Archive for reviews

Cento Makes THE Best Canned Tomatoes

My husband and I make tomato sauce from scratch A LOT. Several times a month, I’d say. We’ve tried many brands, but some were a bit bland and some were just awful.

Then we heard someone sing the praises of San Marzano roma tomatoes from Italy. We searched high and low, and found several companies that sell San Marzanos. We tried all of those…and Cento was, by far, the best.

Cento Canned Tomatoes

I bought the peeled tomatoes and pureed them with my stick blender right in the can, but I recently found that Cento has canned tomatoes already pureed, so it saved me a step. When I would made tomato sauce in the past, I’d add wine, a bunch of dried herbs, a little sugar, cream, butter…anything to make it taste good. With the Cento tomatoes, all I do is sautee some diced onion in a little olive oil, add the can of tomatoes, a little salt and pepper, and simmer about 20 minutes. That’s it!

The tomatoes are already so delicious, with the perfect balance of acidity and sweet, they don’t need anything else. Sometimes I chop some fresh oregano from the garden and add it in after I turn off the heat. It really is tomato heaven. That is the tomato sauce I use for pizza, my Polenta Medallions, gnocchi, spaghetti…you name it. It is rather unfortunate that Cento’s tomatoes aren’t organic. Organic really is my preference. But, I tried all the other brands of organic ones and they just weren’t right. Oh well.

Maybe some year I’ll have a huge garden and grow my own organic San Marzano roma tomatoes and can a bunch myself. Who knows?

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Vik’s Chaat Corner

Recently we rediscovered Vik’s Chaat Corner in Berkeley. What a great place to find authentic chaat (small plates of savory Indian snacks) in the Bay Area. A friend took Marc and me there 10 or 12 years ago, and just this weekend (on a great culinary adventure) my aunt took us again. They have delicious puris (flat breads often topped with spiced veggies or legumes and tamarind or mint chutney) and my husband’s all time favorite…dosas.

Dosas are South Indian crepes usually made with lentil flour. They come rolled up like a giant burrito with savory fillings. Vik’s has several dosas including the typical (but oh so good) Masala Dosa filled with potatoes, onions and chilis and spiced with turmeric and cumin. I could eat dosa every week, given the chance, but not every restaurant features them, so they can be hard to find. The batter comes out crispy, a little sour, and totally fun to eat. It’s a great meal for all senses.

Vik’s also has a giant glass case of colorful Indian sweets. Milk, coconut, ghee (clarified butter), sugar and flour are the main ingredients, but some of them are golden with saffron or even bright pink. We bought four delicious pieces of different sweets, but it was so hard to choose among the dozens of varieties. We shared them with my in-laws to rave reviews. The hot chai (spiced milky black tea) was incredibly delicious and fragrant. The cardamom almost seemed to reach out and grab you from the cup.

Indian food is some of the most complex cuisines in the world. Sometimes I find it too heavy, but the people at Vik’s Chaat Corner create wonderful light fare, great for sharing with friends. They recently extended their hours on weekends and evenings, so now there are even more chances to get my dosa fix.

 

Vik's Business Card

Vik’s Chaat Corner is located at:

726 Allston Way

Berkeley, CA 94710

510-644-4432

http://www.vikschaatcorner.com/index.htm

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Ici Ice Cream Shop

This weekend my aunt took my husband and me on the most spectacular ice cream adventure. Ici is the establishment that serves up such confectionary perfection. They had flavors like Chicory, Honey Basil, Candied Cocoa Nibs (delish), and my fave..Cardamom Candied Orange. The line was long and there were a few women around us who were just as anxious to jump right in to ice cream heaven. Chez Panisse protégé, pastry chef Mary Canales opened this ice cream shop not long ago and it has become a sensation. It’s small, but the décor is elegant and welcoming. The “ice cream enthusiasts” behind the counter were friendly and helpful.

ici3.jpg

My husband and I established an iron-clad plan. He would taste two flavors, and I would taste two other flavors, we’d swap spoons and decide on the two choices we’d actually commit to. I tasted Chicory and Cardamom Candied Orange. He tasted Carmel Banana and the Candied Cocoa Nibs. All were better than any regular ice cream parlor, but the Cardamom Orange was spectacular. The orange was perfectly sweet, tart and chewy, and the cardamom was fragrant but subtle. The Candied Cocoa Nibs was a stellar flavor as well. It was crunchy, with intense cocoa flavor, and a little bitter with the sweet.

As if that wasn’t heaven in a bite, you can get their handmade sugar cookie cones with the surprising (though very practical) chocolate plug at the bottom. They use the freshest seasonal organic ingredients and you can really taste the difference. Ici also uses compostable bowls and spoons. So…you are really doing a great service to the planet by giving in to your sweet craving. My husband and I generally prefer gelato over ice cream, but Ici is in a category of it’s own.

Ici is located at:

2948 College Ave.

Berkeley, CA 94705

Phone: 510.665.6054

http://www.ici-icecream.com/

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