It’s Time for Caviar
When is the last time you indulged in caviar? For most of us it’s not an every-day practice to consume what can cost several hundreds of dollars an ounce. That said caviar is gaining momentum with a younger audience as more restaurants are offering the product as a tasting option on their menus.
Eating caviar in its most simple form—I prefer no bread or blinis—harkens back to an earlier time. For a quick background and education on all things caviar please read my December 2014 column “Caviar Dreams” in the Nob Hill Gazette.
So where can one enjoy caviar in our fair city, particularly on July 18th for National Caviar Day?
1) Osso Steakhouse, located atop Nob Hill at 1177 California Street, will offer a special selection of caviar and cocktails on National Caviar Day, Saturday, July 18th. This enchanting, art deco institution (formerly it was the wildly popular Vanessi’s) will transport you back to an earlier San Francisco. For the price of the caviar selection you also may choose two classic cocktails from the list below. And once your appetite is piqued consider staying for dinner and trying their signature bone-in filet mignon accompanied by a twice-baked potato. And though very decadent do not miss their skillet-fried chorizo sourdough. See ossosteakhouse.com.
Caviar (choose one)
· Golden Russian Osetra $100
· Royale Italy $50
· Baerii Siberian Sturgeon $40
Classic Cocktails (choose two)
· Classic Martini
2) Quince Restaurant offers a specific caviar menu with a selection varying from $95 up to $225 per ounce. They also offer a series of pasta dishes, risotto as well as a panna cotta with caviar both in their main dining room and Champagne salon. See Quincerestaurant.com.
3) Gary Danko also offers a Black Osetra ($96) or a Golden Osetra ($127) caviar with buckwheat blinis. See garydanko.com.
4) Michael Mina restaurant offers a traditional caviar service of Siberian, Russian or Golden Osetra. See michaelmina.net.
5) California Caviar in Sausalito, California has a beautiful tasting room and is the perfect place to try a variety of caviar! Guests are welcome to visit their tasting room between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, and by appointment on weekends. See californiacaviar.com.
It is a crime not to drink something exceptional to accompany your caviar. Either very good sparkling wine (Champagne, Prosecco, Cava) or perhaps chilled vodka or a classic cocktail will do.
Spanish Chorizo Carbonara
Spanish Chorizo Carbonara
I came home late one night from a party with an appetite for carbonara. However, I did not have any pancetta, guanciale or even bacon in my refrigerator. I did, however, have good Spanish chorizo. I thought this should work and it did…beautifully.
Ingredients (serves 2-4):
-Best quality Spanish chorizo (I like the Palacios brand available at Bi-Rite and most good markets)
-Best quality spaghetti or other favorite pasta
-2 farm eggs
-Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
-Pasta cooking water
Cut the chorizo (1/2 to 3/4 cup) into small pieces. Place into a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes or until lightly colored. In a bowl combine the eggs with a generous grating of Parmigiano Reggiano and aggressive amount of coarsely ground black pepper. Whisk and combine well. Set aside.
Drop your pasta into salted water. Cook until al dente. Place the pan with chorizo over medium heat. Using tongs remove the pasta and transfer to the pan with the chorizo. Add a little pasta cooking water to coat and toss gently for 20-30 seconds. Turn off the heat. Add the egg/Parmigiano mixture to the pan and mix carefully, taking care not to over cook the egg (add more pasta cooking water if this occurs). Plate the pasta and finish with more grated cheese.
The Burger Frenzy
The hamburger has always been an American classic and top chefs are now trying to distinguish themselves with unusual and untraditional preparations and over-the-top ingredients. Some combinations work brilliantly while others offer serious shock appeal.
It all started about two years ago when Prather Ranch retail shop owner Doug Stonebreaker opened his American Eatery inside the Ferry Building. In what appears to be homage to her boss his chef created a monster burger called none other than The Stonebreaker. Though no longer offered this writer does recall it being at least a one-pound beef burger “poutine” with cheese curd, house-made gravy and tallow fries (fried in Prather Ranch beef tallow) on an organic Acme bun. A 10-mile run or 50-mile bike ride would probably burn through most of the calories. At least Prather stopped there. And yes, it was delicious! Here are a few more places that have taken things to a whole new level of excess.
The Monte Cristo Burger
Take, for example, the Monte Cristo Burger created by Top Chef contestant Michael Voltaggio (owner of Ink in LA) for the Umami Burger chain. The burger features deep-fried buns soaked in vanilla custard, prosciutto, Gruyere fondue, a beef patty and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. It comes with a side of syrup. According to Voltaggio he wanted to make a burger that appealed to those looking for either savory or sweet.
The José Andrés Burger
Umami also announced a new burger by renowned Spanish chef José Andrés. The patty is made from pork and cured ham with a piquillo pepper confit, caramelized onion, Manchego cheese and aioli.
4505’s Secret Burger
Okay, this secret burger at Ryan Farr’s just opened 4505 Burgers & BBQ (inside the former Da’Pitt and adjacent to a pot dispensary at 705 Divisadero Street) has got to take the award for perhaps the most towering and highest calorie count of burgers. Ryan has a way with meat and his basic burgers are absolutely delicious. Why he would create this monstrosity, well, let’s just say he must get a huge laugh watching his customers try and eat this thing. It’s essentially a “Big Mac” that consists of a double cheeseburger with the crazy addition of a wedge of his infamous “frankaroni” or deep-fried mac and cheese studded with chunks of house-made hot dogs all piled high on a pain de mie bun. Any takers?
Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop & Restaurant
Located at Pt. Reyes Station (10905 Shoreline Highway 1) the Marin Sun Farms restaurant prepares a burger that satisfies like no other—at least for this writer. Stake out a seat in the garden along the funky wooden table and put in an order for the signature goat burger (chenel chevre, mushrooms, caramelized onions) with fries. The goat meat is more delicate than lamb and goes so well with the earthy mushrooms and mild goat cheese. Pair with a glass of rose and enjoy a small piece of heaven.
East Meets West: Talking With Celebrity Chef Ming Tsai
With two restaurants (Blue Dragon and Blue Ginger, both in Boston), five cookbooks, and a national television show in its 11th season, Ming Tsai is one of the country’s best-known chefs. This writer recently sat down with Ming before he was scheduled to do a cooking demo at the Macy’s San Francisco kitchen.
Ming was a founding member of Macy’s esteemed culinary council. We discussed international cuisine, celebrity chefs, and, of course, the city of San Francisco and where he likes to eat.
James Stolich: How much time have you spent in San Francisco? I’d love to hear your thoughts about the food scene here and your perspective on the city.
Ming Tsai: [I’ve spent] a lot of time here. I was married here. I’m actually from Newport Beach. I was born there and grew up in Dayton, Ohio, the culinary capital of the world [he smiles]. My dad is a scientist and is currently at Stanford in the aeronautical school. Anyway, I lived here for five years. Every time I come to San Francisco, and I drive up 101 past Candlestick Park (if it’s still called that), and there’s a blue sky, I think, how come I don’t live here? I’m a smart guy, I should live here.
JS: In which neighborhood did you live?
MT: We lived on 21st and Geary. It was an isosceles triangle. From our apartment we could walk to Ton Kiang for the best dim sum in the city. And a block from there is Tommy’s, which has the best Margaritas. It was my little triangle, and I never left. It’s awesome. And there’s Chinatown—I don’t have a favorite place there. But all the Vietnamese places are fantastic; all the banh mis. And now you have the new Chinatown on Clement Street. It’s beautiful out there. I love all the hot pots and Korean barbeque.
JS: Our readers would love to know where else you eat in the city?
MT: I’ve known Hubert Keller (Fleur de Lys) for 25 years. When you want that great French food, I still think he’s one of the top chefs. I also recently met Dominique Le Crenn (Atelier Crenn), and I’d love to go check out her place. There’s also the Bohemian Cigar Store in North Beach. I used to go there for sandwiches all the time. That’s when I was working at Silks, back in 1991. And, of course, I love Swan Oyster Depot. Most of the mainstays are just so good. And Boulevard; it’s such a classic. I am also happy to see that Hakkasan is now here.
JS: I know you travel a lot internationally for your show. Can you tell me about your trip to Spain with legendary chef Jose Andres?
MT: I had the best trip ever with Jose. It was me, Jose, and celebrity chefs Ken Oringer and Chris Cosentino. We went to Spain to see the fabrication of the Fermin [ham] (from black-footed Iberian pigs, which are fed acorns until they reach a certain weight; then processed, salted, and hung for several years to make jamón serrano). Jose is an energizer bunny times ten. It’s unbelievable. We had so much fun. We had jamón, jamón, jamón. I mean, I couldn’t even come close to getting my wedding ring off because my fingers were so swollen from all the salt.
JS: Where else did he take you in Spain?
MT: We made it to Madrid for a couple of nights, and Segovia, which has the oldest Roman aqueduct. We went to that restaurant where you cut the pig with the plate and then you throw the plate on the floor. They said “Ming, throw the plate.” Throw the plate? I’m cheap, and I don’t want to break plates. Well, we threw the plate. It was phenomenal food.
JS: What are your favorite holidays?
MT: Bar none my two favorite holidays in the world are Western Thanksgiving and Chinese New Year. Thanksgiving is only about the food, no pretentions. And Chinese New Year is also totally about the food.
JS: What might your sixth cookbook look like?
MT: My father documented all of the food we ate growing up. Literally, we have books from 1964 onward. It’s airplane food, a hot dog at Yankee Stadium, Peking duck, Joel Robuchon—it’s everything. I’d like to showcase my history of eating as a testament to my parents. If they didn’t make food the number one priority in our lives, I probably wouldn’t be a chef.
JS: How long have you been a member of Macy’s culinary council?
MT: I’m celebrating ten years at Macy’s with 13 chefs on the council. I’m honored that I was one of the originals, with Rick Bayless, Nancy Silverton, and a few others. It has really grown into a great center of information where customers can see what we like to do at home. This is not a television show. It’s how we cook at home. You need good products and good tools; otherwise you cannot prepare great food.
It’s nearly Easter, and you might be wondering where to have brunch, lunch, or dinner to celebrate, particularly if you have family or friends in town. Here are two wonderful options for dining out, and one for eating beautifully prepared food at home.
Easter Brunch at Quince
Quince Restaurant at 470 Pacific Avenue is offering a very special brunch from 11a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at its flagship location. The pre-fixe menu is $125/person, excluding drinks (there is also a children’s menu for $50/child):
-Lobster, Fava Bean and Nasturtium Salad
-Zucchini Blossom and Mint Tortelli
-Suckling Lamb “Tre Modi”
-Herb, pecorino cheese sauce and “Carciofi alla Romagnola”
-Roman Style Whipped Ricotta and New Crop Cherry Tart
To make a reservation, call 415-775-8500 or go online to www.quincerestaurant.com/reservations/
Easter Brunch at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
Along with the regular brunch menu, Absinthe’s executive chef Adam Keough has created an additional a la carte menu item for Easter, inspired by Southern French flavors, while bar manager Jared Schmidt will offer a special sweet and festive cocktail. Easter brunch hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The menu includes these holiday dishes:
-Slow-Roasted Bone-In Leg of Lamb
-Egg Flip (rum, egg whites, candy cream syrup, Angostura bitters, shaved chocolate garnish)
Absinthe Brasserie & Bar is located at 398 Hayes Street (at Gough) in San Francisco. For reservations calls 415-551-1590.
Easter Supper at Cotogna
If you are not a brunch fan or prefer something a little more casual, Cotogna—next door to Quince—is a fantastic option. The following pre-fixe menu will be offered for dinner from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for $65/person.
(Chilled green jumbo asparagus, young peas and their shoots, artichokes & wild mint)
(Filled with essence of carbonara)
(Fava greens & pecorino crust, ragout of fava beans, chickpeas & razor clams)
Roman Style Oxtails
(extra cost for this supplement)
(Filled with strawberry and passion fruit gelato)
To make a reservation call 415-775-8500 or go online to www.cotognasf.com/reservations.html
Bi-Rite Market Passover Menu
If you prefer to host the holiday in the comfort of you own home the very talented chefs at Bi-Rite Market will make sure you are covered. Their 2014 Passover Menu provides you with plenty of tasty options. Some of the dishes include Jewish-style artichokes (white wine-poached, then fried with lemon, mint & sea salt) and fennel & garlic-crusted slow-roasted grass-fed lamb (with raisin, Meyer lemon & horseradish salsa verde).
You can view the complete Easter menu here:
Bi-Rite’s Easter menus will be available starting on Saturday, April 12th through Tuesday, April 22nd. Orders can be placed by calling either store:
Bi-Rite Market Mission District: 3639 18th Street ▪(415) 241-9760
Bi-Rite Market Western Addition: 550 Divisadero Street ▪(415) 551-7900
This writer visited Dixie when it first opened in the old Pres a Vi space in the Presidio (One Letterman Drive) about two years ago. Then chef Joseph Humphrey crafted a refined and sophisticated menu with subtle Southern accents. The food, however, was not traditional Southern, which confused customers given the restaurant’s name. Partner and general manager Dean Tinney made some changes this year and brought in chef Erik Hopfinger. The food is now American contemporary with strong Southern accents.
Go in for lunch and have a glass of the house chardonnay with a starter such as cheddar and scallion hushpuppies. If you like garlic, you will love the accompanying butter with plenty of thick pieces of chopped garlic. According to Tinney, the term “hush puppy” hails from the South and is derived from throwing a puppy a piece of fried corn meal to make it stop barking.
If you have an appetite for Po’Boy, the dish comes with oysters, shrimp, and house-made barbequed chips. The large platter of Dixie fried chicken is also delicious. The outdoor heated patio is dog-friendly, and there’s a daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Open Monday through Thursday, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; until 10 p.m. on Friday. Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; until 9 p.m. on Sunday.
Simply Roasted Farmer’s Market Cauliflower
At our farmers’ markets this time of year it is common to find large, beautiful heads of cauliflower. Here is a very simple way to roast cauliflower as a beautiful side dish to accompany almost any main course.
Ingredients (serves 6):
-1 very large head of cauliflower–approximately 2-3 lbs–or several smaller heads
-4 sprigs of Spring garlic (also called green garlic)
-Controne pepper (available at Boulette’s Larder in the Ferry Plaza Market Hall). You can substitute red chili flakes.
-Coarse sea salt
-Extra virgin olive oil
-Coarsely ground fresh black pepper
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut and trim the cauliflower into bite-size pieces, keeping the florets as intact as possible. Arrange in a baking dish large enough to accommodate all of the cauliflower in a single layer. Sprinkle with some coarse salt and grate some black pepper. Clean the green garlic and chop into a small dice, including the green bits. Sprinkle the garlic over the baking dish. Drizzle cauliflower with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. Add a few pinches of Controne pepper over the entire dish.
Insert the cauliflower into the oven and bake until ready, approximately 35-45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve along side your favorite main course. You will be amazed at how clean a flavor you develop from roasting cauliflower in this simple manner. The controne pepper (if you can find it) adds a sophisticated element of heat to the dish.
The Shed in Healdsburg
When was the last time you visited charming Healdsburg? This quaint town north of San Francisco has a lot to offer food and wine lovers. One of the most interesting new establishments in the last couple of years is The Shed. Owner Cindy Daniel has been working on this ambitious project for the past decade.
Just off the main square at 25 North Street, The Shed is part café, restaurant, fermentation bar, produce market and eclectic kitchen shopping boutique. The open space—spanning two floors—is stunning. It’s a great place to go in the morning for your coffee and breakfast. Afterwards you can buy locally made bread and pick out your farmers market ingredients for dinner.
The Shed also offers weekly special events, seminars, farm dinners, and cooking classes. Cindy has also gone to great lengths to source a variety of interesting and hard-to-find cooking products. You will find first-rate cutlery, beautiful hand-made pottery, and a collection of lovingly sourced cooking items– most with a compelling story behind them. Would you like to raise your own bees for honey? Cindy and staff have you covered. And they’ve recently launched an online store. Even if you cannot make it up there right away, you can shop online for products. Visit www.shop.healdsburgshed.com/collections/all
The Shed is open daily from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.
Upscale, Refined Indian Cuisine
When was the last time you visited Campton Place? And no, having a drink at the bar doesn’t really count. This writer went in for dinner just before Christmas and shared the nine-course tasting menu. It was fabulous.
During the past four years, executive chef Srijith Gopinathan has quietly refined the food at this iconic restaurant inside the Taj Hotel at 340 Stockton Street. Using classic French technique and local ingredients, as well as bold Indian spices and flavors from South Asia, Srijith has created a repertoire of sophisticated, light Indian fare. He was even awarded a Michelin star, something not commonly associated with Indian cooking.
While the tasting menu is impressive, it represents a substantial amount of food. Àla carte is also a great option. Some of the dishes that stood out include the cauliflower (Meyer lemon milk, kale, tamarind), the Maine lobster (edamame vada, sweet potatoes, coastal curry), and the slow-cooked lamb rack (panch phoran (five-spice blend), pine nut pilaf, pineapple nage). Every protein was perfectly cooked and paired with outstanding wines from master sommelier Richard Dean.
After a while, some of the flavors melded together and repeated, but everything was very light and flavorful. Perhaps most impressive was the dramatic presentation of each dish. Srijith is an artist and it shows. No one in San Francisco is cooking Indian food with this level of artistry and sensibility. Open nightly, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m..
Yappy Days – Skool’s New Canine Happy Hour
Check out my write-up on Skool’s canine happy hour.