Vintage Kitchen: Carnation’s Noodle Ring with Creamed Chicken, 1935.

Why, yes, these are noodles. Thanks for noticing.

I turned up a copy of the “Carnation Cook Book” at a used-book shop in Santa Rosa the other day, and for a measly $2, I had to rescue it. Written by Mary Blake in 1935, this promo pamphlet is chock full of product placement, bound with staples, and just under 100 pages long. I believe this little cookbook was probably a giveaway, or perhaps cheap mail-order fodder, but I’m not totally certain about how it was originally distributed. As the author, Blake is credited as being Carnation’s “Director, Home Economics Department,” which fascinates me as a chef. Corporate recipe testing, and in that era — I wonder what the kitchen looked like, and how Mary Blake had become accomplished as a cook. Or did she cook anything, and only supervise a staff?

The photograph above is what sold me. [… read more …]

So what happens now that football is over?

The Grilled Sourdough Crab Sandwich @ Crazy Crab’z, AT&T Park

Some of you may not know that I cut my teeth as a sports writer back in college. I worked with some great folks, a couple of whom actually carved out fine careers in the business of covering professional athletics (Alan Shipnuck and Eric Branch were old colleagues of mine — we were stacked). But sports writing wasn’t for me. Ultimately, I was put off by the odd hours and the deadline pressures of sports journalism. So I decided to become a chef, instead. Nowadays, I don’t invest the emotion into sports as I once did, meaning that the highs aren’t as high, but lows aren’t as low, either. Today, I guess that was a good thing; I’m currently reeling from San Francisco’s Super Bowl loss tonight, but I would’ve taken it much more to heart when I [… read more …]

Vintage Kitchen: Antiques from Heritage Culinary Artifacts, Napa Valley


Hand-painted citrus juicer, Japan, 1930s-1940s.

Heritage Culinary Artifacts has been a staple at Oxbow Market ever since the venue opened in 2008, but the shop will close at the end of January after a five-year run. I definitely enjoyed browsing the ever-evolving display of antique cookware, which is already available for purchase online. Owner-curator Lisa Minucci has a great eye for original pieces, and she has traveled the world to procure a truly unique collection. I always felt that Heritage had a museum aura about it. It’s only by sheer coincidence that I finally got around to pitching this feature to Lisa a couple weeks ago; that’s when I first discovered that she was set to close her brick-and-mortar shop.

I’m a born collector, beginning with baseball memorabilia at an early age, followed by vinyl records, cookbooks, pulp crime paperbacks, and of course, wine. I also collect a [… read more …]

Fried Chicken Sandwich @ BarbersQ, Napa


True School: The Fried Chicken Sandwich @ BarbersQ, Napa.

I don’t want to say that I’m obsessed with fried chicken sandwiches. For one thing, I prefer my fried chicken on the bone, so fried chicken sandwiches aren’t really my thing. Delicious? Yes; a priority? No. But the cult of Bakesale Betty has continued to occupy a small part of my mind, and it’s made me more aware of fried chicken sandwiches in general (for whatever that’s worth).

The blueprint for the fried chicken sandwich at Napa’s BarbersQ is almost identical to that of Bakesale Betty: One fried chicken breast, some coleslaw, bread. This is how it should be done. No need to reinvent the wheel. Of course, BarbersQ offers a more refined (that is, vastly more fresh) sandwich than Bakesale Betty, though at a slightly higher cost (then again, that cost does include fries).

This comparison presents one […

Seven Meals I Hope to Eat Again in 2013


Ramen’s Equal? The Bun Mam Soup @ Bun Mam Soc Trang, East Oakland.

If you’re reading this, then the world hasn’t ended. I, for one, feel relieved. There’s still so much great food to eat out there; I just wasn’t ready for our global unraveling quite yet. So, with the future confidently in mind (at least as much as it can be), I offer a handful of foods that I hope to revisit next year. Although I don’t like to repeat my meals out very often (as just one person, I’m trying to cast my culinary net as wide as possible), some foods prove so memorable, that they inevitably foster cravings. These are the same meals that eventually become my favorites, and they comprise the few times per year that I will eat “off the record,” just for the pure sake of eating, but without any official blog [… read more …]

KitchenAid Ads: Food & Art via Brazil

In the style of Gustave Klimt.

KitchenAid: In the style of Gustave Klimt.

The KitchenAid stand mixer is an icon in its own right, but these advertising posters put this American classic into an interesting new context. I stumbled across these images from Brazil’s DDB advertising agency, which launched this campaign in the Summer of 2011. Each of these ad is quite remarkable, but I really think that the Klimt-inspired poster, pictured above, is by far the best of the series. The lethargy that I usually associate with many of Klimt’s subjects is cleverly transformed into pensive adoration in the KitchenAid ad (how does that sound for some quickly conceived art-school pseudo-lingo).

I’ve ranked the other five posters according to personal preference, based mostly upon how well that I think each homage “rings true” to its original inspiration. Just my opinion as an art-book junkie (and sucker for the discount section). Click any image [… read more …]

The Cheesesteak Sandwich @ Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop, Point Reyes Station


The Cheesesteak Sandwich @ Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop, Point Reyes.

Does a cheesesteak sandwich, by definition, always taste better in Philadelphia? I’m sure that many folks from the City of Brotherly Love would argue in the affirmative, and I’m not here to dispute this claim. But what can we say about a California cheesesteak with impeccable pedigree, one that contains grass-fed, pasture-raised beef from Marin Sun Farms? Can such a sandwich possibly compete with the heralded Philly cheesesteak? Or does the absence of Cheez Whiz — that classic staple of Philly — render this point moot? And really, would you even want to adulterate grass-fed beef with Cheez Whiz? Or is “adulterate” the wrong word in this case? Augment? Enhance? I suppose it all depends on where you’re from.

Suffice it to say, the cheesesteak sandwich from the Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop, pictured above, represents Northern [… read more …]

The Strange Cult of Bakesale Betty


Now almost $10: The Fried Chicken Sandwich @ Bakesale Betty, Oakland.

I have to marvel at the Bakesale Betty juggernaut: The place itself has no signage, no branding, no menu (as far as I can really tell), and their website is a true lesson in apathy. Holy smokes. The storefront is open for just a couple hours per day, six days per week. During this time, there’s usually a line of folks out the door, most of whom are waiting for the fried chicken sandwich, pictured above. I’ve been there a few times — the most recent was just a couple weeks ago, after something had reminded me of Bakesale Betty, and I got to wondering if I had been missing something. Before that, I had been there a little over three years ago.

I just don’t jones for this sandwich the way that most other people must, [… read more …]

Silverado Brewing Company to Shutter in November


Get it while you can: The Fish and Chips @ Silverado Brewing Company, St. Helena.

If I could just editorialize on this latest bit of news, I think it’s shameful that the Silverado Brewing Company has to close its doors at the end of November, since Kendall Jackson has decided to cancel the restaurant’s lease. According to what I’ve heard around the valley, one possible reason for this decision is to give Freemark Abbey, which is owned by Kendall Jackson, more of a presence on Highway 29. Although unfortunate, this explanation does make some sense, since SBC certainly enjoys the best location on the lot (SBC is well-positioned along Highway 29, while Freemark Abbey is tucked into the back corner of their own property). However, this is a terrible trade-off for the Napa Valley, which will lose one of its key up-valley restaurants in favor of a very [… read more …]

Slow Food Napa Valley: The 6th Annual Bale Mill Harvest Dinner

6th Annual Bale MIll Dinner

Good Times: The 6th Annual Bale Grist Mill Harvest Dinner.

The Napa Valley State Parks Association and Slow Food Napa Valley hosted the 6th Annual Bale Grist Mill Harvest Dinner on Saturday at Bale Mill State Historic Park. The event featured a silent auction, live bluegrass, whiskey, wine and beer, and of course, plenty of locally-produced food. About 160 guests enjoyed dinner and wine under clear Calistoga skies. Here are a few snapshots from the evening. Click any image for the full-screen view.

• • •

The menu.

• • •

At the trail head.

• • •

Mingling around the silent auction, and enjoying whiskey, wine and beer.

• • •

The Pickle Creek String Band.

• • •

Wine dominated, but honey was also a hot item at the silent auction.

[…