Category Archives: Cheese

Of Smoke and Cocktails at Gibson

This is what a chicken nugget looks like at Gibson in San Francisco.

This is what a chicken nugget looks like at Gibson in San Francisco.

 

There are restaurants where cocktails and hearth cooking are strong supporting players.

At Gibson in San Francisco, though, they are center-stage stars.

Located in the Hotel Bijou on the edge of Union Square, it offers up a unique dining experience, as I found out recently when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. It’s a place that does some mind-blowing things with live-fire cooking. And it’s where you can enjoy not just a prix fixe dinner with wine pairings, but cocktail pairings instead if you are so inclined. That latter is what we went with.

With an al fresco ceiling, lots of brass and Art Deco touches, it’s a little like walking into a bustling Eastern European cafe in feel. Yet it’s all modern and whimsical in its approach.

The ceiling.

The ceiling.

Operation Director Adam Chapman mixes up specialty drinks at the bar.

Operation Director Adam Chapman (right) mixes up specialty drinks at the bar.

Sit at the chef's table just inches outside the kitchen to see and hear all the action.

Sit at the chef’s table just inches outside the kitchen to see and hear all the action.

We were seated at the chef’s table, a four-seat banquette that is right in front of the wide-open kitchen. How open? I literally could have gotten up from my seat, taken two steps and been right beside the cooks. From that vantage point, it’s almost like watching live theater before you.

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A Grilled Cheese That’s The Boom

A sticky, jammy center of caramelized shiitakes and onions takes this grilled cheese to another level.

A sticky, jammy center of caramelized shiitakes and onions takes this grilled cheese to another level.

 

Got cheese?

Got bread?

Then you know you have the makings for a simple yet sensational meal.

Especially if the cheese gets all melty and oozy all over that bread.

“The Great Grilled Cheese Book: Grown-Up Recipes for a Childhood Classic” (Ten Speed, 2018), of which I received a review copy, will show you just how special that combination can be.

The cookbook is by Eric Greenspan, a graduate of both the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Paris. He also trained under such celebrated chefs as Alain Ducasse, David Bouley, and Joachim Splichal.

The Los Angeles chef made a name for himself with his grilled cheese when he opened the Foundry on Melrose in 2007. He was also the owner of The Roof on Wilshire, where a grilled cheese is indeed still on the menu morning, noon and night.

GreatGrilledCheese

With 50 takes on grilled cheese, this book offers up both simple and fully loaded versions of this iconic sandwich, from the “Monterey Melt” (poached sush-grade tuna and sharp Cheddar), and “Frenchie” (crumbled blue cheese and date marmalade), to “Prime Time” (brie with roast beef and beet-horseradish mayo), and “Redberry Crunch” (Gouda with raspberry chutney and pecan brittle).

“The Boom” is a vegetarian grilled cheese that tastes downright meaty, thanks to caramelized shiitakes and onions that get coated with home-made Worcestershire sauce. That sauce is a breeze to make, too. Not only that, unlike store-bought Worcestershire sauce that uses anchovies, this one is vegetarian, even vegan.

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Modern Cauliflower Gratin — Lighter and More Flavorful

A gratin that won't weigh you down.

A gratin that won’t weigh you down.

 

Usually smothered in heavy cream and copious amounts of melty, gooey cheese, gratins are both comfort food and festive special occasion fare.

They’re also rich, heavy, and total gut-busters.

But what if they could be lightened — without sacrificing the luscious quality we love about them?

Leave it to the geniuses behind America’s Test Kitchen to do just that — at least with cauliflower gratin.

Meet “Modern Cauliflower Gratin,” an inventive take on the classic. It’s one of more than 700 innovative recipes in the new cookbook, “Vegetables Illustrated: An Inspiring Guide with 700+ Kitchen-Tested Recipes” by America’s Test Kitchen, of which I received a review copy.

Cooks Illustrated Vegetables

If you’re familiar with Cook’s Illustrated magazine, then you know all too well how meticulous these recipes have been tested until perfected. Although the book is called “Vegetables” illustrated, it doesn’t mean this is a vegetarian cookbook. While vegetables are dominant, many recipes feature meat or seafood, or make use of chicken broth.

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Cheese, Please — For the Holidays

Cranberry & Cinnamon goat cheese for spiffing up the holidays.

Cranberry & Cinnamon goat cheese for spiffing up the holidays.

 

One of the easiest — and tastiest — no-fuss treats for holiday entertaining is cheese.

Just unwrap, arrange prettily with crackers, baguette slices, and maybe some toasted nuts and dried fruit, and you are good to go.

Laura Chenel, the pioneer in artisan goat cheese in Northern California, makes doing so especially festive with her flavored ones. Recently, I had a chance to try a couple samples that are particularly perfect at this time of year.

Her new Cranberry & Cinnamon Medallion is new this year. The 3.5-ounce thick round disk ($3.99) is naturally tangy from the goat cheese, but with a touch of fruity sweetness and warmth from the dried cranberries and touch of cinnamon.

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Baked Brie En Croute — For Your Holiday Entertaining

An elegant brie en croute fit for company -- or just spoiling yourself.

An elegant brie en croute fit for company — or just spoiling yourself.

 

Who doesn’t love warm, melty, gooey cheese?

Swaddle it in flaky, buttery pastry and it’s even more irresistible — if that’s possible.

That’s what you get with Marin French Cheese’s Baked Brie en Croute.

America’s longest continually operating cheese company that was founded in 1865, Marin French Cheese brings back this popular product for the holidays through the end of this year. I had a chance to try a sample recently.

Its brie, inspired by the luscious triple cremes of France, gets encased in pastry dough made by La Boulangerie of San Francisco. It’s a simple idea. But the execution is top-notch.

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