Category Archives: Chefs

Dining Outside at Ethel’s Fancy

Mt. Lassen trout dressed up with chili crisp, salmon roe and peanuts at the new Ethel's Fancy in Palo Alto.
Mt. Lassen trout dressed up with chili crisp, salmon roe and peanuts at the new Ethel’s Fancy in Palo Alto.

Despite his restaurant being much-anticipated and long-delayed, even Chef-Owner Scott Nishiyama was flabbergasted at how quickly reservations were snapped up when first released for the Sept. 3 opening of Ethel’s Fancy.

But such was the voracious appetite from the start for this downtown Palo Alto restaurant in the former Prolific Oven.

Not only has Nishiyama waited a long time for this, but so has the dining public that’s been eager to experience the very personal fare from a chef who honed his skills at the Michelin-starred establishments of Daniel in New York City, The French Laundry in Yountville, and Chez TJ in Mountain View.

Chef-Owner Scott Nishiyama in the kitchen at his long-anticipated restaurant.
Chef-Owner Scott Nishiyama in the kitchen at his long-anticipated restaurant.

The wait was definitely worth it, as I found out last week when I dined at one of the outdoor tables the restaurant has set up right by its front doors.

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Dining Outside at Maybeck’s

Japanese hamachi crudo at Maybeck's.
Japanese hamachi crudo at Maybeck’s.

It’s been a long eight years since husband-and-wife Jeff Banker and Lori Baker closed their eponymous San Francisco restaurant, Baker & Banker.

Now, they’re back — in a big way — cooking and baking as partners alongside good friend and fellow pastry chef-restaurateur-owner Aaron Toensing at Maybeck’s in San Francisco’s Marina district.

It’s a reunion for the three, who first met way back when they were all working at iconic Postrio in San Francisco.

Banker and Baker, who did private chef gigs and consulting in the ensuing years, are clearly happy to be back at a restaurant, as was evident from their smiles last weekend, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

If you’re like me, and still dining primarily outdoors, you’ll be glad to know that Maybeck’s recently added a couple of outdoor tables on the sidewalk. They might look a little spartan, as they’re small high-top tables with bar stools. But they’re dressed up with a bud vase and a heater in case it gets chilly.

Maybeck's outdoor dining area may not be fancy, but it does the job and adds to the lively atmosphere in the Marina these days.
Maybeck’s outdoor dining area may not be fancy, but it does the job and adds to the lively atmosphere in the Marina these days.

Plus, if you haven’t been to the Marina lately, you’ll discover it’s really hopping post-pandemic, especially with outdoor dining. Many of the restaurants have sidewalk tables or parklets, creating a very festive street scene that can’t help but draw you in.

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Lamb Kheema — From A James Beard Best Chef: South

A hearty, versatile and easy-to-make lamb kheema that's like the Indian version of American sloppy joe's.
A hearty, versatile and easy-to-make lamb kheema that’s like the Indian version of American sloppy joe’s.

Arguably, there has come a time in every ethnic person’s life, when they’ve been asked “Where are you from?” and cringed.

It may be an innocent-sounding query from the most well-meaning of people, but it invariably brings up the notion that you’re forever an outsider who’s never fully accepted.

Vishwesh Bhatt has a triumphant answer to that: “I Am From Here”

That is also the title of his new cookbook (W.W. Norton & Co.), of which I received a review copy.

Born in India, Bhatt has lived in Oxford, MS for more than 20 years and has been the executive chef of Snackbar there since it opened in 2009.

As he proudly and fiercely writes in the intro, “I want people to see me as I see myself: an immigrant, a son of immigrants, who chose to make the South his home, and in doing so, became a Southern chef. I claim the American South, and this is my story.”

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Cauliflower with Raisins — Indian-Style

Embrace the raisins in this dish.
Embrace the raisins in this dish.

Admit it, we all have our unusual food predilections.

My husband doesn’t enjoy sour foods, but loves ceviche. He is not fond of raw carrots, but will happily chomp on them if they’re cut into sticks.

Me? I am typically not the biggest fan of coconut. Yet I dream of Tom Douglas’ famed coconut cream pie, and the coconut layer cakes I devoured in South Carolina. Neither am I usually a fan of raisins in baked goods. Yet I somehow adore them in savory dishes.

Go figure.

That’s why the recipe for “Cauliflower with Raisins” stopped me in my tracks in the best of ways.

It’s from the new “6 Spices, 60 Dishes” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy. Ruta Kahate, a veteran cookbook author who own Ruta’s, an Indian cafe in Milwaukee.

Kahate recognizes that the intoxicating array of spices that makes Indian cuisine so exciting can also prove intimidating to a home-cook. With this book, she demonstrates that with only six spices in the pantry — cayenne, coriander, cumin, turmeric, mustard seeds, and asafetida — you can make 60 vibrant and distinct dishes that aren’t taxing.

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Dining Outside At Tasting House

The beef Wellington at the new Tasting House in Los Gatos.
The beef Wellington at the new Tasting House in Los Gatos.

Husband-and-wife, Mike and Denise Thornberry, might seem like an unlikely duo to open a wine bar-restaurant.

He is a senior director at Apple. She was executive vice president of global sales for Beats by Dr. Dre.

Neither has ever owned a restaurant before or even worked in one.

But they must know have a natural knack for it because their Tasting House in Los Gatos, which only opened in January, is already a hit. It garnered “Best Restaurant,” “Best Atmosphere,” and “Best Wine List” in the 2022 Best of Los Gatos list, and scored a “Best of Award of Excellence” this year from Wine Spectator. And when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant last week, the place was packed, even at all the tables on the patio where I dined on a toasty summer night.

The exterior of the restaurant-wine bar-gourmet store that has tables outside.
The exterior of the restaurant-wine bar-gourmet store that has tables outside.
An abundance of goodies awaits inside the store portion of the business.
An abundance of goodies awaits inside the store portion of the business.

Located in what was formerly Cin-Cin Wine Bar & Restaurant, Tasting House sports both a restaurant and an attached gourmet provisions shop.

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