“Taste of Yosemite” 2017

Pretty in white.

Pretty in white.

 

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — After five years of drought, the snow was back and the waterfalls gushing like crazy this winter in this spectacular national park (click on the Instagram video below).

The Ahwahnee may now be known as the Majestic Yosemite (because its former concessionaire Delaware North claims it owns the park’s historic names after trademarking them); and the former “Chefs’ Holidays” event is now referred to as “Taste of Yosemite.” But no matter what you call it, a bevy of stellar chefs were more than happy to be back for this 32nd year, and yours truly was once again the moderator for the two closing sessions of this annual gourmet event.

Every year, I get a chance to meet newcomers who are not only attending their first gala dinner event here, but visiting the park for the very first time, too. That’s coupled with regulars, some of whom have been attending this glorious event for more than seven years.

Rhythm in motion @yosemitenps @yosemite

A video posted by Carolyn Jung (@food_gal_carolyn) on

Each sessions features three chefs or gourmet purveyors who each do a cooking demo. There’s a wine reception where you can mingle with the chefs. And every session ends with a gala five-course dinner prepared by one of the visiting chefs.

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Salad Days with Citrus, Honey, and Rosemary Vinaigrette

Fresh rosemary and a load of citrus make up this bright, zesty vinaigrette.

Fresh rosemary and a load of citrus make up this bright, zesty vinaigrette.

 

My husband jokes that I was never one of those girls — the kind that orders only a small salad on a date and barely pick at it.

Oh no, I always ordered heartily and lustily. I never made a secret of my boundless appetite.

That’s not to say I don’t eat salad or appreciate them. Because I surely do.

They are such a creative canvas for all manner of greens, grains, garnishes and dressings. And their emphasis on fresh veggies speaks to the California gal in me.

“Best Dressed” (Chronicle Books) is just the book for a salad lover like me. The new cookbook, of which I received a review copy, is by Adam Ried, the Boston Globe Magazine cooking columnist; and Dawn Yanagihara, a former test-kitchen director and senior director for Cook’s Illustrated.

BestDressedcookbook

Inside, you’ll find 35 recipes for dressings, 10 for toppings, and 10 for composed salads. The composed salad recipes will give you new ideas for combinations such as “Roasted Carrot, Broccolini, and Chicken Salad with Tahini, Lemon and Harissa Dressing” and “Grilled Steak and Radicchio Salad with Asian Pear and Pinot Noir Vinaigrette.”

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Pausing For A Delicious While At Pausa

A sampler of charcuterie (almost all house-made) on a one-of-a-kind plate at Pausa.

A sampler of charcuterie (almost all house-made) on a one-of-a-kind plate at Pausa.

 

San Mateo’s new Pausa asks you to take time out of your busy life to hit pause.

For a bevy of Italian wines.

For house-made charcuterie.

For house-made pastas, pizza dough and breads — all made in a glassed-in dough room on prominent display.

Pausa, which is Italian for “pause,” entices with all of that sit for a spell and just enjoy. The restaurant, which just opened the first week of January, is a collaboration between Italian-born Chef Andrea Giuliani and Co-Owner Steven Ugur. The two first met a dozen years ago at the old Spiedo restaurant, which was owned by Ugur’s father, and sat on this same spot.

Crowds are already checking out the place, as I found out when I was invited in on a recent weeknight as a guest of the restaurant. Every table was taken in the modern dining room, with a focal wall sporting butcher twine woven into an art piece, tinged white and deep red, that is meant to mimic the topography of the Dolomites in Italy.

Chef-Owner Andrea Giuliani who hails from Veneto, Italy.

Chef-Owner Andrea Giuliani who hails from Veneto, Italy.

To imbibe on the lighter side, there are spritz cocktails ($10) that are meant to awaken the palate as you peruse the menu. I tried one of the more unconventional ones, the Bastardo, a blend of Amaro Ciociaro, pineapple gum, apricot liqueur, lime and Lambrusco, that was like a spicy, fruity sangria.

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My New Favorite Spaghetti Vongole

flavoring addition makes this clam pasta extra delicious.

A last-minute flavoring addition makes this clam pasta extra delicious.

 

There are times when I can be pretty predictable. Case in point? If spaghetti or linguini vongole is on a menu, it’s almost a sure bet that I will order it.

First off, I buck the trend in being an unabashed carb lover. Second, clam pasta is a little lighter than a meaty ragu. Third, there’s just something so appealing about a big bowl of tender clams tossed with toothsome noodles that get coated in all those sweet, briny juices.

I’ve made quite a few versions of it at home over the years. But my new favorite has to be the one I saw in the Wall Street Journal last summer. “Spaghetti Vongole” is by Chef Nina Compton of Compere Lapin in New Orleans. If you’re a “Top Chef” fan, you may remember her as a contestant on Season 11.

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Join the Food Gal and Chef Leslie Pineda of Il Fornaio For A Cooking Demo

MacysIlFornaioWhen 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.

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