Category Archives: Restaurants

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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Lamb Kheema — From A James Beard Best Chef: South

A hearty, versatile and easy-to-make lamb kheema that's like the Indian version of American sloppy joe's.
A hearty, versatile and easy-to-make lamb kheema that’s like the Indian version of American sloppy joe’s.

Arguably, there has come a time in every ethnic person’s life, when they’ve been asked “Where are you from?” and cringed.

It may be an innocent-sounding query from the most well-meaning of people, but it invariably brings up the notion that you’re forever an outsider who’s never fully accepted.

Vishwesh Bhatt has a triumphant answer to that: “I Am From Here”

That is also the title of his new cookbook (W.W. Norton & Co.), of which I received a review copy.

Born in India, Bhatt has lived in Oxford, MS for more than 20 years and has been the executive chef of Snackbar there since it opened in 2009.

As he proudly and fiercely writes in the intro, “I want people to see me as I see myself: an immigrant, a son of immigrants, who chose to make the South his home, and in doing so, became a Southern chef. I claim the American South, and this is my story.”

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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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Missy Robbins’ Chickpea Pappardelle with Chickpeas, Rosemary, and Garlic

Wide, fluted ribbons of pappardelle made from scratch, then tossed with chickpeas, garlic, rosemary, and plenty of lemon zest.
Wide, fluted ribbons of pappardelle made from scratch, then tossed with chickpeas, garlic, rosemary, and plenty of lemon zest.

Even though I can never resist handmade pasta on a menu, it’s only once or twice a year that I actually clear off my countertop and screw in the pasta sheeter attachment on my KitchenAid to make a batch at home, myself.

Because while it’s not a complicated process to make your own pasta from scratch, it is a production.

Like making bread, there’s just no getting around the fact that it’ll take an entire afternoon to make. And that’s just for the pasta, itself. Add on another hour or two for the sauce, and, well, you see what I mean.

So, for my annual — or bi-annual — undertaking, I figured I’d attempt a recipe by a chef with such prowess with Italian food that she’s won two Michelin stars and countless other accolades.

I’m talking about Missy Robbins, the James Beard Award-winning chef-owner of Lilia and Misi restaurants in Brooklyn.

Her book, “Pasta: The Spirit and Craft of italy’s Greatest Food with Recipes” (Ten Speed Press, 2021), of which I received a review copy, was co-written with Talia Baiocchi, founder of the media brand, Punch.

The book will guide you through making most every kind of pasta dough and shape imaginable, and show how to spotlight them in both regional classic and modern classic dishes.

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