Category Archives: Chefs

A Leisurely Lunch at Barndiva

Yellowfin tuna at Barndiva.

Yellowfin tuna at Barndiva.

 

On a recent rainy Friday afternoon, my husband and I ducked into the pretty trellised courtyard and right through the inviting doors of Barndiva in Healdsburg.

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones lured inside by the laid-back, rustic warmth of its barn-like setting, as the cozy dining room soon filled up with locals greeting each other with hugs and kicking back with glasses of wine.

It’s easy to see why this is a spot that attracts folks again and again.

It has a free spiritedness about it with eclectic artwork on the walls, including a wall of vintage wooden shoe forms at the entrance. In fact, the secondary dining room is an actual art gallery by day, and an event space by night.

The bar area.

The bar area.

I hadn’t dined at Barndiva since shortly after it opened in 2004, so I was happy to go again in December after being invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

About six years ago, Chef Ryan Fancher came on board after cooking alongside Richard Reddington at Auberge du Soleil, and Thomas Keller at both the French Laundry in Yountville and Per Se in New York.

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A Visit to Healdsburg Shed

You can find house-milled flour at the Healdsburg Shed -- and a whole lot more.

You can find house-milled flour at the Healdsburg Shed — and a whole lot more.

 

Imagine the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace — only miniaturized, condensed, moved to Wine Country, and all owned and operated under one umbrella by one couple.

That’s what Healdsburg Shed is like.

It’s also the winner of the 2014 James Beard Award for “Best Restaurant Design.” So, you know it’s a beautiful place to behold.

It’s also so much more than just a restaurant. The soaring, 10,000-square foot space is also a retail cookware store, a fresh produce stand, a gourmet foods purveyor, a mill (yes, they grind their own fresh flour there), a kombucha bar, and a community gathering space for concerts, movies, visiting chef dinners, and cooking demonstrations.

As owner Cindy Daniel describes her nearly three-year-old endeavor, “It’s all to celebrate good farming, good cooking, and good eating.”

The award-winning design.

The award-winning design.

Everything under one roof.

Everything under one roof.

Daniel, who has an air of Alice Waters about her, and her husband, Doug Lipton, an environmental scientist, left San Francisco 20 years ago to start a 15-acre farm in Healdsburg, about five miles from the Shed.

Daniel had a yoga studio and a retail store in San Francisco; Lipton once ran a food co-op in Boulder, CO in the 1970s. But this is their first restaurant.

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New Goings-On At Arcadia San Jose

Bone marrow from the wood-fired oven at Arcadia.

Bone marrow from the wood-fired oven at Arcadia.

 

San Jose’s tallest hotel, the downtown Marriott, is starting the new year with a real bang.

The 13-year-old hotel that boasts 26 floors just completed a massive $10 million-plus renovation, remodeling guest rooms and conference areas, installing routers in every room for high speed Internet access (yes, you can even stream Netflix now), adding food and beverage service in the lobby, and mobile check-in.

What’s more, it’s rolling out a new chef in Justin Yu, who was chef de partie at Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York, chef de partie at Commis in Oakland and chef de cuisine at Haven in Oakland.

OK, Yu might not be brand new (he started 10 months ago), but with the completion of all the construction, the hotel’s Arcadia restaurant is finally ready to really show off its chef de cuisine.

Chef Justin Yu.

Chef Justin Yu.

Arcadia, a Michael Mina restaurant, has always floated a little under the radar. But with Yu, it has someone who really has the energy and skills to take the reins full throttle.

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Mexican Food Like You’ve Never Experienced — At Californios

The fanciful Yerba Buena Fruit Cup at Californios.

The fanciful Yerba Buena Fruit Cup at Californios.

 

If your idea of Mexican food is nothing but bulging burritos and bargain-basement tacos at a sombrero-saturated cantina, prepare to have your mind blown by Californios.

At this nearly year-old Mission District restaurant in San Francisco, Chef-Owner Val M. Cantu and his wife, maitre d’ Carolyn Cantu, serve up a contemporary single prix fixe each evening of, yes, Mexican cuisine. Oh, there are beans. There is menudo. And agua fresca. But reinvented with startling finesse like you’ve never seen.

Together with the new much-lauded Cala in San Francisco, which I’ve not yet visited, Californios is changing perceptions by broadening our definition of Mexican food in a most exciting way.

The open kitchen provides a dramatic centerpiece for this dark, enveloping little restaurant.

The open kitchen provides a dramatic centerpiece for this dark, enveloping little restaurant.

Art, wine, and culinary books fill a nearby bookcase.

Art, wine, and culinary books fill a nearby bookcase.

A few weeks ago, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. It’s a very intimate space of only about 22 seats that was designed by Carolyn Cantu. You step inside and it’s as if the restaurant envelopes you immediately in a cloak of secrecy. The street windows are tinted deep gray, the walls are paneled darkly, and the lighting inside is very dim — like that of a movie theater. Your eyes are drawn to the brightest spot — the open kitchen fronted by a chef’s counter, where three chefs, including Val Cantu, work the line. The effect is very romantic even with the classic rock music in the background. The look calls to mind a moody Edward Hopper painting, though it’s not a diner that’s glorified here, but a unique restaurant for the ages.

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