Monday, April 14, 2014


CHECK OUT THIS simple order of sashimi served up at one of the multitude of izakayas in Okinawa. Here in the states, this kind of selection of sashimi displayed with this kind of flair is hard to find -- and even harder to afford. In Okinawa, it's the norm, and it's cheap.
This was just one dish in an astounding parade of dishes -- avocado salads, marinated and grilled salmon, tempura, yakitori, grilled lamb, steamed clams and more awamori than people should drink. Total price for the meal was $25 per head.


HERE'S A PICTURE of some of my latest payola -- a present from Seattle's Best Coffee. I love it! It's the only monogrammed mug I own. Of course the reason Seattle's Best went to the trouble of making the cup for me was to convince me to say great things about their coffee.
Newsflash: No bribery was needed. Seattle's Best is impressive. The company uses top-notch beans that are lightly roasted to bring out that sweet, nutty flavor -- if you brew it right. I also got a chance to sample their K-cups to be used in Keurig brew machines. They are good. If you are picky about your cup of joe, these are the best K-cups I have ever had.
PAYOLA, PART II: Next to that cup is what may be the prettiest electric kettle on the market. It's extra-big, durable and has a nice clear strip on the front so you can see how full the kettle is -- and how close it is to the boil. Shape and size of kettles vary, and which one is best is entirely subjective. But this Krups Silver Art Teakettle gets my vote for being the most handsome -- and efficient. The kettle is $79.99

Saturday, April 12, 2014


ENOUGH WITH THE light, acidic Italian wines that are just this side of sour. That style of wine has its place and it's light, refreshing and food-friendly, but personally, I find big, bold Italian reds like the 2011 Modus Toscano far more pleasing and enjoyable.
A blend of Sangiovese, Cab and Merlot, this big , elegant Tuscan wine is rich in every way. It's the color of crushed blueberries and has deep, chewy tannins,  beautiful cherry and plum aromas and that vanilla finish you get with a well made red.
It's bold enough to be served with just about any kind of cheese, and perfect to serve alongside a plate of meaty pasta. The wine, about $25, can be found at most wine stores in the U.S. It is bottled near Florence by Ruffino, an import company based in Rutherford.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tea Time

SINCE I ENJOY tea, I am often on the lookout for the kind of tea magic that happens when hot water meets tea leaves. Last week, it happened not once, but four times as I tasted through the newest selection of Pukka Organic, including rooibos and ginseng, aromatic chamomile tea dressed up with rose and lavender, and lemon-ginger-Manuka honey. 
The teas, made in the UK, are powerful flavor statements that deliver giant hits of aroma and flavor. The rose and lavender literally permeate the room with their beautiful aroma. In addition to their sensory appeal, these teas are carefully crafted in order to boost wellness. Notes on each box suggest some of the possible ayervedic benefits of drinking the tea. If you're looking for a great cup of tea, check these out. Find them online at for about $6 for a box of 20 bags.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


BETTASNAX BISCOTTI CHIPS sound pretty good, but it turns out that they are way better than good. These extra-crunchy bites of toasted biscotti are what I call the perfect snack food. They're barely sweet and so packed with nuts and dried fruit that they're actually good for you -- yet they are so much like a cookie that they can stand-in as dessert.
The chips come in three flavors, S'mores, Fruit and Nut, and Original. I loved all three, but the fruit and nut did not get shared. Ooops. I crunched through half the bag before I realized that I needed to stop.The company that makes them is small and hasn't scored great distribution, so you need to order these online. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


IF YOU LOVE WINE as much as I do, then it only makes sense to celebrate Spring by spending a day or two discovering the wines of Livermore Valley at the region's 6th Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend March 29-30. 
Tickets are just $40 if you get them in advance, and they offer the chance to visit more wineries than you could possibly visit, plus barrel tastes. If you like what you taste, you can also buy the wine before it's bottled. 
The list of participating wineries is exhaustive, but some of my personal highlights include Concannon Vineyard, Fenestra Winery, Garre, Mitchell Katz, Murrieta's Well and Wente. 
If you decide to to last-minute, tickets are $45. Don't forget a valid ID. Home base for the event is at 3585 Greenville Road, Livermore. For more info, go to