Archive for the Product Review Category

Sub Sub Par Dining Experience

Posted in Product Review, Restaurant Review on July 18, 2009 by winechef

Okay, I started having a Carrie Bradshaw moment during dinner at a neighborhood “fine dining” establishment with my parents. I do everything I  can to keep my mouth shut about the food at restaurants like that but it seems every time that I go out to dinner with either my parents or the inlaws there is something HORRIBLY wrong with the food.

Last time the snapper special was SO awful I couldn’t have more than half a bite, over salted, Sysco prestuffed with god knows, and not the description on the menu. The sauce wasn’t the same, etc. It was obvious, and fortunately or not, that I couldn’t force myself through it, so it became obvious that there was something wrong. A few more things happened that night, but I digress.

Tonight, different restaurant, different set of parents, same situation. The wine was hot, not just alcohol hot but you could litterally feel heat eminating from the glass. The “charcuterie” platter was slabs of meat with dill pickle slices from a jar, and then my hangar steak, which was ordered Mid Rare, was done done done. Murdered. I told them I’d hang onto the plate so that I could snack on the asparagus and fries (I was offered ketsup) and had them take the meat back as proof. I did this sheepishly after our server asked for it. I’m also the type of person that understands that sometimes a hair will inevitably make it onto a plate. It could be the farmer’s in a bed of greens or it could be an Emo kid in the back with no self regard. Tonight it was the latter and it happened twice. The first time resulted in me smacking a fry out of my husbands mouth and then him smacking a slice of the newly cooked hangar out of mine. Really?!

When I asked for an ice bucket for the RED wine the lady asked the busser loudly to get me one, like I was the most eccentric person to ever walk through the door. It still took close to 15 minutes to get it just under room temperature.

Desserts were right on par withthe rest of the experience, except worse. The boxed Bisquik mix on top of “cherries” that was doctored with an explosive amount of cinnamon, had my husband asking what the chemical taste was.

So. Obviously I didn’t agree to the dinner out of excitement and anticipation for the food, although I had heard really good things. I am very honest about my expectations. I have the same level of standards for McDonalds as I do for the French Laundry. I don’t expect boxed couscous with flavor packets, I don’t expect the chef to improperly cook a piece of sub par meat, I don’t expect attitude form the server. I was so distracted by the blatant falsification of the food I couldn’t stay in any of the conversations. I was ashamed, I felt guilty, and then it made me angry. How can you charge for food like that? How can you take short cuts like that? How when you pick up a bottle of wine do you not notice it’s the same temperature as your morning latte? I’m upset with myself for writing this, I’m worried that my dinner company might read it. I don’t want to have to order things from the menu that I know will be “safe.” Why should I suffer because I can’t necessarily distinguish whether they are using marjoram or oregano, but I can sure as hell taste sodium dyglyceride?

What I really wanted to do was march in the kitchen, show the chef how to temper a steak, then how to mark and finish it, slice it AGAINST the grain, and then plate it with the components that are actually listed on the menu. I wanted to pull a Gordon Ramsey with the desserts, throwing them against the back wall and yelling that they’re F ing Rubbish! Then turn to the Emokid and shout and point “And you!” as I pull his hair to the cutting board. I wanted to leave my card and suggest wine training. But most of all I wanted to enjoy the company, sip a decent wine, and eat dinner. I didn’t want to be a pain in the ass because everything was sub subpar.

Tell me, what would you do?


Revolutionary Water Bottle

Posted in Podcast, Product Review on July 16, 2009 by winechef


The impact that plastic water bottles have on the planet, not to mention our bodies and our wallets, is catastrophic.

Last year I discovered Sigg after hearing about an independent test conducted on the influence (or lack there of) from aluminum and the lining deposits, fell and love, and bought one for lots of friends and family. Made from a single piece of aluminum, it’s ultra-lightweight yet rugged and crack-resistant. To minimize unwanted tastes and scents, the inside is lined with a water-based, non-toxic epoxy resin that exceeds FDA leaching requirements. After becoming my primary mode of transporting drinkables (great for a lemon drop on the go) I started to realize how many water bottles it had replaced, and everything that goes along with them. To put it mildly I was floored. I could literally picture the mound of disposed bottles I had avoided. Needless to say I have become an advocate for water bottle alternatives (while still avoiding main stream plastic and don’t even think about Aluminum!)

Now I have a new fixation and I have yet to get my hands on one.

Introducing Kor One

A lightweight plastic bottle, featuring a sleek transparent design, and a convenient pop top with an ergonomic spout that is large enough to consume ice cubes. Kor One bottles are free of hazardous, plastic based, BPA’s, which are thought to contribute to certain cancers and physical abnormalities.

For a quick synopsis on BPA’s check out the article posted by Treehugger. Then place your order for your Kor here.

Update: I was sent a sample bottle and absolutely love it! Listen to the SF WineChef podcast for a listener promocode.

Best Thai Peanut Sauce

Posted in Product Review, Thailand on February 5, 2009 by winechef

316856pI don’t know what it is about the peanut sauce that they serve at Thai restaurants but I haven’t able to duplicate one, or find one on the market that comes even close to the staple sweet spicy condiment.

I’m infamous for buying multiples of the same product to do comparison tastings at home and it wasn’t until recently that I found the PERFECT Thai Peanut Sauce. Maybe I’m the only one that is super jazzed about this, but trying to find a good recipe to pair with my fresh spring rolls has been a mission that has lasted too long, resulted in too many disappointments and wasted ingredients. 

Annie Chun’s Thai Peanut has no preservatives and nothing out of the ordinary in the ingredient list but it is unbeatably delicious. Just the right amount of sweet, acid, spice, and viscosity.

Favorite things of 2008

Posted in Book Review, Chocolate, Cooking at Home, Food News, Personal, Podcast, Pork, Product Review, Sommelier, Wine Review on December 29, 2008 by winechef

Sure it’s a random list, but it’s been a random year. Who knew I’d still be serving at the same restaurant after a year? Add getting married, a trip to Thailand, adopting a Teacup Dane, and pursuing Rogue Chefs full time has made for some amazing experiences. Here is a list of the little things that have contributed to making life just that much better.

M. Chevallier Carte Noir Brut Cava cava

A wedding on a budget. I tasted 6 methode traditional bubblys under $10 to serve at our wedding (the difference? no headache being at the top of the list) and was beyond pleased with this one. At about $60 for a case I made sure to stock up, so the wedding was just the beginning of the experiences with this awesome cava. It served for everything from last minute gifts to Hibiscus tangerine mimosas to an excuse to practice sabreing. Available at Trader Joe’s for $4.99

Metrokane Champagne Sealermetrokane

And on the off chance that you haven’t removed the top of your champagne (or beer) bottle with your trusty 12 inch chef knife and have some champagne left over, this easy to use sealer works better than anything I’ve used. You can store your opened bottles on their sides and never lose a drop. They remove with hardly a flinch and apply with little to no effort. Available online and in stores at Bed Bath and Beyond (I covet the 20% off coupons).

Moo Cards

These are inexpensive unique customizable business cards that can be designed and received within 2 weeks. High quality and always sure to leave an impression on the receiver. I’ve used mine to promote the blog, the book, my chef and sommelier services, and photography. Available online 100 for $19.99 plus shipping and handling.


I did not start out liking this. If it weren’t for my genius techie husband in the adjoining room it probably would have ended up following the sewing machine out the window. The problem? It’s just too easy. It makes too much sense. It practically knows me. And now I can’t imagine life without it. I even love the screen saver. I would however have opted for the bigger screen (24″) if I were to do it over again. And a laptop is on the short list of things to get when I receive that enormous advance for the book I’ve been counting on. Available online and in stores for $1199


My iTunes audio faves of 2008 in order of awesomeness:

goodfoodKCRW’s Good Food, Splendid Table, NPR’s Kitchen Window and NPR Food, and Vinecast.


I wonder where I would be without my iPod, it’s Podcasts, and membership. Needing something to distract from the hour and a half that I spend commuting daily I have become practically addicted to audio distractions. Yes, there is always a print book next to my bed or in my bag, but I have come to rely on audiobooks to help me get through the growing stacks that I have accumulated during the year. There aren’t as many food related audiobooks out there but here are my faves of 08:

Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, Waiter Rant by The Waiter, and Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Molecular Gastronomy by Herve This may have you fall asleep on the road and still not clear on the concept.

Blue Bottle Coffee

blue-bottleAh, legal crack in the morning. Not available in as many places as necessary but you can find it here. Order more than you think you need.

Breville Stainless Steel Electric Kettle

And make it with this awesome, sleek, effective water heater that can allow you to make perfect batches of french presses at home or while catering…Available online and at Bed Bath and Beyond for $79.99 (use the coupon!).breville

Bacon and…

Oh Vosges, only you could get me addicted to a chocolate that I can’t afford on a regular basis. So thanks to a recent podcast I’m making my own version. And thanks to my husband, I can’t stop dipping my bacon in maple syrup. There was also a drink “Bacon and Eggs” at Epic that used bacon dust to rim a martini glass. Oh and the Maple Bacon lollipops from Lollyphile. The bacon lip balm that I have yet to try. Bacon and Cocoa Nib infused whiskey that I’m making. The Bacon, Chestnut, and Brussels Sprout dish that I am still swooning over. And Bacon and Skulls blog where I can stay up to date on everything Bacon.

That’s about it, now on to 2009…

Col-Pop: How did I not hear about this?

Posted in Product Review on December 29, 2008 by winechef

20080204-colpopmain3Serious Eats just posted their 10 top hits of the year and THIS came out on top. Hot finger food in a secret compartment and a straw that slides through a side hole into a reservoir of carbonated goodness?! Genius! Now all we need is someone to manufacture a non disposable version so that we can incorporate it into our daily lives. Tater Tots and Dr. Pepper? Gougere and Champagne? Jalapeno Poppers and Margarita? I do love that when you watch someone drink from the straw it looks as if they’re slurping up the fat that would accumulate on the bottom of the cup.

Gelatin Conversion

Posted in Cooking at Home, Pastry Chefs, Product Review, What's the Deal With...? on October 20, 2008 by winechef

Since this is what helped to bring Marisa down from season 2 of Top Chef, I knew I had to find the right information before attempting a French pear mousse recipe that used leaf gelatin AKA sheet gelatin as one of its ingredients. Having only powdered gelatin at home I needed to figure out, hopefully once and for all, what the exact conversion is when dealing with most professional pastry chef’s recipes. For an article on the difference and the best to use click here.

3 teaspoons of powdered =4 leaves

3-4 leaves = 1 envelope

and just for kicks…

Agar Agar = same amount of powdered gelatin


Posted in Bay Area Festivities, Product Review, Restaurant Review on August 22, 2008 by winechef


Chocolate with Salted Caramel Sauce and Cocoa Nibs

Chocolate with Salted Caramel Sauce and Cocoa Nibs

I have no idea why I’ve been craving soft serve this summer, but it has become my mission to seek it out. having just heard that Sketch turned to all soft serve recently I decided to spend an extra 20 minutes that I found myself with in front of the shop with 2 servings of their most amazing offerings. Hey, how was I supposed to know if I would have this opportunity again anytime soon?

Remember to bring CASH, and indulge. 

Vanilla Bean with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Vanilla Bean with Olive Oil and Sea Salt