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!
Follow their Food News Adventures here.
See Who is Where... and what they are cooking.
See Who decided to dedicate their life to Food... and starting a New Restaurant.

Food & Beverage Cuisine International
"Toque of San Francisco"
September 2004

Toque of San Francisco
Carol & Joe Davis
Dining Detectives

San Francisco continues to prove that it is still one of the world’s greatest cities for dining. Rubicon has been one of San Francisco’s most elegant dining rooms with highly rated cuisine for over a decade. On our recent visit, we discovered that they had a new chef. Executive Chefs may move from one restaurant to another, or even leave The City but there is always excellence waiting in the wings. Rubicon is a prime example of when “the fear of losing a great chef” actually becomes a positive. We enjoyed sitting in a comfortable velvet booth in view of the beautiful Chihuly Glass Art that added a whimsical tone to the elegant décor. The noise level was low allowing intimate conversation during our well-paced meal that featured excellent service. The ambiance was terrific but it was the Tasting Menu cuisine created by new Chef Stuart Brioza that made the dinner one of our most memorable and exciting dining experiences of the year! Eight Courses appears to be a lot but we succeeded in enjoying every bite and we were quite satisfied but not stuffed.

The starters we had included the Marinated Yellow Fin Tuna and Hamachi in a lovely golden beet, avocado and virgin olive oil sauce. Seared Scallops, bouchot mussels, melon, and shiso followed and was just heavenly. The third appetizer was the Crispy Frogs legs with garlicky salt cod and smoked golden tomatoes, which was a divine combination. The excellent small entrees were Cinnamon Skewered Alaskan Halibut with sweet onions, oxtail, cherries and toasted oats in an ivory colored sauce and Stuffed Guinea Fowl with sweetbreads, salsify and chanterelles. Three desserts followed including Pecorino Romano Plum, olive oil ice cream. It was truly a dessert for the sophisticated palate. Next arrived the Warm 73% Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with Sherry wine caramel and iced orange cardamom milk. The Champagne “Bellini” which was a peach sorbet with Champagne Gelee and raspberries was the perfect final course. We enjoyed Master Sommelier Larry Stone’s own Sirita Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Napa Valley, which paired perfectly with our meal. Drew Nieporent and his local partners Robin Williams, Francis Ford Coppola and Robert DeNiro have enriched the San Francisco Fine Dining experience with the additions of new Executive Chef Stuart Brioza and Pastry Chef Nicole Krasinski. Their technically advanced cuisine will please the most sophisticated palates and continues Rubicon’s tradition of excellent dining.

San Francisco dining just keeps evolving and getting better with the latest openings of George Morrone’s Tartare in the financial district and Restaurant Michael Mina in the Westin St. Francis Hotel. The San Francisco Ferry Building has been totally renovated and transformed into a Foodies Paradise. You must stop in for the great experiences at Hog Island Oyster Bar, Acme Bread, Market Bar, Ferry Plaza Seafood, and Delica rf-1 Japanese deli, Mastrelli’s Deli, Cowgirl Creamery’s Artisan Cheese, Taylor’s Refresher and Chef Charles Phan’s Slanted Door. On Potrero Hill Chez Papa Bistrot has a new Chef Philippe Chevalier. We can’t wait to taste the Grilled Figs with Goat Cheese and Seared Foie Gras with brandy cherry gastrique and pear feuillete. Fog City Diner also has a new Chef Shawn Applin. We loved the crispy Katafi Shrimp with Chile lime slaw, mango and cashews, World Famous Curry Mussel Stew and of course the Sky High Lemon Meringue Pie. Fringale Restaurant introduced new Executive Chef Marc Rasic who has received rave reviews. We had a great dinner, which included a terrific Potato Galette with smoked salmon and chive crème and a delicious Roast Rack of Lamb with caper persillade, and bean and corn stew. We enjoyed delicious cuisine and
excellent value in a relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere.

Brindisi Cucina di Mare is the latest destination on Belden Place. It is an Italian seafood Trattoria run by Proprietor Antonio Spinoso and Chef Fabrizio Protopapa. The dishes include small plates of seafood prepared from recipes of the Italian Adriatic Coast. Try the excellent Stuffed Calamari, Octopus Terrine with cured Italian Black Olives and Frisee and Seared Day Boat Scallops with Fava beans Puree and tomato Concasse. For dessert enjoy the tastes of the Crème Caramel or Panna Cotta with strawberry sauce. We enjoyed the excellent cuisine, sophisticated but playful décor and friendly professional service.

Tonno Rosso is the latest addition to Steuart Street bringing delicious Italian Cuisine prepared by Chef Ryan Johnston .The transformation to Mediterranean décor with a friendly inviting bar area has brought new vibes. We loved the Insalata “Tropicale” avocado, grapefruit, hearts of palm, celery and corn as well as the refreshingly light excellent Antipasti. Try their signature entrée Piatti Principali, Tonno Rosso all’ Arrabbiata which is a wonderful tasting seared medium Rare Ahi Tuna with spicy tomato sauce. Another terrific entrée, the Rosticceria e Griglia Pollo al Mattone is a lemon, sage, ginger marinated chicken from the fireplace. We can’t wait to return to enjoy it again. For desserts have the Budino Del Cioccolato, which is a great flourless, Chocolate Cake that is warm with whipped cream and fresh seasonal berries and has a superior feather light consistency.

Andalu is a terrific small plate restaurant at 16th Street and Guerrero with an upbeat atmosphere and lively music. We loved the Cambazola Cheese Fondue served with Fuji Apples and Asian Pears and the Halibut Paillard with ginger, soy and hot grape seed oil. Roe Restaurant is a hot new restaurant South of Market on Howard St. that fuses French, Japanese and Burmese food in an elegant and swanky atmosphere. It features creations by executive Chef Herman Chin. Of course you must try the Caviar but don’t stop there. The Mango Prawns are sweet and spicy and an excellent choice for an appetizer. The Grilled Filet Mignon was prepared perfectly medium rare and will satisfy anyone. The Warm Chocolate Cake is a terrific dessert. After 10:00 PM until 4:00 AM there is dancing to DJ music upstairs, a perfect way to lengthen your evening and have some fun.

The classic San Francisco lunch is still at the Tadich Grill. Sit at the counter and enjoy a downtown Financial District lunch. For over 150 years Tadich has been the place to be. We loved the Calf’s Liver Steak with onions, bacon and vegetables. Town Hall has caused quite the stir South of Market. We enjoyed a fantastic lunch that featured a Baby Spinach Salad with Cornmeal Oysters and creamy herbsaint bacon dressing. We loved the excellent dressing and the texture of the oysters was amazing. Pastry Chef Janet Rikala Dalton created an excellent dessert, Warm Pineapple Upside Down cake a la mode. It was good to the last forkful and so generous you really felt you got your money’s worth. The San Francisco Soup Company’s owners Steve and Jennifer Sarver hosted their annual Best Soup in San Francisco competition that was won by Jennifer Henrichs for her Roast Chicken with Summer Squash and Lime Soup. It has been added to their gourmet soup menu along with our favorite which is Grandma Mary’s Chicken Soup.

In the East Bay the big news comes from Berkeley where Chef Christopher Lee formerly at Chez Panisse for 15 years has gone out on his own. His new restaurant on Fourth Street named Eccolo has gotten rave reviews. In Oakland we had a great dinner on College Avenue at Chef Christopher Cheung’s Marica. The Lamb Loin Chops marinated with lavender, grilled and served with pear mint chutney and mashed potatoes were delicious. For lunch in Montclair at Jackson’s Canvas on Thornhill Drive we felt like we were away from it all up in the Sierras. The Gnocchi was outstanding as it was one of the lightest we’d ever had. The Suzy-Q Chocolate Cake with cream filling and chocolate glaze was excellent. Great bakeries include Cheryl Lew’s Montclair Baking and Neldhams in Oakland. Deli fans won’t go wrong with the terrific corned beef and chopped liver at Saul’s Deli in Berkeley. The Crepes at Café De Paris in Blackhawk Plaza are terrific.

On the Peninsula, Palo Alto has some fine restaurants as well. We enjoyed a great dinner at the upscale, stylish Tamarine on University Avenue where we had an excellent Vietnamese meal. Tamarine Prawns created by Chef Tammy Huynh is her signature dish that we loved. The Shaking Beef consisting of cubed filet mignon which is seared with garlic and onions served with a watercress salad was also delicious. The Sake Mushrooms, another great dish is made with shitake mushrooms wok tossed in sake with sugar snap peas. Their Coconut rice made with coconut, vanilla and roasted coconut flakes was terrific with the prawns. Dessert was a superior Lemon Mousse made with whipped cream mousse served with black berries, strawberries and blueberries.

In the North Bay, Sausalito has gained a terrific addition in Poggio. Chef Chris Fernandez and his partner Larry Mendel have put together the total dining package that was really needed in Sausalito. Elegant inside, open outdoor on street dining and a sophisticated yet friendly bar makes this the best thing to hit Sausalito since Sally Stanford closed her brothel at the Valhalla. We loved the Gnocchi and the Bucatini with Veal and Green Olive Meatballs. The “Bombe” dessert, Zuccotto Di Frutti De Bosco made with Grappe, soaked Orange Cake, raspberries, blackberries and whipped cream and an espresso was the perfect finish to an excellent dining experience! Tapeo, a wonderful tapas bar just opened on B Street in San Rafael. Executive Chef Franco Napoli creates some excellent small plates including Atun Sellado, seared Ahi Tuna on mixed greens, caramelized onions with wassabi and Cochinita Pibil con Boniato, which is fabulous slow roasted pork, served with deliciously sweet creamy sweet potatoes. For dessert have the Crema Catalana or Raspberry Crème Brule. Rick Mendell is the new Wine Master at his own Rick’s Wine Cellar in Corte Madera It’s a great place to taste and buy some of the best wines from California and around the world. Petaluma dining just gets better and better with the addition of One-Fifty-Four Restaurant & Wine Bar. We were very impressed by all the entrées. The Wild King Salmon with Morel Mushrooms, spring asparagus and fingerling potatoes was outstanding and try the Poached Pear for dessert. We dined at J.M. Rosen’s Waterfront Grill where we enjoyed the terrific Shrimp Scampi and their classic New York Cheesecake prepared by Executive Chef Jan Rosen while we looked out on the Petaluma River.

Carmel is a great weekend getaway from San Francisco where both casual and fine dining can be found. We enjoyed a classic French Dinner at Anamaria & Chef Richard Zoellin’s The French Poodle that has been in Carmel since 1961. We loved the Magret de Canard au Vieux Porto entrée and the French Floating Island, which is a fantastic classic dessert. We also enjoyed dining at the upscale Carmel Bistro, at Grasings where we had a great lunch including Four Onion Tart and the Forge in the Forest that has terrific Eggs Benedict with Salmon instead of ham. We must try Restaurant La Boheme where they offer a single Prix Fixe dinner daily.

The NASFT Fancy Food Show comes to San Francisco each year giving the Trade and consumers a chance to sample everything from Chocolate to Caviar and once again in 2004 we enjoyed the best fancy foods available. More Than Gourmet our favorite from 2003 was back with consumer sized packages of their fantastic stocks and sauces. We found a terrific way to decorate your plate and impress your friends at the Terrapin Ridge booth. Their Basting and Fruit Squeezes from the kitchen of Chef Susan Furst are a tasty way to add creativity to any appetizer, entrée or dessert. Try the Too Cherry Fruit Squeeze and Moroccan Spice and let your imagination run wild.

Melitta Coffee once again is a pioneer with their new One:One coffee maker for single cups. We loved their new Premium Coffees as well including the Morning Decadence Flavored Coffee, the Costa Rico Estate Blend and the Columbia Estate Blend. Did you know that Mellita Bentz invented the coffee filter and drip method of coffee making almost 100 years ago? We bought a Francis- Francis Espresso maker and the Mellita coffee was perfect for espresso too. Southwest Specialty Foods featured their Ass Kickin Honey Roasted Peanuts with Habanero pepper. They live up to their motto Kick Yo Ass Hot! Lt. Blender’s Margarita in a Bag was a very popular exhibitor. Their all-natural real citrus juice concentrate will help you make the perfect party drinks. It comes in a convenient fill freeze and squeeze bag.
The best display featured an Egg costume for Eggology fresh pure liquid Egg Whites. Chief Eggsecutive Brad Halpern eggsposed us to the Egg Whites that were delicious and are perfect for omelets or even protein shakes and that’s no yoke! For the Sweet tooth our favorite was the Sterling Truffle Bar. It had beautiful designs and was sinfully sweet. A great apple based 100% fruit juice non-alcoholic beverage that we really enjoy is Cider Master, David Cordtz’s Sonoma Sparklers. They are quite refreshing and light and crisp and a perfect substitute for champagne. We loved the Shepherds of Cyprus Haloumi Cheese. We tasted some that was grilled and it was excellent. We loved the Good Wives Hor D’oerves from Marblehead, Mass. including the Fillo Pastries. Chef Craig Smith produces delicious appetizers that have been award winners the last few years.

We are sometimes asked about a common Diner’s Dilemma. How often do you ask for a Steak to be cooked rare and is comes to you medium or well? What do you do when the Lobster you’ve ordered is smothered in cream sauce? How can you avoid the embarrassment of sending something back and holding up the other members of your party from eating their entrees? Do you feel that it’s not worth it and you should just eat it? Do you think that the owner or Chef really cares? These are all common questions that one may from time to time face. We take the approach that it is OUR Dinner and we need not suffer for the kitchen’s mistakes. Fortunately, only once all year has the entrée been intolerable and in need of return. We sent it back but didn’t appreciate the look we got from the Chef. Open Exhibition kitchens make for good theatre but can have their downsides for the Chef.

Until we eat again…

New for the Toques!
Enlarge any photo with a click.

All Photos © Joe Davis
Rubicon Chef Stuart Brioza
Master Sommelier Larry Stone
Crispy Frogs legs
Rubicon Stuffed Guinea Fowl
Fog City Diner Chef Shawn Applin
Katafi Shrimp with Chile lime slaw
Fog City Sky High Dessert
Brindisi Cucina di Mare Chef Fabrizio Protopapa
Brindisi Stuffed Calamari
Tonno Rosso Seared Ahi Tuna with spicy tomato sauce
Roe Entrees
Roe Chef Herman Chin
San Francisco Soup Company’s Grandma Mary’s Chicken Soup.
Executive Chef  Marc Rasic at Fringale
Fringale Rack of Lamb
Marica Heirloom Tomato Salad
Tamarine Chef Tammy Huynh
Café de Paris Crepe
Anamaria & Chef Richard Zoellin’s The French Poodle
French Floating Island Dessert
154 Poached Pear
The NASFT Fancy Food Show
Terrapin Ridge Chef Susan Furst
Melitta Coffee and Francis Francis Espresso Maker
Sterling Truffle Bar
Seared Scallops