Category Archives: General

Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 21

A small, 6-inch chocolate silk pie from Manresa Bread.
A small, 6-inch chocolate silk pie from Manresa Bread.

Manresa Bread, Campbell, Los Altos, and Los Gatos

Manresa Bread is a must-stop any day of the week. But come holidays, it shines even more.

That’s what I discovered when I dropped by last week to pick up Valentine’s Day treats. It pays to heed the window for early pre-ordering, too, as popular items will sell out fast.

Pastry Chef-Founder Avery Ruzicka built a reputation for her outstanding breads, made with organic flour milled on site. Those are a must-purchase, especially the profoundly crusty baguette, which quite frankly is a steal for $4, and the oblong levain ($9) with such depth of flavor from a combination of organic whole wheat, organic white, and organic rye flours in concert with a sourdough starter.

Manresa Bread's version of a Basque cheesecake.
Manresa Bread’s Basque cheesecake.

Admittedly, I was there for two holiday items in particular: the 6-inch chocolate silk pie ($22), and the Basque cheesecake ($35).

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Sheet Pan Soy Sauce Chicken with Pineapple and Bok Choy

Chicken gets marinated in soy sauce, then roasted on one pan with fresh pineapple and baby bok choy.
Chicken gets marinated in soy sauce, then roasted on one pan with fresh pineapple and baby bok choy.

My childhood memories of Chinese soy sauce chicken revolve around my mom trekking to a deli in San Francisco Chinatown with me toddling by her side. There, she’d carefully point to a plump one hanging in the window, which would get chopped ferociously with a cleaver into manageable pieces, and wrapped up in a takeout box for our dinner that night.

At home, I’d help plug in the rice cooker for fresh steamed white rice, while my mom stir-fried some asparagus, bok choy or gai lan from the fridge. It was the makings for a quick, simple, and satisfying weeknight family meal.

Pineapple was not something she’d necessarily think to pair with it. But thankfully, food writer Cathy Erway, whose mother hails from pineapple-growing Taiwan, had that light-bulb moment. Because like Tom Cruise to Renee Zellweger in “Jerry Maguire,” pineapple completes soy sauce chicken.

The fresh juicy chunks add sweetness and tropical bright acidity, providing another level of flavor to the soy-caramelized chicken. After all, who among us doesn’t zero in on the pineapple pieces in a dish of sweet and sour pork, right? Best yet, Erway makes this complete dish in a sheet pan in the oven for utmost convenience.

“Mom’s Soy Sauce Chicken with Pineapple and Bok Choy” is from her new cookbook, “Sheet Pan Chicken: 50 Simple and Satisfying Ways to Cook Dinner” (Ten Speed Press). Erway, a Brooklyn-based James Beard Award-winning writer, has created 50 recipes for everyone’s favorite protein using the “it” method of laying it all on a sheet pan, sliding it into the oven, and forgetting about it until the timer goes off.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 8

A lovely wine with a touching story.
A lovely wine with a touching story.

2019 Longevity Pinot Grigio

If there’s any bottle that resonates especially on Valentine’s Day, it’s any from Longevity Wines.

Winemaker Phil Long of the Livermore urban winery started making wine in his garage with his wife Debra. When she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in 2019, he personally designed the romantic heart logo on their bottles and imprinted it on the corks. He also had it tattooed on his arm, so that her spirit would always be with him.

It’s hard not to fall for a love story like that nor for wines made with such dedication.

The 2019 Pinot Grigio ($26) with its pale salmon blush hue is ideal for the holiday. The previous 2018 vintage won “Best White Wine Pairing” at the 2019 Livermore Valley Taste Terroir event and a bronze at the 2019 Orange Country Fair wine competition.

I admit that I rarely drink pinot grigio, as I find most of them just so bland and uninteresting. However, when I received a sample bottle of this one, I was pleasantly surprised. It boasts a medium body, zippy acidity, and the bright taste of raspberry, strawberry, watermelon, and lemon. It would be dreamy with prosciutto and melon, sauteed salmon, fish tacos, poke bowls or a simple roast chicken.

Best yet, from now through Feb. 16, all bottles on the Longevity web site are 25 percent off.

Cheers: Long also happens to be president of the nonprofit Association of African American Vintners. Under his leadership, its membership has grown by 500 percent. He also helped create an online store to showcase one of the largest collections of Black-owned wine brands in one convenient spot.

Maker Canned Sparkling Rosé by Bodkin Wines

Premium canned wine manufacturer, Maker, has teamed up again with Chris Christensen of Healdsburg’s Bodkin Wines for one of its newest releases.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 20

A dramatic and delicious sparerib-stuffed kabocha squash from China Stix.
A dramatic and delicious sparerib-stuffed kabocha squash from China Stix.

China Stix, Santa Clara

With Lunar New Year starting on Friday, all eyes — and stomachs — turn to procuring some super satisfying Chinese takeout food.

At least, that’s the case this year, when the lingering pandemic makes it impossible to celebrate as usual with friends and family at restaurants, sitting elbow to elbow at big round tables with a lazy Susan in the center, brimming with dim sum morsels or banquet-style dishes.

For my fix, I looked no further than China Stix in the Santa Clara Town Centre. It’s the type of family-owned Chinese restaurant that every neighborhood needs, cooking up rock-solid food in generous portions that provides a taste of pure comfort.

It’s the kind of place that has egg foo young on the menu, and will throw in a big handful of fortune cookies with each order. And if the kabocha squash in the dish you ordered happens to be smaller than usual at this time of season, will throw in a second order at no extra charge.

(Clockwise from top): Pork pot stickers, barbecue pork chow mein, and combination chow fun.
(Clockwise from top): Pork pot stickers, barbecue pork chow mein, and combination chow fun.

Speaking of which, those spicy pork spareribs cooked inside a whole kabocha squash ($38) are highly recommended, even if it may take 45 minutes to 1 hour extra to prepare.

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20th Century Cafe’s Sacher Torte

It's every bit as rich and wonderful as it looks -- Sacher Torte, a Viennese classic.
It’s every bit as rich and wonderful as it looks — Sacher Torte, a Viennese classic.

My introduction to this magnificent chocolate creation known as Sacher torte came not in Vienna, where it originated, but if memory serves me, in San Francisco — at Alice Medrich’s legendary Cocolat bakery.

Sitting down to a dark, dense, chocolately slice with a glass in which equally dark filtered coffee was slowly dripping into it was the epitome of elegant adulthood. I almost felt as if I had to hold my pinkies aloft to enjoy each and every bite.

One of the most famed European cakes around, it was first created in 1832 by 16-year-old Franz Sacher, then later gained an outsized following at the Hotel Sacher, established by his son Eduard.

It looks so fancy. And it tastes so fancy. But at its heart, it’s really just a double-layer chocolate cake that’s covered entirely in a dark chocolate glaze and hiding a filling of apricot preserves.

So, if you can make a chocolate cake, you can definitely make a Sacher Torte. Especially if using the recipe from Baking at the 20th Century Cafe: Iconic European Desserts from Linzer Torte to Honey Cake (Artisan Books) by pastry chef extraordinaire Michelle Polzine with food writer Jessica Battilana.

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