Category Archives: Great Finds

The Goods on Manresa Bread Bakery

A selection of Manresa Bread specialties: levain (back), kale scone (front left), and chocolate croissant (front right).

A selection of Manresa Bread specialties: levain (back), kale scone (front left), and chocolate croissant (front right).

 

The South Bay’s most anticipated bakery, Manresa Bread, finally opened a week ago, in downtown Los Gatos.

If you think that means bypassing those long, long lines at its stands at the Palo Alto and Campbell farmers markets on Sundays, guess again.

The queue may be shorter at the new bakery, just around the corner from Michelin two-starred Manresa restaurant, but there likely will be one no matter what time you go.

When I got there at 11 a.m. last Friday, there were already half a dozen people in front of me. And the baguettes were already gone.

If you think that was bad, on opening day on Feb. 21, the bakery sold out in just five hours.

Inside the bakery.

Inside the bakery.

All of that speaks to the quality of the artisan products being turned out by Manresa head baker Avery Ruzicka, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute who also trained with master baker Ben Hershberger of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and Per Se restaurant.

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The Fremont Diner — As Good As It Gets

Grilled cheese and tomato soup perfection at The Fremont Diner.

Grilled cheese and tomato soup perfection at The Fremont Diner.

 

Sure, I have an appreciation for pull-out-all-the-stops tasting menus in which chefs maneuver and manipulate food into high art.

But it takes a place like The Fremont Diner to remind us all how wonderful the simple, the bare bones and the pared down can be.

I’m talking the perfect crumbly buttermilk biscuit you can’t wait to tear into, and a thick, spicy tomato soup served in a heavy coffee mug with a spoon — all enjoyed on a picnic table underneath a tented patio.

Surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards on the Sonoma side of the Carneros wine region, The Fremont Diner evokes nostalgia from the get-go with its rusty pick-up truck parked outside and its wood-slatted building with its swinging front-porch door.

Like stepping into the past.

Like stepping into the past.

The exterior.

The exterior.

The tented patio.

The tented patio.

My husband and I dropped by a few weeks ago, paying our tab at the end of a most soul-satisfying meal.

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My Top 10 Eats of 2014

Sokol Blosser Top 10

As we near the end of one year and ready for the start of a brand new one, allow me to toast my favorite dishes of 2014.

It’s never easy to narrow the list to just 10. But these are the tastes that lingered the most; the ones I’d want to eat all over again in a heartbeat.

Here’s my Top 10, listed in no particular order. I raise a glass from a lovely sample bottle of Sokol Blosser Evolution Sparkling, a blend of nine white wines, which give this method champenoise bubbly the complex flavor of apple, pear, peach and lemon. Here’s to all the chefs and restaurants that made 2014 so delicious and delightful.

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An Amuse Bouche to the 2015 Pebble Beach Food & Wine

Southern ham done in the style of Iberico jamon -- served on a magically appears during a hiking tour of Post Ranch Inn.

Southern ham done in the style of Iberico jamon — magically appears during a hiking tour of Post Ranch Inn.

 

When you get a group of esteemed Master Sommeliers together, you know there’s going to be an abundance of fine wines uncorked.

When you get them together at Big Sur’s gorgeous Post Ranch Inn as a prelude to next spring’s Pebble Beach Food & Wine extravaganza, the drinking and dining are of the highest order and pretty much go on non-stop.

That’s what I was lucky enough to be privy to when I was invited as a guest to the soiree and to Post Ranch Inn a few weeks ago.

A room with a view at Post Ranch Inn.

A room with a view at Post Ranch Inn.

The Nest -- a sculpture that you can cocoon away in.

The Nest — a sculpture that you can cocoon away in.

Sierra Mar restaurant.

Sierra Mar restaurant.

Among the other guests at the two-night affair were: David Bernahl, founder of the Pebble Beach event; Lara Sailor Long, executive wine director for the event; Kim Beto of Southern Wine & Spirits; Shayn Bjornholm, education director for the Court of Master Sommeliers; Ian Cauble of SommSelect; Dominque DaCruz, wine director of Post Ranch Inn; Christie Dufault, former wine director at Restaurant Gary Danko; Seth Kunin of Kunin Wines; Jordan MacKay, wine and spirits writer; Carlton McCoy, wine director for The Little Nell in Aspen; and Larry Stone, estate director of Huneeus Vintners in Rutherford.

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Four Locally Made Host/Hostess Gifts for the Holidays

Sweet, delicate and buttery Clair de Lune cookies.

Sweet, delicate and buttery Clair de Lune cookies.

Clair De Lune Cookies

Crumbly, crisp and utterly melt-in-your-mouth, Chateau Bakery’s Clair de Lune cookies are the perfect holiday treat to share with co-workers or to thank your holiday dinner host.

The sugary butter cookies, which were first made in a small European bakery in 1898, are now made in Burlingame by Esther Buss, a former consumer marketing professional who’s been baking since she was a child.

I had a chance to sample the cookies, which are made with just cane sugar, flour, butter, sea salt and vanilla. They’re delicate and disintegrate in your mouth even more than your average meltaway cookies. Rolled in sugar, they are super sweet. A smidge of sea salt adds a refined touch.

Enjoy them with coffee, tea or even sparkling wine.

The cookies are available online, as well as at retailers including Lunardi’s, Mollie Stone’s and Draeger’s. They are priced at $9 for a package of 15 cookies; $25 for a large gift tub of 28 cookies; and $5 for a mini gift tub of five cookies.

Round Pond Estate’s Pomegranate Syrup

Imagine the super concentrated fruity taste of pomegranates without having to ferret out all those plump seeds to enjoy it?

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