I’m sure I’m not alone in mourning the 2019 closure of Michelin-starred Commonwealth in San Francisco due to a rent dispute. With its laid-back vibe, skillful ingredient-driven cooking, and a tasting menu with a price that didn’t leave you shell-shocked, Commonwealth was the kind of place every city would be glad to have.
Its chef-owner Jason Fox moved on — in a big way. He went from overseeing one restaurant to three when he was scooped up by The Proper Hotel in downtown San Francisco. As its executive chef, he now oversees Villon restaurant, the trendy Charmaine’s rooftop bar, and La Bande, formerly a coffee shop that he’s since turned into a tapas place.
Fox’s arrival was to have been heralded with a big splash. But because it occurred in January 2020 — two months before all restaurants would be forced to shut down due to a worldwide pandemic — that never really came to fruition. Instead, he was left to deal with navigating an ever-changing roster of health mandates.
With the Bay Area in a much better place than it was last year, Fox has now been able to roll out the plans he had all along.
A couple weeks ago, I was invited in as a guest to enjoy an overnight stay at the hotel, as well as dinner at the newly revamped La Bande, a compact yet cozy space resembling a Spanish mercado with a few indoor seats, as well as tables outside, which is where my husband and I dined.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — It may have been a challenging few months for this glorious national park, what with an outbreak of norovirus and the Ahwahnee Hotel’s loss of one star, dropping it to a AAA three-diamond rating instead. But I’m happy to report that all seemed well when I was there last week as moderator for the last two sessions of the 2020 Chefs’ Holidays event.
This popular winter-time extravaganza, which consists of fun chef demos and grand gala dinners, celebrated its 36th year this January.
There might not have been any snow on the valley floor this time around, but there was plenty of sunshine, as well as more than enough action on the demo stage to keep everyone entertained.
Husband-and-wife chefs John Stewart and Duskie Estes got things rolling first, recounting the devastating loss of their Zazu restaurant in Sebastopol after last winter’s deluge flooded their place, and how local high school students kayaked in with a generator to help them pump out the water.
Stewart and Estes may not have a restaurant at the moment. But they continue to do catering, as well as sell products from their farm, including their magnificent Black Pig Meat Co. bacon.