Dining Outside at Eataly’s Terra

Chitarra alla Nerano (spaghetti with zucchini) at Terra at Eataly.
Chitarra alla Nerano (spaghetti with zucchini) at Terra at Eataly.

Ever since its doors opened in June, Terra restaurant at Eataly in the Westfield Valley Fair mall has been a tough reservation to land.

So when farmer Fred Hempel invited me to join him there for dinner last week, I jumped at the chance. Being one of Eataly’s local purveyors obviously has its perks. Indeed, most of the tomatoes and squash blossoms that Hempel grows at his Green Bee Farm in Sunol have been allocated to Eataly’s San Jose-Santa Clara location. You’ll find his farm’s name listed on Terra’s menu, and its tomatoes and squash blossoms not only spotlighted in dishes, but sold fresh in the produce section of Eataly’s market, as well.

That includes his newest creation, the Benevento tomato. A plant geneticist and breeder, Hempel has created new varieties of tomatoes for more than two decades. This gorgeous red beefsteak streaked with green and yellow was bred with greater disease resistance and a longer shelf life. With a deep, full, lingering flavor of sweetness and umami, it’s the tomato that will make your BLT shine.

Green Bee Farm's new Benevento tomatoes available at Eataly's market.
Green Bee Farm’s new Benevento tomatoes available at Eataly’s market.

If like me, you’re limiting yourself to primarily dining outdoors these days, then Terra is right up your alley.

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Tuna Pâté For Starters

Meet the versatile, easy-to-make, and economical tuna pâté.
Meet the versatile, easy-to-make, and economical tuna pâté.

When the temperature soars, that last thing you want to do is turn up the heat in your kitchen.

“Tuna Pâté’ is perfect for those scorching days, because it’s served chilled, and the only real cooking it involves is boiling a potato and a couple of eggs on the stovetop.

Best yet, it tastes like a more sophisticated version of your favorite tuna salad sandwich.

The recipe is from the new “Cooking alla Giudia” (Artisan Books), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta, an Italian food writer and photographer. Born in Milan and now living in Santa Monica, she is on a mission to shine a light on Italian Jewish food in Italy and abroad.

The book presents more than 100 recipes that celebrate the food, history, and traditions of Jewish food in Italy. For instance, did you know that orecchiette pasta that’s famed in Apulia most likely came from Provence, France by Jews who settled in the 12th century? Or that the prevalence of eggplant in Italian cuisine is thanks to Jews in Spain during the Middle Ages who learned to cook it from the Arabs? When the Jews were expelled from Spain, many of them relocated to Italy, bringing with them their expertise with eggplant cooking.

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Grilled Buttermilk Chicken with Hot Paprika

A soak in buttermilk does wonders for chicken.
A soak in buttermilk does wonders for chicken.

Like a good face cream, yogurt, kefir and buttermilk do wonders to plump and moisten — with meat, that is.

So, it’s no wonder that “Grilled Buttermilk Chicken” results in a juicy bird laced with summertime smokiness.

The recipe is from “The Backyward BBQ Bible” (Smith Street Books), of which I received a review copy. It’s by Oscar Smith, a Sydney-based food writer and photographer.

It includes more than 100 grilling recipes, including ” Brazilian Cachaca Chicken Skewers,” “Bacon-Warpped Mac & Cheese Burgers” (yes, panko-breaded discs of with mac ‘n’ cheese acting as burgers), “Korean Bulgogi Tofu,” and “Grilled Figs with Rosemary & Pomegranate Ricotta.”

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Dining Outside at JiuBa

Pork and shrimp dumplings in chili oil at JiuBa.
Pork and shrimp dumplings in chili oil at JiuBa.

Last summer, the incredibly splashy iChina opened its doors in the Westfield Valley Fair, bringing an air of Vegas to this Santa Clara-San Jose shopping center.

Standing two stories tall, sporting a virtual-reality private dining room with projection screens all around, and dripping with sparkly, shiny jade-hued glass and gold accents everywhere, this restaurant is a true sight to behold.

If you’re like me, though, and limiting yourself to dining outside at the moment, the bad news is that iChina, which means “love China” in Mandarin, offers only indoor dining.

However, its first-floor bar and lounge, JiuBa, does have outdoor seating.

JiuBa, which means “bar” in Mandarin, serves a much smaller menu. However, it is definitely possible to compose a full and satisfying dinner from it, as I found when I was invited in as a guest last week.

The bar inside shares the same opulent look as the rest of the restaurant, as if an enormous jade-emerald-diamond ring was the inspiration.

The glamorous bar inside JiuBa.
The glamorous bar inside JiuBa.
Would you believe this is the bathroom?
Would you believe this is the bathroom?

Even the all-gender bathroom looks as if it belongs in a modern-day Chinese palace.

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Time For Strawberry Sumac Cake — And A Very Special Cookbook

Sumac and strawberries make for a fabulous marriage in this moist, tender cake.
Sumac and strawberries make for a fabulous marriage in this moist, tender cake.

It still boggles my mind that more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, the state of Texas finally “learned” that all slaves were now free, becoming the last state in the Confederacy to recognize that action. Even then, some plantation owners refused to acknowledge the edict, and kept their slaves to work one more harvest.

A year later, though, Black Texans were finally able to rejoice in their freedom with food, music, and dance at the first Juneteenth celebrations.

Now comes the first cookbook to showcase Juneteenth. “Watermelon & Red Birds” (Simon & Schuster), of which I received a review copy, is by Nicole A. Taylor, a food writer who splits her time between New York City and Georgia, and produced the short documentary, “If We So Choose,” about the desegregation of an iconic southern fast-food joint.

The cookbook title refers not only to the native-born African fruit, but to the African American and Native American belief that red birds flying through the skies represent ancestors returning to spread luck.

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