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.

ManresaBread to Open Any Day Now

Avery in kitchenHead baker extraordinaire Avery Ruzicka has transformed the Manresa Bread Project into ManresaBread, occupying a large new production plant in Los Gatos and soon a retail bakery near Manresa restaurant.

The first spinoff of Michelin two-star Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos — ManresaBread — will open any day now. This ingredient-focused bakery will be offering the scrumptious artisan breads and unique pastries that have, until now, only been available in the restaurant and at a couple of farmers markets. The love child of talented young baker Avery Ruzicka, the operation is much like the restaurant, producing unique, hand-crafted, unusual items not usually found elsewhere. Read all about it on KQED’s Bay Area Bites blog here.

Surf City Blossoming into Foodie Heaven

Santa-Cruz-Beach-BoardwalkA crop of hot chefs is turning coastal Santa Cruz into a worthy foodie destination.

(Published in February 2015 by South Bay Accent Magazine.)

Santa Cruz. This classic California beach town, famously progressive and proudly quirky — “Keep Santa Cruz weird” is its unofficial motto — has recently added a bustling food scene to attractions like the Boardwalk, surfing and redwoods-filled state parks.

Given the city’s longtime standing as a center of organic agriculture, the spate of exciting new eateries appearing in the last few years might be overdue. “We recognized that Santa Cruz was ripe for businesses like ours,” said the founder of one popular new restaurant, with this realization attracting other food entrepreneurs to Surf City of late. For locals and visitors, the eating choices have never been better. Continue reading

Palo Alto’s Buzzy Restaurant Scene Tops South of SF

downtownWith light-bedecked trees and lots of visitors, downtown Palo Alto’s restaurant row is the “it” place to dine on the Peninsula and in the South Bay these days.

New eateries opening constantly, multiple farmers markets, mushrooming specialty shops dishing up things like artisan ice cream, chocolates and exotic baked goods, out-of-town eaters flocking in to munch — this must be San Francisco, right? Well, yes, but it also describes Palo Alto circa 2015.

Happily for those living in what was once considered the vast culinary desert south of the city, good grub can be found without a drive into San Francisco. And today’s most prosperous foodie town in this area is decidedly posh Palo Alto.  Read all about it on KQED’s Bay Area Bites blog here.

The Magic of Yosemite in Winter

yosemite_WinterIt’s hard to beat the beauty and solitude of Yosemite National Park during the winter, where sights and activities await.

(Published on January 25, 2015, by the San Jose Mercury-News and its affiliates.)

Opaque mist freezes instantly, forming massive snowcones below Yosemite Falls. A trick of the setting sun turns Horsetail Falls into a glowing ribbon of fire, illuminating the granite walls. And clumps of frazil ice flow across creeks, transforming them into giant moving slurpees.

Some four million people visit majestic Yosemite National Park every year, but only a few hundred thousand will ever see such scenes, behold the pristine magic and the cushioned silence of the season. The vast majority visit in the summer, when the valley floor resembles freeway rush hour. But the winter season is Yosemite’s best-kept secret, a season of serenity, grandeur and utter peace.  Continue reading

Maximum Comfort in Yosemite

AHW FireplaceThis roaring fire at the Ahwahnee in Yosemite Valley makes you want to snuggle inside and nibble on comforting sustenance.

(Published in the San Jose Mercury-News and its affiliates on January 25, 2015.)

Icy winter air in the Sierra Nevada brings out the primitive. A torrid fireplace, soothing surroundings and hot, replenishing grub — vaporous salads just won’t do.

For those who like to experience winter through a window rather than being out in it, two of the best spots in or near Yosemite National Park to revel in the creature comforts both echo an earlier time period long before selfies and commuter lanes. The Ahwahnee and Erna’s Elderberry House feature beckoning fireplaces and food geared to put the season’s chill on hold. Continue reading

Saving the Natives of San Bruno Mountain

San Bruno MountainOne of the last, biggest open space areas in the region, San Bruno Mountain is home to many endangered species that are being aided by a local volunteer program.

(Published by the San Jose Mercury-News and its affiliates on January 17, 2015.)

Few of the drivers zipping along Highway 101 just south of San Francisco probably notice a large, hilly expanse west of the freeway, although it’s notable for what it doesn’t contain — buildings, cars and concrete.

As urbanization has destroyed most of the Franciscan bioregion — the unique area including San Francisco and the land directly south of it — San Bruno Mountain’s 3,400 acres are the largest, richest remaining open space and indigenous habitat for many endangered species. Continue reading