Friday, May 22, 2015

RED REPORT


The Douro Valley, aka. Paradise.                                     Photo by Jolene Thym
BEFORE I FILL my glass with some of the gorgeous summer whites, I have to share details about two terrific and less-familiar reds that you just might want to track down for your next barbecue.
2011 Esporao Reserva Red, $24.99
After visiting the Douro region of Portugal, I fell in love with Portuguese table wines. The region is famous for it's port wines -- which are outstanding -- but the table wines that they craft from some of those very same grapes are nothing short of stellar. Esporao, which grows a dozen different varietals all over the country, pulls together a handful of their top red grapes to craft this Cabernet-forward wine. It's deep, full, stout and spicy -- a great wine to serve with non-spicy meats such as garlic-roasted pork chops.
Santa Carolina 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, $10.99
Talk about a steal. This super-concentrated, chocolate-cherry-vanilla Cabernet comes from Maipo Valley in Chile, which sits in the shadow of the Andes. It's deep, full and silky; a wine to serve with big flavors such as Italian dishes, lamb, or even stinky cheeses. This is a perfect wine to buy by the case. Sidenote: Santa Carolina's 2012 Carmenere is equally good at $20 per bottle.

 

Monday, May 18, 2015

FAST, FRESH, FROZEN

FRESH, ECO-FRIENDLY and sustainable are not the kind of words you generally find on a frozen food meal -- unless it's from Artisan Bistro, a company that's just added a line of heat-and-eat seafood bowls to it's lineup of frozen entrees. Love these!
The bowls, made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients, feature wild-caught Alaskan salmon and cod, or wild pink shrimp -- all sustainable and a bit more tasty than mainstream options.
As important as all of the food politics are, the primary reason these bowls get a thumbs-up is that they are super-healthy little meals that deliver good, fresh flavor.  
Of the four seafood options, my favorites were the Orange Miso Cod Fish with snap peas and brown rice and the Wild Alaskan Salmon in Dijon Sauce with green beans and peppers. The bowls are about $5.39 at Whole Foods.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

PURE SASS

SINCE SAUCES OFTEN languish in my cupboard for years, I am very careful about what I say "yes" to. A few weeks ago, a Santa Cruz entrepreneur handed me a bottle and asked me to give it a try. I did. Wow! Zena's SASS sauces are a big win.
The peanut- and almond-based, Asian-style sauces deliver a serious hot kick along with a great balance of flavors reminiscent of peanut noodle salads. 
The sauces can be used to sauce hot noodles or cooked vegetables, or stand in for dressing on a cold cabbage salad. I love that they're not too sweet or too salty, and they're also vegan, gluten-free and low-glycemic. The sauces come in two versions; regular and HOTT!  Find them at Mollie Stone's, New Leaf Markets, New Season's Markets, Piazza's Fine Foods, Gene's Fine Food, Draeger's and other markets on the West Coast for $7.99-$9.99.




Monday, May 4, 2015

CUT THE CLUTTER

SPRING IS TIME to clean, especially the kitchen drawers and cupboards. It's time to downsize all that stuff we don't use -- and upsize on the gadgets and accessories that we use and love. On my list of what to lose are mismatched bowls, chipped plates, a food dehydrator that burns everything I put in it, and a salad spinner that smells moldy no matter how many ways I try to clean it.
Here are a few tools on my UPSIZE list:
Ergo Chef Duo Tongs
These heavy-duty tongs are a huge win. They are made of thick stainless steel that won't fail under a heavy load, and they have a sturdy spring that makes them easy to close. As an added bonus, they are half silicone, half metal, which makes them perfect to use for every job -- including tossing food in a non-stick pan. The tongs come in both 12-inch and 9-inch sizes.  $11.99 - $16.99 at www.ergochef.com
SpinCycle Salad Spinner
Every other salad spinner I've encountered is outfitted with a large round bowl that's difficult to store because it's so bulky. This one is big enough, but it's flat, which makes it easy to stack, and the basket is just the right size, allowing plenty of space for the water that spins out. $25 at amazon.com.
VeggieSteam Vegetable Steamer
There's nothing wrong with those collapsible metal steamers that you drop into a pan, but this is the steamer you want when you're steaming food for a crowd. It fits into a 10-inch pan and comes with a platform, basket and lid, all made from heat-resistant and microwave-safe silicone. $19.95 at Sur La Table.

Friday, April 24, 2015

#SAUVBLANCDAY

SPRING IN A glass is the best way to describe a perfect Sauvignon Blanc. Depending on where grapes are grown, aromas range from orange blossoms to fresh-cut grass, peaches, grapefruit, barely ripe green grapes, bell peppers and juicy ripe pears.
Unlike so many other varietals,Sauvignon Blanc has a multitude of personalities, which means that nearly everyone can find a favorite. Some are ultra-floral and a bit sweet. Others are bright and acidic. But my ultimate favorite sport the character of this gorgeous 2014 Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. I love that it's bright and grassy without being too dry and vegetal. Serve this kind of wine with roast chicken with a side asparagus, pesto pasta, herby fish or Asian-style noodles with cilantro.
 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

MACARON MADNESS

Photo courtesy Hazy Lane Studios
PEOPLE OFTEN ASK me if I get to pick the topics I write about in my column, Taste-Off, that runs in the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and a multitude of other daily newspapers. The answer is yes -- but my editor has the power of veto.
There are times when I'm OK with a veto -- but when I pitched the idea of trying macarons, I was thrilled when she agreed. For the feature I got to try a large handful of colorful, sweet and chewy macarons from various sources. Some were good. Some were great!
The biggest problem with that story was sourcing product from my home base in Fremont, CA. I couldn't get my hands on good French macarons, which readers tell me are "IT." Nor could I even think about tasting the efforts of the hundreds of bakeries that dot the Bay Area.
Understanding that, one courageous baker reached out after the article was published. She hand-delivered a simply gorgeous selection of macarons that are spot-on in both appearance and flavor. Unlike the top-rated Miette samples that have beautiful flavor but a rustic, non-festive appearance... and unlike the colorful but just a bit too-sweet macarons from Tout Sweet by Yigit Pura... these are exactly right.
They're from Creme Si Bon in San Ramon, a bakery that makes all kinds of items -- but shines in the macaroon category. What makes these so stellar is the white chocolate ganache filling that are especially bright and authentic; the green tea tastes like green tea, the passion fruit like passion fruit.
If you're in the area, treat yourself! Creme Si Bon is located at 192 Marketplace, San Ramon. www.cremesibon.com