Category Archives: Chefs

A Visit to Stellina Pronto

Stellina Pronto is known for its puffs. One look at these beauties and it's easy to see why.
Stellina Pronto is known for its puffs. One look at these beauties and it’s easy to see why.

For months, I’d heard inklings about just how fabulous the Petaluma Italian bakery, Stellina Pronto, was. Then, when a good friend, whose pastry bar is as high as mine, raved about it, I knew I had to make a beeline a couple weeks ago when I was in Sonona Wine Country.

All you need do is look for the line out the door to find it, as there almost always is one.

It’s no wonder, because this bakery, which opened last summer, is first-rate.

That’s no surprise when you realize it was opened by Chef Christian Caiazzo and his wife, Katrina Fried, who owned the highly regarded Osteria Stellina in Point Reyes Station until its closure in August 2020.

Don't despair at the line. It moves fairly quickly.
Don’t despair at the line. It moves fairly quickly.
A look at part of the bakery case.
A look at part of the bakery case.

The glass cases are filled with all manner of sweet, buttery treats, most of them sweet, but with a surprisingly wide variety of savory ones, too. Look for pizza to make its debut in the future, too.

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The Return of Cyrus

A perfect cube of succulent pork belly served with a zingy ale aged with cherry blossoms at the new Cyrus in Geyserville.
A perfect cube of succulent pork belly served with a zingy ale aged with cherry blossoms at the new Cyrus in Geyserville.

After a seemingly interminable odyssey, the wait is indeed over.

Cyrus, the acclaimed fine-dining restaurant that closed in Healdsburg in 2012 after a landlord dispute, finally reopened again last September in a striking new iteration in Geyserville.

Chef-Owner Doug Keane, co-owner Nick Peyton, and their team couldn’t be more relieved and thrilled to be back at it again. Neither can their legions of fans, so many of whom considered the original Cyrus their favorite restaurant.

The original Cyrus garnered two Michelin stars. The new one already scored one star — barely two months after opening.

At the entrance.
At the entrance.

Keane spent a decade searching high and low through the Alexander Valley, which was founded by the restaurant’s namesake Cyrus Alexander. He had all but given up when this site came available. Though this sleek contemporary glass, steel and concrete building is the polar opposite of the restaurant’s original Old World provincial aesthetic, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting place in this new age and time. At least, that’s what I found when I finally had the opportunity last week to dine here.

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Dining Outside at Momosan

The "Tokyo Chicken'' ramen at Momosan at Santana Row.
The “Tokyo Chicken” ramen at Momosan at Santana Row.

Few things satisfy in winter like a bountiful bowl of ramen. If you’re still primarily dining outdoors, you’ll be glad to know that Momosan, which opened at San Jose’s Santana Row last year, is equipped with patio dining to enjoy your noodles al fresco.

“Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto’s new restaurant is the perfect place to people-watch on the Row as you slurp your noodles. The outside tables at the side of the restaurant sport compact awnings, enough to shield you from light rain, but probably not ample enough in anything heavier. The tables also have overhead heaters and free-standing ones to keep things fairly comfortable even when the wind picks up.

The bar inside the restaurant.
The bar inside the restaurant.

Given this ramen joint’s celebrity panache, it’s no surprise that prices here are on the higher side with ramen bowls going for $18 to $29. In comparison, Ramen Nagi’s bowls start at about $15. Still, there’s no denying that the ramen, and rest of the food here, is superlative.

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Dining Outside at Jaks

The Karuveppilai chicken fry at Jaks in Santa Clara.
The Karuveppilai chicken fry at Jaks in Santa Clara.

With its chic, muted sandstone colors, the new Jaks at the Santa Clara Square Marketplace doesn’t announce itself conspicuously as an Indian restaurant.

Which is just what owner Michael Agnel intended.

The former general manager of Arka in Sunnyvale and operations manager at Sakoon in Mountain View, Agnel explains that he wanted to attract diners not only craving modern Indian cuisine, but ones who desired an elegant, upscale experience overall — no matter the food’s provenance.

To that end, he hired Mumbai-born Chef Prakash Singh to take regional Indian specialties and make them his own. Agnel also designed the extensive beverage program that includes the Peg Gastropub Bar inside the restaurant that sports a revolving 12 microbrewery selections on tap. A daily Happy Hour, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., features specially priced beers and cocktails.

The Peg Gastropub Bar inside the restaurant.
The Peg Gastropub Bar inside the restaurant.

The bar also boasts a sizeable selection of Japanese whiskies, tequila, and mezcal, not to mention a wine list that includes a 2018 Joseph Phelps Insignia for $450 and a 2018 Hundred Acre Napa Cabernet Sauvignon for $650 for big spenders.

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My Top 10 Eats of 2022

Whether enjoyed outside, inside or as takeout, restaurant food has never felt more special.

I am so grateful to restaurants for weathering all that they have in the past few years, and managing to come through it all to keep nourishing us in body, spirit, and soul.

Here’s to them, and to all that they provide, including these most memorable eats, in no particular order, that made my Top 10 for the year:

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