Deviled eggs with crab and caviar at Sabio on Main.
I sheepishly confess that before a couple weeks ago, I had never dined in Pleasanton.
It was a city I merely drove past on the way to somewhere else.
I only felt a little less embarrassed by that after Chef Francis X. Hogan told me that he had been in the same boat. Living in Oakland and fresh off heading the kitchen at San Francisco’s Bluestem Brasserie, he scratched his head when he got approached to open a new restaurant in this city three years ago, which he had associated merely with strip malls and car dealerships.
Chef-Partner Francis X. Hogan.
When he got invited to tour the area, though, he found his eyes opened wide. Surrounded by undulating hills, it boasts a charming, most walk-able downtown full of restaurants, small businesses, and residents who regularly flock to it on weekends.
“I fell in love with the area,” he told me. “It feels like old Sonoma.”
Thinly sliced pork chops grill up fast and sweet, and get a potent dipping sauce.
Hawker Fare — it is far more than a restaurant and a cookbook.
It is the deeply personal embodiment of Chef-Owner James Syhabout. It is a love letter to his mother, a reckoning with his Laotian heritage, a symbol of respect for an often misunderstood cuisine, and a testament that fortitude, passion and determination can lead to greatness and awakening.
Syhabout may be known best as the only Michelin-starred chef in the East Bay — for his fine-dining Commis restaurant (two stars, thank you very much). But it is the down-home Hawker Fare where his heart lies.
That’s immediately evident in the pages of his first cookbook, “Hawker Fare: Stories & Recipes From a Refugee Chef’s Isan Thai & Lao Roots,” of which I received a review copy. Syhabout wrote the cookbook with assistance from James Beard Award-winning food writer John Birdsall of Oakland.
It was published by Ecco, Anthony Bourdain’s publishing imprint of HarperCollins.
The Beginner’s Luck cocktail.
If you’re already a fan of the original Enoteca La Storia in Los Gatos, you’re sure to embrace its big brother that’s more than three times the size that opened last year in San Jose’s Little Italy neighborhood.
Owners Joe Cannistraci, 52 of Sicilian heritage, and Mike Guerra, 53 of Calabrese heritage, are proud Italian-Americans who pay homage to Italian forebearers at each location. Cannistraci’s father owned a grocery in New York; while Guerra’s paternal grandfather and paternal great-grandfather both owned grocery stores in San Jose, and his maternal grandparents ran Hollister’s Villa Pace Italian restaurant.
The inside of this historic building has been fully refurbished. It is old Italy meets contemporary industrial with exposed brick and duct work, along with old black and white photos enlarged to pay respect to Italian families who helped shaped this valley. In fact, an assistant manager singled out one particular photo of the Italian family who used to run a bakery on this spot long ago. One of the babies in that photo, now all grown-up, recently came in and pointed out herself to the owners.
The main dining room.
A mock-up receipt from the old bakery that used to operate on the site.
An old photo of the Murillo family that operated the bakery.
Old wood bread paddles from the bakery also are on display, as is a rendering of a receipt from the bakery, blown up to poster size.
Make no argument, these are the best deviled eggs around.
These are by no means traditional eats for Chinese New Year, which begins Feb. 16.
Nor are they typical picnic fare.
What these deviled eggs are is simply the best rendition you’ll ever sink your teeth into.
Boston-based Pastry Chef Joanne Chang of Flour bakery already makes some of my most favorite baked goods. Now she and Executive Chef Karen Akunowicz of Myers + Chang restaurant in Boston have done it on the savory side, creating an Asian-inflected version of deviled eggs that will spoil you for all others.
“Soy Sauce Deviled Eggs with Five-Spice” is from her latest cookbook, “Myers + Chang At Home” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) by Chang and Akunowicz, of which I received a review copy.
The more than 80 recipes represent favorite dishes served at Meyers + Chang over the past decade — everything from “Sichuan Shrimp Lettuce Wraps” to “Korean Braised Short Rib Tacos with Kimchi-Sesame Salsa” to “Surf and Turf Black pepper Shanghai Noodles” to “Chocolate Tofu Mousse with Black and White Sesame Brittle.”
Chef Tiyo Shibabaw at her Teni East Kitchen.
What’s an Ethiopia-born chef doing cooking Burmese food?
Living out a delectable dream, that’s what.
Tiyo Shibabaw, born and raised in Ethiopia where her parents run a hotel and restaurant, always knew she wanted to be in the hospitality industry.
But it wasn’t until she moved to the Bay Area that she found her calling in Southeast Asian cuisines, most notably after going to work at Burma Superstar. Although she started there as a general manager, it wasn’t long before she began apprenticing in the kitchen. She was soon tapped to open the Burma Superstar in Alameda, followed by one in Oakland.
After 10 years, she left the fold to step out on her own, opening her Teni East Kitchen in 2016 that’s named for her mother.
As she explained when I was invited in last week as a guest of her restaurant, she fell in love with the deep, complex flavors of Burmese cuisine that are multi-layered thanks to its judicious use of spices much like in Ethiopian cooking.