Eat + Drink
In 2005, when Hershey's made a high-profile, high-value acquisition of beloved local chocolate company, Scharffen Berger, San Francisco artisanal chocolate lovers wagged their tongues, another case of big fish eating little fish. Local customers were assured that the Berkeley-based company would change little in the face of the acquisition, that the chocolate would remain the same and that it would still be made here in the Bay Area.
Get out of the kitchen and read something, will ya?
As a chef, I think one of the most important things you can do is to continue learning. This can be accomplished in several ways, including doing a stage at another chef's restaurant, watching interesting food shows on TV (and by interesting, I mean Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmerman, not Rachel "EVOO" Ray), and by reading books. Lots and lots of books. I have a ton of food-related books, mostly piled in my office at work, because there's no place to put them in my little apartment. Behold a list of my favorites:
“Good meat is 95 percent of a good burger. It should be well-seasoned with salt and pepper; Nopa seasons their beef well in advance, which makes a huge difference. I order mine medium-rare and smear it with a side of their feta-harissa dip. They use brioche-style soft buns, which I like. Zuni’s burger is really good, with the house-made ketchup and pickled onions and zucchini, but there’s one problem—it’s on focaccia, which gets soggy. You end up having to eat it with a fork and knife. The burger at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher is close to perfect. I get it with raw onions—I like the crunch—and American cheese. Yup, American.
I finally got to stop by Humphrey Slocombe the other drizzly day for a taste of pastry chef's Jake Godby's quirky ice cream. I'm not someone who generally likes quirky for the sake being quirky, but Godby has a way with his ingredient pairing that's subtle and sophisticated with just a touch of attitude. The banana ice cream with crushed red hots, for example. Cinnamony and streaked in pink with a honest fresh banana flavor, it's whimsy at it's best. On the flip side, his balsamic-caramel is very adult, very deep. I made the mistake (or had the good idea) of taking his Blue Bottle Vietnamese coffee ice cream and putting a scoop of it in a cup of espresso for a double-whammy affogato. You could sell that stuff on the street.
In general, Palo Alto and "culinary mecca" aren't necessarily synonymous terms. But former Google god, Charlie Ayers, the chef behind the multi-billion-dollar company's dining success, has set out to change that. First order of business: Bringing a much-needed, top-notch eatery to Palo Alto's once-forgotten Town & Country Village.
For a long time I've been awaiting the opening of Heaven's Dog. Yes, I've been looking forward to the food, but even more so I've been anticipating the drinks. Why? Simply because the Slanted Door cocktail program, long managed by Erik Adkins, is one of the best in the country. It doesn't get enough praise in the national press because it's overshadowed by the entire restaurant concept. But people like Adkins, Jen Colliau and the rest of the crew are as big of cocktail aficionados as anyone working at Bourbon and Branch or New York's PDT.
Now, let me be perfectly clear: I haven't actually sampled the wares at Phat Philly. Yet. Unfortunately I, like so many of you, have been gripped by the post-holiday need to eat only leafy greens and garbanzo beans. However, when I recover from this brief stint of healthfulness, I plan to march right over to Phat Philly for a cheesesteak ($6-$10), because it seems like they're doing it all right. Amoroso rolls imported from Philadelphia, natural antibiotic-free beef from Niman Ranch and Creekstone Farms, and, in addition to the de rigeur cheese Whiz, they also have housemade cheddar-beer sauce.