Dinner in mere minutes: A big pot of mussels cooked in sour beer.
For sour beer, that is.
My husband may wince at this style of brew, much preferring a smooth Amber Ale instead.
But I can’t get enough of the specialty fermented beer that gets its characteristic tang from wild yeast strains or bacteria.
I love its bracing quality, especially paired with food, much like that of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the wine world. Both wake up the taste buds with a brisk bite, acting like a natural-born palate cleanser.
Though I’ve cooked with various types of beer over the years, somehow it never dawned on me to try it with sour beer.
That is, until I spied the recipe for “Mussels in Sour Beer” in the new “Cheers to The Publican Repast and Present: Recipes and Ramblings from an American Beer Hall” (Lorena Jones Books), of which I received a review copy.
The book is by Chef-Owner Paul Kahan of The Publican in Chicago, a modern-day beer hall known for its huge communal wood tables, deep beer list, and rustic dishes flavored with gusto and served charmingly on mismatched plates.
The Publican is just one of eight establishments in Chicago by Kahan and the One Off Hospitality Group. The others include Avec, Blackbird, and the wholesale Publican Quality Bread. (His bread is fantastic, too, as I found out when he brought loaves to a recent holiday dinner at Acacia House in St. Helena where he cooked with Chef Chris Cosentino.)
Chef Donato Scotti at his newest restaurant, Donato & Co.
Chefs Donato Scotti and Gianluca Guglielmi have been fast friends for 18 years.
So much so that when the Vicenza, Italy-born Guglielmi, the former executive chef and vice president at A.G. Ferarri Foods, returned to Italy to open his own restaurant in 2010, Scotti persuaded him into returning to the Bay Area recently.
Scotti’s new Berkeley restaurant, Donato & Co., which opened in October that Guglielmi now oversees. It is expected to be the first of several Bay Area concepts to come helmed by the duo.
If Donato & Co. is any indication of what’s to come, the future should be bright for Guglielmi and Scotti, who grew up in a small town near Bergamo, Italy, and now also owns Donato Enoteca in Redwood City and Cru wine bar in Redwood City.
What’s an Italian restaurant without a Vespa, right?
The 20-foot-long bar.
A few weeks ago, I was invited in as a guest of the spacious restaurant, with soaring ceilings, exposed brick columns, a 20-foot-long bar, and a vintage Vespa on display. It has the feel of a beloved neighborhood joint, one you feel right at home in from the get-go.
After a year of incredible eats, here are my Top 10 dishes (in no particular order), the ones I still dream about, and would gladly go out of my way just to enjoy again and again.
The signature Gol Guppa at August 1 Five.
Ask Hetal Shah, which is harder — creating advertising technology at Google or running a restaurant — and she doesn’t hesitate to answer:
Operating a restaurant. By far.
Shah, who left her job at Google a year ago, and her husband, who still works in tech, had experience opening restaurants, having established Red Hot Chili Pepper in San Carlos in 2010, the casual take on Indian-inflected Chinese food.
But their next restaurant venture was exceedingly more ambitious, August 1 Five, which opened a little over a year ago in San Francisco’s Civic Center.
The name of the splashy, upscale modern Indian restaurant commemorates the date that India won its independence from British rule.
Conveniently located in Civic Center.
The bold interior.
Although Shah and her husband loved the mom-and-pop Indian restaurants in the United States, they missed the more contemporary fare found at high-end hotels in India. So when she and her husband moved to San Francisco from New York, they decided to do something to fill that void.
Presenting Le Grand Johnnie, named for John Davoudi, the chef-owner who presided over La Foret for 38 years.
When Chef-Owner John Davoudi decided to retire this year from La Foret, the San Jose restaurant he had nurtured for 38 years, faithful diners almost went into mourning.
But before they could shed a tear, Davoudi had struck a deal to sell the beloved establishment to Maurice and Giuseppe Carrubba, two brothers with a penchant for taking over old-school establishments to give them new life while still keeping their special spirit intact.
They did so previously with Osteria in downtown Palo Alto, and the Grandview in San Jose.
In late-summer, they took the reins of the historic La Foret, nestled in the trees in the Almaden Valley. The building dates back to 1848, when it housed workers from the surrounding quicksilver mines — the first mining operation established in California.
La Foret in Almaden Valley.
When I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently, it wasn’t the first time I had dined at La Foret. What I always loved about the place was that you felt far removed from the hustle-bustle of Silicon Valley. Off the two-lane road, the restaurant is an oasis of calm. It feels almost like a throw-back to another era when dining out felt special, and French continental cuisine and not molecular gastronomy ruled.