Category Archives: Seafood

Dining At Afici

A spectacular uni pasta at Afici in San Francisco.
A spectacular uni pasta at Afici in San Francisco.

Few good things resulted from the pandemic. But one of them is surely Afici.

This South of Market fine-dining restaurant in San Francisco grew out of the pasta-oriented pop-up and takeout that Executive Chef Eric Upper of Alexander’s Steakhouse did during shutdown. A New York City native who worked at Auerole in New York, and Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas, Upper had the opportunity to lean into his Italian heritage, having studied Tuscan cuisine at Lorenzo de’ Medici School in Florence.

The pop-up proved so popular that it led the Alexander’s Steakhouse Restaurant Group to open Afici last summer.

The result is a stylish restaurant featuring inspired Italian specialties not found easily elsewhere, including house-made charcuterie made exclusively with prized A5 Wagyu.

I had a chance to experience Afici last week, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

Afici's bar and lounge.
Afici’s bar and lounge.

With the wacky weather of late that’s brought snow to the Bay Area, it was an especially nice touch to be greeted at the host stand with cups of warm ginger-infused tea.

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A Visit to Monterey’s Coastal Kitchen

Seared ahi with sunchoke puree, apple sabayon and diced apples -- at Coastal Kitchen.
Seared ahi with sunchoke puree, apple sabayon and diced apples — at Coastal Kitchen.

When Chef Michael Rotondo left San Francisco during the pandemic, it was surely Monterey’s gain.

The former executive chef of Parallel 27 in the San Francisco Ritz-Carlton, former executive chef of Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, and the U.S. Bocuse D’Or “Most Promising Chef” of 2008, moved south to open Coastal Kitchen in February 2022.

That new fine-dining restaurant at the Monterey Plaza Hotel is right next to its long-time casual restaurant, Schooners.

Unlike the latter, though, there is no outdoor dining space. The white cloth-draped tables inside Coastal Kitchen’s warm-wood dining room are spaced out amply, though.

The dining room.
The dining room.

This is a tasting menu-only restaurant. In fact, it’s thought to be the sole tasting menu-only restaurant in Monterey. At $145 per person (with an additional $95 for wine pairings), it delivers a lot for the buck.

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Canned Tuna and Salmon Get Globally Inspired

Freshé Sicilian Caponata tops fresh kale.
Freshé Sicilian Caponata tops fresh kale.

Henry and Lisa Lovejoy take seafood seriously and responsibly, having founded EcoFish in 1999, a New Hampshire company that sells sustainably-caught frozen and canned seafood nationwide.

It was the first seafood company certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. Its seafood advisory board also includes some of the globe’s leading marine conservation scientists.

Freshé is the company’s line of single-serve, easy-open, tinned seafood designed to be a protein-packed small meal to take on the go to enjoy wherever and whenever.

They are all built around either certified sustainable tuna or certified sustainable aquaculture salmon.

They come in six international varieties, which I had a chance to sample recently: Provence Nicoise (wild tuna), Sicilian Caponata (wild tuna), Barcelona Escalvada (salmon), Moroccan Tagine (salmon), Aztec Ensalada (wild tuna), and Thai Sriracha (wild tuna).

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Shaking Up Shakshuka

Shakshuka -- with a twist.
Shakshuka — with a twist.

Whether for brunch or dinner, many of us have eagerly spooned up the delectable Middle Eastern dish of whole eggs cracked open and cooked gently in a chunky, bubbling sauce of tomatoes and peppers.

Now, this one-pot dish known as shakshuka gets turned on its head in this clever take that swaps out the eggs for fresh fish and shrimp instead.

“Seafood Shakshuka” is from “The Mediterranean Dish” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy.

Egypt-born Suzy Karadsheh, founder of The Mediterranean Dish blog, who now makes her home in Atlanta, offers up 120 sunny recipes that draw from her heritage, as well as from the flavors of neighboring Greece, Italy and Morocco.

Loaded with beautiful color photos, the book tempts with recipes that include “Anytime Falafel,” “Harissa, Red Lentil, and Tomato Soup,” “Braised Chicken, Mushrooms, and Poblano Peppers with Pomegranate Molasses,” and “No-Churn Tahini and Hazelnut Ice Cream.”

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Tuna Pâté For Starters

Meet the versatile, easy-to-make, and economical tuna pâté.
Meet the versatile, easy-to-make, and economical tuna pâté.

When the temperature soars, that last thing you want to do is turn up the heat in your kitchen.

“Tuna Pâté’ is perfect for those scorching days, because it’s served chilled, and the only real cooking it involves is boiling a potato and a couple of eggs on the stovetop.

Best yet, it tastes like a more sophisticated version of your favorite tuna salad sandwich.

The recipe is from the new “Cooking alla Giudia” (Artisan Books), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta, an Italian food writer and photographer. Born in Milan and now living in Santa Monica, she is on a mission to shine a light on Italian Jewish food in Italy and abroad.

The book presents more than 100 recipes that celebrate the food, history, and traditions of Jewish food in Italy. For instance, did you know that orecchiette pasta that’s famed in Apulia most likely came from Provence, France by Jews who settled in the 12th century? Or that the prevalence of eggplant in Italian cuisine is thanks to Jews in Spain during the Middle Ages who learned to cook it from the Arabs? When the Jews were expelled from Spain, many of them relocated to Italy, bringing with them their expertise with eggplant cooking.

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