Despite the scone's reputation as dry and difficult, the classic British quick bread has been rearing its crumbly head on several San Francisco brunch menus of late. Done wrong, the scone becomes a rock-solid exercise in jaw strength, but the right technique yields a flaky, buttery bite that holds up, miraculously, to the most deliberate of coffee dunks.
25 Lusk chef Matthew Dolan often puts a scone of some sort in his gratis brunch bread plate. He sent us a two-paragraph long description about how he makes them. We'll spare you the details, but say that they're perfect.
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.
Fresh soft-shell Chesapeake Bay blue crabs are coming in strong right now from the East Coast and just starting to surface on menus across town. Although we see soft-shells year round wrapped into California-style sushi rolls, those are usually frozen and shipped in from Asia.
7x7 sent out a simple tweet on Tuesday about cookies and things got heated up pretty quickly. The baked-fresh-daily Specialty's cookie quickly rose to the top as a crowd favorite. Not surprising, since the California chain has six bakeries in the Financial District and a Cookie Radar—making their warm blood-sugar boosters an easy work-day grab for a lot of people. But we've found other perfectly crispy, crumbly, gooey delights in the unlikeliest of places too.
Aged, nutty and delightfully funky in flavor, the highly seasonal meat from Iberico pig meat bears little resemblance to the pork and bacon we all grew up eating. I dug into the last of Lafitte's early stash of Iberico pork shoulder meat on Friday and, let me tell you, it's anything but the other white meat. Don't worry. There's more to come.
Remember micro-herbs? About two years ago miniscule strains of cilantro and basil were sprouting up on the most progressive menus around town. "Now the movement is towards more of a modern naturalism," says Ravi Kapur of Prospect. He's talking about flowers. Edible petals, blossoms, sprays and shoots are sprouting up everywhere.
They might look rare, but some of these blooms are about as easy to find around town as rosemary. David Barzelay of the Lazy Bear underground restaurant sees the current uptick as a result of our ever-tightening bond with local farmers coupled with chefs' growing desire to get out in the field and forage for themselves. Here's a handy guide to the most popular edible blooms of San Francsico and where to find them.
It's asparagus season if you haven't noticed. Saturday morning, I started at Nopa with a shaved asparagus and pea shoot salad tossed with grilled thin slabs of Bodacious cheese. The next day, I was at Zero Zero diving into a heaping plate of asparagus, charred from the grill, tossed with black garlic and glistening with olive oil. That was brunch. When I wandered into the produce aisle to buy ingredients for dinner last night, asparagus spears as thick as broomsticks stared me down.
Yesterday I climbed a ladder up to the rooftop of Nopa restaurant to visit its brand new baby bee hives. Owner Jeff Hanak has been working with Terry Oxford and Brian Linke of Urban Bee SF to cultivate a two-hive community for three weeks now. Weather permitting, its honey will surface on the food and cocktail menus below the roof as soon as June. The idea of freshly harvested honey on a menu is romantic and all, but these urban hives are really all about the bees.
"Where's the beef from?" and "Is that grass-fed?" are common queries in the San Francisco food world. And with local offerings like 4505 Meats' meat-filled CSAs and things like pork happy hour at Fatted Calf in Hayes Valley, butchery practices are working their way even further into the city's vernacular. Now Avedano's Tia Harrison and Primal Cuts author Marissa Guggiana are taking things one step further wtih The Butcher's Guild, one of our country's first support groups for ethically-minded butchers. With local whole-animal advocates Ryan Farr and Chris Cosentino among the group's 23 charter members, The Guild is now reaching out to other members of the industry to expand its reach in the early going. Later this summer, they'll be recruiting lay people (i.e. meat geeks) as members.
Rounding out last week's izakaya probe, we bring you a run-down of the unfamiliar terms most likely to pop up on an izakaya menu. Our local Japanese chef know-it-alls Hiro Sone of Ame and Mari Takahashi of Nombe chimed in to walk us through words like agemono and onigiri. We've compiled their definitions below along with a few revelations on the secrets of perfect sushi rice. What makes the best grains? And why does sushi rice tastes so much better than the regular stuff from the supermarket? This and your izakaya 101 after the hop.
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