Yearning For Spicy Chinese Noodles

Comfort me -- with spicy Chinese noodles.
Comfort me — with spicy Chinese noodles.

A sense of deep wistfulness came over me as I read Ruth Reichl’s latest book, “Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir.”

And if you haven’t yet read her newest memoir (Random House), of which I received a review copy, you ought to pronto, especially if you were a fan of the dearly missed Gourmet magazine.

When she was the restaurant critic for the New York Times, Reichl was offered the top job at the country’s oldest epicurean magazine. Initially, she actually turned down the job as editor-in-chief of Gourmet. But she eventually reconsidered, realizing the strong pull the magazine had on her since she first leafed through its pages when she was 8 years old.

The book takes you behind the scenes of the iconic magazine, recounting how Reichl turned it around from a publication that had grown stale with ladies-who-lunch fare to one that was ground-breaking in design and text. It thrilled and surprised — until it was no more, shuttered because profit margins weren’t high enough.

I was a long–time subscriber to the magazine. But I had forgotten just how pioneering it had been. It was illuminating to revisit the topics it covered, enlisting some of the country’s best writers — not just best food writers — to pen stories never seen before, including the plight of the Immokalee farm workers in Florida, who picked the industrial tomatoes that flood supermarkets, under conditions that verged on modern-day slavery.

Or the shocking fall-out that occurred when Reichl dared to put a gloriously whimsical cake covered in cupcakes on the cover of the magazine, which somehow ended up offending a number of readers. Go figure.

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Sauteed Radishes with Vadouvan Curry and Almonds

Radishes -- and their tops -- get kissed with home-made vadouvan.
Radishes — and their tops — get kissed with home-made vadouvan.

Spice up your life.

It’s easy with “Spiced: Unlock the Power of Spices to Transform Your Cooking” by America’s Test Kitchen, of which I received a review copy.

With recipes for 47 different spice blends, plus 139 recipes, your taste buds won’t know what hit ’em.

Sure, it’s easy enough to buy jarred spice blends at the supermarket. But when you make your own, you can customize them to your exact specifications and taste. Plus, when you grind and mix your own from whole spices, you’ll get a fresher, more vibrant and pungent blend that can wake up any vegetable, poultry, meat or seafood just like that.

Learn how to make flavored salts, robust rubs (like “Jerk Rub,” spice-infused oils (such as “Chipotle-Coriander Oil,” and spice-steeped extracts (homemade “rose water”).

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A Special Time at Oakland’s Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana with “East Bay Cooks”

Get a taste of fresh, zingy and vibrant shrimp aguachile plus other delicious noshes at a special event at Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana. (Photo by Eva Kolenko)
Get a taste of fresh, zingy and vibrant shrimp aguachile plus other delicious noshes at a special event at Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana. (Photo by Eva Kolenko in “East Bay Cooks.”)

Join yours truly on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Oakland’s vibrant Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana, when Chef-Owner Gloria Dominguez and I will be signing copies of my new cookbook, “East Bay Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Best Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries” (Figure 1).

The cookbook spotlights more than 40 top restaurants and bakeries in the Bay Area’s most populous and diverse region, including Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana.

That evening, if you purchase a copy of the book at the restaurant ($32.99), you’ll receive a ticket for special complimentary appetizers, including a taste of shrimp aquachile, one of the restaurant’s signature recipes in the book. You’ll also enjoy a free surprise dessert.

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SF Bakesale for Planned Parenthood, Mixology Fun & More

Get your sweet tooth on at this wonderful bake sale for a great cause. (Photo by Molly Decourdreaux)
Get your sweet tooth on at this wonderful bake sale for a great cause. (Photo by Molly Decourdreaux)

Zuni Cafe and Guittard Chocolate Team Up With A Host of Bakers For A Grand Bakesale

Get your sweet fix — and support a worthy cause — at the “SF Bakesale for Planned Parenthood,” 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 13 in Rose Alley between Gough and Market streets (behind Zuni Cafe) in San Francisco.

Modeled after a similar event in New York City, this local one is presented by Annie Callahan of Zuni Cafe and Amy Guittard of Guittard Chocolate Company. It will feature a tantalizing array of baked goods for sale by some of the city’s top restaurants and bakeries. A live auction also will be held, with one of the items up for bids a dinner at NOMA Copenhagen.

All proceeds will benefit Planned Parenthood NorCal and Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates.

Among those baking the sweet treats are: Atelier Crenn, Bi-Rite Creamery, Boulevard, Cala, Che Fico, Frances, Liholiho Yacht Club, Mister Jiu’s, Nightbird, Quince, Rich Table, Saison, Tartine Bakery, 20th Century Cafe, and Zuni Cafe.

Unable to attend the event, but still want to help? A GoFundMe site has been set up to take donations.

Mixology Classes From The Mulberry Guy

You know him as the Mulberry Guy, the farmer who brings prized, fresh-picked mulberries to sell at the Palo Alto Downtown Farmers Market in the summertime. Now, Kevin Lynch is putting a newfound hobby to work — he’s hosting mixology classes in his backyard full of mulberry trees.

Kevin Lynch is known for his home-grown mulberries. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)
Kevin Lynch is known for his home-grown mulberries. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

Lynch and his wife are both teachers, so they know how to instruct so that the lessons stick.

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Savor A Classic Taste of San Francisco At Sam’s Grill

Celery Victor at Sam's Grill in San Francisco.
Celery Victor at Sam’s Grill in San Francisco.

These days, we’re so conditioned to flock to the new and trendy.

But there’s a lot to be said for the classic that’s withstood the test of time.

Sam’s Grill in San Francisco is a true testament to that. It was established in 1867. Let that sink in for a moment. The restaurant opened three years before Golden Gate Park was created, 11 years before the San Francisco Public Library opened, and 31 years before the Ferry Building was built.

It oozes history. And it’s a slice of old-school San Francisco you don’t find much of these days except at other venerated restaurants such as Swan’s Oyster Depot and the House of Prime Rib.

Five years ago, Sam’s Grill almost shuttered. But Peter Quartaroli, one of its former servers and maitre d’s who went on to become a screenwriter, decided to buy the place with help from some loyal customers.

The familiar sign in San Francisco's Financial District.
The familiar sign in San Francisco’s Financial District.

“My Dad used to work in restaurants. And I have worked at downtown San Francisco restaurants since I was a kid,” Quartaroli says. “So many places that became part of the fabric of the city are disappearing. I didn’t want to see Sam’s go away. It was so important to keep it.”

So Quartaroli set about preserving its history while also making it relevant in this era.

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