Spring Has Sprung in San Francisco
March 15, 2010
We're in the midst of our third trip to San Francisco and it's clear that spring is arriving earlier than out East—and after the long, snowy winter we've had in New York, it's more welcome than ever. We've already seen rhubarb, asparagus, morels, and other signs that spring has sprung in the City by the Bay. And it's not just the produce that's noteworthy—it’s what the local chefs are doing with it. From the Peninsula to Oakland, and from haute cuisine to rustic pizza, San Francisco is a classic food town bursting with fresh energy. Down in Menlo Park, Saratoga, Mountain View, and even as far down as Los Gatos, chefs are cooking some of the best food, not just in the Bay Area, but in the country.
Echoing what we're seeing across the country, rustic Italian is a hot commodity in San Francisco’s kitchens—not surprising given the city’s Italian immigrant heritage. There's no shortage of excellent comforting pizza and pasta outlets, including Gialina (Chef/Owner Sharon Ardiana), A16 (Chef Liza Shaw), SPQR (Chef Matthew Accarino), Pizzeria Delfina (Chef Anthony Strong and Owner Craig Stoll), Flour + Water (Chef Thomas McNaughton), and Barbacco (Chef de Cuisine Sarah Burchard). It’s an embarrassment of riches, really, a pizza mosaic of top-notch ingredients with a rustic edge, concentrated in one location.
Beyond the incredible pizza, San Francisco has a brilliant spectrum of interpretive fine and casual dining, all with a similar premium on local, top-quality ingredients. You’ll find elegant, sophisticated fine dining at Gary Danko with Chef Martin Brock, at Spruce with Chef Ben Cohn, or at Chez Papa under the care of 2005 San Francisco Rising Star David Bazirgan. Chef Joshua Skenes’ Saison does an upscale take on dine and dash, with all the elements of fine dining contoured to suit a three-night per week pop-up schedule.
And like any self-respecting culinary hub, San Francisco boasts its fair share of comfort food, innards, off-cuts, and generally the kind of satisfying food chefs love, at industry-happy spots like Chef Adam Timney’s Star Belly or Chris Kronner’s Bar Tartine. And if you’re looking for deep satisfaction on every level, look no further than Deepak Kaul’s soulful seasonal cuisine, delicately suffused with Middle Eastern spices and influences, at Serpentine.
We finally had the opportunity to taste Chef Daniel Patterson's cuisine at Coi, where he delivers an experience that is not to be forgotten. Patterson goes out foraging every morning and sources the best, freshest ingredients to create dishes that appear simple, but are in fact technique-intensive. Check out several of his recipes and a video interview with him in our Spring Dinner feature. We were thrilled to find 2007 New York Rising Star Pastry Chef Bill Corbett behind the playful, exquisite desserts. We hadn’t gotten enough of Patterson’s food, so we dropped in on his first go at a casual sandwich shop, il Cane Rosso, in the food mecca that has become the Ferry Building, where Chef Doug Borkowski prepares porchetta, sandwiches, and simple, awesome sides like Warm Cauliflower Salad with Mizuna, Currants, Pine Nuts, and Rosemary Vinaigrette.
At Chef David Kinch’s legendary fine dining restaurant Manresa, Chef de Cuisine John Paul Carmona proves that you can respect the ingredients and let them shine while also applying contemporary technique. His dishes are elegant, innovative, and simply stunning. Check out our video interview with Chef/Owner David Kinch as he talks about the importance of using quality local ingredients, the thrill of training young chefs, dining in Japan, and Manresa’s business model, which incorporates an intimate, creative connection with Love Apple Farm.
Speaking of training young chefs, Chez TJ has turned out some incredible chefs in the past, including Napa and Sonoma Rising Star Chef Christopher Kostow. Chef Scott Nishiyama has recently taken the helm of the kitchen and hasn't missed a beat with sophisticated dishes that are a creative and refined expression of Chez TJ’s celebrated legacy of commitment to local produce.
While Bay Area landmarks like Chez TJ are getting new chefs, chefs are also getting new digs. 2007 Rising Star Chef Peter Rudolph at the newly opened Madera at Rosewood Sand Hill has assembled a great team with Chef de Cuisine Anna Bautista and Mixologist Lulu Almager. The restaurant’s centerpiece wood-burning grill is put to some of its best work for an incredible grilled rabbit loin, part of a dish with rabbit done four ways that combines complexity, intensity, and a brilliant variety of flavor. And at the recently redesigned Plumed Horse, the three-story, 20,000 bottle, glass-encased wine cellar is a towering, temporary distraction from Chef Peter Armellino’s elegant but comfort-food-friendly Californian cuisine.
If Commis is any indication of the level of food that is happening here, the East Bay is in great shape. 2007 Rising Star James Syhabout is cooking exciting, experimental cuisine and Pastry Chef Carlos Salgado is following suit with fresh, high-concept desserts like Goat's Milk Panna Cotta with Winter Citrus, Pistachio, and Beet-Blood Orange Sorbet. Sommelier Sarah Valor doesn't skip a beat, pairing unusual funky wines that work with all the various elements on the plate. Especially noteworthy are her dessert pairings, which reach far out of the box and stay away from those sweet wines we've come to expect; read more in our latest edition of Top Pairs.
Valor isn’t the only one in the Bay Area with a fresh take on wine pairing. Wine Director Sean Diggins of Gitane has built an extensive sherry list that proves this fortified wine deserves a second look. He also shows that they're not just after dinner drinks, pairing with Chef Lisa Eyherabide's North African-inspired French cuisine. Read more about Diggins' efforts to educate the culinary community and guests in the Making The Case for Sherry feature , and be sure to check out our video interview with Diggins, too.
San Francisco might be foremost on our minds—and in our bellies—but this week we’ll be celebrating some of Southern California’s young culinary stars with the StarChefs.com 2010 Los Angeles-San Diego Rising Stars, this Thursday, March 18th, at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.
And don’t forget to send in your nominations for New York and Washington, DC Rising Star chefs, pastry chefs, sommeliers, mixologists, restaurateurs, and for our Sustainability Award, Restaurant Concept, and Community Award!
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