Tag Archives: San Francisco restaurants

A Toast to Absinthe

A popular starter of hamachi sashimi at Absinthe Brasserie and Bar in San Francisco.

No matter how long you’ve lived in the Bay Area, it’s impossible to get to every restaurant you’d like to try.

There are just too many of them. With more opening each and every week, too.

Such is the reason why it took me this long to finally visit the 15-year-old Absinthe Brasserie & Bar in San Francisco.

When an invitation to dine as a guest at the restaurant presented itself a couple of weeks ago, it was the needed nudge that finally got me in the doors.

And boy, have I been missing out.

The lively restaurant in Hayes Valley is almost always packed, especially before nearby theater performances with folks grabbing a most civilized meal before racing off to the ballet or symphony.

Executive Chef Adam Keogh, who has cooked at Chez TJ in Mountain View and at a couple of Michael Mina Group restaurants, infuses classic French brasserie sensibilities with California flair to come up with menu items such as Atkins Ranch lamb sugo over papardelle ($22); spicy fried chickpeas ($4); and beef tartare ($16) with violet mustard, green apple and red onion.

A cocktail is a must here.

The plush dining room.

The restaurant is made up of several plush rooms, done up with burgundy walls sporting gold trim. There’s a large mural in one, depicting the inside of a dining room restaurant complete with servers and tables of diners.  At the entrance to the kitchen, there’s even a small toque painted above, appropriately enough.

When a restaurant is named for a once illegal spirit, you’ve just got to order a cocktail, don’t you? Absinthe has long been famed for its well-executed cocktails.

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Two Chefs Plus Three Goats at One Market Restaurant

My first taste of goat tartare -- and hopefully, not my last.

What do you get when you put two chefs together with three goats?

The makings of a deliriously delicious evening.

Such was the case last week at One Market restaurant in San Francisco, when resident Chef Mark Dommen invited Chef Staffan Terje of Perbacco in San Francisco to cook with him on a multi-course feast that was all about goat.

The event was part of the “Dinner Party Project,” a series of dinners throughout July hosted by SF Chefs, the food and wine extravaganza that officially takes place July 30-Aug. 5. The dinners bring together two or more chefs to collaborate on a themed dinner. A portion of proceeds of each dinner benefits the Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), which operates the Ferry Building farmers market.

I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest to the dinner, which kicked off with Terje’s spectacular goat leg tartare. The mild red meat got a hit of crunch from diced celery heart, a pop of salinity from Cantabrian anchovy and floral acidity from preserved Meyer lemons.

Mark Dommen's goat charcuterie with apricots and pistachios.

Dommen lobbed with goat liver terrine and goat mortadella with fresh apricots and apricot mustardo. It was the type of food that made you wish you were on a picnic in the south of France.

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San Francisco Magazine’s “Best of the Bay,” Father’s Day Pig Roast & More

Salmon crudo bites at last year's "Best of the Bay.'' (Photo by Dana Underwood)

Party Hardy at “Best of the Bay” with A Food Gal Discount

San Francisco magazine will celebrate its 12th anniversary with a major bash, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. June 28.

Get ready to nosh, sip and shimmy at its annual “Best of the Bay” party at City View at the Metreon in San Francisco.

More than 40 restaurants will be dishing up gourmet eats, including Central Kitchen, 1300 on Fillmore, Wo Hing General Store and Waterbar. Participating wineries include Ceja Vineyards and Envolve. DJs and bands will play as you can dance the night away.

The event is a benefit for Family House, which provides a home away from home for families with children undergoing cancer treatment at UCSF Children’s Hospital.

Plates of Asian slaw at last year's soiree. (Photo by Marcie Franich)

General admission tickets are $100; VIP tickets are $175 (which gives you access to the party one hour early, plus entrance into the VIP lounge and cigarillo bar, and a digital swag bag). Food Gal readers can get a special discount: $90 for general admission tickets or $160 for VIP tickets. Just use the code: FOODGAL. Deadline for the discount is midnight June 18.

Presidio Social Club Celebrates Father’s Day with A Grand Pig Roast

Treat dear ol’ Dad to a most memorable barbecue dinner at Presidio Social Club in San Francisco.

On Father’s Day, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 17, the restaurant will host its sixth annual “Pig Roast Soiree.” Not one, but two Yosemite Valley pigs will be roasted on the back patio in Caja China box grills.

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Take Five with Chef Justin Simoneaux of the Boxing Room, Who Proves You Can Take the Boy Out of Louisiania, But Not Louisiana Out of the Boy

Chef Justin Simoneaux stand in front of the specials board at the Boxing Room in San Francisco.

Executive Chef Justin Simoneaux wears his heart on his sleeves.

His tattoo sleeves to be exact.

Take a close look at the artwork on this 27-year-old’s arms and you’ll understand what’s near and dear to this chef of San Francisco’s Boxing Room.

On the right arm of this Southern Louisiana native is a tiny front-page of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. That’s accompanied by all the makings for a crawfish boil (potatoes, crawfish and crab) and the Cajun ”holy trinity” of onion, bell peppers and celery.

On his left arm is the cityscape of New Orleans, the bayou and gravestones of dearly departed ones.

At the Boxing Room, part of the Absinthe Group of restaurants in San Francisco, Simoneaux cooks up the food of his beloved Louisiana: gumbo, deep-fried alligator, Southern fried chicken, and duck and sausage jambalaya. Before that, he honed his skills in Mediterranean cuisine at Coco500 in San Francisco, and the Moss Room at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Crisp crackers with pimento cheese.

The dining room at the Boxing Room.

Last week, I had a chance to sit down with him to talk about how his roots and his upbringing (his mother was only 18 when she gave birth to him) have influenced his career, which started when he took a job as a dishwasher at age 15 at a restaurant near his high school.

Q: Are you cooking the food of your childhood here?

A: It’s the food I grew up eating, but I’m using my training to better the recipes. Don’t tell my Mom and Grandma I said that.

Q: You learned how to cook from them?

A: In Louisiana, everything centers around food. My Mom and Granny made gumbo and stews. My grandfather boiled crawfish and did a lot of grilling. I’d always be like, ‘Ooh, what is that smell?’ I was intrigued from an early age.

Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a chef?

A: When I worked as a dishwasher, then as a line cook, I just fell in love with the adrenaline and energy. I came out here for culinary school (California Culinary Academy) with the intention of going back to Louisiana afterward. But I’ve been here seven years now and love it. I feel like I have two homes now.

Q: When you go back to Louisiana to visit, is there something you just make a beeline for that you’ve just got to eat first?

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State Bird Provisions Takes Flight in San Francisco

Chef Stuart Brioza offers up duck liver mousse with almond biscuits at State Bird Provisions.

Imagine the rolling carts and trays of Chinese dim sum. But instead of small dishes of chicken feet and traditional steamed dumplings, you have have the likes of smoked duck fingerling potato salad, ricotta pancakes with sauerkraut, and green garlic bread with burrata.

That’s the concept of the very inventive State Bird Provisions, steps away from San Francisco’s Japantown.

Husband-and-wife chefs Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski got the idea for this after catering private events upon their departure from their posts as head chef and pastry chef, respectively, at San Francisco’s Rubicon, after that landmark restaurant shuttered. They realized that diners these days like to graze, rather than always commit to the usual appetizer, entree and dessert. And they noticed that when a new dish is paraded in front of folks, they just have to have at it once they see it.

A cart laden with oysters on the half shell, and seafood salsa.

Whipped trout with peas, mint and croutons from the rolling cart.

Cold seafood salad tossed in a vibrant salsa -- from the rolling cart.

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