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[whitespace] Florentine Finale

Of 1-inch snacks and mini biscotti

By Christina Waters

Christmas in Italy was one of those challenges that brought the bad--lots of rain, lots of cold--with the good. The good, of course, included exceptional pastas, the finest prosciutto and Parmesan, grilled wild boar and sublime gnocchi. No one, naturally, had any sympathy for us back in California when we complained about how cold it had been--after all, we escaped the rain every morning at Caffe Giacosa, where the Negroni was invented and where impossibly well-dressed Florentines packed the bar for espressos and truffle panini. By the end of our three weeks, we'd fallen into step with the Italians. Dining at 10pm, grabbing little brioche snacks throughout the day, and always ending each meal with our new favorite dessert concept. In Northern Italy, cantucci--little songs--are the biscotti of choice. Much smaller, and more filled with nuts--usually almonds--than our biscotti, they crunch and then melt in the mouth. Perfect to finish off a meal along with glasses of sweet, delicate vin santo. Perfect name for the holidays--holy wine. It was a very buon natale.

Dateline, San Jose

The Grill on the Alley--whose leather and wood interior could easily form the backdrop for an Armani ad--just started a new cafe menu designed to help diners save time. The promise is that these selected items will arrive at the table swiftly and are priced to move, between $9.00 and $14.00. From Cobb Salad--The Grill could give lessons in Cobb Salad--to prime New York strip steak, the new cafe menu aims to hit every button. Counter seating is another popular way to make sure you get back to your computer before the lunch hour ends. Give it a try--you know where the Fairmont Hotel is, don't you?

Lou's Loss, California Cafe's Gain

It wasn't a pretty picture. As you recall, after quitting his longtime California Cafe/Valley Fair chef gig in order to start work at Lou's Village, Kyle Wiens found out that no, he did not have a job with the antique fish house after all. Bummer, big time. But Wiens is one plucky dude and promptly got on the phone and asked for his old job back, he told me last week. Big smile. "I'm happy to say I'm back at the helm of the California Cafe," said Wiens. "After such an ugly ordeal, I've never been more appreciative of my job there." Now the talented chef is busy planning his spring menu, and if you haven't been over to Valley Fair recently, just do it. The California Cafe there has never been better--it really was one of the earliest homes of California cuisine in the area. Plus you can run across the mall to Nordstrom and buy some shoes while you wait for your entree.

Culinary Rhythms

The Jazz Music Series continues at beautiful A.P. Stump's throughout March with serious New American music--to match the serious New American cuisine. There's no cover charge to enjoy the live sounds of top groups like Smith Dobson Trio, Cascada, Rob Reardon, Tanya Fitzgerald, Modesto Briseno Trio and tons more. They happen Tuesday through Friday nights from 7 to 11pm. You can perch at the gorgeous bar and catch the act, or enjoy the vibes during one of those sensational dinners whipped up by talented Jim Stump. This is a great date idea--even if you only sample some appetizers and a Cosmopolitan. The music and setting will not disappoint. To find out all the details and full schedule of jazz groups appearing at A.P. Stump's, call the restaurant--163 W. Santa Clara St. in San Jose--at 408.292.9928.

Email me! Readers restaurateurs, chefs: Please send any news items, tips, menu changes, openings, special events and juicy gossip to [email protected]

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From the March 15-21, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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