Category Archives: Chefs

The Goods on Manresa Bread Bakery

A selection of Manresa Bread specialties: levain (back), kale scone (front left), and chocolate croissant (front right).

A selection of Manresa Bread specialties: levain (back), kale scone (front left), and chocolate croissant (front right).

 

The South Bay’s most anticipated bakery, Manresa Bread, finally opened a week ago, in downtown Los Gatos.

If you think that means bypassing those long, long lines at its stands at the Palo Alto and Campbell farmers markets on Sundays, guess again.

The queue may be shorter at the new bakery, just around the corner from Michelin two-starred Manresa restaurant, but there likely will be one no matter what time you go.

When I got there at 11 a.m. last Friday, there were already half a dozen people in front of me. And the baguettes were already gone.

If you think that was bad, on opening day on Feb. 21, the bakery sold out in just five hours.

Inside the bakery.

Inside the bakery.

All of that speaks to the quality of the artisan products being turned out by Manresa head baker Avery Ruzicka, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute who also trained with master baker Ben Hershberger of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and Per Se restaurant.

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Hawker Fare Comes to San Francisco

Blistered green beans at Hawker Fare in San Francisco.

Blistered green beans at Hawker Fare in San Francisco.

 

With Chef Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok blazing a trail coast to coast, and San Francisco restaurateur Pim Techamuanvivit acquiring ever growing praise for her Kin Khao, Thai is just about the hottest cuisine around right now.

Now comes James Syhabout, Oakland’s only Michelin-starred chef, to add his stamp with Hawker Fare in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Syhabout’s original Hawker Fare has been going strong in Oakland, along with his more ambitious Commis. But this outpost, which opened about a month ago, is his first foray across the bridge.

When I asked him if he felt he was competing with the other celebrated Thai restaurants that have come to the forefront lately, he replied, “I’m competing with myself. I’m cooking a lot of dishes that I’ve never made before, based on things my family cooked in Thailand.”

Colorful mats as wall art.

Colorful mats as wall art.

Posters set the mood.

Posters set the mood.

The dining room abuzz at night.

The dining room abuzz at night.

Recently, I had a chance to taste some of those dishes when I was invited to a media dinner.

The restaurant is done up as if you were eating at a night market in Thailand. Walls are decorated with bright-colored floor mats tables covered with slick oil-cloths printed with flowers and fruit, and the ceiling strung with strands of lights. All that’s missing is the humidity and the torrent of scooters.

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Lemon Marmalade — Not Just For Scones

Roast chicken gets the surprise flavor of lemon marmalade.

Roast chicken gets the surprise flavor of lemon marmalade.

 

Almost every morning, I slather jam or marmalade on toast.

I’ve also used it time and again for filling batch after batch of thumbprint cookies.

And I’ve warmed it to brush on fruit tarts to give them a dazzling gloss.

But “Blue Chair Cooks with Jam and Marmalade” (Andrews McMeel), of which I received a review copy, really opened my eyes to so many other ways you can use jam in everyday cooking. The book is by Rachel Saunders, founder of Blue Chair Fruit Company, a jam company that specializes in jams made from sustainable fruit grown in the Bay Area.

How about a vibrant beet soup made with red plum jam? Or prawn and squid paella made with nectarine jam? Or even tempeh stir-fried with mushrooms, bok choy and greengage jam?

You’ll find those recipes and other creative fare in these pages, along with recipes to make jam if you don’t want to just buy a ready-made jar from the market.

“My Roast Chicken” appealed to me because the whole bird is roasted with a lemon marmalade and fresh rosemary mixture slathered underneath its skin.

With a dwarf Meyer lemon tree in my backyard, I always end up with a steady supply of this fragrant citrus that’s a cross between a Eureka lemon and a tangerine. I use them to make pitchers of lemonade, all manner of baked goods, and Meyer Lemon and Vanilla Bean Marmalade, a Bon Appetit magazine recipe that I’ve been making every winter.

My home-grown Meyer lemons, and homemade Meyer lemon and vanilla bean marmalade.

My home-grown Meyer lemons, and homemade Meyer lemon and vanilla bean marmalade.

I was curious as to whether the marmalade would make a real difference or if it would turn this chicken into dessert.

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Pigging Out at Cockscomb in San Francisco

Brined, braised and roasted pig's head at Cockscomb.

Brined, braised and roasted pig’s head at Cockscomb.

 

If ever a restaurant embodied its owner’s personality, it is Chris Cosentino’s new Cockscomb in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood.

It’s dark and it’s loud. Picture a concrete bunker hidden away with taxidermy on the walls. There’s a ceramic pig’s head you might recognize from Cosentino’s previous restaurant Incanto, as well as a huge stuffed buffalo head (a gift from a couple of patrons). Shelves around the horned beast’s head display Cosentino’s first bike helmet and old toys. The toilet paper rolls in the bathrooms are even made from spare bike parts.

As for the menu? A lot of it is rich, meaty and rustic — the delicious stuff you picture chefs devouring after a long night, especially male ones. Even so, a female colleague and I (she treated me), dug in and were rewarded with a meal that delighted and definitely made us feel like one of the boys.

Another kind of pig's head on the wall.

Another kind of pig’s head on the wall.

Wall art.

Wall art.

Drink coasters.

Drink coasters.

Why a restaurant named for that ruffle appendage on a rooster’s head? Cosentino says it’s because it harkens to his initials, “C.C.” and because “The rooster runs the farm. Its cockscomb is a commanding piece. The larger it is, the more attention that rooster gets.”

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Get Ready for GourmetFest in Carmel, A New Sushi Menu at Ame, and More

A spectacular morsel from last year's "Rarities Dinner'' at GourmetFest. (Photo by Gina Taro)

A spectacular morsel from last year’s “Rarities Dinner” at GourmetFest. (Photo by Gina Taro)

GourmetFest Comes to Carmel in March

Don’t miss the second year of GourmetFest, March 5-8, packed with cooking demos, exclusive wine tastings and even a wild mushroom hunt.

More than 20 Relais & Chateaux chefs, including an all-female team, will be participating this year. Among the chefs are: Gary Danko of Gary Danko in San Francisco, Michel Bras of Bras-Sebastien et Michel in France, and Justin Cogley of Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel. Prominent winemakers taking part include: Dom Perignon, Dr. Loosen, Gaja and Ridge.

Events include the luxe “Rarities Dinner” on March 6, a 10-course extravaganza paired with rare wines, and “A Taste of France Lunch and Cooking Demo” on March 7.

Ticket prices range from $175 to $5,500 per person.

Ame Introduces Nigiri Zushi Menu

Michelin-starred Ame in the St. Regis in San Francisco has always incorporated Japanese influences and flavors in its menu.

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