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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Q&A With Annie Somerville of Greens, Part 1: From Zen Student to Executive Chef

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Annie Somerville, chef of Greens Restaurant. - SETH JOEL
  • Seth Joel
  • Annie Somerville, chef of Greens Restaurant.
Annie Somerville, executive chef of Greens Restaurant, came to the world of cooking through unexpected means. A Michigan native, her family moved to California when she was very young. She studied liberal arts at Humboldt State University until a small Zen group in her neighborhood caught her interest. Somerville began meditating with them and eventually decided to move to San Francisco with her boyfriend (now husband) in 1973 in order to study at the San Francisco Zen Center.

The Zen Center opened Greens in 1979, a groundbreaking restaurant that has since matured into an institution (the Zen Center no longer owns the restaurant). Somerville talked with SFoodie about the challenges, demands, and surprises of a restaurant that has both stood the test of time and continued to set the standard for vegetarian cuisine. Part two of this interview will run tomorrow, and on Friday we'll post one of Somerville's recipes.

How did you go from Zen student to executive chef?

Somerville: Let's put it this way: I certainly didn't ever think I would be a chef. I became a vegetarian as a senior in high school. The most cooking I ever did was while living in collective households in college. But everyone at the Zen Center ended up gravitating toward very different things. Some people stayed with the meditation process as the focus of their lives, while others ended up in the accounting office and now run their own businesses, and some people went on to cook.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Greens Restaurant's Recipe for Vegan Devil's Food Cake

Posted By on Tue, Apr 3, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Greens' vegan devil's food cake. - GREENS RESTAURANT
  • Greens Restaurant
  • Greens' vegan devil's food cake.

As part of SFoodie's interview with Annie Somerville, chef of Greens Restaurant, we asked her for a recipe to share with readers (read part one of our Q&A here and part two here). Exemplifying her claim to use the ideas and skills of the talented staff around her, Somerville chose to share a recipe from pastry chef Sandi Sumaylo. Somerville noted, "The great thing about this cake is that it's delicious whether you're vegan or not," which seems to have been the ticket to much of Green's success. The cake is delicious with coffee but it's also incredible with a glass of red wine. You choose.

For the Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup hot water

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 cup soy milk

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup rice bran oil, or another neutral-flavored oil

1 tablespoon Champagne or white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup cake flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup maple sugar (available at any natural-foods market)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Recipe: The Citizens Band Bloody Mary

Posted By on Fri, Mar 16, 2012 at 2:45 PM

Chris Beerman's Bloody Mary - ALANNA HALE
  • Alanna Hale
  • Chris Beerman's Bloody Mary

When asked to share a recipe with SFoodie readers, Chris Beerman of Citizens Band and Pinkie's Bakery quickly admitted his current obsession with Bloody Marys: "I'm forever tinkering and perfecting my Bloody Mary recipe," he said.

The obsession began when the restaurant started making pickles and Beerman started taking the pickles home. He soon discovered that they made an excellent addition to his Sunday morning Bloody Mary. (If you'd like to read the full Q&A with Chris Beerman and Cheryl Burr, you can find part one here and part two here.)

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Q&A with Cheryl Burr and Chris Beerman, Part 2: On Burgers, Pickles, and 100-Hour Weeks

Posted By on Thu, Mar 15, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Chris Beerman and Cheryl Burr, of Citizens Band and Pinkie's Bakery - AUBRIE PICK
  • Aubrie Pick
  • Chris Beerman and Cheryl Burr, of Citizens Band and Pinkie's Bakery

Chris Beerman and Cheryl Burr are friends and business partners, co-owners of the almost two-year-old, Americana-themed Citizens Band and Pinkie's Bakery.

The pair found the space their restaurant and bakery now reside in through a tip from 4505 Meats' Ryan Farr -- though he passed it along with the warning, "You don't want it, it's really gross." It took a DIY ethic and a lot of elbow grease to make their joint venture come together. In part one of this interview, Beerman and Burr talked about how they met, and tomorrow they'll share a favorite recipe.

How much has your menu or your approach changed since you opened?

BEERMAN: I would say it's changed a lot. We're still do a lot of testing and a lot of experimentation with food and cooking techniques, but at the same time, I have to make sure to give people what they love. I've really grown to respect the people that come and eat here-people come and eat my food. I'm humbled by that.

What menu items have been mainstays?

BEERMAN: The burger, fried chicken, and mac and cheese. We've toyed with them a little bit here and there, but we've pretty much gone back to the original because they work and people seem to like them.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Q&A with Cheryl Burr and Chris Beerman, Part 1: "The Food's the Easy Part"

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Chris Beerman and Cheryl Burr, of Citizens Band and Pinkie's Bakery - AUBRIE PICK
  • Aubrie Pick
  • Chris Beerman and Cheryl Burr, of Citizens Band and Pinkie's Bakery
Chris Beerman and Cheryl Burr are friends and business partners, with a successful first restaurant and bakery -- Citizens Band and Pinkie's Bakery, respectively -- under their belts. The two speak fast and assuredly, and when in conversation together they finish each other's sentences with ease.

Though they came from very different places (Burr an "army brat" raised in Hawaii and California, and Beerman raised in Virginia), they both had early starts in the restaurant world. In San Francisco they met in a kitchen over a decade ago, and then continued to collide and lose touch until a combination of fate and circumstance pushed them into working together again. This is part one of SFoodie's Q&A with Beerman and Burr; part two will run tomorrow, and on Friday we'll publish one of their favorite recipes.

SFoodie: How did you guys end up in the kitchen?

BURR: Shoot, I started working in bakeries when I was in high school. I'd go to work at 4 in the morning, work until 8 a.m., go to school from 8 to 3 p.m., and then go back to the bakery to work the counter until close. I like getting up early, so getting up at 4 in the morning wasn't a big deal for me when I was 16. It still isn't.

BEERMAN: Same kind of thing for me, really-while in high school I started out washing dishes in restaurants, then starting prep cooking, and then started cutting out of high school to go to work.

BURR: Ha, I definitely did that, too! I'd skip my last class of the day to go to work early.

BEERMAN: And when I finished high school, I realized I had never really done anything else but work in kitchens and wasn't really interested in doing anything else, so I went to culinary school and then started bouncing all over the country.

When did you end up in SF?

BEERMAN: I moved out here from Colorado about 15 years ago.

BURR: I've been here about 11 years, and met Chris right at the beginning. My very first kitchen job during my first year of culinary school was working with him when he was the sous chef at Neiman Marcus at the Rotunda. I wasn't even 21 yet, shoot!

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chucky Dugo's Recipe for Hazelnut-Ricotta Cake with Huckleberries

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Chucky Dugo's hazelnut-ricotta cake with huckleberry compote. - ALANNA HALE
  • Alanna Hale
  • Chucky Dugo's hazelnut-ricotta cake with huckleberry compote.

As part of SFoodie's interview with Chucky Dugo, pastry chef for the Charles Phan restaurant group (read part one here and part two here), we asked Dugo for one of his current favorite recipes. Dugo recently put this dessert on the menu at Wo Hing General Store, answering customers' requests for a cake.

Dugo was kind enough to scale the recipe down to make one sizeable cake instead of the individual portions he serves at the restaurant. Like most professional pastry chefs, he measures ingredients by weight, so you'll need a kitchen scale that measures in grams to make this recipe. If you can't find huckleberries, try fresh or frozen blueberries; make sure to defrost first.

For the Hazelnut-Ricotta Cake

(yields one 10-inch round cake)

250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

250 g white sugar

8 eggs, separated, both whites and yolks at room temperature

250 g hazelnut meal

250 g ricotta cheese

3 Tbsp. lemon zest (preferably zested on a Microplane)

65 g all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1 cup crème fraiche, for serving

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Q&A With Slanted Door's Chucky Dugo, part 2: Saying No to Fusion and Yes to Klondike Bars

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Chucky Dugo, Slanted Door's head pastry chef, clearly receiving inspiration from the heavens. - ALANNA HALE
  • Alanna Hale
  • Chucky Dugo, Slanted Door's head pastry chef, clearly receiving inspiration from the heavens.

Chucky Dugo, pastry chef for Charles Phan's restaurants -- including Slanted Door, Out the Door, and Wo Hing General Store -- started his career in San Francisco, but talked his way into running a chain of patisseries in Taipei. Dugo has been a pastry chef for Charles Phan since the early days, though as he recounted in part one of this interview, he took a few years off to get his life together. Today, Dugo talks about what it's like to run an empire (of sorts), and tomorrow, he'll share a recipe with SFoodie readers.

SFoodie: What's the biggest challenge of being a pastry chef for a group of restaurants?

Dugo: The biggest challenge is that I don't have a designated pastry staff at any location except Slanted Door. There, I have a whole independent pastry team of six people, from platers to production staff, that allows me to do more technical things. With all the other locations, we have a commissary that just makes the bulk product for us, and things are then finished as they're ordered on-site. With desserts, it's generally the same concept, but the difference is that every location has a chef to finish every savory dish while pastry doesn't. Maybe the garde-manger or spring roll ladies are trying to plate my desserts. They can learn, but I have to start out with simpler desserts.

How do you align your desserts with each different location?

The demographics of each location are totally different. I'm still figuring out the Mission [where Wo Hing is situated] -- there's a sort of frat boy/sorority girl thing going on, but then there's also a hipster element. Overall, I think I might be able to put more experimental and interesting stuff here, since the neighborhood is more accepting. Out the Door on Bush Street is a completely different world. At that location, people will drink three or four glasses of wine but won't have dessert because they're concerned about calories.

The bottom line is that I want to sell desserts. I don't have a quota, but I have to make it profitable. So it's really about pleasing people's palates.

Do you find the need to Asian-ify your desserts?

I don't like to do that. I don't want to do an Eastern-Western thing: I'd rather do one or the other, and Charles' thing about dessert is that it doesn't have to be Asian at all. Ultimately, one of our guidelines is giving people what they want.

What do you see as the trends you're avoiding in dessert and pastry right now?

What's been beaten to death is the whole sort of modernist cuisine; the gel and the foam and the sphere. I really try to do desserts that create an emotional connection to people, whether it be taking them back to their childhood or just appeasing the palate. At the same, I try keep it simple. I think there's a way to keep desserts identifiable and familiar, but just give them an edge, whether it be with a [new] ingredient or my take on a classic technique.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Q&A With Slanted Door's Chucky Dugo, part 1: From Paris-Brest to Taipei and Back

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 1:00 PM

Chucky Dugo, pastry chef for the Charles Phan restaurants. - ALANNA HALE
  • Alanna Hale
  • Chucky Dugo, pastry chef for the Charles Phan restaurants.

Chucky Dugo, pastry chef for Charles Phan's restaurants -- including Slanted Door, Out the Door, and the Moss Room -- grew up in a small town in the Central Valley with a big Italian family. Meals, especially at holidays, were a multi-dozen-person affair, with grandmothers bearing homemade breads and aunts carrying cookies impossible to resist. Dugo had an early and unusual foray into the world of pastry, the details of which he revealed in his candid interview with SFoodie. Tomorrow, part two of the interview will run, and on day three, SFoodie will share one of Dugo's recipes.

SFoodie: Were you a kid who loved sweets? How did you become interested in pastry?

Dugo: When I was about 10 or 11, PBS had a series called Great Chefs of the World, and you could order a cookbook from the series. The book had all these really elaborate French and Creole dishes with crazy old-school presentation. The first thing I attempted to make was Paris-Brest, but I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. My pastry cream was lumpy and the dough didn't bake and puff up.

Of all the recipes in the book, why do you think you made pastry first?

I think it was the aesthetic of it, and that it was such a foreign thing. A Paris-Brest is this huge, lacy, sparkly ring, and I was like, "Oh my god, what is that creamy, yummy, yummy thing?" So many men in my family are Renaissance men -- artists and frame-makers and sign-printers and mechanics -- so it appealed to my artistic side. For me, there's a lot of romance involved in making desserts.

When did you decide to pursue pastry professionally?

When I was about 18 or 19, I decided I had to leave the area -- coming out of the closet in a small town and that whole thing! So I came up here when I was 20 and went to California Culinary Academy. After graduating around 1993, I had the great fortune of working with some amazing people, and I went up through the ranks quickly.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Scrambled Eggs With Crab and Truffle, Courtesy of Parallel 37's Ron Siegel

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2012 at 2:30 PM

Scrambled eggs with Dungeness crab, brioche, and the truffle option. - COURTESY OF PARALLEL 37
  • Courtesy of Parallel 37
  • Scrambled eggs with Dungeness crab, brioche, and the truffle option.

You may be able to take Ron Siegel, longtime chef of the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton and now Parallel 37, out of a fine-dining environment, but you can't take the fine-dining out of the chef. As part of SFoodie's three-part interview with Chef Siegel (read part one here and part two here), we asked him for a recipe that exemplifies his food. The one he sent? Creamy scrambled eggs with Dungeness crab, brioche toast soldiers, and -- if you have one on hand -- a black truffle.

Scrambled Eggs with Dungeness Crab and Brioche

(serves two)

Ingredients:

1½ tablespoons butter

6 eggs

1 tablespoon crème fraîche

4 Dungeness crab legs, shelled

4 1-inch-thick slices brioche

1 small black truffle (optional)

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Q&A With Parallel 37's Ron Siegel, Part 2: In SF, "Casual" Food Ain't Really Casual

Posted By on Tue, Feb 7, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Ron Siegel, chef of Parallel 37 at the Ritz-Carlton. - COURTESY OF PARALLEL 37
  • Courtesy of Parallel 37
  • Ron Siegel, chef of Parallel 37 at the Ritz-Carlton.

Ron Siegel, chef of Parallel 37 in the Ritz-Carlton, has worked in three- and four-star restaurants for 20 years. In 1998, Siegel, then the chef at Charles Nob Hill, received international fame when he became the first American to win Iron Chef - the original Japanese show, not its Food Network counterpart.

The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, where he has been chef since 2004, recently closed to reopen as a more casual restaurant called Parallel 37. SFoodie interviewed Siegel about the transition from haute cuisine to what the chef calls "SF casual" food. Read the first part of our interview here; tomorrow, we'll publish one of his recipes.

SFoodie: What challenges have you been presented with in making this transition from fine dining to more casual food?

Siegel: It's a faster pace, for sure. People are in and out in a lot quicker time. But while Parallel 37 is more causal, it's SF casual. It's not like everything looks precious, but we still want to buy those nice ingredients and treat them with as much respect as possible.

What has been the most liberating about this change?

I must say it's really nice to plan a menu that doesn't have lobster on it for the first time in 15 years. Who knows, maybe I'll put lobster on next week, but right now I'm just happy with the way the menu is.

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