Category Archives: Great Finds

Sticky Toffee Lava Cake For The Win

The skinny on these incredible sticky toffee pudding cakes.
The skinny on these incredible sticky toffee pudding cakes.

You don’t need cranky Gordon Ramsay in your kitchen to get your fill of sticky toffee cakes. You just need a trip to Whole Foods to pick up these convenient, ready-made Pots & Co. Sticky Toffee Lava Cakes.

Then, just zap them in the microwave for 40 to 50 seconds to put a big smile on your face.

I had a chance to try samples recently of these individual sticky date sponge cakes with molten centers of butterscotch sauce.

The taste is of molasses spice cake crossed with hot buttered caramel popcorn. And one decadent little cake is all of 380 calories.

Yes, just try to resist that.

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Tantalizing Farro and Tomato Salad with Fish-Sauce Vinaigrette

This is bound to be your new favorite summer salad.
This is bound to be your new favorite summer salad.

If like me, you can’t get enough of nuoc cham — that zesty, indispensable Vietnamese dipping sauce for spring rolls, rice noodle salads, and so much more — you will go bonkers for this summery tomato and grain salad.

“Farro and Tomato Salad with Fish-Sauce Vinaigrette” takes a dressing with a similar profile as nuoc cham — minus the lime juice — to dress a colorful, bountiful mix of chewy, nutty farro grains with fresh heirloom tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and a lavish amount of fresh parsley and tarragon leaves.

The recipe is from Chef Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene’s in Portland, as published in Bon Appetit magazine.

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A Taste of California’s Only Commercial Iberian Pig Farm

Encina Farms Iberian pork loin chops grilled with just salt and pepper.
Encina Farms Iberian pork loin chops grilled with just salt and pepper.

Since last summer, Helmut Drews, a former tech acquisitions specialist, and Madrid-native Alberto Solis, a founder of the San Mateo incubator kitchen known as KitchenTown, have been cultivating a dream.

They have been raising Iberian pigs on their Encina Farms, the only commercial endeavor of its kind in California nurturing these specialty Spanish swines from which the luxurious jamon Iberico derives.

While Encina Farms’ own jamon Iberico is still a few years off — it takes a minimum of two years to cure the buttery ham leg — other pork products made from this distinctive black-footed, acorn-devouring breed can be enjoyed now.

Look for Encina Farms selling its Iberian pork cuts every Friday at the St. Helena’s farmers market and Saturday at the Napa farmers market.

The farm also offers limited delivery in the Bay Area, plus shipping to other parts of California, as well as Arizona, Oregon and Washington.

After writing a story about the founding of the farm last year for the San Francisco Chronicle, I was eager to try the pork for myself, so I splurged on a shipment.

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Indispensable Korean Scallion Pancakes — Plus A Food Gal Giveaway

Korean scallion pancakes -- a cinch to make with kimchi and any leftover veggies you have.
Korean scallion pancakes — a cinch to make with kimchi and any leftover veggies you have.

That quarter head of cabbage lingering in the fridge. The two carrots, once the epitome of crunch, now possessed of droopy ends. That once bright-white cauliflower head starting to go sallow. And those green onions now sadly going limp.

When I peer into my crisper drawer at home, it often feels like a race against the clock. Limiting my trips to the grocery store now means loading up with perishables all at once, each with its own limited life cycle. Tick, tick, tick. When I spy things beginning to wither, like Valentine’s Day roses after the bloom of the holiday has come and gone, I slump dejectedly.

But now, thanks to a genius recipe, I perk up immediately instead to the possibilities.

Because “Korean Scallion Pancakes” or “Vegetable Pajeon” was made for those bits and ends of veggies that hang around a little too long through no fault of their own.

Think Hanukkah potato pancakes gone Korean with kimchi instead.

Small-batch Vietnamese Tiger Sate chili sauces -- plus a chance to win three jars to try.
Small-batch Vietnamese Tiger Sate chili sauces — plus a chance to win three jars to try.

This genius recipe, published in 2019 in the New York Times, is by one of my favorite food writers, Melissa Clark. She learned the recipe from Chef Sohui Kim of Insa and the Good Fork restaurants in Brooklyn.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Take-Out Of Late

Such a treat -- beignets from The Village Pub.
Such a treat — beignets from The Village Pub.

When shelter-in-place first took hold, I took it to heart, cooking all my meals at home from pantry and freezer ingredients, and from grocery deliveries, so I wouldn’t have to venture out needlessly. But wanting to support my local restaurants, I also bought gift cards and donated to GoFundMe campaigns.

As restrictions have lessened, though, I’ve felt more at ease about getting food to-go. I prefer to pick it up myself rather than going through third-party delivery apps that tack on an extra charge to restaurants. Plus, after listening to a highly informative “The Tim Ferris Show” podcast with guest Nick Kokonas, co-owner of Alinea restaurant in Chicago, I also realized I now needed to use those gift cards pronto. Kokonas, who owned a derivatives trading firm for a decade, explained that while the revenue from gift cards help restaurants in the short-term, they remain a debt on their books. Indeed, the worst-case scenario would be for every well-meaning patron who bought a gift card to descend upon that restaurant the first week it reopened to use them when the establishment had no revenue coming in.

So I’m making a point to use those gift cards I purchased in March for food to-go now, and to even order more beyond the card’s amount to give the establishment an extra boost.

Here’s where I’ve picked-up food in recent weeks, paying my own tab.

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