I took off for San Francisco and the Napa/Sonoma region for 10 days of food, wine and research and development for Culinary Capers Catering’s menus from one of the most inspiring and thriving food scenes in North America. (Photo: left to right: Billy Kawaja, President of Culinary Capers Beijing; Debra Lykkemark; Michael Harries; Flora – Billy’s new bride)
THE FRENCH LAUNDRY | Napa
What a treat! 11 courses paired with wine – and as you can imagine – all with acute attention to detail and flawless execution. The tuna tartar cones were extremely delicate and crispy and the blinis were melt in your mouth. Many of the fruits and vegetables were grown in their own garden just across the street thus they were bursting with flavour and also because they use a lot of sous vide cooking which keeps the flavour locked in. We are doing sous vide for a lot of our menu items and many of the modern techniques we learned from Thomas Keller’s sous vide cookbook.
Picture: (left to right)
Burrata with croutons, baby squash, Greek basil, charred padron pepper vinaigrette
Salad of black Mission figs with petite onions, Piedmont hazelnuts, arugula, smoked soubise
Jardiniere de Legumes D’ Ete (from the tasting of vegetables menu) with Australian black truffle coulis
Strawberry shortcake with streusel, lemon curd, yogurt sherbet
LASALETTE RESTAURANT | Sonoma
The chances of successfully introducing an unfamiliar culinary concept in the heart of Northern California’s Wine Country were unsure for Chef Manuel Azevedo when he opened his LaSalette Restaurant in 1998. However, LaSalette Restaurant has thrived and is celebrating its 12th year, now in a new location just off old Sonoma Plaza. Bay Area restaurant “goers and gurus” continue to discover the unique gastronomic delights of Azevedo’s Cozinha Nova Portuguesa – contemporary Portuguese cuisine.
This was the special of the day – a whole fish called Bronzini (from the Mediterranean, part of the sea bass family). Roasted in a wood burning oven with a concassé of heirloom tomatoes, caramelized onions, fingerling potatoes and drizzled with Portuguese extra virgin olive oil. Yummy! One of the best fish dishes I have ever had.
Picture: (left to right)
Chorizo crusted day boat scallops – wood oven seared with Japanese sweet potato purée, leek confit and molho cru
Pan Roasted Mussels Na Cataplana – love the copper dish!
WENTE WINERY | Livermore, CA
Founded more than 125 years ago, Wente Vineyards is the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery. It is located in Livermore, about 45 minutes from San Francisco. They have a great lawn where they feature outdoor concerts throughout the summer. Check out their website for the concerts – everything from the Doobie Brothers to Diana Ross. Delicious food! Here’s a peak at the lunch we had on the estate.
Picture: (left to right)
Ember roasted beets with Moroccan spices, goat’s milk yogurt and pistachios
Lightly cured hiramasa kingfish with garden cucumbers, tomatillos and green grapes
Local rock cod with semolina gnocchi, summer beans and cherry tomato confit
BOULEVARD RESTAURANT | San Francisco
One of my standby favourites whenever I visit San Fran. Service is always very good and the kitchen is bustling! Great to watch the chefs preparing the beautiful food and sitting at the food bar you get to see everything on the menu and quiz the chefs on how they prepare it. It is a high energy restaurant that is always packed, serving the best of California cuisine.
Sitting at the food bar in front of the open kitchen
Watermelon Ice Cream Cake – layers of strawberry ice cream, vanilla chiffon cake, watermelon sorbet, orange blossom scented cream, vanilla wafer crust, strawberry pâte de fruit
MORIMOTO RESTAURANT | Napa
The food here was not only incredibly delicious but very creatively presented. They also have an open kitchen and a sushi bar you can sit at. The design of the restaurant is very modern industrial. One fun feature was that you walk into the restaurant through a hallway that also serves as the pass where the waiters pick-up the food. Feels like you are walking into the kitchen. Our waiter was incredibly passionate about the food and the interesting cocktails and did a great job of navigating us through the menu.
FERRY PLAZA FARMERS MARKET | Ferry Building
You can’t miss this as a stop when in San Francisco! It is a busy place! Many local farmers and food trucks set up for the day all around the Ferry Building. There’s also a demo kitchen set-up outside for local chefs to do free cooking classes. The merchants make 40% of their week’s sales on Saturday because the Farmers Market attracts so many people.
Some of my favourite stalls in the Ferry Building were:
Boccalone Salumeria – selling tasty salted pig parts and T-shirts saying “Tasty Salted Pig Parts” which Billy, my partner in China bought and wore and had plenty of people comment on!
Far West Funghi