Sake 101

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in February 2018.)

There are plentiful options when it comes to choosing a beverage to accompany a Japanese meal. Since Japanese cuisine is frequently subtle, it can go nicely with well-chosen wine and beer is also a popular  accompaniment. However, those seeking the full Japanese experience should order sake (sock-ay) to go with their meal after first learning a few basics about this surprisingly complex beverage. First off, sake is not rice wine, as many diners believe it to be. Rather, it’s fermented from special rice varieties that have first been milled to expose the starchy core, then a special enzyme, koji, is added that helps convert starch to sugar while the sugar is turned into alcohol. Typically, the more the rice has been polished, the higher quality is the sake it produces, which is best consumed within a year of bottling in most cases. Continue reading

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Tasty Brews and ‘Cue

A mini-sampler of fresh beer at the reborn Dan Gordon’s brewpub in Palo Alto.

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in February 2018.)

Rebirth is a popular theme in books and films but a recently born-again restaurant in downtown Palo Alto has also been making diners smile — particularly those picky about their brews and ‘cue. The former Gordon Biersch brewpub that was launched in 1988 has now gone full circle, reopening last year after an interior renovation as Dan Gordon’s, whose eponymous owner was the gifted brewmaster half of the original team and now wants his new brewery-restaurant to have an enticing 21st century vibe. That means a farm-to-table approach in the kitchen, serious smoked meats, extensive whiskey selection, beer-inspired cocktails, even more fresh beers on tap, industrial chic decor and sports playing on the giant tv screens. Alas, the resounding noise level is also in keeping with modern trends. Continue reading

Way Beyond Sushi

Bay Area diners are increasingly crazy about Japanese cuisine, which is fresh, healthful and includes much more than just raw fish.

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in February 2018.)

Quick — what city in the world has received the most Michelin stars for its restaurants?  Paris, you say?  Not even close. Tokyo has led this august group of awardees for awhile now, boasting almost triple the stars compared to the French capital: 302 versus just 105, including a dozen achieving the lofty three-star ranking.  This interesting development underscores a trend that is well underway in the South Bay, where Japanese cuisine is hot, hot, hot. Continue reading

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.

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