First Look At the Hotly Anticipated Protege

Gilded hush puppies on a bed of popped sorgham at the new Protege in Palo Alto.

Gilded hush puppies on a bed of popped sorgham at the new Protege in Palo Alto.

 

After more than a year of permitting and construction delays, Protege, arguably the most highly anticipated restaurant around, finally opened its doors to the public on Tuesday.

Passersby have been peeking in the windows for months, streaking them with hand prints and even nose prints, so eager to experience this restaurant by French Laundry alums, Executive Chef Anthony Secviar and Master Sommelier Dennis Kelly. They are joined by Pastry Chef Eddie Lopez, who also hails from the French Laundry, as well as Grace in Chicago and Vintage Cave in Honolulu.

With that kind of culinary star-wattage, is it any wonder that the night this California Avenue restaurant quietly debuted, there were already half a dozen people anxiously waiting outside half an hour beforehand to be one of the very first inside?

Head Chef Anthony Secviar readying a dish a few weeks before the grand opening.

Head Chef Anthony Secviar readying a dish a few weeks before the grand opening.

The kitchen on opening night.

The kitchen on opening night.

I was one of them, along with two friends, snagging seats at the chic, back-lighted bar, and paying our tab at the end. There are purse hooks underneath, of course, along with some of the most comfy nappa leather bar stools I’ve ever sat in.

Sit on the stools closest to the kitchen and you can peer in at all the activity as Secviar calls out the orders, and the cooks all respond in unison, “Oui, Chef!”

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Chicken with Red Pumpkin Seed Mole

A chicken mole recipe that doesn't intimidate.

A chicken mole recipe that doesn’t intimidate.

 

Los Angeles’ food scene has definitely got it going on these days — from the opening of Eataly and Dominique Ansel Bakery, as well as Ansel’s first restaurant, 189, to the jaw-dropping, mind-blowing Vespertine.

Before any of them, though, there was — and still is — one of the most dynamic landscapes for Mexican cuisine in the United States. From taco stands to food trucks to mom-and-pop restaurants to celebrity chef-run fine-dining establishments, Los Angeles has a wealth of places to experience thoughtful, authentic, and cutting-edge food that takes influence and inspiration from every region in Mexico.

One couldn’t ask for a better culinary guide to all of that than Bill Esparza, a Mexican food expert who won a James Beard Award for his exhaustive and exhilarating coverage of the taco scene in Los Angeles.

LAMexicanoBook

His cookbook, “L.A. Mexicano: Recipes, People & Places” (Prospect Park Books, 2017), of which I received a review copy, is filled with profiles and stories of the Mexican chefs and restaurateurs who have made Los Angeles their home and their livelihood, and along the way, made the region all the more delectable.

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Now You Can Have Your Peanut Butter — And Take It With You Easily

Peanut butter powder -- with all the flavor but a whole lot less fat.

Peanut butter powder — with all the flavor but a whole lot less fat.

 

I remember shaking my head after reading accounts that normal-sized jars of peanut butter and Nutella were being confiscated from carry-on luggage by TSA agents, who had deemed them “liquids.”

Say what?

I don’t know that last time anyone took a slug of peanut butter or hazelnut spread, do you?

PBfit not only rectifies that issue, but saves you calories in the process.

It’s peanut butter powder — made by roasting peanuts, pressing out 75 percent of its fat and oil, then grinding it into a fine powder.

Just add water to make it spreadable. Or use it as is, mixed into cupcake batter, pancake batter, Asian noodle salad dressings, and smoothies.

I had a chance to try a sample of the Original recently. The product is as fine as baby powder with a golden sand color.

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Dinner’s Only One Pan Away

Lamb steaks, barley, apricots and pistachios make this a one-dish wonder.

Lamb steaks, barley, apricots and pistachios make this a one-dish wonder.

 

Since I do most of the cooking in my house, my husband graciously rolls up his sleeves for dish-washing duty.

Even so, he would be more than thrilled if the entire dinner could be made in one pot.

Yes, salad, roast chicken and apple pie all out of the same pan. Or jasmine rice, stir-fried pork, and ginger panna cotta all from the same pot.

That’s not gonna happen. But I will say we are both loving this latest craze of one-pan or sheet-pan cooking. For the cook, it’s a simplified way of getting dinner on the table. For the dish-washing spouse, it makes for a lot less clean-up afterward, too.

“Dinner’s in the Oven: Simple One-Pan Meals” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy, exemplifies that philosophy. The book is by Rukmini Iyer, a former lawyer turned food stylist and food writer.

DinnersInTheOvenBook

The cookbook is filled with recipes for one-pan dishes, with everything from “Olive & Pine-Nut Crusted Cod with Roasted Red Onion & Cherry Tomatoes” to “Paprika-Roasted Corn with Scallions, Feta & Lime” to “Rhubarb & Ginger Oat Crumble.”

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Join the Food Gal in Conversation with Chef Ron Siegel

Chef Ron Siegel. (Photo by Michael Woolsey for Edible Marin-Wine Country)

Chef Ron Siegel. (Photo by Michael Woolsey for Edible Marin-Wine Country)

 

It’s guaranteed to be a fun, entertaining time when I’m joined in conversation 7 p.m. April 4 by Chef Ron Siegel of San Anselmo’s Madcap restaurant.

After all, he’s not only witty and tells it like it is, but he was also was the opening sous chef of The French Laundry, and the first American to ever trounce an “Iron Chef” on the original Japanese cooking competition show.

This Commonwealth Club event will take place at the Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley.

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