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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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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants | Comments (4) | Author:

Palo Alto Welcomes Belcampo Meat Co.

Friday, 25. July 2014 5:28

Pulled pork bun (front) and braised lamb belly bun (back) at Belcampo in Palo Alto.

Pulled pork bun (front) and braised lamb belly bun (back) at Belcampo in Palo Alto.

 

After opening its first restaurant-retail meat shop last spring in Larkspur, Belcampo Meat Co. has been on a rapid roll.

Since then, it has opened in speedy succession in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and just four weeks ago in Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village.

Shortly, Santa Monica will get the largest outpost of the farm-to-table meat company with a butcher shop plus a restaurant that will boast a full bar, as well as 90 seats. A lease also has been signed for a location in West Hollywood.

Belcampo is on a fast-track mission to prove that sustainable not only can be profitable, but feasible on a large-scale.

A butcher packs away the meat just before closing.

A butcher packs away the meat just before closing.

Note the whiteness of the fat on the meat -- a sign of pasture-fed animals.

Note the whiteness of the fat on the meat — a sign of pasture-fed animals.

It is the brainchild of Todd Robinson, a Wall Street veteran with deep pockets; and Anya Fernald, a California-native and long-time locavore entrepreneur. She may look familiar from her previous appearances as a judge on “Iron Chef America” and as the founder of the Eat Real Festival in Oakland.

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Category:General, Going Green and Sustainable, Great Finds, Meat, New Products, Restaurants | Comments (4) | Author:

An Indulgent Chocolate Treat From My “San Francisco Chef’s Table” Cookbook

Friday, 18. July 2014 5:26

Dark chocolate and mint make one arresting dessert. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

Dark chocolate and mint make one arresting dessert. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

 

I love the dichotomy of dark chocolate and fresh mint.

On one hand, you have the deep, rich weightiness of the chocolate. On the other, the breezy lilt of the tingly mint.

Put them together and you get the best yin-yang: one ingredient so devilishly decadent it can’t help but lure you in, and the other so fresh and vibrant, it clears your palate to egg you into enjoying another mouthful — and yet another — of chocolate.

Chef Sarah Rich of the wildly popular Rich Table in San Francisco knows this. Trained in both the savory and sweet side of the kitchen, she knows just what is bound to tempt.

That’s why I couldn’t have been happier when I asked her to contribute a recipe to my debut cookbook, “San Francisco Chef’s Table” Lyons Press), and she chose “Mint Chocolate Sable with Mint Chocolate Cream & Iced Milk.”

It was one of the first recipes I tested. (Hey, I’m no fool!)

Think of this as a fanciful yet rustic version of an ice cream sandwich. (You see why I wanted to try this one right off the bat.)

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Category:Chefs, Chocolate, General, Recipes (Sweet), Restaurants | Comments (5) | Author:

A Big Helping of Dumplings and Fun at Chino in San Francisco

Wednesday, 16. July 2014 5:26

Bao de chicharon at Chino in San Francisco.

Bao de chicharon at Chino in San Francisco.

 

Chino, which opened in May in San Francisco’s Mission District, is a celebration of exuberant street food — Asian-cum-Tacolicious style.

That’s not surprising given that the playful Chinese-inspired restaurant is by the same team behind Tacolicious, which boasts four locations now, plus a Williams-Sonoma sauce and salsa line, and a cookbook publishing this September.

The team that brought you “Shot-and-A-Beer Braised Chicken Tacos” and the “Chocolicious Taco” now offer at its newest venture the likes of “Snacky Whacky” small plates such as “Cucumbers, All Busted Up” and “Nick Balla’s Dope Ass Japan-O-Mission Wings,” the latter the creation of the famed Bar Tartine chef who’s an authority on Japanese cuisine, among others.

In much the same way that proceeds from Tacolicious’ sauce line benefit local schools, all Tacolicious locations plus the new Chino donate 15 percent of sales each Monday night during the school year to a neighboring school.

Recently, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant, which was hopping even mid-week. The decor mimics a night market in Asia with nearly 1,000 lights strung across the ceiling. If you look closely, you’ll even spot a couple pairs of sneakers dangling from them — a familiar tableau from an Anywheresville working-class neighborhood. Adding to the whimsy are nostalgic toys such as Mr. Potato Head and a Darth Vader mask arranged on shelves by the big-screen TV on the wall.

Paper lanterns mimic the vibe of an Asian street market.

Paper lanterns mimic the vibe of an Asian street market.

Can you spot the sneakers hanging from the ceiling?

Can you spot the sneakers hanging from the ceiling?

The bare tables have a clever built-in canister with dividers to neatly hold chopsticks and silverware. House-made hot mustard and chili paste are brought to the table for those who like it hot.

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants | Comments (8) | Author:

J-Pop Summit Festival, Filipino Fare, and More

Monday, 7. July 2014 5:26

Enjoy sake and so much more at the J-Pop Festival in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of J-Pop)

Enjoy sake and so much more at the J-Pop Festival in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of J-Pop)

San Francisco’s J-Pop Summit

Get your appetite ready for the second annual J-Pop Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown.

The event, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 19-20, celebrates Japanese pop culture, music, fashion, film and food. Admission is free, though some activities will require a fee.

Among the new attractions this year is sake tasting. A number of booths will be set up on Webster Street at Post St., where attendees can enjoy sake tastings and even buy bottles to take home. Admission to this area of the festival is $10 and includes samples from all the participating sake companies. ID will be checked.

If you need some food after all that sake, look no further than the “ramen street.” A half dozen ramen restaurants will set up booths on Post Street between Laguna and Buchanan streets. The ramen will be priced at $8 per serving.

A “Bites & Snacks” area will sell both sweet and savory noshes, including natto (fermented soybeans), onigiiri rice balls by Onigilly, and mochi waffles from Moffle Waffle.

Additionally, look for more than a dozen food trucks, including the Creme Brulee Cart, Bacon Bacon, and the Chairman.

Celebrate Filipino Food at Two Events

Enjoy a one-of-a-kind Filipino-Franco dinner at Left Bank Brasserie in Menlo Park on July 24.

Chef Brendy Monsada will be cooking up dishes influenced by his Filipino heritage. The three-course $45 prix fixe will be served family-style and include beverages.

Among the offerings will be adobong manok (chicken drumette casserole cooked in soy sauce, sugar cane vinegar and garlic); beef kalderata (slow-braised beef short ribs in a savory tomato and peanut sauce); and pritong lapu-lapu (deep-fried grouper with heirloom tomato salsa).  And yes, halo-halo, the layered dessert of fruits, crushed ice, purple ube yam and ice cream is one of the dessert options.

For reservations, call (650) 473-6543 or email: kmolloy@leftbank.com.

For more Filipino fare, mark your calendar for Aug. 30 for the first Savor Filipino at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, General, Restaurants, Spirits/Cocktails/Beer | Comments (3) | Author: