Dining News Around The Bay

"Fall Off the Bone'' wings from alaMar Kitchen & Bar. (Photo by Dana Plucinski)
“Fall Off the Bone” wings from alaMar Kitchen & Bar. (Photo by Dana Plucinski)

Nelson German of “Top Chef” Reopens Indoor Dining at alaMar Kitchen & Bar In Oakland

After months of doing only takeout and delivery, alaMar Kitchen & Bar in Oakland reopened last week for indoor dining. Come by to say “hello” to Chef Nelson German, whose time on this season’s “Top Chef’‘ was cut short by an injury from which he has thankfully recovered.

The lively restaurant, which blends Latin, Caribbean, and Mediterranean flavors, has undergone an interior refresh. The menu also has been updated with some new offerings, including shrimp tacos “quesa style” with Oaxaca cheese, chow chow and salsa criolla; roasted oysters with salsa verde, pork longaniza, and Parmesan butter; and stuffed masa, a recreation of his “Unidentified Dominican Object” created in an episode 6 challenge of “Top Chef.”

Chef-Owner Nelson German. (Photo by Melati Citrawireja)
Chef-Owner Nelson German. (Photo by Melati Citrawireja)

Perennial favorites, “Fall Off the Bone Wings” and “Peel and Eat Shrimp,” that proved popular during takeout can still be enjoyed on the dining room menu, too.

For more fun, pick up a copy of my cookbook, “East Bay Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Best Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries” (Figure 1) at the restaurant, local bookstores or on Amazon. It features recipes and stories from a roster of top East Bay chefs, including German.

Scott’s Chowder House Opens in San Jose

Scott’s Chowder House, a more casual spin-off from veteran Scott’s Seafood, opened in downtown San Jose last week, with another planned to debut next month in San Francisco at 334 Grant Ave.

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A Unique Rice Cake

A showstopping crusty rice cake that's super rich and creamy within.
A showstopping crusty rice cake that’s super rich and creamy within.

As a kid, I remember feeling a little burst of joy whenever the rice steamed and rested just long enough in the hot rice cooker to build up crispy little bits on the bottom.

My mom would scrape them up and pile them on my plate, knowing how much I couldn’t resist the juxtaposition of soft fluffy grains with cracklingly crunchy ones.

Later as an adult, when I first tasted tahdig, the Persian rice specialty that guarantees a bottom crust of full-on golden crunchiness, I was even more smitten.

Now comes “Rice Cake,” which much like this inverted dish itself, I’ve completely gone topsy-turvy for.

It’s Persian goes Italian.

Or tahdig in the spirit of risotto.

As it’s fortified with a load of butter, Parmesan, and creme fraiche.

This amazing recipe is in the new cookbook, “Bavel: Modern Recipes Inspired by the Middle East” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by husband and wife, Chef Ori Menashe and Pastry Chef Genevieve Gergis, owners of the acclaimed Bavel and Bestia restaurants in Los Angeles. It was written in conjunction with Lesley Suter, the former food editor for Los Angeles magazine.

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Miso Pork Stuffed Eggplant

Eggplant cups stuffed with a savory pork and eggplant mixture.
Eggplant cups stuffed with a savory pork and eggplant mixture.

As someone who keeps a bare minimum of apps on her phone, I admit that Kitchen Stories was new to me.

The app was founded in 2014 by two business students with a penchant for cooking. They bill Kitchen Stories as the first video-based, design-oriented cooking app.

Now, the two have come full circle with a Kitchen Stories cookbook, “Anyone Can Cook” (Prestel), of which I received a review copy.

In the cookbook, the app team, based in Berlin, offer up a globally-inspired array of recipes such as “Glass Noodle Salad with Lemongrass Dressing,” “Spicy Chickpea Burgers,” “Savory Dutch Baby with Smoked Salmon and Horseradish,” and “Rigatoni with Walnut-Ricotta Pesto.”

I decided to give it a whirl with “Miso Pork Stuffed Eggplant,” which reminded me of an oversized version of a dim sum specialty.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 12

A California Zinfandel made for those backyard barbecues.
A California Zinfandel made for those backyard barbecues.

2018 Barra Zinfandel

Inky garnet hued, the 2018 Barra of Mendocino Zinfandel looks jewel-like in your glass.

And while it’s 14.5 percent alcohol by volume, it’s not an overly fruity, bombastically boozy Zinfandel that’s going to knock you out for the count after one glass. That makes it a welcome sip even in the throes of summer.

Pressed from estate-grown, organically farmed 100 percent Zinfandel, the wine, of which I received a sample, garnered an 89-point score by Wine Enthusiast. It’s full of blueberries on the nose, and dried cherries, dried plums, tobacco, tar, and a hint of smoke on the palate.

The late Charrie Barra planted his first vineyards in Mendocino in 1955. He is considered the godfather of Mendocino grape-growing for his leadership in pioneering more efficient and sustainable methods, and for promoting organic practices. The legacy of his 350-acre estate continues under the management of his widow Martha Barra.

The $24 wine is available at the winery.

Cheers: Enjoy this wine alongside pulled pork, grilled pork loin or ribs, especially if any kind of cherry or berry-laced barbecue sauce is involved.

2019 Siduri Chardonnay

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I have a soft spot for Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs. Now, one of my favorite Pinot producers has just released its first Chardonnay.

Siduri, critically acclaimed for its elegant, cool-climate, single-vineyard Pinots, has only crafted a handful of white wines in its 27-year history. As a result, there’s no doubt that its 2019 Willamette Valley Chardonnay will automatically pique interest far and wide.

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Plumb Good Plum Cake

Summer was made for plum-filled cake.
Summer was made for plum-filled cake.

When Zoë Francois singles out a particular recipe as being her favorite in her new cookbook, you’d be a fool not to make that one first.

Her “Plum Cake” from “Zoë Bakes Cakes: Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Favorite Layers, Bundts, Loaves, and More” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, easily merits that adoration.

Francois, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and worked as a pastry chef at several Minneapolis-St. Paul restaurants, is also the creator of the wildly popular web site, ZoëBakes.

The cookbook is a must for anyone who loves baking cakes. Many of the recipes are unfussy enough for any home-cook to bake, such as “Lemon-Curd Pound Cake,” “Banana Cream Cake,” and “Olive-Oil Chiffon Cake.” For those who want to take things to the next level, Francois also includes detailed advice on working with fondant and piping bags, along with more ambitious recipes for “Blackberry Diva Cake” and a DIY “Wedding Cake.”

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