Category Archives: Great Finds

Love Birds and The Chemistry of Love

The Love Birds box.
The Love Birds box.

I doubt if anyone ever needs an excuse to indulge in Recchiuti chocolates. But with Valentine’s Day coming up, you indeed have the perfect reason to treat yourself or someone you love to some of the finest artisan chocolate confections around.

For more than two decades, Michael Recchiuti has been making exquisite chocolates by hand with flavoring ingredients sourced seasonally from Bay Area farmers markets.

You can find the confections at the Recchiuti storefront at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and the retail shop, Recchiuti at the Lab, in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood. Or you can shop on its own web store.

In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, I was lucky enough to receive samples to try of two holiday offerings.

The Love Birds Truffle Box ($48) is a collection of 16 pieces, an assortment of the most popular flavors, including Tarragon Grapefruit, Pearl Mint Tea, and Piedmont Hazelnut.

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Roasted Savoy Cabbage Wedges, Caesar-Style

Move over romaine, make your Caesar "salad'' with roasted Savoy cabbage instead.
Move over romaine, make your Caesar “salad” with roasted Savoy cabbage instead.

Cabbage is the Rodney Dangerfield of vegetables.

It doesn’t get nearly the respect it deserves. It seems too plain, too basic, too cheap to be worthy of much attention.

But just consider how integral it is to slaws, salads, soups, corned beef, and so many Russian and Polish staples.

If that doesn’t convince you, surely “Roasted Savoy Cabbage Wedges, Caesar-Style” will.

This incredibly easy dish features all the arresting flavors of Caesar salad — but with roasted cabbage instead.

The recipe is from All About Dinner: Simple Meals, Expert Advice” (W.W. Norton & Company), of which I received a review copy. It’s the fabulous new book by James Beard Award-winning Molly Stevens, a gifted cooking instructor, recipe developer and food writer who lives in Vermont.

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Pig Out At The Gastropig

Meet the Baconslut -- at The Gastropig.
Meet the Baconslut — at The Gastropig.

You’ll be forgiven if you leave this rollicking Oakland cafe, oinking.

After all, it just can’t be helped after chowing down happily at The Gastropig.

This sweet little spot is operated by Chef Loren Goodwin, who cut his chops on the line at Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

A sweet spot in Oakland.
A sweet spot in Oakland.

Amusingly enough, Goodwin was raised vegetarian. But after trying his first taste of ham as a kid, he instantly crossed to the “dark side.” Who can blame him?

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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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