Category Archives: Restaurants

Santana Row Welcomes Oveja Negra

The black sheep is the mascot of the new Oveja Negra.

The black sheep is the mascot of the new Oveja Negra.

 

Out with Citrus; in with Oveja Negra.

The Hotel Valencia in San Jose’s Santana Row has transformed its former restaurant into a new concept with a new name. Chef Ocean Orssten still remains at the helm, but now he’s creating a menu of “unruly tapas.” Hence the name, Oveja Negra, which in Spanish means “black sheep” or refers to the odd man out. It’s his whimsical way of saying he’s not necessarily doing typical traditional tapas here, but more globally-inspired, off-beat small plates.

I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently to check out its new look, which sports brass tack-hammered, dark banquettes, white curved-back chairs, and Moorish accents.

Shrimp and grits -- Indian curry-style.

Shrimp and grits — Indian curry-style.

The signature cocktail is the Mezcal Brillante ($14) that puts smoky mezcal in the spotlight with the tartness of grapefruit. A rim of freeze-dried yuzu with yuzu marmalade gives each sip an extra sweet-sour pucker.

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In Tribute to My Friend Marvin

Prosciutto, rucola, tomato and mozzarella served with plenty of memories at Mozza.

Prosciutto, rucola, tomato and mozzarella served with plenty of memories at Mozza.

 

The first time I ever ate the exquisite pizza at Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles was also the first time I met Marvin.

We lived on opposite ends of the state. Me in Silicon Valley, and he in the Arts District of Los Angeles, which was appropriate given his long career as a sound editor on movies ranging from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” to “Basic Instinct” to “Erin Brokovich.” It wasn’t movies that brought us together, though, but food, of course.

When I was the food editor of the San Jose Mercury News, I would often get emails from loyal readers far and wide, especially right after the food section published each Wednesday. None captivated me more than those from Marvin, who always had a thought or two about any story I wrote.

First off, you had to love the fact that his email address was “KitchenSynch.” That alone was enough to make me smile whenever I saw it pop up in my inbox each week. Second, he shared my love of sweets and ginger; so how could I not feel a kinship with him? He’d often send me recipes he’d come across that he tried and knew I would like — for brioche buns, loaded ginger muffins, and “Babette’s Apple Cake.” He’d even send me care packages at the newspaper of ginger candies, ginger jams and ginger sodas he knew I’d appreciate. Third, he would email me recommendations for movies. Often obscure, many times foreign, ones I’d never heard of. But all were worth seeing in their own right. And last but not least, when my parents passed away in the same year, within two months of one another, it was Marvin who wrote the most touching words of comfort to me, lifting me from the shadows of devastating despair.

After months and months of these email exchanges, I figured it was high time we met in person. My husband and I were headed to Los Angeles for a long weekend, so I emailed Marvin to see if he would like to meet up at Pizzeria Mozza. He agreed, readily.

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Atelier Crenn Welcomes the Launch of the 2017 Basque Culinary World Prize

Chef Dominique Crenn and Joxe Mari Aizega talk about the importance of the Basque Culinary World Prize.

Chef Dominique Crenn and Joxe Mari Aizega talk about the importance of the Basque Culinary World Prize.

 

Most culinary awards pay tribute to what a chef does in the kitchen. The Basque Culinary Prize, on the other hand, honors the achievements of a chef beyond the kitchen.

Now in its second year, the international award is given to someone who has helped improve society in some way through gastronomy. The winner receives $100,000 Euros to devote to a social project of his/her choice.

Last year’s winner, Venezuelan Chef Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe was chosen for building an ecosystem of education, entrepreneurship, research and development in Venezuelan chocolate, including giving opportunities to women in economically precarious situations.

Kir Breton -- a one bite marvel of Creme de Cassis on top of a white chocolate shell filled with apple cidre.

Kir Breton — a one bite marvel of Creme de Cassis on top of a white chocolate shell filled with apple cidre.

Slightly smoked caviar with koji cream.

Slightly smoked caviar with koji cream.

Less is more: ruttabaga cooked in a salt crust and finished in butter, intensifying its root veg sweetness.

Less is more: ruttabaga cooked in a salt crust and finished in butter, intensifying its root veg sweetness.

The kickoff for this year’s nominations was celebrated at a stellar media lunch last Friday at Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. The eight-course repast, complete with Spanish wines, showcased exactly why Chef-Proprietor Dominique Crenn was the first female chef in the United States to garner two Michelin stars.

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Take A Taste of the Impossible and Beyond Meat Burgers

Sampling a slider-size of the Impossible Burger at Jardiniere before its public launch.

Sampling a slider-size of the Impossible Burger at Jardiniere before its public launch.

 

What is a burger without meat?

Diehard carnivores might answer, “A travesty.”

But even they might change their minds after a bite of the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Meat Burger. Both are entirely plant-based patties that closely mimic beef burgers. And both are now available in the Bay Area for vegetarians and the curious to enjoy.

Impossible Burger is the creation of Redwood City’s Impossible Foods. It is fashioned from wheat, coconut oil, potatoes, and heme, a compound in plants and meat, which gives meat its characteristic aroma and taste.

Compared to raising cows for burgers, the Impossible Burger uses 95 percent less land, 74 percent less water, and creates 87 percent less greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also free of hormones, antibiotics and artificial ingredients. And you don’t have to worry about slaughterhouse cross-contamination.

El Segundo’s Beyond Meat Burger is similarly environmentally-friendly, and is fashioned from pea protein, yeast extract, coconut oil, beet extract and annatto extract.

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Sidle Up To The Bar At Bistro Don Giovanni

Top Shelf Butterscotch Pudding -- good to the last spoonful -- at Bistro Don Giovanni.

Top Shelf Butterscotch Pudding — good to the last spoonful — at Bistro Don Giovanni.

 

You know the rare restaurant that always makes you feel warm, welcome and satisfied time and time again — no matter if you’re dining solo, too?

That’s Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa to me. I’ve eaten there many times, and never ever had a bad meal.

When I find myself on assignment traveling solo to the Napa Valley, I will often plant myself on a bar stool at the end of the day at this long-time Italian favorite established in 1993 by Proprietor Giovanni Scala and his late-wife Chef Donna Scala.

The glowing strings of light at night in the courtyard can’t help but beckon, as does the on-point Italian food.

The entrance.

Th entrance.

The dining room.

The dining room.

I took a seat at the end of the bar last week (paying my full tab) to enjoy a glass of 2015 Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc while I contemplated the menu.

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