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Monday, February 28, 2011

Why Is Il Cane Rosso's Lauren Kiino Cooking Dinners at Coffee Bar?

Posted By on Mon, Feb 28, 2011 at 4:44 PM

Lauren Kiino.
  • Lauren Kiino.

SFoodie has posted notices for a couple of Friday-night dinners that Il Cane Rosso's chef and co-owner, Lauren Kiino, has held at Coffee Bar over the course of the past month. The dinners have proved popular, serving a hundred or so diners. Since the Ferry Building restaurant is open for dinner on Friday nights, we called up Kiino to find out why she was making more work for herself. (Check Il Cane Rosso's Facebook page and Twitter feed for news of future dinners.)

SFoodie: How did you decide to start holding dinners at Coffee Bar?

Kiino: I live a block away from Coffee Bar, and I know the owners well ― I see them every time I go for coffee. They had been doing a series with Radio Africa, but he's doing his own projects now. [Ed. note: Eskender Aseged is now holding weekly dinners at the Corner in preparation for opening a restaurant in the Bayview.] They asked me, would you be interested in doing something up there? I thought it would be fun, and I just decided we'd try it out and see how it went.

We took three

servers and two cooks ― three, including me ― and had our manager go

to help coordinate. Coffee Bar has been doing these dinners for a while,

so they had a setup. They provided dish washers and a couple of


We started out thinking it would be an extension of Cane Rosso -- three

courses, with the same format. But we're going in a slightly different

direction, with more intricate food, more refined flavors.

I read that this last dinner included an oxtail dish with

braised daikon. Are you taking your food in a different direction?

Yeah, I would call the flavors more Americana. For example, [we served the oxtail

with] a celery-root puree, then browned daikon in butter and glazed it

in the oxtail braising liquid, and garnished everything with horseradish

gremolata ― parsley, lemon zest, and horseradish. I'd seen a picture

of a Namu dish with a big piece of daikon that looked so delicious and

juicy, and I saw they had awesome daikon at Heirloom Organics. So I took

the idea and tweaked it a little bit.

We at SFoodie have been wondering: Are these dinners a side project or are they a buildup to something else?

I would say that they're a little bit of both. New ideas are always good

to try out, and it's an opportunity to reach a different crowd. The

Mission people who go out to eat are different from the Financial

District customers. The Ferry Building is a little more touristy, more

conservative, so [at Coffee Bar] we

felt like we could push the boundaries with things like sardines or a

rutabaga soup with smoked nettles.

And are you trying out ideas for Bracina [the restaurant that Kiino

and Daniel Patterson are reported to be opening in Oakland's Jack London

Square]? Can you tell me anything about that?

Not yet. It's in limbo right now.

Are you planning on doing this regularly?

Ideally, we could turn it into a series, perhaps a couple of times a

month. We need to hammer out a schedule with the Coffee Bar.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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