Category Archives: Great Finds

It’s Time for Restaurant Weeks Galore

The signature Ensalada de Col is featured on the Oakland Restaurant Week menu at Duende. (Photo by Eva Kolenko in my "East Bay Cooks'' cookbook)
The signature Ensalada de Col is featured on the Oakland Restaurant Week menu at Duende. (Photo by Eva Kolenko in my “East Bay Cooks” cookbook)

Now is the perfect time to try some new restaurants or return to favorites because Restaurant Week is happening in full force in so many Bay Area cities.

You’ll find specially priced lunch and dinner menus at participating restaurants.

Here are some of the most popular Restaurant Week celebrations in local cities:

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Lamb and Butternut Squash Ragu with Mint, Orange, and The Greatest Tomatoes From Europe

Whole canned cherry tomatoes in their juices from Europe make this pasta dish even more of a treat.
Whole canned cherry tomatoes in their juices from Europe make this pasta dish even more of a treat.

Ancient landmarks, breathtaking artworks, artisan foodstuffs perfected over generations, and the intricate fashions crafted by Prada, Dior and Givenchy.

Those are some of the things I most love about Europe.

Now, comes the newest addition to my list: canned tomatoes.

Yes, really.

I never thought I’d get that excited over such a basic pantry staple until the Italian Association of Canned Vegetable Industries and European Union founded the marketing program, The Greatest Tomatoes From Europe, to spread the word far and wide about its canned tomatoes. As part of the program, they began sending out free samples to food writers like myself to give them a try.

I received two cans, 400g each, of Davio Gragnano whole, peeled long, oblong and cherry tomatoes, vacuum-sealed with their juices. When you open the cans, what’s most striking is that the plump tomatoes are afloat in a fairly thick puree of a sauce, not the weak, watery liquid usually found inside most supermarket canned tomatoes. I dipped a spoon in to taste a very vivid tomato flavor. While you might strain out and discard the liquid in other cans, it would be a waste to that here because it was actually a bonus — getting tomatoes and sauce in one.

Samples from the Greatest Tomatoes From Europe.
Samples from the Greatest Tomatoes From Europe.

Inside my sample box were also packages of Pastificio G. Di Martino Italian dried pasta. So there was no question that I’d be making a bountiful pasta dish out of it all. Of course, not that I ever need an excuse to make pasta.

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48 Hours In Vegas

The Big Rig Jig sculpture by artist Mike Ross on display in downtown Las Vegas.
The Big Rig Jig sculpture by artist Mike Ross on display in downtown Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS, NV — In the city that never sleeps, one can do major damage even if it’s only a 48-hour trip, and ostensibly to take in a Lady Gaga show. But one still has to eat, right? And boy, did my husband and I do just that.

Flock & Fowl

If you’ve never ventured beyond The Strip, you owe it to yourself to take a trek downtown. It’s arguably the city’s hippest neighborhood, with bold murals spanning two to three stories high on the sides of buildings, tongue-in-cheek sayings adorning old motel marquees, and a range of show-stopping public arts pieces.

Wit and wonder downtown.
Wit and wonder downtown.

Case in point, the Big Rig Jig at the Fergusons Downtown, an old motel that has been transformed into a venue of small local boutiques and eateries. The Big Rig Jig looks like something straight out of a “Transformers” movie. Composed of two massive tanker trucks bent and curved into an inexplicable “S,” it’s confounding, perplexing, and just plain amazing.

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The Best Chicken Soup You’ll Ever Make

Loaded with chicken and vegetables, and an array of aromatics, this chicken soup is the best I've ever had.
Loaded with chicken and vegetables, and an array of aromatics, this chicken soup is the best I’ve ever had.

Forget any ifs, ands or buts, because this, my friends, is the tastiest chicken soup you’ll ever slurp up.

The kind that makes your eyes widen in unexpected pleasure from the first spoonful. The kind that boasts layers upon layers of deep, full, satisfying flavor. The kind that nourishes and comforts no matter if you’re ailing or just in need of something wonderfully warming.

The secret is that the chicken in the soup first gets roasted. In fact, the entire soup is mostly made in the oven, concentrating the flavors and leaving the chicken as tender and moist as your favorite rotisserie bird.

“Limon Omani Oven-Roasted Chicken Soup with Celery Seeds” may have a long name with an ingredient or two that may give you pause. But don’t let that put you off from what is essentially a quite easy recipe that delivers more than you’d ever expect.

The recipe is from the new “Mastering Spice: Recipes and Techniques to Transform Your Everyday Cooking” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy.

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My Top 10 Eats of 2019

So many places opened in 2019; and so many places closed. Be it astronomical housing costs to an extremely tight labor pool and the rising price of ingredients, the Bay Area remains a challenging landscape for restaurants.

Still, they somehow manage to put their best forward day in and day out. Here are my favorite eats of the year (in no particular order) — the ones I still dream about, and the ones I’d race back for in a heartbeat. Enjoy! And cheers to even more delicious morsels in 2020.

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