Category Archives: Chefs

The Art of Being Earnest at Ernest

Chilled asparagus spears with furikake potato chip crumble and chunky Jidori egg salad -- at Ernest.
Chilled asparagus spears with furikake potato chip crumble and chunky Jidori egg salad — at Ernest.

Ask Chef Brandon Rice how long he toiled to open his first restaurant, Ernest, in San Francisco, and he’ll tell you the short answer is three years, but the long answer is his entire life.

No matter how you cut it, the endeavor took untold blood, sweat, and tears, plus enduring the standstill of a global health crisis. Named after his grandfather, a Virginia butcher, Ernest, finally opened in March 2021 to widespread acclaim, making it a tough reservation to land almost from the get-go.

After being invited in as a guest of the restaurant last week, it’s easy to see why. Rice is the former chef de cuisine of Rich Table in San Francisco. If you’ve enjoyed the playful, creative fare there, you’re guaranteed to relish it here, too, with its similar whimsy and daring confidence.

While Ernest offered some outdoor dining tables last year, it’s unlikely to do so this year, even when the weather warms. San Francisco weather being what it is, it proved too unpredictable to count on.

Chef Brandon Rice in the open kitchen at Ernest, the first restaurant that's his own.
Chef Brandon Rice in the open kitchen at Ernest, the first restaurant that’s his own.

However, the restaurant’s interior boasts 16- to 20-foot high ceilings, a bonus for air circulation. The soaring, light-filled space, done up with ash wood tables, actually used to be the shipping dock and warehouse for Best Foods mayonnaise, Rice says.

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The Only Beef with Broccoli Recipe You’ll Ever Need

Without a doubt, the best beef with broccoli I've ever had.
Without a doubt, the best beef with broccoli I’ve ever had.

True confession: I’ve never been much of a fan of beef with broccoli.

Maybe it’s because I’ve dug into too many dishes of it at Chinese lunch buffets or banquet gatherings that were just so mundane and mediocre, with gloppy, over-cornstarched sauce glueing everything together.

There’s never been a version that’s been memorable and exciting.

Until now.

And of course, it would be created by food scientist, cooking savant, and James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.

If you are an avid stir-fry enthusiast already or a beginner picking up a wok for the very first time, you owe it to yourself to get a copy of his new The Wok: Recipes and Techniques” (W.W. Norton & Company), of which I received a review copy.

It will change how you stir-fry. It will change your life.

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Preserved Apple Cores — Yes, It’s A Thing

Roast chicken that gets marinated in not just preserved lemons, but preserved apple cores, too.
Roast chicken that gets marinated in not just preserved lemons, but preserved apple cores, too.

Admittedly, I love all things Danish — the timeless architecture, the clean-lined furniture, and the haunting murder-mystery thrillers.

And of course, the food.

So, when a review copy of “Nordic Family Kitchen” (Prestel, 2021) landed on my porch, I found myself beyond intrigued.

The book is by Mikkel Karstad, a Danish chef who cooked for years at world-renowned Noma in Copenhagen.

The book features 73 recipes that espouse Karstad’s eco-conscious sensibilities that prize foraged, home-grown and good-for-you ingredients in dishes such as “Seaweed Flatbread with Sea Salt, Herbs, Flowers, and Olive Oil,” “Elderflower Lemonade with Herbs,” “Pickled Chanterelles with Spruce, Apple, and Shallots,” and “Rhubarb and Marzipan Cake.”

All it takes is salt -- and time -- to make preserved apple cores.
All it takes is salt — and time — to make preserved apple cores.

Now, I’ve salt-preserved lemons for years. But apple cores?

That was a new one on me.

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Dining Outside at Howie’s Artisan Pizza

House-made pastas like this fettuccine bolgonese star at Howie's Artisan Pizza.
House-made pastas like this fettuccine bolgonese star at Howie’s Artisan Pizza.

One of Town & Country Village’s most enduring restaurants is Howie’s Artisan Pizza. But now this popular 13-year-old Palo Alto pizzeria has added handmade pastas to its lineup, too.

Chef-Owner Howard Bulka had plans pre-pandemic to expand the compact kitchen ever so much to accommodate a pasta-making station. Of course, those plans got pushed back with the advent of Covid. But now, his plans have come to fruition.

Not only can you enjoy the new pastas served in the dining room, but also on the pergola-covered outdoor dining area just in front of the restaurant. What’s more, you can even buy fresh pasta ($9), sauces ($9.50 per pint), and even frozen baked ziti ($22), manicotti ($13.95), and lasagna bolognese ($23) to take home.

A meatball, mushroom and broccoli pizza.
A meatball, mushroom and broccoli pizza.

My husband and I chose to enjoy our meal outside on a breezy evening, starting with the chopped salad ($15.25), a crunchy mix of romaine tossed with cubes of salami, Swiss cheese, cucumber, chopped egg, and green onion. With the ranch dressing on the side, you can add as little or as much as you want, controlling just how super-leaded you want your chopped salad to be.

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Yotam Ottolenghi’s Chickpeas Cacio e Pepe

All the buttery, cheesy, peppery goodness of cacio e pepe pasta -- but with chickpeas instead.
All the buttery, cheesy, peppery goodness of cacio e pepe pasta — but with chickpeas instead.

All it takes is copious amounts of butter, freshly ground black pepper, and grated Parmesan to create a dreamy-creamy mouthful.

You know it best as cacio e pepe, that Italian classic dish of spaghetti whose strands get coated lavishly with that velvety amalgamation.

But for those eschewing gluten or grains these days, you’ll be glad to know you can get that same beloved taste in “Chickpeas Cacio e Pepe.”

This clever recipe is from the cookbook, “Ottolenghi Test Kitchen” (Clarkson Potter, 2021) by Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi. The latter, of course, is the acclaimed London restaurateur and best-selling cookbook author; and the former is the head of his Ottolenghi Test Kitchen.

Yes, garbanzos stand in for the noodles. And the bean cooking liquid for the starchy pasta water that usually acts as the glue to emulsify everything.

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