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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Introducing the Wines of Portugal

A few weeks ago I attended an informal Portuguese wine tasting with Jardiniere Wine Director, the utterly charming, Eugenio Jardim. It was very gratifying for me on a number of levels. A few years ago, during the process of writing WinePassport: Portugal I got very excited about Portuguese wines. My enthusiasm has not waned. I am happy whenever I meet those who also enjoy sharing the pleasures of Portuguese wines, of which there are many. Jardim had just returned from Portugal where he tried lots of wine and even wrote about regions of the country. We started out with one of my favorites, a Luis Pato sparkling wine from Bairrada and then proceeded with several wines I was unfamiliar with but enjoyed greatly. Then a week or so ago I went to a wine tasting of Portuguese wines that lacked distributors on the West Coast. The mood was giddy as wine writers, retailers and sommeliers discovered unique and captivating wines at often bargain prices. While red table wines from the Douro v...
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stonehouse 27 Indian Sauces

I'm not big on convenience foods in general, but I like the idea of an Indian "simmer sauce" to create a quick meal at home with whatever meat, seafood, tofu or vegetables I happen to have on hand. Unfortunately I never found a brand of Indian sauces that really delivered. The flavors were not great or they were too oily. Well, problem solved. Stonehouse 27 makes a line of Indian sauces that are very high quality with no artificial ingredients or preservatives. They even use agave syrup in place of the more common corn syrup and are gluten-free and vegetarian (and mostly vegan). The sauces are not necessarily what you might find at a typical Indian restaurant. They are inspired by the Portuguese and Anglo-Indian heritage of the company’s founder, Sharon Fernandes. I was given samples around the time of the Fancy Food Show earlier this year and recently had the chance to try the Tamarind and Garlic, Cilantro and Coconut and the Cashews and Cream sauces with various f...
Monday, March 29, 2010

All about Savoy Cabbage

Savoy cabbage is the prettiest cabbage of all, with its fantastic crinkly leaves and its contrasting dark on pale color palette. Only a few outer leaves are dark green and quite so textured, inside it is creamy and pale. Despite its rugged appearance it's actually very tender and sweet. Best of all, it cooks quickly and easily and it doesn't have the sulfur odor so distinctive in other cabbage; just don't over cook it. Savoy cabbage is named for the Savoy region, a medieval duchy on the border of Italy, France and Switzerland. But I think we should call it by its lovely Italian name, cavolo verza. Now that's the name of a star! Savoy cabbage is high in vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber. It's also a very good source of fiber, manganese, folate, vitamin B6, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Heads of savoy cabbage are so large it's a good idea to have several dishes in mind when you purchase or harvest it. Because it is so tender, don't shy away from using it...
Friday, March 26, 2010

Favorites from the Chocolate Salon

Did you make it to the Chocolate Salon this past weekend? It just gets better and better every year. There are salons held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle and Las Vegas annually. In addition to trying tons of chocolate, one of the best things about attending a Chocolate Salon is that you get to meet many chocolatiers in person. This year I was a judge and got a chance to try pounds and pounds of chocolate even before the actual event. I discovered there is a lot of very mundane chocolate, but also some amazingly good stuff from new confectioners who have only been open for business for barely a year or two. A perennial favorite of mine is Amano , and this year they took many of the top awards . But since I've written about Amano before, I'm going to focus on chocolatiers that were new to me. Keep your eyes open for their fantastic chocolate and chocolate confections! Bill Brown is the soft-spoken chocolatier behind William Dean Chocolates , named after h...
Thursday, March 25, 2010

Brian Boitano Interview

I watch the Food Network show, What Would Brian Boitano Make? for its humor, its easy, healthy food and because it's shot in San Francisco. While wrapping up filming of the second season, I got a chance to talk with Brian Boitano about the show and more.... I saw photos of your street cart episode online recently, that looked like fun. What have been some of the highlights of shooting this season? It's even better than last year, we're just finishing up, I did a fun episode with the scooter society and with Manuela (the very Spanish mother of a skating friend). Manuela makes a comeback. Lots of real people; friends really liked the first episode with her. Also my French handyman Guy, who doesn't ever work. We're going to have reoccurring characters. What's your process for coming up with recipes for the show? There's a theme first--like the Chinese episode. I think about what my guest likes to eat. For example Manuella had never had Chinese food a...
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco

Photo credit: Rick Camargo Photography Zagat, move aside, because the 'hopper is in the house! Another friend, another book. What can I say? I have some pretty talented friends. I adore Marcia Gagliardi aka the Tablehopper . She's smart and funny and writes a cheeky newsletter all about the latest in San Francisco dining not to mention drinking. I can't believe she's only been at it for four years because the Tablehopper is as San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge. The Tablehopper's Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco is a unique guidebook. While I was skeptical at first I must admit, I have used the book quite a few times already in planning various get-togethers, both with friends and family. It's the ultimate guide to finding "the right spot for every occasion." Looking for somewhere romantic? Or the perfect spot to nurse a broken heart? Need a place to go with a big group that won't break the bank? Somewhere to take conserva...
Monday, March 22, 2010

Quinoa Salad with Arugula, Asparagus & Avocado Recipe

Ah, Spring! We are enjoying a warm spell right now and the fresh produce reflects the change of seasons with earthy root vegetables giving way to tender bright greens. I am so happy to have sunshine and bright green asparagus to eat! I recently discovered how delicious asparagus is when served raw, in salads. The trick is to shave it thinly with the sharpest vegetable peeler you have, then dress it with oil, lemon and salt so it wilts, just slightly. Asparagus is like the poster child for Spring. I had eaten quinoa, but never tried cooking it until just recently when I received some samples of it--red, white and black--from Roland Food . Reading about quinoa I discovered while it has the texture of grain, it's actually a fruit. It's also gluten-free. It is very bitter unless thoroughly soaked and rinsed. Fortunately quinoa from Roland Food is already soaked saving me the bother. Quinoa comes from the Andes, a staple in Peru, Chile and Bolivia where it has been cultiva...
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Italian Sausage Meatballs Recipe

I could eat spaghetti and meatballs every night of the week. Of course my laundry bill would be astronomical. There are cleaning products for removing every possible stain including wine, coffee, ink and blood, but no one has invented a product to remove spaghetti sauce stains. Not yet anyway. This recipe came about as part of my effort to "eat down the freezer." I had a package of two Italian sausages and some ground beef on hand, but neither were really enough to make a meal. The secret to these meatballs is a combination of pork and beef and also what you use to stretch the meat, plenty of bread and milk. The bread and milk create a very tender texture. Italian sausages have lots of seasoning and fat so you really don't need to add much more in that department though some fresh herbs are nice. I do like using dehydrated toasted onion flakes . I get them from Penzey's and they are great in dishes like this where normally I would want to saute fresh onions. They ...
Wednesday, March 03, 2010

What Would Brian Boitano Make?

Is an award-winning ice skater capable of teaching, inspiring and entertaining me, when it comes to food? I had a hard time believing from the promos that Brian Boitano could pull it off, but he does. Brilliantly. Here are the top five reasons why I LOVE the show, What Would Brian Boitano Make? 1. It's all about the food. Brian Boitano's recipes not only look terrific, but are creative and inventive. Take for example his Chicken Paella Burger made with ground chicken, chorizo and scallops or his Garlicky White Bean Dip . They are dishes I would cook in my own kitchen with ingredients I know, using straight forward techniques. I know food tastes great when you use tons of butter and cream, but that's not how I cook. Most of Boitano's food is reasonably healthy and I like that. He gets flavor without always relying on tons of added fat, unlike some other Food Network personalities who will remain nameless. His food is home cooked, not chef food, not restaurant food...
Monday, March 01, 2010

Five Ways to Find Dining Deals

In the past I've purchased discount restaurant gift certificates from sites like Restaurant.com , but lately I've discovered a number of new sites that also offer great deals on dining. Each one leverages group buying power in order to get great deals. Subscribe to the sites and you'll get offers sent to you in daily emails. This is the way it works, a new deal is emailed to you each day, the deal is not "on" until a certain number of people buy it, so you may want to share the deal with friends if it's a deal you want in on. Once enough people decide to buy it, the deal is on, and you will be billed. Deals are limited in time and number so you must act quickly. Once you've purchased the deal, you generally need to print a coupon to take to a store or restaurant. The discount may expire in a year or even six months, so read the fine print carefully before you buy. All the of the following sites offer deals in San Francisco, and are adding cities all th...