The method to make these biscuits is easy yet provide very distinctive results.
Hmm, pancakes? Salad dressing? Mashed potatoes?
How about “Cathead Biscuits”? Ones that are fluffy inside and have distinctive craggly crisp, buttery tops?
Yeah, now we’re talking.
After a run of holiday baking, I found myself with leftover buttermilk. I pulled a couple cookbooks from my shelf until I hit upon “Muffins & Biscuits” (Chronicle Books) by Heidi Gibson, co-owner of San Francisco’s The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen.
After a year of incredible eats, here are my Top 10 dishes (in no particular order), the ones I still dream about, and would gladly go out of my way just to enjoy again and again.
The signature Gol Guppa at August 1 Five.
Ask Hetal Shah, which is harder — creating advertising technology at Google or running a restaurant — and she doesn’t hesitate to answer:
Operating a restaurant. By far.
Shah, who left her job at Google a year ago, and her husband, who still works in tech, had experience opening restaurants, having established Red Hot Chili Pepper in San Carlos in 2010, the casual take on Indian-inflected Chinese food.
But their next restaurant venture was exceedingly more ambitious, August 1 Five, which opened a little over a year ago in San Francisco’s Civic Center.
The name of the splashy, upscale modern Indian restaurant commemorates the date that India won its independence from British rule.
Conveniently located in Civic Center.
The bold interior.
Although Shah and her husband loved the mom-and-pop Indian restaurants in the United States, they missed the more contemporary fare found at high-end hotels in India. So when she and her husband moved to San Francisco from New York, they decided to do something to fill that void.
Presenting Le Grand Johnnie, named for John Davoudi, the chef-owner who presided over La Foret for 38 years.
When Chef-Owner John Davoudi decided to retire this year from La Foret, the San Jose restaurant he had nurtured for 38 years, faithful diners almost went into mourning.
But before they could shed a tear, Davoudi had struck a deal to sell the beloved establishment to Maurice and Giuseppe Carrubba, two brothers with a penchant for taking over old-school establishments to give them new life while still keeping their special spirit intact.
They did so previously with Osteria in downtown Palo Alto, and the Grandview in San Jose.
In late-summer, they took the reins of the historic La Foret, nestled in the trees in the Almaden Valley. The building dates back to 1848, when it housed workers from the surrounding quicksilver mines — the first mining operation established in California.
La Foret in Almaden Valley.
When I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently, it wasn’t the first time I had dined at La Foret. What I always loved about the place was that you felt far removed from the hustle-bustle of Silicon Valley. Off the two-lane road, the restaurant is an oasis of calm. It feels almost like a throw-back to another era when dining out felt special, and French continental cuisine and not molecular gastronomy ruled.
Kimberly and Ron Siegel in their wonderful restaurant, Madcap.
Over his storied career, Ron Siegel has worked for an impressive lineup of chefs, including Daniel Boulud, Michael Mina, and Thomas Keller, the latter for whom he served as the inaugural sous chef for The French Laundry.
But now Siegel is finally working for himself.
In a most splendid fashion, too.
Madcap, his first very own restaurant, opened in San Anselmo earlier this summer. You’ll find him in the compact kitchen, which he has joked is smaller than the walk-in at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, where he was executive chef for many years. His wife Kimberly, whom he met when she was a server at The French Laundry, runs the front of the house. And when his two teen-age daughters aren’t in school, they often can be found in the dining room, jotting down orders.
The stunning rabbit tortelloni.
It’s a small venue, about 47 seats, yet it feels a bit larger, thanks to the fact that there are two dining rooms. Artist Michael Brennan conceived the warm space, punctuated by dark wood, a marble bar top (where about three people can squeeze in to dine), deep red velvet banquettes, and his own eclectic paintings, including one of Raquel Welch striking an iconic pose from “One Million Years B.C.”