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St. Helena’s Press Welcomes A Most Appropriate New Chef

Wednesday, 27. August 2014 5:25

The very clever carrot "hot dog'' at Press in St. Helena.

The very clever carrot “hot dog” at Press in St. Helena.

 

Earlier this summer, Press in St. Helena welcomed a new executive chef — Trevor Kunk, who was the chef de cuisine at Blue Hill New York for seven years.

It’s a most apropos choice, given that Blue Hill is renowned for its almost painstaking use of locally grown ingredients, including those from its own farms, and the fact that Press is very much a root-to-shoot, nose-to-tail steakhouse with the bulk of its provisions coming from its 13-acre Rudd Farms and Chef’s Garden.

In Kunk’s hands, the food at Press embodies the garden even more so now, as evidenced by my recent dinner there when I was invited in to dine as a guest of the restaurant. My dinner was a week ago, prior to last Sunday’s 6.0 earthquake in Napa. Fortunately, no damage occurred at Press, which is operating as usual.

Press was founded by Wine Country mover-and-shaker Leslie Rudd, who also owns Rudd Oakville Estate and Dean & DeLuca. The graceful restaurant was designed by Howard Backen, who has been responsible for the look of the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, Archetype in St. Helena, Kokkari in San Francisco, and a slew of premiere wineries including Harlan Estate, Ram’s Gate, Dana Estates and Bond Estates.

You can't miss the sign on Highway 29.

You can’t miss the sign on Highway 29.

The beautiful, light-filled dining room.

The beautiful, light-filled dining room.

The soaring barn-like restaurant fills with natural light, lending a casual but elegant ambiance. With an old-fashioned, hand-crank grape press as its logo, Press takes wine seriously. There are more than 1,500 Napa Valley selections, with a specialization in Cabernet Sauvignon, that you can thumb through on an electronic tablet. Or just put your hands in Sommelier Angela Stem’s hands. After all, with a surname like that, how can you go wrong?

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants, Travel Adventures, Wine | Comments (10) | Author:

California Pizza Kitchen Attempts to “De-Chain the Chain”

Friday, 15. August 2014 5:26

Roasted garlic chicken -- a new item at California Pizza Kitchen at Valley Fair shopping center.

Roasted garlic chicken — a new item at California Pizza Kitchen at Valley Fair shopping center.

 

Back in the day, California Pizza Kitchen was the place to go for an inventive yet accessible take on pizza with a decidedly breezy California influence.

Barbecue chicken pizza, anyone?

But over the years, as pizza turned artisan, the choices for truly hand-crafted pies proliferated and greatly overshadowed California Pizza Kitchen’s offerings.

As such, I admit it has been quite some time since I last ate at a California Pizza Kitchen. But when I was invited in as a guest recently at the outpost in the Westfield Valley Fair shopping center in Santa Clara, what nudged me in was the opportunity to try some new menu items aimed at “de-chaining the chain.” Indeed, the new menu additions, which rolled out in June, are available only at the locales in Santa Clara, Sacramento, Beverly Hills and Solana Beach so far.

Among the new beverage items is the Blueberry Ginger Smash ($10.89), a highball glass of Jack Daniel’s, agave nectar, Domaine de Canton Ginger liqueur, fresh blueberries, lime and cranberry juice. Garnished prettily with a skewer of blueberries and a sliver of candied ginger, it’s quite fruity and refreshing with the warmth of the booze hitting you on the finish.

The Blueberry Ginger Smash.

The Blueberry Ginger Smash.

A half-size of Harvest Kale Salad ($10.99) was made with curly, rather than the more popular lacinato, kale. Toasted farro, cabbage, red grapes, cranberries, Marcona almonds, goat cheese and the surprise of shaved rainbow carrots gave the salad a big splash of color and texture. A quite sharp citrus vinaigrette added punch along with an unexpected touch of spiciness.

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Category:General, Restaurants | Comments (3) | Author:

Macarons Galore Plus New Juice Bar and an Oyster Fest

Monday, 11. August 2014 5:25

Presenting the "Hedwig Schmidt'' macaron. (Photo courtesy of Tout Sweet Patisserie)

Presenting the “Hedwig Schmidt” macaron. (Photo courtesy of Tout Sweet Patisserie)

Glitzy New Macaron from Tout Sweet

Inspired by the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” Tout Sweet of San Francisco has created a limited-edition macaron covered in a riot of edible red glitter.

Pastry Chef-Proprietor Yigit Pura was inspired to make the “Hedwig Schmidt” macaron because the musical’s message of “love and discovering who you really are,” resonated with him.

Named for the title character in the musical, the macaron features a bourbon-orange marmalade ganache with a brandied cherry center. And of course, there’s the glitter, which will leave your lips sparkling.

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Category:Bakeries, Chefs, Enticing Events, General, New Products, Restaurants | Comments (3) | Author:

Scenes from Eat Drink SF 2014

Monday, 4. August 2014 5:26

CnC Cocktail Company's made-to-order cocktail snow cones.

CnC Cocktail Company’s made-to-order cocktail snow cones.

 

Bourbon, honey, grilled peaches and bitters -- in snow cone form.

Bourbon, honey, grilled peaches and bitters — in snow cone form.

 

It’s got a new name along with new digs.

The annual SF Chefs event was re-dubbed Eat Drink SF for 2014 and moved to the more spacious Fort Mason in San Francisco from its tight quarters underneath a tent pitched on Union Square.

The result?

A three-day event that still showcases the Bay Area’s best chefs, wineries and mixologists — but is far easier to navigate.

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Parallel 37 Comes Full Circle

Friday, 1. August 2014 5:26

Guinea hen terrine with eggplant -- on the new tasting menu at Parallel 37.

Guinea hen terrine with eggplant — on the new tasting menu at Parallel 37.

 

San Francisco’s Parallel 37 has done a 360.

Almost.

Two years ago, the once prim, proper and heavily brocaded Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco was jettisoned. So were the tasting menus.

In its place came a sleeker, more modern space, renamed Parallel 37 (after the geographic latitude running near the Bay Area). The tasting menus were eliminated in favor of la carte dining.

But something funny happened along the way. Chef Ron Siegel departed for Michael Mina Restaurant in San Francisco. His successor was Michael Rotondo, who brought back the tasting menus, slowly but surely, and something even more important. Rotondo, former executive chef of Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, convinced his former Windy City colleagues to jump into the fog with him. Besides Rotondo, Parallel 37 now boasts Trotter alums: Sous Chef Mitchell Nordby, Pastry Chef Andrea Correa, and the most recent hire, Restaurant Manager and Sommelier Ryan Stetins. Parallel 37 now boasts more Trotter veterans than any other restaurant in the country.

Rotondo added a tasting menu option early on, but left the a la carte menu, too. But starting in June, the restaurant went to a tasting menu-only format: three courses for $65, five courses for $95, and eight courses for $135. Wine pairings are an additional $40, $55 and $85, respectively.

The contemporary dining room.

The contemporary dining room.

In an homage to Trotter’s famed “kitchen table” dining experience, Rotondo also has added something similar. Guests start the evening inside the kitchen with cocktails and canapes to watch the cooks in action. Then, they are seated at a table next to the kitchen for an eight-course tasting menu with wine pairings. The “Kitchen Table” experience is $250 per person. A minimum of four people is required.

A couple weeks ago, I was invited in to dine as a guest in the main dining room. Parallel 37 is one of the 54 restaurants featured in my debut cookbook, “San Francisco Chef’s Table” (Lyons Press) and it was a kick to see a stack of the books for sale behind the hostess stand.

Thrilled to have the recipe for "Pig 'N' Boots'' in my cookbook, "San Francisco Chef's Table.''

Thrilled to have the recipe for “Pig ‘N’ Boots” in my cookbook, “San Francisco Chef’s Table.”

Of course, I had to start the evening off with a “Pig ‘N’ Boots” ($14), a cocktail created by mixologist Camber Lay and featured in my cookbook. Normally — and particularly when I have a wine pairing yet to come — I take a few sips of a cocktail, but leave the rest. Not this one. It’s amazing that a scotch-based cocktail can be this light and refreshing. Lillet Rose, lavender, yuzu and a fresh grating of cinnamon over the top give it balance, so that it’s not overly boozy tasting but rather floral and tangy instead.

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