Category Archives: Great Finds

Dining Outside at Ethel’s Fancy

Mt. Lassen trout dressed up with chili crisp, salmon roe and peanuts at the new Ethel's Fancy in Palo Alto.
Mt. Lassen trout dressed up with chili crisp, salmon roe and peanuts at the new Ethel’s Fancy in Palo Alto.

Despite his restaurant being much-anticipated and long-delayed, even Chef-Owner Scott Nishiyama was flabbergasted at how quickly reservations were snapped up when first released for the Sept. 3 opening of Ethel’s Fancy.

But such was the voracious appetite from the start for this downtown Palo Alto restaurant in the former Prolific Oven.

Not only has Nishiyama waited a long time for this, but so has the dining public that’s been eager to experience the very personal fare from a chef who honed his skills at the Michelin-starred establishments of Daniel in New York City, The French Laundry in Yountville, and Chez TJ in Mountain View.

Chef-Owner Scott Nishiyama in the kitchen at his long-anticipated restaurant.
Chef-Owner Scott Nishiyama in the kitchen at his long-anticipated restaurant.

The wait was definitely worth it, as I found out last week when I dined at one of the outdoor tables the restaurant has set up right by its front doors.

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Dining Outside at Maybeck’s

Japanese hamachi crudo at Maybeck's.
Japanese hamachi crudo at Maybeck’s.

It’s been a long eight years since husband-and-wife Jeff Banker and Lori Baker closed their eponymous San Francisco restaurant, Baker & Banker.

Now, they’re back — in a big way — cooking and baking as partners alongside good friend and fellow pastry chef-restaurateur-owner Aaron Toensing at Maybeck’s in San Francisco’s Marina district.

It’s a reunion for the three, who first met way back when they were all working at iconic Postrio in San Francisco.

Banker and Baker, who did private chef gigs and consulting in the ensuing years, are clearly happy to be back at a restaurant, as was evident from their smiles last weekend, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

If you’re like me, and still dining primarily outdoors, you’ll be glad to know that Maybeck’s recently added a couple of outdoor tables on the sidewalk. They might look a little spartan, as they’re small high-top tables with bar stools. But they’re dressed up with a bud vase and a heater in case it gets chilly.

Maybeck's outdoor dining area may not be fancy, but it does the job and adds to the lively atmosphere in the Marina these days.
Maybeck’s outdoor dining area may not be fancy, but it does the job and adds to the lively atmosphere in the Marina these days.

Plus, if you haven’t been to the Marina lately, you’ll discover it’s really hopping post-pandemic, especially with outdoor dining. Many of the restaurants have sidewalk tables or parklets, creating a very festive street scene that can’t help but draw you in.

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Relishing English Muffin Bread

Not individual English muffins, but English muffin loaves.
Not individual English muffins, but English muffin loaves.

I am a sucker for English muffins with all their crisp nooks and crannies.

I’ve even made my own from scratch. While they’re divine, they are a laborious process that will occupy most of an afternoon.

But “English Muffin Bread” from Cook’s Country magazine streamlines that by forgoing making individual rounds for two loaves instead. You don’t even need a mixer, either.

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Dining Outside At Tasting House

The beef Wellington at the new Tasting House in Los Gatos.
The beef Wellington at the new Tasting House in Los Gatos.

Husband-and-wife, Mike and Denise Thornberry, might seem like an unlikely duo to open a wine bar-restaurant.

He is a senior director at Apple. She was executive vice president of global sales for Beats by Dr. Dre.

Neither has ever owned a restaurant before or even worked in one.

But they must know have a natural knack for it because their Tasting House in Los Gatos, which only opened in January, is already a hit. It garnered “Best Restaurant,” “Best Atmosphere,” and “Best Wine List” in the 2022 Best of Los Gatos list, and scored a “Best of Award of Excellence” this year from Wine Spectator. And when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant last week, the place was packed, even at all the tables on the patio where I dined on a toasty summer night.

The exterior of the restaurant-wine bar-gourmet store that has tables outside.
The exterior of the restaurant-wine bar-gourmet store that has tables outside.
An abundance of goodies awaits inside the store portion of the business.
An abundance of goodies awaits inside the store portion of the business.

Located in what was formerly Cin-Cin Wine Bar & Restaurant, Tasting House sports both a restaurant and an attached gourmet provisions shop.

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Stuffed Mushrooms Get A Makeover — With The Ingenious Addition of Hummus

New-way stuffed mushrooms showcasing portobellos filled with hummus and chickpeas.
New-way stuffed mushrooms showcasing portobellos filled with hummus and chickpeas.

When it comes to putting a new spin on hummus with the unlikely additions of chocolate, caramel, or even cake batter, for the life of me, I just cringe.

But leave it to Melissa Clark to come up with a novel and genius use for hummus that actually makes sense.

She takes portobellos and stuffs their generous-sized caps with homemade hummus, then crowns them with chickpeas, before roasting them.

If you’ve been there, done that with classic itty-bitty stuffed button mushrooms filled with chopped mushrooms, butter, cheese, and toasted bread crumbs, this more sizeable riff will make you see them in a whole new way.

“Stuffed Portobellos with Creamy, Lemony Chickpeas” is from Clark’s newest cookbook, “Dinner in One” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy.

The book’s release was delayed this year, after its shipment was purportedly lost at sea during a rough storm in January. Thankfully, a new shipment finally made it to our shores, because the arrival of a Melissa Clark cookbook is always an occasion to celebrate. That’s because her recipes always tempt, and always work.

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