Tag Archives: Bar Tartine

BOOK REVIEWS: COI, BAR TARTINE, AND FLOUR+WATER

For Christmas, Sarah and Evan gave us autographed copies of cookbooks written by some of their San Francisco colleagues and friends. They are all beautiful books, and certainly worth a place of honor on my cookbook shelves. Good and successful restaurants seem to go through the same sort of trajectory. First, there is the nervous anxiety after the opening and before reviews appear. Then, there are professional reviews, almost always glowing. Next come the Yelpers (I call them Whiners) with their smarmy comments: “Why do they charge so much; who do they think they are?” ” I could do better at home on my hot plate.”  “They seated someone else at my table even though I was only an hour late for my reservation.” ” When I told them I didn’t like the filet mignon after I had eaten it all, they refused to comp me.” After the whiners, the real customers take over, and the restaurant is wildly popular. Then there are demonstration tours, and finally a thick, beautifully illustrated cookbook appears so that the diner can try making the dish at home – ha.

Coi, Bar Tartine, and Flour+Water are three of the best, most popular, and most successful restaurants in San Francisco, so it is not surprising that they all have beautiful cookbooks. Here are some of my random thoughts on all of them. Cookbooks-3 Coi: Stories and Recipes by Daniel Patterson (Phaidon Press, London and New York) is really more of a memoir than a cookbook, and it is illustrated with lush images of the California countryside along with relatively few food shots. Daniel Patterson is an accomplished writer as well as a Michelin-starred chef. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Lucky Peach, Food and Wine, and the Financial Times among other publications. The photographer, Maren Caruso, clearly knows how to operate a camera. Besides all that, Patterson is gracious in recognizing many of the cooks who have helped to make Coi a success. To be sure, there are “recipes” although they do not appear in the typical format of lists of ingredients and the steps in putting them all together. In my view, you can reproduce some of the dishes only if you study the instructions very carefully and already possess a high level of cooking skill. The most engaging parts of the book are the personal stories and philosophical statements – meditations, really – that accompany each of the recipes. The feeling that the reader comes away with is that of understanding the author as a thoughtful person as well as an accomplished cook. Cookbooks-2 Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes by Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns with photographs by Chad Robertson (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2014) is reminiscent of Chad Robertson’s already classic Tartine Bread except that there is a lot more color. If you have been lucky enough to eat at Bar Tartine, you know that Nicolaus and Cortney have fun with their cooking. It has the same precision that you expect in high-end food, but at the same time it is playful. The chefs delight in using ingredients you may never have heard of, or in ways that you have never thought of. And that’s sort of how Balla and Burns approach their cookbook. There are delicious recipes and gorgeous images aplenty, but the emphasis is on ingredients  The first sixteen chapters are devoted to topics like “Drying”, “Assorted Powders”,  “Spice Mixes”, “Sprouting and Soaking”, “Oils & Animal Fats”, “Vinegars”, “Pickles & Preserves” along with suggestions about how to use ingredients like dried strawberries (The two love their dehydrator), kefir butter, schmaltz, and even burnt toast. The recipes look accessible but you will definitely need to expand your pantry. For me, the book is more like a beautifully illustrated instruction book than a conventional cookbook, and there are detailed instructions about how to make all of the powders and dried foods that serve as the basis of or as seasoning for the fabulous foods of Bar Tartine. The images by Chad Robertson add greatly to the final product, and in the credits, Balla, Burns, and Robertson also do all of the food and prop styling. The book is beautifully done and truly a labor of love, just like a meal at Bar Tartine. Cookbooks-1 Flour+Water: Pasta by Thomas McNaughton with Paolo Lucchesi and photography by Eric Wolfinger (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA) is a detailed treatise on pasta, but it is fascinating reading and studying. There is a two-page spread immediately after the frontispiece showing the author intent on rolling out a length of pasta dough. From that single image you get the feeling that McNaughton wakes up and goes to sleep thinking of pasta. His descriptions about seemingly arcane topics such as the differences between Italian 00 flour and semolina flour turn out to be fascinating reading. And coupled with detailed, well-organized images, the narrative provides step-by-step instructions that even a tyro is willing to try. There is also an abundance of recipes for what to do with the pasta once you have made it. “Mouth-watering” does not adequately describe the images of some of the spectacular dishes: spaghetti with black trumpet, poached egg, and cured yolk; burrata triangoli with preserved lemon, summer squash, and mint. A bonus is the back story of McNaughton’s pilgrimage to Italy and his long, humbling hours of learning how to make pasta  under the tough guidance of a room full of Italian grandmothers. With that, the reader realizes that anything done well requires commitment along with hours, days, and years of practice.

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SMOKED NEW POTATOES AND CARAMELIZED GARLIC AIOLI

Here’s another idea I lifted from Bar Tartine. Their smoked potatoes with black garlic are unique and delicious. I couldn’t possibly replicate them at home. First, because I don’t have black garlic, and second, I don’t have a clue as to how they smoke their potatoes. As to the black garlic, you can order it from Blackgarlic.com in Hollister, CA, near the garlic capital of the world – Gilroy.

Still, an effort was worth a try, especially if I dragged out my Camerons Stovetop Smoker. The smoker is one of the niftiest things in my batterie de cuisine even though I don’t use it that much. With it, I can hot smoke fish, poultry, meat, and anything else you can fit into it without filling the house with smoke. The smoker is available from the manufacturer, Amazon, kitchen stores, and several big-box retailers for under $60.

Camerons also sells wood chips specially sized for the smoker. The wood chips that you find in the barbecuing section of the grocery store are too big. But Camerons gives you a choice of apple, alder, cherry, hickory, maple, mesquite, oak, pecan, and even corn cob. I used alder, and I think it was a good choice.

As a substitute for the black garlic, I smoked fresh garlic with the potatoes in the hope that it would caramelize and then used for an aïoli. That turned out to be reasonably successful.

RECIPES

Smoked New Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup special smoker wood chips
  • 6-8 small new red potatoes for each diner, well-scrubbed
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • coarse Kosher salt

Method

  1. Prepare the smoker by placing the wood chips in the center of the bottom of the smoker. Line the tray with aluminum foil, and arrange it and the rack in the smoker.
  2. Arrange the potatoes on the rack with the garlic in a small aluminum foil nest in the center (see below)
  3. With a brush, lightly baste each of the potatoes on all sides and sprinkle generously with the salt.
  4. Slide the cover onto the smoker, leaving a 3 inch opening. Place over medium heat on the stove top. When smoke begins to come out of the opening, close to form a tight seal. You will be able to smell the smoke, and you may see a faint wisp, but there should be no smoke coming out of the sealed smoker.
  5. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove the smoker from the heat, and open the top.
  6. Transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl

Caramelized Garlic Aïoli

Ingredients

  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and stems removed
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Crumple a sheet of aluminum foil into a small “nest” large enough to hold the garlic. Set the nest in the center of the potatoes on the smoker rack.
  2. Smoke according to directions above.
  3. When the potatoes are smoked, transfer the garlic to a small bowl and mash with a fork or pass through a garlic press.
  4. Stir in the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper
  5. Serve as a dip with the potatoes.

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BRINED ROOT VEGETABLES AND CAULIFLOWER

Here’s my take on the brinded vegetables served at Bar Tartine. Even though mine are not nearly as good as those at the restaurant, they have turned out ok.

This exercise began at the farmers market. One of the vendors we especially like had some freshly-dug parsnips. That got me to thinking about brining some root vegetables, and I found some turnips and carrots at the grocery store. I couldn’t find anything green – I guess broccoli would have worked – so I settled on a mix of the four.

Then, of course, I had to drag out my Harsch Steinzeug sauerkraut crock. The task also gave me the opportunity to try out my copy of “The Art of Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz. My daughter, Carol, had given me the book as a gift, and I was so pleased because it has become a classic and the “standard” on the topic in just the short two years since it has been published. The only other things I needed were some Kosher salt and water.

My crock is 5 liters, which is just the right size for me, but it comes in larger and smaller sizes as well. If you haven’t seen a Harsch Steinzeur crock, it is a thing of beauty with a gleaming brown glaze, shaped handles, and a straight-sided lid with a stylish knob on top. It is also an example of German ingenuity and practical design. During my childhood, my grandmother made crocks and crocks of sauerkraut. The process was tedious and odoriferous. As well, skimming the scum off the top of the crocks took lots of attention for weeks.

My crock overcomes all of those problems. Inside are two half-moon weights that fit tightly together to keep whatever you are brining submerged. There are notches in the rim to provide escape for carbon dioxide, and there is a shallow trough around the lip that you fill with water to form an air-tight seal. That cuts down on the smell of fermenting vegetables. Once you have your system set up, and the vegetables start to ferment, you will hear an occasional “frog croak” as a burp of carbon dioxide escapes. That’s reassurance that things are going alright.

Some briners are careful to weigh out the salt and to balance it with enough water to make a brine of specific concentration, but you don’t need to do that so long as you make sure to add enough salt to make a good brine. Even though I peeled the vegetables, you don’t have to do that either, but I thought they would be more attractive with their peelings gone – especially the turnips and rutabegas.

I harvested my vegetables after about ten days of brining. They were still crisp with a briny, slightly pickled taste. If you want a stronger pickle, you can brine them longer, and you can check from time to time to see if the vegetables are to your liking. Just remember when you repack the crock to charge it with more salt and water and to seal the lid with water as you did at the beginning of the process.

So here’s what I did:

RECIPE

Brined Root Vegetables and Cauliflower

Ingredients

  • 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 rutabagas, peeled and cut into eighths, lengthwise
  • 3 turnips, peeled and cut into discs
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Kosher salt
  • water

Method

  1. Prepare the vegetables
  2. Arrange a single layer of mixed vegetables on the bottom of the crock. Sprinkle generously with salt.
  3. Repeat the process, layer by layer, until you have used all of the vegetables
  4. Arrange the half-moon weights so that they fit together and the vegetables are covered.
  5. Add water to cover the weights with at least two inches
  6. Place the lid on top of the crock, and move to a cool place out of the way of your cooking.
  7. When the crock is in place pour water into the groove around the lid and go about your business
  8. Check the level of water around the lid on a daily basis. Fill with more water if needed
  9. After about 4 4 days listen for the “burp”
  10. You should probably plan on at least 10 days before you check the vegetables. That will be a good time to remove any scum that might have formed on the weights, although there will probably be none or very little because of the air-lock system. If you want to brine the vegetables longer, sprinkle the top of the vegetables with more salt, adjust the water level, and replace the weights. Refill the watereseal around the lid and let the process work for another week.
  11. Remove and serve the vegetables whenever they suit your taste.

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LIPTAUER CHEESE

In a recent post, I described an amazing feast we enjoyed at Bar Tartine in San Francisco. One of the co-chefs, Cortney Burns, is featured in an article titled, “Dairy Queen” in the Spring, 2014 issue of Culture: the Word on Cheese, a beautiful quarterly magazine all about cheese. Before our recent visit to the restaurant, Sarah and Evan said we should be sure to get the Liptauer cheese spread. Unfortunately, it was not on the menu that night, so we didn’t get to give it a try. I’m not sure, but I suspect that Cortney is behind the spread being on the menu because of her obvious interest and expertise in cheese. Liptauer cheese, like the pimento cheese I wrote about a while back, is a classic from earlier days, commonly seen at cocktail parties. I guess with the renaissance of cocktails, there is a renewed interest in cheese spreads as well. Liptauer cheese is the name for both the soft, fresh, sheep’s milk cheese originating in Liptauer, Hungary, and the seasoned spread made and enjoyed in Austria, Germany, and other European countries.  You probably won’t be able to find the original Liptauer cheese at your local cheese monger, but fortunately you can make a reasonable facsimile using cottage cheese or cream cheese. If you want to turn your spread into a dip, just add enough sour cream to suit your taste. Also, for some tastes, this version may be a little bland. You can spice it up with cayenne or your favorite hot pepper sauce to taste.

RECIPE

Liptauer Cheese

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • anchovy filet, mashed (or about 1 inch of anchovy paste)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chives, minced
  • 1 tablespoon green onion tops, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cornichons
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • cayenne or pepper sauce (optional, to taste)
  • finely chopped chives or green scallions or paprika for covering the cheese ball.

Method

  1. In a food processor, pulse the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients until evenly combined.
  3. Refrigerate until firm, at least two hours or overnight. When firm, shape into a ball and cover in plastic wrap. Chill again.
  4. Roll the chilled cheese ball in chopped chives or green scallion tops (I used a mixture of garlic chives and scallions. Alternatively you can roll it in paprika.)
  5. Serve at room temperature with fresh, crusty bread – preferably dark rye – or crudités.

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EATING MY WAY THROUGH SAN FRANCISCO – BAR TARTINE

Recently we were visiting in San Francisco around the time of the birth of Sarah and Evan’s second child. By the way, it’s a boy! During our visit we, of course, paid a visit to Rich Table and had a great meal. But the night that Mommy and the new brother came home from the hospital, we wanted to make it a special family evening, so Susan and I went to Bar Tartine in the Mission district.

The restaurant is part of the Tartine group operated by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery fame. The co-chefs at Bar Tartine are Nick Balla and Cortney Burns, who are friends with Sarah and Evan. To help us celebrate the new baby, they really pulled out the stops to make it a memorable evening for us as well as for our family. They certainly did that!

The bread on the table was freshly baked  famous Tartine Country Loaf baked by Chad Robertson himself. The bread is one of the best in San Francisco. I say one of the best because Sarah makes a killer loaf of Douglas-fir scented levain for Rich Table.

Of course, we followed Sarah and Evan’s recommendations for what to order, though to tell the truth, I don’t think you can miss on ordering anything on the menu.

The brine-pickled vegetables are deceptively simple. A colorful plate of root vegetables comes to the table and you find immediately  that the fresh tastes and crunch  of each has been preserved even with a tangy, lightly pickled overtone.

Bar Tartine Brine pickled vegetablesThe potato flatbread with garlic and sour cream is a must. The beautiful presentation makes it almost too pretty to eat – almost, because when you take a bite, the flavors come together and literally seduce you to finish the whole thing.

Bar Tartine Potato flatbreadThe smoked potatoes with black garlic are very unusual. If you don’t like smoked foods, then don’t order them, because they are definitely rich with fresh wood smoke. The black garlic adds its own overtones. It is very popular in restaurants in the Bay Area as well as the whole country. It has been used in Asia for centuries as a food and as a health supplement, but it was commercialized in the US by Scott Kim. He says the garlic is fermented in conditions of controlled heat and temperature while others say it is not fermented but rather deeply caramelized by the Maillard reaction over several weeks. Whatever the process, the result is garlic that turns inky black,  given up its pungency, and gained a rich flavor that has been said to have elements of molasses, chocolate, and umami. Kim now provides the black garlic from his operation in Hayward, CA.  (Just down the road from Gilroy, the self-proclaimed “Garlic Capitol of the World”. ) You can learn more about the product or even order your own from Blackgarlic.  I can’t imagine someone not liking the very earthy flavor of this creative dish. The whole new potatoes are  beautifully garnished, tender and very tasty. Unfortunately my shaky image doesn’t do them justice.

Bar Tartine Smoked potatoesThe beet and blue cheese salad comes  beautifully presented. Now, I am not a big fan of beets in any form, but this salad makes even me a believer. The beets are sweet as they always are, but that plays off the blue cheese so well.

Bar Tartine Beet and blue cheese saladThe beef tartare on koji (an Asian “yeast” – a form of Aspergillus used to ferment various foods including miso, soy sauce, and sake) toast with bottarga (salt-cured fish roe) is beautiful. Fortunately we had a very informed server who filled us in on all of the ingredients. This is unlike any other beef tartare you have ever eaten.

Bar Tartine beef tartareI’ve eaten lentils lots of different ways, usually in a dal or soup, but never sprouted, so the visual impact of the sprouted lentil croquettes with kefir and coriander is spectacular, and the taste is unlike any of those other lentils that I have eaten.

Bar Tartine Sprouted lentil croquettesMy green chili fisherman’s stew with collard was very spicy – much too spicy for Susan – but it came as an emerald-green broth filled with seafood and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. And collard!! When one is used to the limp, damp clot that’s called collard greens in a Southern cafeteria line, you are unprepared for the lovely, delicious variation presented in this dish.

Bar Tartine Fisherman's stewHard as it is to believe, we had room for a little dessert “amuse” of meringues, rugalach, and candied fruit along with a complex carob mousse with goat cheese and black walnuts.

Bar Tartine kugeleh and meringuesBar Tartine Carob mousseAfter such an incredible feast we went back to our beds. In the meantime, the new family had their own very special celebration, and two new brothers got acquainted.

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