Tag Archives: San Francisco

I8tonite with Food Person: San Francisco’s FoodGal, Carolyn Jung

Carolyn Jung and Celebrity Chef Ming Tsai
Carolyn Jung and Celebrity Chef Ming Tsai

For more than fifty years San Francisco’s Bay Area is  considered to be North America’s epicurean kingdom – long before the term Silicon Valley entered into our lexicon and made it a technology-based realm.  With American Wine Country, Napa and Sonoma, sitting at the back door along with Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry, Charles Phan’s Slanted Door, Cindy Pawlcyn’s Mustard Grill and Fog City Diner leading the culinary pack, it’s also created and ushered some of the country’s best wordsmiths and journalists in the world of food and wine.  Michael Bauer, John Birdsall, Amy Sherman, Marcia Gagliardi, Harvey Steinman all stand at M.F.K Fisher’s door including winning awards from the famed epicurean organization James Beard. However, for almost two decades, James Beard award-winner Carolyn Jung, the former food editor at San Jose Mercury News, and sole proprietor of FoodGal.com, have put on a different face to the Northern Californian dining scene.  Residing outside the kingdom’s walls in the San Jose area, although  born and raised in the City by The Bay –  Jung’s writing’s on the area’s food scene is full of knowledge and has made her one of the pre-eminent voices in the national culinary circle . FoodGal is  read far outside Northern California with readers international in scope. She is also one of the area’s non- Caucasian food media which we discussed at length after she posted an article from First We Feast about the lack of diversity in food writing.

A true San Franciscan, Jung was born at Clay and Polk to Chinese parents. She was then raised in Diamond Heights, near Twin Peaks where the roads are all named after gemstones. Jung has been at the forefront of San Francisco’s cookery explosion reporting first-hand on its continued national influence including visiting my client, at the time, The Restaurant at Meadowood when it received its second star Michelin star under Chef Christopher Kostow.

Jung with Chef Alex Ong, formerly of Michelin Bib Gourmand Betelnut
Jung with Chef Alex Ong, formerly of Michelin Bib Gourmand Betelnut

Before becoming the food editor at San Jose Mercury News, which she refers to as “the Merc”, her beat was on race and demographics. She says about the transition to food writer, “In a great way, my previous beat allowed me to transition seamlessly into the food one. There were so many times on my former beat where I’d start to report on a story, and community leaders would always say, ‘Let’s go eat first.’ Food has always been important around the discussion of community. It may be a cliche, but breaking bread with someone really is the ultimate icebreaker.”

After she was laid off in 2008 from San Jose’s leading newspaper, she craved an avenue to continue communicating with the readers she carefully cultivated, hence FoodGal.com which has nearly a hundred thousand unique visitors per month. It’s where Jung continues to use her journalistic reporting on the area she loves so much and the epicurean people and foodstuff within.  When asked if she ever considered leaving, she responded, “I had several opportunities before I left the newspaper but I wanted to stay. My parents lived here. I’ve also love working the Bay Area and its diversity. We start the food trends – although New Yorkers might disagree.”

Jung is also a gifted emcee hosting many events throughout the Bay Area including many of the Macy’s cooking demos in Santa Clara as well as in San Francisco.

She just completed for the fourth year Chefs’ Holidays at Yosemite’s luxury Ahwanhee Hotel. Upcoming, Jung will be at Macy’s on February 10th with Pastry Chef, Christy Ikezi.

Her cookbook on her hometown San Francisco Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the City by The Bay is available at leading retailers and online. Her stories have also appeared in San Francisco Chronicle, VIA and Eating Well.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

Book Cover: San Francisco Chef's Table
Book Cover: San Francisco Chef’s Table

What is your favorite food to cook at home? Does baking cookies count? It is my favorite thing to make. In fact, there are times when I get so stressed with deadlines that I think, “I must go bake some cookies right now — or else!” It’s my relaxation; and my vice.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Condiments of all kinds — I love them. Cheese; fresh seasonal fruit; good jam; and a jar of preserved Meyer lemons (I make them every winter with lemons from my dwarf tree).

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Good conversationalist, great sense of humor, and a willingness to try most anything at least once.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Talking about themselves non-stop, taking no interest in the other people they are dining with, and staring at their cell phone constantly.

Comrades in arms: (L to R) Pastry Chef Rodney Cerdan of Prospect Restaurant, yours truly, Chef Will Pacio of Spice Kit, and photographer Craig Lee

Beer, wine or cocktail? I like all three. But I am partial to a creative and balanced cocktail, followed by wine — if someone else is driving me back home.

Your favorite cookbook author? My friend Andrea Nguyen, because she is so meticulous with her recipes, and we share a love for perfect dumplings. Joanne Chang and Emily Luchetti because their baking recipes never disappoint. Bruce Aidells because he is the authority on meat. Jean-Georges Vongerichten because he is as renowned and sophisticated a chef as there is, yet he can actually write recipes that won’t make your head spin, teach you practical techniques you may not have known before, and create distinctive, flavorful dishes that one can actually make at home.

Your favorite kitchen tool? My Le Creuset Dutch oven. In fall, winter and spring, it gets a real workout, as I use it for all manner of soups, stews and braises. Not to mention, it’s a looker in dazzling blue.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Most anything. That’s the fun part about getting so many cookbooks to try — you get to learn about so many different cuisines and cultures. And of course, the baking books are always the ones I look at first.
Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Ooh, that’s a tough one. I’m going to have to go with pork because it’s such an important part of my Chinese heritage. Plus, pork is so versatile. And let’s face it, so delicious, too.

Absinthe German Chocolate Cake: Photo by Carolyn Jung. 

Favorite vegetable? I would like to say heirloom tomatoes, but that’s a fruit, despite what most people think. So, I’ll go with asparagus. I look forward to its appearance every spring, then go crazy buying it every week at the farmers market, until its season comes to an end all too quickly. I like it especially grilled or roasted, which brings out its natural sweetness.
Chef you most admire? There are so many. I give them so much credit for how hard they work, the endless hours they put in, cooking on the line, on weekends and holidays, and missing so much family time. I admire Thomas Keller for being a class act, and always pursuing perfection; Jamie Oliver for shining a light on childhood obesity; and Jose Andres for working to get solar ovens in third-world countries, where young women are often accosted, beaten or raped while trying to gather firewood for their families.


Ginger Apricot Cookies
Ginger Apricot Cookies from Carolyn Jung’s website. Recipe available. Photo by Carolyn Jung.

Food you like the most to eat? Have I mentioned cookies? OK, well, there’s also my obsession with kouign-amanns. Basically, if I could eat pastries morning, noon and night — without any consequences — I would.
Food you dislike the most? I’ll try anything once. But I must say after having natto once, I probably don’t need to have it again.
What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Exercise (heck, I do have to burn all the calories I consume); read a good book for hours on end (a luxury I rarely have time for, unfortunately, except when I’m on a long plane ride); treat myself to a spa day (yeah, that happens about once every five years); catch up on movies with my husband; hang out with friends and family (though, that most often does involve food in some shape or form); and watch “American Ninja Warrior” (yes, I’ll cop to that).
Who do you most admire in food? Farmers, who are so dedicated, don’t make a whole lot of money in return, and have to put up with the uncertainties of Mother Nature year in and year out. Without the work they do, our lives would be a whole lot less delicious, nutritious, and full of wonderment.
Where is your favorite place to eat? It can be a fancy restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall, or even my own home — as long as the company is delightful, the food prepared with care and love, and the vibe comfortable, relaxing, and stimulating.
What is your favorite restaurant? Depends on my mood, craving, and thickness of my wallet on any given day. I could pick The French Laundry because I’ve had several memorable meals there, and my husband actually proposed to me in the parking lot there. I could choose Yank Sing because I adore its dim sum, and I held my wedding banquet there. I could say Nathan Myhrvold’s “Modernist Cuisine” lab, because I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually dine there. Or I could pick the Honolulu bare-bones, plate-lunch spot, Nico’s Pier 38, where chilly and bleary-eyed after getting up at the crack of dawn to tour the Honolulu Fish Auction, I ate a simple ahi omelet made with fresh fish from that auction, while sitting outside as the sun came up on a glorious Hawaii morning.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None. My Mom never would have approved of that.

Carolyn Jung’s Recipe:

Chicken stir-fry over Hong Kong noodles at M.Y. China restaurant in San Francisco, California, on Friday, May 10, 2013. Photo by Craig Lee
Chicken stir-fry over Hong Kong noodles at M.Y. China restaurant in San Francisco, California, on Friday, May 10, 2013. Photo by Craig Lee

I chose this dish because it’s nearly Chinese New Year’s. It’s also a dish that reminds me of the type of comforting, satisfying food my Mom used to cook when I was growing up. I’d pick the crispy noodles out of the pan with my fingers, as she’d shoo me away. When it was finally ready, my brothers and I would line up at the stove to help ourselves to a tangle of noodles, and sit down to a bowl of joy.

Crispy Noodles with X.O. Chicken & Bok Choy
(Serves 4)

For the marinade:
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1∕8 teaspoon ground white pepper
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced

For the sauce:
4 tablespoons chicken broth
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon X.O. sauce (available in jars at Asian markets)
1 teaspoon chili bean sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar

For the rest of the dish:
8 ounces fresh, thin Chinese egg noodles
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 fresh hot red chili, thinly sliced
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, caps only, sliced
1 small zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise

To make the marinade: Combine the rice wine, cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and mix well. Add the chicken and stir to coat evenly. Let stand for 10 minutes.

To make the sauce: Combine the broth, soy sauce, rice wine, X.O. sauce, chili bean sauce, and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.

To cook the noodles: In a large pot of boiling water, cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water, and drain again.

Place a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, swirling to coat the sides. Spread the noodles in the pan and press lightly to make a firm cake. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the noodle pancake over, add 1 more tablespoon oil around the edges of the pan, and cook until second side is golden brown, 3–4 minutes. Remove to a serving plate and keep warm.

Place a stir-fry pan over high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, swirling to coat sides. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the marinated chicken and stir-fry until no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to a small bowl and set aside.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan over high heat, swirling to coat the sides. Add the mushrooms and zucchini and cook for 1 minute. Add the sauce and bring it to a boil. Add the bok choy, cover, and cook for 1 minute.

Return the chicken to pan and stir to heat through. Pour on top of the noodle pancake and serve immediately.

Recipe Courtesy of San Francisco Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the City by the Bay by Carolyn Jung. Photo by Craig Lee.

The end. Go eat.



I8tonite with San Francisco’s Anzu Chef Michael Raub on Asian Fusion Cuisine & Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi Recipe

Anzu’s Chef Michael Raub‘s story is one that seems to exemplify the phrase, “Life is what happens when you’re making plans.”

San Francisco’s Anzu Chef Michael Raub on Asian Fusion Cuisine & Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi RecipeFrom Texas barbecue to the French Laundry to Asian-Fusion cuisine, Michael Raub, Executive Chef at the Hotel Nikko San Francisco, didn’t plan a career in the restaurant business.

Though cooking was a big part of his youth (with not one, but two grandmothers in the kitchen at every family gathering), his coursework was in marketing while at university in Houston, Texas. After college, he went to Colorado to pursue an internship in the hospitality industry. It was there that fate (or life) took over, and Michael’s career in the restaurant business really began.

After a brief return to Texas, he pursued the best of the best: The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. His ambition and initiative served him well, and he was soon on his way to Napa Valley, California, where he interned at Bouchon, quickly moving on to a full time position as Garde Manager. In 2010, he was promoted to Sous Chef. Michael stayed with the Keller Group for four years, also working at Ad Hoc and the French Laundry, a Michelin three star restaurant.

In 2012, Michael accepted a position as Executive Sous Chef at Ame Restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel, San Francisco, where he worked with Hiro Sone, winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chefs of California award.

Michael credits both of his grandmothers with instilling in him an appreciation of good food and fresh ingredients, his first employers with his work ethic, and his determination with a bit of luck, for the opportunity to work alongside some of the best chefs in the business.

ANZU restaurant, Hotel Nikko, San FranciscoAnzu is the perfect venue, allowing him to create dishes like Sichuan Peppered Filet Mignon and Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi (recipe below). The menu incorporates his love of high quality meats and fresh local sustainable seafood. It seems that life was just waiting to bring Michael’s particular blend of experience and skill to Anzu at the Nikko.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
16 Years

What is your favorite food to cook?
I love cooking with fresh seafood. It is very delicate and takes constant attention.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?

ANZU restaurant, Hotel Nikko, San FranciscoWhat do you cook at home?
I love the experience of smoking fish and meat all day to make delicious Barbeque. A great way to spend a day off!

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I haven’t served a customer in a very long time. What I find appealing about one of our guests is a sense of adventure.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex, but prefer a good old fashioned mason jar.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?

Your favorite cookbook author?
Right now, I can’t put Dominique Crenn’s new book down

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My hands

Your favorite ingredient?
The lettuces and herbs we are getting from Ecopia Farms right now!

Your least favorite ingredient?

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Leave for the day

ANZU restaurant, Hotel Nikko, San FranciscoFavorite types of cuisine to cook?
French, Japanese, Italian, and Korean

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu?

Favorite vegetable?
Whatever is at the peak of the season

Chef you most admire?
Laurent Gras

Food you like the most to eat?
Grilled Fish

Food you dislike the most?
Hard Boiled Eggs

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?

Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi Recipe from at Anzu Restaurant, Hotel Nikko, San Francisco
Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi

Recipe: Citrus Grilled Mahi Mahi with Thai Green Curry
Serves 4



  • 1 T Olive Oil
  • 3 T Green Curry Paste
  • 1 Shallot (Minced)
  • 1 Inch Peeled Ginger (Minced)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (Minced)
  • .5 Each Lemon Grass (Chopped)
  • 1 C Coconut Milk
  • 1 C Dashi
  • 5 Each Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • 1 T Fish Sauce
  • 1 T Brown Sugar
  • 2 Bunches Thai Basil
  • 1 C Baby Spinach

Citrus Cure

  • 2 T Kosher Salt
  • 1 T Sugar
  • 1 Lime (Zested)
  • 1 Lemon (Zested)
  • 1 Orange (Zested)
  • 1 t Cracked Coriander
  • 4 each 5 Ounce Mahi Mahi Portions
  • 1 Large Butternut Squash
  • 12 Mixed Marble Potatoes
  • 4 C Baby Spinach
  • 1 Clove Garlic (Minced)
  • .5 Lime

For the curry, heat the oil in a medium heavy bottom pot on high heat until slightly smoking.
Add the shallot, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass and brown for about two minutes.
Add the curry paste and kaffir limes and continue cooking another minute. Add the coconut milk and dashi and bring to a simmer.
Add the sugar and fish sauce and cook for thirty minutes.
Season to taste and let cool to room temperature.
Remove the kaffir lime leaves and place the curry in a blender with the spinach and basil.
Puree until completely smooth and pass through a fine mesh strainer.

For the citrus cure, combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and reserve.

Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and flesh. Peel the outer layer and cut into one inch pieces and roast in the oven at 400 degrees.
Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Season the mahi with the citrus cure and grill until medium to medium well. The internal temperature should be 150 degrees F.
Take the half of lime and place on the grill, flesh side down, until a dark caramel crust forms.
We like to finish our mahi in the oven on a smoking plank of cherry wood.
Take a large sauté pan and heat up a small amount of olive oil and place the garlic in the pan and sweat for thirty seconds.
Place the spinach in the pan and cook until just wilted.

Blanch the mixed marble potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender. Heat the curry and add the squash and potatoes.
Ladle the curry in four separate bowls and top with the wilted spinach.
Serve the fish on the side on the wood planks, so you can add the fish as you eat the curry.

The End. Go Eat.




All photos courtesy and copyright Anzu at the Hotel Nikko, San Francisco

Finding Food, Friends, and Conversation On The Road – My Most Memorable Meals of 2015

This is a memorable guest post from Penny Sadler, blogger at Adventures of a Carry-On. 

My best meals of 2015

I grew up in a big family, but as a teenager there was a period of time when it was just my dad and I living together. Neither one of us was a whiz in the kitchen, so we often ate dinner out. Those early dining experiences ingrained in me a love for delicious food and conversation. They shaped who I am today – a good listener and a good conversationalist, with a penchant for excellent food (preferably cooked by someone else), with a healthy dose of listening and sharing by all parties at the table.

Writing about my top five most memorable meals of 2015 was easy…except that I had so many memorable meals. When I really thought about the meals that stood out for me, I noted that I was always traveling. From San Francisco to Piedmont, Italy, 2015 was a year of new food experiences and wine pairings. Another reason these meals were memorable…all of my favorite meals this year included reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances or dining with new friends. And of course, great conversation.

Cacio e Pepe at Locanda - one of my favorite meals this year
Cacio e Pepe at Locanda – one of my favorite meals this year

California: Locanda – The Mission: Let’s begin in San Francisco, voted the best food city in the USA by Bon Appetit Magazine.  I can’t disagree. I had several memorable meals in San Francisco. but the one that really stands out for me was dinner at Locanda  in the Mission District. Owners Craig and Annie Stoll have turned to Rome for the inspiration behind Locanda – and for this reason, I was eager to try it.

Aside from being some of the best Italian food I’ve eaten in the US or Italy (there’s an Italian who is going to argue with me about this I know), what made this meal special was my dinner companion. I met Jody on New Year’s Day in Cambria, California, under not the best of circumstances. I fell on the beach and couldn’t get up. Jody rescued me. Jody lives in Mill Valley, I live in Dallas. We met up in San Francisco almost a year later, and had an amazing dinner and wine pairing at Locanda.

Locanda - home to one of the best meals I ate in 2015

I decided to try the Cacio e Pepe for a primi. It’s about as basic as you can get – pasta, cheese, and pepper with some olive oil. And yes, it did remind me of Rome. For an entrée, I had the Pancetta-wrapped Mary’s Chicken with Anson Mills polenta and grilled turnips.  I rarely ever order chicken, but Mary’s Chicken is a family-owned business that has been raising free-range, organic chickens for three generations.  The dish had the perfect blend of flavors – slightly salty, savory, and the perfect portion size. The sommelier paired it with a Francesco Rinaldi Barbaresco. The dark red fruit and licorice flavors of the wine were a perfect balance with the savory notes of the pancetta and chicken. Jody had the Berkshire Pork Saltimboca paired with a lovely Beaujolais. She left with a doggie bag. For dessert, we had a Barolo Chinato. It’s a dessert wine with aromas of stewed fruit, but not too sweet. Lovely.

No matter what you order at Locanda, you can’t go wrong. We loved everything.

Locanda chef making pasta - one of my best meals of 2015
Locanda chef making pasta

Since I’m a recent WSET (Wine Spirits Education Trust) graduate, I did take note of the excellent wine list at Locanda. Many Italian wines from Piedmont were included, and I was pleased to see I’d visited several of the wineries on the list. One of them is part of this article, as I also had an amazing meal there. Read on.

Locanda, 557 Valencia (San Francisco)


Acquolina - location of one of my best meals of 2015Aquolina – North Beach: I spent Thanksgiving Day in San Francisco mostly walking around the North Beach neighborhood.  There was a place right on the corner facing Washington Square with lots of windows and sidewalk seating that looked inviting. I grabbed a seat at the bar, ordered a spritzer, and watched the crowd for a while. I was scouting for a place for myself and a friend to have Thanksgiving dinner, but we didn’t want to spend a fortune on a pre-fixe menu.

Aquolina was serving their regular menu, casual Tuscan-style Italian,

Pizza with speck and mozzarella from Aquolina - one of the best meals I ate in 2015
Pizza with speck and mozzarella from Aquolina

in addition to holiday specials. I saw a few pizzas being served and decided that was where we’d have dinner later. We ate a wonderful thin-crust Roman-style pizza, with mozzarella and prosciutto. Delicious! It was the perfect antidote to a traditional Thanksgiving meal…and I got to dine outside on a crisp San Francisco night with a friend who happened to be in town that week.

Aquolina, 1600 Stockton St. (San Francisco)

Courtesy. Harmony Cafe
Courtesy. Harmony Cafe

Harmony – San Luis Obispo County: South of San Francisco, just off of Highway 101, is the tiny town of Harmony,  population: 18. I was starving, so stopped to see what I might find in such a small place.

The moment I stepped foot inside the Harmony café, I felt like I was in Italy. And guess what? Chef Giovanni is

House-made butternut squash pasta with a light marinara sauce at The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough - part of my best meals of 2015
House-made butternut squash pasta with a light marinara sauce at The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough

indeed Italian. He made me a butternut squash pasta with a light marinara sauce, which paired well with a glass of pinot grigio. While I waited, I chatted with other customers who told me they were regulars there – they return every year on vacation from New York. That’s how good Chef Giovanni’s food is. For dessert, I had the house-made tiramisu.  Pasta and tiramisu in one meal is an indulgence I don’t often allow myself. But tiramisu made by an Italian is the next best thing to going to Treviso, the home of the original tiramisu.

Chef Giovanni, The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough - location of one of my best meals in 2015
Chef Giovanni, The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough

Note: Harmony Cafe has relocated to Cambria, and is now called The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough. Chef Giovanni is still cooking in the kitchen.

Harmony Cafe, 824 Main St. (Cambria)


Piedmont, Italy: Barolo

why go to Barolo, Piedmont, Italy @PennySadler 2015
Photo by Penny Sadler

In September, I toured the wine country of Piedmont, Italy. I completed my Wine Spirits Education Trust certification in August (you can read about it here), and the time seemed right for this trip. Many of the wineries in the area also have dining rooms and tasting menus serving regional dishes paired with the local wines. I recommend La Foresteria at Cantina Marchesi di Barolo, in Barolo,

Angelo, Me, and Valentina Abbona, the Marketing Manager and owner's daughter at Marchesi di Barolo, location of one of my best meals of 2015
Angelo, Me, and Valentina Abbona, the Marketing Manager and owner’s daughter at Marchesi di Barolo

Italy. Here I met up with an Italian friend who had hosted me at his home in Italy over two years ago. A reunion over food and wine in Barolo doesn’t sound too shabby, does it?




Marchesi di Barolo - the location of one of my best meals of 2015
Dining room, Marchesi di Barolo

There are three menu options, and depending on how hungry you are, you can chose three to five courses. Whatever you do, you must try the veal with tuna sauce (veal con tonnato). I thought it sounded disgusting until I tried it. Buonissimo! It was paired with the Gavi di Gavi, a wine I enjoy drinking on its own – it was perfect with this dish. The desserts were to die for, as well.

The Moscato jelly with fresh fruit served with Moscato d’ Asti

The Moscato jelly with fresh fruit at Marchesi di Barolo -dessert from one of my best meals of 2015
The Moscato jelly with fresh fruit at Marchesi di Barolo

Zagara tasted crisp and fresh. I could have eaten a gallon of it. The ambiance was very elegant, with white tablecloths, delicate stemware, and enough silverware to make me feel like I was in a scene from Pretty Woman.

Marquesi di Barolo, Via Roma 1


Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography

Santa Fe, New Mexico: Now, believe it or not, I do have one amazing dining experience to tell you about that was not Italian, nor in Italy or California. This memorable meal was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, another well-known foodie city. It was, and remains, the most unique dining experience of my life so far. Yes, I think I can honestly say that.

Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography

Prepared in the parking lot at the Santa Fe Opera, the locals call this dining a tailgate party. We had our table set up under a beautiful white tent.  Executive Chef Todd Hall, from La Posada de Santa Fe, prepared a four-course meal for us while black tie waiters served us grilled bacon wrapped peaches, lobster in little gem lettuce, and ahi tuna, paired with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Those were the appetizers.

The second course was a salad of Sicilian burrata, asparagus, boiled

Salad of Sicilian burrata, asparagus, boiled egg, and lemon curd aioli, La Posada de Santa Fe ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Salad of Sicilian burrata, asparagus, boiled egg, and lemon curd aioli, La Posada de Santa Fe ©Amiel Gervers Photography

egg, and lemon curd aioli. To die for. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Ever. I could have made the main course out of that.

Next up was Prawn and Diver Scallop Brochette on a salad of chilled

lemon mint tabbouleh, icicle cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, and yellow watermelon, paired with a buttery chardonnay from Walt vineyards. Wait, did I say the second course was the best thing I’ve ever eaten? Honestly, the entire meal was a work of art. The combination of flavors and textures was sublime. I will never forget this meal.

Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography

And then there was dessert: a dark cherry tartlet with Kahlua salted caramel ice cream. Swoon! The sad news is, we barely had time to inhale this heavenly creation because we were being swept off to see the opera.

My suggestion: go to the newly remodeled Julia,  at La Posada de Santa Fe. Todd Hall is a James Beard-recognized chef and Julia is a beautiful, warm environment. The experience may not be the same as a tailgate party at the opera, but the food is sure to be five-star, and the warm and inviting atmosphere at Julia is pretty swanky, too.

La Posada de Santa Fe, 300 East Palace Ave. (Santa Fe, New Mexico)

The End. Go Eat. Happy 2016.


i8tonite: with Chef Ruggero Gadaldi, San Francisco’s Delarosa & Spicy Holiday Italian Meatballs

Editor’s Note: This is a posting from  contributor Penny Sadler, Adventures of a Carry-On.

Ruggero Gadaldi: Credit Aubrie Pick

From his childhood days helping out in the family market and churning butter on the farm near Bergamo, Italy, Chef Ruggero Gadaldi developed his love for and understanding of regional Italian foods. His passion for preparing only the most authentic Italian cuisine lead him to study at Italy’s prestigious San Pellegrino Hotel School. From there, he made his way to the US via a number of positions at five-star hotels throughout Europe, New York, and finally San Francisco, with a stop in Los Angeles to cook for Pope John Paul II.

Inside Delarosa: Credit, Aubrie Pick

In 2008, Gadaldi received the San Francisco Chronicle Visionary Chef Award. His restaurant, Antica Trattoria, was voted Best Neighborhood Italian, Bay Area Critics Choice Award, SF Chronicle, 1996 – 2008.


In a city known for great food and plenty of Italian options, Delarosa, Gadaldi’s latest venture, is the kind of place that locals favor for reliable and reasonably priced Italian food served in a casual and contemporary atmosphere. The newest location at Yerba Buena Lane has exactly the same look and feel as the Marina location: the kitchen is open, and space is light, with accents of orange.

Delarosa is only one of a number of celebrated Italian restaurants in the Bay Area to which Gadaldi has dedicated his passion for preparing authentic Italian food.

Chef’s Questionnaire with Ruggero Gadaldi

Delarosa-198How long have you been cooking? Since I entered the “Scuola Professionale Alberghiera di Stato” for Chef in San Pellegrino, Bergamo, Italy in 1972.

What is your favorite food to cook? Regional Italian.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Cheese, salami and pickles

What do you cook at home? My wife does the cooking at home, I’m the dishwasher. (Big smile.)

Photo By Aubrie Pick
Photo By Aubrie Pick

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? When a customer is served and they take that first bite, they pause and then a smile appears. We hope then that we have added to their day.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Being disrespectful.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex

Beer, wine or cocktail? Wine with my meal, and a Negroni at the end of my day.

Your favorite cookbook author? Joyce Goldstein

Your favorite kitchen tool? Gnocchi paddle.

Your favorite ingredient? Piemontese white truffle.

Your least favorite ingredient? Can’t think of one.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Gutting sardines.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Italian.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Pork

Favorite vegetable? Dino kale or Tuscan Cabbage.

Chef you most admire? Mario Batali. 

Mussels and Tomato Sauce
Photo by Aubrie Pick

Food you like the most to eat? Hearty stews

Food you dislike the most? There isn’t much I dislike. I love food !!!

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Zero. I admire some but cringe when I think about the pain they had to go through to get them.

Recipe: Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce (Serves 4 – 6)

Delarosa-Proofs-54Tomato Sauce

  • 3 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 4   Chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp   Calabrese chili flake
  • 16 oz.   Tomato-basil sauce



In a saucepan, heat olive oil and add garlic and chili flakes. When garlic starts to get brown add tomato- basil sauce. Cook for 10 minutes at medium heat.


  • ¾ lb. ground beef
  • ¼ lb. ground veal
  • ½ lb. Italian sweet sausage (out of casing)
  • 1 cup Bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup Milk
  • 1 Tbsp Finely chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 Egg whites
  • ½ C Grated Fresh Pecorino cheese
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to Taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients.  Mix thoroughly, though not over handling.  Before creating balls, put a little bit of olive oil on your hands in order to minimize sticking. Spoon out mixture and create meatballs that are approx 1.5-inch balls.  Place on a greased sheet pan and place in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Place meatballs in the Spicy Tomato sauce and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes.

Plate:  2 to 3 meatballs on a plate and add a spoonful of sauce on top.  Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite: My Most Memorable Eats of 2015 & Moving to the Southwest

Grand Canyon_A. DuarteAt the beginning of 2015, if anyone predicted that I would be living  at year’s end in Phoenix — or starting my food blog for that matter, I would have howled with laughter. Me? In Phoenix? The American Southwest? Writing? Besides, press releases and commenting on Facebook? Yet, I am listening to my fountain cascade into the plunge pool and writing this lengthy post. I open the front door daily to walk the dogs and am awestruck with a view of Pietesawa Peak, crowned by blue skies and cottony clouds. Holly, our eleven-year-old Pitbull waddles past the security guard gate and the golf green, trying to keep up with J.J., our seven-year-old French bulldog, who likes to chase after rabbits. The bunnies hop around on our neighbor’s sixteenth golf hole, the nearby Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Arizona Biltmore – a mere five-minute walk to luxury pools and spas.  I look at all this splendor with gratitude. It’s also coming from a person who – 25 years ago — thought he could never leave  Manhattan, then the center of my Universe.

Kevin Dooley 2
Photo by Kevin Dooley

As I grow older, and I’m grateful I am,  the center of my Universe has expanded. Eventually, the Northeastern winters drove me to Los Angeles for 16 years, with 3 years in San Francisco for good behavior. Spiritually, I never felt either city was home though. They both seemed to be stopping points. I never really wanted meant to stay as long as I did. However, where do you go after Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco? These are our national hubs of entertainment, technology and finance. International culture is unsurpassed in these meccas.  You are supposed to want to be there. Did I think Miami? Paris?  Back to New York? Phoenix wasn’t even a thought.

Photo by Kevin Dooley
Photo by Kevin Dooley

After much discussion, Nick took the offered Phoenix position and we came out to look for a house. Instantly, we fell in love with the desert landscape, rich culture, sheer vastness and low-cost of living. Phoenix, in my eyes, is North America’s hidden gem, but it’s hard to hide the 6th largest city in the United States. However, it feels protected. Off the beaten path, waiting to be discovered. Tourists may come and visit one of Arizona’s 300 resorts but until you become a resident, hike the trails, meet the people, work and become a Phoenician do you understand the city’s natural splendor and sophistication.

I reckon The Valley of the Sun is physically the most attractive place I’ve ever lived. Red mountains are dissected by roads and Camelback, the dromedary rock formation casts its legendary shadow over the valley. It’s peaceful sentinel-like presence feels protective, calming and inspiring.

As we enter into the remaining days of 2015, and for the coming year, I urge you to allow change to happen. Step out of your comfort zone. The things you would say no to trying…try.  Explore new possibilities and never say, “Never.” I’m so glad I did.

Photo by Alan Stark
Photo by Alan Stark

Before I begin my 2015’s five – whoops, six most memorable food experiences, I need to let you dear reader know I still talk about these eats. That’s why I choose them. Some are new, some are not.  I would go back to eat them time and again. Additionally, I paid for each one of these meals. Nothing was given gratis or comped, so I have nothing to gain from telling you about them.

Let’s start:

Photo Courtesy of Carson Kitchen
Photo Courtesy of Carson Kitchen

Carson Kitchen, Las Vegas, Nevada: Chicken Fried Skins, served with Smoked Honey Dipping Sauce ($9). The late Chef Kerry Simon, who died early this year with complications related to Mulitple Sclerosis, was a master of New American cooking. He imbued his dishes with a sense of humor and surprise.  This dish is indicative of that experience. Who is going to order only chicken skins with a side of smoked honey? Well, I did. Three orders of the crunchy, salty, deliciously deep-fried morsels with the side of lightly smoked sweetness. I would never make this at home. Let’s definitely score points for that understanding.

Courtesy of Factory Kitchen
Courtesy of Factory Kitchen

Factory Kitchen, Downtown Los Angeles, California: Handkerchief Pasta with Almond Basil Pesto ($19). I was living in San Francisco when I ate at Farina which is where I first had Chef Angelo Auriana’s superb pasta. I was in the middle of a fight with an ex. I try not to remember him. However, the sheet-like folds of pasta expertly painted with a light basil pesto, I remember. It wasn’t until I went to Factory Kitchen did it come back hauntingly. This time, I was celebrating one of my best friends birthdays (Shelley Levitt) in Los Angeles. We ordered the Ligurian-style noodle with green sauce. One bite, I knew I had eaten it once before. It’s so good that even years later I remembered it, except with this experience, the atmosphere was much more light-hearted and loving to enjoy it.

Photo Courtesy of Tropicale
Photo Courtesy of Tropicale

The Tropicale Restaurant & Bar, Palm Springs, California: Brown Sugar-Brined, Double Cut Kurobata Pork Chop ($28). A little over a year ago, I discovered my longtime friend Chef Scooter Kanfer had encamped to this boisterous watering hole in the resort town of Palm Springs. About 10 years ago, she was the chef/owner of a stunning little place in LA’s Larchmont area called The House. Here, she received national accolades with her inventive takes on homespun items like macaroni and cheese and my favorite milk and cookies which is milk served in a whiskey shot glass accompanied by shortbread animal cookies. Now, she is under less pressure as the Chef de Cuisine of Tropicale but her food is still the best. I choose the Kurobata Pork Chop because she recommends it to me every time I see her. The only other place I ate this type of big, flavorful battering ram was at Cindy Pawlcyn’s Napa Valley-based Mustards Grill. I wasn’t in Napa this year but this may be the best pork chop in a restaurant ever.

Courtesy of Hollywood Pies
Courtesy of Hollywood Pies

Hollywood Pies, Los Angeles, California: The Hollywood Pie ($27). I was never a lover of deep dish Chicago style pies. I didn’t get it. And then, I ate from this blink-and-you-miss-it spot. Jesus made this pizza for me. Seriously, that’s one of the names of the pie-makers. Everything from the crust to the cheese, the pizza sauce, homemade meatballs is made in-house. Unfortunately, getting a pizza isn’t always easy. They take forever to make (up to an hour). Sometimes, they don’t even pick up the phone to order one. This deep dish thickly crusted – like a casserole – is from heaven. Chewy, hint of heat in the sauce, pull until it snaps mozzarella…..trust me, Jesus made it.

Courtesy of ICDC
Courtesy of ICDC

ICDC, Los Angeles, California: Salt & Pepper Caramel Doughnut/ Buttermilk Brown Butter ($2.50). ICDC, which stands for ice cream, donuts, and coffee, is a dream child of Amy Knoll Fraser and Pastry Chef Maria Swan. I don’t know Maria. I would love to know Maria. I would love Maria to make me  a donut every day for the rest of my life. The Salt & Pepper Caramel along with the Buttermilk Brown Butter are heavenly puffs of circled dough with a little richness (butter or caramel) and a surprise (salt & pepper and not just butter but browned butter). If you have never had a seasoned donut or a browned butter donut – it’s wrong. Just wrong. It’s like being a virgin and everyone around you talking about sex.

Courtesy of Breakfast Club
Courtesy of Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club, Scottsdale, Arizona: Huevos con Masa ($9). On our first trip to Phoenix, we got hungry as people do at the beginning of the day. We had appointments to look at houses and needed to fortify ourselves.  We went to dine at place at 8 am. Twenty-minute wait. We left. Found another highly recommended eatery with a wait-time of twenty-minutes. Nick and I are starving, and it’s 9 am. On the third try, we arrive at Breakfast Club. They have a wait time too. We sit at the bar to avoid the wait time. It’s packed.  Maybe 9:15 am on a Wednesday morning. I order the Huevos con Masa, a creative southwestern version of eggs benedict. Instead of hollandaise sauce, a pork green chile is served with poached eggs and chipotle cornbread. Eating it, I thought it was worth waiting for the discovery. The chile, a little heavier than I normally would eat for breakfast, is rich but compliments the poached eggs runny yolks. The cornbread has just enough heat and is incredibly moist, with flecks of chipotle. The Valley of the Sun breakfast experience also prompted me to write a story on the area’s breakfasts.  (Note: If you like blonde, athletic women serving your food in skin-tight, black fitness wear, this is the place for you. Do not come if you want to see a brunette or red-head. Hell, I don’t think there was a curl in the place, either. Just sayin’.)

Places and dishes of note: Nobuo at Teeter House, Pork Belly  Buns (Phoenix, Arizona); The Original Breakfast House, Cinnamon Rolls (Phoenix, Arizona); Revolutionario, Falafel Tacos  (Los Angeles, CA); Khin Khao, Khao Mun Gai (San Francisco, CA); Pizzeria Bianco, Margherita Pizza (Phoenix, Arizona).

The End. Happy 2016.

i8tonite: Questionnaire with Chef Mat Schuster of San Francisco’s Canela Bistro & Bar

Chef Mat Schuster is a master of Spanish cuisine. He is the executive chef and co-owner, along with his partner, Paco, of the four year-old Canela Bistro & Bar located in San Francisco’s Castro. With Schuster’s creative hands, diners will eat a phenomenal Croquettas con Jamon, a fried small egg shelled shaped tapa, crunchy on the outside and once bitten, oozes out a creamy béchamel interior, dotted with Iberico jam bits.  He also submits guests to his version of iconic Spanish albondigas (meatball), a thoughtful mixture of pork belly and shoulder with a hint of housemade chorizo served in an apple cider sauce. Most of San Francisco’s dining landscape is steeped in Anglo, Italian and French cooking, but the food of Spain is some of the most under represented in the culinary capital. Chef Schuster, along with his talented staff, serve up a variety of the country’s tasty bits without having to pull out your passport. In i8tonite’s Chef Questionnaire, he talks about his love of fish, his dislike of sea cucumber and love of Spain.


How long have you been cooking?  Sixteen years I suppose but some days I feel like I just started!

What is your favorite food to cook? I love cooking fish and seafood in general.  That is my favorite.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?  Cheese, yogurt, fruit, almond milk, something pickled, something spicy, something creamy.

Image result for Canela Bistro What do you cook at home? When I do cook at home, its usually things that we don’t cook at the restaurant like fish tacos or barbecue.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? Great question.  Adventurous, friendly, approachable.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Unadventurous, unfriendly, unapproachable. Ha ha!

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? All of them and multiples.
Image result for rubbermaid
Beer, wine or cocktail? Beer, beer, beer.

Your favorite cookbook author? Its like asking a parent to choose a favorite child.

Your favorite kitchen tool? Knife.

Your favorite ingredient? A good olive oil.

Your least favorite ingredient? Sea cucumber. Seriously, we actually were served this at a Michelin-star restaurant.  Yuck.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Waste time.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Spanish, of course!

Running For Crayons

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Pork, duh.

Favorite vegetable? Onions, yum.

Chef you most admire? Joyce Goldstein. She knows everything.

Food you like the most to eat? I have a sweet tooth. I need a patch for it.

Food you dislike the most? Haven’t really met one. Oh wait, sea cucumber.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None…at the moment.

Bar Soriano

Recipe from Chef Mat Schuster: Seared Mushrooms with Sherry

Here is a recipe that Chef Mat likes to make at home. Its origin is pinxto bar in Logrono in the North of Spain called Bar Soriano. This place only makes this dish – seared mushrooms in their own juices.

It is simple to make.  Take 3 large very white mushrooms.  Remove the stem.  Heat a pan on high and add in some olive oil, not too much.  Sear the mushrooms on one side, then flip when brown.  Be careful not to burn.  Remove the mushrooms from the pan, add in a little minced garlic and sherry.  Skewer the mushrooms on a toothpick and serve on top of a piece of bread.  Sprinkle with salt and lemon juice.  Delicious.

–     The End. Go Eat.   –