A New Wine Model – Modern-Day Négociants

fall vineyardLaunching a new winery with vineyards now costs multi-millions of dollars in prime California wine regions so a new crop of passionate wine entrepreneurs is forgoing vineyards and sometimes even wineries to get into the business, following a new-world version of the French négociant model. The result for wine lovers is some superb, attractively priced wines.  Read all about it on KQED’s Bay Area Bites blog here.

DIY Food Gifts Deliver Holiday Love

Jars wrapped for gifts of nuts and mustard.Avoid the mall this holiday season and make delicious gifts at home.

(Published on November 30, 2014 by the San Jose Mercury-News and its affiliates)

Holiday anxiety. It means what to do with the fur-trimmed t-shirt from your cube mate or the ceramic armadillo Chanukah gift from Aunt Esther in Texas. Or selecting gifts for those “people who have everything” inevitably on your list.

Gift giving can be so much better — and more personal — if the present is delicious and made by yours truly.

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A Perfectionist Chef Holds Court at Ambience

Ambience-saladChef Morgan Song’s cuisine at Ambience in Los Altos is plated like artwork.

(Published by South Bay Accent in December, 2014.)

Artists can be a bit fussier than the patrons who admire their work. Consider Korea-born chef Morgan Song, who is strict about reservations, dress and expectations at Ambience, his little jewel of a restaurant in Los Altos. Rather than the ear-splitting noise levels, laid-back cuisine and t-shirt attire so popular in the South Bay, Ambience is for those who worship at the temple of food. Continue reading

Cocktails Have Come a Long Way, Baby

Craft-CocktailsThe alcoholic beverages of today can contain outstanding ingredients and be as complex and delicious as the best of our cuisine.

(Published by South Bay Accent in December, 2014.)

Old standbys like Jack, Jim and Johnny aren’t very prevalent in trendy South Bay cocktail lounges, circa 2014. Instead of relying on Jim (Beam), Jack (Daniels) and Johnny (Walker), today’s “mixologists” (aka, bartenders) might have barrel-aged their own cocktail concoctions on the premises or whipped up their own drink recipes featuring hand-made ingredients or sought out libations among the burgeoning supply of small-batch craft spirits. Say, a sultry rum made in Alameda from California-grown sugarcane, or a domestic gin distilled with juniper, elderberries, citrus, cinnamon and hibiscus, or a myriad of US-produced vodkas flavored with just about anything you can think of. Continue reading

Everyday Art Gallery — Your Home

home-galleryArt lovers might consider their home as an immediate, enjoyable place to display art and sculpture so they can see it every day.

(Published by the San Jose Mercury-News and its affiliates on October 18, 2014.)

“Art” in many homes means a framed $30 poster, which makes Cathy Kimball sadly shake her head. “When you think that you could be buying a unique work of art by an artist in this community rather than supporting Pottery Barn,” sniffs the petite blonde.

Given the fact that Kimball is the longtime director of the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), her view is understandable. But she insists that putting real art on your wall doesn’t require a last name of Sobrato or Ellison. “Sometimes the price differential isn’t that big,” she says, between a work of art and a mass-produced something-or-other that was purchased to match the upholstery. Continue reading

Delfina’s New Pizzeria Conquers Palo Alto

Delfina pizza sausageThe newest Delfina pizza joint in downtown Palo Alto makes a darn good pie.

(Published by South Bay Accent in October, 2014.)

There’s nothing wrong with haute cuisine — and there’s more of it than ever in the region — but what most attracts Bay Area residents is not dressing up, not spending hours at the table and not taking out a bridge loan to pay the bill. Craig and Anne Stoll of the ever-expanding Delfina empire understand this concept better than anyone and their newest Pizzeria Delfina location on downtown Palo Alto’s sizzling new restaurant row on Emerson Street was mobbed from the day it opened in April. Continue reading

Simple Pasta Dish Featuring Healthy Kale

orchiette with kale and baconThis is a quick pasta dish that addresses the need to consume healthy greens — kale is often listed at the top — while not sacrificing taste. Slender-leaved black kale (cavalo nero) is great in this dish, but any kind of kale, green or red, or other hearty green will also be good. The dish can be made even tastier and prettier with the addition of tomatoes (sun-dried or cherry tomatoes) and other compatible ingredients. Make sure to add lots of grated parmesan, since there’s no “sauce” in this dish. Of the myriad kinds of pasta available, orechiette (“little ears”) is one of my favorites for its toothy texture and the way it holds ingredients. Continue reading