Tag Archives: Cortney Burns

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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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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