Tag Archives: Duck

Roasted Duck Breast (Maverick, SF)


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)

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


Prix Fixe Dinner – Michael Mina


With an atmosphere of contemporary elegance, plus excellent service and trays of succulent small bites coming in spectacularly focused trios, Michael Mina restaurant is certainly worth the special occasion splurge. Tables are distant enough for your group to feel safe and uncrowded. You enter the room–hidden within the Westin St. Francis Hotel on Union Square–by climbing a small flight of stairs, perhaps accurately representational of the culinary temple that Michael Mina has enjoyed since its inception.

Michael Mina has many offerings of multi-course (prix fixe) dinners. The standard three-course dinner sets you back $105. Expensive, to be sure, but it’s a wonderful experience. Six-course tasting menus are $135, and a great three-course pre-theatre meal is $55.


Course 1 - Michael Mina SF  Prix Fixe Dinner - Pasta, Braise & Confit

Course 1 – Michael Mina SF Prix Fixe Dinner – Pasta, Braise & Confit

LEFT: Fettucine, Rabbit, English Peas

A beautifully rendered meaty pasta, rife and verdant with variegated greenliness. Few American chefs seem to really honor rabbits effectively; the chefs at Mina certainly do. Tastes like Spring and Summer in a dish; simply delicious.

TOP / CENTER: Orecchiette, Pork Short Rib, and Fava Beans

Perhaps the only faux pas moment of the meal. The potentially rich flavor of the pork short rib was nowhere here, and not supported by typically chewy orecchiette (ear-shaped, dense, and spongy pasta), and born-to-be-mild fava beans. Blah.

RIGHT: Ravioli, Duck Leg, Radicchio

Wow; utterly phenomenal. This is a little triumph: rich duck confit, sumptuous in its dark gravy, magical in its layered tones of smell and taste. If you go this season to Michael Mina, request your waiter if you can get a single large portion of this instead of the trio; I surmise they would oblige you. This is the best meaty ravioli I’ve eaten in 2009, and among the best meaty pastas of the year. I’d like to have a big bowl of it and a glass of Super Tuscan; that would be a perfect meal.

Duck Confit Ravioli, Radicchio - Michael Mina SF

Duck Confit Ravioli, Radicchio – Michael Mina SF


At first, the tiny bites of steak on the tri-partite plate seem light. But the incredible flavors from each steak made every bite fulfilling, worth enjoying slowly. Each of the three steak dishes was excellent.

Course 2 - Steak & Spring Vegetables - Michael Mina restaurant

Course 2 – Steak & Spring Vegetables – Michael Mina restaurant

COURSE TWO, LEFT:  FILET MIGNON with Sauce Bernaise, Sacramento Delta green asparagus

Beautiful little stacked portion of filet mignon with a perfect bernaise sauce, paired with slivered green asparagus. Cleverly piled like a double-stack…not sure if this is a wink on a double burger but it was great, either way.

Filet Mignon with sauce bernaise - Michael Mina, SF

Filet Mignon with sauce bernaise – Michael Mina, SF

COURSE TWO, CENTER:  DRY AGED RIBEYE, wilted spinach, morel jus (plus potatoes)

If you’ve ever wondered why people pay so much money to get dry-aged beef, wonder no more. This is a tiny piece of steak that packs a wallop of flavor. Another perfect presentation, and a great piece of steak.

Dry aged ribeye steak, Michael Mina SF

Dry aged ribeye steak, Michael Mina SF

COURSE TWO, RIGHT:  BRAISED TRIO, young leeks, horseradish vinaigrette

Our waiter described this as “Tongue and Cheek,” so there’s beef tongue, beef cheek, and something else equally tender and delicious. A great balance of the beef parts with the earthiness of both the leeks and the brightness of the horseradish vinaigrette.

Braised Trio (beef and cheek), Michael Mina - SF

Braised Trio (beef and cheek), Michael Mina – SF


For my last course, I opted for the cheese plate and it was again a small triumph of three. Savory with sweet, earthy and salty; everything well paired.

• Minuet, Pear Purée, Hazelnuts

• Pecorino Ginepro, Port Cherries, Juniper Balsamic Vinegar

• Pianoforte, Porcini Syrup, Puffed Wild Rice

There are some great options for sweeter things, but I like cheese to finish a languorous meal. Mina’s renowned for amazing desserts, and anything you order will be pretty great.

THE GRADE: AWESOME (highest grade)


THE INSIDE TIP: Get a very similar three-course meal at Michael Mina for $55. (Each course will be single, not trio, servings but most of the dishes for the regular prix fixe will be available at the beginning of dinner service for the lower price.) Make your reservation for between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. for their special pre-theatre dinner price. Go-go, early birds.

Free reservations at Michael Mina via OpenTable.com


Inside the lobby of the Westin St. Francis Hotel

335 Powell Street, San Francisco CA 94102

Phone: (415) 397-9222

Website with menus: http://www.michaelmina.net

Hours: Dinner: Tuesday – Thursday 5:30pm – 9:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Roasted Duck Breast (Big Sur Bakery, Big Sur CA)

Wood-Fired Duck Breast

Wood-Fired Duck Breast, Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant
Wood-Fired Duck Breast, Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant

The Dish: Wood-Fired Duck Breast

This is a near-perfect duck dish, and among top duck dishes I ate in  2008. Something about roasting a bird with a wood-fired oven or grill captures the real essence and flavors of meat exceptionally well, and chef Philip Wojtowicz has really mastered the technique in all the great meat dishes at Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant.  The duck breast is sliced and flayed apart, like rosy wings or arrow tips, and plenty of jus remains from the meat. The sole improvement to this dish would be some crisping on the fatty duck skin. But hey, it’s duck. That’s an expectation. 

An additional nice note about Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant is that you can select from a handful of seasonal vegetable sides. I opted to partner the duck with creamy risotto with fresh corn, scallions, Parmesan and rich broth. It was sterling, to say the least. 

Big Sur Bakery in Big Sur CA.
Big Sur Bakery in Big Sur CA.

The Spot: Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant, Big Sur CA

Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant is my favorite place to eat in Big Sur, hands down. It transforms from a funky little bakery in the morning that serves up incredible pastries to a lovely and heart-warming little spot for a romantic dinner in the evenings. Every pastry, every dinner I had there was excellent.  Two of the three folks behind this little gem are are an emigre couple from Los Angeles, pastry chef/co-owner Michelle Rizzolo and her husband, chef Philip Wojtowicz.

What’s great about Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant is its straightforward, unpretentious excellence and down-home, rustic simplicity: picnic tables on the patio and heavy little wooden tables and chairs inside.

The service is friendly and sweet and, if any place can demonstrate the inexpressibly tender magic of one of the most magical spots on Earth, Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant certainly does. It’s the gastronomic soul of Big Sur, and Rizzolo & Wojtowicz capture Big Sur’s zeitgeist in every bite.  It doesn’t just get to your stomach; it stays in your heart.

The Grade: Awesome (5 out of 5)

The Damage: $27

The Skinny: Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant

47540 Highway 1, Big Sur CA

Phone: (831) 667-0520

Website: http://www.bigsurbakery.com

Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Duck Fat French Fries (Orson, SF)


Duck Fat French Fries, Orson SF
Duck Fat French Fries, Orson SF


Is duck fat an aphrodisiac? My bet is yes. Man, duck fat is the (wonderful) path of wickedness for French fries. These have to rank among the best (let’s say top 3) French fries in San Francisco. This is the kind of snack you might fantasize about, if you enjoy heart palpitations with your cocktails, and probably worth the trip to Orson alone. The fries are fantastically crispy and slender cut, some lean and sexy potatoes to be sure. Perfectly tanned via a quick fry dip in the duck fat pool, there’s just no competition. And slipping their little starch-toes into the Manolo Blahniks of sauce—an awesome brown butter béarnaise—they are truly the beauty queen pageant winner of all fries. They make your heart race, literally and figuratively. They’re so rich, you probably won’t want dinner.

Makes you want to put all kinds of things in duck fat, though.  


THE GRADE: AWESOME (5 out of 5)





508 4th Street (between Bryant and Brannan Streets)
San Francisco, CA 94107

Phone: (415) 777-1508

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: dinner menu 5-10pm; bar + lounge 5pm to close

Orson on Urbanspoon


DUCK CONFIT (roasted duck confit)


Favorite of Francophiles, duck confit is made from the duck leg, which is salt-cured, then slowly cooked in an oven at low temperature so it poaches in its own fat. The curing usually takes a couple days, and the slow-poach roasting can vary from 2 to 10 hours. It’s often served at room temperature or below over green salad, but I far prefer the version served hot.

Roasted Duck Confit, Bistro Ralphs, Healdsburg CA
Roasted Duck Confit, Bistro Ralphs, Healdsburg CA.

Bistro Ralph’s roasted duck confit is a generous portion (two legs, not one), and the meat peels gracefully off the leg bone.  The richness of the duck is well balanced with perfect polenta and duck jus in a nice wide bowl, making a perfectly hearty winter meal. The addition of the huckleberries, to me, was entirely unnecessary because they just weren’t integrated well. Nonetheless, it didn’t interfere with the excellence of the dish. I’d have to say this was among the best duck confit dishes I’ve had in the past 3 years.


A lot of really good restaurants survive in Healdsburg and, while others may get the notoriety, Bistro Ralph’s unpretentious vibe and unbelievably good martinis keep locals recommending it to tourists who weren’t savvy enough to make reservations at Cyrus a month in advance. It’s a bit narrow and, like many other local restaurants, a bit noisier than it should be, it serves solid fare at hearty portions for the prices.



109 Plaza Street, Healdsburg CA
Phone: (707) 433-1380
Website: www.bistroralph.com (Note: only basic info online to date; no seasonally updated menu)

Hours: Lunch 11:30 – 2:30 (Mon-Sat); Dinner 5:30 – 9:00 (Mon-Thurs) – 9:30 Friday & Saturday; closed Sundays.

Bistro Ralph on Urbanspoon