Despite its mischievous-sounding name, the deviled egg is about as obedient as you can get when it comes to the text-book American appetizer spread—right up there with spinach dip and brie wrapped in layers of warm puffed pastry. But when you think about it, whoever came up with the idea to take the yolk out of a hard-boiled egg, mix it up with spices and mayonnaise, and then put it back into the original egg white, was really rather clever. These days, as food costs continue to rise and diners continue to seek out familiar, comforting flavors, the deviled egg makes sense in a restaurant on many levels. So when chef Adam Carpenter's new menu for Jasper's Corner Tap came out with an eyebrow-raising trio of plays on the deviled eggs, I really should've been surprised.
Even if you haven't yet ridden the Alice Waters/Chez Panisse media waves that have taken the world wide web by storm over the past month, you've probably heard that it's Chez Panisse's 40th birthday this year—next Sunday, August 29th, to be precise. This coming Wednesday—in an effort that's bound to draw crowds rivaling those at this weekend's SF Street Food Festival—Chez Panisse will continue its celebrations by serving lunch in Union Square. Obviously, it's not just any lunch. Click through to learn more about what's in store for the remainder of the most organic, locally-sourced birthday bash imaginable.
Crazy things happen all the time in the service industry. If you've ever been a server or a host, you definitely have a story or twelve to tell. I, for one, will never forget the time, many years ago, when a fellow server had to somehow remove a maimed rat from amidst her outdoor tables during one particularly hot summer night in Washington, D.C. She saved the day—rather delicately I might add—with a take-out box. The point is, servers are asked to handle the unlikeliest of situations with poise all the time. In light of this, let's see what some Bay Area front-of-house folks have been dealing with these days.
Just a breath beyond the arc of the Golden Gate bridge in Sausalito, the Cavallo Point Lodge encompasses a cluster of white-washed former World War II military barracks. History geeks know the structures date back to the early 1900s. But most in-the-know San Franciscans concentrate on the fun part. Cavallo Point's Murray Circle restaurant and its adjacent Farley Bar make up one of the closest hang-outs to San Francisco that actually lets you feel like you're miles and miles away.
In the industry, it's widely known that chefs put a lot of items on the menu that they don't necessarily get a kick out of making anymore. These are the nachos, tuna tartares and flatbreads of the world. Without a doubt, they are the menu staples, and they certainly do please a whole hell of a lot of people. But while you're happily digging into something cheesy and easy to make (at least for a pro cook), the chef is getting his thrills by putting a few more adventurous, unexpected dishes on the menu. Think chicken foot skewers, whole braised fishes and—gasp—lamb chops at an Indian dosa restaurant. I asked chefs at some of the more popular spots around town what they wish you'd order, even though you really just want the nachos. Give these dishes a shot. You might just learn something.
POACHED: Chef Brandon Jew of Bar Agricole
“I’m a nut about eggs,” says Jew. “I haven’t let anyone else cook them for brunch at the restaurant yet.”
1. Jew starts with a wide shallow pot, filled halfway with water and seasoned with salt. When the water is hot enough that it almost comes to a boil (but doesn’t), he cracks an egg into a ramekin before dropping it ever so gently into the water.
2. When the egg white looks opaque, Jew pokes it with his finger to “make sure it’s still jiggly and squishy” and removes it with a slotted spoon that’s “smooth and gentle on the egg.”
3. Jew recommends poaching eggs ahead of time and keeping them on ice. For dinner, he likes to heat them up in kale soup made with bacon and served with a big piece of grilled toast and a shaving of pecorino.
"Hold the onions."
"Can you put the Bernaise on the side?"
"Can I add pork instead of chicken?"
Servers field special requests daily. Most diners don't feel totally comfortable asking. How do you know when you're crossing the line? And how do chefs really feel about making all these exceptions? There's only one way to find out. Ask them.
When is it OK to make special requests? When is it asking too much?
Friday night. You and your friends order two beers from the taps, a glass of wine and the frou frou cocktail of the night—you know, the one the bartender has to whisper to before he pours it over the back of a spoon. The check comes and it's blank stares all around at the empty tip line. Should you add 20% to the total? Do you just combine the dollar bills in everyone's pockets and call it a night? What I learned this week: the standard for tipping at the bar is $1 per drink. But it's not that simple. Let's take this matter to some well-liked bartenders around town for some straight shooting on the matter.
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.
15 Romolo lets you eat its burger "yo mama style" with peanut butter and bacon. Heirloom Cafe tops its off-menu beauty with pungent Epoisses cheese. Chef Bruce Hill hand-designed a burger weight to evenly cook the patties at Bix. Hayes Valley's Straw serves its ground beef mounded on a donut. As any of these restaurants will tell you, when it comes to surviving the stiff burger competition in SF, you've gotta have an angle.
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