Lobster with Champagne sabayon, pickled seaweed and beach rose hips puree by Francis Wolf of Le Hatley Restaurant at Manor Hovey, as presented at GourmetFest.
Tranquil Carmel-by-the-Sea was abuzz over the weekend, as some of the most extraordinary chefs in the world descended upon this little hamlet for the second annual CarmelFest.
They included Oliver Roellinger of Breton, who unceremoniously gave back his three Michelin stars at his Maisons de Bricort, because he said he could not physically cook at that demanding level any more; and the legendary Michel Bras, whose Restaurant Bras in Laguiole has famously held three Michelin stars since 1999.
The intimate affair spanned three days and included cooking demos, exclusive wine tastings and gala dinners at LaPlaya Carmel, L’Auberge Carmel and a new private events space downtown.
The incomparable Chef Michel Bras (left) is assisted in plating a dish for the “Taste of France” lunch.
Bras with Chef Olivier Roellinger (right).
I was fortunate to be invited as a guest. You can tell how special this event was if even Chef David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos and Chef Guillaume Bienaimie of Zola in Palo Alto were lured away from their restaurants just to be guests at the “Taste of France” lunch that Bras cooked with Roellinger.
Blistered green beans at Hawker Fare in San Francisco.
With Chef Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok blazing a trail coast to coast, and San Francisco restaurateur Pim Techamuanvivit acquiring ever growing praise for her Kin Khao, Thai is just about the hottest cuisine around right now.
Now comes James Syhabout, Oakland’s only Michelin-starred chef, to add his stamp with Hawker Fare in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Syhabout’s original Hawker Fare has been going strong in Oakland, along with his more ambitious Commis. But this outpost, which opened about a month ago, is his first foray across the bridge.
When I asked him if he felt he was competing with the other celebrated Thai restaurants that have come to the forefront lately, he replied, “I’m competing with myself. I’m cooking a lot of dishes that I’ve never made before, based on things my family cooked in Thailand.”
Colorful mats as wall art.
Posters set the mood.
The dining room abuzz at night.
Recently, I had a chance to taste some of those dishes when I was invited to a media dinner.
The restaurant is done up as if you were eating at a night market in Thailand. Walls are decorated with bright-colored floor mats tables covered with slick oil-cloths printed with flowers and fruit, and the ceiling strung with strands of lights. All that’s missing is the humidity and the torrent of scooters.
Brined, braised and roasted pig’s head at Cockscomb.
If ever a restaurant embodied its owner’s personality, it is Chris Cosentino’s new Cockscomb in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood.
It’s dark and it’s loud. Picture a concrete bunker hidden away with taxidermy on the walls. There’s a ceramic pig’s head you might recognize from Cosentino’s previous restaurant Incanto, as well as a huge stuffed buffalo head (a gift from a couple of patrons). Shelves around the horned beast’s head display Cosentino’s first bike helmet and old toys. The toilet paper rolls in the bathrooms are even made from spare bike parts.
As for the menu? A lot of it is rich, meaty and rustic — the delicious stuff you picture chefs devouring after a long night, especially male ones. Even so, a female colleague and I (she treated me), dug in and were rewarded with a meal that delighted and definitely made us feel like one of the boys.
Another kind of pig’s head on the wall.
Why a restaurant named for that ruffle appendage on a rooster’s head? Cosentino says it’s because it harkens to his initials, “C.C.” and because “The rooster runs the farm. Its cockscomb is a commanding piece. The larger it is, the more attention that rooster gets.”
A spectacular morsel from last year’s “Rarities Dinner” at GourmetFest. (Photo by Gina Taro)
GourmetFest Comes to Carmel in March
Don’t miss the second year of GourmetFest, March 5-8, packed with cooking demos, exclusive wine tastings and even a wild mushroom hunt.
More than 20 Relais & Chateaux chefs, including an all-female team, will be participating this year. Among the chefs are: Gary Danko of Gary Danko in San Francisco, Michel Bras of Bras-Sebastien et Michel in France, and Justin Cogley of Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel. Prominent winemakers taking part include: Dom Perignon, Dr. Loosen, Gaja and Ridge.
Events include the luxe “Rarities Dinner” on March 6, a 10-course extravaganza paired with rare wines, and “A Taste of France Lunch and Cooking Demo” on March 7.
Ticket prices range from $175 to $5,500 per person.
Ame Introduces Nigiri Zushi Menu
Michelin-starred Ame in the St. Regis in San Francisco has always incorporated Japanese influences and flavors in its menu.
“Top Chef” finalist Sheldon Simeon of Maui plates an appetizer at Hapa Ramen.
Last week, a trio of Maui chefs brought their brand of modern aloha cooking to San Francisco.
And there was nary a macadamia-nut crusted mahi mahi to be seen.
Instead, Chefs Isaac Bancaco of Ka’ana Kitchen, Jeff Scheer of Maui Executive Catering, and “Top Chef” fan favorite Sheldon Simeon of Migrant, are part of the new wave of young chefs now adding a fresh spin to island cuisine by emphasizing local ingredients in dynamic preparations.
The trio showcased their cooking at invitation-only events last week at Hapa Ramen in the Mission. Call it a cross-cultural exchange, as Hapa Ramen Chef-Owner Richie Nakano is headed to Maui later this year to show off his California cooking chops.
A kitchen mascot at the pass at Hapa Ramen.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the dinner for media and travel industry folks.
Appropriately enough, the night started off with a pink-hued Rangoon Gimlet made with Maui Ocean Organic Vodka, lime and angostura.