Sunday, November 23, 2014


Maybe my turkey carving didn't look this nice, but you
get the idea!

NOT EVERYONE IS OK with unpacking a raw turkey; yanking the bags out of the cavities, rinsing the raw bird and figuring out how to truss or perhaps even stuff the thing before werestling it into the oven. I understand! It's OK! If you are one of those people and you would really like to put on a Thanksgiving dinner, I have the best news EVER! Jennie-O has your back.
Look for their turkeys in opaque bags in the frozen department. They're labeled "Oven Ready."
Buy the size you need, and trust me, it's all good. You don't have to do anything with this bird except cut a few slices in the bag. Seriously: Your fingers WILL NOT TOUCH the raw bird, nor do you have to spend more than a few short minutes looking at it.
Pop it in the oven -- directly from the freezer if you like -- and cook until the little plastic thing pops out and you're ready to rest, carve and serve.
Caution: Those foodies who go to battle at Whole Foods for turkeys may question your turkey if they see the packaging, so bury it deep... and if they ask if you brined it, say "Yes!" (The Jennie-O folks did it for you.) No one -- and I mean NO ONE -- will ever guess your secret. Jennie-O turkey is a little saltier than unbrined turkeys, but it has the same bold turkey flavor as any other turkey I have ever tasted.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pizza My Way

 I LOVE THE new pizza restaurant trend that invites people to select their own toppings so that the pizza they order is precisely what they feel like eating. Great idea, and even better when the restaurant goes the extra distance to provide organic and non-GMO ingredients.
Welcome to ZPizza, which has a handful of restaurants in the Bay Area, including one near me, in South Fremont. Like Blaze Pizza, ZPizza makes a thin-crust, but this one has an ultra-fresh taste, as it's made with more natural ingredients that are utterly fresh. They also have great gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options.
The chicken is perfectly cooked -- not too dry. The sausage has bold flavor without being too fatty. Even the sauces under the toppings taste homemade. loved the gorgonzola-pear combination, and fell hard for the spicy chipotle-sausage pizza with corn and cilantro. It's entirely different and so delicious. 
If all of this is making you hungry -- set your alarm for 1 p.m. today (11/22/14) so you can try it yourself. The restaurant is sharing free tastes from 1 to 3 p.m. ZPizza is near the 880-680 Mission Boulevard interchange in Warm Springs. It's at 46703 Mission Boulevard. Free pizza is also being served at ZPizza restaurants in Danville, San Ramon, Livermore and Sunnyvale. Click here to get the address:  


Colchuaga Valley provides the ideal setting for growing Carmenere
 grapes with concentrated flavor.  (Photo courtesy Carmen Wines)
BOTTLES-UP time in Chile arrives at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 24, when the country celebrates the rediscovery of the varietal in Chile with a twitter chat from 6 to 7 p.m. Love Chilean reds? You can join in the chat by using hashtag #CarmenereDay for a chance to win a prize. One is a set of Riedel glasses and a decanter. The other is a Coravin.
You might also learn a little more about the varietal, a grape that orginates in Bordeaux, and was brought to Chile in the mid-19th century. The grapes thrived, but looked so much like merlot that there was lots of confusion. Unlike merlot, carmenere grapes produce deep, spicy reds with bold flavor notes that are not unlike some cabernet blends. The varietal was discovered in a vineyard owned by Carmen -- on Thanksgiving Day in 1994... hence the celebration!
OK, so curious types may want to know why Thanksgiving Day might be significant in Chile -- it's not, but the Trinchero Family Estates in Napa imports and markets wines from Carmen, one of the oldest and largest wineries in Chile.

Friday, November 21, 2014



MY TUMMY HURTS. And it's not my fault.
I blame it all on Talenti's Raspberry Sorbet. I stuck my spoon into the container for a simple taste. It was good. I took another bite. Then just one more. Again, and again and again. The bright raspberry flavor of this sweet. mouthwatering mix accidentally disappeared. It's so utterly delicious that I couldn't stop eating it until my spoon hit the bottom of the container. (Ooops!) I stuffed it into the freezer with a full three bites left. What can I say? It happens.
But honestly, it doesn't happen that often. In fact: My latest Taste-Off print article on the topic of vanilla ice cream did not give Talenti Tahitian Vanilla top scores. It was up against classic ice cream and it just didn't quite fit the bill. But make no mistake: Talenti still has my heart... and my spoon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


BEFORE YOU HEAD to the store to grab bottles of the same old wines that you've been serving all year, let's chat. Everyday wine needs to be inexpensive, but when friends and family gather for Thanksgiving, that's the time for something better; for a special wine with a fun personality.
Since it's so hard to know what's in the bottle before you pour, here's a short list of wines from different corners of the world that A) will go very well with your Thanksgiving spread, and B) Are a bit more expensive without being ridiculous, and C) Have interesting and unique flavors that will make your guests smile. They might even start a wine conversation that continues through the holiday season. Here are details on some worthwhile reds:
Nobilo 2013 Icon Pinot Noir ($22) California winegrowers love to grow pinot noir grapes, and they do well in various regions up and down the state, turning out a variety of interesting wines. That reality aside, if you're a fan of pinot, it is essential that you check out this one from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, which had a stellar growing year in 2013. Seriously, it will set your palate for the grape, as it is everything that a fine pinot aspires to be. It has notes of strawberry and flowrs, with a pleasant acidy. Unlike so many pinots, the earth notes are fine-tuned so that they add another layer of flavor.
Wild Horse Pinot Noir ($20) from one of the hottest and fastest-growing wine regions in California -- Paso Robles -- is the wine that you want to serve alongside the Nobilo, as it's on of California's finest pinots. It is restrained and fruity, with the funk notes under control.
Collazzi Libertà 2012 ($19) from Toscana is a blend of merlot, syrah and sangiovese that's perfect for those who love deep, rich, complex and slightly tannic wines. The winemaker uses the word "balsamic," and I wouldn't quibble. It's imported by The Sorting Table in San Francisco.
Antinori's 2011 Tormaresca Neprica ($11) is the perfect addition to any holiday meal -- it was my daughter's wedding wine! The price is right and the flavor profile is complex, with a lot of backbone and just enough fruit to underscore the sweetness of the cranberries and sweet potatoes.
Franciscan Estate 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet ($14)  is likely the best-distributed wine in this particular post. It's in stores all over the country -- and even in Okinawa, Japan. That's because it's a solid wine that has big fruit notes at a great price.
Frei Brothers Reserve 2011 Dry Creek Valley Merlot ($14) is one of those wines that deliver way more than you expect. It hails from Sonoma County and it has literally surprises the palate with gigantic hits of blackberry and spice. No kidding. It might compete with spicy food, and would not complement spicy dishes, but it's perfect for stuffing, turkey and mashed potatoes

2011 Copa Cabana Cabernet Sauvignon ($11)  from Valle Central in Chile is a gorgeous, fruity cab that delivers great flavor -- and gives back 10 percent to non-profits. FYI: Chile is a great region for reds that have both backbone and rich, fruity flavors.

Friday, November 14, 2014


IT'S A VEGETABLE that gets ignored most of the year, but when fall hits, pumpkin finally gets some attention. It's the superstar pie ingredient, of course. But this year the squash has splashed out of the pie shell and into the mainstream -- it's being used to flavor everything from yogurt to ketchup.
As successful as those pumpkin products are, the one that made me wish for more are the Nonni's Biscotti Pumpkin Spice, individually wrapped bars that are a bit sweet, and a whole lot pumpkin-y in flavor. The cookies are entirely delicious and dunkable, a fun and seasonal variation on an Italian favorite. Nonni's biscotti are available at most supermarkets. They can also be purchased in bulk at Costco.