Category Archives: Great Finds

BraveTart’s Triple Oatmeal Cookies

With three types of oatmeal in these cookies, they are practically health food. OK, maybe not...

With three types of oatmeal in these cookies, they are practically health food. OK, maybe not…


Is it possible to gain weight just by looking through a cookbook?

Because I just want to inhale everything I see in “BraveTart” (W.W. Norton & Company).

The new cookbook, of which I received a review copy, is by the talented Stella Parks, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, a James Beard Award-nominated writer for Serious Eats, one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Pastry Chefs,” and creator of the BraveTart blog.

It’s a good bet you’ll find yourself equally smitten with this book, because it’s all about iconic American desserts, the treats you grew up loving — only done way better here.

These aren’t fussy, chef-y plated desserts with an overload of flourishes that just make your head spin. Nope, these are thoroughly do-able, designed for a home-cook to make in a home kitchen and to enjoy with friends and family at home.


Where to start with the 100-plus recipes? “Glossy Fudge Brownies” (with that coveted crinkly papery crust)? “Red (Wine) Velvet Cake” (colored by Cabernet Sauvignon and raw cocoa powder)? “HomeMade Pop-Tarts” (with homemade colored sprinkles, no less)? With most of the recipes, Parks also suggests easy ways to riff on the original recipe. Oftentimes, she also includes directions for turning the recipe gluten-free.

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Foodie Gifts — For Friends, Family or Yourself

Avocado oil, apple cider vinegar and apricots combine for this zesty Farmhouse Lab dressing. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

Avocado oil, apple cider vinegar and apricots combine for this zesty Farmhouse Lab dressing. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

Farmhouse Lab Salad Dressings

True, it’s easy enough to whisk together your own salad dressing at home if you have a good variety of oils, vinegars and seasonings.

But Farmhouse Lab of Marin does it one better by packaging its consciously-sourced dressings in cute little mason jars that make the perfect host or hostess gift.

The dressings use raw honey or raw coconut nectar for sweetness, as well as vinegars and oils, and mustards from artisan producers for flavor.

They come in four varieties, which I recently received samples to try: Sunny Avocado, Berry Olive, Green Pumpkin, and Red Sunflower.

The Sunny Avocado is buttery with a slight vegetative note to it, as well as the zing of apple cider vinegar. The Berry Olive is fruity sweet-tart with pomegranate vinegar and raw blackberry honey. The Green Pumpkin is nutty and rich with a dash of mustard. The Red Sunflower is also quite nutty with a subtle spiciness from red pepper chili.

They come in a handy four-pack.

They come in a handy four-pack. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

A four-pack (one of each variety) is $67.99. You can give the entire pack to someone or break it up and gift one or two to someone while keeping the rest for yourself. Best yet, through the end of this year, 10 percent of proceeds from each four-pack to SF Fights Fire, a grass-roots chefs effort to provide food and services to North Bay Fire Rescue Centers in the aftermath of the Wine Country fires. Just enter the code at check-out: Enter Code: SFFF.

“Moto: The Cookbook”

I will go on record as saying that it’s a good bet that I will likely never cook anything from the new “Moto: the Cookbook” (Little, Brown and Company, $50) by Homaro Cantu. Yet when a review copy arrived in my mail, I couldn’t stop reading it or stop staring at the photos of its phantasmagorical dishes or being in awe at the mind that came up with it all.


Cantu, a former sous chef at Charlie Trotter’s, was the visionary behind the ground-breaking Moto in Chicago, which opened in 2004. Sadly, he took his own life in 2015. The restaurant continued on without him for almost a year before his widow sold it to the Alinea Group.

But not before it made an indelible mark on the food industry.

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Great China Restaurant Is Beyond Great

The best Peking duck you just might ever have --- at Great China.

The best Peking duck you just might ever have — at Great China.


The first clue that Berkeley’s family-run Great China is quite unlike any other mom-and-pop Chinese restaurant comes when you pull up to the front door.

Even on a Sunday evening at 4:30 p.m., you’re likely to find a line of about 30 people, waiting patiently for the doors to open a half hour later.

Once you step inside, you get your next clue. The restaurant may carry a moniker of generations past, but its interior is all clean-lines contemporary with concrete floors, exposed ducts,  a waterfall-edged wood bar countertop, polished wood tables, pendant lights and oversized abstract canvases on the walls.

The restaurant was established in 1985 by Mike and Jenny Yu. It is now run by their sons, James and Tai, the latter who designed the restaurant space after a catastrophic fire destroyed the original location a few blocks away in 2012.

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A Delicious Visit to Pioneering Vik’s Chaat

An icon in Berkeley.

An icon in Berkeley.


Amod Chopra likes to joke that the arc of his family-owned Vik’s Chaat cafe and grocery in Berkeley is best symbolized by an old TV set.

When the original 200-square-foot cafe opened in 1989 at a time when few non-Asian-Indian-Americans were familiar with the tradition of chaat or snacks, his father, for whom the business is named, put a TV in the dining room.

In the beginning, when few customers came through the doors, Chopra remembers watching shows on that TV to while away the hours of boredom. But then something happened as word began to spread of the vibrant, chili-inflected, palate-popping puffs, crepes, breads and chutneys that could be enjoyed at bargain prices.

“We got busy. And we moved the TV to another room,” he recalls. “Then, when we got really busy, we got rid of the TV.”

That was then. This is now — when a startling 1,000 people or so dine here on a typical Saturday or Sunday.

Owner Amod Chopra, whose father Vik, started the business.

Owner Amod Chopra, whose father Vik, started the business.

Some have been regulars since the beginning. It’s a good bet that for many, Vik’s was their first taste of Indian food beyond the requisite curries. What started out as a wholesale grocery still supplies the majority of Indian restaurants in the Bay Area today, too.

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Head Over Heels — And Doing Cartwheels — Over RT Rotisserie

In my happy place at RT Rotisserie.

In my happy place at RT Rotisserie.


Dear Chefs Evan and Sarah Rich:

Please open an outpost of your RT Rotisserie in the South Bay or Peninsula. Pretty please.


Your Number One Fan, aka the Food Gal


If you have tried the roast chicken and fixings at RT Rotisserie in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley, you’ll be tempted to implore chef-owners Evan and Sarah to open a branch in your hood, too. One taste is all it takes to find yourself swooning over what is the most glorious roasted chicken you’ll ever experience.

After all, these are the same chefs who own the newly minted Michelin-starred Rich Table in San Francisco.

Chef Evan Rich manning the rotisserie.

Chef Evan Rich manning the rotisserie.

My husband and I ordered a veritable feast — and paid our tab though Chef Evan threw in a few extra dishes gratis — when we visited this more casual establishment recently. You order at the counter, then take a seat to have your food brought out to you when it’s ready.

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