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Tuesday, 29 September 2020 17:57

San Francisco Near Top for Vegetarians

TASTE News Service, September 29, 2020 - With Oct. 1 being World Vegetarian Day and Nov. 1 being World Vegan Day, and with synthetic meat products receiving a sales bump due to COVID-19 meat shortages, the personal-finance website WalletHub has released its report on 2020's Best Cities for Vegans & Vegetarians, as well as accompanying videos.

Monday, 15 August 2016 15:23

Best San Francisco Restaurants in Hotels

Chef Michael Rotondo at Parallel 37 PicmonkeyChef Michael Rotondo of Parallel 37

TASTE News Service, August 16, 2016 - You're headed to San Francisco for its iconic views and signature swagger. The rumors suggest there's nothing like an epic helicopter tour over the bay followed by drinks in Central Market . . . and the rumors are true.

Tuesday, 08 September 2015 17:24

Eat Out, Eat Well

Eat Out Eat Well book cover Picmonkey

By Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE


2015 American Diabetes Association

ISBN: 978-1-58040-542-3

Soft Cover, 574 pages $17.95


From this book’s title one might assume the subject was about high living—a topic familiar to the experience of a food and wine writer. Closer inspection reveals that it is published by the American Diabetes Association and in fact the cover also explains it is “The guide to eating healthy in any restaurant.” Though ostensibly targeting readers dealing with diabetes, Eat Out, Eat Well seems to offer reasonable advice to that presumably much larger audience just looking for healthier ways to eat.

Organized in three main sections—healthy restaurant eating in general, American fare and ethnic fare—Warshaw’s book follows a logical exposition and is presented in easy-to-read format. Categories of foods such as appetizers, salads and entrees are segmented into sections such as “Health Busters” and “Healthier Bets.” Sometimes the alternatives are broken down into a finer sort under definitions such as “Light ‘N’ Healthy,” “Hearty ‘N’ Healthy” and “Lower Carb ‘N’ Healthy.” Within these sections are listed many, many dishes served by chain restaurants in the U.S. The name of each dish, as defined by the restaurant, is included, as are details such as size of portion served, calories, carbohydrates and sodium content.

Knowing that one portion of the Charbroiled Chicken Nachos at Baja Fresh Mexican Grill is 2020 calories, a slight saving over the Charbroiled Steak Nachos (2120 calories), may not be critical, but one order of the Steak with Flour Tortillas Fajitas from that same company contains just 1240 calories, making it seem a reasonable option. The author has included definitions of menu terms found in ethnic restaurants, as well as lists of “red flags” and “green flags,” which guide the conscientious diner away from hazards toward healthier options. A companion mobile app is also available.

For those who dine infrequently, if at all, in chain operations, Eat Out, Eat Well could still have value. Scanning the nutritional aspects of many offerings from these restaurant operations, a reader might take some comfort in beginning to understand general rules that could be applied toward ordering in single-proprietor establishments or cooking at home.

--reviewed by Maria Olivares


LosOlivosCafeWineMerchantInterior2010 PicmonkeyInterior at the Los Olivos Cafe

October 24, 2013 Los Olivos, Santa Barbara County, California – The Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café has been named one of the “Top 100 restaurants with the most notable wine lists in the USA” by diners.

Owned by Sam and Shawnda Marmorstein, The Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café was also the winner of the 2012 Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence”— one of only 878 restaurants in the world that received this coveted ‘two wine glass’ award.

Of the latest Opentable accolade, Sam Marmorstein said, “We are so proud to be honored as the only restaurant in Santa Barbara County; and one of only 21 restaurants in California out of 100 nationwide to be recognized this year. This is our second year in a row to be named to this prestigious list.” The Opentable award reflects the opinions of more than 5 million reviews for more than 15,000 restaurants between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013. (entire winners list)shawndasam marmorstein--owners of Los Olivos Cafe PicmonkeySam and Shawnda Marmorstein

The casual yet elegant Café (as seen in the 2004 award-winning movie Sideways) serves fresh, local wine-friendly cuisine for lunch and dinner daily. The Wine Merchant features over 500 local and international vintages and is the exclusive distributor of owner Sam Marmorstein’s Bernat Wines.


Editor's note: Planning a visit to Santa Barbara County? In Taste California Travel's Resource Directory you'll find a link to the website of the Los Olivos Café, as well as links to the sites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as those of Central Coast wineries and craft beer specialists.



Saturday, 19 October 2013 11:06

National Magazines Salute San Francisco Options

 Oct. 18, 2013 – San Francisco’s travel industry awaits autumn like Hollywood looks forward to the Academy Awards. The November issues of top publications such as Saveur, Conde Nast Traveler and Esquire include prized lists of top destinations, hotels, restaurants, chefs and other attributes. San Francisco frequently scores well in these lists and 2013 is no exception. Saveur Nov Cover Page Picmonkey

In the November issue of Saveur, San Francisco was awarded Experts' Choice: Best Markets & Artisan Shops in the magazine’s Culinary Travel Awards. Saveur’s panelists singled out San Francisco as the world’s best city for food markets and artisan shops not only for the depth and breadth of its offerings, but for the level of support the city’s growers, bakers and makers receive from residents as well.

“There’s a sense in San Francisco that people are truly interested in learning about where their ingredients are coming from and how they are treated,” says Culinary Travel Awards panelist Kerrin Rousset. “And there are so many passionate artisans who are excited to discuss these products with them.”

The editors added, “There’s nothing quite like visiting a San Francisco market and learning from a passionate vendor the subtle differences among strawberry varieties, tasting local olive oils, or sampling the bountiful fruits and vegetables from the abundant farms that surround the city.”

Since 1994 Saveur has been dedicated to global culinary travel — featuring the people, recipes, ingredients and stories behind the most amazing food cultures. In honor of their 20th anniversary, Saveur launched the Culinary Travel Awards to recognize those who put cuisine and culture at the forefront of the travel experience.

Also in their November 2013 issue, Condé Nast Traveler named San Francisco as one of the Top 10 Cities in the United States in the 2013 Readers' Choice Awards.

According to the magazine, “San Francisco nabbed third place with its ‘world of culture’ and ‘class.’ ‘I left my heart…’ said one reader, which may have something to do with the "great art museums, opera, food, symphony and beautiful neighborhoods."

A new category was added this year, the Top 10 Hotels in San Francisco. Honor went to the St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, Orchard Hotel, Fairmont, Hotel Vitale, Argonaut Hotel and Orchard Garden Hotel.

The Top 25 Hotels in Northern California included Cavallo Point and Inn Above Tide, both across San Francisco Bay in Sausalito.

The Condé Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Survey began in 1988. This year, 46,476 responses were tabulated to determine the winners. Michael Chiarello and the Coqueta Team PicmonkeyMichael Chiarello and the team at his new Coqueta restaurant at Pier 5 and The Embarcadero

Esquire magazine unveiled its 2013 list of Best New Restaurants in its November issue.  Esquire Food and Travel Correspondent John Mariani, who has eaten his way across the country for nearly three decades, singled out a San Francisco chef and his new restaurant, naming Michael Chiarello of Coqueta, “Chef of the Year.”

“Back in the 1980s, Michael Chiarello pioneered what came to be known as Cal-Ital cuisine (that’s Cal-ifor-nia and Ital-y) at Tra Vigne, his Napa Valley restaurant,” Mariani wrote. “He went on to become one of the most consistently rewarding TV chefs, so much so that he disappeared from restaurants for a while. With nothing more to prove, Chiarello has turned his attention to the traditional foods of Spain, whose tapas bars and restaurantes inspired Coqueta, now open on the Embarcadero. For it, and for decades of innovative, irresistible food, Chiarello is Esquire’s Chef of the Year.”

Of Chiarello’s Coqueta, Mariani wrote “The shadowy waterfront place has a big hearted buzz, with chef Michael Chiarello popping in and out of the kitchen to say hello to regulars and pose for smart-phone photos with newcomers.”

Editor's note: Planning a visit to the San Francisco Bay Area? In Taste California Travel's Resource Directory you'll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to craft beer specialists and nearby wineries.

Wednesday, 07 November 2012 17:22

Sacramento Named America's Farm-to-Fork Capital

In an effort to foster community pride, celebrate regional farming, and to create further demand for the region as a culinary tourism destination, the Sacramento Region is laying claim to being "America's Farm-to-Fork Capital" and made the announcement at a press conference on October 31, 2012.

Sacramento is positioned to claim this identity because no major city in America is more centrally located amid such a diverse range of high-quality farms, ranches and vineyards.Sacto Farm to Fork Announcement PicmonkeyMayor Kevin Johnson and Sacramento area chefs announce Farm-to-Fork program.

"This recognition as America's Farm-to-Fork Capital isn't something that this region needs to grow into because we've been walking this walk for decades," said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. "It is part of who we are and this is our opportunity to embrace that identity, celebrate it locally, and champion it to the rest of the world."

Sacramento is the capital city of the largest producing state of agriculture in the nation and, locally, 70 percent of the region's land is agricultural, forest or other open space. Additionally, the region contains 7,000 to 8,000 acres of boutique farms and provides numerous public sales platforms at more than 50 regional farmers markets, many of which are year-round fixtures.

In fact, Sacramento is home to the largest "Certified Farmers' Market" in California and offers the most ethnically diversified market in both produce offerings and customer demographics.

Local restaurants utilize the abundance of regionally-grown products to create a Farm-to-Fork freshness that's unparalleled in this country. While many local farms ship their products across the country — a process that can take days — regional restaurants can pick up fresh product in the morning and serve it to patrons for lunch and dinner.

"We buy blueberries from Stockton, lamb from Dixon, lavender from Placerville, fresh fish from Sloughhouse and broccoli and cauliflower from Sacramento," said Randall Selland, owner of The Kitchen, Ella and Selland's Market. "There is no other place in the United States that grows and distributes more food for consumers than the Sacramento region does."

Aside from local restaurants, regional farmers provide products to establishments across the United States. Superior Farms in Dixon provides product to restaurants in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Snake River Farms beef, which is raised at VanVleck Ranch in eastern Sacramento County, is distributed locally at Corti Bros. Market and nationally in San Francisco, New York, Denver, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Silva Family Farms, located in Yuba City, ships walnuts to New Jersey, Tennessee, Washington, Philadelphia, Dubai, Turkey, China, Korea and Spain.

On the heels of this proclamation is an announcement from Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau (SCVB) President & CEO Steve Hammond that Sacramento will host a culinary week in the fall of 2013.The week-long celebration will include events at local farms, at restaurants across the region, and will be anchored by a major festival on Capitol Mall. High-end dinners, wine tastings, other culinary-focused events—and even a cattle drive in downtown Sacramento—will be scheduled throughout the week.

"In 1992, Austin, Texas, became known as the Live Music Capital of the world because the city had more live music venues per capita than any other city. Since then, Austin has embraced this identity and used it to positively brand the city and draw in visitors," said Hammond. "Similarly, Sacramento is being named the America's Farm-to-Fork Capital because we have thousands of acres of boutique farms and year-round local sustainability. This region literally provides tons of food to the rest of the country and it will be the job of the SCVB to market that identity to the rest of the world."

The SCVB is currently in the planning stages for the 2013 event and is collaborating with the regional restaurant and farming community, The California Farm Bureau, The Certified Farmers' Markets, and the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, among others. The branding campaign will be on-going, and the culinary promotions will be an annual celebration. sources contributed to this article.


Planning a visit to the Sacramento area? In Taste California Travel's Resource Directory you'll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options. Also in the directory arelinks to many "beer-centric" pubs and restaurants, as well as links to nearby wineries.

The Eclectic Gourmet Guide to Los Angeles, 3rd EditionBy Colleen Dunn Bates

Menasha Ridge Press

ISBN 978-0897322973


the eclectic gourmet-guide to LA 

California is thought of as the state where seemingly few people are natives. People in California want to enjoy a taste of home, which could be almost anywhere else and probably is. The climate and the work of California farmers produce so many foods that all sorts of plain and exotic foods are available. What is not grown can become available through commerce. Los Angeles with its vast population and numberless restaurants is a great place to taste this treasure trove of food and drink.

Over 15 years ago I came to Los Angeles from Chicago to visit a couple of friends who are Chicago transplants living in Pasadena, a Los Angeles suburb. A few years later I moved to the Pasadena area. Now once again I go to Los Angeles as a visitor. Having dealt with trying to find good restaurants and being limited by the morass that is Los Angeles area traffic I can recommend this book.

Finding the right restaurant in LA can be a daunting task for a resident let alone a frequent visitor or the first time tourist. As Ms. Bates observes, LA offers myriad styles from all over the world—from American diner food to Shanghai-styled Chinese. In what other city can you find a restaurant with Korean flank steak and a selection of tapas?

Ms. Bates has written a guide that displays and encyclopedic knowledge of what is available in LA and where and how you can find it. She makes keen observations and easily appreciated comments about the best dishes and wines. Her wit shines through in asides such as describing the ambience of one place as "Mafia meets your packrat Aunt Mildred . . .," presumably with no offense meant to capos, aunties or the rats.

The author identifies restaurants by name, cuisine, star, price, quality, service, friendliness and value ratings and zone. Areas of Los Angeles and Orange Counties are divided into zones, which are listed in the text and shown on an included map. Each reviewed restaurant’s hours, reservation policy, credit card acceptance, dress, phone and address are listed. Separate lists allow searching by cuisine or zone. With all of that very useful information given you are missing only a companion to dine with and a driver to get you there.

Imagine wanting a steak or a burger or a taco or Sino-Italian food and being able to find them and have a knowledgeable person to tell you how good they will be and how much they would cost. This is a useful book that should help many people make sense of eating well in LA and environs.


--Reviewer Mike Petersen is an attorney employed at the state capitol who travels whenever he can to try new foods and wines in California and Europe. He especially enjoys cooking and eating Italian, Spanish, French, German and other dishes that he has sampled with the locals here and abroad. Mike is a founder and chair of Mr. P’s Wine Club, a no-load wine club whose members love trying new wines and foods. He also searches for Chicago-style, kosher hot dogs wherever he may be.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012 14:40

The Cafes of San Francisco

The Cafes of San Francisco

TCB Café Publishing

ISBN 978-0967489889

soft cover, 192 pages, $15.95


the cafes-of-san-fran

Subtitled "A Guide to the Sights, Sounds, and Tastes of America’s Original Cafe Society," The Cafes of San Francisco satisfies on several levels.

Six authors are credited with its reviews of countless cafes. Two other writers are listed as having provided "other text." Beyond that, comments from observers of the café scene, past and present, San Francisco and beyond, are included.

Crack open this book with a frame of mind too literal and logical and things may seem unfocused. Descriptions and great photos of cafes in San Francisco proper and the surrounding Bay Area provide solid foundation. Additional text, including celebrity quotes, recipes and several days entries in a café habituée’s diary may seem extraneous at first, but their presence goes a long way toward painting the big picture for the reader.

Primarily organized by San Francisco neighborhoods, The Cafes of San Francisco gives back-of-the-book listing of all its cafes alphabetically and by specialty. Live music in general, jazz, Bohemian atmosphere, poetry, dinner service and other emphases all find their own sub-listings.

Just what a café is may not be defined precisely in these pages, but plenty of individual interpretations are exposed. The gamut ranges from four Peet’s Coffee & Tea locations to Plumpjack and Zuni, which are much more restaurants than coffee vendors. Ten food recipes are included in a Cafe Cuisine section—hardly enough to be comprehensive, but they may add to the reader’s enjoyment generally and, in some way, to his overall feel for the café environment.

San Franciscans are frequently accused of an infatuation with their city and themselves. Quotes in these pages from Oscar Wilde ("It is an odd thing, but everyone who disappears is said to be in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world." --Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Gray), and Rudyard Kipling ("San Francisco is a mad city—inhabited for the most part by perfectly insane people whose women are of a remarkable beauty.") tend to support that view, but they’re fun just the same. Also included is a less flamboyant commentary—and certainly a more contemporary one--from Spencer Christian, long-time national television personality who in recent years has relocated from New York City to the San Francisco Bay Area, "San Francisco has the best cafe culture that I’ve personally experienced outside of Europe. In fact, I have often found that the only one I can really compare it to is the cafe culture in Paris, which I often do. You can simply stroll down so many of San Francisco’s sidewalks and find cafes, unknown and unadvertised, where you are able to drop in and have a very nice time."

And what could be wrong with having a very nice time? The Cafes of San Francisco provides entertaining preface to such endeavor.


--reviewed by B.J. Shepherd

Chalk Hill Winery Sommelier Guide To Restaurants in America

Chalk Press 2004 (third edition)560 pages. Soft cover. $19.95

Sommelier guide 

Chalk Hill Winery Sommelier Guide to Restaurants in America is ostensibly aimed at consumers, but restaurant professionals will love it.

Chalk Hill Winery is the publisher of record. They’re also listed as one of six “sponsors.” Ten pages of editorial on the sponsors’ wineries appears in a section near the front of the book, but nowhere else will you evidence of their participation. The sommeliers speak for themselves—their own attitudes and preferences and those of their restaurants are reflected in their responses.

Ron Wiegand, M.W., M.S., Editor of Restaurant Wine and Yves Sauboua, Estate Sommelier for Chalk Hill, penned the introduction and presumably have had much to do with the concept of the guide and with its editing. Six brief initial chapters are written by some of the country’s most noted wine professionals, with each one addressing a topic such as Maximizing Your Wine Adventure in Restaurants or Wine Prices in Restaurants.

The guide devotes 495 of its 560 pages to profiles of American restaurants and their sommeliers, mostly as one page question-and-answer expositions. Categorized alphabetically by state, there’s information on restaurants from Alaska through Wyoming. Most of space is devoted to more populous states, of course, but there’s a definite attempt at inclusiveness. For the consumer who travels, it’s a great resource. Pertinent data such as restaurant locations, phone numbers and web addresses are included, but the careful reader can intuit much more about the house through the sommelier’s responses.

Not all respondents are answering the same questions, though there are recurring themes. Bits of personal information that might never be disclosed in a typical server-diner encounter can be fun.

The question “What Inspired You to Pursue a Career That Involves Wine?” elicits mostly predictable responses, but “What Information Would You Like Your Customers To Know About You?” yields comments more revealing (“I was born in Brooklyn, so don’t mess with me!” David Gordon, Wine Director, Tribeca Grill, or “I worked as a carpenter for fifteen years while moonlighting in this business.” David J. Penner, Maitre D’ and Sommelier, Palm Court Restaurant at the Westfield Conference Center, and “I have a surprisingly small wine collection at home because I think that great wine is made to drink. I have no patience for waiting.” Stewart M. Smith, General Manager and Sommelier, Elephant Walk Restaurant at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort).

Much more of a feel for the styles of the restaurants and of the palates of the sommeliers comes when they offer suggestions to pair with their signature dishes. They can be basic and straight forward (“Osso buco with Brunello di Montalcino.” Armando Dawdy, Corporate Sommelier, Tony’s, and “Cowboy rib-eye with California Cabernet Sauvignon.” Janet M. Easterling, Sommerlier, Ruth’s Chris Steak House), though many are esoteric (“Lobster and scallop-stuffed corn crepe with vanilla bean beurre blanc paired with New World cool-climate Chardonnay.” Thomas P. Burke, Sommelier, Friends Lake Inn. “Branzino al Sale, a whole Mediterranean-style sea bass with a California white blend like Coppola’s Blancaneaux” John E. Aylward, Director of Café Operations and Sommelier, Niebaum-Coppola Café.)

Value to the prospective diner comes in answers to questions about wine list emphases, wine-by-the-glass programs and best value wines. While most readers will appreciate Sommelier Guide to Restaurants in America’s practical information, others may enjoy the personal—and sometimes quirky—revelations of the sommeliers. How else would you discover that, were they not in their current profession, these people would admit to wanting to be “A used car salesman.” (Mark C. Cromer, Assistant General Manager, Buckhead Diner), or “ . . a jazz drummer, writing novels or designing shoes.” (Jeff Morgenthal, Wine Director and Sommelier, Drago), or simply “A clown!” (George Passot, Sommelier, Wine Buyer and Manager, La Folie Restaurant).


--reviewed by Dan Clarke

The Food of Fisherman's Wharf: Cooking and Feasting from San Francisco to Montereyby A.K. Crump


TCB-Café Publishing

ISBN: 0-9674898-9-XSoft cover, 192 pages $19.95


The Food of Fishermans Wharf

To this third-generation San Franciscan, the name Fisherman’s Wharf conjures just a limited strip of that city that borders the Bay. That’s a parochial view, though, and limiting. Countless settlements on the water must have their own fisherman’s wharves and Monterey, some 115 miles south of San Francisco on the Pacific, would be one of them. Many of the restaurants profiled by A. K. Crump would be on or near the fisherman’s wharves of these two cities. Others in the book are not, but are near water and would certainly be encompassed by the subtitle “Cooking and Feasting from San Francisco to Monterey.”

Over 300 color photographs give the reader a good feel for the restaurants featured and for the 24 recipes that are included. “The Food of Fisherman’s Wharf” might be a worthy souvenir for tourists who have visited the area or dined at any of the restaurants featured. It might also whet the appetites of out of state residents contemplating a visit.

Recipes included concentrate on—but aren’t limited to—fish and seafood themes. They seem fairly straightforward and are all credited to restaurants in the area, if not always to their specific chefs. Such references provide the home chef with opportunity to try signature dishes—or adaptations of them—from some very popular restaurants.


--reviewed by Dan Clarke

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