Category Archives: Chocolate

The All-Natural Red Velvety Strawberry Cake

A most unique red velvet cake.
A most unique red velvet cake.

Admittedly, the hoopla over red velvet cake has always left me perplexed.

Sure, the dramatic color captures your fancy — for a hot second.

Then, as quickly, reality tells you that’s all due to red food coloring. At which point, I say, “Pass me a wedge of all-real devil’s food cake instead.”

“Red Velvety Strawberry Cake,” though, sparked a far different reaction.

It had me all in from the get-go.

Nope, no artificial anything in this stunning cake. No food coloring whatsoever — only an entire bottle of red wine.

And if that doesn’t grab you, I don’t know what will.

Now, that my friends, is a cake.
Now, that my friends, is a cake.

To be fair, this cake doesn’t possess that vivid maroon you expect from red velvet. Instead, the wine, which first gets reduced before being added into the batter, adds the merest bit of rosiness to the dark chocolate-colored cake. The wine (I used a Pinot Noir) also adds a touch of acidity to balance out all the sweetness.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 35

Fresh bucatini and beef ragu from Etto that I cooked in a flash for dinner at home.
Fresh bucatini and beef ragu from Etto that I cooked in a flash for dinner at home.

Etto, Paso Robles

Yes, this might be a stretch for takeout, but since I actually did get everything to-go to enjoy later at home, I say it qualifies.

Plus, if you are ever in the Paso Robles area, you owe it to yourself to drop by Etto, a three-year-old boutique pasta shop started by third-generation Italian American Brian Terrizzi.

After reading an SFGate article about this charming store that makes and sells both dried and fresh pastas, I knew I had to stop in when I was in the vicinity last month to attend an outdoor wedding.

The small shop carries olive oils, salumi, cheeses, cookies, wines (including from Terrizzi’s Giornata Winery, and a slim selection of locally-grown produce. Basically, it’s everything you need to put together a simple yet satisfying Italiano meal at home.

The containers of bucatini and sauce.
The containers of bucatini and sauce.

Terrizzi learned how to make pasta from his grandmother, and from regular trips to Naples and Tuscany. He is a purist, making pasta with only organic durum semolina flour and water, which gets extruded through traditional bronze dies.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies

If you love chocolate chip cookies and adore brownies, these bar cookies are sure to satisfy.
If you love chocolate chip cookies and adore brownies, these bar cookies are sure to satisfy.

After this grueling past year and a half, you most certainly deserve a special treat.

Or two treats in one to be exact.

“Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies” is precisely that.

Let those words roll over your tongue and sear into your mind for a hot minute: Chocolate chip cookie. Plus brownies.

Stacked one on top of each other, these cookie-brownie bars are truly the best of both worlds.

And a riot of dark chocolate.

This decadent recipe is from “Martha Stewart’s Cookie Perfection: 100+ Recipes to Take Your Sweet Treats to the Next Level” (Clarkson Potter) from the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living.

They are essentially Brookies, which are often made as individual circular cookies. This recipe streamlines that because you bake everything in one pan. Which, of course means you get to enjoy them even sooner.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 34

The butternut squash and salsa verde Milan-style pizza from Pizzone.
The delicata squash and salsa verde Milan-style pizza from Pizzone.

Pizzone, Palo Alto

Let’s start by saying that I’ve never paid nearly $70 for one pizza before ($69.90 to be exact).

But Pizzone’s pie is unlike most.

For one thing, it’s a massive 18-inches in diameter and 1-inch thick all around.

It’s also Milan-style, meaning that it’s airy, soft, fluffy, and more like focaccia.

Milan-native Dario Presezzi, founder and CEO of Redwood City’s Biotechforce Corp., put his entrepreneurial skills to use in a different way this summer when he opened this ghost kitchen inside of Palo Alto’s Vina Enoteca.

That means it’s pick-up and delivery only. And if you pick it up yourself, just note that you do so at a side door just to the left of Vina Enoteca’s main entrance.

By the time you get the pizza home, the cheese may have congealed just a bit, so you can rewarm it in the oven or zap it in the microwave for the briefest of seconds.

The whole pie.
The whole pie.

The pizza comes either in a box of two slices ($9.90 to $11.90, depending on the toppings) or as a full pizza (12 slices that will serve 6, starting at $54.90). Because the crust is thick, two slices will definitely fill you up comfortably, too.

There are five vegetarian pizzas to choose from, and four meat ones. The beauty of the whole pizza is that you can choose up to six flavors on one pie, which is what I went with.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 31

Cuban pork-plantain enchiladas from Aqui.
Cuban pork-plantain enchiladas from Aqui.

Aqui, San Jose, Campbell, Cupertino

Long before certain chefs in Southern California and on the East Coast were gaining fame for stuffing tacos and burritos with all manner of global ingredients, there was Aqui.

It was a forerunner to the novelty of folding flour tortillas around a filling of Thai peanut saucy chicken or tangy goat cheese to create something anew.

It opened way back in 1994 in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood. I remember going there in the late ’90s, where no matter if it was lunch or dinner, you’d have to time it just right or risk not getting a table. Today, Aqui is not only still going strong, but it now boasts five locations in the South Bay.

It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. It’s fun, vibrant California-ized Mexican-inspired food in generous portions. Order the avocado dip ($7.49), and you’ll get enough tortilla chips to feed four handily, along with salsa fresca on the side for good measure. The avocado dip is essentially a chunk guacamole with habanero, lime, and cilantro. The menu says there’s mango in it, but it’s not readily detectable. The chips are very crisp and have a great rustic corn taste.

The Cuban pork enchiladas ($12.49) come three to an order, along with black beans and crunchy, mild tasting Aqui slaw. The enchiladas are filled with ground pork that’s been cooked with mashed plaintains, giving it a nice sweetness, before being napped with a red, nutty tasting achiote sauce. Squiggles of sour cream decorate the top.

Don't miss the flourless chocolate cake.
Don’t miss the flourless chocolate cake.

On the lighter side, the Southwest Caesar ($9.49) was a kaleidoscope of color with yellow, purple and red fried tortilla strips all over the top. It’s a simple mix of crunchy Romaine, pumpkin seeds, black beans and grilled corn, done up with a flourish of Asiago cheese, but really hits the spot.

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