Category Archives: General

Three Great Reads For the Lunar New Year

“Invitation to A Banquet: The Story of Chinese Food”

Settle into your favorite chair and prepare to get hungry as you immerse yourself in “Invitation to A Banquet: The Story of Chinese Food” (W.W. Norton & Co., 2023).

London-based Fuchsia Dunlop has long been one of my favorite writers — and speakers. The first Westerner to train as a chef at the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine, she is fluent in speaking, writing, and reading Chinese. Her knowledge of the foods of every region in China is bar none.

In her newest book, of which I received a review copy, the four-time James Beard Award-winning cookbook author explores the historical, philosophical, and technical aspects of the vast range of Chinese food by presenting a literary banquet of 30 dishes. Each chapter hones in on one particular regional dish, serving up not only its origins and the importance of its ingredients, but the food producers, farmers, chefs, and home cooks who have put their indelible stamp on it.

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Dining At the New Singular Movida

Chile relleno stuffed with basmati rice and lamb at Movida.
Chile relleno stuffed with basmati rice and lamb at Movida.

There is Mexican food.

And there is Persian food.

Thanks to the new Movida Lounge in San Francisco’s South of Market District, there is now Persian-Mexican cuisine, too.

At first thought, you might think this a puzzling head scratcher. But reflect further, and you’ll realize that over the past decade, all manner of cuisines have been folded up and tucked into tacos and burritos, most notably Korean fare at Los Angeles’ ground-breaking Kogi Korean BBQ truck. So, smoky kebabs and Middle Eastern dips enveloped in tortillas, especially ones that also incorporate rice like they do here, aren’t so farfetched after all.

Especially when you learn that after Co-Owner Bobby Marhamat’s parents immigrated from Iran to Nebraska, they ended up buying a Mexican restaurant to operate. And naturally, the two cuisines started to meld at home.

The dining room has a lounge-like feel.
The dining room has a lounge-like feel.

Movida is an outgrowth of that. Or as his wife and Co-Owner Shima Marhamat explains, “We took A and B — and created C.”

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Cozy Up To Chicken and Rye Dumplings

Chicken stew with fluffy dumplings made with rye flour.
Chicken stew with fluffy dumplings made with rye flour.

It may be Lunar New Year, when all eyes and stomachs turn to devouring dumplings for their pouch-like shape that signifies fortune and prosperity.

Me? As someone who considers themself inclusive, I endorse broadening that range, After all, I don’t think I’ve ever met a dumpling of any origin that I didn’t like.

That’s especially true when it comes to “Chicken & Rye Dumplings.”

This is a seriously comforting dish, one with a soulful poultry taste, substantial amounts of veggies like homemade “Chunky Soup,” and a raft of fluffy, nutty tasting dumplings galore.

The recipe is from “The Complete Beans and Grains Cookbook,” of which I received a review copy, by America’s Test Kitchen.

You’ll find more than 450 recipes for beans and grains, those economical, nutritious, and versatile staples that do a body good, especially when combined together for a punch of protein-packed carbs.

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Dining Up On The Third Floor

The incredible duck soup at The Third Floor in San Francisco.
The incredible duck soup at The Third Floor in San Francisco.

Can we talk duck soup?

Because we must.

The kind redolent of star anise plus a pop of chili. The kind with an aroma that tantalizes with warm spices from the first whiff. And the kind that soothes, satisfies, and lingers on the mind and palate long after the last slurp.

I’m talking about the superlative duck soup at the new Third Floor Restaurant and Lounge, which opened late last year inside San Francisco’s 25-story Jay Hotel near the Embarcadero.

It’s the first hotel restaurant by the Omakase Group, the force behind such celebrated establishments as Niku Steakhouse, Omakase, and Dumpling Time.

The Third Floor dining room.
The Third Floor dining room.

What was formerly Le Meridien hotel has undergone a multi-million-dollar renovation that includes a sleek contemporary yet soothing pale earth-tone interior design by AvroKO, which also did SingleThread Farms in Healdsburg. The look was inspired by the organic and natural sculptural style of the late-great Ruth Asawa.

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Sensational Sips, Part I

A pretty-in-pink gin.
A pretty-in-pink gin.

Malfy Gin Rosa

Have you ever spied a pink gin before? Me, either. At least not before receiving a sample bottle of Malfy Gin Rosa, an Italian gin that’s tinged a very pale pink from grapefruit.

Inspired by the Amalfi Coast, this gin gets a subtle citrus and bitter pith edge from Sicilian pink grapefruit, along with lemon. Juniper berries add characteristic pine and almost anise-like notes without veering into medicinal-tasting territory.

Just know, though, that because the color is so light, it won’t be visible once you add any kind of mixer.

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