When the newest Il Fornaio opened in November in Santa Clara, it made history in the company when it became the first of its 23 restaurants to debut with a female head chef at the helm.
Chef Leslie Pineda not only made the record books for this 30-year-old restaurant chain, but she sure can cook. You can see — and taste — for yourself when she joins me for a cooking demo at Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara, 6 p.m. Feb. 7.
One-pot cooking, Chinese-style.
With the Year of the Rooster set to start cockadoodledoo-ing on Jan. 28, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m craving Chinese food even more so this week.
But what a great excuse to try a recipe from the new “China: The Cookbook” (Phaidon). The cookbook, of which I received a review copy, was written by Hong Kong-based culinary experts Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan.
This door-stopper of a book is 720 pages. It contains recipes from the 33 regions and sub-regions of China, most of them surprisingly concise. That’s because this book is really about home-cooking. That’s why you won’t necessarily find Peking duck in here, but instead “Braised Duck with Won Tons” and “Duck with Mushrooms and Ham.” There’s all manner of congee recipes, too, including “Congee with Frog Legs.” And simple but more unusual desserts such as “Smoked Plum Soup.”
Leafing through this rather encyclopedic book, many recipes caught my eye, especially “Rice and Lamb Casserole” because it’s fairly effortless even on a weeknight. It also incorporates cumin, which really works well with lamb’s slight gaminess.
Rwanda beans from Atlas Coffee Club.
Atlas Coffee Club wants to navigate your taste buds along a global journey through coffee.
The coffee club procures coffee beans from around various countries, and not just the usual suspects, but places like Indonesia and Burundi.
About 50 percent of the offerings are fair-trade certified. All of the coffee is grown with sustainable farming practices. The coffee is shipped right after it is roasted. A 12-ounce bag of coffee ($14, plus $3.95 in shipping costs) is delivered every two weeks or four weeks, each time from a different country. You can also choose whole beans or ground coffee, and how light or dark you want the beans roasted. And if you find a variety of beans you can’t get enough of, you can opt to have that type sent to you regularly.
A trio of Tacos at Tacolicious Santana Row.
The newest Tacolicious took the longest to build.
Two years of lease negotiations and permit approvals to be exact.
Owner Joe Hargrave said at times he wasn’t sure it would ever open. But thankfully, it did, joining four others in the Tacolicious mini empire when it debuted last year at San Jose’ Santana Row.
It’s a sliver of a restaurant, once housing an Italian coffee shop. A bar with seats and a narrow kitchen take up most of the space with a few compact tables inside. It’s already proving a popular spot, as I found out when I was invited in as a guest a few weeks ago. Even on a weeknight, every seat was taken, and about half a dozen folks outside were waiting to get in.
Chips and salsa are set down for you to nibble as you look over the compact menu. Of course, a beer or cocktail is just the ticket to go with that. If you’re a horchata fan like I am, try the house-made one stirred up with Siete Leguas Anejo tequila, chocolate bitters and a dash of nutmeg in the “Papa Noel” ($12). There’s a hint of citrus from the nutmeg and an almost coffee-note thanks to the chocolate bitters. It’s creamy with a kick — just what you want on a winter night.
Chips and salsa to start.
Along with a cocktail blended with house-made horchata.
Of course, one must have tacos at Tacolicious. My husband and I shared four ($17.95): chicken en mole Colorado, Baja-style Pacific cod, Guajillo-braised beef brisket, and the “Taco of the Week” — crispy fried chicken.
Dried porcini mushrooms add an earthy depth to this comforting chicken dish.
Rustic and comforting, this is like chicken stew — only made in a roasting pan in the oven.
“Porcini Braised Chicken Thighs” is a little deceptive. It looks like it’s a breezy one-pan chicken dish. But in all honesty, it will probably take you four pans to make it: a Dutch oven to saute the veggies, a cast-iron frying pan to sear the chicken thighs, a roasting pan to cook the chicken through, and a saucepan to heat the braising liquid.
But don’t let that dissuade you from attempting it. After all, what’s a little more time washing dishes when you can then dig in to enjoy such delightful rewards?
This dish is from the new cookbook, “Taste & Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking” (Ten Speed), of which I received a review copy. It’s by James Beard Award-winning Chef Naomi Pomeroy or Portland’s Beast restaurant, and Brooklyn writer Jamie Feldmar. You may recognize Pomeroy as a judge on Esquire’s “Knife Fight” and from her time competing on “Top Chef Masters.” I had the chance a couple years ago to dine with her and a roster of other female chefs at Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine Lab, where the food was mind-blowing, and the conversation about molecular gastronomy thoughtful and insightful.
While appreciative of those techniques and high-tech gizmos, Pomeroy, herself, is more old-school. As she joked, her restaurant opened without even a hood.
Her cookbook features nearly 140 recipes. For the most part, they’re not dishes you’ll whip up in less than 30 minutes. But they’re also not so complicated and intimidating that you’ll feel too overwhelmed to attempt them.