Tag Archives: San Francisco

SHAMELESS COMMERCE

Our family has heard some exciting news from the Bay Area. Sarah and Evan have been working on a cookbook for well over a year. The process has included selecting recipes, testing them exhaustively, food styling sessions and long photo shoots along with extended conferences with editors. The book is due to be released on September 4. Amazon has it available for pre-order at $29.68. Of course, we have not seen the finished product or even the galleys. But we have heard all about the challenges, delays, deadlines, and disagreements that all go into the crafting of a book. Both Sarah and Evan have learned that book writing is a lot different from cooking. For them it is not as much fun.

The book features some of the foods that come out of the kitchens at Rich Table and RT Rotisserie, but it also includes comfort foods and accompanying family stories from childhood. Proud dad that I am, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy,

Here’s a look at the cover:

 

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Food, Restaurants

THE TRAIN FROM HELL, PART 2

What are the odds?

In 2014 I wrote about a train trip from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. Our arrival was delayed by 12 hours because of a series of events seemingly beyond the control of Amtrak and definitely beyond my control. The delay began even before the train arrived because of a tree that had fallen across the tracks somewhere in Kansas. (Do they even have trees in that part of Kansas?) Then a drunk driver ran into the engine at a crossing in Gallup, New Mexico that resulted in a delay of several hours. When we finally got going again, the train cruised along until it came to an abrupt stop somewhere around Winslow, Arizona. Amtrak was faced with an obligatory time limit on the crew so we waited in the desert until a relief crew could be brought in from someplace else. This took a couple of hours, during which time the power went out and the toilets quit working. Finally things were restored and the rest of the trip to LA was uneventful, except for passenger grousing.

Well, it happened again – at least a somewhat better version of the same story. We were on the famous train that hugs the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles all the way to Seattle. Our destination was San Francisco where we planned to enjoy the weekend with family. The day had been enjoyable with spectacular views of the surf pounding against towering cliffs as well as pastoral scenes of mountain valleys made a brilliant green from recent rains. Just outside of Soledad, home of the infamous Soledad Prison, the train came to a sudden stop and then sat there. Finally, there was an announcement that the engine had encountered “debris” on the track, and that the trip would resume after damage had been assessed. My guess was that the “debris” may have been an escaped prisoner. I turned out to be wrong, but only barely. After more long minutes of silence, the conductor  announced that the train had struck a trespasser who had been walking on the track. He had experienced only an injury to his arm and had been transported to the hospital. (How amazing is that?) The story rapidly became embellished amongst the passengers to include details that the victim had been walking his children along the track (??!!) but they were not injured.

There was another delay because as a routine, the engineer had to be replaced after the accident to recover and to investigate the accident. The replacement had to come from a long distance. Finally the wait was over, and the train resumed its journey only to stop again in Salinas. The crew had used up its allowed time, and so a crew change was required. (Sound familiar?) Again, the replacements had to come from some distance. After an hour or so, the train started up again only to stop a short way down the track to put on another car. While we waited, the power went out and lights went out, too. I’m not sure about the toilets, but the outage did not last long and we were once again on our way. Finally, after 2 AM, our train pulled into the station in Oakland where we caught a bus over the Bay Bridge, then to an Über, and finally to our daughter’s house at a little past 3 AM.

Susan had been heard to say on more than one occasion during the trip, “Train travel is so relaxing.”

2 Comments

Filed under Travel

RT ROTISSERIE-STYLE CHICKEN SOUP WITH FARRO

RT Rotisserie has been chugging along since its opening, refining the menu, adjusting staffing patterns, getting the delivery system worked out, and tinkering with other details related to opening a new restaurant. One issue that they have faced from the beginning is what to do with roasted chicken left at the end of the day. Planning supplies is one of the most difficult challenges that a restaurant, especially a new one, faces. Of course, you don’t want to run out while a customer is waiting for his or her order, and you don’t want to have so much leftover that it gets tossed out. If rotisserie chicken is your thing, the solution is to turn roasted chicken into chicken soup. Whole roasted chicken makes a delicious takeout, and roasted chicken on a Dutch crunch roll with a choice of sauces is what many customers are after. Unfortunately, chicken soup gets second billing. That’s too bad, because as far as I’m concerned, RT Rotisserie chicken soup should get star treatment. It is unlike any other chicken soup that I have ever eaten. It has a robust, earthy flavor, and it is filled with chicken and what I judge to be farro. As well, the broth is brimming with unusual vegetables and a blend of herbal flavors. It should be obvious that RT Rotisserie is not going to reveal their recipe, so I have tried to reconstruct the soup. Let me hasten to note that this is not the original version – and it is nowhere as good as the original. Still, it is a pretty good chicken soup in its own right. Since I don’t have a brass and enamel French Rotisol rotisserie in my kitchen, I had to do some substituting. I fried the chicken with barbecue dry rub and then finished it off in chicken stock. That gave the stock a roasted flavor that mimicked the real thing. You could use more or less farro, or you could substitute wheat berries or barley. There are lots of other substitutions that you can make the soup your own. As for me, I will have to be satisfied with my version until my next trip to San Francisco.

RECIPE

RT Rotisserie-Style Chicken Soup with Farro

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • dry poultry rub
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock
  • 1 cup dried farro
  • 3 baby bok choy
  • 1 cup chopped mint leaves
  • 1 cup chopped basil leaves
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup chopped parsley leaves
  • 5 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Place the chicken thighs in a sealable container, cover with buttermilk, and add salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally. Remove the chicken thighs from the buttermilk mixture, pat dry, and coat generously with dry poultry rub. Place in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight. Fry the chicken thighs over medium heat in a heavy pan with canola, turning occasionally until browned on both sides. In the mean time, bring the chicken stock to the boil in a heavy soup pot. Transfer the chicken thighs to the boiling liquid and cool at the simmer for 15 minutes or until the thighs are cooked through. Remove the cooked chicken to a plate to cool. Remove skin and bones from the thighs, cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
  2. Return the chicken stock to the boil. Stir in the farro and cook at the simmer for 20 minutes or until the grain is soft.
  3. Cut the bok choy in half crosswise then in fourths lengthwise. Add to the broth and return to the boil. Stir in the mint, basil. cilantro, parsley, scallions, and white and black sesame seeds. Return to the boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the bok choy is tender. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve while still hot.

Cook’s Notes

  • Undoubtedly you could skip the buttermilk brining, the dry rub, and the overnight drying, but I think that contributes to the rich flavor of the soup.
  • Our family uses a dry poultry rub for barbecuing chicken. We have had the recipe for years, but there are many dry rubs commercially available, and probably your family has its own favorite.
  • Farro is a grain that has been enjoyed in Italy for centuries. It has become increasingly popular in the United States, especially in restaurants. Farro usually refers to emmer wheat, a relative of our usual wheat, but it may also refer to other grains. You should be able to find it in a large, well-stocked grocery store, but if you can’t you can easily substitute wheat berries or pearled barley. For that matter, you could substitute rice or pasta. The amount is up to you.
  • One way to tell when the soup is cooked is to look at the white sesame. It will tend to float on the surface until it is cooked. That’s a good sign that the soup is ready.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants

THE BIG DAY HAS ARRIVED – RT ROTISSERIE OPENS

After months of planning, construction delays, major renovations, and recipe testing, RT Rotisserie opened during the Memorial Day weekend. The first day was a big success: A good-sized group was lined up before the doors opened, and the line at the order counter continued unabated through the lunch hour. There were the to-be-expected opening day hiccups. Staffing could have been different. Some of the dishes needed adjustments. Menu changes were already under discussion. And, of course, there was the inevitable and predictable plumbing emergency. In spite of all of that, the opening went smoothly, and Sarah and Evan returned home well after midnight, satisfied with the day.

We had travelled from Los Angeles to take care of the boys during opening week. That’s a challenge for a couple of old folks, but we managed to keep the little ones entertained. They only asked, “Where’s Mommy?”, a few times. Still, we did get a chance to try out the food at the restaurant. Our son and his family came up from Silicon Valley. They had originally planned to go on a canoeing and camping trip in the Sierras, but the road to their favorite lake had been damaged during the winter’s heavy storms. Instead, they joined us in a trip to RT Rotisserie after the lunchtime rush. Still, I think there was a little shock when eight of us appeared in line in a smallish space that seats 49. Later we learned that other large family groups had come in earlier in the day.

We enjoyed several things from the menu. First was the centerpiece of the offerings, rotisserie chicken. Preparation includes an overnight brining in house-made buttermilk fortified with brine and several herbs and spices. Then the brined chicken is air-dried in a large refrigerated walk-in for a day so that the skin will roast to a tasty crispness. Huge slabs of pork belly undergo similar treatments before they are filled with a tasty stuffing and then placed on the spit. Most surprisingly whole heads of cauliflower are given a similar preparation before they are roasted. When they came to the table in their own special sauce, they were unlike any cauliflower I have ever had. They could be a meal in themselves.

A parade of sauces, including chimichurri, Douglas fir sauce, brought the main items to new levels.

Sides were delicious: umami-dusted sweet potato fries, grilled potatoes, and a chicken soup with a rich broth filled with chunks of chicken, chopped vegetables, barley, and fragrant herbs. Dishes of strawberry- and milk-flavored soft serve ice cream in swirls kept the kids entertained while we waited for our food. Unfortunately we did not get to sample Sarah’s dessert, chocolate sablé ice cream sandwiches.

After all that food, we went home and tried to squeeze in a nap. With what must have been a sugar rush, the boys would have none of that. But they and we had had a good day, and RT Rotisserie seemed to be off to a good start.

8 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Restaurants

RT ROTISSERIE NEARLY THERE

A couple of weeks ago we went to the Bay Area for a few days to celebrate some family events and to give a hand where we could. Peter and René planned to celebrate their wedding anniversary with a stay by themselves in a nice San Francisco hotel. Ukulele lessons, soccer games, and practice for a science fair got in the way, so the whole family came to the city for a brief overnight and a visit with Sarah and her family in their new house.

Sarah and Evan decided that the stress of opening a new business was not enough, and so they also chose to buy a new house.  It is a remodeled century-old house near Ocean Beach with more room for their two boys than their small and seemingly shrinking apartment in the Presidio. Now they face the joys and travails of homeownership.

While we were there, Sarah worked on cannoli for  a special Italian wine dinner at Rich Table. Evan also worked on the Italian dinner menu along with supervising the painters and carpenters putting the finishing touches on RT Rotisserie. The original  goal was to have the restaurant inspected and opened within the week. Stress! That hasn’t worked out. City permits and inspections always take longer than one expects, and construction always gets slowed down by an unanticipated problem with plumbing, or a brick wall, or some such thing. Now the opening date seems established as Memorial Day weekend. We plan to return to San Francisco to give a hand with the boys so that Sarah and Evan can give full attention to the opening.

Rich Table had incorporated many of Sarah and Evan’s ideas about what a restaurant should be. They wanted the food to be sophisticated, the menu to change constantly, and the atmosphere to be casual enough that the diner can relax and just enjoy the food. They have certainly realized their goals.

RT Rotisserie has a different origin and a different vision. Sarah and Evan found a space just a block from Rich Table. It was in an old building in the style of the neighborhood and had been vacant for a couple of years. In its most recent iteration it had been a Chinese takeout, and the space needed a lot of renovations to make it workable. Rich Table had been opened on a shoestring; RT Rotisserie would require substantially more investment. Earthquake mitigation retrofitting was required. The basement floor had to be dug out with a new, lower floor. Walls were moved, and the insides were completely torn out.  The outside wasrefinished, but in keeping with codes about historical preservation. After six plus months of renovations, the space is beautiful and inviting. Planters with live plants adorn the walls. Shiny new chairs and tables are lined up. Brand-new walk-in cold room and freezer are in the basement. But the stars of the new equipment are a soft-serve ice cream machine and a beautiful red and polished brass rotisserie oven from France that could be a decorative piece instead of being the workhorse of the operation.

That says a little about the vision and the menu. The restaurant will welcome sit-down customers, but it will also encourage walk-ins and take-outs. The menu will be simple, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have the flavor and presentation that Rich Table has become noted for. The rotisserie will be used to roast porchetta, chicken and – for vegetarians or those who just like the taste – cauliflower. Sally Hurricane’s famous fried chicken will be available, and there will be a good choice of Rich Table-style sides. Who knows what they plan to do with the soft-serve, but I am sure it will be delicious. Good choices of beer and wine will also be available.

They’ve asked me to provide some of my images for wall decoration. I am deeply honored.

I can hardly wait to see the grand opening. I hope that it will be a big success.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Restaurants

EXPLORING FOOD IN SAN FRANCISCO

I’ve discovered that Californians like to identify significant landmarks with “The” tacked on to the front. This last week, we visited our children and their families in The Bay Area. To get there, we drove up The 405 (Interstate Highway 405) and then The 5 (Interstate Highway 5). We stopped at my son’s house in Silicon Valley (Why no “The”?) and then up The 101 to stay with my daughter in The Presidio. We didn’t visit The Mission or The Tenderloin, but you get the idea. Of course, in Texas, alums are adamant that you know that they were graduated from The University (of Texas at Austin, of course.)

A visit to San Francisco always means we will do a lot of eating, so we went prepared, and we were not disappointed. This post will describe some of the places where we ate. You will probably not have heard of most of them. San Francisco is filled with temples of fine dining that you already know about. They all get lots of publicity, so they don’t need any more. The places we visited on this trip are neighborhood spots in parts of the city away from tourist meccas like Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, or Golden Gate Park and Golden Gate Bridge. The food may not be as fancy as in the high-end restaurants, but it is every bit as delicious.

Of course, one of our stops was Rich Table in Hayes Valley. Sarah joined us at the dinner table while Evan worked as expediter at the pass. He used the opportunity to send us one of everything on the menu. Lucky – and stuffed – us. RT is known for its changing menu of cocktails. One thing they like to do is to put a twist on the old classics. The Southern Belle is a delicious variation on the whiskey sour, The Jefferson is a dressed up old fashioned, and the Paradisi is a refreshing spin on the margarita. Probably next week the choices will be completely different. One of the appetizers was described as fried chicken madeleines with Tsar Nicoulai caviar and crème fraiche. The madeleines were made with bits of crispy chicken skin and tasted of fried chicken. I have never before had a savory madeleine. Pork shank spring rolls looked like regular spring rolls, but the filling was seasoned so differently and so elegantly that they were unique. They were paired with black garlic dipping sauce. Black garlic can’t be compared with regular garlic; it has a rich and complex flavor. French onion dip was as far removed from the Lipton’s onion soup variety as you can get. Besides, it was topped with trout roe and wheatgrass and served on a crisp wafer of lavash. For just a bite, pomelo wedges were combined with sansho pepper and wrapped in thin ribbons of hearts of palm. Very tasty and very refreshing. Miyagi oysters in their zebra-stripe shells came from Marin, and were served with a toasted sunchoke mignonette. There was more and more, but I have to describe the desserts as well. We had three different ones. The big hit had just come on the menu. It was described as coconut cake with lime meringue and brown-butter ice cream, but it was so much more than that. There is an even newer dessert, but we didn’t get to taste it because Sarah was still working out the recipe. It’s called the Rich Table Candy bar. The components include chocolate cremeaux, pecan butter crunch, and sorrel. The pecans are caramelized and then toasted to give an ethereal crunch. Sarah sent me a picture.

The next day we checked out the space for Sarah and Evan’s new venture, RT Rotisserie. The future restaurant is in the next block, and they have completely renovated the interior. They hope that they will be up and running in a month or so. Renovations always take longer than you think.

While we were in the neighborhood, we decided to have lunch in a bakery and pastry shop just across the street from Rich Table. The place is called 20th Century Café; it is owned by a woman who has been the pastry chef in a number of high-end, high-pressure kitchens. She knows what she is doing. When you enter the front door, you immediately get the subtle joke. The place is retro from the antique sconces on the wall to the marble-topped tables and mismatched chairs. Most of the menu items are updated versions of old timey classics, and the pastries are like those that you remember from your childhood. They make their own bagels so you know that they are fresh while still being retro. The owner goes along with her own joke. Her red hair is done in bangs and she has bright red lipstick. She wears a frilly flowered dress with matching necklace, and her feet are shod in low high heels and bobby sox. We enjoyed the perfectly cooked baked eggs and “everything” bagels with salmon and a schmear of cream cheese. Three of us shared a slice of the impossibly 10-layered Russian honey cake. Honey was the predominant flavor, but it was not overpowering.

Another day we spent in Outer Richmond. We did just a quick pass down Balboa Street. Outer Richmond is one of the many San Francisco neighborhoods that are rich with small restaurants and a dizzying choice of cuisines. In a single block on Balboa one could choose pho, bánh mi (separate shops), two kinds of Italian, Thai, Chinese, American, Indian, Middle Eastern, French, and probably several others. For our first stop was at an eclectic café called Cassava that specializes in breakfast and in eggs. It also turned out to be a good choice for lunch. The fried egg and avocado sandwich was delicious, with a runny-yolk egg peeking out from the toasted bread. The Randwich! was a hunk of focaccia filled with turkey, cheddar cheese, pesto, and a poached egg – similar ingredients, but a totally different flavor profile. The baked burrata and summer squash was creamy but it reminded me a bit of queso fundido without the chorizo. It was delicious, and with a glass of wine to wash it down, it was outstanding. The evening menu sounds to be much more adventuresome, with braised beef cheeks, salmon, octopus, and fish collar.

Next we stopped by the Marla Bakery because we were out of bread and had enjoyed one of their loaves earlier in the week. The store front caught my eye because of the artistic display of an enormous selection of artisanal breads. Once inside, we bought a loaf of sprouted wheat and another of sourdough. It was not our intention to sit down. But hey, how can you pass up a slice of chocolate cake? We didn’t.

Before we headed home, we stopped back in Silicon Valley to say goodbye to my son and his family. Peter, Susan, and I had lunch at the Cuisinett. This little bistro on the main street of San Carlos gives a fond nod to France. Many of the decorative posters are in French, several of the wait staff speak French, an impressive wine list is French, and the menu is definitely French comfort food. I had the French steak sandwich with brie and excellent frites, Peter had the salmon Provençal special, and Susan chose a delicious soup.

Then it was home. It rained every day while we were in the Bay Area. Apparently it rained every day in LA. When we drove by the San Luis Reservoir on Pacheco Pass it was filled nearly to the brim – something I had never seen. The same was true at Pyramid Lake just before you head down the Grapevine into the LA Basin. I hope that neither reservoir will have the tragic problems they are experiencing at Oroville.img_0888

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Restaurants, Travel

SALLY HURRICANE’S SOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that our daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Evan Rich, run a popular restaurant in San Francisco named Rich Table. The food there has been described as “New American” and generally  is based on the current offerings available in the bounteous farmers’ markets of the Bay Area.

But Sarah has roots in the South as well as having two grandmothers who were excellent home cooks. Both grandmothers took pride in their fried chicken. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and cream gravy along with home-baked biscuits were staples on the Sunday dining room table at our family farm in East Texas.

That’s also where Sarah got the nickname, Sally Hurricane. As a two-year-old she ran the show. One family photograph shows her wearing her great aunt’s wig borrowed from a wig stand in a back bedroom.

Hurricane Sally

Hurricane Sally

Sally Hurricane has been cooking fried chicken from the recipe in our family cookbook since before she went to culinary school. She has made her version (now revised and considerably improved) for family meals at upscale restaurants in New York City and San Francisco. Inevitably, regardless of the restaurant, when fried chicken and biscuits were the family meal menu, cheers went up from both the front of the house and kitchen staffs.

This week, Sally Hurricane is revealing some treasured family secrets in the food section of the San Francisco Chronicle.  She also gives the recipe for mashed potatoes that she learned when she worked for David Bouley. You might enjoy a preview.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/recipes/article/Sarah-Rich-taps-family-recipe-for-Southern-style-8313792.php?t=e37fe5da3d8cb1714c&cmpid=twitter-premium#photo-10076970

 

 

 

20 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants