Category Archives: Restaurants

Fun Nibbles At Oro in San Francisco

 

Say hello to the Scarlet & Gold at Oro.

Say hello to the Scarlet & Gold at Oro.

San Francisco’s Mint Plaza has been a revolving door of restaurants over the years.

So many have come and gone that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

Here’s hoping Oro, which opened last year, has sticking power.

I think the downtown location, while an easy hop across the street from the Fifth & Mission garage, can be a hurdle. It’s hard for people to remember that behind the imposing ornate edifice of the historic Mint Building is indeed a plaza ringed by restaurants.

The three-story Oro presents a sleek veneer with floor-to-ceiling windows and a steel-cable glassed staircase that dominates the first floor.

The sleek staircase that bisects the main dining room.

The sleek staircase that bisects the main dining room.

The artsy dining nook.

The artsy dining nook.

The restaurant also has a lot going for it, most notably Executive Jason Fox of San Francisco’s marvelous Commonwealth restaurant.

When I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently, I started with a Scarlet & Gold ($13) cocktail served in a pretty retro glass. This is the perfect sip for those who want something delicate and not-so-boozy. With gin, fennel, lemon, soda and a froth of egg white, it was light and refreshing.

What makes the menu so fun is that you can make a meal out of a traditional appetizer and entree or several snacks and single bites if you’re more in a grazing mood.

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The (Cheese) Table

Ribbons of Bohemian Creamery's Capriago cheese cover the top of mushroom-pork ragout with grits at The Table.

Ribbons of Bohemian Creamery’s Capriago cheese cover the top of mushroom-pork ragout with grits at The Table.

 

Last week, San Jose’s The Table was transformed into the cheese table.

The popular Willow Glen neighborhood restaurant hosted its inaugural cheese dinner. This one spotlighted the cheeses of Bohemian Creamery of Sebastapol in a $75 seven-course dinner that included paired beverages. I was lucky enough to be invited in as a guest of the restaurant, which plans to make the cheese dinner an annual event.

Owner and cheesemaker Lisa Gottreich was on hand to talk about her hand-made cheeses, which are sold at retailers such as the Cheese Board in Berkeley and Sunshine Foods in St. Helena, and featured at restaurants such as Ad Hoc in Yountville, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Nopa in San Francisco and SPQR in San Francisco.

Gottreich makes her 13 types of cheeses the Italian-way, with little salt. The goat cheeses are made with milk from her own herd of goats. The other types of milk that go into her cheeses are purchased from nearby farms.

In the far right, Chef-Owner Jim Stump greets cheesemaker Lisa Bottreich in the dining room of The Table.

In the far right, Chef-Owner Jim Stump greets cheesemaker Lisa Bottreich in the dining room of The Table.

The kitchen at work with Chef "AJ'' Jmenez in the baseball cap.

The kitchen at work with Chef “AJ” Jmenez in the baseball cap.

The first course brought her Bodacious five-day-old goat cheese with a bloomy rind in a spring dish of asparagus and Oro Blanco grapefruit that was paired with Sikyo “Mirror of Truth” Takehara Junmai sake. What a great way to start with a creamy, tangy cheese and a floral, clean sake that worked well with the always tricky-to-pair asparagus.

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Stumping for Stumpy’s

Tots and bacon-wrapped dog at Stumpy's.

Tots and bacon-wrapped dog at Stumpy’s.

 

Over the years, Chef Jim Stump has run many restaurants in the South Bay.

Stumpy’s is his tiniest.

The veteran chef and restaurateur, who helped founded the Los Gatos Brewing Company, now draws in the crowds at The Table in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood and his just-opened Campbell bar, The Vesper. Coming soon will be his seafood restaurant, Forthright in Campbell.

In 2014, he opened Stumpy’s hot dog and burger joint on Willow Glen’s well-trafficked Lincoln Avenue. It’s a slip of a place, with just enough room to order your food at the counter and load up on a few condiments at the back station.

Order the food inside; pick it up outside at the window.

Order the food inside; pick it up outside at the window.

When your order is ready, you pick it up at the window outside. There’s really no place to eat inside Stumpy’s. But the old movie theater next door has a few patio tables set up so you can enjoy your food there. Or you can opt to get it to-go and take it home, as I did when I paid my own tab there recently.

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Giddy Over Cassia In Santa Monica

The Asian charcuterie platter at Cassia.

The Asian charcuterie platter at Cassia.

 

SANTA MONICA — When my friend and talented cookbook author Andrea Nguyen raves about a place, I know I have to try it.

When Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold deems the food “brilliant,” I know I’m in for something extraordinary.

Indeed, that’s how superlative Cassia in Santa Monica is.

This expansive restaurant is run by Chef Bryant Ng, who has cooked with Daniel Boulud and Roland Passot, and counts Nancy Silverton as a mentor.

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Fill’er Up in Los Angeles

How pretty is this lemon cake from Sycamore Kitchen?

How pretty is this lemon cake from Sycamore Kitchen?

Sycamore Kitchen

Sure, they serve lunch, but I was there for the baked goods. But of course.

Husband and wife owners Quinn and Karen Hatfield cooked for a spell in San Francisco, before departing for Los Angeles to open Hatfield’s. In 2012, they also opened the Sycamore Kitchen, an urban cafe and bakery with a large outdoor patio.

Karen is a long-time pastry chef, so it’s no surprise that the pastries excel here.

How good are they?

Let’s start with the buttercup ($3.50), the renamed version of a kougin-amann. It’s buttery alright. It’s also the closest kouign-amann I’ve found to that of Belinda Leong’s of B. Patisserie in San Francisco and John Shelsta’s of Howie’s Artisan Pizzeria in Redwood City (he trained with Leong). It’s golden and crisp, with airy layers that are just a smidge heavier in texture than Leong’s and Shelsta’s versions. It’s a dream to nibble on.

The buttercup (kouign-amann).

The buttercup (kouign-amann).

Yes, this is a babka.

Yup, this is a babka.

Then there are the cookies. At first glance, they look incredibly flat and thin — almost as if they were a mistake. But take a bite of the rice crispy cookie ($2.50) and the oatmeal toffee cookie ($2.25) and you know they were baked with purpose. The thinness means they are somehow crisp and chewy through and through. Brilliant.

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