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Wednesday, 25 July 2012 15:43

Pocket Dictionary of Ethnic Foods

Pocket Dictionary of Ethnic Foodsby Daniel G. Blum


Word Craft Publishing

ISBN 0-9754894-3-7, LCCN 2004106150Soft cover, 224 pages, $9.95

 pocket-dictionary of ethnic foods

Who hasn’t seen phrases on a restaurant menu that seemed familiar, yet not entirely so. Béarnaise and béchamel are both classic French sauces, but are you sure which one you would want on a steak and which one might be appropriate for seafood?

Marsala is a dark, sweet Italian wine. Masala can be either a spice mixture or a general category of Indian dry curry with a spicy sauce. While they do sound alike, they certainly don’t taste alike.

Pad kana or pad prik? They’re both Thai dishes but which one is likely to require a bottle of Singha to put out the fire?

While dining out can be an exciting adventure, it shouldn’t have to be just because you’re worried that you’ll get stuck with something you didn’t really want. Or, worse yet, that you’ll order for tablemates and have them waiting for you to visit the restroom so that they’ll have opportunity to hide some of your wretched selection in a napkin and insist later that they really did like their dinners.

Daniel Blum’s “Pocket Dictionary of Ethnic Foods” will go a long way to save readers from such disasters. Just about the size of a checkbook, it easily fits into a purse or a jacket pocket and contains 1400 brief definitions. Of course, it could also be useful in the home, but it’s in the restaurant setting that critical mistakes can be made. It saves diners from having to admit they’re not as knowledgeable as they’d like to be in front of difficult waiters. It also allows double checking the explanations given by uninformed waiters who try to bluff their customers.

At ten bucks, this little book is invaluable.


--reviewed by Dan Clarke

Wednesday, 25 July 2012 14:47

The San Diego Restaurant Cookbook

The San Diego Restaurant CookbookRecipes from America’s Finest CityBy Ingrid Croce

Avalanche Records and Books, 2005

ISBN 978-0976680147

271 pages including index $29.95


The author dedicated this book to the daring restaurateurs who have placed their hearts and fortunes on the line to build their city’s exciting and vibrant dining scene.

I like to cook, share meals with others and look at cookbooks for new recipes. Once or twice I have read a cookbook entirely. In recent years San Diego has been the home of my daughter, son-in-law and grandson so I visit there often. The editor/publisher said, “I have a cookbook that you might enjoy reading and reviewing.” “OK let me see it” was my reply. Maybe the book would help us find a good restaurant or specialty food shop? Might it have a recipe from a restaurant dish we had enjoyed?

What should a cookbook do? The book should provide good recipes explained well. Drawings or photos or the ingredients, utensils, process and the finished product are helpful. It helps that the book presents a style of food or regional specialties. Sometimes a good one features the cooking of a famous chef or school of cooking.

Good and interesting cookbooks might be printed and sold for a good cause or a charity. I search for a copy of the Ida Grove Farmers and Swineherds Auxiliary cookbook frequently but unrequitedly. You know the kind produced on a mimeo machine by one of the members and assembled on one of those snap rings that opens for the holes in the pages. Who could refuse a chance to see real Iowan farmers’ wives’ recipes? Pork chops, summer sausage, pound cake or head cheese anyone? How about a book of the recipes of the various home cafes or eats places that graced small town America before major leagues expanded?

This book is organized by appetizers, first course, soup, salad, pasta, fish, crustaceans, poultry, meat, dessert, breakfast and brunch, growers and vendors. The author informs us of the background of the chef or the restaurant which is the source of the recipe. The recipes are the restaurants and Ms. Croce tells us so that we make the adjustments in amounts for the home kitchen. Many of the recipes are rather appealing. Their scope across many ethnic and American styles of food illustrates the variety that one finds and enjoys in San Diego’s restaurants.

Unfortunately, this volume, which gives the hope for much, delivers less. This book has many recipes and some of them read well and might be good to make and eat. There is a dearth of photos that matter in a cookbook -- pictures of ingredients or what the finished product should look like when completed. The book is replete with photos. There are photos of restaurant front doors, dining rooms, tables, staff, chefs and even a stove with pots and pans on it. However, few of them are of the food that using the recipes would produce. There are good photos of outside scenes of San Diego and nice shots of view from restaurants. Of the more than 100 photos in the book less than two dozen of them show any food or product cooked or raw. When photos of them are in the book they most often introduce one of the sections: poultry, pasta, meat, dessert, etc. Why are not the photos of the foods those for which you have printed the recipes?

The San Diego Restaurant Cookbook is a good looking volume, which provides insights into what is available in San Diego’s restaurants.



--review by Mike Petersen

Monday, 28 May 2012 12:01

LA's Game Changing Culinary Gold Rush

LA Sidewalk Diners  lacvb90 SMALLA popular sidewalk cafe. There's never been a better time to eat well in Los Angeles. LA faces the Pacific Rim and straddles the gateway to Latin America; and it has long been a destination due to its weather, topography and opportunity. Those diverse groups from distant lands have all helped to weave a collective culinary fabric that makes LA one of the most exciting places to dine on Earth. Northern California had the Gold Rush in the mid 1800s. Now the rush is on to be a part of LA's culinary scene, with chefs, artisans, brewers, coffee roasters and more descending on our metro area and driving our flavorful cause forward.

A big reason for LA's rise has been the concentration of international cuisines. Los Angeles boasts the largest populations of Korean, Chinese, Mexican, Thai and Persian people outside of their respective motherlands, leading to vibrant gastronomic pockets, complete with foreign signage, that could easily lead to people think they were overseas. Other cities might preach "melting pot," but we have unique enclaves like Thai Town, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, and the Sino-centric San Gabriel Valley that deliver regional specialties, some of which don't exist anywhere else in the U.S.

Even though LA is at its heart a desert, it's also an area with rich agricultural history, and that goes well beyond the once vibrant orange groves. Surrounding Southern California counties like Ventura and Santa Barbara provide LA chefs with a seasonal stream of produce and livestock that puts the rest of the country to shame. And they're not just settling for staid plating. They're adding imagination and creativity to complement that creamy avocado, crisp lettuce, or heritage breed pork. Local, seasonal and sustainable are no longer aspirational keywords for LA chefs. They're the baseline for a more exciting, fresher way of eating. They're also the basis for close-knit relationships between chefs and farmers that yield invaluable collaboration and frequent farm-to-table dinners. Yes, farmers are celebrities in LA in the era of Big Agro. Imagine that.

Of course, food doesn't speak for itself, and Los Angeles has cultivated its share of advocates, perhaps none more influential than Wolfgang Puck. The charismatic chef set the Sunset Strip on culinary fire in the early '80s Wolfgang Puck at 2010 Academy Awards 220px-Oscar Official Chef Wolfgang PuckChef Puck at Academy Awards. by opening Spago and has since built an empire that now impacts cities like Dallas and Minneapolis. He recently retooled the iconic dining room at The Hotel Bel-Air. And this May, he accepts the James Beard Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award in New York City. Clearly, Puck isn't slowing down, and those on the East Coast are finally realizing what we already knew about his outsized talents.

Puck isn't the only local chef earning national attention. For the fourth straight year, Food & Wine magazine selected an LA toque as one of their 10 Best New Chefs in America. The Spice Table chef-owner Bryant Ng, who cooks the kind of pan-Asian food that captures the imagination of so many Angelenos, is their latest pick.

LA is on a hot streak, and they're building all of this buzz without relying on old-school methods for measuring success like the Michelin Guide. Out here in Southern California, they're innovating and setting trends and never looking back.


(TravMedia.com contributed to this article.)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in the Los Angeles area can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

The popularity of California wine, fresh produce and regional cuisine continues to expand worldwide. For travelers to the state, one of the best ways to discover what's new in fresh seasonal cooking and dining is to visit California's wine country. Local restaurants focus on pairing regional wines with natural, farm-grown ingredients, often sourced from community farmers' markets. These markets reflect the abundance of produce available in the state, as California is America's top agricultural state, producing 400 plant and animal commodities.

There are more than 400 certified farmers' markets throughout California, many of them in the state's wine regions. A complete listing is available at http://www.cafarmersmarkets.com. Mirroring the growth in California wineries, California farmers' markets have continued to rise in popularity over the past three decades. Professional chefs shop alongside domestic consumers, looking for field-ripened fruits and vegetables, fragrant flowers, fresh fish, artisan breads and pastries, plus delicacies such as local olive oils and cheeses. Beginning in 2000, California wine can now be sold at qualified California Certified Farmers' Markets.

Restaurants and consumers alike are aware that more flavorful dishes can be created with heirloom vegetables and products, grown, raised or harvested with the same care that is put into their preparation. Food from local sources also travels from the farm to the plate in a timely manner. The freshness of the ingredients becomes part of the feature of the dish and supports the sustainable concept of "green dining" in that less fossil fuel is used to transport products from the farm to the kitchen.

Illustrating the allure of California's wine country and cuisine, six regional winery associations highlight popular restaurants and farmers' markets to visit within their locales. These attractions traverse California's wine and agricultural regions, from Central California's Paso Robles, north to Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, and beyond San Francisco to Lodi, Mendocino and Sonoma County.

LodiPhillips Farms bakeryPhillips Farms serves home-baked pies.Located within the Delta area east of San Francisco, Lodi has been a major winegrowing region since the 1850s. From wine and cherries to nuts and asparagus, Lodi is part of the San Joaquin Valley, the garden basket of California.

The 18-week Thursday night farmers' market hosted in downtown Lodi is not just for residents. Visitors and locals alike find locally grown, fresh produce, fruits, flowers and herbs at the Lodi farmers' market. School Street Bistro is known for being a local vintner hotspot. Winemakers catch up with friends and relatives over a glass of wine before heading to the market to pick up their supply of produce.

The chef at Wine & Roses Restaurant on the property of the historic Wine & Roses Inn prepares fresh seasonal cuisine highlighting the abundant agriculture of the Lodi region.

Another legend in Lodi, celebrating more than 50 years of producing seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers, is Phillips Farm; a staple for quality locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Many first-time visitors are drawn to the farm stand for the café or the wine but return time and time again for the pie, made fresh in the café from fruit grown on the farm!

Mendocino CountyMendocino County is rooted in agriculture. Since the 1850s, the region has developed a personality influenced by the values of independent family farmers, their respect for the land and dedication to quality. Many families have lived for two or more generations on their land. These legacy farmers deeply appreciate the connection between man and earth. Mendocino County is also at the forefront of the sustainable, organic, Demeter certified Biodynamic, and Fish Friendly Farming movements.

This off-the-beaten path wine region offers many opportunities for adventure and discovery along with culinary delights such as local grass-fed meats, local grains, a coastal fishing community in Fort Bragg, apple and pear farms, plus artisan cheese, honey, bread, salt, and olive oil producers. Friendly, rural charm abounds with winemakers and chefs who are more than happy to stop, relax and chat. For elegant, upscale dining look to Patrona in Ukiah, Table 128 at the Boonville Hotel, Café Beaujolais, MacCallum House and 955 Ukiah in the storybook town of Mendocino and many diversions along the coast such as the all vegetarian The Ravens at the Stanford Inn, The Little River Inn, Stevenswood and farm-to-table dinners at the Glendeven Inn. Look for casual, local-food inspired dining at Ukiah's OCO Time sushi, Mendo Bistro and Piaci Pizza and Pub in Fort Bragg and the Purple Thistle in Willits. If you find yourself in Point Arena, at the southern coastal end, do not miss pastries at the French-inspired Franny's Cup and Saucer.

Mendocino County also hosts nine farmers' markets. For a complete list, visit www.mcfarm.org.

Monterey CountyFrom five-star restaurants to award-winning wines, Monterey County is a gourmet food lovers' paradise. Endowed with the seafood bounty of the Monterey Bay, a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables from the Salinas Valley, and the fine wines that flow from vineyards throughout the region, local chefs craft culinary masterpieces not easily forgotten. Wine-themed nights occur at several restaurants throughout the county. Tarpy's Roadhouse celebrates "Wine-Down Wednesdays," Montrio hosts Half-Price wine nights each Sunday, and the Rio Grill adds a $5 glass of a nightly wine feature onto the meal every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The Sardine Factory's wine list, featuring over 30,000 bottles, has received ongoing recognition and shouldn't be missed. Christopher's Restaurant in Carmel is a must-stop for anyone wanting to explore Monterey County wines.

Fresh agriculture products and other gems of the area can be found at numerous farmers' markets conducted weekly throughout the county. Old Monterey Marketplace is the home each Tuesday afternoon for a Certified Farmer's Market and the Monterey Peninsula College's lower parking lot also boasts fresh produce and flowers each Thursday afternoon. A weekend market that features 60 vendors is available in Salinas every Saturday from June through mid-November.

Paso RoblesA trip to Paso Robles Wine Country would not be complete without tasting the culinary expertise in the region, where the best of California cuisine is paired with local Paso Robles wines. Bistro Laurent, Paris Dining with Andre and Panolivo restaurants feature a French influence in their menu offerings. California and Mediterranean inspired cuisine distinguishes Villa Creek, Matthews at the Airport, McPhees and Odyssey World Café. For those who love Italian-inspired foods, there is Buona Tavola. Deborah's Dining Room at Justin Winery is open nightly.

Paso Robles chefs are dedicated to using local, fresh ingredients and source many items at farmer's markets or from local, organic farms. Some chefs even use by-products from the vineyards and wineries to create marinades and smoked meats. From the vineyards to wineries and into the kitchens, Paso Robles is focused on sustainable programs to bring fresh, local foods and wines to residents and guests of this thriving community.

A Certified Farmers' Markets in the Paso Robles downtown city park fosters this rural connection on Tuesdays and Saturdays. A small, 50-acre organic family farm east of Paso Robles, Windrose Farm hosts a farm stand that gives guests the chance to hand pick veggies and fruits.

Santa Cruz CountyIn the Santa Cruz Mountains, there is a marriage of high quality wine, local produce, farmers' markets and exceptional cuisine. The combination makes for an extraordinary culinary experience. Many restaurants in the Santa Cruz Mountains follow "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" as part of their wizardry. Several with this focus are Theo's, in Soquel; Michaels on Main, in Soquel; Manressa, in Los Gatos; and Sent Sovi in Saratoga. Michael's on Main incorporates organic produce from local farms into their menu and even their desserts!

Sent Sovi in Saratoga is another well-known supporter of the farming community. "We use as many local products as possible. I try to source as much as I can from within 100 miles or so of the restaurant. There is a farmer in Sonoma who sends me ducks by UPS. Another just grows tomatoes during the summer. I want to bring that quality and passion to the table, along with a focus on local and smaller wineries. They go hand in hand," said owner Josiah Sloan. Manressa Restaurant focuses on locally grown products, and finds a nice fit pairing them with regional wines. "Some of the finest wines produced in the Santa Cruz Mountains grace the tables at Manresa," says chef David Kinch. "We are fortunate to have such a vital winegrowing region right in our own backyard." Growers offer their products at Certified Farmer's Markets in the town of Santa Cruz and nearby in Aptos, Felton and Watsonville on almost every day of the week. The central market in downtown Santa Cruz, at Lincoln and Cedar Streets, is held every Wednesday.

Sonoma CountySonoma County is a dining paradise. It's not only a premium winegrowing region, but also a prime diverse agricultural region, with artisan cheese makers, an array of small farmers and locally raised meats. The county's restaurants feature the bounty of the region with fresh, local and often organic offerings. Sonoma lamb, salmon from Bodega Bay, and Petaluma duck appear on many restaurant menus, while dessert might feature succulent in-season peaches from Dry Creek Peach and Produce. For elegant upscale dining, restaurants such as Cyrus and Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, and Farmhouse Inn in Forestville, rival any in the country. Casual yet refined independent restaurants abound, with gems such as Zin, Ravenous, Manzanita, Ralph's Bistro and Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar within walking distance of Healdsburg's town square. Sonoma offers Deuce, The Girl & the Fig, The General's Daughter, Carneros Bistro, and La Sallette, among many others, while prime Santa Rosa offerings include Zazu, Syrah and Willi's Wine Bar.

For a list of Sonoma County farmers' markets, visit www.sonoma-county.org/agcomm/farmers_mkts.htm.


(Wine Institute sources contributed to this article which also appears in the Home Cooking section of Taste California Travel.)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of thousands of lodging and dining options nearby to places mentioned above can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.



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