Category Archives: Restaurants

Not Your Average Melon

This cantaloupe hides a center of molten mozzarella. Swooning yet?

This cantaloupe hides a center of molten mozzarella. Swooning yet?

 

Melon and prosciutto.

Ho-hum. Been there, ate that.

But not like this.

Not when the cantaloupe cavity is filled with molten mozzarella before being draped with thin slices of salty-sweet prosciutto, and seasoned liberally with salt, pepper, and lush olive oil.

“Broiled Cantaloupe with Hand-Stretched Mozzarella Curds and Prosciutto” takes a familiar taste and turns it on its head.

The genius recipe is from the new cookbook, “Around the Fire: Recipes For Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting From Ox Restaurant” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

AroundtheFire

It’s by husband-and-wife chefs Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quinonez Denton, with assistance from food writer Stacy Adimando. They are the chefs of the critically acclaimed Ox in Portland, OR.

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Oren’s Hummus Expands to Cupertino

Hummus with lamb at the new Oren's in Cupertino. Swoon.

Hummus with lamb at the new Oren’s in Cupertino. Swoon.

 

You know when you find the one?

The jubilation you experience when you discover the singular personification of perfection?

That’s how I felt the first time I tasted the hummus at Oren’s.

People who have never experienced Oren’s look at me funny when I rhapsodize dreamily about this chickpea spread. Really? Who gets this excited about hummus of all things? But Oren’s hummus has spoiled me for all other hummus now.

It is hands down the smoothest, creamiest, most luscious tasting hummus you’ll ever experience.

The only problem came when Oren’s had only one location in downtown Palo Alto. A narrow little space, it had a line out the door no matter what the hour. It was nearly impossible to get into. For the longest time, I had to be content with just grabbing a tub of hummus from the to-go refrigerator case because getting a seat inside was just not going to happen.

Then, Oren’s expanded with a second, larger location in downtown Mountain View, which made life so much easier. And just a few weeks ago, it opened a third Oren’s in the new Main Street Cupertino complex. Even better, more locations are planned in the Bay Area in the near future.

The sign behind the counter.

The sign behind the counter.

The burgeoning mini-empire of hummus eateries is the brainchild of Oren Dobronsky, a tech start-up specialist, who missed the hummus he used to enjoy in his native Tel Aviv. So he and his wife Nancy decided to make their own — by opening a restaurant.

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Behind the Scenes as El Celler de Can Roca’s Roca Brothers Cook in San Francisco

"The World'' being assembled at the San Francisco dinner prepared by the Roca brothers.

“The World” being assembled at the San Francisco dinner prepared by the Roca brothers.

 

It was a little like getting a backstage pass to a U2 concert.

Only way better.

That’s how I felt when I was invited to hang around in the kitchen on Wednesday night when the three Roca brothers, owners of the illustrious El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, were in San Francisco to cook a series of dinners at the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

After all, in the culinary world — Joan (chef), Josep (sommelier and maitre d’) and Jordi (pastry chef) — are rock stars of the utmost magnitude. Their restaurant not only has garnered three Michelin stars, but is rated #2 on the current list of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” (they were #1 in 2013 and 2015).

Jordi, Joan and Josep Roca in the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

Jordi, Joan and Josep Roca in the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

What’s more, the multi-course, three-hour dinners were not open to the public. Instead, they were by invitation-only, with the 100 guests each night predominantly clients of Spanish bank BBVA Compass, which was sponsoring the Roca brothers’ whirlwind cooking tour. It spans three continents in five weeks with stops in London, Hong Kong, Phoenix, San Francisco (this week), and finally, Santiago de Chile.

Although Joan had come to the Bay Area in the spring on a prior scouting trip, this was the first time the other two brothers have visited San Francisco.

The 2016 tour is the third time BBVA has sponsored such an endeavor for the brothers. And what an undertaking it is. El Celler Can Roca closes for the entire month of August just for this, and almost the entire staff comes along for the ride. We’re talking the brothers plus 40 others.

The ballroom before the guests arrived.

The ballroom before the guests arrived.

Some of the featured wines for the evening.

Some of the featured wines for the evening.

Besides their personal luggage, the brothers travel only with their knives, and a few special ingredients, such as distillations that would be too difficult to make on location. One-of-a-kind serving ware is sent ahead. They go through one Iberico jamon leg per dinner. They source most everything else locally, making a point to use a few key ingredients particularly indigenous to the cities they are cooking in.

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What’s Old Is New Again At Dan Gordon’s

Fried chicken and barbecue star at the new Dan Gordon's in Palo Alto.

Fried chicken and barbecue star at the new Dan Gordon’s in Palo Alto.

 

Some laws are meant to be broken. Or rescinded.

Especially when it comes to the one that California enacted in 1999 that prohibited someone from owning both a restaurant and a bottling brewery.

The result was that long-time brewer Dan Gordon was forced to sell his 12 Gordon Biersch Brewery restaurants in order to maintain ownership of his Gordon Biersch Brewing Company in San Jose.

It was not a decision he wanted to make. And it was one that haunted him.

When California legislators rescinded that law this year, Gordon rejoiced. By chance, he learned that his original Gordon Biersch restaurant in downtown Palo Alto was about to be shuttered and sold. He managed to buy it back.

The expansive bar.

The expansive bar.

The soaring, barn-like dining room.

The soaring, barn-like dining room.

This March, he and his business partner, Steve Sincheck (Gordon’s original bar manager at that location, and now owner of Palo Alto’s Old Pro and Local Union 271) reopened the restaurant, christening it Dan Gordon’s and transforming it into a contemporary barbecue joint. It is the only restaurant Gordon actually owns now.

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Sate Your Thirst and Appetite at Smokestack

A sampler at Smokestack.

A sampler at Smokestack.

 

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing Company in San Francisco specializes in B2B operations.

That’s beer-to-barbecue to you and me.

Think the usual suspects of ribs and chopped pork. But also the out-of-the-norm pastrami. Yes, New York deli-proud pastrami.

The soaring warehouse-like space in the Dogpatch neighborhood sports a bona fide brewery in the back, and a barbecue joint in the front that features an expansive bar complete with shelves of liquor stacked so high, the bartenders need to climb a tall wooden ladder to reach the top ones.

Done up in an abundance of reclaimed wood, exposed concrete walls and steel pipes, it’s a festive spot that draws a crowd, as I witnessed recently when I was invited in to dine as a guest.

On the top shelves is a zany display of assorted rubber work boots.

On the top shelves is a zany display of assorted rubber work boots.

You order at the counter, then find a seat among the several communal tables, until your food is brought to you.

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