The Time Is Right For Séka Hills New Tribal Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil

大叔好凶猛
Liquid gold — Séka Hills’ 2019 Tribal Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

大叔好凶猛These days when we are all cooking from our pantries so much more, it really does pay to have some stellar olive oil on hand.

大叔好凶猛Just a drizzle can turn grilled bread, simple salad greens, or even a tub of store-bought hummus into something special.

And if you can get your hand on a bottle of the new limited-edition 2019 Séka Hills Tribal Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil, then you really have struck gold.

Fortunately, a sample landed in my mailbox recently, and I’ve been using it liberally on thick asparagus spears, summer squash, and even fresh popped popcorn (for all those Netflix nights, of course).

The olive oil is made by the Yocha Dehe Wintuan Nation, which sustainably manages more than 22,000 acres on its tribal land in the Capay Valley.

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A Taste of California’s Only Commercial Iberian Pig Farm

Encina Farms Iberian pork loin chops grilled with just salt and pepper.
Encina Farms Iberian pork loin chops grilled with just salt and pepper.

Since last summer, Helmut Drews, a former tech acquisitions specialist, and Madrid-native Alberto Solis, a founder of the San Mateo incubator kitchen known as KitchenTown, have been cultivating a dream.

They have been raising Iberian pigs on their Encina Farms, the only commercial endeavor of its kind in California nurturing these specialty Spanish swines from which the luxurious jamon Iberico derives.

While Encina Farms’ own jamon Iberico is still a few years off — it takes a minimum of two years to cure the buttery ham leg — other pork products made from this distinctive black-footed, acorn-devouring breed can be enjoyed now.

Look for Encina Farms selling its Iberian pork cuts every Friday at the St. Helena’s farmers market and Saturday at the Napa farmers market.

The farm also offers limited delivery in the Bay Area, plus shipping to other parts of California, as well as Arizona, Oregon and Washington.

After writing a story about the founding of the farm last year for the San Francisco Chronicle, I was eager to try the pork for myself, so I splurged on a shipment.

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You Want Me To Cook These Things For How Long?!?

Fresh Italian romano beans -- cooked perfectly for a crazy amount of time.
Fresh Italian romano beans — cooked perfectly for a crazy amount of time.

The first time I came across this recipe for romano beans, I did a double-take.

Even then, I couldn’t quite believe it.

That’s because it calls for cooking these meaty Italian broad beans on the stove-top for two hours. Yes, fresh beans, not dried, cooked for two whole hours.

“Long-Cooked Romano Beans” boggled my mind.

But I had faith. After all, the recipe is by the late-great Judy Rogers, and it comes from her seminal classic, “The Zuni Cafe Cookbook A Compendium of Recipes & Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant” (W.W. Norton and Company, 2002).

Surely, the chef who created the most perfect roast chicken of all time and so many other iconic California cuisine staples was worth trusting on this, even if in the back of my mind, I feared winding up with green beans as pallid as those from a can.

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Indispensable Korean Scallion Pancakes — Plus A Food Gal Giveaway

Korean scallion pancakes -- a cinch to make with kimchi and any leftover veggies you have.
Korean scallion pancakes — a cinch to make with kimchi and any leftover veggies you have.

That quarter head of cabbage lingering in the fridge. The two carrots, once the epitome of crunch, now possessed of droopy ends. That once bright-white cauliflower head starting to go sallow. And those green onions now sadly going limp.

When I peer into my crisper drawer at home, it often feels like a race against the clock. Limiting my trips to the grocery store now means loading up with perishables all at once, each with its own limited life cycle. Tick, tick, tick. When I spy things beginning to wither, like Valentine’s Day roses after the bloom of the holiday has come and gone, I slump dejectedly.

But now, thanks to a genius recipe, I perk up immediately instead to the possibilities.

Because “Korean Scallion Pancakes” or “Vegetable Pajeon” was made for those bits and ends of veggies that hang around a little too long through no fault of their own.

Think Hanukkah potato pancakes gone Korean with kimchi instead.

Small-batch Vietnamese Tiger Sate chili sauces -- plus a chance to win three jars to try.
Small-batch Vietnamese Tiger Sate chili sauces — plus a chance to win three jars to try.

This genius recipe, published in 2019 in the New York Times, is by one of my favorite food writers, Melissa Clark. She learned the recipe from Chef Sohui Kim of Insa and the Good Fork restaurants in Brooklyn.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Take-Out of Late, Part 2

Chilean Sea Bass with fried rice from District 7 in San Jose.
Chilean Sea Bass with fried rice from District 7 in San Jose.

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Even veteran restaurants with long-time loyal patrons have struggled during this pandemic, so imagine what it must be like for a brand new restaurant to open for business after shelter-in-place took effect.

Such was the case for District 7 restaurant in the The Shops of Vietnam Town in San Jose.

Fortunately, its chef-owner is John Le, the former operator of Three Seasons in Palo Alto, with years of experience under his belt.

Le was all set to open the doors to his new restaurant that serves modern takes on Vietnamese cuisine when those plans came to a sudden halt. Instead, he decided to offer to-go food instead, Wednesdays through Sundays. Last week, he invited me to stop by to try gratis a few of his new take-out, heat-at-home options.

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