Glorious avocado-hummus at Albatross.
My husband likes to joke that up until last year, I’d never ever eaten in Danville. Now, I’ve made the trek to this East Bay suburb three times in short order. This is what happens when you work on a cookbook, “East Bay Cooks” (Figure 1), all about East Bay restaurants, which will publish in September. And it’s what happens when a long-time restaurateur whom you’ve known for years invites you in as a guest a couple weeks ago to try a new restaurant he is consulting on.
Hoss Zare, late of the beloved Zare at Fly Trap in San Francisco, has known Proprietor Mehrasa Bagheri, a luxury residential and commercial developer, for years, as the East Bay resident used to cross the bridge regularly to frequent his restaurant.
“He’s like my big brother,” Bagheri says.
“I’m her big brother, her bodyguard, you name it,” Zare replies back with a laugh.
Consultant Hoss Zare and Owner Mehrasa Bagheri.
So when she decided to open her gem of a restaurant Albatross in December in a new building in downtown Danville, she knew she wanted Zare’s expertise as a consultant chef. Indeed, she has assembled quite an impressive team that includes Executive Chef Brian Bowen, who cooked with Chef Joseph Humphrey at both the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena and Cavallo Point in Sausalito; and Pastry Chef Andrea Morgan, former head pastry chef for Chicago’s Mindy Segal and a member of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group.
Photographer Eva Kolenko arranging potential images for my “East Bay Cooks” cookbook.
For most of this year, I’ve immersed myself in writing a new cookbook, “East Bay Cooks” (Figure 1 Publishing), which spotlights the diverse, progressive and talented chefs of the East Bay Area.
Writing a cookbook is a major undertaking involving a multitude of interviews, fine-tuning a heap of recipes, and conducting scores of interviews.
For so long, it’s lived mostly as text in my manuscript. But last week, it all came to vivid life when the photography on the project began.
Chef Paul Canales of Oakland’s Duende with a salmon dish ready to go before the cameras.
Chefs from all around the East Bay descended upon the incredibly equipped Rule & Level Studio in Berkeley, where they and their dishes were photographed by the incomparable Eva Kolenko.
Deviled eggs with crab and caviar at Sabio on Main.
I sheepishly confess that before a couple weeks ago, I had never dined in Pleasanton.
It was a city I merely drove past on the way to somewhere else.
I only felt a little less embarrassed by that after Chef Francis X. Hogan told me that he had been in the same boat. Living in Oakland and fresh off heading the kitchen at San Francisco’s Bluestem Brasserie, he scratched his head when he got approached to open a new restaurant in this city three years ago, which he had associated merely with strip malls and car dealerships.
Chef-Partner Francis X. Hogan.
When he got invited to tour the area, though, he found his eyes opened wide. Surrounded by undulating hills, it boasts a charming, most walk-able downtown full of restaurants, small businesses, and residents who regularly flock to it on weekends.
“I fell in love with the area,” he told me. “It feels like old Sonoma.”