An Update from San Francisco


A little update from San Francisco…

Every town has its ups and downs and San Francisco has had its fair share but boy, is it throbbing at present. I’m here for a few days to attend the IACP (International Association of Cooking Professionals) Conference and to catch up on food trends,

Every restaurant is turning over tables like you can’t imagine, Nopa , one of my favourites served over 7,000 meals last week and the food is still super delicious.

The hottest new place seems to be State Bird Provision on Fillmore, We managed to get two seats at the counter despite the message on the answering machine which says no chance of a table for six weeks, and here they do Mediterranean and Asian dim sum, a brilliant concept, why didn’t someone think of that before now. Lots of small plates with zany combinations most of which seem to work well. Among the many delicious things I ate was the State bird and Provisions , a deep fried quail with the crispest coating with fresh pea shoots on a bed of caramelized onion  and Peking duck …spiced confit leg, chive crepes, cloud ears and plum sauce. An oyster with a citrus dressing was also gorgeous as was ruby red grapefruit and lime granita, rhubarb and yoghurt.

Lots of new ice cream, granita, gelato and sorbet places around doing interesting combinations, Scream and ICI are two of the best in Berkley.

Out in Oakland, the Brooklyn of San Francisco, I popped into Market Hall Foods, a collective of food shops and met Julianna Uruburu whose particular passion is cheese, her fromage section was incredibly impressive. It’s rare to see so many American farmstead and international cheeses in great condition. She organised for me to have a mozzarella demonstration there and then, they made their own Mozzarella a couple of times a week from fresh Jersey curds they get from a cheese maker in Vermont.

House-made charcuterie and bacon is a definite trend and the good news is new butchers are opening again but this new generation are showcasing heritage breeds and are really concerned as are their customers about sustainability and animal welfare. I visited Fatted Calf on Fell St and Olivier in Dog Patch.

Piggy plates of mixed pates, terrines and salumi are a feature of many menus; I particularly loved this one at Nopa.

Bi rite, family owned, is the hippest supermarket in San Francisco,  According to my sources over here Wholefoods are on the wane, be that as it may I really admire their meat grading system which I really think all supermarket and butchers would do well to emulate. They clearly illustrate how the animals are reared and fed, whether they are raised in a feed lot or pasture raised, organic, free range or caged. The prices vary accordingly but the consumer can make a decision based on the unvarnished facts.

Still out in Oakland ( about an hour from San Francisco) we checked out Bakesale Betty’s , an iconic spot on the corner of Telegraph  Avenue. Betty who used to wear a blue wig was famous for her chicken sandwich and pot pies but now because it’s such a favourite she only does the sandwich. There’s pretty much always a line outside, at least 25 people and almost as many more sitting at tables on the sidewalk made of recycled ironing boards. Five or six people are going flat out inside the counter churning out crispy buttermilk fried chicken and coleslaw with jalapeños and herbs (no mayonnaise ) inside a roll. It looks so good but we decide to head for Charlie  Hallowell’s Pizzaiolo instead but guess what, they are closed for lunch so they send us off to their new cafe on Grand Ave called Boot and Shoe Service, it’s got the same industrial look that so many of the new hipster places have. We had a delicious lunch from the short menu, several bright little lettuce salads, one with thinly sliced fennel and shavings of Pecorino, another with this new watermelon radish that’s looks great but doesn’t have a lot of flavour,

We also had a meatball sandwich in a roll with a tomatoey sauce and a little bit of frizzy lettuce and finely grated cheese on top. Really good, meatballs are everywhere .they also do a couple of great wood fired Neopolitan pizzas every day, I had the home made sausage, cimi di rape and mozzarella.

They also did a fantastic chopped chicken sandwich with mayo, teency capers, tiny celery and red onion dice, a little parsley , tarragon and lemon juice on warm chargrilled bread with gorgeous extra virgin olive oil. It was served with a half semi-hardboiled egg and a little rocket salad on the side. The sweet girl who served us insisted we have the Jasmine pot de crème with rhubarb compote and pink peppercorn shortbread and it was indeed sublime.

Shortbread is everywhere, flavoured with all manner of flavourings from lavender to espresso coffee. Chad Robertson at Tartine and Bar Tartine is using many different flours including buckwheat and kamut to make his shortbread.

Here, I had another very interesting chicken sandwich, a Vietnamese chicken salad on a potato brioche bun with aioli and a little dish of pickles carrot and mushrooms on the side. At Bar Tartine everyone is crazy about fermentation and pickles. Courtney Burns showed me around and their fridges and larders were like an Aladdin’s cave with all manner of pickles, sodas, infusions, dried herbs piled to the ceiling.

They make their own yoghurt, cheese, kefir, buttermilk, cultured butter and cream, the whey is used for pickles and drinks, really interesting stuff.

The chocolate and coffee craze continues to become ever more purist and specialised.

Blue Bottle, Four Barrel and Ritual are three of my favourites. They all roast and grind their own beans and have cafes where the coffee is by far the most important element and the small selection of buns and cookies are secondary.

Food trucks are still very much in evidence but now a collection of trucks called Off the Grid move to different locations around the city every day, which keeps the bricks and mortar guys happier. Cocktails and craft beers are still huge.

That’s a taste of the food trends in California.


Olive Oil and Rosemary Shortbread

Taken from the Bluebottle Craft of Coffee Cookbook


Makes 35 shortbread cookies / hands on time 20 minutes / from start to finish 4 hours


8oz (227g) unsalted butter at room temperature

4oz (115g) powdered sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary

1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

10oz (280g) all-purpose flour sifted

extra virgin olive oil for brushing


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sugar, rosemary and salt and mix on low speed until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then add the flour. Mix on low speed just until uniform in texture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Gather the dough into a ball, transfer to a piece of plastic wrap and flatten to form a rectangle measuring 7 by 10 inches (18 by 25cm) and about ½ an inch (1.3cm) thick. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 5 days. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the dough into small rectangles measuring 1 by 2 inches (2.5cm by 5cm) and place the cookies on the lined baking sheet, spacing them at least 1 inch (2.5cm) apart. Bake for about 18 minutes, until golden around the edges, rotating the pan midway through the baking time.

Brush the tops with olive oil as soon as the cookies come out of the oven. Let cool on the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing, and then cool completely before serving for optimal texture. Cooled completely and stored in an airtight container, the cookies will keep for up to 3 days.


Chad Robertson’s Nettle Fritatine


Serves 1 or 2


3 tablespoons olive oil

8oz (225g) approx. nettle leaves

Croutons (see recipe) made from 3 slices sough dough bread, crushed to make coarse bread crumbs

1 large egg

12oz (350g) home-made tomato sauce

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lemon wedge


Heat a heavy skillet over a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the nettle leaves. Remove the pan from the heat and stir and toss the nettles for about 2 minutes as they continue cooking. When the nettles are completely wilted, remove them from the pan and chop roughly.

In a bowl, combine the nettles, coarse crumbs and egg. Stir well to coat the crumbs and nettles with the egg.

Heat a 6 – inch skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the nettle mixture and distribute evenly in the pan. Cook until the edges appear crisp, about 2 minutes. Fold the omelette in half and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate.

Pour the tomato sauce into a skillet and heat over high heat. Carefully place the omelette in the sauce and simmer for about 30 seconds. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.




3 slices day-old bread, each 1 inch thick torn into 1 ½ inch chunks

2 tablespoons olive oil


½ teaspoon herbs de Provence (optional)


Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Mark 6. In a bowl, toss the torn bread with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. If you are using the herbs, add them too. Spread the bread evenly on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Midway through the baking time, redistribute the croutons if they are colouring unevenly.


Bread Crumbs – use your hands or a rolling pin to crush the croutons to the desired consistency. For a superfine texture, sift the crumbs through a sieve.


Tomato Sauce


1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 x 3oz can tomato paste

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 x 16 oz can whole tomatoes

red wine vinegar



To make the tomato sauce, heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sauté until the vegetables are soft about 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the paste turns a deep rusty red, 6 – 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook for two minutes. Add the whole tomatoes, raise the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, using a wooden spoon to mash the tomatoes into chunks. Season with vinegar and salt.


Chad Robertson’s Kale Caesar


Serves 4 – 6


Caesar Dressing



2 lemons

3 cloves garlic

6 olive-oil packed anchovy fillets

1 large egg yolk


16fl oz (450ml) olive oil

2 lbs (900g) black kale, centre stems removed and torn

croutons made from 4 slices of sough dough bread (see recipe)

3 ½ oz (100g) grated or shaved aged Parmesan cheese



To make the dressing, grate the zest from 1 lemon. Cut both lemons in half. Place the garlic, anchovies and lemon zest in a mortar and pound with a pestle to make a thick paste. Add the egg yolk, a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice and stir thoroughly to combine. Continuing to stir, pour in half of the oil drop by drop. The mixture should look smooth and creamy, a sign that you are building a stable emulsion. Continuing to stir, begin adding the oil in a slow stream. The dressing should thicken. Periodically stop pouring in the oil and add a squeeze of lemon. Taste the dressing and add more salt and lemon juice to taste. Add water, a small spoonful at a time, stirring to thin dressing to the constituency of heavy cream.

In a large bowl, combine the kale and croutons. Pour the dressing over the top and toss to coat. Add the Parmesan, toss again and serve.


Hot Tips


Celebrate World Sherry Day on Sunday 26th May 2013 – Manning’s Emporium will be hosting a sherry tasting event in Ballylickey, West Cork from 1pm – 5pm. An opportunity to taste sherries from the finest bodegas in Jerez and Sanlucar de Barrameda, matched with best artisan food Cork has to offer –


The 7th annual Burren Slow Food Festival on 17th, 18th, & 19th May 2013

Sample local artisan foods, meet local producers and growers, engage with fellow foodies, and enjoy cookery demonstrations. Events to look out for include Burren Food Forum with Sally & John McKenna, Michael Moran, world champion oyster shucker, Suzanne Campbell writer and broadcaster on food, farming and countryside, Seaweed Foraging, Beer Tasting & Organic Salmon tasting –

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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