Chef Paul Canales holding his finished squid ink paella at Duende.
Last week, I got a lesson in paella-making from the source: Chef-Owner Paul Canales of the Duende in Oakland.
And what a delicious and inspired one it was.
After all, the Uptown restaurant is all about Spanish and Basque food spotlighting the best of Northern California’s bounty. Duende features four paellas on the menu, including the very popular Arroz Negro, made with squid ink for an unmistakable bold color.
Along with a handful of other food writers, I crowded into the restaurant kitchen to watch Canales demonstrate that dish. The Moors brought rice to Spain, he explained, and paellas first gained popularity in the 1840s in and around Valencia. Canales’ father is of Basque heritage, a region that didn’t necessarily specialize in risotto. But it’s a specialty Canales has long loved, and studied, having traveled throughout Spain.
Paella can be made with various Spanish rices, as well as short or broken Spanish pasta.
Saffron from northern Iran.
Like Italian risotto, it’s a dish that’s really all about the rice, with the toppings accentuating it, but not smothering it.
A taste of old and new at The Saratoga in San Francisco.
Even though it opened in November, The Saratoga feels like it’s been a part of San Francisco for years — which I think is one of the greatest compliments you can bestow upon a bar-restaurant.
The newest establishment by the Bacchus Management Group is housed in a 1907 building in the Tendernob neighborhood that was once a hotel. The original brick in the interior was exposed in the renovation, as were its striking steel beam trusses. The effect is a modish industrial look that’s also timeless — old-school San Francisco spit and polished. I had a chance to check it out on a recent packed Saturday night, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.
A wide staircase sits almost in the center of the two-story establishment, making for rather tight quarters between tables. A dramatic steel and crystal chandelier of cascading sparkling hoops dangles from the ceiling into the stairwell, doubling as a sculptural art piece. Tables are set around the stairwell, both on the main floor and the one below. A massive bar with shelves of liquor lighted from below is the focal point of the first floor. There’s also a second bar downstairs. If you need to use the restroom, you’ll have to go downstairs and thread your way gingerly past all the people standing at the bar or sitting at the nearby tables.
The incredible chandelier.
A touch of neon in the dining room.
The Saratoga has that glam yet illicit feel the moment you step in the doors, owing to the quite dim lighting that’s broken up only by that showstopping chandelier and the small candle on each table. Mine was definitely not the only table pulling out a cell phone to use as a flashlight to read the menu. The darkness provides a certain edgy moodiness, but it also makes it hard to really see the food on your plate in detail. And that’s kind of a shame because the food is so playful and inviting here.
It’s like two treats in one.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, TCHO, Berkeley’s bean-to-bar chocolate maker, has injected a little boozy fun and deliciousness into its artisan bars.
It has teamed with Jose Cuervo to add that renowned spirits maker’s reserve tequila, Reserva de la Familia, into TCHO’s distinctive tile chocolates.
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 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.
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.
You order at the counter, then find a seat among the several communal tables, until your food is brought to you.