and home baked bread
200+ year old winery
and home baked bread
200+ year old winery
First edition: Wine
Second edition: Japanese sweets
Third edition: Soft-serve/ice cream
Fourth edition: Whipped cream and pancakes…
…chocolate cream and toast.
Gochiso sama deshita to Taku Satoh, Art Direction and Shingo Noma, Design.
but the cocktails are far from typical. I imbibed the ‘Love Oolong Time’ — tequila, 5-spice, grapefruit and oolong — made in-house and put on tap. Refreshment perfection.
To start off, each diner receives a little dish of freshly pickled jardiniere veggies to tuck into and/or enjoy as an accompaniment throughout the meal.
My first taste of the eve was the Ceasar Nigiri: romaine, egg yolk, parm
In sum, it was a delectable meal replete with the kind of creativity I would expect from one of Wylie’s eateries. Here, it’s just more down home. And the vibe is decidedly simple and stylish, with nostalgic nods to the past.
To commemorate the experience, rubber bands replace matches in a bowl at the door. I s’pose you could wear ’em on your wrist, but I plan to put it round my water bottle the way it’s done at Alder. That way it’ll serve as a souvenir and remind me of the fun evening I spent enjoying the thrill of some old favorites, entirely reinvented.
Around the holidays, I was asked to be a judge at a groovy potluck event for Slideluck, a non-profit organization committed to unifying community through slideshow-and-potluck dinner events all over the world. Check ’em out!
These soba noodles with tempura at a little mom and pop food stall outside of Tskiji fish market in Tokyo in the early morning hours remain one of the most outstanding food memories of the trip.
Sakura even made it into and on cheesecake. In the town of Nara, I wandered in the rain trying to locate a tiny café called Nanka, nestled in a residential section. Nanka is part library, part shop (local artisans), part café. Everything about it was absolutely charming: from the hand written and sketched daily menu to the flawless cherry blossom cheesecake to the apple adorned latte.
A day trip to Nara led me to the discovery of a traditional taiyaki master. Traditional taiyaki are sweet, crisp pancakes pressed together and filled with sweet bean paste. Rest assured, the shape is the only thing fish has to do with it.
…a warm, crispy sweet treat emerges.
Kyoto is known as a place of refined food from its days of being the seat of nobility. This is seen in even the simplest food in the local corner joint like this grilled eggplant with both red and white miso. The creamy eggplant with the sweet white miso contrasting with the more pungent red was just dreamy.
I was also introduced to traditional sweet treats in Kyoto, like dango (mochi-like squares grilled on skewers and served with a thick salty/sweet sauce) and anmitsu (in bowl — jelly squares made with agar + red bean paste + gyuhi dusted with ground sesame powder + fruit + ice cream).
Arashiyama is a quaint, river-flanked, bamboo forested, temple-laden town just a short train ride from Kyoto. I spied this candied citrus — stem and leaf included — in a sweet shop in the tiny town. I was intrigued by its size; it was just a little bigger than a cherry tomato. I don’t remember the name of the particular citrus but the sweet crunchy candied outside followed by the slightly sour fruit and slight bitter of the rind made for a spectacular flavor explosion well beyond its size.
I was first introduced to yuba (tofu skin) in New York. Wylie Dufresne had recently opened his doors at wd~50 and was using thin strips of yuba as a pasta. Several years later, I found myself watching yuba being made by professionals in Japan for the first time. Then I was next treated by Japanese friends to a most memorable night at a restaurant in Kyoto where we made our own fresh yuba by skimming the top layer from a simmering pan of fresh soy milk —
The intense cultural drive for mastery in Japan yields outstanding pastry. Patisserie Au Grenier d’Or in Kyoto is a fine example. I wish everyone could experience their outstanding, limited production hyuganatsu marmalade. I’m such a citrus lover (if you haven’t yet caught on)! The yuzu pound cake I handcarried home to a picnic in the park soon as I got off the plane was nothing short of perfection.
I had so many phenomenal food experiences in Japan. One common thread that stood out — from simple food stalls to top-secret, 8 seat izakaya spots to haute Kaiseki — was the tremendous care and pride taken by all involved with preparing and serving the food. To everyone who shared all things oishi with me, I’d like to say, gochisosama deshita.
I was already looking forward to Namu Gaji moving to my hood and on the first visit, I was officially hooked (returns have been frequent). The space is casual chic and the vibe friendly.
In the comfort category is one of my fav dishes: a sizzling stone pot of deliciousness brought to the table with rice, steak, daily banchan, mushrooms, egg and gochujang (spicy Korean chili sauce). Tip: if you leave it sizzling a few extra minutes, the rice on the bottom gets golden crispy.
Shave ice seems to be the dessert of choice at Namu Gaji. My favorite rendition to date is the caramel-drizzled chocolate with salted peanut butter cookies on the side.
Be sure to say ‘Hey’ if you spy me when you go — there’s a good chance you will.
I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am that Glen Ellen Star has moved into the tiny downtown of, yes, Glen Ellen in Sonoma — a mere hour’s escape from the foggy summer skies of San Francisco. [For those of you who knew Saffron, Glen Ellen Star is in that still charming, though much transformed space — both indoors and out.]
The food, self-described by Chef Ari Weiswasser as ‘refined rustic’, is just that. The cast iron quick bread with an island of local feta in zaatar spiced olive oil is testament to his description and an excellent indicator of the wonderful feast to follow. Paired with the warm greeting we were met with by the lovely Erinn Benziger-Weiswasser, it was clear we were in the friendly and proficient hands of skilled service.
I’m a sucker for fava beans, especially when someone else is doing the prep work. This labor minimizing rendition of whole roasted pods in a chunky bacon marmalade is scrumptious and highlights the fava’s very best attributes.
The wonderfully tender and flavorful grilled flat iron steak came with a lovely fresh, crisp salad of escarole, fingerlings and roquefort. It’s definitely on the more refined side and you will hear no complaints from me about that.
Dessert is simple, straightforward and delightful: house made ice cream and sorbet, served in little half-pint containers. For me, it conjured a bit of nostalgia of eating ice cream with a little wooden spoon — though the ice cream of my childhood was definitely not of this caliber.
For now, Glen Ellen Star is open for dinner 7 nights, with lunch Friday-Sunday to come this summer. Personally, I’m calling today to make my next reservation. I highly recommend you do the same while you can still get a table.
The folks behind Local Mission Eatery recently added a new member of the family a couple blocks away at Bryant & 23rd, Local’s Corner. It’s got lots of sidewalk space, soon to be filled with outdoor seating.
The daylight streaming in from the walls of windows is phenomenal and the decor is decidedly vintage-hip, fresh and clean. You can also watch the goings on in the small kitchen from anywhere in the dining room, or up close at the counter.
Dinner service hadn’t yet started when I was in recently, but the Daytime menu was in full swing. Sightglass java and fresh-squeezed tangelo juice? I’m in!
For those who love oysters, they’re a house specialty. The rest of the dinner menu is split into Sea, Land and Larder. Personally, I can’t wait to try the trout rillettes and dungeness crab w/ cara cara — well, and then there’s the pork butter.