Scenes From Chefs’ Holidays 2015 at the Ahwahnee

Chef Duskie Estes' "S'mores in a Jar'' for sampling at Chefs' Holidays at the Ahwahnee.

Chef Duskie Estes’ “S’mores in a Jar” for sampling at Chefs’ Holidays at the Ahwahnee.


YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — Featuring half a dozen renowned chefs — all with Bay Area ties and most of them familiar from the world of food TV — last week’s final sessions of Chefs’ Holidays for 2015 proved delectable, delightful and deliriously fun.

I was honored to be a host of Chefs’ Holidays at the Ahwahnee Hotel for a third straight year for the annual series of cooking demos and gala dinners.

Session 7 featured Chef Ron Siegel of Michael Mina Restaurant in San Francisco, who recounted his experience of being the first American chef to beat an Iron Chef on the original Japanese program. Siegel, who prepared the five-course gala dinner, revealed that he was most worried about cutting himself on the Japanese cooking show (he didn’t) and how he was glad the “secret ingredient” was lobster, rather than something really crazy like a live cow he’d have to milk on stage.


Yours truly, flanked by Chefs Ron Siegel, Kyle Itani and Hoss Zare.

Yours truly, flanked by Chefs Ron Siegel, Kyle Itani and Hoss Zare.

He was joined in that session by Chef Kyle Itani of Hopscotch in Oakland, who showed off the hand-forged Japanese knife he had made when he lived and studied in Japan; and by Chef Hoss Zare of The Fly Trap in San Francisco, who talked about how he wanted to be a brain surgeon when he was growing up.

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Santa Cruz’s Award-Winning Verve Coffee Roasters

An award-winning coffee that carries a high price tag.

An award-winning coffee that carries a high price tag.


Verve Coffee Roasters walked away with a 2015 Good Food Award last month with its Green Tip Gesha beans.

The Santa Cruz company buys green beans from around the world that get finished in a 1965 German-made roaster.

I had a chance to sample this award-winning coffee grown on a farm in Panama that’s been family-owned for three generations.

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Two Treats in One: Cider to Sip and For Roasting Tender Pork

A perfect one-dish meal of pork, apples, cider and cabbage.

A perfect one-dish meal of pork, apples, cider and cabbage.


Sundays are made for dishes that bake gently in the oven, filling the house with warmth and delicious aromas that rev the appetite.

“Sunday Casseroles: Complete Comfort in One Dish” (Chronicle Books) is all about dishes like that. The book, which came out in 2014 and of which I received a review copy, is by Betty Rosbottom, a veteran cookbook author and PBS host.

Fish and chips in a casserole? You bet, when the potatoes are scalloped. Risotto in the oven? Sure, when it’s baked with butternut squash, sage and Parmigiano. Mac and cheese? Absolutely, especially in variations with lobster, lemon and tarragon or smoked sausage and country mustard.

“Cider-Baked Pork, Red Cabbage, and Apples” appealed to me because I love the combination of apples and pork, a meat which always plays nicely with the sweetness of fruit.


Pork loin can get dry if cooked too long, but these emerge very juicy. They bake over a bed of tart apples, onions and red cabbage, which give everything a soft, pretty fuchsia hue.

Cider vinegar and actual cider add even more vivid apple flavor.

For me, this was also the perfect opportunity to break into my samples of the new Devoto Orchards Cider. The Devoto family makes the small-batch ciders in Sebastopol from estate-grown apples. Susan and Stan Devoto grow more than 50 varieties of heirloom apples, as well as flowers and pinot noir grapes on their 20-acre farm.

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A Visit to Butterscots Bakery in St. Helena

Feast your eyes on the butterscotch-lime croissant at Butterscots.

Feast your eyes on the butterscotch-lime croissant at Butterscots.


If you’re a baked-good fiend like I am, Butterscots Bakery in St. Helena is definitely worth a stop when you’re in Wine Country.

It’s part of the Cairdean Estate, which took over and repurposed the old St. Helena Outlet mall. When I dined at the wonderful The Farmer & The Fox restaurant on-site a few months ago, my only regret was that I was there in the evening, when Butterscotts Bakery had already closed.

On a recent trip to Napa, I made up for that by making a beeline to the bakery to buy a couple of goodies. The bakery is overseen by Joseph Humphrey, who is also the executive chef of The Farmer & The Fox. Humphrey, who earned two Michelin stars at The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, knows his baked goods. His popovers at the restaurant are the stuff of dreams.

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Join the Food Gal for a Macy’s Cooking Demo with Tin Pot Creamery


Do you scream for ice cream?

You’ll yell even louder then for ice cream sandwiches.

Join yours truly as I host a cooking demo at Macy’s Valley Fair Santa Clara at 6 p.m. Feb. 12 with Becky Sunseri, owner of Tin Pot Creamery in Palo Alto and Los Altos.

Since the demo is just two days before Valentine’s Day, we couldn’t resist enticing you with something not only sweet, but creamy and extra decadent.

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