not when my shelves are already groaning under the strain of too many cookbooks. But if you’re like me and love to bake, you will find yourself bookmarking practically every page because these are down-home treats with a personality all their own that are in no way an ordeal to make.

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Shhhh, Stolen Fruit Mixers

Stolen Fruit Mixers turn any gathering into a party.

Stolen Fruit Mixers turn any gathering into a party.

 

OK, no fruits were actually pilfered for these non-alcoholic mixers.

Stolen Fruit Mixers is just a fun name for this new Healdsburg company that makes mixers from the fresh-pressed juice of green varietal wine grapes and their skins (also known as verjus).

But unlike so many mixers that taste way too sugary or are so processed to death that they lose their vibrancy, these have real elegance and distinction.

Not surprisingly, since they were created by a chef, Peter Brown of Healdsburg, and long-time grape growers, Doug and Susan Provisor.

The company makes five flavors: Lemongrass Ginger Sauvignon Blanc, Jasmine Juniper Viognier, Hibiscus Grenache, Blood Orange Muscat, and Fig Grains of Paradise Zin.

Mix with alcohol or sparkling water.

Mix with alcohol or sparkling water.

They are concentrated, so it’s suggested you use 1 part mixer to 1 part alcohol (for a cocktail), or 1 part mixer to 2 parts sparkling water (for a mocktail).

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Big City-Eats At Small-Town Rancho Nicasio

The stunning rabbit liver appetizer at the Western Room inside Rancho Nicasio.

The stunning rabbit liver appetizer at the Western Room inside Rancho Nicasio.

 

You’ll be excused if you’ve never been to Rancho Nicasio in Marin before.

The out-of-the-way roadhouse and live music venue may not have been on most people’s radar before. But it sure is now.

That’s because about four months ago, it added a new chef.

Not just any chef. But Ron Siegel, former executive chef of Michael Mina Restaurant in San Francisco, who previously headed Masa’s in San Francisco and Charles Nob Hill in San Francisco. And the first American-born chef to beat an Iron Chef on the original Japanese TV cooking competition.

Chef Max Brown who has been at Rancho Nicasio for 18 years since his father Bob Brown, former manager of Pablo Cruise and Huey Lewis & The News, bought the property is still there. He still oversees the main dining room and the massive backyard barbecue festivities.

The unassuming facade of Rancho Nicasio.

The unassuming facade of Rancho Nicasio, built in 1941.

The Western Room.

The Western Room.

But Siegel now serves up an entirely separate menu in the Western Room inside the rustic Rancho Nicasio.

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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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