All posts by Penny Sadler

Penny Sadler writes about travel, food, wine, and destination stories about the places she lives and loves at Adventures of a Carry-on and around the web. She's a foodie who forgets to eat...but her friends say she's always seen eating something. Italy, the home of the slow food movement, is a favorite destination, and she's recently added to her credentials by completing the WSET level 2 exams - she's now a certified wino.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes RecipeOn a Wednesday night in Larchmont Village in the heart of Los Angeles, every table at Vernetti was full. The owner and chef Steve Vernetti was in the house, moving between the kitchen and the dining room, talking to everyone as though they were old friends. Indeed, it was obvious that there were many regulars. Vernetti is a neighborhood restaurant, the kind of place you come to rely on for all the important events of life – birthdays, anniversaries, and first dates. The atmosphere was lively, casual, and comfortable. There’s a modern European bistro aesthetic, thanks to Steve’s wife Joanne, who worked with designer David Thompson on the remodel of the original space. The staff made us feel like rock stars. The food was excellent.

His chef training started early. Vernetti notes, “Growing up, we learned how to butcher our goats, pigs, chicken, and turkeys. My brother and I got up at 5 every day before we went to school and milked the goats. We learned how to grow our food. My mother bought me my first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The first thing I made from that book was chocolate eclairs.”

Before settling in Los Angeles in the 90s, Vernetti traveled throughout Europe, gathering influences from Berlin, Paris, Venice, Amsterdam, and Florence. He then lived in London for seven years, working with Chef Charles Fontaine at Quality Chop House and Le Caprice. It is easy to see the old world influences mixed with the new at Vernetti, where Steve is in the kitchen every day experimenting with inventive takes on classic recipes.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

He’s also a thoughtful owner – “Working in the restaurant industry for as long as I have, I want my staff to be happy. We run a place where my dishwashers are key players in the business, just as much as the front of the house. We need the staff to be happy. If they are happy, my customers will notice it and they will be happy, too.”

We decided to try many dishes and share them round, starting with the gnocchi, a traditional northern Italian dish that is typically a rather dense potato pasta. This gnocchi was light and airy, rich with ricotta cheese and egg yolks, and topped with sage butter.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

We followed the gnocchi with vongole and shrimp scampi, since Vernetti is known for their house-made pastas. You’ll definitely want to try at least one.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Linguine alla Vongole
i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Shrimp Scampi

Dessert was a trifecta of orange cannoli, strawberry cheesecake, and chocolate mousse. Hey, there were three of us! I didn’t eat all of this on my own. Look, though…

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Chocolate Budino

Vernetti has an excellent wine menu, with a selection of Italian wines that covers the boot from north to south. There are also some great California wines on the menu. We decided to order by the glass so we could pair a different wine with each dish, which I think is a lot more fun. If you find something you love, you can always order more! You can also bring your own bottle and pay the corkage fee of $25.00. If wine is not your thing, Vernetti’s has a decent beer selection, though I confess my knowledge of beer is limited. I prefer the juice of the grape.

Vernetti is a neighborhood restaurant, and since I’m not a local there, I felt quite lucky to have found it. It reminded me of an Italian trattoria where the owners are always there and live nearby. The menu is fresh, and dishes are served until they run out of the ingredients to make that particular dish. I recommend this restaurant to everyone!

Steve Vernetti’s philosophy is to “feed the community as I do my family, providing a special place to celebrate all the amazing things that happen when sharing a delicious meal.” Cin Cin, Steve Vernetti.

 

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking? 41 years

What is your favorite food to cook? Thanksgiving dinner

What do you always have in your fridge at home? strawberry jam

What do you cook at home? everything

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? hunger

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? unadventurous

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail? wine

Your favorite cookbook author? Julia Child

Your favorite kitchen tool? my tongue

Your favorite ingredient? salt

Your least favorite ingredient? kale

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes RecipeLeast favorite thing to do in a kitchen? dishes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? French, Italian, & British

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? beef

Favorite vegetable? potato

Chef you most admire? Eric Rippert

Food you like the most to eat? sweetbreads prepared by my mother

Food you dislike the most? anything that has the word molecular in it

How many tattoos? one

And if so, how many are of food? None

Recipe: Vernetti’s Semolina Pancakes

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

Ingredients
2cups Semolina
2cups all purpose flour
4tsp baking powder
2tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt

Sift dry ingredients in a bowl and add:
4eggs
3-4 cups buttermilk (plain whole milk will work)
1/2cup vegetable oil

Directions
Mix but leave lumps. Use well oiled cast iron pan or griddle on medium high heat and brush browned tops with melted butter – enjoy!

 

 

The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite with Napa’s Chef Sean O’Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za’atar Roasted Chicken

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted ChickenSean O’Toole, the chef/owner of critically acclaimed TORC in downtown Napa, developed a passion for locally farmed produce early on in his cooking career. Originally from Massachusetts, O’Toole has a broad understanding of global cuisines and techniques as well as a deep appreciation of locally sourced, artisanal foods.

Over the course of his cooking career, O’Toole cooked at San Francisco’s Ritz Carlton hotel, Restaurant Maximin in France, and Tabla Restaurant and Café Boulud in New York City. He cooked as Sous Chef at San Francisco’s Fifth Floor restaurant and Masa’s, Chef de Cuisine at Alain Ducasse’s Mix in Las Vegas, the Culinary Director of San Francisco’s Mina Group, Executive Chef at Bardessono in Yountville, and Chef/Director of Kitchen Operations at San Francisco’s Quince and Cotogna.

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted Chicken

O’Toole is culinary focused on cooking with the region’s bountiful selection of fresh products, forging longstanding relationships with the people that produce, forage, and glean them. His combination of experience, passion, and culinary skill define O’Toole’s ingredient-driven cuisine at TORC — a very personal endeavor that reflects his family heritage, and the culinary influences and mentors that have shaped his career.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook?
Any

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Straus greek yogurt

What do you cook at home?
Mostly meats and grilled vegetables

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted ChickenWhat marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
People who know what they want

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Indecisiveness

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
In that order: beer, wine, cocktails

Your favorite cookbook author?
Currently David Thompson

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Microplane

Your favorite ingredient?
Any mushroom wild and foraged

Your least favorite ingredient?
Ripe papaya

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Direct unmotivated people

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted Chicken

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French infused American

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Artichoke

Chef you most admire?
Currently Chef Jean-Francois Piège

Food you like the most to eat?
Chicken wings

Food you dislike the most?
Ripe papaya

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
One!

Recipe: Sumac and za’atar roasted chicken with roasted vegetables

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted Chicken

Recipe serves 4 people

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon ground sumac
2 teaspoons za’atar (Eastern Mediterranean spice blend containing thyme, cumin, sumac, and sesame seeds)
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 2 1/2- to 3-pound chicken, wings and wishbone removed

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Soften 2 tablespoons of the butter to room temperature and combine with the parsley, sumac, za’atar, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Fill a small disposable piping bag (or plastic bag with a corner snipped off) with the mixture and reserve.
Place the piping bag under the skin at the top of the breast and squeeze the butter mixture under the skin. Using your hands, spread it out to cover the whole breast. With butchers twine, make a loop below the knee joints on the drumsticks. Pull the neck skin underneath the bird and tuck the drumettes. Using the twine looped around the legs, tie a knot.
Coat the outside of the chicken with the remaining tablespoon of soft butter, and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a hot cast iron pan. Cook the chicken in the oven for 50 minutes, basting with the renderings every 10 minutes. Remove the chicken to rest and reserve the pan and the renderings to roast the vegetables.
Roasted vegetables:
1 piece fennel bulb, cut into quarters and cored
6 white pearl onions, peeled
6 small potatoes, cut lengthwise into quarters
Finely grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon
10 Taggiasca olives, pitted
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Increase the oven temperature to 425° F. Toss the potatoes and fennel in the pan that was used to roast the chicken, so that they are coated with chicken renderings. (You may also choose to roast the vegetables in a clean pan, tossed in the renderings and additional butter or olive oil, if needed.) Roast for 15 minutes, then add the pearl onions and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Drain the excess renderings from the pan if necessary, then toss with the zest, olives and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, quarter the chicken and cut the legs in half, at the joint between the drumstick and thigh. Serve the chicken and vegetables together on individual plates, or pass family-style.

 

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco’s Famed Acquerello

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed Acquerello“When opportunity knocks on your door, you have two choices (and) if I had waited until I felt ready, I would’ve missed what has turned out to be the greatest opportunity of my life,” says Chef Suzette Gresham, referring to Acquerello, the almost 27-year old Italian restaurant she co-owns with Giancarlo Paterlini. A friend had tipped off Gresham that there was an opening for an executive chef under the management of Paterlini. At the time, as a young chef, Gresham didn’t feel qualified, but decided that failure was nothing more than not meeting someone else’s expectations. She applied for the job – and the rest, as they say, is culinary history.

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed AcquerelloSince the opening of Acquerello in San Francisco’s posh Nob Hill neighborhood, the recognition and accolades just keep coming. Acquerello received its first Michelin star in the introductory 2007 Bay Area guide. In 2014, Gresham received the second star, making her the third woman in the United States and the second in San Francisco to receive this prestigious honor.  Chef Gresham is also only one of two women to receive the American Culinary Federation’s “Antonin Careme Award” – the other was Julia Child.

Chef Gresham remains true to her belief that you must understand the very basics of cooking before you can become a great chef.  She takes an innovative approach to Italian cuisine at Acquerello, allowing her curiosity, creativity, and passion for all things Italian to manifest in an innovative manner. However, she remains true to the heart of Italian cuisine: clean fresh ingredients, sourced locally, prepared lovingly and with attention.

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed AcquerelloWhile Gresham believes in flavor above all, she prides herself on the definability of her food. “If you close your eyes and put the fork in your mouth, you should still be able to tell what you’re eating,” she comments. In the end, there are no tricks to the cuisine at Acquerello, no attempt to dazzle beyond the inherent capability of the plate’s ingredients.

Over the course of her thirty-five year career, and beyond the laurels, Chef Gresham’s approachable manner has allowed her to mentor over sixty interns and apprentices at Acquerello. It’s her belief that she has had more than her share of the “good stuff” in life. In giving back, Gresham shares her knowledge and commitment to turning out the very best in every person who works in her kitchen. In an industry dominated by men, Chef Suzette Gresham has become one of the most influential chefs in the world.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed Acquerello

How long have you been cooking? Chronologically: For two-thirds of my life.

What is your favorite food to cook?  At home: Soup. Japanese Chiriashi. Hainan chicken. Duck Larb. Or, whatever my daughters request.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? I am a condiment whore. I can cook in almost any cuisine at a moment’s notice based on what I have on hand. I am never without a variety of imported butter, mustards, multicultural pickled items, truffle oil, and oodles of hot sauces.

What do you cook at home? From one end of the spectrum to the other: Seafood sashimi and crudos to long-cooking braised items like pig’s feet with cannellini beans.

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed Acquerello
Chef Suzette Gresham and co-owner Giancarlo Paterlini

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? Curiosity.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?  Closed mindedness.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? All three: Clear plastic containers with matching lids, Vintage Pyrex, heat resistant Rubbermaid spatulas.

Beer, wine, or cocktail? All three: Chilled, fresh homemade beer, Italian Barolo wine, and a “Mountain Man” cocktail or other crafted drinks created by Christopher Longoria.

Your favorite cookbook author? Seriously? There are cookbooks in every room of my house, including the bathroom.  I want to hear everyone’s voice.

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed Acquerello
Papparedelle with Duck Ragu

Your favorite kitchen tool? At home: Super sharp, pointed scissors. At work: “tickets” which are micro tongs. (A gift from a past employee carried back from Spain.)

Your favorite ingredient? Monocultivar Olive oil.

Your least favorite ingredient? Lavender. Although I can cook with it.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Stand around.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Global.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?All three: Wagyu Beef seared, Chicken stock with Matzoh balls, Nonna’s skin-on pork roast, Tofu skins stuffed with mushrooms.

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed Acquerello
Truffled Leek Torta with Seasonal Mushrooms, Sunchokes and Vegetable Glaze

Favorite vegetable?Leafy greens: Swiss chard, rapini, spinach, and all bitter greens.

Chef you most admire? Massimo Bottura: He has never relented in following his dreams. He is true to himself AND his food.

Food you like the most to eat? Great naked salads of wild greens. Unusual sushi. Properly seared Foie gras. Big pearl Royal Osetra caviar.

Food you dislike the most? Sea slugs.

How many tattoos?  As a Chef and a woman… I always leave something to the imagination.

And if so, how many are of food? Notice above. I listed “chef” first… you can decide.

Recipe: Acquerello’s Scallop Crudo with Carrot Vinaigrette

i8tonite: Two-Michelin Starred Chef Suzette Gresham from San Francisco's Famed Acquerello
Scallop Crudo with Carrot Viniagrette

*Chef Suzette Gresham notes: The photo of the scallops is beautiful. It is meant to inspire and not restrict. It seemed to be one of the most do-able of our recipes and is open to interpretation. The Scallops create a clean canvas with which to pair your favorite flavors. The carrots are a surprising and colorful yet underrepresented vegetable in an elegant setting. It just shows that with a little mindfulness, what you can create. You don’t need to have exotic ingredients to create something delicious, as long as you are creative.

The recipe can be adapted any way you like and you can use whatever tools you have. For example you can poach, sautee, or steam the scallops if you like. You can use beets instead of carrots. Or any veggie, Drizzle with olive oil. You don’t really need xatham gum. Make it your own. This recipe is just meant as a template.

Recipe/Instructions

Scallops:

  • Size 16/20’s scallops
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon zest
  • Salt

Place scallops, olive oil, lemon zest, and salt in vac bag. Vacuum seal. Place vacuum-sealed scallops in a circulated water bath at 54C for 25mins.  After cooked, ice down until 33F. Slice scallops.

Carrot Vinaigrette:

  • 2C fresh carrot juice
  • 1T Apple cider vinegar
  • .2% xathan gum
  • Salt to taste

Blend carrot juice in vita-mix with apple cider vin. Add xathan gum. Season to taste.

Red Pepper gel :

  • 6 Large bell peppers juiced
  • 2 tien tsin chilies
  • Chili Flakes
  • Gellan gum 1%
  • Xathan gum .02%
  • Salt to taste

Bring bell pepper juice and tien tsin chilies to boil in small pot, turn off heat cover and steep for 10 mins. Strain out chilies with fine mesh strainer. Weigh reserved juice in grams. Add 1% gellan gum and bring to boil to activate. Cool until set in metal 3rd pan.

Once set, blend gel in vita-mix with a small pinch of chili flakes. If need, add water to get desired consistency. Add Xanthan gum just to keep gel from weeping. Pass gel through fine mesh strainer to remove chili flake particles. Vac to 100% in Cryo-Vac machine in metal 6pan to remove suspended air and brighten color.

Carrot ‘Flowers’:

  • Carrot tips, about 3″ in length.
  • Fry oil

Slice carrot tips into rounds on mini mandolin, bring fry oil up to 250F add sliced carrots.

Fry until carrots curl up. Drain carrot flowers off onto paper towels and place in dehydrator for 2 hours to crisp up.

Garnish:

Pulsed Marcona Almonds, High quality finishing oil to drizzle, Micro Greens/Herbs

The End. Go Eat

I8tonite with San Francisco’s Anzu Chef Michael Raub on Asian Fusion Cuisine & Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi Recipe

Anzu’s Chef Michael Raub‘s story is one that seems to exemplify the phrase, “Life is what happens when you’re making plans.”

San Francisco’s Anzu Chef Michael Raub on Asian Fusion Cuisine & Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi RecipeFrom Texas barbecue to the French Laundry to Asian-Fusion cuisine, Michael Raub, Executive Chef at the Hotel Nikko San Francisco, didn’t plan a career in the restaurant business.

Though cooking was a big part of his youth (with not one, but two grandmothers in the kitchen at every family gathering), his coursework was in marketing while at university in Houston, Texas. After college, he went to Colorado to pursue an internship in the hospitality industry. It was there that fate (or life) took over, and Michael’s career in the restaurant business really began.

After a brief return to Texas, he pursued the best of the best: The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. His ambition and initiative served him well, and he was soon on his way to Napa Valley, California, where he interned at Bouchon, quickly moving on to a full time position as Garde Manager. In 2010, he was promoted to Sous Chef. Michael stayed with the Keller Group for four years, also working at Ad Hoc and the French Laundry, a Michelin three star restaurant.

In 2012, Michael accepted a position as Executive Sous Chef at Ame Restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel, San Francisco, where he worked with Hiro Sone, winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chefs of California award.

Michael credits both of his grandmothers with instilling in him an appreciation of good food and fresh ingredients, his first employers with his work ethic, and his determination with a bit of luck, for the opportunity to work alongside some of the best chefs in the business.

ANZU restaurant, Hotel Nikko, San FranciscoAnzu is the perfect venue, allowing him to create dishes like Sichuan Peppered Filet Mignon and Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi (recipe below). The menu incorporates his love of high quality meats and fresh local sustainable seafood. It seems that life was just waiting to bring Michael’s particular blend of experience and skill to Anzu at the Nikko.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
16 Years

What is your favorite food to cook?
I love cooking with fresh seafood. It is very delicate and takes constant attention.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Kimchi

ANZU restaurant, Hotel Nikko, San FranciscoWhat do you cook at home?
I love the experience of smoking fish and meat all day to make delicious Barbeque. A great way to spend a day off!

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I haven’t served a customer in a very long time. What I find appealing about one of our guests is a sense of adventure.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Rudeness

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex, but prefer a good old fashioned mason jar.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Right now, I can’t put Dominique Crenn’s new book down

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My hands

Your favorite ingredient?
The lettuces and herbs we are getting from Ecopia Farms right now!

Your least favorite ingredient?
Lavender

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Leave for the day

ANZU restaurant, Hotel Nikko, San FranciscoFavorite types of cuisine to cook?
French, Japanese, Italian, and Korean

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu?
Chicken

Favorite vegetable?
Whatever is at the peak of the season

Chef you most admire?
Laurent Gras

Food you like the most to eat?
Grilled Fish

Food you dislike the most?
Hard Boiled Eggs

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
0

Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi Recipe from at Anzu Restaurant, Hotel Nikko, San Francisco
Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi

Recipe: Citrus Grilled Mahi Mahi with Thai Green Curry
Serves 4

Ingredients:

Curry

  • 1 T Olive Oil
  • 3 T Green Curry Paste
  • 1 Shallot (Minced)
  • 1 Inch Peeled Ginger (Minced)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (Minced)
  • .5 Each Lemon Grass (Chopped)
  • 1 C Coconut Milk
  • 1 C Dashi
  • 5 Each Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • 1 T Fish Sauce
  • 1 T Brown Sugar
  • 2 Bunches Thai Basil
  • 1 C Baby Spinach

Citrus Cure

  • 2 T Kosher Salt
  • 1 T Sugar
  • 1 Lime (Zested)
  • 1 Lemon (Zested)
  • 1 Orange (Zested)
  • 1 t Cracked Coriander
  • 4 each 5 Ounce Mahi Mahi Portions
  • 1 Large Butternut Squash
  • 12 Mixed Marble Potatoes
  • 4 C Baby Spinach
  • 1 Clove Garlic (Minced)
  • .5 Lime

For the curry, heat the oil in a medium heavy bottom pot on high heat until slightly smoking.
Add the shallot, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass and brown for about two minutes.
Add the curry paste and kaffir limes and continue cooking another minute. Add the coconut milk and dashi and bring to a simmer.
Add the sugar and fish sauce and cook for thirty minutes.
Season to taste and let cool to room temperature.
Remove the kaffir lime leaves and place the curry in a blender with the spinach and basil.
Puree until completely smooth and pass through a fine mesh strainer.

For the citrus cure, combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and reserve.

Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and flesh. Peel the outer layer and cut into one inch pieces and roast in the oven at 400 degrees.
Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Season the mahi with the citrus cure and grill until medium to medium well. The internal temperature should be 150 degrees F.
Take the half of lime and place on the grill, flesh side down, until a dark caramel crust forms.
We like to finish our mahi in the oven on a smoking plank of cherry wood.
Take a large sauté pan and heat up a small amount of olive oil and place the garlic in the pan and sweat for thirty seconds.
Place the spinach in the pan and cook until just wilted.

Blanch the mixed marble potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender. Heat the curry and add the squash and potatoes.
Ladle the curry in four separate bowls and top with the wilted spinach.
Serve the fish on the side on the wood planks, so you can add the fish as you eat the curry.

The End. Go Eat.

 

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Anzu at the Hotel Nikko, San Francisco

Finding Food, Friends, and Conversation On The Road – My Most Memorable Meals of 2015

This is a memorable guest post from Penny Sadler, blogger at Adventures of a Carry-On. 

My best meals of 2015

I grew up in a big family, but as a teenager there was a period of time when it was just my dad and I living together. Neither one of us was a whiz in the kitchen, so we often ate dinner out. Those early dining experiences ingrained in me a love for delicious food and conversation. They shaped who I am today – a good listener and a good conversationalist, with a penchant for excellent food (preferably cooked by someone else), with a healthy dose of listening and sharing by all parties at the table.

Writing about my top five most memorable meals of 2015 was easy…except that I had so many memorable meals. When I really thought about the meals that stood out for me, I noted that I was always traveling. From San Francisco to Piedmont, Italy, 2015 was a year of new food experiences and wine pairings. Another reason these meals were memorable…all of my favorite meals this year included reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances or dining with new friends. And of course, great conversation.

Cacio e Pepe at Locanda - one of my favorite meals this year
Cacio e Pepe at Locanda – one of my favorite meals this year

California: Locanda – The Mission: Let’s begin in San Francisco, voted the best food city in the USA by Bon Appetit Magazine.  I can’t disagree. I had several memorable meals in San Francisco. but the one that really stands out for me was dinner at Locanda  in the Mission District. Owners Craig and Annie Stoll have turned to Rome for the inspiration behind Locanda – and for this reason, I was eager to try it.

Aside from being some of the best Italian food I’ve eaten in the US or Italy (there’s an Italian who is going to argue with me about this I know), what made this meal special was my dinner companion. I met Jody on New Year’s Day in Cambria, California, under not the best of circumstances. I fell on the beach and couldn’t get up. Jody rescued me. Jody lives in Mill Valley, I live in Dallas. We met up in San Francisco almost a year later, and had an amazing dinner and wine pairing at Locanda.

Locanda - home to one of the best meals I ate in 2015
Locanda

I decided to try the Cacio e Pepe for a primi. It’s about as basic as you can get – pasta, cheese, and pepper with some olive oil. And yes, it did remind me of Rome. For an entrée, I had the Pancetta-wrapped Mary’s Chicken with Anson Mills polenta and grilled turnips.  I rarely ever order chicken, but Mary’s Chicken is a family-owned business that has been raising free-range, organic chickens for three generations.  The dish had the perfect blend of flavors – slightly salty, savory, and the perfect portion size. The sommelier paired it with a Francesco Rinaldi Barbaresco. The dark red fruit and licorice flavors of the wine were a perfect balance with the savory notes of the pancetta and chicken. Jody had the Berkshire Pork Saltimboca paired with a lovely Beaujolais. She left with a doggie bag. For dessert, we had a Barolo Chinato. It’s a dessert wine with aromas of stewed fruit, but not too sweet. Lovely.

No matter what you order at Locanda, you can’t go wrong. We loved everything.

Locanda chef making pasta - one of my best meals of 2015
Locanda chef making pasta

Since I’m a recent WSET (Wine Spirits Education Trust) graduate, I did take note of the excellent wine list at Locanda. Many Italian wines from Piedmont were included, and I was pleased to see I’d visited several of the wineries on the list. One of them is part of this article, as I also had an amazing meal there. Read on.

Locanda, 557 Valencia (San Francisco)

 

Acquolina - location of one of my best meals of 2015Aquolina – North Beach: I spent Thanksgiving Day in San Francisco mostly walking around the North Beach neighborhood.  There was a place right on the corner facing Washington Square with lots of windows and sidewalk seating that looked inviting. I grabbed a seat at the bar, ordered a spritzer, and watched the crowd for a while. I was scouting for a place for myself and a friend to have Thanksgiving dinner, but we didn’t want to spend a fortune on a pre-fixe menu.

Aquolina was serving their regular menu, casual Tuscan-style Italian,

Pizza with speck and mozzarella from Aquolina - one of the best meals I ate in 2015
Pizza with speck and mozzarella from Aquolina

in addition to holiday specials. I saw a few pizzas being served and decided that was where we’d have dinner later. We ate a wonderful thin-crust Roman-style pizza, with mozzarella and prosciutto. Delicious! It was the perfect antidote to a traditional Thanksgiving meal…and I got to dine outside on a crisp San Francisco night with a friend who happened to be in town that week.

Aquolina, 1600 Stockton St. (San Francisco)

Courtesy. Harmony Cafe
Courtesy. Harmony Cafe

Harmony – San Luis Obispo County: South of San Francisco, just off of Highway 101, is the tiny town of Harmony,  population: 18. I was starving, so stopped to see what I might find in such a small place.

The moment I stepped foot inside the Harmony café, I felt like I was in Italy. And guess what? Chef Giovanni is

House-made butternut squash pasta with a light marinara sauce at The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough - part of my best meals of 2015
House-made butternut squash pasta with a light marinara sauce at The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough

indeed Italian. He made me a butternut squash pasta with a light marinara sauce, which paired well with a glass of pinot grigio. While I waited, I chatted with other customers who told me they were regulars there – they return every year on vacation from New York. That’s how good Chef Giovanni’s food is. For dessert, I had the house-made tiramisu.  Pasta and tiramisu in one meal is an indulgence I don’t often allow myself. But tiramisu made by an Italian is the next best thing to going to Treviso, the home of the original tiramisu.

Chef Giovanni, The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough - location of one of my best meals in 2015
Chef Giovanni, The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough

Note: Harmony Cafe has relocated to Cambria, and is now called The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough. Chef Giovanni is still cooking in the kitchen.

Harmony Cafe, 824 Main St. (Cambria)

 

Piedmont, Italy: Barolo

why go to Barolo, Piedmont, Italy @PennySadler 2015
Photo by Penny Sadler

In September, I toured the wine country of Piedmont, Italy. I completed my Wine Spirits Education Trust certification in August (you can read about it here), and the time seemed right for this trip. Many of the wineries in the area also have dining rooms and tasting menus serving regional dishes paired with the local wines. I recommend La Foresteria at Cantina Marchesi di Barolo, in Barolo,

Angelo, Me, and Valentina Abbona, the Marketing Manager and owner's daughter at Marchesi di Barolo, location of one of my best meals of 2015
Angelo, Me, and Valentina Abbona, the Marketing Manager and owner’s daughter at Marchesi di Barolo

Italy. Here I met up with an Italian friend who had hosted me at his home in Italy over two years ago. A reunion over food and wine in Barolo doesn’t sound too shabby, does it?

 

 

 

Marchesi di Barolo - the location of one of my best meals of 2015
Dining room, Marchesi di Barolo

There are three menu options, and depending on how hungry you are, you can chose three to five courses. Whatever you do, you must try the veal with tuna sauce (veal con tonnato). I thought it sounded disgusting until I tried it. Buonissimo! It was paired with the Gavi di Gavi, a wine I enjoy drinking on its own – it was perfect with this dish. The desserts were to die for, as well.

The Moscato jelly with fresh fruit served with Moscato d’ Asti

The Moscato jelly with fresh fruit at Marchesi di Barolo -dessert from one of my best meals of 2015
The Moscato jelly with fresh fruit at Marchesi di Barolo

Zagara tasted crisp and fresh. I could have eaten a gallon of it. The ambiance was very elegant, with white tablecloths, delicate stemware, and enough silverware to make me feel like I was in a scene from Pretty Woman.

Marquesi di Barolo, Via Roma 1

 

Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography

Santa Fe, New Mexico: Now, believe it or not, I do have one amazing dining experience to tell you about that was not Italian, nor in Italy or California. This memorable meal was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, another well-known foodie city. It was, and remains, the most unique dining experience of my life so far. Yes, I think I can honestly say that.

Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography

Prepared in the parking lot at the Santa Fe Opera, the locals call this dining a tailgate party. We had our table set up under a beautiful white tent.  Executive Chef Todd Hall, from La Posada de Santa Fe, prepared a four-course meal for us while black tie waiters served us grilled bacon wrapped peaches, lobster in little gem lettuce, and ahi tuna, paired with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Those were the appetizers.

The second course was a salad of Sicilian burrata, asparagus, boiled

Salad of Sicilian burrata, asparagus, boiled egg, and lemon curd aioli, La Posada de Santa Fe ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Salad of Sicilian burrata, asparagus, boiled egg, and lemon curd aioli, La Posada de Santa Fe ©Amiel Gervers Photography

egg, and lemon curd aioli. To die for. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Ever. I could have made the main course out of that.

Next up was Prawn and Diver Scallop Brochette on a salad of chilled

lemon mint tabbouleh, icicle cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, and yellow watermelon, paired with a buttery chardonnay from Walt vineyards. Wait, did I say the second course was the best thing I’ve ever eaten? Honestly, the entire meal was a work of art. The combination of flavors and textures was sublime. I will never forget this meal.

Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography

And then there was dessert: a dark cherry tartlet with Kahlua salted caramel ice cream. Swoon! The sad news is, we barely had time to inhale this heavenly creation because we were being swept off to see the opera.

My suggestion: go to the newly remodeled Julia,  at La Posada de Santa Fe. Todd Hall is a James Beard-recognized chef and Julia is a beautiful, warm environment. The experience may not be the same as a tailgate party at the opera, but the food is sure to be five-star, and the warm and inviting atmosphere at Julia is pretty swanky, too.

La Posada de Santa Fe, 300 East Palace Ave. (Santa Fe, New Mexico)

The End. Go Eat. Happy 2016.

 

i8tonite: with Chef Ruggero Gadaldi, San Francisco’s Delarosa & Spicy Holiday Italian Meatballs

Editor’s Note: This is a posting from  contributor Penny Sadler, Adventures of a Carry-On.

Beretta-Proof-385
Ruggero Gadaldi: Credit Aubrie Pick

From his childhood days helping out in the family market and churning butter on the farm near Bergamo, Italy, Chef Ruggero Gadaldi developed his love for and understanding of regional Italian foods. His passion for preparing only the most authentic Italian cuisine lead him to study at Italy’s prestigious San Pellegrino Hotel School. From there, he made his way to the US via a number of positions at five-star hotels throughout Europe, New York, and finally San Francisco, with a stop in Los Angeles to cook for Pope John Paul II.

Inside
Inside Delarosa: Credit, Aubrie Pick

In 2008, Gadaldi received the San Francisco Chronicle Visionary Chef Award. His restaurant, Antica Trattoria, was voted Best Neighborhood Italian, Bay Area Critics Choice Award, SF Chronicle, 1996 – 2008.

 

In a city known for great food and plenty of Italian options, Delarosa, Gadaldi’s latest venture, is the kind of place that locals favor for reliable and reasonably priced Italian food served in a casual and contemporary atmosphere. The newest location at Yerba Buena Lane has exactly the same look and feel as the Marina location: the kitchen is open, and space is light, with accents of orange.

Delarosa is only one of a number of celebrated Italian restaurants in the Bay Area to which Gadaldi has dedicated his passion for preparing authentic Italian food.

Chef’s Questionnaire with Ruggero Gadaldi

Delarosa-198How long have you been cooking? Since I entered the “Scuola Professionale Alberghiera di Stato” for Chef in San Pellegrino, Bergamo, Italy in 1972.

What is your favorite food to cook? Regional Italian.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Cheese, salami and pickles

What do you cook at home? My wife does the cooking at home, I’m the dishwasher. (Big smile.)

Photo By Aubrie Pick
Photo By Aubrie Pick

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? When a customer is served and they take that first bite, they pause and then a smile appears. We hope then that we have added to their day.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Being disrespectful.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex

Beer, wine or cocktail? Wine with my meal, and a Negroni at the end of my day.

Your favorite cookbook author? Joyce Goldstein

Your favorite kitchen tool? Gnocchi paddle.

Your favorite ingredient? Piemontese white truffle.

Your least favorite ingredient? Can’t think of one.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Gutting sardines.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Italian.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Pork

Favorite vegetable? Dino kale or Tuscan Cabbage.

Chef you most admire? Mario Batali. 

Mussels and Tomato Sauce
Photo by Aubrie Pick

Food you like the most to eat? Hearty stews

Food you dislike the most? There isn’t much I dislike. I love food !!!

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Zero. I admire some but cringe when I think about the pain they had to go through to get them.

Recipe: Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce (Serves 4 – 6)

Delarosa-Proofs-54Tomato Sauce

  • 3 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 4   Chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp   Calabrese chili flake
  • 16 oz.   Tomato-basil sauce

 

 

In a saucepan, heat olive oil and add garlic and chili flakes. When garlic starts to get brown add tomato- basil sauce. Cook for 10 minutes at medium heat.

Meatballs

  • ¾ lb. ground beef
  • ¼ lb. ground veal
  • ½ lb. Italian sweet sausage (out of casing)
  • 1 cup Bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup Milk
  • 1 Tbsp Finely chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 Egg whites
  • ½ C Grated Fresh Pecorino cheese
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to Taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients.  Mix thoroughly, though not over handling.  Before creating balls, put a little bit of olive oil on your hands in order to minimize sticking. Spoon out mixture and create meatballs that are approx 1.5-inch balls.  Place on a greased sheet pan and place in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Place meatballs in the Spicy Tomato sauce and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes.

Plate:  2 to 3 meatballs on a plate and add a spoonful of sauce on top.  Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

The End. Go Eat.