Category Archives: Chefs

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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Good Things Come In Three at Michael Mina in San Francisco

A seafood trio at Michael Mina restaurant.

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.

Sashimi trio

Sashimi trio

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.

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Join the Food Gal For a Cookbook Signing at Litquake

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If you like to read and if you like to eat — I mean, who doesn’t? — you won’t want to miss all the fun at Litquake’s “Eat, Drink, and Be Literary” event, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at Z Space in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Especially because yours truly along with photographer extraordinaire Craig Lee will be on hand to sign copies of our cookbook, “San Francisco Chef’s Table” (Lyons Press).

Craig and I will be doing our signing at San Francisco’s premier literary festival from 1:15 p.m. to 2 p.m. that day. For added incentive, I’m bringing cookies baked from a recipe from the book that will be doled out until they run out.


We’ll be in great company, too. Others participating in the signings and panels include:

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