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Food & Wine

Trips with sips: Enjoy a winery getaway, picnic included


Courtesy of Christine Moore For those who enjoy wine tasting Livermore wineries offer nearby picnicking potential.

With vacation season upon us, wine-loving citizens from around the world make summer pilgrimages to California for our glorious weather and wine. Whether you’re entertaining a couch-camping second cousin, hosting a college roommate reunion or helping the in-laws explore, I’ve got some thoughts on how you can make this the best wine vacation they’ve ever had.

A wine welcome

Kick off your guests’ visit with a casual wine-tasting evening at your home. Road-weary visitors might not want a big feast. Serve instead a Tuscan-style meal of cured meats, cheeses, breads and salads for a tasty welcome dinner.

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Grandma's meatballs help net $70,000


Photos Courtesy of “Food Fighters”
Los Altos resident Amber MacDonald’s spaghetti earned praise – and prize money – on the reality TV show “Food Fighters.”

Los Altos newcomer Amber MacDonald netted a total of $70,000 last month competing on NBC’s cooking reality TV show “Food Fighters.” She shared one of the family recipes that helped earn her the win – spaghetti and meatballs, à la her Sicilian grandmother.

“I know that my grandmother’s traditional recipes are going to knock the socks off them,” she said before facing off against British “bad boy chef” Brendan Collins.

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Tips for dining out with dogs


Sana Khader/Town Crier
Heeding a few words of advice, dogs and their owners can ease into a more formal outdoor dining experience by first visiting a coffee shop or cafe.

Pets still can’t eat inside restaurants under California health code, but many local spots welcome four-legged companions at outdoor seating.

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DIY shawarma wraps up a street-side classic


Photos by Blanche Shaheen/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident Blanche Shaheen and her brother Issa Araj, above, cook up a summery shawarma, right. To see them in action, visit this article online for a how-to video that covers shawarma step-by-step.

My most epic sandwich moment occurred years ago near Petra in Jordan.

I was determined to hike around the ancient city with my tour group in the 100-degree heat. A friend on the trip, John, was perpetually hungry, regardless of the blistering-hot weather.

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California pale ales showcase America's homegrown hops


Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
The rooftop beer garden at Whole Foods Market on The Alameda in San Jose is a great place to enjoy hoppy beers from Mission Creek Brewing Co., including the Solely Citra Pale Ale.

American pale ale was among the first truly American craft beer styles, with California breweries like Anchor Brewing Co. and New Albion Brewing Co. putting a distinctive American spin on traditional British bitters in the mid-1970s by using basic two-row malt and citrusy Pacific Northwest hops.

The defining example of the style is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, first brewed in 1980, which has served as the introductory craft beer for many beer enthusiasts. Showcasing a simple malt bill and Cascade hops, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is hop-forward without the intense bitterness of an India pale ale (IPA).

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Wine cocktails prove an acquired taste for some


Christine Moore/Special to the Town Crier
Wine cocktails offer a refreshing respite from the summer heat.

Wine cocktails can be polarizing. Some people adore them, while others can hardly stomach the idea of using wine in a cocktail.

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Los Altos native adds culinary flourish to customization


Photos Courtesy of PlateJoy
Chorizo stew is one of PlateJoy’s vegan recipes. The company customizes meal plans for busy customers – and shops for and delivers ingredients to their doorsteps.

In Silicon Valley, the Internet of Things has grown to encompass an internet of pantries, mashing up cookbooks, cooking shows, grocery lists and nutritional consultations. PlateJoy, a San Francisco startup with a Los Altos connection, aims to plan and shop for local eaters but leave the cooking up to them.

The startup has new customers take a personalization quiz, describing what and how they like to cook and eat. If you’re a vegan, for example, define your preferred milk – almond? hemp? soy? coconut? How long do you have to cook – 15 minutes, or 45?

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New Los Altos shop brews milk tea for gourmands


Eliza Ridgeway/Town Crier
Teaspoon, the milk tea shop at Village Court in Los Altos, above, serves a range of bubble teas and snow ice drinks, right.

Los Altos made it onto the milk tea map this spring with the opening of Teaspoon, a new bubble tea and snow ice shop in Village Court Shopping Center at 4546 El Camino Real.

Its tea makers use an espresso machine to brew each cup individually, aiming to reduce bitter aftertaste and prioritize freshness. The method uses tea leaves ground like coffee beans so that the high temperature and pressure can extract tea flavor like a (long) shot of espresso.

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White wine: Sniffing out the unusual suspects for summer


ChriStine Moore/Special to the Town Crier Credit
White wines offer the perfect antidote to summer heat.

Some sounds make me long for white wine: the crack of a bat against its intended canvas-covered target, the swell and subsequent crash of an ocean wave repeated again and again and the wooshing of blossom-heavy branches swaying in the wind.

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Saison strain produces uniquely flavorful beers


Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
The Bruery’s Saison Rue, a Belgian-style, bottle-conditioned ale, features a complex flavor with subtle but distinctive hints of earthy barnyard funk from the wild Brettanomyces yeast.

Saison is a refreshing beer style for warmer weather, with origins in the farmhouses of Belgium, where it was brewed during the winter and stored until summer as part of the provisions for farmworkers.

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Food Brief

Off the Grid, the Bay Area’s network of street-food markets, has scheduled its newest dinner market in Mountain View.

In partnership with the Computer History Museum, Off the Grid will bring 10 food trucks and live music to the museum 5-9 p.m. Fridays beginning this week.

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Gateway brews for people who (think that they) don't like craft beers


805 Blonde Ale

Spring is a time for new beginnings, which means it’s a great time to introduce a friend or family member to craft beer.

While beer lovers might enjoy super-hoppy double IPAs, viscous imperial stouts or mouth-puckering sours, such beers can intimidate newcomers to the world of full-flavored beer.

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Better bites with bitters


courtesy of Rita Held
Deviled eggs, a springtime tradition, take on a new twist with subtly flavorful Angostura bitters.

Los Altos resident Rita Held has spent her career in test kitchens and culinary consulting. She develops recipes for food companies in the Bay Area and nationwide, and blogs at getcookingsimply.com. This is her first column for the Town Crier – welcome, Rita!

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Lions, lambs and Cab Franc for March


Christine Moore/Special to the Town Crier
Oven fries, a slice of feta cheese and the bite of harissa mayonnaise make for a late-winter, early-spring dinner perfectly paired with Cabernet Franc.

I can’t help but wonder whether March will come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.

In an attempt to cover both bets, I’m planning ahead. My Lion’s Mane Ragout with Creamy Polenta kicked off the month. And I’ll close out March, and welcome spring, with Lamb Burgers with Harissa Mayonnaise and Rosemary Oven Fries.

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Dim sum, ramen, artisan pizza and more: Four new Los Altos restaurants open or soon to debut


Ramen on State Street

Cho’s Mandarin Dim Sum, formerly a standby for the budget-oriented on California Avenue in Palo Alto, recently opened at 209 First St., next door to Tin Pot Creamery.

The eatery – open for an extended lunch for now, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily – offers pork buns, egg rolls, Shanghai pork balls, shrimp dumplings and pork and chicken potstickers. A serving of three nibbles costs $2.50-$3.25, a dish of six runs $5-$6.25.

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Pro and not-yet-pro brewers turn out for local beer events


Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
Craft Artisan Ales’ Nebulous Imperial IPA is one of California’s latest small-scale craft ales to earn a place at local beer events.

While SF Beer Week is now behind us – and there won’t be another intense concentration of beer events until Silicon Valley Beer Week this summer – plenty of interesting events are still happening.

Steins Beer Garden in Mountain View is scheduled to celebrate its second anniversary March 28 with its first homebrew competition, which aims to become an annual event. With the theme “Spring into Beer,” the contest has official sanction from the Beer Judge Certification Program, and the beer selected as the best springtime brew will be professionally brewed and served at Steins, with proceeds supporting a charity of the brewer’s choice. Entrants must register on the Steins website by March 13. Visit steinsbeergarden.com for more details.

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Cupid takes aim: Pairing wine with dessert


Courtesy of CHristine Moore
Looking to impress your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day? Pair a Yalumba Antique Tawny Museum Reserve Dessert Wine with truffles.

When I imagine Cupid stringing his bow and taking aim at a soon-to-be-in-love couple, I envision a platter of some sweet concoction and a goblet of dessert wine beside him. Both seem to be the most fitting fuel for the winged master of amore as he goes about his happy business of sparking love.

Of course, I also imagine that pairing wine with dessert comes easily for Cupid, who knows a thing or two about passionate pairings. For us mere mortals, however, deciding on which wine to drink with dessert can be a bit more hit and miss. To get your aim right this Valentine’s Day, I’m offering some thoughts on dessert and wine pairing.

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What's sweet on the outside but tart when you bite?


Courtesy of Pooja Mottl
The sweet-and-sour flavor of kumquats complements a seasonal salad of winter greens.

Whether you’re buying them dangling pendulously from trees near Costco’s entrance or heaped in bags at San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, kumquats are dotting the region this month.

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Aging big beers develops complex flavors


Courtesy of Derek Wolfgram
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles offers barrel-aged beers you can taste across multiple years’ vintages.

In recent years, increasing numbers of beer enthusiasts have been developing the patience to cellar high-alcohol beers for enjoyment months or even years later.

Great candidates for aging include barleywines, imperial stouts and Belgian dark strong or golden strong ales, all of which have enough alcohol and malt complexity to continue developing through the aging process. A beer’s hop character will fade relatively quickly as a beer ages, which is why India Pale Ales should always be consumed as fresh as possible and not cellared for a special occasion. But bigger beers can develop in interesting ways.

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Take a walk on the sour side: Beers offer a palate shock worth seeking


Photos courtesy of Derek Wolfgram and the Rare Barrel
Berkeley’s The Rare Barrel barrel-ages sour beers to create drinks like the Flanders-style All Systems Go which is aged in oak with Sightglass coffee beans.

One of the quickest ways to ignite a lively discussion among beer geeks is to bring up sour beers.

A growing number of craft beer drinkers enjoy these funky, tart, acidic concoctions, while others find them even more distasteful than weak mass-market lagers.

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A new burger for a new year: Start off right with a vegan kibbeh variant


Photos by Blanche Shaheen/ Special to the Town Crier
Avoid the mystery ingredients found in store-bought veggie burgers by mincing up a vegan version inspired by a Middle Eastern dish. The recipe can serve double duty as deep-fried croquettes or patties,.

Canola oil, corn oil and soy protein isolate are all heavily processed and genetically modified ingredients that often end up in store-bought veggie burgers. Other offenders include artificial flavors, variants of monosodium glutamate and chemicals like thiamine hydrochloride (hydro what?).

Put all these ingredients together and you could have the recipe for a “veggie” burger that could survive a nuclear holocaust. During this time of year, when people want to start off with fresh and healthful meals, making your own veggie burgers really isn’t that difficult. You can also store any leftovers in the freezer and enjoy the burgers all month long.

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