SF Chefs. Food. Wine. – CIRCA

CIRCA – CHEF ERIK HOPFINGER @ SF CHEFS. FOOD. WINE. 2009

At the inaugural SF Chefs. Food. Wine. weekend, Chef Erik Hopfinger of CIRCA participated in both Thursday’s opening night party and Friday’s Grand Tasting Tent, which was a magnificent array of food and wines spanning a 3.5 hour lunch. Hopfinger created a great dish for each SF Chefs. Food. Wine event.

THE GRADE: EXCELLENT (for both dishes)

CIRCA Chef Erik Hopfinger @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

CIRCA Chef Erik Hopfinger @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

MOROCCAN CRUSTED LAMB CHOP W/MINT CHIMICHURRI

For opening night’s “RISING STAR CHEFS” party, Hopfinger offered beautifully grilled lamb chops. Herb-crusted, Moroccan-style lamb chops with pomegranate reduction and a wollop of mint chimuchurri on top, this was an excellent dish and one of the best of the opening party. I could have eaten a dozen of them.

Moroccan-style lamb chop w/mint chimichurri from CIRCA.

Moroccan-style lamb chop w/mint chimichurri from CIRCA.

TACO CHIP w/GUACAMOLE & SALSA
Chef Erik Hopfinger’s second solid offering at SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009 was a tiny taco chip laden with a fantastic guacamole and salsa. The tomato and red onion salsa was chopped much more finely than salsa fresca, sitting delicately on the chip among a creamy nibs of guacamole. The bite was light, creamy, wonderfully fresh and vibrant. It basically felt like a beautiful late afternoon in Mexico on a plate, something of a transformative taste that rolled memories of sun, salty skin, and summer into your mouth with complete contentment. Another great little dish that demanded a second helping.

CIRCA Chef Erik Hopfinger's magic little tacos and salsa

CIRCA Chef Erik Hopfinger’s magic little tacos and salsa

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009: Gitane – Eyherabide – Bacon-Wrapped Prunes

BACON-WRAPPED, GOAT CHEESE-STUFFED PRUNES

“Bacon BonBons”

SF CHEFS. FOOD. WINE. 2009 OPENING NIGHT PARTY 

At the opening night of SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009, Chef Lisa Eyherabide had fantastic prunes that were wrapped in bacon and stuffed with goat cheese. Many people, including me, went back for seconds and thirds. Simple, well-balanced, and delicious, evidence of why she and Gitane restaurant are getting lots of attention.

I discovered these are available on the regular Gitane menu. They’re called “bacon bonbons,” and the prunes are sauteed and finished with anise and cinnamon port sauce. Excellent appetizer and doorway to Gitane’s Basque-inspired innovations.Delicious bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed prunes from Gitane.

Delicious bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed prunes from Gitane.

Chef Lisa Eyherabide of Gitane @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

Chef Lisa Eyherabide of Gitane @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. – Charcuterie Plates

SF CHEFS. FOOD. WINE.  2009  –  CHARCUTERIE & SALUME

There were a few charcuterie items at SF Chefs. Food. Wine.  All were just great.

FRA’ MANI HANDCRAFTED SALUME – PAUL BERTOLLI
Fra’ Mani offered a lovely plate of various olives and their very rich salume made with red wine. It was dense and delicious, and a wildly colorful little plate. Paul Bertolli and his team had a little assembly line in play, and a tempting array of salume decorating their space.

Fra'Mani Salume and olives

Fra’Mani Salume and olives

CORSO’S CHARCUTERIE PLATE – MORTADELLA & SALUME
Corso restaurant in Berkeley also featured charcuterie at the SF Chefs. Food. Wine. opening night. Chef Rodrigo da Silva and his team had a tasty little charcuterie plate with two types of salume (less intensely flavored than Fra’Mani), and a really fantastic, pistachio-mottled mortadella. Both salume were great, and I could have eaten a pound of the mortadella alone. Trattoria Corso also had a baby burrata stuffed with figs and drizzled with honey. It was thankfully not too sweet in its amazing mouthful of chewy, creamy, and nutty flavors. The little bundle reminded me of a silent film bank robbery stash. Their Italian cheese delight was a big hit for everyone who tried it. I think Chef Rodrigo da Silva and Trattoria Corso needs more attention paid to it, given two stellar little dishes like this.

Trattoria Corso's plates at SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

Trattoria Corso’s plates at SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

N’DUJA – BOCCALONE / INCANTO – CHRIS COSENTINO
Chris Cosentino and his pals from Boccalone & Incanto restaurant served up schmears of Boccalone’s Southern Italian n’duja (or nduja). Chris & Mark currently offer the only commercially available n’duja in the States. This spicy Calabrian pig sausage is spreadable…yep, a spreadable salume. N’duja is smooth but chewy, with a slightly stringy, grassy texture that makes it a unique (and fun) oral event. Its spreadability, pepperiness, and wild, raver-orange coloration make Boccalone n’duja a great party platter feature. The n’duja is noticeably piquant, with a wonderful, lingering flavor and medium heat that cools down after awakening your palate. Served simply on a crostini with a bit of olive oil; small but powerful flavor. Love the stuff, and you can get it at Boccalone in the Ferry Building or order it online.

Boccalone's Nduja @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

Boccalone’s Nduja @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

SF Chefs Food Wine – Wild Boar Hot Dogs

WILD BOAR CORN DOGS – CHEF RICHARD CORBO

PIZZERIA ZANNA BIANCA at SF CHEFS. FOOD. WINE. 2009

Wild Boar Corn Dogs - Richard Corbo at Zanna

Wild Boar Corn Dogs – Richard Corbo at Zanna

One of the best meat dishes at the opening night party for the inaugural SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009 was Richard Corbo’s wild boar corn dogs. Fried in small batches, Richard and his sous chef were putting down dogs and they were snatched up immediately by hungry hands.  The meat was delicately soft, quite surprising for wild boar, and the corn dog texture and flavor around the chewy, lush pork was just great. A small dollop of sauce sat on the dog, like a bellybutton bindi.

Formerly of Ducca, Richard will be opening up his own restaurant in 2010 in Oakland’s Jack London Square. It will be called Pizzeria Zanna Bianca, and we look forward to it. (Zanna Bianca is Italian for “White Fang,” a famous Jack London novel.)

The Grade: Excellent (4 out of 5)
The Spot: SF Chefs. Food. Wine. Opening Night Party, Union Square, SF

Chef Richard Corbo manning the fryer

Chef Richard Corbo manning the fryer

Wild boar corn dogs disappeared immediately

Wild boar corn dogs disappeared immediately

Roasted Duck Breast (Maverick, SF)

PAN ROASTED LIBERTY DUCK BREAST

What a panoply of flavors from Chef Scott Youkilis at Maverick in this duck dish.  The Liberty Farms duck breast is perfectly pan-roasted, medium-rare, and as succulent as a great fowl can be. Then there’s  crookneck squash and goat cheese custard, figs, some glorious duck jus…zoinks.
Fantastic duck at Maverick, SF

Fantastic duck at Maverick, SF

It’s a  full-flavor bonanza and an architectural wonder, stacked with colors and textures like some kid assembled various shapes from board games, models, and construction toys into an imaginary fort. A little fort hiding a sacred duck; sounds like a Japanese film. A fort ready to be forked. The colors alone: pink, purple, varying browns from sienna to umber to Mississippi mud, with stripes of green and gold–make eating at Maverick a blast. One of my favorite duck dishes this year.

THE GRADE: AWESOME (highest grade)
THE DAMAGE:  $26
 THE SKINNY: MAVERICK

3316 17th Street San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 863-3061

Make a free reservation for Maverick here on OpenTable.com.

Maverick SF - a foodie respite in the Mission

Maverick SF – a foodie respite in the Mission

Filet Mignon Steak Tartare

Filet Mignon Steak Tartare - Lark Creek Steak

Filet Mignon Steak Tartare – Lark Creek Steak

 Steak tartare has been such a rarity that its perennial status as a French delicacy seems even more elevated in recent years. Most places that serve steak tartare do it well, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better steak tartare than at Lark Creek Steak.

The steak tartare at LCS is made of filet mignon, so you’re in the Pantheon of tartare right away. It’s dolled up with capers, chopped onion, fleur de sel and the prerequisite raw egg yolks. It’s meat at its purest and finest, with just a bit of seasoning. It’s rich, meaty, salty, a bit fatty, and absolutely fantastic. This is a meat lover’s dream.

The crostini are likewise perfect, crispy, buttery little trowels to dig out fine chunks of filet mignon. The portion is generously sized to share between two, three, or four friends.  If you’ve never had steak tartare, treat yourself. You’ll love it.

THE GRADE: AWESOME (highest grade)
THE DAMAGE: $13.95 
THE SKINNY: LARK CREEK STEAK 

Westfield® San Francisco Centre
845 Market Street, 4th Floor, Ste 402
San Francisco, CA 94103

Phone: (415) 593-4100

Reservations: http://www.larkcreek.com/larkcreek_steak/index.html

Lunch:
Mon.-Fri. 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
Sat. & Sun. 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Dinner:
Mon.-Thurs. 5:30 pm – 9 pm
Fri. 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Sat. 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Sun. 5:00 pm – 9 pm

Haggis – Cochon555 SF

HAGGIS – POGGIO’S PETER McNEE – COCHON555, San Francisco 2009

June 0f 2009 was the cruelest month, for there were some unbelievable dining events. The best of these, far and away, was Cochon 555. A friendly competition between 5 of the Bay Area’s best chefs, each of whom had a different breed of heritage pig to cook and make dishes from. Unbelievable. I could write 100 posts on that event alone. And I just might…

Poggio’s Peter McNee took the title, and he definitely had a few very memorable pork dishes. His haggis was really incredible. Haggis is pig viscera with onions over oats, a traditional Scottish fare, and something you’ll rarely see at a restaurant. (Kinda hard to pitch it to most folks.) Safe assumption that not many people like offal (animal innards and such), but I love them when leveraged by a great chef. There’s so much interesting texture and flavor in the ‘weird’ parts of the animal; it’s a great exploration for the palate to venture into new territories.

Haggis - Haggis - Haggis from Peter McNee, Poggio

Haggis – Haggis – Haggis from Peter McNee, Poggio

The haggis was indelibly delicious in McNee’s capable hands. My funky little haggis pile  didn’t win over compadres at my little standup dining circle during Cochon555, but after I raved a bit about it, two guys went over to get a plate before the Poggio team ran out.

You could say I loved the haggis, which I did, but you can obviously see the subliminal messaging in the photo:  the dark, heart-shaped pig innards thumping out from the yellow oats, yellower than a pirate’s teeth but just a bit less salty. Arrrg, it was good, matey. Haggis. Yes, haggis.

I Heart Haggis from Poggio (Cochon555, SF)

I Heart Haggis from Poggio (Cochon555, SF)

Charcuterie plate – Poggio – Sausalito CA

AWESOME CHARCUTERIE PLATE

Peter McNee of Poggio (Sausalito CA)  at  Cochon555, San Francisco

June 0f 2009 was the cruelest month, for there were some unbelievable dining events. The best of these, far and away, was Cochon 555. A friendly competition between 5 of the Bay Area’s best chefs, each of whom had a different breed of heritage pig to cook and make dishes from. Unbelievable. I could write 100 posts on that event alone. And I just might…

Among the (many) favorite dishes of the evening was a splendid charcuterie plate from Peter McNee, the chef at Poggio restaurant in Sausalito. (Poggio won the event and was crowned SF’s “Prince of Porc” for the season.) Pork cotto, pastrami, tongue, rillette, mortadella, uh, did I miss anything? This was just a beautiful array of tastes, textures, and visual stun. The salumi and friends with their fatty, nutty, meaty spots looked like an Impressionist (or stipling) landscape. The giant platter looked even better than my plate, with each meat sliced and stacked. That’s my idea of cornucopia.

Cochon555 SF: Charcuterie Plate from Poggio's Peter McNee

Cochon555 SF: Charcuterie Plate from Poggio’s Peter McNee

When you visit Poggio, sit at the bar for your appetizer if it’s Tuesday through Saturday. Ask Tony the bar man for the house-made prosciutto ($15 for the platter); it’s not on the menu and only available while supplies last. (Honestly, since they’ve been aging their prosciutto for nearly 2 years now; it won’t last long.)

And **do not miss** any future Cochon555 event. Sign up for the newsletter (upper RH corner once page loads) so you know when they’ll return in the fall.

http://www.amusecochon.com/
Poggio on Urbanspoon

Prosciutto & Melon

NEWSOM’S KENTUCKY PROSCIUTTO

Newsom's Kentucky Prosciutto

Newsom’s Kentucky Prosciutto

 I knew bourbon came from Kentucky but never suspected it also kicks out one of the best prosciutto products you might find in the US. Robust and full-flavored, this is one fantastic appetizer at Maverick restaurant in San Francisco. The prosciutto’s so good, you might forget to wrap it around the melon chunks (canteloupe).  A few basil tips flesh out a mouthful of flavors and oh, there’s also a little dry Jack cheese mousse. The flavors of the shoot-o, basil, and melon were plenty, so I doled my mouse onto a snip of sourdough instead. A great app to share with a friend or two.

Lagniappe: Great NYT story on country ham includes a bit on Colonel Newsom and his Kentucky prosciutto:http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/17/dining/taste-my-prosciutto-he-said-with-a-drawl.html?pagewanted=1

Newsom’s Kentucky Prosciutto is available online if you can read the tiny Little League 1970s font that somehow remains popular among people who probably don’t read much. So you can order yourself some good ole country ham prosciutto for later, after you try it at Maverick. I do reckon you’ll order it at both.

Newsom's Kentucky Prosciutto

Newsom’s Kentucky Prosciutto

THE GRADE: AWESOME (highest grade)
THE DAMAGE: $12
THE SKINNY: MAVERICK
3316 17th Street San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 863-3061

Filet Mignon Steak Tartare

Filet Mignon Steak Tartare - Lark Creek Steak

Filet Mignon Steak Tartare – Lark Creek Steak

Steak tartare has been such a rarity that its perennial status as a French delicacy seems even more elevated in recent years. Most places that serve steak tartare do it well, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better steak tartare than at Lark Creek Steak.

The steak tartare at LCS is made of filet mignon, so you’re in the Pantheon of tartare right away. It’s dolled up with capers, chopped onion, fleur de sel and the prerequisite raw egg yolks. It’s meat at its purest and finest, with just a bit of seasoning. It’s rich, meaty, salty, a bit fatty, and absolutely fantastic. This is a meat lover’s dream.

The crostini are likewise perfect, crispy, buttery little trowels to dig out fine chunks of filet mignon. The portion is generously sized to share between two, three, or four friends.  If you’ve never had steak tartare, treat yourself. You’ll love it.

THE GRADE: AWESOME (highest grade)
THE DAMAGE: $13.95 
THE SKINNY: LARK CREEK STEAK 

Westfield® San Francisco Centre
845 Market Street, 4th Floor, Ste 402
San Francisco, CA 94103

Phone: (415) 593-4100

Reservations: http://www.larkcreek.com/larkcreek_steak/index.html

Lunch:
Mon.-Fri. 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
Sat. & Sun. 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Dinner:
Mon.-Thurs. 5:30 pm – 9 pm
Fri. 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Sat. 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Sun. 5:00 pm – 9 pm

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