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A Hunky Halibut

Friday, 12. July 2013 5:26

A halibut dish guaranteed to make an impression.

A halibut dish guaranteed to make an impression.

When I placed this dish of “Halibut and Spinach with Orange-Pine Nut Vinaigrette” in front of my husband one Saturday night, he exclaimed:

“Wow! Fancy!”

It does look pretty impressive, I must admit. Like a restaurant-quality dish. But would you believe it took mere minutes to make?

The recipe is from the new Curtis Stone cookbook, “What’s For Dinner” (Ballantine Books), of which I received a review copy. Yes, those of you who pooh-pooh celeb TV chefs as nothing more than pretty faces should know that Stone, the host of “Top Chef Masters,” can actually cook. The Aussie is classically trained and learned his craft alongside greats like Michelin three-star chef and notorious bad-boy, Marco Pierre White.

CurtisStoneWhatsForDinner

The 130 recipes in this book are designed for our busy lives today. They are geared toward different days of the week, such as “One-Pot Wednesdays” when you don’t want to spend a lot of time cleaning up, and “Thrifty Thursdays” when you want something delicious that’s easy on the wallet.

The halibut dish falls under “Time-Saving Tuesdays.” Truly, you can have it on the table in about 20 minutes, too.

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Category:Chefs, Food TV, General, More Food Gal -- In Other Publications, Recipes (Savory) | Comments (11) | Author:

San Francisco’s Coqueta — A Tantalizing Triumph

Friday, 10. May 2013 5:25

Michael Chiarello welcoming guests at his new Coqueta.

Michael Chiarello welcoming guests at his new Coqueta.

 

Swoon.

If I knew the Spanish word for that enraptured feeling, I’d be saying it.

Because that’s exactly how the new Coqueta restaurant on Pier 5 makes you feel with its Spanish flair. It’s not only the first restaurant in San Francisco by celeb Chef Michael Chiarello, but it’s also his first foray into something other than his Italian heritage.

Chiarello is no stranger to Spain, though. He’s traveled to that country for years. His eldest daughter also lives there, having married a Catalan man.

Like his smash-hit Bottega in Yountville, Coqueta (“flirt” in Spanish) is all about bold flavors with modern takes on traditional dishes done with whimsy. The former Lafitte restaurant is still recognizable. But it’s been given a major face-lift. The once temporary patio now has permanent walls, as well as a bar, where you can enjoy noshes sans reservations. Inside, the soaring, rustic-chic space is warm with lots of reclaimed wood, oak table tops made from barrel staves, and branded hides on the floors (from casualties from actual bull fights in Spain).

Take a seat at the bar to watch the kitchen in action.

Take a seat at the bar to watch the kitchen in action.

The restaurant imports the melt-in-your-mouth Iberico ham, as well as cures its own ham. In fact, you’ll find the Iberico even infused in gin that’s served in the “Tariff” ($12) cocktail with housemade acorn & apricot tonic, orange and cava. It’s one of the many creative libations by Joe Cleveland, a former mixologist for Jose Andres’ restaurants.

You know a restaurant has got it going, if it’s strong right out of the gate. Coqueta has set exactly that pace, as evidenced by my visit a mere three days after it had opened in April, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

With Chiarello’s track-record of opening hit restaurants, it’s no surprise just how wonderful the food is at Coqueta.

Quail egg “Diablo” ($2.50 each) puts mere deviled eggs to shame. These tiny hard-boiled eggs are spreared with lovely, sweet Serrano ham and a dollop of sharp pickled mustard seeds. The compact little morsel sure rocks the palate.

A pintxos of quail egg and jamon Serrano. Bet you can't eat just one.

A pintxos of quail egg and jamon Serrano. Bet you can’t eat just one.

More jamon draped on crisp tomato bread.

More jamon draped on crisp tomato bread.

Pan con tomate ($5) is the traditional grilled bread smeared with fresh tomato, but made with extra care, by using light airy Cristal, the famous bread of Barcelona, as its base. It gets super crisp on the grill, giving way to the smooth, sweet, jammy tomato sofrito.

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Category:Chefs, Food TV, General, More Food Gal -- In Other Publications, Restaurants | Comments (8) | Author:

Pop-Ups by Former Ad Hoc Chef, Love Apple Farms Celeb Cooking Demo, and More

Monday, 6. May 2013 5:26

Chef Dave Cruz will be cooking in Oakland. (Photo courtesy of the chef)

Chef Dave Cruz will be cooking in Oakland. (Photo courtesy of the chef)

Chef Dave Cruz To Do Pop-Ups in Oakland

You know him as the original chef for Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant in Yountville. Now, after leaving the Keller fold, Chef Dave Cruz is embarking on a series of pop-up events in Oakland — a prelude to opening his own restaurant some day.

The first dinner, May 18, will feature Chefs Simone Fung and Sebastian Mendieta of S+S Gastropub, cooking with Cruz at their downtown loft on Jackson Street in Oakland. The five-course dinner that night will be reminiscent of the hearty, seasonal meals he did at Ad Hoc. Dishes will include salad of Asian baby greens with slow cooked egg; crisp pork belly and clams; and strawberry shortcake with strawberry sorbet, Tokaiji-macerated strawberries and arlette cookies. Price is $85 per person.

Two seatings are available for the BYOB dinner: 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. The exact location of the dinner will be emailed to guests after a reservation is made.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, Food TV, Fruit, General | Comment (0) | Author:

Maui Part I: Take Five with Chef Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle on Life Post-”Top Chef”

Wednesday, 24. April 2013 5:25

Chef Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle in Maui.

Chef Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle in Maui.

 

To say that life has changed for Chef Sheldon Simeon would be an understatement.

After placing third in this season’s “Top Chef’’ competition on Bravo TV and winning over viewers to be named “Fan Favorite,’’ business has doubled at his already popular Star Noodle restaurant on Maui. Fans, tourists and locals alike now brave as much as a two-hour wait to get into the out of the way restaurant that serves creative pan-Asian street food such as Vietnamese crepes, and all manner of ramen, soba and saimin noodles – 100 pounds in total hand-made every day on site by one tiny, elderly woman whom Simeon affectionately calls “auntie.’’

The crowds at the other restaurant he oversees, Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop, aren’t too shabby, either.

When I visited Maui earlier this month as a guest of the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau, I had a chance to sit down with Simeon at Star Noodle, where in between answering questions, he’d graciously accommodate the many diners who wanted to pose for photos with him. The 30-year-old chef, husband and father of three young daughters who was born on the Big Island, chatted about the impact the television show has had on his career that began humbly enough as a restaurant dishwasher.

Q: Why did you want to do “Top Chef’’?

A: I could see the opportunity it brings. It’s been overwhelming at times, but also a blessing. It was a chance for me to represent Hawaii. I wanted to test myself.

Q: What was the hardest part about doing the show?

A: Every challenge was hard. As a chef, I work alone on a dish. If I’m not satisfied with it, I don’t put it out. But on the show, I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m serving this to Wolfgang Puck!’

StarNoodleSign

The dining room has always been packed, but even more so now after "Top Chef'' aired.

The dining room has always been packed, but even more so now after “Top Chef” aired.

Q: Did you practice in any way to prepare for the challenges?

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Category:"Take Five'' Q&A, Chefs, Food TV, General, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (18) | Author:

Charlie Trotter Tribute Dinner at M.Y. China, Sweet Fests Not to Be Missed, and More

Monday, 15. April 2013 5:25

Martin Yan (Photo courtesy of the chef).

Martin Yan (Photo courtesy of the chef).

Martin Yan Hosts An All-Star Dinner at M.Y. China

Charlie Trotter, who shuttered his famed eponymous Chicago restaurant last year, will be the special guest of honor at a  6 p.m. June 9 dinner hosted by Martin Yan at M.Y. China in San Francisco.

If that weren’t enough of a draw, the dinner will be created in part by Chef Michael Rotondo, former executive chef of Charlie Trotter’s and now chef de cuisine at Parallel 37 in the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco. Dessert will be made by Yigit Pura, the first winner of “Top Chef: Just Desserts” and now proprietor of Tout Sweet Patisserie in San Francisco. And M.Y. China’s executive chef and master noodle-puller, Tony Wu, will be on hand to show his dough-twirling prowess.

The evening will begin with appetizers and sparkling wines from Domaine Carneros. That will be followed by a seated four-course dinner with wines by the Michael Mondavi Family Estate. A live auction also will be held.

The dinner, a benefit for the James Beard Foundation and the Chef Martin Yan Scholarship, is limited to 100 people. Tickets are $200 per person or $175 per person for James Beard Foundation members. Tickets can be purchased at MyChinaSF.com or by calling (415) 580-3001.

Pastry Chef Yigit Pura. (Photo courtesy of the chef)

Pastry Chef Yigit Pura. (Photo courtesy of the chef)

Dessert First!

Calling all sweet tooths: The Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco will be the place to be 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 5.

That’s when 20 of the Bay Area’s best pastry chefs will ply you with all manner of signature sweets at “Dessert First!,” a benefit for Project Open Hand, which provides meals for people afflicted with breast cancer or HIV/AIDS, or are home-bound and critically ill.

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Category:Bakeries, Chefs, Enticing Events, Food TV, General, Restaurants | Comments (1) | Author: