BN Ranch lamb two ways at Bluestem Brasserie. (Photo by Craig Lee)
It was a double treat for me when I dined as a guest of the restaurant recently at Bluestem Brasserie in downtown San Francisco.
First, because my friend, the ever-talented photographer Craig Lee, who took the photos for my cookbook, “San Francisco Chef’s Table” (Lyons), not only agreed to be my dining companion that night, but also offered to take all the photos. It was a rare opportunity for me to just enjoy the food without having to worry about lighting or shutter speed. And let’s face it, Craig’s photos will always be heads and shoulders above mine. Just take a look for yourself, as he took all the pics on this post.
Second, because the equally gifted Executive Chef Jeff Banker was in the kitchen here. Banker and his wife Lori Baker owned the charming Baker & Banker in San Francisco until it closed last year. (In fact, his recipe for “Mirin-Soy Glazed Black Cod” and hers for “Roasted White Chocolate Cheesecake” are featured in my cookbook.) I still miss Lori’s decadent, mile-high cakes there. But at least now, I can enjoy a taste of Jeff’s food again.
Executive Chef Jeff Banker in the kitchen. (Photo by Craig Lee)
His arrival at Bluestem is a reunion of sorts, as he worked at Postrio in San Francisco with Bluestem Co-Owner Adam Jed, when the latter was the morning-shift manager who would open the place up at 3 a.m.
A scene from last year’s FallFest. (Photo courtesy of San Francisco magazine)
Fall for FallFest in San Francisco
If you’re mourning the end of summer, you’re sure to rejoice that it’s fall with FallFest, the outdoor foodie fest noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 10 at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco.
Presented by San Francisco magazine, the event supports Meals on Wheels of San Francisco, which provides meals to home-bound seniors.
Enjoy live music, cooking demos, and tantalizing tastes from some of the Bay Area’s premier chefs, wineries and breweries.
Among those participating will be: 25 Lusk, Barbacco, Gaspar Brasserie, Cairdean Estates, and Blackbird Vineyards.
Tickets are $110 in advance; $125 at the door.
Get $10 off your ticket if you purchase before Oct. 2 and use the code: FOODGAL
Tacolicious Comes to Santana Row
San Francisco’s Tacolicious, which already has a venue in Palo Alto, is expanding even farther south with an outpost in Santana Row in San Jose.
It is expected to open sometime around February 2016 in the old Lavazza space.
A sublime chicken with sides — family-style — at Mourad.
Chef Mourad Lahlou has had quite the journey.
From his early days as an economics student at San Francisco State, where he started dabbling in the kitchen because he missed his mother’s cooking from his native Marrakech.
To this self-taught cook’s opening of his ground-breaking Aziza restaurant in the city’s Outer Richmond neighborhood, which was named for his mother.
To that restaurant’s evolution from belly dancers and very traditional fare to thrilling modern takes on Moroccan cuisine.
Now comes Mourad, his new eponymous restaurant in the historic Pacific Telephone building, which opened in January.
Years in the making, it’s a grand, glam setting fit for a chef who has grown into one of the most respected and gifted around.
A dramatic art piece of ancient tree roots.
Walk through the doors and you are immediately greeted with a striking art piece — a cross-section of a massive tree’s roots. It is beautifully organic in nature to be sure. But it’s also a symbol of how Lahlou’s cooking may grow and change, but is always firmly rooted in his heritage.
A seafood trio at Michael Mina restaurant.
At Michael Mina’s flagship eponymous restaurant in San Francisco, tasty things definitely do come in threes.
It’s been more than a dozen years since Mina first made serving composed trios a signature of his. Now, he’s brought that style back as an option at his downtown restaurant.
The trios menu, which just debuted a couple weeks ago at Michael Mina restaurant, offers a three-course prix fixe for $105. Because each course is composed of one highlighted ingredient served three different ways, it feels like much more than just a first course, a second course and a third course. It’s like experiencing a much more extended tasting menu — but in a truncated way.
The special menu also offers a couple of Mina blasts from the pasts, regular-sized dishes that can be ordered instead of a trio, such as his famed ahi tartare.
I was prepared to enjoy three courses when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently. But the kitchen had other ideas — wanting me to try pretty much every option offered on that menu. Out they came, one by one, until my husband and I had to wave the white flag. Even Executive Chef Ron Siegel jokingly apologized at the end for the avalanche of food.
But it’s hard to turn down morsels so delicious.
The parade started with a trio of sashimi — Spanish bluefin belly with yuzu citrus gel, medai with roasted tomato puree, and kamasu with compressed cantaloupe and geoduck. Each was firm, fresh, just impeccable. A nice touch was the fresh wasabi grated right at the table.
Say yes to loaded, smashed potatoes at Roots & Rye.
I have joked with Chef-Restaurateur Chris Yeo that some day he will end up operating every restaurant at San Jose’s Santana Row.
Which would be pretty impressive for a guy who describes himself as retired.
Yeo may no longer be in the kitchen these days, but he’s still plenty active. In fact in July, he opened his third restaurant at that upscale outdoor retail-housing complex.
Roots & Rye is a slight departure for Yeo in that unlike his other two restaurants here, Straits and Sino, this one is not heavily Asian-influenced.
Instead, it’s a gastropub, featuring New American cuisine, offered in both small and large plates, as well as about 100 different whiskeys on the menu.
The large lounge area.
The expansive, backlit bar.
What it does share in common with his two other establishments is a boisterous, lounge-y vibe with pulsating music playing noon and night. His penchant for bar hostesses in short, tight, black attire also has been carried over here. So much so that I jested that I hoped my husband would not end up with whiplash when we dined here one recent evening when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.
The front of Roots & Rye opens up to bring the outdoors in. The bar area takes up about half the restaurant and spills outdoors with chairs set up around cool-looking glass-fronted fire pits. The dining room toward the back makes for a slightly quieter area.