The Insider’s Guide to Finding and Buying High-End Wines

The top wines from Northern California’s wine country like Screaming Eagle, Marcassin, Colgin and others often sound irresistible in descriptions from wine critics but actually locating and buying these wines can be a challenge. Understanding how the gray market works is the best strategy for finding many great wines today, and not just of trophy-wine caliber.  Real all about it on KQED’s Bay Area Bites food & wine site here.

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Crazy for Abalone

Red abalone is a locally raised ingredient that is inspiring chefs around the region. 

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in October, 2017.)

Once so common in California that it could be collected at low tide, red abalone — the tastiest member of the species — is now a luxury ingredient not seen on many menus but beloved by those who have tried it. Rich, subtle, creamy, with a whisper of ocean, the meat of this giant sea snail is different from most other seafood. Deliciously so. Continue reading

Felton Road Winery, the Kiwi Star

Many critics and wine buffs compare the pinot noirs of Felton Road to the best of Burgundy.

To those of us who love pinot noir — that elegant, complex, full satisfying red wine that is so great with food — the biggest tragedy is that the most famous producer of such wine, France’s Burgundy region, now prices its products well out of reach for many. Continue reading

Tippler’s Delight in Santana Row

Fancy cocktails and tasty food are a winning combo at Roots & Rye in swanky Santana Row, a popular hangout for younger patrons.

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in October, 2017.)

Historically, bars have been dimly lit places dedicated to the flow of booze while offering minimal, forgettable edibles.  Some older drinkers can recall that dubious snack mix in their favorite watering holes possibly dating from the Reagan administration.  Well, that was then.  In our modern era with its relentless reinvention of  food and drink, distilled spirits have been overhauled and up leveled, with fine whiskies having become particularly trendy.  But no self-respecting proprietor would serve stale pretzels and petrified popcorn so the bar food accompanying high-end hootch is often a draw all on its own these days. Continue reading

Utterly Delicous Albacore Tuna Crudo Recipe

“Crudo” is essentially an Italian way to present pristine raw fish — think sashimi but more interesting and varied — and this recipe is a winner.

Albacore Crudo with Strawberries and Nuoc Cham

This is a simple, absolutely wonderful recipe if you have super-fresh fish and want a quick way to prepare it.  Besides being utterly delicious, it’s pretty and lends itself well to adaptations.  For the uninitiated, “crudo” is the same concept as sashimi except the preparation is as varied as the cook’s imagination. While nominally an Italian dish, it’s prepared in all kinds of ways by fancy chefs and home cooks. In my dish, the richness of the fish is underscored by the light, slightly citrusy sauce with its Asian flavors, which I pump up a bit with the barest drizzle of lime oil.  The sweet/tart pop of strawberries goes quite well with this. Even if using strawberries with fish sounds weird to you, try it anyway and you won’t be sorry. Or use pomegranate seeds. Continue reading

Where to Get Fresh Local Abalone

Once harvested commercially until few were left in the wild, California red abalone is so delicious that demand is ongoing.  Now the farmed abalone available at two Bay Area operations is said to taste even better than the wild kind and is a “best choice” according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. Find out where to buy it in the Bay Area and learn about its interesting history. Read all about it on KQED’s Bay Area Bites here.

Bodacious Basque Tapas in Los Gatos

One-bite wonders at Pintxos Pote in Los Gatos keep diners coming back, like this combo of egg, shrimp, olive and aoili.

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in August, 2017.)

Pintxos — those luscious bites found in Spain’s Basque region — are to tapas what porterhouse steak is to beef.  At least, that’s what any visitor to the incredible foodie capital of San Sebastián on the Atlantic near the French border would tell you. This thriving Basque city has Michelin stars like other towns have gas stations and the top activity seems to be devouring mind-blowing mouthfuls in the city’s hundred-plus pintxos bars.  But South Bay residents don’t have to go nearly that far to munch on outrageously tasty pintxos in a friendly environment. Continue reading