Category Archives: Chefs

AL’s Deli Is A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Chef-Owner Aaron London at his new AL's Deli during opening week.

Chef-Owner Aaron London at his new AL’s Deli during opening week.

Chef-Owner Aaron London describes his new AL’s Deli in San Francisco as East Coast Jewish deli meets Israeli street food.

It is a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a whole lot of what London likes to eat on his downtime, well, when he has any, that is.

After all, when you also run a Michelin-starred restaurant, AL’s Place, just a few blocks away, which was named Bon Appetit magazine’s top new restaurant in American in 2015, there are few moments to spare.

So it’s lucky for the rest of us that his new fast-casual concept fits the bill when time is short, cash is precious, and you’re craving big flavors in a carefree spot done up in Miami Art Deco hues.

Just follow the pink sign.

Just follow the pink sign.

The bright, sunny interior.

The bright, sunny interior.

If last week’s opening was any indication, he has another hit on his hands. When I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant in only its fifth day of operation, the place was mobbed on a Saturday night, with a few folks lined up to get in the door.

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Sustainable Seafood Watch Food Truck, A Call to Action, and More

The Monterey Bay Aquarium rolls out its new Seafood Watch food truck. (photo courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium)

The Monterey Bay Aquarium rolls out its new Seafood Watch food truck. (photo courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium)

Seafood Watch Food Truck Takes To The Road

“Eat. Drink. Save the Ocean.”

That’s the philosophy behind the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s new Seafood Watch Food Truck.

Like other food trucks, it serves up delicious fare. But it goes beyond that to offer three items that use either vegan ingredients or U.S. West Coast rockfish that garners a “Best Choice” ranking for sustainability in the Seafood Watch Guide.

The aquarium has teamed with San Francisco’s Little Green Cyclo to create the menu. You have your choice of taco ($5), butter lettuce wrap ($5) or banh mi sandwich ($8.75) filled with rockfish cooked with chili lime, tamarind or Cajun seasonings. The taco and lettuce wrap also can be filled with the vegan option of butternut squash with kale and candied walnuts.

A sustainable rockfish taco. (Photo courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium)

A sustainable rockfish taco. (Photo courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium)

The truck will be out and about in the Bay Area through September. Look for it at Presidio Twilight in San Francisco, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 1; at the Shuck Yeah! National Oyster Day event in San Francisco, noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 3; at the Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 4; and at Noise Pop’s 20th Street Block Party in San Francisco, noon to 6 p.m. Aug. 17.

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Dandelion Chocolate’s Bloom Is A Beaut

The makings of an artisan root beer float at Bloom cafe inside Dandelion Chocolate factory in San Francisco.

The makings of an artisan root beer float at Bloom cafe inside Dandelion Chocolate factory in San Francisco.

 

There are ladies who lunch.

And then there are ladies who chocolate.

Count me in the latter category. And from the looks of a recent weekday afternoon at Bloom Chocolate Salon, I am hardly alone.

The spectacular chocolate salon by San Francisco’s Dandelion Chocolate certainly provides plenty of eye candy. Melding industrial with a chic European aesthetic, it is a chocoholic’s Shangri-la come to sweet life.

Established in 2010 by techies Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring co-founded Plaxo, San Francisco’s only bean-to-bar chocolate factory expanded big-time in April — spending five years on construction to turn a 107-year-old mattress and printing factory into a chocolate factory, retail store, and chic dessert salon.

The historic warehouse.

The historic warehouse.

Customers filing in for coffee and pastries.

Customers filing in for coffee and pastries.

Enter the brick building, as I did recently when I was invited in as a guest of the cafe, and on your right is a store with shelves loaded with pottery, books, and Dandelion chocolate bars (with sample cups holding broken bar bits to try).

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Gabriela Cámara’s Fabulous Tinga De Pollo

Chef Gabriela Cámara take on a home-style chicken-onion filling for tacos or enchiladas.

Chef Gabriela Cámara take on a home-style chicken-onion filling for tacos or enchiladas.

 

It may be less than 30 minutes long, but “A Tale of Two Kitchens,” the Netflix documentary about Chef Gabriela Cámara, will stay with you far longer.

Of course, it will make you very, very hungry, too.

The film recounts how Cámara opened her first restaurant Contramar in Mexico City in 1998, just after graduating from college and with no professional restaurant experience, herself. She just wanted to create a beach cafe with food that would make people happy. It was such a smashing success that 17 years later, she came to San Francisco to open her second restaurant, Cala, along with its sidekick, Tacos Cala, to great acclaim.

“A Tale of Two Kitchens” is a look at both restaurants, one in the United States, the other in Mexico, and the culture they share. Cámara doesn’t shy away from talking about the dichotomy that now exists, as Mexican immigrants are being vilified in the United States  yet the popularity of Mexican food in this country has never been higher.

Cámara has notably taken the chance to hire convicts to work at Cala, giving them not only new skills, but a second chance. At Contramar, her staff is so loyal that many have worked for her for more than a decade, and a few are even second-generation, as a son is shown in the film excited to work alongside his father as a server.

My Mexico City Kitchen

She has no intention of slowing down anytime soon, either. She’s currently working on a new restaurant, Onda in Santa Monica, with Chef Jessica Koslow of the wildly popular Sqirl in Los Angeles. And she was recently named a cultural advisor to the Mexican president.

This year, Cámara also debuted her first cookbook, “My Mexico City Kitchen: Recipes and Convictions” (Lorena Jones/Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

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Selby’s Sizzles — Even Before It Opens

Halibut with Robuchon potatoes at the new Selby's.

Halibut with Robuchon potatoes at the new Selby’s.

 

You know a restaurant has got it going on when nearly all of its 48 main dining-room seats are already booked solid for the next two months and its private dining rooms already are sought after for Christmas soirees — and it hasn’t even opened its doors yet.

Such is the case of the hotly anticipated Selby’s in Redwood City on the edge of Atherton, which officially opens to the public on Tuesday, July 23 to serve dinner nightly.

It’s the latest project by the Bacchus Management Group, which also operates nearby Michelin-starred The Village Pub in Woodside, The Village Bakery & Cafe in Woodside, Pizza Antica in San Jose’s Santana Row, and Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Palo Alto; as well as Michelin-starred Spruce, and The Saratoga, both in San Francisco.

The 10,000-square-foot property on El Camino Real has been various restaurants since 1938, most recently Chantilly’s. For more than a year, including four months of construction, the Bacchus Group labored to completely transform the interior into a sumptuous establishment, as I saw when I was invited in as a guest of a media preview dinner last week.

The main dining room on the first floor.

The main dining room on the first floor.

The mixed media "Golden State'' art work created by Lost Art Salon proprietor Rob Delamater hangs above the fireplace.

The mixed media “Golden State” art work created by Lost Art Salon proprietor Rob Delamater hangs above the fireplace.

The swank bar.

The swank bar.

Local artist Magnus Scheven's focal point chandelier.

Local artist Magnus Scheven’s focal point chandelier.

Dark emerald mohair covers the walls not only to add luxury, but act as a sound dampener. I dare you to not spend at least a few moments caressing the walls (yes, really) that feel like plush velvet to the touch. Real gold leaf glitters on the back wall of the bar, as well as the ceiling of the restrooms. There’s even a secret poker room upstairs that doubles as a private dining room.

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