Category Archives: Chefs

A Swank Evening at The Saratoga

A taste of old and new at The Saratoga in San Francisco.

A taste of old and new at The Saratoga in San Francisco.

 

Even though it opened in November, The Saratoga feels like it’s been a part of San Francisco for years — which I think is one of the greatest compliments you can bestow upon a bar-restaurant.

The newest establishment by the Bacchus Management Group is housed in a 1907 building in the Tendernob neighborhood that was once a hotel. The original brick in the interior was exposed in the renovation, as were its striking steel beam trusses. The effect is a modish industrial look that’s also timeless — old-school San Francisco spit and polished. I had a chance to check it out on a recent packed Saturday night, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

A wide staircase sits almost in the center of the two-story establishment, making for rather tight quarters between tables. A dramatic steel and crystal chandelier of cascading sparkling hoops dangles from the ceiling into the stairwell, doubling as a sculptural art piece. Tables are set around the stairwell, both on the main floor and the one below. A massive bar with shelves of liquor lighted from below is the focal point of the first floor. There’s also a second bar downstairs. If you need to use the restroom, you’ll have to go downstairs and thread your way gingerly past all the people standing at the bar or sitting at the nearby tables.

The incredible chandelier.

The incredible chandelier.

A touch of neon in the dining room.

A touch of neon in the dining room.

The Saratoga has that glam yet illicit feel the moment you step in the doors, owing to the quite dim lighting that’s broken up only by that showstopping chandelier and the small candle on each table. Mine was definitely not the only table pulling out a cell phone to use as a flashlight to read the menu. The darkness provides a certain edgy moodiness, but it also makes it hard to really see the food on your plate in detail. And that’s kind of a shame because the food is so playful and inviting here.

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Bad Boy Cauliflower

Anthony Bourdain's craveable cauliflower.

Anthony Bourdain’s craveable cauliflower.

 

Anthony Bourdain is never one to hold back. That’s why fellow chefs and food writers love him.

So when he describes this dish as “This s–t is compulsively delicious,” you can bet that it is.

And I concur heartily after having made it.

“Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame” is from his new book, “Appetites: A Cookbook” (Ecco), of which I received a review copy.

It’s his first cookbook in more than 10 years. This isn’t a collection of necessarily cutting-edge cooking, but rather recipes for dishes that he loves to cook at home — well, on the rare days that he actually is in New York and not traveling the globe for his must-see “Parts Unknown” show on CNN. They’re also dishes that Bourdain thinks every home-cook ought to have in his or her repertoire.

AnthonyBourdainAppetites

Besides the recipes for fundamentals such as “Sunday Gravy with Sausage and Rigatoni” and “Chicken Satay with Fake-Ass Spicy Peanut Sauce,” you get plenty of personality and snark.

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A Taste of The World’s Best At In Situ

A unique chocolate dessert from Spain recreated and served at In Situ.

A unique chocolate dessert from Spain recreated and served at In Situ.

 

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of dining on signature dishes from Japan, Germany, Denmark, France, Spain and Italy — all from the comfort of my chair at In Situ in downtown San Francisco.

Opened last May as part of SFMoMA’s $610 million expansion, In Situ has to be one of the most original restaurants ever created. Leave it to French Laundry alum, Chef Corey Lee of San Francisco’s Michelin three-starred Benu and Monsieur Benjamin, to fashion a restaurant that’s much like a museum, itself, in curating and showcasing iconic artworks that in this case just happen to be edible.

Latin for “on site,” In Situ, is where Lee has collaborated with chefs from around the world, as well as right here in the Bay Area, to recreate their most iconic dishes. At times, he has traveled across the globe to watch a chef cook a dish; other times a chef has merely sent a video with instructions.

Art on the wall behind a communal table.

Art on the wall behind a communal table.

The bright dining room that's lively, but still intimate enough for conversation.

The bright dining room that’s lively, but still intimate enough for conversation.

How many times have you longed to try some fantastic dish at some far-off restaurant, only to realize the odds are you would never make it to that destination? At In Situ, that wish is very much possible.

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Asian-American Food & Film, A Bake-Sale Not To Miss, & More

CAAMFeast17-Save-the-Date

Center for Asian American Media Feast and Fest 2017

Celebrating Asian-American achievements in food, film and music, the Center for Asian American Media presents its 35th annual CAAMFEST, March 9-19.

The film presentations, live music, and food events, which shines a light on new Asian-American talents, takes place in various venues around San Francisco and Oakland, including the Asian Art Museum and the Castro Theatre.

Among the films sure to whet your appetite are: “Sunday Dinner,” directed by Casey Beck, which follows one man’s journey through San Francisco’s Chinatown to pick the most exacting ingredients to cook for a family feast; and “Good Luck Soup,” directed by Matthew Hashiguchi, about what it’s like to grow up mixed-race in a predominantly white neighborhood in Cleveland. Tickets for regular screenings are $12 to $14 each.

CAAMFEST is preceded by CAAMFEAST, March 4 at 6 p.m., in the Green Room at the War Memorial & Performing Arts Center in San Francisco. The evening features tastings from top restaurants, and a multi-media tribute to culinary awards honorees, who this year include Los Angeles Chef Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ and Locol; and the People’s Kitchen Collective of Oakland, which hosts Diaspora Dinners, sliding-scale community meals, and workshops. Tickets are $200 each.

Wine Dinner and Bake-Sale at Zola in Palo Alto

Pastry chef extraordinaire John Shelsta, also known by his Twitter handle of @loveforbutter, will be hosting one of his not-to-be-missed bake sales at Zola in downtown Palo Alto, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 25.

Pineapple-filled kouign-amanns. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

Pineapple-filled kouign-amanns. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

Shelsta has trained with some of the best around, including William Werner of Craftsman and Wolves in San Francisco, and Belinda Leong of B. Patisserie in San Francisco. It’s from the latter that he learned to make his gossamer, crackling sugary kouign-amanns. The traditional Brittany pastry is like a croissant folded upon itself with layers of sugar in between.

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“Taste of Yosemite” 2017

Pretty in white.

Pretty in white.

 

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — After five years of drought, the snow was back and the waterfalls gushing like crazy this winter in this spectacular national park (click on the Instagram video below).

The Ahwahnee may now be known as the Majestic Yosemite (because its former concessionaire Delaware North claims it owns the park’s historic names after trademarking them); and the former “Chefs’ Holidays” event is now referred to as “Taste of Yosemite.” But no matter what you call it, a bevy of stellar chefs were more than happy to be back for this 32nd year, and yours truly was once again the moderator for the two closing sessions of this annual gourmet event.

Every year, I get a chance to meet newcomers who are not only attending their first gala dinner event here, but visiting the park for the very first time, too. That’s coupled with regulars, some of whom have been attending this glorious event for more than seven years.

Rhythm in motion @yosemitenps @yosemite

A video posted by Carolyn Jung (@food_gal_carolyn) on

Each sessions features three chefs or gourmet purveyors who each do a cooking demo. There’s a wine reception where you can mingle with the chefs. And every session ends with a gala five-course dinner prepared by one of the visiting chefs.

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