Bryan Voltaggio’s Baked Applesauce

The beginnings of this applesauce.

The beginnings of this applesauce.


The applesauce of my youth was light and bright, the taste of sunshine in the park.

This applesauce, in contrast, is like autumn by a crackling fire.

“Baked Applesauce” is by Bryan Voltaggio, chef-owner of Volt, Lunchbox, Family Meal, Range , and Aggio restaurants in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virgina.

You probably also remember him as a finalist on “Top Chef” Season 6, my personal favorite season of the show because of the outstanding caliber of its contestants that year. Voltaggio lost to his brother Michael, who owns MVink in Los Angeles.

The recipe is from Bryan’s first cookbook, “Home: Recipes to Cook with Family and Friends” (Little, Brown and Company), of which I received a review copy.


As the name implies, these 100 recipes are the ones he makes in his family kitchen.

Sure, a few recipes do call for a whipped cream canister or xanthum gum, items not necessarily found in your everyday home kitchen. But in general, these are recipes that are not geared for a brigade of cooks or fancy equipment. In short, they are accessible with familiar flavors and a sense of fun and comfort.

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Jeff Banker Makes A Splash at Bluestem Brasserie

BN Ranch lamb two ways at Bluestem Brasserie. (Photo by Craig Lee)

BN Ranch lamb two ways at Bluestem Brasserie. (Photo by Craig Lee)


It was a double treat for me when I dined as a guest of the restaurant recently at Bluestem Brasserie in downtown San Francisco.

First, because my friend, the ever-talented photographer Craig Lee, who took the photos for my cookbook, “San Francisco Chef’s Table” (Lyons), not only agreed to be my dining companion that night, but also offered to take all the photos. It was a rare opportunity for me to just enjoy the food without having to worry about lighting or shutter speed. And let’s face it, Craig’s photos will always be heads and shoulders above mine. Just take a look for yourself, as he took all the pics on this post.

Second, because the equally gifted Executive Chef Jeff Banker was in the kitchen here. Banker and his wife Lori Baker owned the charming Baker & Banker in San Francisco until it closed last year. (In fact, his recipe for “Mirin-Soy Glazed Black Cod” and hers for “Roasted White Chocolate Cheesecake” are featured in my cookbook.) I still miss Lori’s decadent, mile-high cakes there. But at least now, I can enjoy a taste of Jeff’s food again.

Executive Chef Jeff Banker in the kitchen. (Photo by Craig Lee)

Executive Chef Jeff Banker in the kitchen. (Photo by Craig Lee)

His arrival at Bluestem is a reunion of sorts, as he worked at Postrio in San Francisco with Bluestem Co-Owner Adam Jed, when the latter was the morning-shift manager who would open the place up at 3 a.m.

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Discount on FallFest, Plus Happenings in the South Bay/Peninsula

A scene from last year's FallFest. (Photo courtesy of San Francisco magazine)

A scene from last year’s FallFest. (Photo courtesy of San Francisco magazine)

Fall for FallFest in San Francisco

If you’re mourning the end of summer, you’re sure to rejoice that it’s fall with FallFest, the outdoor foodie fest noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 10 at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco.

Presented by San Francisco magazine, the event supports Meals on Wheels of San Francisco, which provides meals to home-bound seniors.

Enjoy live music, cooking demos, and tantalizing tastes from some of the Bay Area’s premier chefs, wineries and breweries.

Among those participating will be: 25 Lusk, Barbacco, Gaspar Brasserie, Cairdean Estates, and Blackbird Vineyards.

Tickets are $110 in advance; $125 at the door.

Get $10 off your ticket if you purchase before Oct. 2 and use the code: FOODGAL

Tacolicious Comes to Santana Row

San Francisco’s Tacolicious, which already has a venue in Palo Alto, is expanding even farther south with an outpost in Santana Row in San Jose.


It is expected to open sometime around February 2016 in the old Lavazza space.

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Mourad Soars in San Francisco

A sublime chicken with sides -- family-style -- at Mourad.

A sublime chicken with sides — family-style — at Mourad.


Chef Mourad Lahlou has had quite the journey.

From his early days as an economics student at San Francisco State, where he started dabbling in the kitchen because he missed his mother’s cooking from his native Marrakech.

To this self-taught cook’s opening of his ground-breaking Aziza restaurant in the city’s Outer Richmond neighborhood, which was named for his mother.

To that restaurant’s evolution from belly dancers and very traditional fare to thrilling modern takes on Moroccan cuisine.

Now comes Mourad, his new eponymous restaurant in the historic Pacific Telephone building, which opened in January.

Years in the making, it’s a grand, glam setting fit for a chef who has grown into one of the most respected and gifted around.

A dramatic art piece of ancient tree roots.

A dramatic art piece of ancient tree roots.

Walk through the doors and you are immediately greeted with a striking art piece — a cross-section of a massive tree’s roots. It is beautifully organic in nature to be sure. But it’s also a symbol of how Lahlou’s cooking may grow and change, but is always firmly rooted in his heritage.

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Halfpops Are Not Half-Baked

New Chipotle Barbecue Halfpops.

New Chipotle Barbecue Halfpops.


Halfpops are pretty much just what you imagine — half-popped popcorn kernels.

Billed as the “curiously crunchy popcorn,” they are gluten-free, nut-free, corn syrup-free, preservative-free, and trans fat-free.

They come in four flavors. I had a chance to try samples of the two newest flavors: Chipotle Barbecue and Caramel & Sea Salt.

They are very crunchy. They’re not tooth-cracking like an unpopped popcorn kernel. They’re also not as hard on the enamel as corn nuts, though, they do remind me of them in terms of how crisp they are.

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