Food and Beverage News from San Francisco by Carol and Joe Davis, epicures with a unique and
insightful perspective on Food in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area


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Together, Joe and Carol understand what "people of taste" expect in a good dining experience. They also understand the importance the Chef plays in a restaurant's success! Thus, when a Chef makes a move in San Francsico it is a Big Event!
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Toque of San Francisco
By Carol & Joe Davis

Ooh La La! Since July 14th, Bastille Day, everything is coming up French. Every where we turn we see French influence in food and décor. Fresh Lavender anyone! Seriously, we love French Cuisine and it is better than ever with restaurants offering choices ranging from elegant & romantic to high energy Bistro.

Michael Mina and Charles Condy are running away with all the accolades for best new San Francisco restaurant with Redwood Park in the Transamerica Pyramid. Superior French Cuisine created by world class Executive Chef George Morrone, elegant interior décor and excellent tableside service with carts for preparation of special dishes win over even the harshest of critics. Everyone is raving about the Carpaccio: Land Sea and Air, Tuna Foie Gras, Maine Lobster prepared Three Ways and the Crepes Romanoff. Le Colonial is certainly the place to “see and be seen”. Great tropical setting and classic Southeast Asian/ French décor. Upstairs at the bar, we loved the “Passion Martini” with Guava Juice, Citrus Vodka and a Splash of Soda and their famous Mojito with Cruzen Premium Light Rum. Downstairs in the dining room we enjoyed the beautiful presentation of the French/ Vietnamese cuisine and New Executive Chef Kellie Nguyen-Brabant’s signature dish Goi Hoa Chuoi, a fantastic crisp salad of Julienne of banana blossoms, herbs, prawns, toasted peanuts, and spicy ginger vinaigrette was worth the trip Also fantastic was the Bo Luc Lac, Wok seared beef tenderloin with watercress, red onions, baby heirloom tomatoes and crispy julienne potatoes.. Dessert is a must; try the Warm Coconut Tapioca with Chilled Passionfruit & Papaya Bavarois created by Pastry Chef David Chesarek. New to San Francisco and quite a welcome addition is Chez Papa a charming French Bistrot on Potrero Hill. Quite the popular spot! Chez Papa features superior French inspired Cuisine, fantastic presentation, and fun bistro atmosphere. Executive Chef Ola Fendert who was previously at Remillards and Plouf prepares fantastic cuisine and veteran owners Marc- Henri Sempere and Jocelyn Bulow know how to please the discerning S.F. clientele.We loved the Seared Day Boat Scallops with fava beans and pistou, Pastis Prawns with herbes de Provence butter on a cherry basil tomato salad and Warm Chocolate, Caramel soufflé cake with Crème Fraiche. A weekend trip gave us the pleasure to enjoy Chez Felix in Carmel. Great French Cuisine especially the Escargot prepared and served by husband and wife team Jean Louis et Madeline Tourel. Newly open in the North Bay is Brasserie de la Mer adjacent to the new Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa in Santa Rosa. Executive Chef Liz Ozanich protégé of Philippe Boulet prepares a variety of bountiful dishes featuring Sonoma locally grown ingredients including great Liberty Duck Leg Confit and Oven-Braised C.K. Leg of Lamb. Fleur de Lyses reopened in San Francisco after almost a year’s absence due to a fire. We peaked in to see the fabulous renovation and look forward to an elegant dinner there soon. Chef / Owner Hubert Keller know that his clientele has great expectations and we are confident that they will again be pleased. We hear that The Vegetarian Feast is fantastic. We also can’t help but mention Fifth Floor with Chef Laurent Gras who continues to get accolades for fantastic contemporary French Cuisine. Trio Bistro has been open on Lake Merritt in Oakland for many years and features delicious French Cuisine and a relaxed atmosphere.

Views and Dining; what a combination in The Bay Area and we’ve had superior experiences when the two come together. Restaurants and their chefs have to “Kick it up a Notch” as diners in the Bay Area are too savvy to let poor cuisine endure even when a “great view” is involved. We had a wonderful dining experience at Jordan’s Restaurant in the Claremont Hotel & Spa where we enjoyed the fabulous Bay View from high in the Berkeley Hills. Executive Chef, Laurence Jackson, has been there 5 years and served some excellent cuisine including a delightful Asparagus Puree with Smoked Salmon Soup, Sansho Pepper & Wasabi Crusted Tuna with Saba Noodles, Grated Daikon & Ginger, New Zealand Sea bass with Black Rice, Spicy Lemongrass and Coconut Emulsion Sauce, and for dessert a Lemon Tartlette. The Valhalla Restaurant in Sausalito has reopened with seasoned Executive Chef Jeff Freburg and flamboyant Manager/Partner Rick Jones. Right on the water, it has perhaps the best view in all the Bay Area. We are glad to see this classic location with new life. You’ll love the Heirloom Tomato Salad, Grilled Hoisin St. Louis Ribs with Chive Oil and mashed potatoes, Pizza with wild mushrooms, roasted garlic, leeks and baby arugula and the desserts by Pastry Chef Paul Conte which included an unbelievable Lemon Cheese Cake and Butterscotch Crème Brulee. The Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant on the Great Highway at the western edge of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco has a spectacular view of The Pacific Ocean. The new Chef Bradley Ogden’s protégé, Chef Jack Mitchell brings a wealth of experience from his previous employers The Lark Creek Inn and Yankee Pier. We enjoyed one of Brewer Steve Ryan’s seasonal beers, the Ocean Beach Oktoberfest, an amber well balanced offering. We look forward to coming back for dinner and tasting the Pan-Roasted Maine Lobster with Bourbon – Butter Sauce and Roasted Fennel, Potato and Celery Root and the Beer Battered Fish & Chips.

We can recommend just about everything that we tried at the Acme Chophouse adjacent to Pac Bell Park. Keith Reese, the general Manager, was as ever the consummate host telling us about their socially conscious philosophy which included the use of fresh local ingredients and Grass Fed Beef when available. We loved the Steak Tartare which was fresher than we’ve had, the Braised Short Ribs where the meat fell off the bone and the Hanger/ Baseball Cut Steak and the Grass Fed New York Steak. Managing Chef Traci Des Jardins and Chef de Cuisine Thom Fox pleased us with the presentation and preparation. We are glad we saved room for the Apricot Cheesecake and Butterscotch Pudding desserts prepared by Pastry Chef Galen Chesarek.

The legendary “Washbag” Washington Square Bar & Grill was reopened by Guy & Rose Ferri to cheers from the drinking class of San Francisco. Was that the Ghost of Herb Caen we saw? Café Riggio on Geary & 5th Ave features classic Italian Cuisine with a contemporary flair, compliments of the new Executive Chef Michael Baker, formerly at The Waterfront. The neighborhood atmosphere is quite charming and they can accommodate both large and small parties. We loved the Maine Lobster Ravioli with Saffron Butter Sauce and Santa Barbara Asparagus, the Saltimbocca alla Romana; Escalopes of Veal Sautéed with Fresh Sage, Prosciutto & Mozzarella and the Gamberoni con Aglio e Burro, Jumbo Prawns sautéed with a light Brandy Garlic Butter and Lemon. Tommaso’s just off Broadway in San Francisco is a more casual place for classic Italian Cuisine as well. We enjoyed a luncheon and found out about their Wine Club ( which offers special dining and wine education events. Martin Yan has a new restaurant Yan Can in Pleasant Hill. Mimika & Gerry Georgopoulos have owned Tonelli’s Dinner House on Hwy 29 in American Canyon on the way to Napa for 21 years. Try the tasty Prime Rib Dinner for Two ($29.95). We had a big party there and they treated us like family.

On a short trip to the Los Angeles area we dined out in Malibu overlooking The Pacific Ocean at Duke’s. The Kaha King Crab Legs, steamed and served with drawn butter were outstanding. Duke’s is very authentic as a surfers showcase in fact our hostess was Kathy Kohner the original surfer girl ,Gidget. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Beverly Hills- Great Cowboy Steak. Ghirardelli Chocolate celebrated their 150 Anniversary as America’s Premium Chocolate Company having made millions of children and adults a bit happier with their great chocolate. We love the Milk Chocolate with Macadamia Nuts and the Ghirardelli Squares. Speaking of Anniversaries, MacArthur Park on Jackson Square in San Francisco is now 30 years old. In an historic Barbary Coast warehouse building, MacArthur Park still has a happy hour every weeknight, which features free finger food. Also we love their ribs!

Dennis Groth, president of Groth Vineyards & Winery in Oakville, was elected as Chairman of The San Francisco based Wine Institute on a platform of developing standards for sustainable winegrowing and easing national and international trade barriers. U.S. Wine exports have grown to over 80 million gallons!! Great job.
We had a great time at the World Wine Expo at Fort Mason. Sterling Cabernet was a highlight of the tasting as well as Davis Wine Company’s great Sauvignon Blanc from Argentina-. Nice aroma, fruity flavor and moderately priced, a great value. California has many great producing regions including the Paso Robles area. We tasted and enjoyed some very reasonably priced wines from Midnight Cellars Winery & Vineyards including a bold and rich 1999 Cabernet- Nebula and a flavorful 1999 Sangiovese- Starlight. Mayacamas Vineyards features some great Chardonnays but we feel that their 2000 Sauvignon Blanc deserves praise as well. Silver Oak 1997 Alexander Valley Cabernet was one of the best we’ve had all year. A truly rich and full Cabernet. For those who can’t tell red from white, try a session with Wine Tutor John Thoreen at Meadowood in Saint Helena For those who like more punch “Spirits of Scotland – A Whiskey Gathering” at The Gift Center in San Francisco had a major tasting and showed the public what spirits were all about. They will be holding these Scotch, cognac and whiskey tasting in other cities soon.

We also enjoyed cooking meals at home and found a charming little cookbook, Our Mothers’ Recipes .It includes pictures and bios of Baby Boomer Mom’s and recipes like Selma Young’s Flank Steak in Wine Sauce and Janet Cutler’s Chicken Tandoori. This is a great gift idea!

Until we eat again…..

Redwood Park, Executive Chef George Morrone and Chef de Cuisine, Joseph Humphrey.
Redwood Park, Boneless Rack of Veal with Truffled Sweetbreads
Chez Papa, Executive Chef Ola Fendert and Owner Marc-Henri Sempere
Chez Papa, Patis Marinated Prawns
Le Colonial, Wok Seared Beef Tenderloin
Le Colonial, Warm Coconut Tapioca Pudding
Brasserie De La Mer, Crab Salad
Valhalla's Manager/Partner Rich Jones
Jordan's Rack of Lamb
Jordan's Executive Chef Laurence Jackson
Beach Chalet, Pan Roasted Maine Lobster by Chef Jack Mitchell
ACME Chophouse, Double Cut Pork Chop
Guy Ferri, Owner/Chef Washington Square Bar and Grill
Cafe Riggio, Executive Chef Michael Baker and Owner John Riggio