Remember the fried wonton strips you used to get for free at Chinese American spots? Or those old fashioned mom-and-pop Italian joints that almost seemed to pride themselves on how much bread and butter they could stuff you with before the meal? For the most part, those days are over. I've heard chefs say so much gratis bread ends up in the trash, it's basically like throwing money away. But when a restaurant does the pre-meal giveaway right, it stays with you long after dinner ends, becoming a very good reminder to go back. Here are some freebies I can't seem to forget.
This weekend, one of my friends asked for a good new lunch spot to hit in the Mission. The first place that came to mind was La Torta Gorda, even thought it's not new, because it's one of the few spots that serves pure unadulterated satisfaction and great service on the cheap. But that wouldn't do. My friend wanted "booze options" in lieu of a "gut bomb," as he put it. They finally landed on Luna Park: it has hard liquor and a day of drinking was clearly on the agenda. I got to thinking about how little attention lunch gets, in general. There are, however, a few big-time dinner players that've recently added lunch to their roster—all of them offering a full bar to play with. And now, a little air time for the mid-day meal.
At Tyler Florence's Wayfare Tavern, popovers are king. They're crisp on the outside and soft and easy to pull apart on the inside. The buttery, golden rolls have even inspired four cooks on staff to get inked with popovers. Now that's love.
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
It’s possible Tyler Florence has something to prove. True, the chef has written five—soon to be six—cookbooks, starred on the Food Network for the last 14 years, launched a line of baby food (called Sprout) and opened The Tyler Florence Shop, where he sells his eponymous cookware and other preferred products. But never mind that: This is the summer that the New York transplant—who moved to Mill Valley in 2007—opened his first restaurant, Wayfare Tavern, in the former Rubicon space in the Financial District.
Sometimes it's okay to cheat on Napa with California's other wine country destination, the Central Coast (especially since Sandra Oh, Virginia Madsen, Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church made it look pretty fun in Sideways). And Sunset Mag's four-day SAVOR the Central Coast food and wine festival is the perfect chance to do it. The city of Paso Robles is running a contest on their Facebook page to win tickets to Savor’s grand tasting on Oct 3rd and two tickets to the "Paso Glow" dinner on Oct 2nd (a total value of $420).
Tyler Florence serves up some sinfully delicious classics at his new SF restaurant, Wayfare (buttermilk-brined fried chicken anyone?). He shared his recipe for deviled eggs with California Home+Design this month. Check it out here and get ready to seriously impress friends at your next brunch party.
Here's what else Tyler Florence is up to other than photo opps at Wayfare Tavern: making ballpark food healthier. Ty Flo's teamed up with The SF Giants and the California Table Grape Commission to steer us away from garlic fries and toward...grapes. For the mission, he'll be throwing out first pitches at ballparks around the country and inspiring us to forgo bacon hot dogs in favor of his own, healthy twists on ballpark fare (recipes below). He's throwing down at AT&T Park on August 14 as part of California Grapes Day, where you'll also have the once in a lifetime opportunity of getting your photo taken with some giant (read: terrifying) California grapes.
If you go to Wayfare Tavern, prepare for the flash. I'm not talking metaphorically speaking, either—you should prepare for customers armed with cameras, ready to catch a glimpse of chef Tyler Florence in the open kitchen (where he has been since day one, though the chef de cuisine is Michael Thiemann, who moved here from Hawaii). Such are the hazards of visiting a debut restaurant from a celebrity chef, one whose notoriety is based on 14 years on the Food Network, seven (and counting) cookbooks, a spot on Macy's culinary council and a baby food line, Sprout, not to mention a homegoods store that sells eponymous cookware and a Twitter following (@TylerFlorence) that numbers nearly 200,000.
Florence may be one of the most well-known chefs in the business, yet Wayfare is his first restaurant (there are two more on the horizon, due later this year—one in Mill Valley and the second in Napa). He's used his fame to go big with Wayfare, taking over the former Rubicon space and transforming it into a three-story eatery that nods to Barbary Coast pubs, rich with Americana and clubby touches, including a game room.
In-N-Out takes the title as "Best Fast Food in America." This according to Esquire's superstar chef survey. You'll notice a few familiar names on the judges' panel: Mill Valley's Tyler Florence, former A16 duderino Nate Appleman, and Charlie Palmer are a few (watch our knife skills video with Palmer below). Appleman calls In-N-Out a "rite of passage for all visitors to California," and Florence says "I dare anyone to tell me their burgers aren't as good as any you'll fine anywhere, from fast food to fine dining." Checkout some of the surprise noms here: Fast Food.
This just in from Tyler Florence:
"We signed the lease for the old Rubicon space. It's going to be called Wayfare Tavern. Modeled after the San Franciscan Bohemain culture of the late 1890's. We've got an amazing designer who instead of building the place up, will patina it down to look as if it has always been there—a part of San Francison fabric for more that 100 years. Think American Balthazar! Researching antique menus from the period. Shooting for Spring 2010, March or April."