Chef Bruce Hill cutting up a chicken cooked with his patented method at Fog City.
Fog City Diner has a most storied past in San Francisco.
Long ago, the establishment nourished sailors before they shipped out to do battle in World War II. Then in 1985, Chef Cindy Pawlycn opened the doors there to what was then called Fog City Diner, serving up burgeoning California cuisine in the shiny Airstream-like restaurant.
A month ago, after an extensive remodel by owners Bill Higgins and Bill Upson, it reopened with veteran Chef Bruce Hill at the helm. It jettisoned the “diner” to become just Fog City.
The whimsical artwork on one wall.
With Hill’s vast experience as co-owner also of Bix, Picco, Pizzeria Pico and Zero Zero, it’s no surprise that the restaurant charged out of the gate with an impressive showing, as evidenced by the media dinner I was invited to there the week it opened. All around me, booths were crowded and seats at the bar filled with patrons enjoying specialty cocktails such as the gingery “Inside Job” (James E. Pepper Rye, Nocino, Orgeat, ginger shrub and lemon; $11).
LOS ANGELES & VICINITY — During a quick weekend trip down to Southern California recently, my sweet tooth got a major workout at three stellar places.
First up, Fonuts, the donuts that are almost guilt-free. That’s because they’re not fried, but are baked or steamed. Moreover, many of them also are vegan or gluten-free.
Fonuts of Los Angeles is the creation of Waylynn Lucas, formerly pastry chef at The Bazaar and Patina, both in Los Angeles; and voice actor Nancy Truman.
The donuts, about $3 each, have a moist, tender crumb and a texture akin to a tea cake or muffin.
For anyone with a sweet tooth like mine, it’s a fantasy come true to eat to your stomach’s content in a bakery after it’s closed for the night.
I wasn’t exactly let loose to scour the pantry, though. Instead, I was invited recently to dine as a guest of the restaurant with a few other food writers in what is essentially the private dining room at Baker & Banker in San Francisco.
The acclaimed restaurant in Pacific Heights, owned by husband-and-wife Pastry Chef Lori Baker and Chef Jeff Banker, also has an adjacent bakery. After closing each night, the bakery is available for private parties. It has to be a small one, though, as there’s enough room for only eight at the one table set up right by the bakery counter. There’s also a minimum of five diners required.
To get to it, you walk into the restaurant, head to the back, go through the small kitchen, and walk down a few stairs right into the heart of the bakery.
The last time I dined at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in San Francisco a few years ago, I shimmied into a chic cocktail dress and fancy black heels.
On a visit there just a few weeks ago, though, I donned merely dark jeans and a simple cardie.
How times have changed.
Like so many hotels in these still precarious economic times, the Mandarin Oriental has shed its spendy, special-occasion restaurant in favor of a more casual one that’s friendlier on the pocketbook.
Out went its glamorous Silks restaurant. In came the new Brasserie S&P this summer, named for the fact that it’s at the intersection of Sansome and Pine. It’s headed by Executive Chef Adam Mali, formerly of Nick’s Cove in Tomales Bay.
While Silks was perched on the second floor of the hotel, Brasserie S&P is on the main floor, just past the check-in desk and right across from a bank of elevators. While the former was a secluded, hushed space, the latter is smack in the middle of all the action.
I had a chance to check it out, when I was invited to dine as a guest of the restaurant.
The sedate dining room is all cream and blonde, with dark chocolate leather placemats on the tables. The decor may be somewhat too hotel utilitarian, but the snazzy bar and satisfying food more than make up for that.
Mixologist Priscilla Young clearly is having a blast with the new cocktail menu, which spotlights gin, of all things. She even crafts her own tonics to go along with the extensive brands of gins available.
With luxe boutiques and restaurants galore lining the main interior roads, it’s easy to confine your gaze at San Jose’s Santana Row to street level.
But that’s a shame because you would be missing out by not looking up.
Three stories high to be exact.
That’s where you’ll find Citrus Restaurant in the Valencia Hotel.
A bit hidden and an elevator ride up three floors, the dimly lit restaurant with bare dark wood tables that overlook a sunny central courtyard, is worth making the trek.
Executive Chef Robert Sapirman, who previously headed Parcel 104 in Santa Clara, is slowly but surely personalizing the menu since coming on board a year and a half ago. He’s awaiting the planned top-to-bottom renovation of the hotel, though, before transforming the menu completely into one of eclectic global tapas. That major hotel remodel, which has already been pushed back a couple times, may start later this year. For now, you can get a good feel for what’s to come cuisine-wise, as Sapirman’s menu already boasts many Asian and Spanish influences.