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.
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.
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.
Bananas and cookies make this ice cream old-fashioned delicious.
That’s bananas plus cinnamon in a wonderfully homey ice cream.
With crumbled Nilla Wafers for added enticement.
It’s a creation from Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn.
I received a review copy of its “Ample Hills Creamery: Secrets and Stories from Brooklyn’s Favorite Ice Cream Shop” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang; 2014) cookbook last year. Ice cream shop owners Brian Smith, a screenwriter, and Jackie Cuscuna, an alternative high school teacher, opened their first shop in 2011, followed by a second one in 2014. The shops’ name was inspired by a poem by Walt Whitman, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.”
The cookbook is full of fun and inventive ice cream flavors to make including, “The Munchies” (pretzel ice cream with mix-ins of Ritz crackers, mini pretzels, potato chips and M&Ms), “Cotton Candy” (made with cotton candy flavor extract and blue food coloring), and “Sunday Brunch” (maple cinnamon ice cream with baked french toast spooned into it).
With the recent heat wave, I couldn’t help but have ice cream on my mind. “Bananamon” appealed because of its nostalgic bent. A milky, creamy spoonful that tastes of vanilla, cinnamon, banana and old-time cookies — what’s not to like, right?
A seafood trio at Michael Mina restaurant.
At Michael Mina’s flagship eponymous restaurant in San Francisco, tasty things definitely do come in threes.
It’s been more than a dozen years since Mina first made serving composed trios a signature of his. Now, he’s brought that style back as an option at his downtown restaurant.
The trios menu, which just debuted a couple weeks ago at Michael Mina restaurant, offers a three-course prix fixe for $105. Because each course is composed of one highlighted ingredient served three different ways, it feels like much more than just a first course, a second course and a third course. It’s like experiencing a much more extended tasting menu — but in a truncated way.
The special menu also offers a couple of Mina blasts from the pasts, regular-sized dishes that can be ordered instead of a trio, such as his famed ahi tartare.
I was prepared to enjoy three courses when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently. But the kitchen had other ideas — wanting me to try pretty much every option offered on that menu. Out they came, one by one, until my husband and I had to wave the white flag. Even Executive Chef Ron Siegel jokingly apologized at the end for the avalanche of food.
But it’s hard to turn down morsels so delicious.
The parade started with a trio of sashimi — Spanish bluefin belly with yuzu citrus gel, medai with roasted tomato puree, and kamasu with compressed cantaloupe and geoduck. Each was firm, fresh, just impeccable. A nice touch was the fresh wasabi grated right at the table.
Scones made with the most ancient type of flour.
Chances are you’ve never heard of einkorn.
I know it was new to me — until I received a sample of the intriguing flour, along with the new cookbook, “Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat” (Clarkson Potter).
The cookbook is by Carla Bartolucci, who started growing this ancient grain known as einkorn with her husband at their home in northern Italy six years ago. Today, they are the largest growers in the world of what is purported to be the most ancient species of wheat and the only variety of wheat that’s never been hybridized.
Why is that important?
Because, Batolucci writes, not only is einkorn is much more nutritious than modern wheat (with 30 percent more protein to boot), but genetic testing has found that it lacks certain gluten proteins that people with wheat intolerances cannot digest.
That is not to say that einkorn is gluten-free. It has about as much gluten as modern wheat. The makeup of its gluten is different, however. It lacks high molecular weight proteins, making it tolerable to people who are gluten sensitive, but not for those who suffer from celiac disease.
A type of flour that may be suitable for those who suffer from gluten sensitivity.
As such, Batolucci’s daughter, who suffers from gluten insensitivity, is able to eat pasta, bread, crackers, cookies and other baked goods made from einkorn with no problem whatsoever.