It's been said that New York has better seafood than San Francisco, but when it comes to vegetables, there's no contest. The Bay Area's wealth of produce is second to none in the U.S.
We've broached seasonality disorder once or twice in the past. Maybe you experience it while biting into a peach on a cold August day. Or perhaps you really get that Twilight Zone feeling after seeing roasted asparagus (topped with an egg of some sort?) on menu after menu after menu after menu during the spring. Now that it's November, pumpkins and squashes explodeth all over the place, but—blessedly—their versatility keeps us guessing.
I first slurped up some basil seeds last year at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. The school was hosting a World of Flavors conference on Japanese cooking and a ridiculously hip chef from Tokyo presented me with a little cup of basil seeds on top of soy milk custard and sea urchin—a textural delight for me, but one that could have easily caused another person to run screaming for their mother.
As San Francisco restaurants pull off intricate tasting menus and wine pairing contortionism in their dining rooms, the bar area continues to be a place for chefs and bartenders to loosen their (purely proverbial) ties. Secret menus, raw bars, wine on-tap, fancy burgers, gratis bites and no reservations—this is restaurant bar eating in San Francisco. And here's what's happening now .
Newsflash: it's cherry season in San Francisco. Local chef Robert Leva says they've been getting progressively better each week. He gets his at the Marin Farmer's Market, then uses their natural sugary-sour hit to play with the rich meaty flavors in a Liberty duck dish now on the menu at Salt House. Pretty to look at, sweet but not overly so, cherries work equally well in desserts and savory dishes. So don't be surprised if you see them popping up all over the place right now. Here's how some other local pros are cooking them.
Last night, I had the wonderful fortune of attending a Pernod Absinthe Excursion, a night about town in the most stylish of ways—a caravan of old-fashioned Rolls Royces escorting an intimate group from the yet-to-open Comstock Saloon to the Michelin-starred Fifth Floor restaurant in Hotel Palomar and finally to the wildly popular rum bar Smuggler's Cove in Hayes Valley. The night's goal? To learn about the art of absinthe. Since becoming legal in the US about three years ago, the potent potion has retained its mystique and power but still has not hit the mainstream as a regular cocktail ingredient. Here to prove us otherwise were Pernod and a gaggle of SF's expert mixologists.