California Pizza Kitchen Attempts to “De-Chain the Chain”

Friday, 15. August 2014 5:26 | Author:

Roasted garlic chicken -- a new item at California Pizza Kitchen at Valley Fair shopping center.

Roasted garlic chicken — a new item at California Pizza Kitchen at Valley Fair shopping center.


Back in the day, California Pizza Kitchen was the place to go for an inventive yet accessible take on pizza with a decidedly breezy California influence.

Barbecue chicken pizza, anyone?

But over the years, as pizza turned artisan, the choices for truly hand-crafted pies proliferated and greatly overshadowed California Pizza Kitchen’s offerings.

As such, I admit it has been quite some time since I last ate at a California Pizza Kitchen. But when I was invited in as a guest recently at the outpost in the Westfield Valley Fair shopping center in Santa Clara, what nudged me in was the opportunity to try some new menu items aimed at “de-chaining the chain.” Indeed, the new menu additions, which rolled out in June, are available only at the locales in Santa Clara, Sacramento, Beverly Hills and Solana Beach so far.

Among the new beverage items is the Blueberry Ginger Smash ($10.89), a highball glass of Jack Daniel’s, agave nectar, Domaine de Canton Ginger liqueur, fresh blueberries, lime and cranberry juice. Garnished prettily with a skewer of blueberries and a sliver of candied ginger, it’s quite fruity and refreshing with the warmth of the booze hitting you on the finish.

The Blueberry Ginger Smash.

The Blueberry Ginger Smash.

A half-size of Harvest Kale Salad ($10.99) was made with curly, rather than the more popular lacinato, kale. Toasted farro, cabbage, red grapes, cranberries, Marcona almonds, goat cheese and the surprise of shaved rainbow carrots gave the salad a big splash of color and texture. A quite sharp citrus vinaigrette added punch along with an unexpected touch of spiciness.

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Category:General, Restaurants | Comments (3)

The Allure of Shiso

Wednesday, 13. August 2014 5:26 | Author:

Fresh tomatoes, soy sauce, olive oil and shiso flavor this wonderful cold noodle dish.

Fresh tomatoes, soy sauce, olive oil and shiso flavor this wonderful cold noodle dish.


Long ago, my husband jokingly gave me the rather apt but embarrassing nickname of “Black Thumb Jung.”

I admit I’m no Martha Stewart when it comes to nurturing my backyard. In fact, I’m sure Martha would give me one of her telling looks if she only knew that I’ve actually killed ivy and cactus. Things that people say are impossible to kill. I’ve done it, though, with my lethal gardening skills.

But there is an exception to that predictable massacre. I can grow shiso like nobody’s business.

OK, I admit it doesn’t take much for that to happen. Years ago, I planted one seedling in a pot and ever since then, I watch it die over the winter, only to regenerate on its own in summer, when it grows with abandon.

Every summer, I get big green leaves with saw-toothed edges that have the unmistakable and unusual taste of basil crossed with citrus crossed with mint. An Asian herb in the mint family, it’s most commonly found as a garnish on sashimi plates in Japanese restaurants. When I am dining out, I always save it for last. Its bright, refreshing jolt is like a natural after-dinner mint candy.

Yup, I grew that shiso.

Yup, I grew that shiso.

Though I most often add it to summer salads, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use my home-grown shiso. That’s why this recipe for “Cold Udon with Fresh Tomatoes” caught my eye. It’s in the newest cookbook by New York City Chef Tadashi Ono, of which I received a review copy. “Japanese Soul Cooking” (Ten Speed Press) is full of recipes for ramen, gyoza, donburi, curry and other comfort dishes typically found in mom-and-pop restaurants or made by home-cooks.

This cold noodle dish could not be more effortless. Seriously, it would take you longer to take a shower than to make this.

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Category:Asian Recipes, Chefs, General | Comments (12)

Macarons Galore Plus New Juice Bar and an Oyster Fest

Monday, 11. August 2014 5:25 | Author:

Presenting the "Hedwig Schmidt'' macaron. (Photo courtesy of Tout Sweet Patisserie)

Presenting the “Hedwig Schmidt” macaron. (Photo courtesy of Tout Sweet Patisserie)

Glitzy New Macaron from Tout Sweet

Inspired by the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” Tout Sweet of San Francisco has created a limited-edition macaron covered in a riot of edible red glitter.

Pastry Chef-Proprietor Yigit Pura was inspired to make the “Hedwig Schmidt” macaron because the musical’s message of “love and discovering who you really are,” resonated with him.

Named for the title character in the musical, the macaron features a bourbon-orange marmalade ganache with a brandied cherry center. And of course, there’s the glitter, which will leave your lips sparkling.

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Category:Bakeries, Chefs, Enticing Events, General, New Products, Restaurants | Comments (3)

Famous Dave’s Wants You to Crank Up the Grill

Friday, 8. August 2014 5:25 | Author:

My husband's glorious ribs dressed with Famous Dave's rib rub and barbecue sauce.

My husband’s glorious ribs dressed with Famous Dave’s rib rub and Georgia Mustard barbecue sauce.


You have to hand it to Dave Anderson.

By his own admission, he wasn’t the best of students. But one thing he did excel at was barbecuing in big fiery wood smokers.

So much so that he started his first barbecue joint in Wisconsin in 1994. Today, he has Famous Dave’s locations throughout more than 35 states. Plus a line of barbecue sauces and rubs, which is what I had a chance to try samples of recently.

With my husband, aka Meat Boy, hankering to cook up a slew of ribs, we gave the Rib Rub ($3.89 for a 5.5-ounce container) a shot. Anderson says his award-winning ribs just wouldn’t be the same without this blend of sugar, salt, habanero powder, smoke flavor and paprika, plus dehydrated onion, carrot, tomatoes, red pepper, and parsley.

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Category:General, New Products | Comments (1)

Getting Corny For Dinner

Wednesday, 6. August 2014 5:27 | Author:

Summer on a plate.

Summer on a plate.


I have developed a serious corn dependence.

But I can’t be the only one buying fresh corn from the farmers market week in and week out.

Whenever I come within a few steps of the stand with its boxes of just-misted ears and kernels so fresh that they squeak, I succumb.

Typically, I tote them home to char on the grill while still in their husks. Sometimes, I take a knife down the length of them to dislodge the milky kernels to saute with garlic, butter and herbs for a side dish or the makings of a room-temperature salad.

Creamed corn is not something I grew up with. Nor ever craved. But one day, with a load of fresh ears staring up at me, I spied a recipe for “Grilled Lime Chicken with Creamed Corn” that nudged me to get to work in the kitchen.


The recipe is from “Culinary Birds: The Ultimate Poultry Cookbook” (Running Press), of which I received a review copy. The book, by esteemed Chef John Ash, was the recipient of a James Beard Award this year. It includes 170 recipes for a wide range of poultry — from duck and goose to even partridge and dove.

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Category:Chefs, General, Recipes (Savory) | Comments (10)