Thursday, July 31, 2014


IT HAS A FUNNY name, but the new BerryBreeze gadget that's rolling out in Whole Foods Markets soon is a pretty cool little thing for the fridge. No, it doesn't make your fridge smell like berries. But the small, battery operated gadget does help keep the fridge smelling super-fresh.
BerryBreeze pumps activated oxygen into the air of your fridge. That oxygen reacts with bacteria and mold, and also defuses ethylene, a gas that speeds up the ripening and rotting of fresh foods.
Now, the makers of this claim it will save you $2,200 per year (saving your food from spoilage.) I am not sure about that, but I do love how it makes my fridge smell clean every time I open it -- even when it's really not.
BerryBreeze measures about 7 inches tall, 5 inches wide and 2 inches deep. It runs on batteries -- not sure how often they will need to be replaced. A unit is about $50 and can be found at Whole Foods and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


ANY WINEMAKER WILL tell you, straight up, that their wine needs to be served at a certain temperature. It doesn't matter how much care went into the winemaking process: Growing the grapes, picking them at just the right time, crushing them, then aging them in just the right receptacle for the right amount of time. Serve a dry red wine at 103 degrees, or a white wine at 95 degrees, and all is lost.
Made in Montana has a solution they call Angle 33. Odd name, yes, but the company has hit on a really great idea. They make wine thermals out of cement. The receptacles, shaped to enclose a bottle of wine, are entirely stackable, and can be used for reds or whites. They don't chill wine -- or warm it. Rather, they keep wine at temperature during dinner or a party. On a hot day, reds stay just above room temp; whites stay chilly.
The best part is that the Angle 33 containers can be used on wood surfaces, as they don't transfer moisture. They come in 12 colors. They cost $64.99; shipping is $5.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


WHAT HAPPENS WHEN you take a floral, aromatic Viognier from Alexander Valley and stir it up with a botanical-flavored eau de vie? Jardesca. It's a new aperitif made in Sonoma that's entirely different from anything you've ever tasted.
It's not wine, exactly. And it's not a super-high alcohol eau de vie. It's a combination of both that's bright, citrusy, herby, peppery and really refreshing poured up with a little sparkling water or over ice. 
The brainchild of Michael Sebastiani, Steve and Mike Sangiacomo and San Francisco-based master mixologist/bartender Duggan McDonnell, the spirit is bottled at Sonoma Valley Custom Wine facility on 8th Street East, in the old Viansa Winery.
A bottle is $28.99. Find it at K & L Wine Merchants and in some wine shops in San Francisco. It has yet to find it's way to the East Bay.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


THERE'S STILL TIME to get a great big taste of Livermore Valley's awesome terroir at the annual Taste Our Terroir event that kicks off on Thursday. Tickets for the Thursday night tasting are sold out, but this year's event includes a lineup of smaller events that continue Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Among the events still open is an afternoon of wine and music with Clark Smith from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Friday at Wente Vineyards ($50), a single-vineyard Cab comparison and cheese tasting from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at Steven Kent Winery ($45), a cooking demo from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday with My Nguyen at Las Positas Vineyards ($60), and grapes, olives and food at Retzlaff Estate from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday ($60.) For more information or tickets, go to

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


WHEN IT COMES to flavorings, nothing beats vanilla. Nothing. And when it comes to vanilla, the best is always worth the price. This year, chefs and foodies are pointing to a new favorite source for big vanilla flavor -- Heilala Vanilla Syrup.This summer, the syrup was a finalist in the Outstanding Dessert or Dessert Topping category at the Fancy Food Show in New York.
Made from vanilla beans grown on plantations in New Zealand and Tonga, the syrup is creamy and floral, with the long finish you get with really fine Madagascar vanilla. It packs a huge, authentic vanilla punch, withand has just enough sugar to draw out the true flavors of the vanilla.
The syrup can be used in place of maple syrup or honey in everything from cold drinks to cocoa to cookies. The company's website suggests using it to finish pork, marinate scallops or punch up flavor in a dressing. I am sure that chefs can make those ideas work, but I think I will use mine in drinks, to sweeten cream or to finish a bowl of berries and yogurt. An 8.4-ounce bottle is $14.95. Find it at Whole Foods.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Gift sets are also available; as are "Mystery Jars."
JAM IS EASY to make. But it's not so easy to make great jam: Jam that's perfectly set, packed with fruit and has fruit as the most forward flavor -- instead of sugar. Yes, it can be done. But if it's not going to happen in your kitchen this strawberry season, you might want to check out a jar of Department of Sweet Diversions Strawberry Grand Marnier Liqueur Jam.
Now, I can't exactly taste the Grand Marnier in this -- a good thing since I don't really want that on my toast in the morning -- but it's terrific jam. it's made in small batches by a small Los Angeles company. The company uses nothing processed and no ingredient that comes from more than 12 miles away. The company also has a rather developed sense of humor about it's detective-style packaging and theme. Those who source the fruit and make the jam include Agent Copperpot and Chester Pinkerton. And the packaging department warns that the jam is best by 7:15 a.m. Oct. 31, 2014. A 6-ounce jar is $12 online. The company also works with pears, blood oranges, tomatoes, plums and apples.