Craft Chocolate Experience, La Cocina Municipal Marketplace, and More

Inaugural Craft Chocolate Experience

Attention all chocoholics, don’t miss the first ever Craft Chocolate Experience at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts, March 6 to 8.

This sweet extravaganza will bring bean-to-bar makers, chocolatiers, pastry chefs, and cacao bean farmers from around the world for panel discussions, cooking demos, and a chocolate marketplace with more than 85 artisans sampling and selling their creations.

There’s also an opening night party on March 6, featuring a dazzling array of chocolates, pastries and cocktails.

The renowned participants include: Jordi Roca from El Celler de Can Roca in Spain; Francisco Migoya, head chef at Modernist Cuisine; John Scharffenberger, founder of Scharffen Berger Chocolate; Kenji Lopez-Alt, chief culinary consultant for Serious Eats and author of “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science” (W.W. Norton); and founder Todd Masonis of San Francisco’s Dandelion Chocolate.

Tickets for the opening night party are $95 each; a weekend pass to the event is $145 per person.

Celebrate A Milestone For La Cocina

La Cocina, San Francisco’s pioneering kitchen incubator for women, people of color, and immigrants wanting to start food ventures, expects to open its much-anticipated food hall this spring.

Momos at Bini's Kitchen. (Photo by Eric Wolfinger)
Momos at Bini’s Kitchen. (Photo by Eric Wolfinger)

To celebrate the impending debut of La Cocina Marketplace, a landmark all-women operated food hall, the organization is hosting a Week of Women in Food, March 2 to 8. It’s a series of prix fixe dinners spotlighting the seven La Cocina chefs who will make the new food hall their home. For these special dinners, each La Cocina chef will cook alongside a well-known, established Bay Area chef.

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If It’s Monday, It Must Be Time For Burgers & Burgundies

The Selby's burger.
The Selby’s burger.

There is Meatless Monday. And there is Meatball Monday at some establishments.

But for the ultimate highbrow-lowbrow experience, there is Burgers & Burgundies on Monday nights at Selby’s in Redwood City.

Bacchus Management Group, which operates Selby’s, had featured Burgers & Burgundies for years at its Michelin-stared Spruce in San Francisco. Although discontinued there, the tradition has been brought over to Selby’s.

Last week, I had a chance to try this irresistible combo when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

The three burgundies offered by the glass last Monday night.
The three burgundies offered by the glass last Monday night.
Enjoy one glass of burgundy -- or a flight.
Enjoy one glass of burgundy — or a flight.

The burger-wine combo can be enjoyed either in the dining room or at the bar. Think of it as a more low-key dining option at the posh restaurant when you don’t want to linger for hours over a multitude of courses.

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Kombu Roast Chicken with Kabocha Squash and Daikon

Roast chicken gets super juicy and savory, thanks to kombu compound butter underneath its skin.
Roast chicken gets super juicy and savory, thanks to kombu compound butter underneath its skin.

At the stunning Harbor House Inn situated on a bluff over the ocean on the Mendocino Coast, Executive Chef Matthew Kammerer takes pride in foraging all that he can from the sea to star in his minimalist dishes full of finesse.

That includes making his own salt from seawater and incorporating seaweed in the house butter.

But you don’t have to go to that extreme to enjoy his “Kombu Roast Chicken with Kabocha Squash and Daikon” in your own home.

A taste of the sea.
A taste of the sea.

Instead, this dish by the chef who received his first Michelin star last year just takes stopping at a Japanese market to pick up some kombu. The dried kelp, so full of umami, is pulverized and mixed with softened butter, garlic and lemon zest, then smeared gently underneath the skin of a whole chicken before roasting.

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Shakewell’s Short Ribs with Citrus-Olive Herb Salad

A favorite recipe from my cookbook, "East Bay Cooks.''
A favorite recipe from my cookbook, “East Bay Cooks.”

When I was working on my cookbook, “East Bay Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Best Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries” (Figure 1), I was fortunate enough to have the help of a small army of friends and family who helped test all the recipes with me.

When one of my testers told me that he’d made the recipe for “Short Ribs with Citrus-Olive Herb Salad” not once, not twice, but five times, I was immediately alarmed.

But then he told me why: It wasn’t because anything was wrong with it. On the contrary, he and his wife ended up loving this dish so much that they couldn’t resist making it multiple times to share with friends.

While I’m fond of all the recipes in this cookbook that spotlights 41 restaurants in the dynamic East Bay, that testimonial convinced me right then and there that this recipe by Chef Jen Biesty of Oakland’s Shakewell was truly a winner.

Because of book-publishing timetables, my friend had to test this recipe at the height of summer. But I patiently waited until winter to give it a test-drive, since long-braised short ribs are so made for this time of year.

This is definitely a comfort dish taken up a level. The short ribs cook up fork-tender in an almost mole-like brothy sauce made with ancho chiles, fennel, garlic, thyme, chicken stock, a little ground coffee, some chopped bittersweet chocolate and a whole bottle of Zinfandel. How can that not be good?

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Chef Simona Oliveri’s Unexpected Journey to Oak + Violet

Italian-born Executive Chef Simona Oliveri.
Italian-born Executive Chef Simona Oliveri.

It was just like any morning at Oak + Violet restaurant in the Park James Hotel in Menlo Park. Until it wasn’t.

Three months into the job in December 2018, Simona Oliveri, arrived at the restaurant for her usual sous chef shift, only to find the executive chef had quit abruptly.

Faced with a full dining room later that night, Oliveri, the only woman on the culinary team of 16, did the only thing she could think of — she immediately called up all her vendors to start placing orders for the ingredients that would be needed that day.

And with that, she became the head chef of the restaurant, as well as the entire 63-room boutique hotel.

The bar at Oak + Violet.
The bar at Oak + Violet.

“I never imagined I would be doing this,” Oliveri, 42 says. “I’d never worked for a hotel before or run a restaurant before. But I know how to feed people.”

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