Share This Cookbook

Share-MerylMeryl Streep is among the luminaries who lent their names, thoughts and recipes to a remarkable cookbook helping female victims of war.

(Published by the San Jose Mercury-News and its affiliates on April 8, 2014.)

(See an earlier, more lengthy post on this topic here.)

Lauri Pastrone’s charity cookbook isn’t another well-meaning project that ended up piled on the sale table.

The photographs, prose and irresistible recipes are just some of the elements that have catapulted “Share: The Cookbook that Celebrates Our Common Humanity” onto several “best-of” lists, earned it five stars on Amazon and pushed it into three reprintings in less than a year.

It all stemmed from the passion of a Los Gatos do-gooder who wanted to step up her support of a cause that will break your heart. Continue reading

Grazing at Local Farmers Markets

Farmer’s-Market-1Sure, farmers markets are great places to buy produce, but they’re also a tasty source of ready-to-eat foods.

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

The South Bay’s best al fresco dining these days is taking place at a farmers market near you. Years ago, when the much smaller number of local farmers markets had not yet been discovered by the masses, kettle corn was the ready-to-eat snack amidst all the produce vendors.  Things have changed dramatically since then. As markets have proliferated, a new generation of food vendors has turned South Bay farmers markets into veritable outdoor food courts where the offerings are fresh, tasty and often preceded by irresistible samples. Continue reading

Palo Alto Grill; Much More Than Just Steak

Palo Alto Grill on Urbanspoon

PA Grill- So GentlemanBeef-centric menues have come around again after the steakhouse heyday back in the ’70s, but this time, they’re being treated right at places like Palo Alto Grill.

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

A steakhouse patron from the ’70s transported via time machine to a modern-day equivalent would barely recognize the place except for the masculine, clubby atmosphere.  Back when Watergate and pet rocks made their debuts, these temples of beef mainly featured mediocre grilled steaks, a salad bar and baked spuds with trimmings.

Today, at stellar beef specialists like Palo Alto Grill, even vegetarians will find epic comestibles. In fact, chef Ryan Shelton’s cuisine is so modern, inventive and euphoric that it easily holds its own against non-steakhouse high-end restaurants in the region.

Continue reading

Where the Buffalo Roam

raminiCraig Ramini, 56, chucked his software career in 2009 to raise water buffalo in a leased former dairy in West Marin and produce what could be the only buffalo mozzarella in the United States.

(Published by the San Jose Mercury-News and its affiliates on March 6, 2014.)

Joan Jett sounds like a barking seal as she bellows at her son, Roy Orbison, hoping to keep him out of trouble. The 40-pound baby is adorable now but if he’s lucky, he’ll eventually take on the tall, dark Mediterranean looks of his dad, Van Morrison, rather than end up like Elvis or Neil Young — turned into steers.

It’s another idyllic day in the rolling, green West Marin countryside among Craig Ramini’s herd of 33 water buffalo named after aging rock stars. The reinvented dairyman is now firing on all cylinders after spending years in a trial-and-error period of learning how to raise these horned beasts, milk them and produce mozzarella di bufala as luscious as his Italian model. Continue reading

Recipe: Roasted Cauliflower with Vadouvan

cauliflower with vadouvanThis made-up vegan dish is delicious, with soft, spiced flesh and crispy edges. The cauliflower is cut “steak-style” rather than in the usual florets and the exotic, tart but rich, spiced flavors are very appealing. Vadouvan is known as “French curry,” being a French interpretation of an Indian Masala called vadavam, from the Pondicherry region of southern India, where France colonial influence is still felt. Basically, it adds that French staple, shallots, to a classic spice blend that features turmeric, cumin, curry leaves and coriander, among others. Continue reading

Top 10 Tapas

tapasThere are a slew of restaurants in the South Bay offering Latin-style small plates these days, so which are the most popular dishes?

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

Spanish-influenced appetizers have become as hot as spicy chorizo.  Whether you call them tapas (Spain), picadas (Argentina), petiscos (Brazil), bocas (various Latin American countries) or just snacks, the idea of petite quantities of food served with alcoholic or other beverages has universal appeal, with more tapas spots now open in the South Bay than ever.  With so many choices out there, it’s high time we selected the region’s ten tastiest tapas.  Continue reading

Non-Car Approaches to Urban Wine Tasting

sculptureWine tasters can access the wineries on San Francisco’s Treasure Island (this photo was shot at a cool park on its west side) via boat or bus in addition to by car.  Beyond that,  cyclists can take tasting tours of the urban wineries popping up elsewhere in San Francisco and the East Bay.

(Published by the San Jose Mercury News and its affiliates on January 19, 2014. To see the newspaper’s whole urban winery section, click here.)

You quickly forget about the wind blasting like a building-sized fan set on high after stepping into the salon of the comfy old Neptune cruiser docked at Pier 39 and immediately receiving a glass of locally made sparkling wine and a smile.

You’re on your way over to Treasure Island for a day of winery visits but during this part of the leisurely outing, you’re seeing spectacular bay views and sleek seals through the windows as you munch on cheese and fruit while quaffing some merlot.

Pleasantly ensconced in the boat’s heated cabin with 18 other happy citizens, you vow never to drive to a wine tasting again. Continue reading