Dining Outside at Jaks

The Karuveppilai chicken fry at Jaks in Santa Clara.
The Karuveppilai chicken fry at Jaks in Santa Clara.

With its chic, muted sandstone colors, the new Jaks at the Santa Clara Square Marketplace doesn’t announce itself conspicuously as an Indian restaurant.

Which is just what owner Michael Agnel intended.

The former general manager of Arka in Sunnyvale and operations manager at Sakoon in Mountain View, Agnel explains that he wanted to attract diners not only craving modern Indian cuisine, but ones who desired an elegant, upscale experience overall — no matter the food’s provenance.

To that end, he hired Mumbai-born Chef Prakash Singh to take regional Indian specialties and make them his own. Agnel also designed the extensive beverage program that includes the Peg Gastropub Bar inside the restaurant that sports a revolving 12 microbrewery selections on tap. A daily Happy Hour, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., features specially priced beers and cocktails.

The Peg Gastropub Bar inside the restaurant.
The Peg Gastropub Bar inside the restaurant.

The bar also boasts a sizeable selection of Japanese whiskies, tequila, and mezcal, not to mention a wine list that includes a 2018 Joseph Phelps Insignia for $450 and a 2018 Hundred Acre Napa Cabernet Sauvignon for $650 for big spenders.

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Istrian Chicken and Pasta

A feel-good chicken and pasta dish from the Istrian part of Slovenia near the Italian border.
A feel-good chicken and pasta dish from the Istrian part of Slovenia near the Italian border.

With colds, flu, and other viruses, not to mention the damp chill of winter upon us, who better than Italian grandmamas to make us feel better?

There’s no time like now to pick up a copy of “Pasta Grannies” (Hardie Grant, 2022), of which I received a review copy.

The cookbook is by Vicky Bennison, the creator behind the successful Pasta Grannies YouTube channel. Like those videos, this book shares the traditions and recipes of grandmothers all over Italy.

You’ll learn everything from Sperandina’s “Asparagus Lasagna from Le Marche,” Anna’s “Roman Stuffed Tomatoes,” and Adi’s “Baked Pasta from Palermo,” to the late-Teresa’s “Mussel Bake from Salento” and 93-year-old Ida’s “Chocolate Pudding from Piedmont.”

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Hearty Ethiopian Cabbage Stew

Start the new year with a taste bud journey to Ethiopia with this easy cabbage stew.
Start the new year with a taste bud journey to Ethiopia with this easy cabbage stew.

Start the new year off virtuously with loads of good-for-you veggies.

That’s easy to do with this simple and robust dish of “Ethiopian Cabbage Stew.”

It’s from the cookbook, “Enebla” (Touchwood, 2022), of which I received a review copy.

It was written by Luladey Moges, who was born in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and now makes her home in Los Angeles.

It’s a collection of more than 60 recipes that Moges has made her own, after learning how to cook from her mother, grandmother, and aunts. They include dishes such as “Ethiopian Porridge” made spicy an nourishing with berbere and barley flour; the well-known “Kitfo” or beef tartare; “Lamb Broth Stew,” and a Napolean-like “Ethiopian Millefoglie Cake.”

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My Top 10 Eats of 2022

Whether enjoyed outside, inside or as takeout, restaurant food has never felt more special.

I am so grateful to restaurants for weathering all that they have in the past few years, and managing to come through it all to keep nourishing us in body, spirit, and soul.

Here’s to them, and to all that they provide, including these most memorable eats, in no particular order, that made my Top 10 for the year:

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Dining Outside at Cotogna

The Tuscan mixed grill at Cotogna in San Francisco.
The Tuscan mixed grill at Cotogna in San Francisco.

With festive pine cones adorning simple plywood tables, string lights festooning sidewalk trees, and blankets as soft as cashmere at the ready, Cotogna’s parklet has got to be one of the nicest around.

That’s what I found when my husband, two friends, and I dined outside last weekend when it hovered around 48 degrees. The popular Jackson Square Italian restaurant has tables outside right on the sidewalk, as well as a sizeable parklet. The latter is where you want to sit if possible because it has a canopy overhead, so if it rains, you’ll probably be fine unless the wind kicks up mightily.

Indeed, with both an overhead and tall standing heater at each table, we were as comfortable as can be. In fact, halfway through dinner, two of us even shed our coats because we were that warm.

The nicely appointed parklet.
The nicely appointed parklet.

With our server’s charming Italian accent, we almost felt like we had taken a trip to Italy during the holidays, too.

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