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Celebrating Easter

by James Stolich

April 8th, 2014

It’s nearly Easter, and you might be wondering where to have brunch, lunch, or dinner to celebrate, particularly if you have family or friends in town. Here are two wonderful options for dining out, and one for eating beautifully prepared food at home.

Easter Brunch at Quince
Quince Restaurant at 470 Pacific Avenue is offering a very special brunch from 11a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at its flagship location. The pre-fixe menu is $125/person, excluding drinks (there is also a children’s menu for $50/child):

-Lobster, Fava Bean and Nasturtium Salad
-Zucchini Blossom and Mint Tortelli
-Suckling Lamb “Tre Modi”
-Herb, pecorino cheese sauce and “Carciofi alla Romagnola”
-Roman Style Whipped Ricotta and New Crop Cherry Tart

To make a reservation, call 415-775-8500 or go online to

Easter Brunch at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
Along with the regular brunch menu, Absinthe’s executive chef Adam Keough has created an additional a la carte menu item for Easter, inspired by Southern French flavors, while bar manager Jared Schmidt will offer a special sweet and festive cocktail. Easter brunch hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The menu includes these holiday dishes:
-Slow-Roasted Bone-In Leg of Lamb
-Egg Flip (rum, egg whites, candy cream syrup, Angostura bitters, shaved chocolate garnish)
Absinthe Brasserie & Bar is located at 398 Hayes Street (at Gough) in San Francisco. For reservations calls 415-551-1590.

Easter Supper at Cotogna
If you are not a brunch fan or prefer something a little more casual, Cotogna—next door to Quince—is a fantastic option. The following pre-fixe menu will be offered for dinner from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for $65/person.

-Insalate Verdi
(Chilled green jumbo asparagus, young peas and their shoots, artichokes & wild mint)
(Filled with essence of carbonara)
-Wild Halibut
(Fava greens & pecorino crust, ragout of fava beans, chickpeas & razor clams)
Roman Style Oxtails
(extra cost for this supplement)
(Filled with strawberry and passion fruit gelato)

To make a reservation call 415-775-8500 or go online to

Bi-Rite Market Passover Menu
If you prefer to host the holiday in the comfort of you own home the very talented chefs at Bi-Rite Market will make sure you are covered. Their 2014 Passover Menu provides you with plenty of tasty options. Some of the dishes include Jewish-style artichokes (white wine-poached, then fried with lemon, mint & sea salt) and fennel & garlic-crusted slow-roasted grass-fed lamb (with raisin, Meyer lemon & horseradish salsa verde).

You can view the complete Easter menu here:

Bi-Rite’s Easter menus will be available starting on Saturday, April 12th through Tuesday, April 22nd. Orders can be placed by calling either store:

Bi-Rite Market Mission District: 3639 18th Street ▪(415) 241-9760
Bi-Rite Market Western Addition: 550 Divisadero Street ▪(415) 551-7900

Dixie Re-visited

by James Stolich

April 1st, 2014
Photo by Brian Smeets

Photo by Brian Smeets

This writer visited Dixie when it first opened in the old Pres a Vi space in the Presidio (One Letterman Drive) about two years ago. Then chef Joseph Humphrey crafted a refined and sophisticated menu with subtle Southern accents. The food, however, was not traditional Southern, which confused customers given the restaurant’s name. Partner and general manager Dean Tinney made some changes this year and brought in chef Erik Hopfinger. The food is now American contemporary with strong Southern accents.

Go in for lunch and have a glass of the house chardonnay with a starter such as cheddar and scallion hushpuppies. If you like garlic, you will love the accompanying butter with plenty of thick pieces of chopped garlic. According to Tinney, the term “hush puppy” hails from the South and is derived from throwing a puppy a piece of fried corn meal to make it stop barking.

If you have an appetite for Po’Boy, the dish comes with oysters, shrimp, and house-made barbequed chips. The large platter of Dixie fried chicken is also delicious. The outdoor heated patio is dog-friendly, and there’s a daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Open Monday through Thursday, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; until 10 p.m. on Friday. Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; until 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Simply Roasted Farmers Market Cauliflower

by James Stolich

March 12th, 2014

At our local farmers markets at this time of year, it is common to find large, beautiful heads of cauliflower. Here is a very simple way to roast cauliflower as a beautiful side dish to accompany almost any main course.

Ingredients (serves 6):
-1 very large head of cauliflower–approximately 2 to 3 lbs–or several smaller heads
-4 sprigs of spring garlic (also called green garlic)
-Controne pepper (available at Boulette’s Larder in the Ferry Plaza Market Hall)
You can substitute red chili flakes.
-Coarse sea salt
-Extra virgin olive oil
-Coarsely ground fresh black pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut and trim the cauliflower into bite-size pieces, keeping the florets as intact as possible. Arrange in a baking dish large enough to accommodate all of the cauliflower in a single layer. Sprinkle with coarse salt and grated black pepper. Clean the green garlic and chop into a small dice, including the green bits. Sprinkle the garlic over the baking dish. Drizzle cauliflower with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. Add a few pinches of Controne pepper over the entire dish.

Put the cauliflower in the oven and bake until ready, approximately 35 to 45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve with your favorite main course. You will be amazed at how clean and true the flavor is when roasting cauliflower in this simple manner. The Controne pepper (if you can find it) adds a sophisticated element of heat to the dish.

The Shed in Healdsburg

by James Stolich

March 10th, 2014


When was the last time you visited charming Healdsburg? This quaint town north of San Francisco has a lot to offer food and wine lovers. One of the most interesting new establishments in the last couple of years is The Shed. Owner Cindy Daniel has been working on this ambitious project for the past decade.

Just off the main square at 25 North Street, The Shed is part café, restaurant, fermentation bar, produce market and eclectic kitchen shopping boutique. The open space—spanning two floors—is stunning. It’s a great place to go in the morning for your coffee and breakfast. Afterwards you can buy locally made bread and pick out your farmers market ingredients for dinner.

The Shed also offers weekly special events, seminars, farm dinners, and cooking classes. Cindy has also gone to great lengths to source a variety of interesting and hard-to-find cooking products. You will find first-rate cutlery, beautiful hand-made pottery, and a collection of lovingly sourced cooking items– most with a compelling story behind them. Would you like to raise your own bees for honey? Cindy and staff have you covered. And they’ve recently launched an online store. Even if you cannot make it up there right away, you can shop online for products. Visit

The Shed is open daily from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.

Upscale, Refined Indian Cuisine

by James Stolich

February 12th, 2014
Photo by James Stolich

Photo by James Stolich

When was the last time you visited Campton Place? And no, having a drink at the bar doesn’t really count. This writer went in for dinner just before Christmas and shared the nine-course tasting menu. It was fabulous.

During the past four years, executive chef Srijith Gopinathan has quietly refined the food at this iconic restaurant inside the Taj Hotel at 340 Stockton Street. Using classic French technique and local ingredients, as well as bold Indian spices and flavors from South Asia, Srijith has created a repertoire of sophisticated, light Indian fare. He was even awarded a Michelin star, something not commonly associated with Indian cooking.

While the tasting menu is impressive, it represents a substantial amount of food. Àla carte is also a great option. Some of the dishes that stood out include the cauliflower (Meyer lemon milk, kale, tamarind), the Maine lobster (edamame vada, sweet potatoes, coastal curry), and the slow-cooked lamb rack (panch phoran (five-spice blend), pine nut pilaf, pineapple nage). Every protein was perfectly cooked and paired with outstanding wines from master sommelier Richard Dean.

After a while, some of the flavors melded together and repeated, but everything was very light and flavorful. Perhaps most impressive was the dramatic presentation of each dish. Srijith is an artist and it shows. No one in San Francisco is cooking Indian food with this level of artistry and sensibility. Open nightly, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m..

Pigs and Pinot

by James Stolich

January 16th, 2014


I was recently invited to a media lunch and farm tour hosted by chef Charlie Palmer at the incredibly beautiful Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Nicasio, CA. The purpose of the lunch was to inform us about Palmer’s highly successful Pigs and Pinot fundraiser, now going on its 9th year. The celebratory weekend (which occurs this year on March 21 and 22 at Hotel Healdsburg) offers a series of intimate dining and educational events hosted by Palmer. A cast of master sommeliers and international celebrity chefs showcase some of the world’s greatest pinots noirs with perfect pork pairings. All net proceeds from the Pigs and Pinot benefit Share Our Strength, local scholarships, and charities.

Tickets to Pigs and Pinot can be purchased here: starting Wednesday, January 15th, for Visa signature cardholders, and on Thursday, January 16th, for everyone else. It’s the perfect event to sample Devil’s Gulch Pork and a slew of locally made pinot noir wines.

Devil’s Gulch Ranch
Mark Pasternak was just 19 years old when he purchased Devil’s Gulch Ranch in 1971. Since that time he has been successfully raising pigs, quail, and rabbits for Bay Area Restaurants and farmers markets. You can learn more about Mark and his farm here: You can find Mark at the Marin Farmers Market every Sunday in San Rafael (in the parking lot behind Marin Civic Center), from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. Bi-Rite Market also carries Pasternak’s pork and rabbits.

Osso Steakhouse & The Holidays

by James Stolich

November 21st, 2013


Our friends over at Osso Steakhouse (1177 California Street at the top of Nob Hill) have your holiday dinner needs covered. Not only are they open for regular business hours on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, they will be offering—in addition to their regular menu—several banquet menus for groups. For details visit and click on menu and then banquets.

Owner Jennifer Dal Bozzo has confirmed that the dining room will be decorated with poinsettias, a Christmas tree, and other festive elements to bring in the holiday cheer. Private rooms are also available for more a more intimate dining experience. The restaurant is open every day from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m.

French Bouillabaisse

by James Stolich

November 19th, 2013

photo (1)

Though I am much more predisposed to the simplicity and purity of Italian and Spanish cooking, I do occasionally wander over into the French territory. As long as you have very pristine shellfish, a classic bouillabaisse is perhaps the perfect way to cook and enjoy seafood. The flavors are gorgeous and it’s a one-pot dish that can feed a large group. And it looks really elegant. Here is how I put mine together.

Ingredients (serves 8-10):
-16 head-on gulf prawns (head-off is fine too but you want good quality shrimp – avoid anything imported from China, fresh from the Gulf is best)
-40 mussels, rinsed and scrubbed
-25 clams
-1 pound rock cod fillet, chopped into pieces (any similar white fish will do such as snapper)
-2 bulbs fennel, coarsely chopped
-2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
-1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
-2 leeks, finely chopped
-1 can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
-1 pinch saffron threads
-2 celery ribs, diced
-1 bay leaf
-Olive oil
-Salt and pepper
-Dragon’s tooth hot pepper (optional) – any small hot pepper will do
-1/2 bottle dry white wine
-3 quarts lobster stock (if you don’t have lobster stock you can use purchased fish stock but the lobster stock is a game changer)

In a Dutch oven or similar heavy bottomed pot, add olive oil over high heat. When almost smoking, add the celery, leeks, fennel, fennel seeds, thyme, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper, lower heat to medium-high and sweat, stirring occasionally. Sauté until soft and broken down, approximately 7-10 minutes. If the vegetables start to brown, lower heat slightly and add more oil.

Add the crushed tomatoes and sprinkle with a little salt. Bring the heat back to high and stir the tomatoes through. Add the wine and saffron and bring back to a boil. Add the lobster stock and the rock cod and Dragon’s tooth pepper (optional). Once at a boil, lower the heat and simmer gently for about 30-45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Fifteen minutes before you are ready to serve, add the shrimp and clams. In the last five minutes add the mussels. Stir everything through and ladle into large bowls. Garnish with a crostini and garlic aioli.

“Jimmy Nardello” Peppers

by James Stolich

October 7th, 2013


These amazing peppers originally hail from the southern Italian region, Basilicata. Guiseppe Nardiello and his wife Angela cultivated these peppers in their hometown of Ruoti before bringing them to Connecticut in the late 1800s. These peppers are in season now and available at many farmers markets, as well as Bi-Rite Market (3639 18th Street and 550 Divisadero Street). They are remarkably sweet and delicious. Here’s how to prepare them:

Place a cast iron or heavy-bottomed pan over high heat until almost smoking. Add the peppers and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over them. Cook over high heat, turning occasionally until soft and slightly blistered on all sides. Garnish with a little coarse sea salt. Remove and serve as a side to your favorite dish–lamb, beef, anything. These peppers are a beautiful accompaniment to almost any dish.

Buon apetito!

“Yappy Days”– Skool’s Canine Happy Hour

September 4th, 2013


Wouldn’t your next happy hour be that much better—and more fun—with a bunch of well-behaved and friendly canines? Yours included? Well, thanks to the staff at Skool Restaurant (1725 Alameda Street) you can bring Rover in for the nightly happy hour from 5 p.m. until close. Skool’s family dog Guapo hosts this festive affair on the restaurant’s patio.

Treat your dog or a friend’s dog to one of the following special K-9 biscuits from chef Hiroko: gluten free rice flour peanut butter and applewood smoked bacon, or gluten free rice flour carob with flax, peanut butter, and honey. Non-canines may choose an assortment of house wines, several premium sakes, and a seasonal, fruit sangria. Snacks include Japanese eggplant (flash fried and served with soy mustard grain and shaved daikon), French fries with miso aioli, and Skool’s very special Eryngii mushroom fries—a delicacy not to be missed!

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