Category Archives: Great Finds

Mad for Madcap

Kimberly and Ron Siegel in their wonderful restaurant, Madcap.

Kimberly and Ron Siegel in their wonderful restaurant, Madcap.

 

Over his storied career, Ron Siegel has worked for an impressive lineup of chefs, including Daniel Boulud, Michael Mina, and Thomas Keller, the latter for whom he served as the inaugural sous chef for The French Laundry.

But now Siegel is finally working for himself.

In a most splendid fashion, too.

Sign

Madcap, his first very own restaurant, opened in San Anselmo earlier this summer. You’ll find him in the compact kitchen, which he has joked is smaller than the walk-in at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, where he was executive chef for many years. His wife Kimberly, whom he met when she was a server at The French Laundry, runs the front of the house. And when his two teen-age daughters aren’t in school, they often can be found in the dining room, jotting down orders.

The stunning rabbit tortelloni.

The stunning rabbit tortelloni.

It’s a small venue, about 47 seats, yet it feels a bit larger, thanks to the fact that there are two dining rooms. Artist Michael Brennan conceived the warm space, punctuated by dark wood, a marble bar top (where about three people can squeeze in to dine), deep red velvet banquettes, and his own eclectic paintings, including one of Raquel Welch striking an iconic pose from “One Million Years B.C.”

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Of Gourmet Ice Cream, Nuts and Sandwiches

A tower of ice cream sandwiches at Ici Ice Cream. (photo by Tory Putnam)

A tower of ice cream sandwiches at Ici Ice Cream. (photo by Tory Putnam)

Ici Ice Cream Opens Second Berkeley Location

Bay Area fans of Ici Ice Cream — and there are legions — are rejoicing that this artisan shop has just opened a second location in Berkeley.

That means twice the opportunities to get your fix of Honey-Vanilla-Black-Tea, Chocolate-Chocolate Almond Toffee, Pink Peppermint, Honey Lavender-Pistachio, and other fabulous flavors of ice cream and sorbets.

Mary Canales, who spent nine years as the pastry chef of Chez Panisse, founded her original shop 11 years ago on College Avenue in the Elmwood neighborhood. The second shop opened last week in downtown Berkeley.

Since the beginning, Ici has churned organic and sustainable ingredients in its ice creams. They’re made in small batches to ensure freshness.

A special treat just for this time of year: Ici's Bouche de Noel. (photo by Tory Putnam)

A special treat just for this time of year: Ici’s Bouche de Noel. (photo by Tory Putnam)

Everything will continue to be made at the College Avenue location, then transported to the downtown shop. Both places sell scoops, pints, cakes and confections, including seasonal cakes, ice cream bombes, ice cream sandwiches, bon-bons and candies.

It’s a perfect place to stop after a dinner of paella at Oakland’s Duende, owned by Mary’s husband, Paul Canales. Hey, just sayin’.

New Heirloom Reserve Nuts

Just in time for your holiday baking needs, Diamond of California has released a new line of Heirloom Reserve walnuts, pecans and Marcona almonds.

I used the new Diamond Heirloom Marcona Almonds in a salad of green beans, orange segments and fennel. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

I used the new Diamond Heirloom Marcona Almonds in a salad of green beans, orange segments and fennel. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

The century-old producer of nuts is highlighting varietals that have been passed down for generations.

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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.

BraveTart

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.

MotoCookbook

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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