Category Archives: Great Finds

The Man You Should Thank For Your Love of Sugar Snap Peas

Calvin Lamborn's over-sized pea 52s that are as sweet as candy.

Calvin Lamborn’s over-sized pea 52s that are as sweet as candy.

 

TWIN FALLS, IDAHO — You may not be familiar with Calvin Lamborn’s name. But you know his delicious life’s work. He is the plant breeder responsible for creating the first commercially viable sugar snap pea in 1979.

It’s hard to imagine a time without those sweet, crunchy pea pods. But before Lamborn worked his magic, you couldn’t find sugar snap peas regularly at farmers markets or supermarkets. Oh, and those stringless sugar snap peas we all adore because they don’t have to be peeled? Yup, he created those, too.

Calvin Lamborn and his wife, Bonnie, who had a sugar snap pea variety name for her.

Calvin Lamborn and his wife, Bonnie, who had a sugar snap pea variety name for her.

At 80 years of age now, Lamborn is not thinking about slowing down anytime soon. And top chefs in New York are sure thankful for that. Lincoln Ristorante, Union Square Cafe, The Breslin, wd-50 and more clamor to use his handiwork in their dishes — over-sized pea 52s that taste as sweet as candy, snap peas the bold color of a red chile pepper, and frilly pea leaves the likes of which no one had ever seen before.

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Palo Alto Welcomes Belcampo Meat Co.

Pulled pork bun (front) and braised lamb belly bun (back) at Belcampo in Palo Alto.

Pulled pork bun (front) and braised lamb belly bun (back) at Belcampo in Palo Alto.

 

After opening its first restaurant-retail meat shop last spring in Larkspur, Belcampo Meat Co. has been on a rapid roll.

Since then, it has opened in speedy succession in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and just four weeks ago in Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village.

Shortly, Santa Monica will get the largest outpost of the farm-to-table meat company with a butcher shop plus a restaurant that will boast a full bar, as well as 90 seats. A lease also has been signed for a location in West Hollywood.

Belcampo is on a fast-track mission to prove that sustainable not only can be profitable, but feasible on a large-scale.

A butcher packs away the meat just before closing.

A butcher packs away the meat just before closing.

Note the whiteness of the fat on the meat -- a sign of pasture-fed animals.

Note the whiteness of the fat on the meat — a sign of pasture-fed animals.

It is the brainchild of Todd Robinson, a Wall Street veteran with deep pockets; and Anya Fernald, a California-native and long-time locavore entrepreneur. She may look familiar from her previous appearances as a judge on “Iron Chef America” and as the founder of the Eat Real Festival in Oakland.

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Hankering for Hawaii Part IV: Dining at Three James Beard Semi-Finalists on Oahu

A parade of snacks including this sweetbread chip begins the night at Vintage Cave, Honolulu's most unexpected restaurant.

A parade of snacks including this sweetbread chip begins the night at Vintage Cave, Honolulu’s most unexpected restaurant.

HONOLULU, OAHU — A culinary revolution is exploding on this island. A new generation of chefs has stepped to the forefront to shake, rattle and roll new life into Hawaii’s sometimes all too predictable cuisine.

Just consider: Among this year’s semi-finalists for James Beard Awards were five from Hawaii, including one restaurant that was a mere pop-up only months ago.

At the invitation of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, I had a chance to check out three of those up and coming chefs and restaurants recently. At two, my meal was complimentary, while at the third, I paid the tab but was treated to extra dishes on the house. In each case, I came away thoroughly excited by what I tasted and by the ambitious trajectory island cuisine is taking.

Vintage Cave

I’ve never dined in a restaurant like Vintage Cave before. Chances are you haven’t, either.

Imagine a cross between a billionaire’s medieval castle and a fine art gallery, and you get some idea of this most unusual restaurant that has no windows and is located in a most unlikely place — the bowels of Honolulu’s largest shopping mall.

In fact, my taxi driver looked at me quite puzzled when I told him where I was headed. Yes, you drive into the basement level of the parking lot of the Ala Moana Center. Among the rows of parked cars, you look for a brick doorway where a valet is stationed. You step into the doorway, where an elevator awaits to whisk you up to the next level. You arrive in a small anteroom, where you follow two women who open a double-door for you into the dimly lit restaurant. Its dramatic walls and ceiling are covered in 150,000 bricks imported from the mainland and intricately arranged in a herringbone pattern by three Romanian workers brought over for three months just to complete that task.

The cloistered dining room at Vintage Cave.

The cloistered dining room at Vintage Cave.

Hiroshima paintings that inspired the look of the restaurant.

Hiroshima paintings that inspired the look of the restaurant.

Dining amid Picassos.

Dining amid Picassos.

Immediately to your left is a series of three paintings done by Israeli artist Moredecai Ardon. Depicting Hiroshima — before, during and after the dropping of the atomic bomb — the paintings are said to have inspired the look of the restaurant. Walk a few steps to gaze upon a series of priceless Picassos that show the progression of the master’s art from realism to cubism. Off to the right are lighted display cases filled with luminous Lalique and Baccarat crystal. On the ceilings hang immense Swarovski chandeliers that glint with vivid red and blue.

All of these pieces — and much more found throughout the restaurant — came from the personal art collection of Takeshi Sekiguchi, the Japanese developer of this $20 million restaurant. It’s not by happenstance that Vintage Cave is located in the bowels of the Shirokiya store in the mall. Sekiguchi owns Shirokiya, which used to be an appliance store, with its wares stored in the 15,000-square-foot basement. When the store morphed into more of a department store, then giant Hawaiian food court, there was no more need for the basement. So, Sekiguchi, who also built the Vegas-like Grand Wailea resort on Maui, set out to build his dream restaurant.

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Hankering for Hawaii Part I: Taro and Sweet Potato Chips Fried to Order

Taro and sweet potato chips fried to order for you.

Taro and sweet potato chips fried to order for you.

OAHU, HAWAII — If you’ve spent any time snacking in Hawaii, you’re only too familiar with those ubiquitous bags of taro and sweet potato chips by Hawaiian Chip Company.

They’re irresistible — big, crunchy slices of speckled taro, orange sweet potato and deep purple sweet potato fried up crisp with the taste of their natural root veggie sweetness shining through.

They’re everywhere on the islands — stocked in ABC Stores, Costco, Wal-Mart and Long’s Drugs.

They’re so beloved that whenever we travel to Hawaii, my husband’s sister always pleads for us to tote back a few bags to California for her, since you can’t get them outside of the islands unless you mail-order them.

What the chips are made from.

What the chips are made from.

What’s even better, though — is getting them fried fresh to order.

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