Posted by: acooksca | 09/16/2016

Pintxos in Bilbao


Pintxos at Ekain

We are in Barcelona at a corner bar. Locals drop in on their way home from work for a drink and a salty snack, often a small roll with prosciutto or the classic tapa: a toothpick stacked with pickled peppers, anchovy and a green olive. In Zaragoza we join the nightly stroll between plazas, cafés and bars. One place is slicing locally produced prosciutto, chorizo and cheese. Across the tiny plaza a tavern crammed with bull fight memorabilia features 20 single-bite preparations of seafood such as crisp fried cubes of lightly pickled fresh shark. But when we tell people our destination is Bilbao they consistently say we will find great tapas there, known in the Basque language as “pintxos.” Read More…

Posted by: acooksca | 08/26/2016

In Montana’s most authentic town

Butte Historic Uptown 3

Historic Uptown, Butte

“I never send visitors to Butte…there just isn’t anything there ” says Tad, our bartender at a craft distillery in Missoula, Montana. And yet I had just read an article printed in Sunset Magazine with the title “Montana day trip: Butte, Keep it real in Montana’s most authentic town”. Tad went on to qualify his statement. “No good food or bars, except maybe the one in that old hotel. Just history.” Read More…

Posted by: acooksca | 07/10/2016

Getting the Right Goat

Jenna with Gatsby

Jenna Burns and Gatsby

My neighbor, Marshall, tells me “I never cared for goat meat. It is stringy enough to use as dental floss.” “You didn’t get the right goat” I tell him. Goat is one of the most consumed meats in the (third) world. Ethnic markets in the U.S., even my local Lucky Supermarket on occasion, sells the type of meat that Marshall has had…tough and sinewy. Then there is Boer goat, a hefty breed that when hand-raised and pampered is the Wagyu of goat. The responsibility for nurturing such an animal can be found in the young hands of the 4-H and Future Farmers of America. Last month I attended Contra Costa County Junior Livestock Auction to support their efforts and gain a deeper communion with the food we eat. Read More…

Posted by: acooksca | 07/10/2016

Chinese Jellied Goat (or Lamb)

Jellied Lamb, Chinese 1

Jellied Goat

This classic recipe is one my mother made every year for Chinese New Year and was always a favorite. It is surprisingly rich flavored and easy. Use all the ingredients as specified for the broth that is the key to this preparation. Jellied goat  makes a stylish chilled appetizer and can be made days in advance.

Use a mini loaf pan (2 ½ by 5-inch) or small bowl to chill the jellied meat and allow at least 4 hours in the refrigerator before slicing. Read More…

Posted by: acooksca | 06/10/2016

Old Oakland and the Friday Farmer’s Market

Old Oakland 3

Josh of Urban Village

“The food scene in Oakland is Happenin’ ’” reports Josh at the information booth of the Old Oakland Farmer’s Market. Every Friday the market sprawls for several packed blocks along 9th street offering baked goods, condiments, prepared foods such Roti Roti meats and table upon table of Asian vegetables, this being next to one of the country’s most thriving Chinatowns. Josh works for Urban Village Markets, an association that manages 9 Bay Area farmer’s markets and today he is beaming with pride. “This is the first day of funds from a $50,000 grant I wrote. From now until April, we can give food stamp recipients $5 of tokens to be used exclusively for fresh produce here at the market. The goal is to provide healthy options without cost.” Josh’s enthusiasm and faith is uplifting, like the saving of Old Oakland itself. Read More…

Posted by: acooksca | 06/10/2016

Ong Choy with Garlic and Feta

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Posted by: acooksca | 04/09/2016

Portland’s Veritable Quandary

Veritable Quandry 2

Portland’s V.Q.Restaurant Patio

It is a pleasant spring evening and we sip a rye Manhattan while the sun sets behind Hawthorn Bridge into the broad Willamette River. We are on the patio of Portland’s Veritable Quandary, a favorite of ours for years, awaiting a table for our final meal here. After 45 years, this iconic downtown restaurant will close in July to make room for a new county courthouse.

The V.Q. (as it is affectionately called) is one of those places you feel familiar with from the moment you enter. We pass through a cozy bar filled with the lively banter of locals on our way to one of the intimate dining spaces. A quiet mummer comes from the tiny open kitchen we pass, a reassurance that meals are being carefully created. The competent, even service adds to our sense of belonging. Read More…

Posted by: acooksca | 03/17/2016

Bohemian Life in 1914 San Francisco


Risotto a la Milanese

Clarence E. Edwords was a great chronicler life in San Francisco at the beginning of the 20th century. In his book Bohemian San Francisco – Its Restaurants and Their Recipes, The Elegant Art of Dining (pub. 1914 in S.F.) he wrote, “San Franciscans, both residential and transient, are a pleasure-loving people, and dining out is a distinctive feature of their pleasure.”

Prior to the morning of April 18, 1906, when a devastating earthquake and fire leveled most of The City, 100 restaurants specialized in “some particular dish or some peculiar mode of preparation” to tickle the “fastidious palates of a city of gourmets.” After that day, San Francisco would never quite regain the same dusk-to-dawn revelry Edwords talks about.

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Posted by: acooksca | 02/21/2016

The State of Crab in San Francisco

Crab Louie at Salito's

Crab Louie at Salito’s

In two words: Not Good (if you are a commercial crabber) but Not Bad (if you are a diner.) Domoic acid, a neurotoxin that can cause seizures or death in humans, began showing up in California crabs in April after unusually warm waters caused colossal algae blooms. The season’s planned opening date in mid-November was canceled for everyone…individual fishermen and the commercial crabbers alike.

On Feb. 12, 2016, the California Department of Health announced that sport fishing for the crustaceans was permitted south of Point Reyes. Yet a week later we saw hundreds of dry crab traps stacked in a field at Shelter Cove and even more in the parking lot of Half Moon Bay’s commercial fishing pier. The season remains closed for industry fishermen. Read More…

Posted by: acooksca | 09/05/2015

Walking the Rose Granite Coast of Brittany

Rose Granite Coast, Brittany

Rose Granite Coast, Brittany

There are few places in the world where granite boulders meet the beach and sea making for a spectacular coastline. The Seychelles, Virgin Gorda and Brittany’s Rose Coast are several. Pink and black speckled granite is used here for houses, park benches, street markers and about anything requiring stone in this gorgeous section of Brittany’s north coast. But to see these sea and wind sculpted boulders in their natural state is as breathtaking as it is easy to walk the immaculately maintained trail. Read More…

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