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It’s only natural: French wine-making practice catches California’s interest

(written for the  Los Altos Town Crier ) Even if you haven’t heard of natural wines yet, you’ve most likely seen them on local wine shelves and drink menus.  The trend, which originated in France, has been growing in popularity around the wine-producing world, with several California winemakers getting into the act. Natural wines are equal parts poetry, ecological stewardship, rock-and-roll and wine making. The concept is simple: nothing added, nothing altered. Which means that natural wines employ biodynamic farming practices, use native yeasts in their fermentation process and avoid the use of filtration or additives. Detractors say they lack consistency. Advocates praise them for this exact reason – claiming that much like seeing a band perform live, you get both what you love and something new every time. The sometimes-polarizing world of natural wines is not as much new as it is a return to ancient winemaking practices. Before Louis Pasteur brought us an understanding of fermentat
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Cultures converge in local Irish delicacies

It is often said that on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish. And sure, why wouldn’t ye want to be Irish for a day? After all, the Irish are known for their vivacious spirits, ability to lighten the distress of others with their wit and capacity to have a “craic” (Irish slang for a “good time”). Becoming Irish for a day in Silicon Valley is relatively simple, but only with help from a wide array of cultures, from Irish immigrants importing foods to American industrialists building stately homes and local independent grocers and German meat markets creating Irish delicacies. It is the diversity of Silicon Valley that brings the bounty of Ireland to life here. Top o’ the morning Sunnyvale-based Irish foods importer Irish Grub makes preparing an authentic Irish Fry – a traditional, meat-centric breakfast – simple. Find its rashers, sausages and black-and-white pudding (a blood sausage) at another family-run business, Ava’s Downtown Market in Mountain View. To make the meal for four, pur

Now boarding love: A tribute to grazing together at any and every meal

Tell your loved ones to prepare their taste buds for takeoff with a grazing board just right for celebrating love – a meal served on a board or platter is interactive, communal and social-media-post-worthy. While Valentine’s Day may be all about honoring long-term relationships, a board meal doesn’t require much commitment at all. You can serve all manner of food on the same platter. Any meal of the day is board-appropriate. So, whether you’re feeding a family on the run or stoking the flames of passionate love, a board is just right to show you care. The kind of love you commemorate on Valentine’s Day, and how you honor that love, is entirely up to you. Whether you and your loved one prefer formal attire beside the fire or PJs and Netflix, a meal made for sharing and served on a platter or board will be just right. Breakfast board Launch Valentine’s Day with a playful waffle-focused breakfast board. By relying on store-bought ingredients, this meal comes together with relatively littl

Friendsgiving brunch: A November menu to eat outdoors

Perhaps we call it Friendsgiving because saying “I’ve got too much gratitude in my heart for a single day to encompass” isn’t very catchy. Or maybe the blending of the words “friends” and “Thanksgiving” has taken on increasing popularity since its introduction circa 2012, because Thanksgiving is now a holiday with a season all its own. (written for the Los Altos Town Crier ) The month of November might be when stores go full-Christmas in their soundtracks and decor, but there is an undeniable appeal to languishing in the simple, cozy, food-focused traditions of Thanksgiving before we become shopping and gift-wrapping crazed. In fact, my family’s tradition for years before the portmanteau was ever uttered is to host friends for a leftovers feast on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, eking out that last bit of gratitude and joy before we embark on December’s festivities. Debate exists around when Friendsgiving ought to take place. And while it isn’t an official holiday, formal advice sugge

New traditions for a new time

Family feasts and simple suppers are, at their core, about nourishment – and I don’t just mean feeding our bodies. Food is far more than calories. Recipes sustain traditions and tell the stories of who we are and what matters to us. What we cook holds our past, informs our present and aims the direction of our future. Food comforts, connects and heals. The nourishment food provides is perhaps more meaningful this year than in year’s past. Exponentially rising numbers of neighbors both local and around the globe are experiencing food insecurities as a result of Covid-19. Families throughout America are asked to consider what traditions should be altered or skipped this year to prevent the spread of the virus. While these facts are cause for collective grief, concern and disappointment, we have an opportunity to think and act with great compassion toward others and ourselves. This Thanksgiving can be about more than gratitude. We can make the holiday about the stuff that fosters gratit

Home Cooking: Preparing an all-American meal

I recently read an article that suggested our American food traditions are akin to a playlist or a mixtape. The analogy is far more satisfying than the traditional comparison to a melting pot or even a salad. In a playlist, each song by a different artist works together to tell a larger story. Such is the case with how we eat. Meals that feature Middle Eastern flavors one night and Asian American another all feel comfortingly familiar. (written for the Los Altos Town Crier ) When I was a high schooler, I was fortunate enough to take a study abroad trip to Sendai, Japan. Each visiting student was tasked with creating an American meal for their host family. I can recall discussing what I’d cook with my mom. Our list of options started out straightforward enough with burgers and hot dogs. It quickly expanded into a truly varied selection that we defined as “American food.” In the end, I made my Irish-American grandmother’s spaghetti recipe – a dish she learned from her Italian-American ne

Dad-ventures: Show your father gratitude with food and wine

V. Satui in St. Helena makes for the ideal spot to spoil Dad When our children were very young, I commented to my husband that they must have thought he was pure magic. We’d wave him off every morning with excitement, then go about our day with a predictable routine. His arrival home in the evening was always met with ecstatic enthusiasm, little legs racing to the front door upon hearing his car. When he stepped foot back into their day, he never disappointed. He’d swoop each one up, lifting them high above his head, swing them around and playfully toss them onto the sofa. There were giggles, smiles and shrieks of joy. Wherever he was, so too was fun. Our kids are well past the age of running to the door to greet him nowadays, but he still brings adventure to their lives, encouraging them to push themselves outside of comfort zones and finding ways to make life exciting. Dads initiate spontaneous wrestling matches, dinnertime joke-telling sessions, weekend bike races and movie marathon