Author Archives: foodgal

Behind the Scenes as El Celler de Can Roca’s Roca Brothers Cook in San Francisco

"The World'' being assembled at the San Francisco dinner prepared by the Roca brothers.

“The World” being assembled at the San Francisco dinner prepared by the Roca brothers.

 

It was a little like getting a backstage pass to a U2 concert.

Only way better.

That’s how I felt when I was invited to hang around in the kitchen on Wednesday night when the three Roca brothers, owners of the illustrious El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, were in San Francisco to cook a series of dinners at the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

After all, in the culinary world — Joan (chef), Josep (sommelier and maitre d’) and Jordi (pastry chef) — are rock stars of the utmost magnitude. Their restaurant not only has garnered three Michelin stars, but is rated #2 on the current list of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” (they were #1 in 2013 and 2015).

Jordi, Joan and Josep Roca in the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

Jordi, Joan and Josep Roca in the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

What’s more, the multi-course, three-hour dinners were not open to the public. Instead, they were by invitation-only, with the 100 guests each night predominantly clients of Spanish bank BBVA Compass, which was sponsoring the Roca brothers’ whirlwind cooking tour. It spans three continents in five weeks with stops in London, Hong Kong, Phoenix, San Francisco (this week), and finally, Santiago de Chile.

Although Joan had come to the Bay Area in the spring on a prior scouting trip, this was the first time the other two brothers have visited San Francisco.

The 2016 tour is the third time BBVA has sponsored such an endeavor for the brothers. And what an undertaking it is. El Celler Can Roca closes for the entire month of August just for this, and almost the entire staff comes along for the ride. We’re talking the brothers plus 40 others.

The ballroom before the guests arrived.

The ballroom before the guests arrived.

Some of the featured wines for the evening.

Some of the featured wines for the evening.

Besides their personal luggage, the brothers travel only with their knives, and a few special ingredients, such as distillations that would be too difficult to make on location. One-of-a-kind serving ware is sent ahead. They go through one Iberico jamon leg per dinner. They source most everything else locally, making a point to use a few key ingredients particularly indigenous to the cities they are cooking in.

Read more

Cheesy Zucchini and Olive Bread — For Breakfast or Dinner

A decidedly not-sweet zucchini bread.

A decidedly not-sweet zucchini bread.

 

If given the choice between sweet and savory, I will almost always veer at full speed toward sweet.

But a dinner four years ago at San Jose’s The Table had me backpedaling.

That was when I had Chef de Cuisine Anthony Jimenez’s take on zucchini bread.

It wasn’t served for brunch or dessert, but as an accompaniment to roast chicken. The slab of zucchini bread had been sliced, then griddled until it was slightly crisp on the exterior. Its sweetness had been remarkably dialed down. It was tender with some parts soft, some crispy — and it reminded me very much of Thanksgiving stuffing.

Who knew zucchini bread could be enjoyed quite like this?

Katie Sullivan Morford, for one. A Bay Area food and nutrition writer, she’s written a new cookbook, of which I received a review copy: “Rise and Shine: Better Breakfasts for Busy Mornings” (Roost Books). The lovely photos are by Bay Area photographer Erin Scott.

RiseandShineBook

It’s filled with 75 inventive recipes for the most important meal of the day. Some can be made in a flash, such as “Orange Almond Date Lassi.” Some are remarkably time-saving, such as “Better Than Boxed Instant Oatmeal” and “Make-And-Freeze Buttermilk Waffles.” And some are designed more for weekends, such as “Big Joe’s Huevos Rancheros.”

Read more

Vinebox Brings the Tasting Room to You

A novel way to try wines.

A novel way to try wines.

 

In much the same way that Birchbox sends subscribers samples of new beauty products monthly to try, Vinebox does the same with wine.

But of course, you do need to be 21 to take possession of this box when it’s delivered to your door. And not every state allows shipping of alcohol.

The curated box is pretty nifty, as I found out for myself when I was invited to try a sample. Inside, snuggled tightly inside foam cutouts for protection, are three glass containers of wine that look rather like oversized test tubes with screw-tops.

Each holds a glass of wine that’s been repackaged using a patented technology that presumably doesn’t impact the wine.

Read more

What’s Old Is New Again At Dan Gordon’s

Fried chicken and barbecue star at the new Dan Gordon's in Palo Alto.

Fried chicken and barbecue star at the new Dan Gordon’s in Palo Alto.

 

Some laws are meant to be broken. Or rescinded.

Especially when it comes to the one that California enacted in 1999 that prohibited someone from owning both a restaurant and a bottling brewery.

The result was that long-time brewer Dan Gordon was forced to sell his 12 Gordon Biersch Brewery restaurants in order to maintain ownership of his Gordon Biersch Brewing Company in San Jose.

It was not a decision he wanted to make. And it was one that haunted him.

When California legislators rescinded that law this year, Gordon rejoiced. By chance, he learned that his original Gordon Biersch restaurant in downtown Palo Alto was about to be shuttered and sold. He managed to buy it back.

The expansive bar.

The expansive bar.

The soaring, barn-like dining room.

The soaring, barn-like dining room.

This March, he and his business partner, Steve Sincheck (Gordon’s original bar manager at that location, and now owner of Palo Alto’s Old Pro and Local Union 271) reopened the restaurant, christening it Dan Gordon’s and transforming it into a contemporary barbecue joint. It is the only restaurant Gordon actually owns now.

Read more

Kinda, Sorta Patatas Bravas

A take on a favorite tapa -- without the deep-frying.

A take on a favorite tapa — without the deep-frying.

 

Whenever I think of fried foods, I can’t help but think of two friends, whose opinions couldn’t be more divergent

On one side, I have my buddy Ben of the blog, FocusSnapEat, who vows no fried foods will ever pass his lips.

On the other side, I have my friend Andrea Nguyen, creator of the Viet World Kitchen blog and a veteran cookbook author, who is an avid home-fryer and chides me for not wanting to fry my own chicken or spring rolls at home.

To Ben, I always say: Relax. A couple french fries or a doughnut now and then won’t kill you.

To Andrea, I always say: Ugh, the mess, the splatter, the leftover oil to deal with.

That’s why I love this particular recipe for patatas bravas. In this traditional Spanish tapa, potatoes are deep-fried, then drizzled with a creamy, smoky and gently spicy tomato-y sauce.

I always order it at Spanish restaurants. I have not made them at home, though, because of the whole deep-frying conundrum.

But “Kinda, Sorta Patatas Bravas” lets me have my crisp potatoes without a second thought because these potatoes are boiled, then roasted on high heat — not fried at all.

Read more

« Older Entries