A Pork Cheeks Pig-Out

Wednesday, 12. March 2014 5:27 | Author:

A.O.C's pork cheeks -- made in the comfort of your own home.

A.O.C’s pork cheeks — made in the comfort of your own home.

I’m not going to lie: This recipe takes a commitment.

To spend many hours cooking. To be willing to use a load of pots and pans, as well as multiple burners plus the oven. And to go the extra step of actually sourcing some pork cheeks in the first place.

If you do all that, though, you will be richly rewarded. Not only with a comforting dish boasting layer upon layer of flavors. But with the pleasure of enjoying a unique cut of pork, which when braised patiently, results in meat so succulent, sweet and tender that it can be eaten with a spoon.

“Pork Cheeks with Polenta, Mustard Cream and Horseradish Gremolata” is from the new “The A.O.C. Cookbook” Alfred A. Knopf), of which I received a review copy. The book is by Suzanne Goin, chef-owner of Lucques and A.O.C. restaurants in Los Angeles. Lucques is all about sharing food and wine with friends at the table over small plates and family-style dishes.

If you already have cooked from Goin’s first cookbook, “Sunday Suppers at Lucques” (Knopf), you know her recipes are lengthy because of the meticulous directions she gives. As a result, you approach the book knowing that if you take the time, you can’t fail because she’s described the dish step by step with utmost care.

AOC Cookbook

After falling head over heels with beef cheeks when I cooked them recently, I couldn’t help but zero in on her recipe for pork cheeks. Of course, there was that pesky question of how to get my hands on those piggy cheeks. John Paul Khoury, corporate chef of Preferred Meats, Inc. in Oakland, became my go-to source. After having read my blog post on beef cheeks, he said I absolutely positively had to try cooking pork cheeks next.

So Preferred Meats, which sells wholesale to top Bay Area restaurants, including SPQR in San Francisco and Hopscotch in Oakland, offered to sell me pork cheeks at an unbelievable wholesale price. Not just any pork cheeks, either, but ones from heritage-breed Durocs from the Beeler family’s ranch, which has been raising pigs for five generations in Iowa.

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Category:Chefs, General, Meat, Recipes (Savory) | Comments (14)

A Preview of Pabu in San Francisco

Monday, 10. March 2014 5:26 | Author:

The first course in the kaiseki Pabu preview dinner.

The first course in the kaiseki Pabu preview dinner.


Pabu, the much-anticipated collaboration between chefs Michael Mina and Ken Tominaga, isn’t even expected to open until at least June of this year in San Francisco’s Financial District.

But last Wednesday, in an effort to build a little more buzz around the new project — as if it needs any more — Mina held a preview dinner at his Michael Mina restaurant in San Francisco, effectively turning over his flagship for one night to Tominaga to serve a kaiseki dinner showcasing dishes that will be on the menu at Pabu.

The dinner, $130 per person with optional $65 beverage pairing, sold out quickly. I was fortunate to be invited as a guest of the restaurant to experience the special menu.

This will be the second Pabu by Mina and Tominaga, chef-owner of the acclaimed Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park, a favorite haunt of Bay Area chefs in need of a stellar sushi fix.

Chefs Michael Mina (left) and Ken Tominaga (right).

Chefs Michael Mina (left) and Ken Tominaga (right).

The first Pabu is in the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore. Like that one, the Pabu that will open in the LEED-certified 101 California building will serve contemporary izakaya food, and feature a sushi bar and robata grill. Unlike the Baltimore locale, though, it will also include shabu shabu. What’s more, there will be a separate concept, Ramen Market, which not only will spotlight those brothy noodle bowls, but Japanese breakfast favorites. The glass atrium and outdoor spaces also will allow Mina and Tominaga to build a vegetable and herb garden to grow products for use in the restaurants.

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants | Comments (3)

Join the Food Gal and Sam’s Chowder House at Macy’s Valley Fair

Friday, 7. March 2014 5:26 | Author:


Sam’s Chowder House, which put the love in lobster rolls, is coming to Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara, 2 p.m. March 15.

Join me as I host a cooking demo with Executive Chef-Partner Robert Holt, who will show you the best way to prepare seafood with care and finesse.

Holt has worked at some of the Bay Area’s most acclaimed restaurants, including Marzano in Oakland, Boulevard in San Francisco, Acquerello in San Francisco, and Cetrella in Half Moon Bay.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, General, More Food Gal -- In Person, Restaurants | Comments (1)

Forget March Madness; It’s Meat Madness at Fogo de Chao

Wednesday, 5. March 2014 5:26 | Author:

Meat, meat and more meat delivered right to your table at Fogo de Chao.

Meat, meat and more meat delivered right to your table at Fogo de Chao.


Get ready for a parade of meat.

Fire-roasted cuts of beef, chicken, lamb and pork — 16 types in all — brought to your table one by one on massive skewers to be carved off onto your heaping plate.

That’s the carnivore carnival you’ll enjoy at Fogo de Chao, the newest restaurant to open in San Jose’s Santana Row.

All vestiges of the former Chili’s have vanished in this totally redone, 9,000-square-foot, 250-seat restaurant with white tablecloths and contemporary light fixtures.

Founded in Brazil in 1979, Fogo de Chao serves up churrasco-style cuisine based on the centuries-old gaucho tradition of roasting meats over an open fire for festive family gatherings. There are now 22 Fogo de Chao locations worldwide, with the next one set to open in Portland, Ore.

Pork ribs -- yup, as many as you want.

Pork ribs — yup, as many as you want.

I had a chance to check it out the night before it opened officially to the public at a special invitation-only dinner last week.

The concept is simple: It’s all you can eat. That includes all that meat, plus trips to the salad bar — all for $51.50 per person for dinner or $29.50 for lunch. If you want to enjoy only the salad bar, that will be $26.50 at dinner and $22.50 at lunch.

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Category:General, Meat, Restaurants | Comments (10)

Delicious Happenings in the Peninsula and South Bay Region

Monday, 3. March 2014 5:26 | Author:

Prime bone-in rib chop with blue cheese butter at Birk's. (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Prime bone-in rib chop with blue cheese butter at Birk’s. (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Birk’s Celebrates 25 Years

Birk’s of Santa Clara marks its 25th anniversary this month with a slew of specials.

Through the end of March, the restaurant, which has long hosted the movers and shakers of Silicon Valley, will offer a $25 three-course “Classic Americana” menu that includes choices such as prime rib, beef tenderloin fettuccine or stuffed petrale sole. To go with it, the restaurant also is pricing five select wines at $25 per bottle.

During “Happy Hour” during the month, look for 25-cent wings or a plate of a half dozen for $1.50. Pair that with an “89er” anniversary cocktail ($8.90) made with apple wood-smoked bacon infused Maker’s Mark Bourbon and garnished with maple foam.

What’s more, anyone born in 1989 who dines at Birk’s in March will receive a $25 gift card to use on a return visit.

With its custom split grill, back-iron broiler and a 250-pound capacity smoker, Birk’s is known for its chops and seafood. Executive Chef Maurice Dissels has headed the kitchen since 2001 at the Pat Kuleto-designed restaurant.

Doppio Zero Opens in Mountain View

A new Neapolitan-style pizza joint has opened in downtown Mountain View.

Its name is Doppio Zero for the highly regarded, finely milled flour used to make pastas and pizza crusts in Italy.

Zucchini, pepper and mozzarella pizza at Doppio Zero. (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Zucchini, pepper and mozzarella pizza at Doppio Zero. (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

The daily star-shaped pizza. (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

The daily star-shaped pizza. (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Pasta selections include house-made garganelli with sausage, broccoli rabe and pecorino; and house-made spinach fettuccine with morels, asparagus and shaved Parmegiano Reggiano.

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Category:Chefs, General, Pizza, Restaurants | Comments (4)