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Paella 101 At Duende

Chef Paul Canales holding his finished squid ink paella at Duende.

Chef Paul Canales holding his finished squid ink paella at Duende.

 

Last week, I got a lesson in paella-making from the source: Chef-Owner Paul Canales of the Duende in Oakland.

And what a delicious and inspired one it was.

After all, the Uptown restaurant is all about Spanish and Basque food spotlighting the best of Northern California’s bounty. Duende features four paellas on the menu, including the very popular Arroz Negro, made with squid ink for an unmistakable bold color.

Along with a handful of other food writers, I crowded into the restaurant kitchen to watch Canales demonstrate that dish. The Moors brought rice to Spain, he explained, and paellas first gained popularity in the 1840s in and around Valencia. Canales’ father is of Basque heritage, a region that didn’t necessarily specialize in risotto. But it’s a specialty Canales has long loved, and studied, having traveled throughout Spain.

Paella can be made with various Spanish rices, as well as short or broken Spanish pasta.

Paella can be made with various Spanish rices, as well as short or broken Spanish pasta.

Saffron from northern Iran.

Saffron from northern Iran.

Like Italian risotto, it’s a dish that’s really all about the rice, with the toppings accentuating it, but not smothering it.

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“Taste of Yosemite” 2017

Pretty in white.

Pretty in white.

 

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — After five years of drought, the snow was back and the waterfalls gushing like crazy this winter in this spectacular national park (click on the Instagram video below).

The Ahwahnee may now be known as the Majestic Yosemite (because its former concessionaire Delaware North claims it owns the park’s historic names after trademarking them); and the former “Chefs’ Holidays” event is now referred to as “Taste of Yosemite.” But no matter what you call it, a bevy of stellar chefs were more than happy to be back for this 32nd year, and yours truly was once again the moderator for the two closing sessions of this annual gourmet event.

Every year, I get a chance to meet newcomers who are not only attending their first gala dinner event here, but visiting the park for the very first time, too. That’s coupled with regulars, some of whom have been attending this glorious event for more than seven years.

Rhythm in motion @yosemitenps @yosemite

A video posted by Carolyn Jung (@food_gal_carolyn) on

Each sessions features three chefs or gourmet purveyors who each do a cooking demo. There’s a wine reception where you can mingle with the chefs. And every session ends with a gala five-course dinner prepared by one of the visiting chefs.

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Behind the Scenes as El Celler de Can Roca’s Roca Brothers Cook in San Francisco

"The World'' being assembled at the San Francisco dinner prepared by the Roca brothers.

“The World” being assembled at the San Francisco dinner prepared by the Roca brothers.

 

It was a little like getting a backstage pass to a U2 concert.

Only way better.

That’s how I felt when I was invited to hang around in the kitchen on Wednesday night when the three Roca brothers, owners of the illustrious El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, were in San Francisco to cook a series of dinners at the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

After all, in the culinary world — Joan (chef), Josep (sommelier and maitre d’) and Jordi (pastry chef) — are rock stars of the utmost magnitude. Their restaurant not only has garnered three Michelin stars, but is rated #2 on the current list of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” (they were #1 in 2013 and 2015).

Jordi, Joan and Josep Roca in the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

Jordi, Joan and Josep Roca in the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

What’s more, the multi-course, three-hour dinners were not open to the public. Instead, they were by invitation-only, with the 100 guests each night predominantly clients of Spanish bank BBVA Compass, which was sponsoring the Roca brothers’ whirlwind cooking tour. It spans three continents in five weeks with stops in London, Hong Kong, Phoenix, San Francisco (this week), and finally, Santiago de Chile.

Although Joan had come to the Bay Area in the spring on a prior scouting trip, this was the first time the other two brothers have visited San Francisco.

The 2016 tour is the third time BBVA has sponsored such an endeavor for the brothers. And what an undertaking it is. El Celler Can Roca closes for the entire month of August just for this, and almost the entire staff comes along for the ride. We’re talking the brothers plus 40 others.

The ballroom before the guests arrived.

The ballroom before the guests arrived.

Some of the featured wines for the evening.

Some of the featured wines for the evening.

Besides their personal luggage, the brothers travel only with their knives, and a few special ingredients, such as distillations that would be too difficult to make on location. One-of-a-kind serving ware is sent ahead. They go through one Iberico jamon leg per dinner. They source most everything else locally, making a point to use a few key ingredients particularly indigenous to the cities they are cooking in.

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Cooking Up A Storm at the Googleplex with Chef Matt Accarrino of SPQR

Chef Matt Accarrino of SPQR makes gnocchi in the Google kitchen. (Photo courtesy of Google)

Chef Matt Accarrino of SPQR makes gnocchi in the Google kitchen. (Photo courtesy of Google)

 

How did New Orleans’ Emeril Lagasse influence Chef Matt Accarrino’s career? And just what does this “Food & Wine Best New Chef 2014” winner think of restaurants that don’t make any of their own pasta?

Take a listen as Accarino of the celebrated SPQR in San Francisco answers these questions and more when he joined me in the teaching kitchen at Google headquarters in Mountain View a few weeks ago for a very special event.

Accarrino and yours truly laughing it up in the kitchen. (Photo by Craig Lee)

Accarrino and yours truly laughing it up in the kitchen. (Photo by Craig Lee)

The occasion was a cooking demo in conjunction with my cookbook, “San Francisco Chef’s Table” (Lyons Press), to which Accarrino contributed a recipe.

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My Q&A at the Googleplex with Pastry Chef Bill Corbett of Absinthe

Yours truly, interviewing Pastry Chef Bill Corbett, at Google headquarters. (Photo courtesy of Google)

Yours truly, interviewing Pastry Chef Bill Corbett, at Google headquarters. (Photo courtesy of Google)

 

It’s not every day you get to visit Google headquarters in Mountain View.

But a few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be asked to do an event there with Pastry Chef Bill Corbett of Absinthe Brasserie & Bar at San Francisco.

Corbett is one of the more than 50 chefs featured in my cookbook, “San Francisco Chef’s Table” (Lyons Press).

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