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Scenes from Chefs’ Holidays, Part I: With Sons & Daughters, The Meatball Shop and The Hungry Cat

Monday, 28. January 2013 5:25

Seared albacore with yogurt, dates and blood orange by Chef David Lentz of The Hungry Cat.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — Serene, peaceful and magical. That’s what it’s like here in this winter wonderland.

But inside the grand Ahwahnee Hotel, the national historic landmark that opened in 1927, it’s a hive of activity at this time of year, as some of the most noted chefs from around the country make a pilgrimage here to give demos and to cook gala dinners for the public.

Yours truly was honored to be invited to be the host for two of the sessions last week for the 28th annual Chefs’ Holidays, which takes place each year throughout the month of January.

For the chefs, it’s always a fun time. They bring their spouses and kids to make a working holiday of it. For some of the chefs, it was a return visit. For others, it was their first time to Yosemite.

The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. When it opened in 1927, rooms could be had for $5-$50.

Yosemite Falls.

All of them pulled off their demos like the pros that they are. You’d never know how nervous a few were before they took the stage. One chef said he started prepping extra early because he was so jittery he couldn’t sleep the night before. Another chef said she’d rather cook three gala dinners in a row than do one cooking demo because she always gets so anxious beforehand.

(L to R): Matt McNamara of Sons & Daughters; Duncan Holmes, chef de cuisine of Sons & Daughters; Daniel Holzman of The Meatball Shop; David Lentz of The Hungry Cat; and Lentz's son.

Matt McNamara, co-chef and co-founder of Sons & Daughters in San Francisco, kicked off the session by demonstrating how to make “Squab with Marcona Almond Puree, Pickled Fennel, and Citrus” and “Roasted Baby Beets with Pickled Mustard Seeds and Vadauvan.”

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, General, More Food Gal -- In Person, Travel Adventures | Comments (10) | Author:

Eating My Way Through Montreal in the Fall, Part II

Wednesday, 12. December 2012 5:25

A magnificent steelhead trout with caviar, yogurt and dill "sponge'' cake at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal.

MONTREAL, CANADA — One of the best meals I had in this city wasn’t where I thought it would be. It wasn’t in some storied white-tablecloth establishment that had been around for generations. Nor was it in some hip, counter-culture cafe headed by the latest bad boy-chef.

No, it was inside a museum, of all places.

The Musee D’Art Contemporain de Montreal boasts an impressive collection of modern Quebec art. It also has a restaurant worth seeking out, thanks to its young, self-taught chef, Antonin Mousseau-Rivard.

That Mousseau-Rivard is a chef at a museum is only apropos. After all, his grandfather, Jean-Paul Mousseau, was a famed artist whose works are part of the museum’s permanent exhibit, “A Matter of Abstraction.”

What the younger Mousseau-Rivard puts on the plate is equally a work of art — not only in looks, but in flavor and imagination.

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (9) | Author:

Eating My Way Through Montreal in the Fall, Part I

Tuesday, 11. December 2012 5:25

Inside the magnificent Montreal Notre-Dame Basilica.

MONTREAL, CANADA — Bundled up tightly in a trench coat, boots, gloves, scarf and a wooly hat, I have left the still sunny Northern California climate to make my way around Canada’s second largest city in the chill of early November.

I am joined by eight other food writers from around the globe, all of us hosted on this trip by Tourisme Montreal.

Our mission? To eat, drink and get to know Montreal’s vibrant food scene.

Naturally, we are more than up to the task.

I should have realized just how serious Montrealers take eating when I disembarked the plane at Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and went through Canadian customs. When the agent realized I was a food writer visiting his country for the main purpose of eating, he asked to see my itinerary, then proceeded to point out which restaurants on the list he had visited and which he particularly liked. If that isn’t an auspicious beginning to a trip, I don’t know what is.

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Chinese Cheap Eats in Los Angeles

Friday, 19. October 2012 5:25

Hainan chicken -- comfort on a plate at Savoy Kitchen.

LOS ANGELES and VICINITY — Hainan chicken is pure comfort food to me. It’s nothing fancy. But there’s just something wonderfully satisfying about a plate of tender poached chicken served with rice infused with the resulting savory chicken broth.

So, when Chef Will Pacio of Spice Kit in San Francisco and Palo Alto recommended Savoy Kitchen in Alhambra, famous for its Hainanese chicken rice, I knew I had to check it out.

With its European sounding name and bistro-type outdoor seating flanked by trees lit up with strings of blinking lights, it hardly resembles an Asian restaurant from the outside. Inside, the space is tiny, with just a few tables and some counter seating. It also has a rather head-scratching menu. Yes, there is the Hainan chicken. But there’s also escargot, sausage pasta, and conch pizza. Go figure.

We were there for the Hainan chicken, of course. For $6.95, you get an ample portion of chicken, served traditionally at room temperature, along with a mound of rice that has soaked up all that chicken-y flavor, and three dipping sauces: pounded ginger, chili with garlic and sweet dark soy. For $1 more, you can exchange a portion of the rice for a simple iceberg salad with tomatoes and a creamy Italian-esque dressing instead.

The white meat chicken was juicy, and the rice moist and slightly oily from all that chicken-y goodness. Smear some ginger sauce over it all and experience total contentment.

The place was packed on a Saturday night. There were plenty of folks picking up take-out, too. With chicken this good, who can blame them?

The Din Tai Fung dumpling mascot greets you at the door.

What I wouldn’t give for a Din Tai Fung in the Bay Area. But alas, this dumpling house out of Taiwan only has locations in the United States in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Whenever I’m in Los Angeles, I have to stop into the Din Tai Fung in Arcadia. Actually, there are two in Arcadia, practically right next to one another. There’s almost always a line to get in. But because they’re so efficient (think servers with headphones who roam the dining room while always in communication with the kitchen), the wait is never that long.

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Category:General, Great Finds, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (7) | Author:

Three Sweet Treats in Los Angeles

Thursday, 18. October 2012 5:25

Fonuts "Hawaiian'' donut (front) and "Banana Chocolate'' (back).

LOS ANGELES & VICINITY — During a quick weekend trip down to Southern California recently, my sweet tooth got a major workout at three stellar places.

First up, Fonuts, the donuts that are almost guilt-free. That’s because they’re not fried, but are baked or steamed. Moreover, many of them also are vegan or gluten-free.

Fonuts of Los Angeles is the creation of Waylynn Lucas, formerly pastry chef at  The Bazaar and Patina, both in Los Angeles; and voice actor Nancy Truman.

The donuts, about $3 each, have a moist, tender crumb and a texture akin to a tea cake or muffin.

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Category:Bakeries, Chefs, Donuts, Fruit, General, Great Finds, Travel Adventures | Comments (9) | Author: