Food and Drink at “The Lex” Are Packing Them In

the lexTiny, modern, noisy Lexington House in Los Gatos is a newish bar-restaurant with its finger on the pulse of today’s diner.

Published by South Bay Accent in December, 2015.

South Bay diners are increasingly gravitating toward a modern, kicked-back style of restaurant in which the vibe is casual but the food is fresh and inventive while still being moderately priced, as seen in newer outposts like Orchard City Kitchen, The Table and 31st Union. Such spots will likely offer exciting craft cocktails and have a staff of never-obsequious young servers. Often not taking reservations, these popular boĆ®tes are noisy, friendly and packed full of happy, jeans-clad diners who don’t mind the long waits and the purposeful decibels. Continue reading

High-End Carbs Are Enchanting Local Eaters

carbsBreads and pastries are rising to new levels in Bay Area bakeries.

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in October 2015.)

An airy cake crowned by thick swirls of silky, intensely chocolatey icing. Right-out-of-the-oven bread with a crunchy exterior that contrasts with a warm, soft crumb as delicate as baby skin. Since we eat with our senses, carbs have an absolutely unfair advantage. They entice us away from stringent diets and are so often the centerpiece of major events. Just inhale the voluptuous aromas inside a bakery and your body will instantly respond regardless of your intentions. Continue reading

The “Vanilla Queen” Working to Save Vanilla from Extinction

vanilla farmer MexicoWhile consumers likely aren’t paying much attention to the source of their vanilla fix, Patricia Rain of Santa Cruz has long headed a one-woman army attempting to raise demand for real vanilla — the world’s most labor-intensive agricultural product and in danger of following the carrier pigeon to extinction, she says. Sadly, almost 99% of “vanilla” products are made from fake flavorings while real vanilla has a rich, complex aroma that’s far superior. Read all about it on KQED’s food blog here.

Naschmarkt Drumming Up Interest in an Overlooked Cuisine

Naschmarkt-meatsThis delicious Austrian version of a “mixed grill” plate includes a pork chop, white sausage, braised bacon, sauerkraut and a fantastic homemade pretzel.

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in October, 2015.)

German-type food isn’t one of the first things that comes to mind when most South Bay diners are deciding where they want to eat. Or more accurately, they don’t think of it at all. Italian, Chinese, Mexican — these cuisines are well represented and beloved in our region but all the heavy meats and gravies that typify the vittles of the old Austro-Hungarian empire rarely get a nod. However, Austrian-born chef Matthias Froeschl has made believers out of virtually everyone who’s dined at Naschmarkt, his four-year-old restaurant in downtown Campbell. Continue reading

Mark Bittman Investigating Food in California

mark-bittmanRenowned New York Times food writer Mark Bittman has temporarily transplanted himself to Berkeley.

Published by the San Jose Mercury News and its affiliates on August 10, 2015.

That familiar face with the New York accent in a resonant baritone seen popping into Berkeley’s esteemed markets in recent months — and frequently dining at his “neighborhood spot,” Chez Panisse — is food writer, author, t.v. personality and columnist Mark Bittman, newly transplanted from the Big Apple.

He’s the man who taught us “how to cook everything” in eight thusly titled books and has published quite a few more. After moving to Berkeley early in 2015 — initially for a year-long gig that will be extended through next spring — Bittman wrote in one of his New York Times pieces that “I’d arrived in cooks’ heaven” — but his agenda is about much more than reveling in superb California produce. Continue reading

Is French Food Coming Back to the Region?

French article 1Published by South Bay Accent in August, 2015.

High-end dining typically has a French accent. Peruse the stars bestowed by the Michelin folks and it’s clear that the majority of top chefs cook with the rigor and refinement found in French cuisine, even if their menus don’t have “French” written anywhere. The mouth-watering reality of a lovely piece of protein enhanced by a luscious sauce — the essence of this cuisine — has appeal whether in a formal, white-tablecloth dining room or a casual neighborhood bistro. It’s easy to understand why eaters enjoy such cooking — “French food is very, very delicious,” explains chef Scott Cooper of Le Papillon in San Jose. Continue reading

Gluten-free Breads Without the Yuck Factor

Mina MakramElectrical engineer Mina Makram developed innovative gluten-free bread recipes as part of a home-grown regime that helped him lose 200 pounds. His creations turned out so delicious — a huge departure from many of the crumbly, taste-compromised gluten-free products on the market — that he ended up launching Ducks & Dragons, a micro-bakery in San Mateo that has earned a rabid following. Read all about it on KQED’s food blog here.