Category Archives: Wine

Parcel 104 Celebrates Its 17th Year

Not to big, not to small, but just right citrus tart by Pastry Chef Carlos Sanchez.

Not to big, not to small, but just right citrus tart by Pastry Chef Carlos Sanchez.

 

To help celebrate Parcel 104’s 17th anniversary this year, the restaurant in the Santa Clara Marriott near Levi’s Stadium last week reunited founder Chef Bradley Ogden with the team there for a special Cakebread Cellars wine dinner last week, which I was invited to as a guest.

The festivities will continue, as the restaurant is offering a $35 three-course lunch through July 31 with appetizers by Ogden, entrees by Executive Chef Sergio Morales, and desserts by Pastry Chef Carlos Sanchez.

Ogden, who practiced farm-to-table long before it became part and parcel of the Bay Area lexicon, is now working and living in Lodi’s wine country, as culinary director at the Wine & Roses resort.

Chefs Bradley Ogden (left) and Sergio Morales, (right).

Chefs Bradley Ogden (left) and Sergio Morales, (right).

Sanchez has been with Parcel 104 since day one. Born in Columbia, he has staged and worked with Juan-Mari and daughter Elena Arzak at Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain, as well as Pastry Chef Jordi Roca of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, two of the greatest restaurants in the world. Over the years, Sanchez has become known for his dainty-sized desserts, often served in trios, that are perfection personified.

Cakebread Cellars' wines matched to each course.

Cakebread Cellars’ wines matched to each course.

Morales was supposed to be a lawyer like his father. In fact, he attended Santa Clara University’s law school for a year and a half before leaving to follow his passion of cooking. He graduated from the Professional Culinary Institute in Campbell, now known as the International Culinary Center. His Dad first feared that he’d end up being a short-order cook, flipping burgers for the rest of his life. But now, his father couldn’t be prouder of his son working his way up from a cook to head chef here.

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For A “Bargain” Tasting Menu, Head to Commonwealth

Spring asparagus with an unusual potato salad at Commonwealth.

Spring asparagus with an unusual potato salad at Commonwealth.

 

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a chef mention this restaurant as the place they most like to eat on their day off or as the establishment they’d most like theirs to emulate, I’d be doing very well indeed.

Such is the respect that Commonwealth has garnered.

The Michelin-starred restaurant opened in 2010 in an old donut shop in San Francisco. In fact, the Mission District restaurant not only sports the old donut mural on the side of the building, but possesses something truly rare in San Francisco — its own parking lot. It is a fairly small lot, though, so you still have to be lucky to snag a space.

Chef-Owner Jason Fox oversees the open kitchen in the compact dining room, which means it is worthwhile to make a reservation. My husband and I, who were invited to dine as guests of the restaurant on a recent Saturday night, saw a few walk-ins turned away because the restaurant just gets that booked.

Located in a former donut shop.

Located in a former donut shop.

Some bubbly to accompany the first couple of courses.

Some bubbly to accompany the first couple of courses.

While there is an a la carte menu, what really makes Commonwealth stand out is its tasting menu. In the Bay Area, where many tasting menus have prompted ire for their stratospheric prices that now reach well beyond $300 per person, Commonwealth’s is all of $85 per person ($140 total per person with wine pairings) for about seven courses. Even the “chef’s extended menu” is a relatively moderate $125 per person ($195 total per person with wine pairings) for about 14 courses, which is the option we went for.

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First Look At the Hotly Anticipated Protege

Gilded hush puppies on a bed of popped sorgham at the new Protege in Palo Alto.

Gilded hush puppies on a bed of popped sorgham at the new Protege in Palo Alto.

 

After more than a year of permitting and construction delays, Protege, arguably the most highly anticipated restaurant around, finally opened its doors to the public on Tuesday.

Passersby have been peeking in the windows for months, streaking them with hand prints and even nose prints, so eager to experience this restaurant by French Laundry alums, Executive Chef Anthony Secviar and Master Sommelier Dennis Kelly. They are joined by Pastry Chef Eddie Lopez, who also hails from the French Laundry, as well as Grace in Chicago and Vintage Cave in Honolulu.

With that kind of culinary star-wattage, is it any wonder that the night this California Avenue restaurant quietly debuted, there were already half a dozen people anxiously waiting outside half an hour beforehand to be one of the very first inside?

Head Chef Anthony Secviar readying a dish a few weeks before the grand opening.

Head Chef Anthony Secviar readying a dish a few weeks before the grand opening.

The kitchen on opening night.

The kitchen on opening night.

I was one of them, along with two friends, snagging seats at the chic, back-lighted bar, and paying our tab at the end. There are purse hooks underneath, of course, along with some of the most comfy nappa leather bar stools I’ve ever sat in.

Sit on the stools closest to the kitchen and you can peer in at all the activity as Secviar calls out the orders, and the cooks all respond in unison, “Oui, Chef!”

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Enoteca La Storia Invigorates San Jose’s Little Italy

The Beginner's Luck cocktail.

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.

The main dining room.

A mock-up receipt from the old bakery that used to operate on the site.

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.

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.

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The Plumed Horse’s Trifecta

Chef Peter Armellino in his element at his new Pasta Armellino.

Chef Peter Armellino in his element at his new Pasta Armellino.

 

If you only know the Plumed Horse for being the chic Michelin one-starred restaurant in downtown Saratoga, wait until you hear what it’s been up to.

It’s added not one, but two sister properties just steps away.

The Plumed Horse Collection, as it’s now known, debuts today the casual Pasta Armellino across the street. I had a chance to check it out last week at a private media event.

It officially opens today.

It officially opens today.

San Francisco graffiti artist Chris Kondo's handiwork.

San Francisco graffiti artist Chris Kondo’s handiwork.

Executive Chef Peter Armellino, who’s headed the Plumed Horse for a decade, has expanded his reach with this 60-seat eatery that’s all about home-made pastas.

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