Author Archives: foodgal

A Prickly Affair With Persimmons

While this is a faux persimmon, my new-found adoration of Hachiya persimmons is very much real.
While this is a faux persimmon, my new-found adoration of Hachiya persimmons is very much real.

Like so many great love affairs, this one began with trepidation.

After all, an astringent personality is not something one warms to readily. What was required was untold patience for the latent sweetness to reveal itself in time.

Such was my relationship with Hachiya persimmons.

Now, with its cousin, the Fuyu, the attraction was immediate. Cheerfully hued, beguilingly sweet, and ready to eat in a flash while still crisp, the Fuyu is thoroughly captivating in salads or pickled.

But the Hachyia? Well, it was more like that demon lurking in the shadows in a horror movie, biding its time as it transformed ever so slowly but surely into something blobby, oozy, and frightening.

Can you blame me for trying to avoid it for years?

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Rooh in Palo Alto Is Smoking Hot

Duck kebabs cooked on a mega grill at the new Rooh Palo Alto.
Duck kebabs cooked on a mega grill at the new Rooh Palo Alto.

When husband and wife, Vikram Bhambri, a Dell vice president, and Anu Bhambri, a former Microsoft senior software engineer, moved to San Jose from Seattle, they scoured the Peninsula for nine months, searching for a location to open their first Bay Area restaurant.

But the perfect locale actually turned out to be in San Francisco, which is where the couple, who also has restaurants in India, opened the modern-Indian Rooh in 2016. That was followed in quick succession by Rooh locations in Chicago and Columbus.

Now, finally in 2020, the Bhambri’s original dream has come true with the opening of Rooh Palo Alto — in a big way.

Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar in the kitchen.
Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar in the kitchen.
The custom grill that was fabricated in Atlanta to Chef Sarkar's specifications.
The custom grill that was fabricated in Atlanta to Chef Sarkar’s specifications.

It is the first of their restaurants to focus on live-fire cooking. In fact, it boasts a 13-foot-long custom grill, smoker and rotisserie. The Bhambris believe it’s the first apparatus in an Indian restaurant in the world. It can be admired behind glass from the dining room, as chickens rotate over the fire and whole pineapples hang overhead, turning soft and caramelized.

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It’s Time for Restaurant Weeks Galore

The signature Ensalada de Col is featured on the Oakland Restaurant Week menu at Duende. (Photo by Eva Kolenko in my "East Bay Cooks'' cookbook)
The signature Ensalada de Col is featured on the Oakland Restaurant Week menu at Duende. (Photo by Eva Kolenko in my “East Bay Cooks” cookbook)

Now is the perfect time to try some new restaurants or return to favorites because Restaurant Week is happening in full force in so many Bay Area cities.

You’ll find specially priced lunch and dinner menus at participating restaurants.

Here are some of the most popular Restaurant Week celebrations in local cities:

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Go North — In Downtown Los Gatos

The striking Non La cocktail at North.
The striking Non La cocktail at North.

Downtown Los Gatos has never been a stronghold of ethnic cuisines, so it was a welcome sight to see North open its doors last summer.

Named for its location on North Santa Cruz Avenue, this lovely restaurant serves contemporary Vietnamese cuisine with California influences. It’s a collaboration between two veteran restaurateurs: Hanna Pham, who for years had 19 Market in downtown San Jose; and John Le, who had the popular Three Seasons in downtown Palo Alto.

From all appearances, it’s already a hit in the community. The warm dining room, done up with a mural of a Vietnamese woman in a traditional ao dai, antique mirrors, reclaimed wood, and a wall of living plants, was packed the night my friends and I dined in December, paying our own tab at the end.

The mural that's a focal point in the dining room.
The mural that’s a focal point in the dining room.

Start with one of the fun cocktails, such as the Non La ($15), a play on a gin sour. The chic coupe is a study in green from the house-infused matcha gin blended with yellow chartreuse, orgeat, and lemon. Its frothy top is made of foaming bitters. A gold-hued turmeric-ginger tincture is poured atop through a stencil to recreate the restaurant’s logo, which on the drink almost looks like a pair of puckery lips. It’s an elegant drink that/s tangy, grassy, citrusy and delicious.

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Jubilee’s Rice Muffins

Simple and satisfying rice muffins.
Simple and satisfying rice muffins.

“Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking” (Clarkson Potter) is one of the most acclaimed cookbooks of the past year.

For good reason.

Activist, historian and food writer Toni Tipton-Martin’s book, of which I received a review copy, contains more than 100 recipes. But it is so much more than a cookbook. It is a resounding testament to the ingenuity, fortitude, passion and perseverance of African-American cooks throughout the ages.

When you think of African-American cuisine, you might automatically think soul food. But Tipton-Martin shows the real breadth of the cuisine. With hundreds of historical cookbooks she’s collected over the years, she combed through recipes to get at the heart of how black cooks have richly shaped our culinary landscape through the ages.

The result are recipes that are both modern and timeless, such as “Curried Meat Pies,” “Jamaican Jerk Ribs,” “Honey-Soy Glazed Chicken Wings,” “Baked Ham Glazed with Champagne,” and “Caramel Cake.”

What’s more, with many of the recipes, she also includes the actual historical recipe that inspired it with its succinct measurements and directions. By doing so, she connects the past to the present, making you really feel as if you are carrying on a cultural and culinary tradition whenever you take the time and effort to make one of these recipes.

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