Category Archives: Restaurants

Real-Deal Italian Food at Ca’ Momi

Ca' Momi holds three certifications for authentic Italian pizza.

Ca’ Momi holds three certifications for authentic Italian pizza.

 

Veneto-born Chef-Restaurateur Valentina Guolo-Migotto proudly says that when Italians dine at her Napa restaurant, Ca’ Momi, they tell her the food is better than what’s in Italy.

That pleases her to no end.

It’s easy to agree heartily after eating there, too, as I did earlier this spring when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

This is one of those places, where you want to shout to the rafters, “Where have you been all my life?”

Because it is that glorious.

It is a touch of Italy — the real Italy — in the Napa Valley.

The fun bar, well stocked with Italian amaro.

The fun bar, well stocked with Italian amaro.

It's always "movie night'' here.

It’s always “movie night” here.

The rustic downtown restaurant makes most everything in-house, even its own wines, beer, vodka and gin. They’re also experimenting with making amaro, the bitter Italian herbal spirit, of which they have a large selection to choose from.

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San Jose Welcomes Northern California’s First Jinya Ramen Bar

Jinya Ramen Bar is the newest ramen joint to open in the South Bay.

Jinya Ramen Bar is the newest ramen joint to open in the South Bay.

 

Broths made with Fuji water for purity of flavor, and simmered for 10 hours. Noodles aged for three days in-house. Plus a modern spin on ingredient combinations.

That’s what Jinya Ramen Bar is all about.

With more than 20 locations in the United States and Canada, the first Northern California one opened in February at Westfield Oakridge Center in San Jose. A second Bay Area outpost, this one in Pleasanton, is expected to open shortly.

Japanese restaurateur Tomonori Takahashi opened the first Jinya, which is named for a Samurai soldier, in Studio City in 2010.

Husband-and-wife team Alan Vu and Tracy Than own and operate the San Jose one. The former Silicon Valley engineers are franchise veterans, having owned Mrs. Fields cookies and Popeyes chicken ones in the past. Ramen is decidedly harder, they told me when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently, because of the larger, more complex menu.

The kitchen crew at dinner time.

The kitchen crew at dinner time.

Bowls to be filled.

Bowls to be filled.

The kitchen takes up much of the indoor space, with small tables centered around it. Two outdoor seating areas, one of them covered, expands the restaurant’s capabilities.

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A Big Bad Breakfast for Mother’s Day

Fluffy, oat-fortified pancakes to greet the day.

Fluffy, oat-fortified pancakes to greet the day.

 

When I was growing up, my oldest brother and I would often wake up early on Sundays to stir up a big bowl of batter for waffles for the entire family.

Nowadays, with my husband’s predilection, it’s pancakes all the way.

Are you Team Waffle? Or Team Pancake?

It’s funny how most households seem to favor one or the other.

“Toasted Oatmeal Pancakes” might just satisfy both camps. That’s because of the toasted steel-cut oats that not only fortify the batter, but get sprinkled on as each pancake cooks, lending bits of crunch here and there like the edges of a waffle might.

The recipe is from “Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day” (Ten Speed Press, 2016) by John Currence, the James Beard Award-winning chef who owns Big Bad Breakfast in Alabama. You might also know him from his appearances on “No Reservations,” “Mind of A Chef,” and “Top Chef Masters.”

BigBadBreakfastBook

Of course in this case, the operative word “bad” really means “good.” This is breakfast done boldly, with plenty of excess. Among Currence’s “Ten Commandments of Breakfast” is “Thou shalt slather with butter,” and “Though shalt hold no meal higher than breakfast.”

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Eating Adventures in Los Angeles, Part II: Connie & Ted’s, RiceBar, Apple Pan and Shake Shack

A fun place to indulge your cravings for seafood.

A fun place to indulge your cravings for seafood.

Connie & Ted’s

Chef Michael Cimarusti has the utmost reverence for seafood. After all, his haute Providence has won every acclaim imaginable for its attention to seafood.

Now comes Connie & Ted’s, a West Hollywood seafood joint at the other end of the spectrum, a modern-day clam shack that treats seafood with equal esteem but in a much more laid-back atmosphere.

On a sunny day (which of course is most every day in Los Angeles), there’s no better place to be.

A mid-century-modern look at Connie & Ted's.

A mid-century-modern look at Connie & Ted’s.

A trio of chowders.

A trio of chowders.

Clam bellies and perfect onion rings.

Clam bellies and perfect onion rings.

There are three chowders on the menu: New England, Manhattan, and Rhode Island. The best part is you can get a sampler of all three ($11), which comes with baby doll-sized oyster crackers.

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Eating Adventures in Los Angeles, Part I: Taco Maria, Shibumi, and Mian

Mussels, clams, lima beans, cherry tomato and chile -- a third-course on the Taco Maria prix fixe.

Mussels, clams, lima beans, cherry tomato and chile — a third-course on the Taco Maria prix fixe.

 

I may have been in Los Angeles last month for only four days, but I did some major eating in that short time. Come along for a taste.

Taco Maria

In a building inside SoCo design complex in Costa Mesa is the OC Mix, a mini marketplace of fun trendy shops and small cafes.

It is here you will find Taco Maria. Its artsy locale is fitting because this is high-concept Mexican food by a chef who used to cook at Coi in San Franciso and Commis in Oakland.

Nope, this is not your standard enchilada- or burrito-drowned-in-cheese kind of place. While it serves a la carte lunch, it turns into prix fixe-only at night. And what a fine parade of dishes you’re in for with the $75 four-course meal (wine pairings are $35 extra), which is quite reasonable for what you get.

Sitting at the counter, you are up close and personal with the cooks preparing your food.

Sitting at the counter, you are up close and personal with the cooks preparing your food.

Each course offers a choice of two dishes. So if there are two of you dining, you can order the entire menu and share tastes of everything, which is what my husband and I did. Sit at the counter in front of the small kitchen, and you can watch the cooks in action.

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