Category Archives: Restaurants

A Taste of the Coast at the New Cetrella Los Altos

Uni from Fort Bragg adds luxuriousness to this linguini with clams at Cetrella Los Altos.

Uni from Fort Bragg adds luxuriousness to this linguini with clams at Cetrella Los Altos.


If you’ve spent time in Half Moon Bay, you probably know Cetrella restaurant, a fixture on Main Street since 2001.

Now, its Mediterranean-Californian seafood dishes have been transported to the Peninsula with the debut of a new sister Cetrella — on Main Street again, but in downtown Los Altos.

The new restaurant, which opened in August, features an open kitchen, and a long dining room done up with a mural of tree-studded foothills. With a lot of hard surfaces, just note that the restaurant can get a little loud when it’s full, especially if there are larger parties around you.

The menus at both locations have been revamped with the arrival of new Executive Chef Mike Ellis, who spent many years in the kitchen of celeb Chef Charlie Palmer. Most notably, he was sous chef to then-Executive Chef Michael Voltaggio (winner of “Top Chef” Season Six) at Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. When Voltaggio departed, Ellis took over as executive chef.

The dining room.

The dining room.

He’s developed a sophisticated, yet comfortably accessible menu to Los Altos, as I experienced a couple of weeks ago at dinner with two friends. Although we paid our tab, Ellis sent out a couple extra dishes he wanted us to try.

Pretty in pink-purple.

Pretty in pink-purple.

Since we were celebrating a friend’s birthday, a cocktail was definitely in order. The “Foothill Collins” ($13) put a festive touch on the evening with its blend of gin, lemon, simple syrup, fresh basil and muddled blueberries. The blueberry taste was fairly subtle with the botanical taste of the gin more prominent, which allowed the drink to be enjoyed throughout the meal without overwhelming everything else.

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Battersby’s Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Arugula

Pasta that's virtuous and naughty at the same time.

Pasta that’s virtuous and naughty at the same time.


Who doesn’t love the combo of bacon and Brussels sprouts?

In fact, many a so-called sprouts hater has been turned by that irresistible pairing.

So imagine the two together with rigatoni pasta.

That’s just what you’ll find in this dish, “Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Arugula.”

It’s from the new cookbook, “Battersby: Extraordinary Food From An Ordinary Kitchen” (Grand Central Life & Style) by Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern, co-chefs and co-owners of Battersby restaurant in Brooklyn. It’s co-written with veteran food writer Andrew Friedman.


As the title implies, Battersby is all about dishes that can be prepared in any kitchen. That’s because the restaurant’s own kitchen is nothing to brag about. It’s no bigger than a studio apartment’s kitchenette, the chefs write. It is outfitted with only one oven, a six-burner stove and a slim-to-none prep counter. Yet somehow, three cooks manage to make magic every night, turning out as many as 70 meals in just a few hours.

In other words, if they can make the food in this book under those constraints, there’s no reason you can’t do so, too, in your home kitchen.

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Jeff Banker Makes A Splash at Bluestem Brasserie

BN Ranch lamb two ways at Bluestem Brasserie. (Photo by Craig Lee)

BN Ranch lamb two ways at Bluestem Brasserie. (Photo by Craig Lee)


It was a double treat for me when I dined as a guest of the restaurant recently at Bluestem Brasserie in downtown San Francisco.

First, because my friend, the ever-talented photographer Craig Lee, who took the photos for my cookbook, “San Francisco Chef’s Table” (Lyons), not only agreed to be my dining companion that night, but also offered to take all the photos. It was a rare opportunity for me to just enjoy the food without having to worry about lighting or shutter speed. And let’s face it, Craig’s photos will always be heads and shoulders above mine. Just take a look for yourself, as he took all the pics on this post.

Second, because the equally gifted Executive Chef Jeff Banker was in the kitchen here. Banker and his wife Lori Baker owned the charming Baker & Banker in San Francisco until it closed last year. (In fact, his recipe for “Mirin-Soy Glazed Black Cod” and hers for “Roasted White Chocolate Cheesecake” are featured in my cookbook.) I still miss Lori’s decadent, mile-high cakes there. But at least now, I can enjoy a taste of Jeff’s food again.

Executive Chef Jeff Banker in the kitchen. (Photo by Craig Lee)

Executive Chef Jeff Banker in the kitchen. (Photo by Craig Lee)

His arrival at Bluestem is a reunion of sorts, as he worked at Postrio in San Francisco with Bluestem Co-Owner Adam Jed, when the latter was the morning-shift manager who would open the place up at 3 a.m.

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Discount on FallFest, Plus Happenings in the South Bay/Peninsula

A scene from last year's FallFest. (Photo courtesy of San Francisco magazine)

A scene from last year’s FallFest. (Photo courtesy of San Francisco magazine)

Fall for FallFest in San Francisco

If you’re mourning the end of summer, you’re sure to rejoice that it’s fall with FallFest, the outdoor foodie fest noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 10 at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco.

Presented by San Francisco magazine, the event supports Meals on Wheels of San Francisco, which provides meals to home-bound seniors.

Enjoy live music, cooking demos, and tantalizing tastes from some of the Bay Area’s premier chefs, wineries and breweries.

Among those participating will be: 25 Lusk, Barbacco, Gaspar Brasserie, Cairdean Estates, and Blackbird Vineyards.

Tickets are $110 in advance; $125 at the door.

Get $10 off your ticket if you purchase before Oct. 2 and use the code: FOODGAL

Tacolicious Comes to Santana Row

San Francisco’s Tacolicious, which already has a venue in Palo Alto, is expanding even farther south with an outpost in Santana Row in San Jose.


It is expected to open sometime around February 2016 in the old Lavazza space.

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Mourad Soars in San Francisco

A sublime chicken with sides -- family-style -- at Mourad.

A sublime chicken with sides — family-style — at Mourad.


Chef Mourad Lahlou has had quite the journey.

From his early days as an economics student at San Francisco State, where he started dabbling in the kitchen because he missed his mother’s cooking from his native Marrakech.

To this self-taught cook’s opening of his ground-breaking Aziza restaurant in the city’s Outer Richmond neighborhood, which was named for his mother.

To that restaurant’s evolution from belly dancers and very traditional fare to thrilling modern takes on Moroccan cuisine.

Now comes Mourad, his new eponymous restaurant in the historic Pacific Telephone building, which opened in January.

Years in the making, it’s a grand, glam setting fit for a chef who has grown into one of the most respected and gifted around.

A dramatic art piece of ancient tree roots.

A dramatic art piece of ancient tree roots.

Walk through the doors and you are immediately greeted with a striking art piece — a cross-section of a massive tree’s roots. It is beautifully organic in nature to be sure. But it’s also a symbol of how Lahlou’s cooking may grow and change, but is always firmly rooted in his heritage.

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