Category Archives: Chefs

Behind the Scenes as El Celler de Can Roca’s Roca Brothers Cook in San Francisco

"The World'' being assembled at the San Francisco dinner prepared by the Roca brothers.

“The World” being assembled at the San Francisco dinner prepared by the Roca brothers.

 

It was a little like getting a backstage pass to a U2 concert.

Only way better.

That’s how I felt when I was invited to hang around in the kitchen on Wednesday night when the three Roca brothers, owners of the illustrious El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, were in San Francisco to cook a series of dinners at the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

After all, in the culinary world — Joan (chef), Josep (sommelier and maitre d’) and Jordi (pastry chef) — are rock stars of the utmost magnitude. Their restaurant not only has garnered three Michelin stars, but is rated #2 on the current list of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” (they were #1 in 2013 and 2015).

Jordi, Joan and Josep Roca in the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

Jordi, Joan and Josep Roca in the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

What’s more, the multi-course, three-hour dinners were not open to the public. Instead, they were by invitation-only, with the 100 guests each night predominantly clients of Spanish bank BBVA Compass, which was sponsoring the Roca brothers’ whirlwind cooking tour. It spans three continents in five weeks with stops in London, Hong Kong, Phoenix, San Francisco (this week), and finally, Santiago de Chile.

Although Joan had come to the Bay Area in the spring on a prior scouting trip, this was the first time the other two brothers have visited San Francisco.

The 2016 tour is the third time BBVA has sponsored such an endeavor for the brothers. And what an undertaking it is. El Celler Can Roca closes for the entire month of August just for this, and almost the entire staff comes along for the ride. We’re talking the brothers plus 40 others.

The ballroom before the guests arrived.

The ballroom before the guests arrived.

Some of the featured wines for the evening.

Some of the featured wines for the evening.

Besides their personal luggage, the brothers travel only with their knives, and a few special ingredients, such as distillations that would be too difficult to make on location. One-of-a-kind serving ware is sent ahead. They go through one Iberico jamon leg per dinner. They source most everything else locally, making a point to use a few key ingredients particularly indigenous to the cities they are cooking in.

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What’s Old Is New Again At Dan Gordon’s

Fried chicken and barbecue star at the new Dan Gordon's in Palo Alto.

Fried chicken and barbecue star at the new Dan Gordon’s in Palo Alto.

 

Some laws are meant to be broken. Or rescinded.

Especially when it comes to the one that California enacted in 1999 that prohibited someone from owning both a restaurant and a bottling brewery.

The result was that long-time brewer Dan Gordon was forced to sell his 12 Gordon Biersch Brewery restaurants in order to maintain ownership of his Gordon Biersch Brewing Company in San Jose.

It was not a decision he wanted to make. And it was one that haunted him.

When California legislators rescinded that law this year, Gordon rejoiced. By chance, he learned that his original Gordon Biersch restaurant in downtown Palo Alto was about to be shuttered and sold. He managed to buy it back.

The expansive bar.

The expansive bar.

The soaring, barn-like dining room.

The soaring, barn-like dining room.

This March, he and his business partner, Steve Sincheck (Gordon’s original bar manager at that location, and now owner of Palo Alto’s Old Pro and Local Union 271) reopened the restaurant, christening it Dan Gordon’s and transforming it into a contemporary barbecue joint. It is the only restaurant Gordon actually owns now.

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Sate Your Thirst and Appetite at Smokestack

A sampler at Smokestack.

A sampler at Smokestack.

 

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing Company in San Francisco specializes in B2B operations.

That’s beer-to-barbecue to you and me.

Think the usual suspects of ribs and chopped pork. But also the out-of-the-norm pastrami. Yes, New York deli-proud pastrami.

The soaring warehouse-like space in the Dogpatch neighborhood sports a bona fide brewery in the back, and a barbecue joint in the front that features an expansive bar complete with shelves of liquor stacked so high, the bartenders need to climb a tall wooden ladder to reach the top ones.

Done up in an abundance of reclaimed wood, exposed concrete walls and steel pipes, it’s a festive spot that draws a crowd, as I witnessed recently when I was invited in to dine as a guest.

On the top shelves is a zany display of assorted rubber work boots.

On the top shelves is a zany display of assorted rubber work boots.

You order at the counter, then find a seat among the several communal tables, until your food is brought to you.

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Join Yours Truly For the 2016 James Beard “Taste America” San Francisco Gala

A dessert from last year's Taste America San Francisco. (Photo by Marc Fiorito, Gamma Nine Photography)

A dessert from last year’s Taste America San Francisco. (Photo by Marc Fiorito, Gamma Nine Photography)

 

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be an emcee at the James Beard Foundation’s “Taste America” epicurean tour, with my fellow James Beard winner J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats, when it rolls into San Francisco for an unforgettable evening Nov. 4.

The 10-city tour, with stops that include Los Angeles, Chicago and Charleston, benefits the foundation, with a portion of proceeds to go toward culinary scholarships for local students in each region.

The San Francisco gala on Nov. 4, “A Night of Culinary Stars,” will take place at the InterContinental Hotel. The evening kicks off with a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception featuring morsels from top San Francisco chefs: Tim Archuleta of Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar, Srijith Gopinathan of Campton Place, Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s, Dennis Lee of Namu Gaji, Pim Techamuanvivit & Narciso Salvador of Kin Khao, and Martin Yan of M.Y. China.

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New Dishy Digs for Alexander’s Steakhouse Cupertino

What would Alexander's Steakhouse be without its famed cotton candy?

What would Alexander’s Steakhouse be without its famed cotton candy?

 

When Alexander’s Steakhouse moved into its brand new building at Main Street Cupertino three weeks ago, there was initially some talk about doing away with the signature cone of cotton candy that ends the meal.

That lasted for a hot second.

Management wisely concluded that eliminating that carnival-like treat for something new and different just wouldn’t do — not when it’s become such a distinguishing flourish for this high-end steakhouse.

That may not have changed. But other things have, most notably the restaurant’s size, which is larger by 2,000 square feet.

The new, bigger location.

The new, bigger location.

The bar and lounge.

The bar and lounge.

A glimpse into the dining room.

A glimpse into the dining room.

While the sommelier had to run around to various cabinets in the old restaurant to retrieve wine bottles, here the wine is stored in a dazzling 7,000-bottle, glassed-in wine vault right in the main dining room.

There’s also a dry-aging room right at the entrance, where huge hunks of deeply white-striated Wagyu beef are on display. And yes, that’s fat that you’re marveling at.

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