Category Archives: Donuts

Viognier — Still Full of Vim and Vigor

Short ribs elegantly presented at Viognier restaurant.

It wasn’t long ago that the notion of a restaurant operating inside a hotel doomed it to second-tier status.

While that no longer holds true, the idea of a fine-dining restaurant inside a grocery store still prompts some disbelief.

But when Viognier opened inside the gourmet market, Draeger’s in San Mateo 15 years ago, it made a convincing case that unlikely scenario could work.

After all, the restaurant was opened by none other than Chef Gary Danko, who later left to open his own eponymous restaurant in San Francisco. He was followed by Chef Scott Giambastiani, who is now an executive chef at Google. Chef Preston Dishman, former chef-partner of the General’s Daughter in Sonoma, took over the restaurant, named for the aromatic grape varietal from the Northern Rhone region of France, in 2008.

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Take Five with Chef Robert Sapirman, on His Big Plans for Citrus Restaurant in Santana Row

Chef Robert Sapirman on the terrace of the Hotel Valencia.

Chef Robert Sapirman has circled the Bay Area in the past year, only to wind up not too far from where he once was.

Bay Area foodies may remember him as the long-time head chef of Parcel 104 in Santa Clara. He departed that upscale restaurant in the Marriott Hotel to open Vesu in Walnut Creek, only to see that restaurant shutter a year later.

Now, for nearly six months, he’s been the executive chef of Citrus in the Hotel Valencia in San Jose’s Santana Row, just a few miles from – you guessed it — Parcel 104. The eight-year-old Hotel Valencia, known for years far more for its lively bar scene than its restaurant food, is in for a transformation. By the end of the year, not only will the lobby and other public areas of the hotel get a freshened look, but Citrus will debut a new concept. Sapirman, long known for his commitment to stellar ingredients, was brought in specifically to try to put Citrus on the map for discriminating foodies. Under his direction, expect the restaurant’s current steakhouse concept to give way to a more dynamic one of global tapas.

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with the 37-year-old, New Jersey-born and Fort Lauderdale-reared chef who now oversees the food for not only for Citrus, VBar, and Cielo wine bar, but banquets and room service for the 212-room hotel.

Vietnamese-style caramelized ribs cooked sous vide, finished on the grill, then served with housemade kimchee.

Q: Is your food here similar to what you were cooking at Parcel 104?

A: It’s similar in that it’s ingredient-driven. I try to seek out the best ingredients that I can. My passion now is global tapas. I did a little of that at lunch at Parcel 104 before I left. Vesu also was a great platform for that.

Q: Are you hoping to change the perception that the Hotel Valencia is all about the bar scene?

A: Absolutely. We have a handicap in Citrus in that we’re surrounded by other restaurants. We need to make you come up to the second floor here. Plus, the perception is that restaurants in hotels are not good. I know we struggled with that at the Marriott, too.

I hope to fill this 62-seat restaurant every night and to get people up here to love my food. That’s what every chef wants, right? I hope to make the restaurant as busy as the hotel is, so that when people call for a reservation, there won’t be any.

Q: How will you differentiate yourself from the other restaurants at Santana Row?

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The Newest in Wine Pairings — Lady Gaga Donuts and Cupcakes

You’ve had cheese with your wine. You’ve had chocolate with your wine.

But you’ve probably never had the likes of a Lady Gaga donut with a Petite Syrah.

This Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 28, you can enjoy that unusual pairing that sounds as out there as one of Gaga’s outfits.

Poetic Cellars of Soquel is hosting this creative food-wine pairing. Psycho Donuts of Campbell is supplying all the donuts that day, including the pop star-inspired iced cake ones topped with fresh blueberries.

The winery is offering up even more donut-wine combos with the likes of “Apricotology fritters” with Chardonnay and Viognier; an Oreo cookie-like cake donut matched with Syrah; and S’Mores cake donuts with Poetic Cellars’ Bourdeaux blend, Ballad.

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Dynamo Donuts Are Dyno-mite

A donut is a donut, right?

Not in the hands of San Francisco’s wickedly good Dynamo Donuts, a short drive from the Holiday Inn Civic Center.

You’ve seen the lines. You’ve heard the swoons.

Let me tell you, it’s all justified for these gourmet donuts that come in such unusual flavors as Chocolate Rosemary Almond, Lemon Sichuan, Banana De Leche, and the much-ballyhooed Maple Glazed Bacon Apple.

First off, these are not teeth-gratingly sweet like so many other donuts. I know that’s hard to believe, given that they all come with a hefty dose of glaze or shower of sugar on top. But the flavors are actually balanced and quite intense at times. For instance, bite into the Candied Orange Blossom, and your mouth will come alive with an explosion of citrus flavor that’s so audacious, you can’t help but let out a yelp. The orange flavor gets revved up from candied orange zest inside the donut, as well as orange blossom glaze smeared over the top.

Second of all, the texture of these donuts is remarkable. It’s not just a round of airy pastry. Rather, a Dynamo donut has height, along with an almost brioche-like quality that makes for a quite rich and tender crumb.

That these donuts are so spectacular comes as no surprise when you realize that they’re the brainchild of Sara Spearin, a pastry chef who honed her craft at Postrio, Hawthorne Lane, Stars and Foreign Cinema, all San Francisco landmarks.

There are about 16 different donuts, selling for $2 to $3.50 a piece, depending on the type. About seven are offered daily with the bacon one available every day by popular demand.

Good thing, too, or there surely would be riots over this super puffy donut that has apples  in the batter, which have been sauteed in bacon fat, as well as a maple glaze that’s studded with crisp bacon bits. It’s salty and sweet. And if you try one, you’ll want another one immediately.

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Baker & Banker Team Up to Create A Warm Neighborhood Joint in San Francisco

Baker & Banker? That would be Pastry Chef Lori Baker and her husband, Chef Jeff Banker, who have taken over the beloved Octavia Street spot that was once home to Quince and the Meetinghouse.

Their two-month-old, namesake restaurant, Baker & Banker, not far from the Hotel Kabuki, serves New American dishes  that are both familiar yet freshened with real flair. Think creamy cauliflower soup ($9) — only made anew with trendy Vadouvan curry. Or grilled top sirloin ($26) — with a short rib-stuffed twice-baked potato for a meat lover’s fantasy. The restaurant also bakes its own breads and churns its own ice creams.

The bistro, with its blackboard walls adorned with the names of the day’s cheese offerings and specialty beers, was bustling on the weeknight that I was invited in as a guest for dinner.

The meal started with a bang, with probably my favorite dish of the night — silky house-smoked trout atop a crispy celery root latke ($12). A tangle of shaved fennel was strewn over the top. Pickled beets added a zippy and colorful note. Horseradish cream gave it all a bright bite. But what really made the dish was the drizzle of fuschia-colored beet syrup. Thick like a molten candied apple, it was sticky, fruity and sweet. The dish was  so many things — smoky, sweet, tangy, crunchy, soft, cooked and raw — that all came together for a lively, exciting taste sensation that changed with every bite.

Jones Farm country rabbit and French prune pâté ($11) was served in an adorable little glass canning jar. Its surprising loose and fluffy texture made for a lighter-tasting pâté.  The pink peppercorns, which added a spicy floral quality, was a nice touch, as were the cornichons, which were actually shaved thinly over a handful of peppery greens.

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