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


The facts
and only the facts.
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
March 2003

We started out a busy year “right” with The Second Annual Dine Abound Town 2003 promotion for Fine Dining in San Francisco. Special Three-Course Menus $19.95 for Lunch and $29.95 for Dinner were offered by over 160 Restaurants who participated including; Boulevard, Bix, Fog City Diner, Tommy Toy’s Cuisine Chinoise, Forbes Island Restaurant, The Magic Flute, Hornblower Cruises, Roy’s, MC2, Moose’s, Palio d’ Asti , Acme Chophouse, Le Zinc, Fog City Diner, and….more. The Kick-Off featured a tasting of 50 World Class San Francisco Chef’s cuisine in Union Square. The Chef’s included Bruce Hill from Bix, Todd Davies from MC2, Daniel Scherotter from Palio, and Max Braud of Le Zinc, Moose’s Jeffrey Amber, Hornblower Cruises Daniel Smith, Bistro 1650 Ramni A Levy and Asia De Cuba’s Chef Todd Wilson. The event had a fabulous turnout and the tastings were superior.

In San Francisco, Bix is still a fantastic dining experience with their Super Club atmosphere. Bruce Hill, the Executive Chef, wowed us with his creations and we loved the live jazz. We were impressed with the Sautéed Sweetbreads, the Apple Frisee Salad with Calvados Sauce, Sebastopol Garden Lettuces, Mission Figs and Toasted Walnuts and the favorite signature dish, Maine Lobster Spaghetti ( This entree was truly in a league of it’s own) and don’t miss out on the Bananas Foster with Vanilla Ice Cream and Dark Rum! We asked Bruce why some of the better restaurants go “down hill”, no pun intended. He said that quality and flavor must constantly be monitored by the Chef and it is essential that they taste their own food. We also asked how a chef feels about keeping a restaurant’s “favorites” on the menu, especially the ones they have inherited. Bruce advised us that it is important to keep your regular customers happy by continuing to serve “favorites” and the Chef can use the daily specials for creativity!
Mark Franz, Executive Chef at Farallon, prepared a fantastic French influenced Coastal Cuisine Lunch in a private room upstairs for The Handley Cellars 20th Anniversary Tasting Event. It included Nantucket Bay Scallops, celery root, tarragon, and American black caviar which paired perfectly with the Handley 2001 Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc and Grilled Monkfish with Sugar Pumpkin Risotto, cipollini onions and fresh Italian White Truffles which paired well with the Handley 2000 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.
We enjoyed a terrific Northern Italian dinner at Café Tiramisu on the ever popular Belden Place, which is a favorite dining locale offering European atmosphere with outdoor dining. We enjoyed the warm hospitality of Pino Spinoso and Giuseppe Scoppetta. The Risotto with lobster, wild mushrooms, asparagus and lobster bisque sauce and the Roasted Saddle of Lamb with fine herbs and garlic chips were great Entrees. Also a must, are the desserts including fabulous Cream Profiteroles and of course Tiramisu!
Congratulations to Bruno Viscovi on the 15th Anniversary of Albona Ristorante Istriano .We enjoyed his gracious hospitality and a terrific meal. The Stracotto alla Triestina (braised veal shank) was delicious. No wonder Albona continues to make the “Best of San Francisco” lists year after year. Chef/Proprietor Christen Shepherd also has a lot to be proud of as well celebrating the 11th Anniversary of his Italian Restaurant Aperto on Potrero Hill. This friendly local restaurant was packed on the Saturday night we were there! We loved everything about this small restaurant from the pleasing pastel colored walls to the vibrant art to the open exhibition kitchen. And yes, the cuisine was great too. For Antipasti we enjoyed the Dungeness Crab Cakes with Chick Pea Puree,
Pomegranates, Micro Greens, Frisee and Spicy Aioli. As a Grande Piatti you must have the Housemade Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage, Pancetta, Brown Butter and Shaved Grana Cheese. Save room for the scrumptious Warm Chocolate Soufflé Cake for dessert.
We always have a great meal at Izzy’s Steaks & Chops in San Francisco. Sam Duval, owner and Caesar Nisthal Chef still serve a great Marinated Skirt Steak, Spinach and terrific Izzy’s own potatoes. The House of Prime Rib still has the Best Prime Rib in the City. Joe Betts just keeps packing them in with Old School Charm and reasonable prices. Kuleto’s in SF has a great upbeat atmosphere, reasonable prices and we particularly loved Pastry Chef, Michiel Green’s Bread Pudding. Bacchanal Restaurant has reopened in the renovated landmark 1903 Metropolitan Hotel in South San Francisco with Executive Chef Brandon Peacock. We dined there on a recent Saturday night enjoyed the live jazz music and especially loved the Entrees. The Grilled Rare Kobe Beef with White Truffle mashers-crumbled blue-veal demi was fantastic. We also loved the Baby Back Ribs with steak fries, spiced cabbage and tangy BBQ sauce. We’ve heard good things about the cuisine prepared by Chef Carol Martinez at Night Monkey Bistro on Union St. Another restaurant we need to try and have heard good things about is Piperade with Basque Cuisine prepared by Chef Gerald Hirigoyen. We enjoyed meeting Chef Maurizio Mazzon at a book signing party for The IL Fornaio Pasta Book.

Over in The East Bay, in Montclair (Oakland) we dined at Canvas which offered an upscale dining experience with excellent cuisine prepared by Chef/Owner Peter Jackson and Chef Frank D’Fate who adds his New Orleans flair. We loved the Foie Gras Torchon and Seared Diver Scallop with Red Wine Syrup and roasted fingerling potatoes appetizers. The Grass Fed Beef, Grilled Western Grasslands Rib Eye Steak, Blue Cheese mashed potatoes and bone marrow red wine sauce and the Grilled Hoffman Farm Pheasant with braised greens, smokey spicy rice, and sherry jus were great Entrees! The Menu changes daily. They are popular so be sure to make reservations. Also recently opened is Beauregard’s California Bistro in Albany on Solano Avenue featuring Wine Country inspired Cuisine prepared by Chef/Co-Owner Gary Beauregard formerly of Spago. Gary and his partner Barry Gilmartin spent over a year renovating the restaurant and have created a spacious inviting atmosphere. We loved the Smoked Salmon Pizzetta appetizer which was a personal-sized red onion pizza crust topped with dill-shallot crème fraiche, smoked salmon, tomato and scallions and the hearty Entree Tuscan Farmhouse Oven- Roasted Chicken rubbed with garlic, rosemary, thyme, oven roasted with house-preserved lemons and Mediterranean olives, served in its own pan juices. For dessert we loved the Apple Crisp prepared with Granny Smith Apples, slow baked with just a hint of Tuaca and a crispy brown sugar and cinnamon crust which was served with warm whipped cream!! All the fare is fabulous with reasonable prices which makes Beauregard’s a worthy destination on a regular basis.

We dropped by Gregoire, Berkeley’s Gourmet Take-out and found fantastic French inspired cuisine by Chef/Owner Gregoire Jacquet formerly of The Ritz Carlton. He creates lunches and dinners made with fresh ingredients, locally grown, natural and free range with superior flavors, aromas and perfect taste making a great alternative to dining out. We enjoyed several items from his lunch menu which were incredible! We look forward to returning to enjoy the dinner menu, perhaps when we have guests who we want to impress! We ventured to California Café in Walnut Creek and had a superior lunch from Chef Charles Hochman’s Café All Day small plate menu. We enjoyed the Jamaican Pick’n Chicken which was juicy, moist and terrific served with golden pepper mole. The Grilled Lamb Chops with toasted coriander, cilantro, honey and mint was a larger small plate and delicious as well. Pastry chef Erin Moore brought dessert to a new level with Banana Brulee Napoleon a creation with rum pastry cream, caramel and chocolate sauce. Absolutely unbelievable!

In The North Bay we enjoyed a terrific Country French dinner with some old friends at Roland Passot’s Left Bank in Larkspur. We met Steven Obranovich who is the talented Executive Chef. In addition to the excellent cuisine the highlight was seeing the local Marin celebs Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker (L.A Law) arrive for dinner. We were great L.A. Law fans, so this was a treat for us too. Everyone respected their privacy which is why celebrities are drawn to Marin. At Mary’s Apple Creek Café in Sebastopol Chef Andrew Lujan created a fantastic Entrée …Mai Mahi with Jumbo Prawns Baked in Puff Pastry with Lobster Bisque Sauce. Also Mary bakes the best Apple Pie we have ever had! Cuchina Paradiso’s Chef Dennis Hernandez impressed us with Pesce del giorno tonno alla griglia, a grilled Ahi Tuna Filet. We also had a great dinner at The Vintage Caffé at Manka’s Corner. Caroline & Nicola Critelli owners created excellent cuisine that we totally enjoyed with a large group of friends celebrating Carol’s Birthday. Negri’s in Occidental has been open for over fifty years and still features hearty Family Style Italian Dinners. Bring your appetite. Down in TV Land, L.A that is, there is word of a fantastic quirky new restaurant called Bobo’s, Larry David’s new restaurant. Can you imagine bells on the tables to summoned waiters or Chef Guy Bernier in the Exhibition Kitchen with Tourette’s Syndrome- uttering profanity? I guess we can only dream. That’s why Larry won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy!

We attended The Fancy Food Show at Moscone in SF where more than 1,200 exhibitors and 15,000 Specialty Food Professionals came together to taste over 50,000 specialty food items. At the show we had the ultimate pleasure to meet legendary Chef Paul Prudhomme who was very gracious. He was presenting all his products including his Magic Seasoning Blends. The Best of Show for us was More Than Gourmet Classic French Stocks and Sauces created by certified Master Chefs in the style of the French Master Chef Escoffier. We loved the Glace de Gibier Gold, a classic game stock and the Demi-Glace Gold, a French Demi -Glace. Don’t be surprised to find some of their 15 sauces and stocks in some of the best restaurants around who want to maintain consistency. We enjoyed grazing on everything from Carolyn’s Gourmet White Chocolate Bark to Tsar Nicoulai Caviar . We must concur with Wolfgang Puck that this is truly great Beluga Caviar. Some of the other Gourmet Foods that we loved included the Marin French Cheese Company’s delicious Rouge et Noir Brie, French Market Coffee from New Orleans which we used to make French Market Cappuccino Freezes at home, Liege- Style Belgian Waffles from The Waffle Company, Smokin’ Joe Jones Mississippi Meat & Barbeque Sauce , holistic food for pets Halo, Purely for Pets,Smith & Wollensky’s excellent Steak Sauce and Napa Valley infused Salute Sante Grapeseed Oil .

We also attended The 5TH Annual Private Dining Showcase at Jillian’s. This event promoted the Event and Private Dining Menus from over 20 great San Francisco restaurants including Aqua, Fifth Floor, Momo’s, Masa’s, Harris Steak House and Red Herring. Any reason for a party is a good one and contacting The San Francisco Private Dining Group is a great start. We enjoyed 12th Annual Family Winemakers of California Event at Fort Mason which had over 350 Wineries participating. We really appreciated that the wineries were set up in alphabetical order so that we could easily find the one’s we wanted to make sure we tasted. Some of the wines we enjoyed included Jordan Cabernet , Hagafen kosher wines, , Emmolo Rutherford Merlot , and Chalk Hill Chardonnay We didn’t need it but were intrigued by a new product Chaser for Wine Headaches. a sponsor of this event. Another Event you should check into at Fort Mason is The Rhone Rangers Wine Tasting. . On the Food/Charity Circuit we enjoyed and look forward to the next Salut, the Arthritis Foundation Fine Wine and Cuisine Fundraiser. We attended last year and had a fabulous time tasting food & wine from some of the best San Francisco Restaurants and Napa/Sonoma Wineries. We also enjoyed The Australia Day Harvest Festival sponsored by The Australian Trade Commission and The Australian Wine Bureau. We tasted the Australian Sea Bass (Barramundi), the Oakleigh Beef, and the All Natural free Range Lamb. We were not surprised to hear that Australia exports over 50 million cases of Wine a year. Makes us hunger for a trip down under!

On the local media front The San Francisco Examiner added Narsai David to its formidable S.F.Eats writing staff. His writing brings both depth and insight to The Examiner and we love his recipes. However he must have been kidding in a recent article “The Making of a Martini “when he offered capers or jicama as options when olives are not available. When asked about these variations Rick Fishman (Mr. Rick’s Martini Club) said that they were not real Martini’s! Over at The San Francisco Chronicle, the Sunday Dining Out section has moved to the “new and improved” Chronicle Magazine. This was a great idea as both the food and interior decor photos are terrific and really add to the reviews. Michael Bauer has been on his best behavior and the lion share of his reviews has been positive. We we’re a bit worried that The Chronicle had dampened his “creativity” but after his negative critique of La Table Du Chef we see that his mostly positive reviews were actually due to better dining of late and not to a push by The Advertising Department to have a better atmosphere for selling ads.

The big news in the wine business was Francis Ford Coppola expanding his Rutherford, Niebaum –Coppola Vineyard. He bought the adjacent Cohn Vineyard and is hoping to become The Godfather of Napa Wines with more acquisitions in the future. The biggest news on the wine front has to be “Two Buck Chuck” Trader Joe’s low cost drinkable Charles Shaw Wines that are cutting into sales of some other more moderately priced wines.

Until we eat again…….

Our New Year’s Resolution has been to skip a few meals in between events to keep our waistlines in check!

Dine About Town Chefs
Todd Davies, Tomas Sazo, Jeffery Amber, Daniel Scherotter, Max Bravd

Bruce Hill Chef
Smokin' Joe Jones
BBQ Sauce,
SF Fancy Food Show

Nantucket Bay Scallops with American Black Cavian

Vermeer Dutch Chocolate Liqueur
Sponsor of Dine Around The Town 2003

More Than Gourmet
Harvey Leff, Brad, Sacks, Bernard Leff
SF Fancy Food Show

Molton Chocolate Cake

Handley Cellars
20th Anniversary Wine Tasting Lunchon at Farallon, Milla Handley and Chef Mark Franz.

Chef Maurizio Mazzon
Il Fornio Pasta Book signing.
Il Fornio

Gregoire Jaquet
Gregoire Upscale Take Out , Berkeley

Tommy Toy's

Family Winemaker's Event
Fort Mason
Cheryl Emmolo, Emmolo Wine Company

Chef Paul Prudhomme
SF Fancy Food Show

Daniel Smith
Hornblower Cruises
Executive Chef, Brandon Peacock
Beauregard's Califorina Bistro
Chef Gary Beauregard and Co-owner Barry Gilmartin