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.

OCK Brings Yummy Small Plates to Pruneyard

OCK-rusticA very casual, noisy environment is paired with sublime, creative small plates in chef Jeffrey Stout’s new eatery.

(Published by South Bay Accent in June, 2015.)

Second acts can sometimes outshine their predecessor. Steve Jobs, Jimmy Carter, Michael Milken — these are just a few people who had remarkable comebacks after failures (or felonies). Deeply talented local chef Jeffrey Stout has also had a worthy rebound, with the result pleasing the tummies of South Bay food lovers.

The founding chef of Alexander’s Steakhouse, Stout helmed the pricey, white-tablecloth restaurant through growth (a sister location in San Francisco) for eight years until being dismissed in 2012. He was vindicated when the restaurant then lost its Michelin star, with further sweet revenge coming in the form of Stout’s new place, Orchard City Kitchen — nicknamed OCK — in Campbell’s Pruneyard, which has been an unqualified hit since it opened in late 2014. Continue reading

“The Mulberry Guy” is Palo Alto’s most local farmer

at marketThe most hyper-local grower at a Bay Area farmers market must surely be Kevin Lynch, “the mulberry guy,” who travels all of two miles from his suburban micro-farm (otherwise known as his backyard) to the downtown Palo Alto farmers market. Now local chefs are using his delectable fruit and he has expanded into mint-and-mulberry-leaf tea, jam and lip balm, among other creations utilizing this ancient plant. The only problem with his candy-like fruit is that he doesn’t have enough of it to satisfy his many rabid fans. Read all about it on KQED’s food blog here.

New Seasonal Fruit-based Aperitifs from Sonoma County

Hagar

Laura Hagar-Rush has launched a handmade aperitif business in a former winery in Penngrove, producing luscious, fragrant beverages made from exotic local fruit and herbs.

New-world aperitifs are definitely having a moment. It’s another example of how the farm-to-table movement featuring organic produce is reinventing classic products from earlier generations. Some of the most delicious, unique examples in the region are coming from Sonoma Aperitif, where proprietor Laura Hagar-Rush is using spectacularly aromatic heirloom fruit to concoct lovely, intense wine-based elixirs. Hagar-Rush offers an ever-changing selection that evolves with the seasons and includes oroblanco, Chinese quince, bergamot, Buddha’s hand and luscious blends such as fig-pear and cherimoya-jasmine. Read all about it on KQED’s food blog here.

 

Zola Reminding Diners Why They Love French Food

ZolaZola is the new hot table in downtown Palo Alto.

Zola on Urbanspoon

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

One of the many delights of living in Paris is the sprinkling of little local bistros where folks from the ‘hood gather for spirited talk, plentiful sips of wine and affordable, sustaining food, nothing precious. Downtown Palo Alto once had such a spot, L’Amie Donia, that was beloved and always packed. A decade after this restaurant’s perfect pommes frites and pan-roasted cod made their last appearance, a new French bistro has captured the fancy of Palo Altans seeking that comforting Gallic experience, opening last September on the very same block. Zola, named after the 19th century French writer, quickly attracted a happy crowd and zoomed to the top on social media rankings. Continue reading

Wonderful Local Store: Nak’s Market

offering Dutch cookiesFriendly proprietor Ken Kurose of Nak’s Oriental Market freely and frequently offers samples, deals and smiles to customers of his tiny Menlo Park store.

Sure, many people shop at indifferent, overlit discount grocery stores to save a few bucks but you can still find special items and exceptional, personalized service if you know where to look. My favorite is eclectic, beloved, miniscule Nak’s Oriental Market, which has been offering everything from pristine hamachi belly and the best nuoc mam to Dutch cookies for 46 years. Read all about it on KQED’s Bay Area Bites blog here.