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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Where To Find Southern BBQ? Hint: Not In San Francisco

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Hi-Lo? No. This is the three meat combo at Smoking Pig BBQ in San Jose. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Hi-Lo? No. This is the three meat combo at Smoking Pig BBQ in San Jose.

Snooks Old Fashion Barbecue sits on Juney Beauchamp Rd., a country road if there ever was one, in the town of Advance, North Carolina, population: 1138. Here last summer, I was lovingly spoon-fed a sample of intense, vinegary pulled pork by a Paula Dean doppelganger who, after watching my face turn to mush, drawled "Now you know what ya gonna get?" The menu, scribbled on butcher paper and thumbtacked to the wall, featured sides no more exotic than pinto beans and hushpuppies. And the "cocktail program?" A plastic pitcher of sweet tea next to a Coleman cooler full of ice. "Help yo-self to awwwll you'd like."

See also: Hi-Lo BBQ: San Francisco Gets Its Own Barbecue

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Interview With Original Joe's John Duggan: How to Build a Phoenix

Posted By on Thu, Apr 26, 2012 at 2:00 PM

The wall of photos at the rebuilt Original Joe's. - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • The wall of photos at the rebuilt Original Joe's.

John Duggan, who owns Original Joe's with his sister Elena, are the grandchildren of the 75-year-old restaurant's founder, Ante (Tony) Rodin. The Duggans managed a feat practically unheard of in the restaurant business. After Original Joe's original Taylor Street location suffered a major fire in 2007, it was closed for almost five years -- and then reopened in a different neighborhood, to immediate success. In preparation for my restaurant review of Original Joe's, published this week, I spoke to John.

SFoodie: How did you decide to move the restaurant rather than reopen the Taylor Street location?

There was a division among the family. I was thinking about the move while the building was burning, but my mom was intent on staying at the original location. It was two years after the fire before we committed to leave. Insurance issues, and everything that goes with that, held us up from deciding anything for a while.

How did you decide on North Beach?

After 70 years on Taylor Street, I thought it was important to go to a neighborhood with a lot of character and connection to San Francisco history. North Beach has the city aspect and the Italian aspect. It's a dynamic area, and it was only a matter of time before it was turning around. I wanted to be there for the transformation and not come afterward.

Tony's [Pizza Napoletana] gave me the confidence to do what I did. I saw the volume of people walking into his restaurant every day, and knew that they would come to North Beach.

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stag Dining Group Speak: "What We've Done Has Taken Us by Surprise"

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2012 at 2:15 PM

Matthew Homyak, Ted Fleury, and Jordan Grosser at last month's Stag Dining Group event. - COURTESY OF JULIE MICHELLE
  • Courtesy of Julie Michelle
  • Matthew Homyak, Ted Fleury, and Jordan Grosser at last month's Stag Dining Group event.
As Stag Dining Group, Emory Al-Imam, Jordan Grosser, Matthew Homyak, Ted Fleury, and Anil Margsahayam have been putting on professionally clandestine dinners for 18 months now. Just before filing my review of their most recent event -- titled "Guns, Game, and Rose" -- I spoke to two of the stags, Matt and Jordan, last week. Here are some excerpts from our interview:

SFoodie: So how did the five of you come together to form Stag Dining Group?

HOMYAK: I go back with Jordan and Ted to high school in Southern California. That's where we first met. After college, we met back in San Francisco in 2004 and became roommates. Jordan and Ted were working at Campton Place and Winterland, trying to start their culinary careers, and I was working at Tiffany. Anil, Emory, and I met at the University of San Francisco, where I was going to school.

Over a year and a half ago, we decided to form a business, and we wanted it to be around food. I come from sustainable management, Anil is an actor, and Emory is an app programmer with a masters in computer science. Between the five of us, we have a dynamic background. Two major things we all love to do is get to the outdoors and feast.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ice Cream Bar Owner Juliet Pries on eBay, Tinctures, and Coca Leaves

Posted By on Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 1:30 PM

An Ice Cream Bar soda jerk measures out the ingredients for a Peche #3, seen at right. - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • An Ice Cream Bar soda jerk measures out the ingredients for a Peche #3, seen at right.
​Thanks to byzantine S.F. permitting processes, it took Juliet Pries almost two years to open the Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley, the subject of this week's restaurant review. But the delay gave her time to change the focus of the shop, expanding from ice cream into its most distinctive feature: pre-Prohibition sodas. I talked to Pries last week just before filing my review:

SFoodie: So how did the Ice Cream Bar come about?

Pries: Well, it's a long story. I had been in the bar business (as part-owner of the Kezar Pub in the Haight), but did pastry before. So I planned on making ice cream. Ice cream's big here. I found a space that was fairly large, and, while waiting for the city, I found a 1930s back bar and soda fountain on eBay. The guy I bought if from in Michigan, his family had owned a dairy. But he now deals in restaurant equipment. He told me about American Soda Fountain, a company in Chicago that restores soda fountains. The guy I bought it from drove the bar to Chicago -- a seven-hour drive -- and American Soda Fountain refurbished the entire thing. New carbonator, new refrigerator compressor, everything. It works great.

Then I found Fix the Pumps, written by a mixologist and chemist who wants to bring back the soda fountain. That fit in with all the 1930s stuff that I love. I love the idea of making everything from scratch, including all the soda syrups, so it just evolved into that. Then I found Russell Davis and brought him on as a consultant. He took the soda fountain to the level that I wanted but had no idea how to do myself.

I didn't want the Ice Cream Bar to be a kiddie ice cream parlor. I wanted something more serious. The soda fountain replaced the bar during Prohibition. And I wanted it to be an adult place, especially in the evenings, though not unfriendly toward kids.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

State Bird Provisions' Stuart Brioza Talks Dim Sum

Posted By on Thu, Mar 8, 2012 at 11:30 AM

  • State Bird Provisions
  • Stuart Brioza
  • State Bird Provisions
  • Nicole Krasinski

Right before filing this week's review of State Bird Provisions, Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski's new restaurant in the Fillmore, I spoke to Brioza, the restaurant's savory chef (Krasinski is the pastry chef). The couple, both Bay Area natives, worked in Chicago (under David Burke) and northern Michigan before coming back to San Francisco and taking jobs at Rubicon, where they earned national recognition during their four-year tenure.

SFoodie: What have you been up to since Rubicon closed in 2008?

Brioza: We've been together for 14 years, and so we got married just after Rubicon closed. We traveled extensively, and then we found there was a huge demand for private dining. Since we had a pretty good customer base from our Rubicon days, we just kind of rode that for a while. And we had a baby! Two babies, really, with the restaurant.

We signed the lease on the space in September 2010, two weeks after our son was born. We had been looking for 10 months or so. It had been a pizzeria, and was closed down and gutted when we looked at it. It looked much, much different. There was ductwork going over the skylights, and where the big cement wall now is had 80 years and 8 inches of plaster over it. It was a really unattractive space. But you could see the potential. I came in one night with a hammer and started knocking at the wall, and I could tell there was something good in there.

How did you decide upon the dim sum format? 

Yeah, when I worked for David Burke, we had an all-you-can-eat dim sum brunch on Sundays. I thought it was genius. It was an opportunity for cooks to do a lot with their own creativity. For us, the format came about when we were cooking for private parties. Nicole and I would do requests to cook heavy hors d'oeuvres parties instead of sit-down dinners. We would pass around 15 different items for three to four hours of service. Guests loved the quantity of items being passed, and we were having a lot of fun with it.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Q&A with Kim Alter, Chef of Haven

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Kim Alter. - SARA DAVIS
  • Sara Davis
  • Kim Alter.

Kim Alter. I'd last spoken to Alter at Plate Shop, the Sausalito restaurant where she was head cook, gardener, and butcher. I wanted to know how she got hooked up with Haven's owner, Daniel Patterson, and how the transition had affected her cooking.

SFoodie: So, it looks from my visits like Haven's already doing well.

Alter: It's ridiculous. Every day we're doing more than 100 covers. I'm kind of surprised, just because I thought the location would be a hindrance.

So what have you been doing since I last spoke to you at Plate Shop? 

Well, I took a month off after I left Plate Shop. I got a lot of offers and went through the interview process with a few places. Then Daniel approached me. I helped him at Coi for a month, and during that time we were talking about things. The [business] relationship with Lauren [Kiino] split up around that time [Ed note: Patterson and Kiino were partners at Il Cane Rosso, and Kiino was slated to become the chef of the Jack London Square restaurant]. Then I went to Plum for two months and worked with Ron [Boyd]. He's my rock, my support system. 

In August or September, I agreed to become chef of Haven. We were thinking about what concept would be a good fit in Oakland, and came up with "Let us cook for you." Let's try out things we're working on, see what people think. We wanted to have people sitting around a table breaking bread, sharing plates, having a dinner experience. We started pop-ups at Plum in the fall, and opened in December.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Izakaya Yuzuki Chef Takashi Saito Talks Culture

Posted By on Thu, Jan 26, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Takashi Saito's kakiage, or gobo-shrimp fritters, at Izakaya Yuzuki. - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • Takashi Saito's kakiage, or gobo-shrimp fritters, at Izakaya Yuzuki.

As a side note to this week's review of Izakaya Yuzuki, a 2-month-old Japanese restaurant in the Mission, I spoke to its chef, Takashi Saito, a alumnus of Ame and Kyo-Ya. In addition to making exquisite chawanmushi, fish cakes, and braised pork belly, Saito is starting a few culturing projects few American Japanese restaurants undertake. Here's a excerpt from our discussion last week:

SFoodie: On the menu, it mentions that you're culturing your own koji [rice innoculated with Aspergillus oryzae].

Saito: Yes. I'm seasoning with koji. For example, with meat or fish, I don't use regular salt, I use koji salt. The flavor of koji is kind of sweet, like sweet cooked chestnuts. To make it, I make a rice koji mixed with sea salt and mineral water, then keep it at room temperature for two to three weeks. Then the taste and the flavor of the koji comes out.

Is this something a lot of restaurants in Japan make?

A long time ago, every family cultured its own koji and used it, people of my grandmother's age. But now, it's not so popular. They've lost the use.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mark Liberman: "I Don't Want People to Be Eating a Plate of Jellies"

Posted By on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 3:30 PM

AQ's duck with beets. - MELISSA BARNES
  • Melissa Barnes
  • AQ's duck with beets.

Right before today's review of AQ ran, I had a quick chance to talk to its chef, Mark Liberman. Before coming to San Francisco in 2007, Liberman staged at Daniel Boulud's Daniel and cooked for Joël Robuchon at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas.

SFoodie: How'd you end up in San Francisco?

Liberman: I had been living in Vegas for three years and was done with Vegas. So I took a job as chef de cuisine at La Folie after that - that was in 2007, early 2008. I was there another year. When I came back from living in Florida, I was training for the [2010] Bocuse d'Or competition. That's when Matt and I decided to open a restaurant. It took us a while to find a space, and I didn't want to take a job anywhere, so I did kitchen butchery, renting spaces out and doing small classes. I'd teach whole animal butchery: pigs, chickens, lamb, as well as charcuterie stuff.

I've heard the space you moved into wasn't a restaurant before that.

Yeah, it was a start-up office with a few desks, sporadically placed, and a few bikes leaned up against the wall. Pretty bare.

Did that allow you to design the kitchen the way you wanted?

Well, we're a new restaurant. Some places can spend $80,000 on a kitchen, but that wasn't the case with us. I was able to design it, but it was limited.

Is the open line we see from the dining room the extent of it?

No, there's a prep kitchen downstairs.

What has AQ then allowed you to do that you didn't get to at, say, La Folie?

Obviously, La Folie is very formal, fine dining, with very French-inspired cuisine. We're more California driven and casual. The cooking is still rooted in a lot of classic technique, but I do a lot of modern things. Also, La Folie is a special-occasion restaurant, while we're trying to make AQ a little more approachable for everyday guests.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Curry Up Now Owner: How Downtown Food Trucks Can Be Good Neighbors

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 8:30 AM

Curry Up Now has been parking at Bush and Sansome for two years now. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Curry Up Now has been parking at Bush and Sansome for two years now.

Yesterday's food feature in the Weekly described the escalating battle between downtown restaurants and food trucks parking on FiDi streets, which began after San Francisco introduced new -- and apparently flawed -- food-truck regulations in March. Last week, I spoke to Akash Kapoor, co-owner of Curry Up Now, whose truck at Bush and Sansome was one of the early arrivals downtown. I talked to Kapoor about competition, being a good neighbor, and how many trucks are too many for the neighborhood.

How long have you been parking in the Financial District now?
We actually purchased a truck that came with a permit two years ago, and we are in the process of getting permits for a new truck. Our hearing is coming up.

What opposition has Curry Up Now received from nearby businesses?

We have received a little, but you know, some of the nearby restaurants that have opened after us don't have too much to say because we were there before them. We're pretty conscious to not serve the same food. One of the reasons we chose the spot we're at now is that there's a Japanese place nearby, and no other restaurants, except a Freshii -- that's the only two restaurants on that block. We try to park in front of Wells Fargo, so there's no restaurant within 50 feet directly in front of there. And fortunately, no one else sells a tikka masala burrito.

In addition, we've encouraged the coffee shop that's next to us to pass out samples to people waiting in line for Curry Up Now. He says his business has gotten better because of us being there. Every couple of months, some restaurant will call the cops on us, and we'll have someone stop by and ask to see our license. Apart from that, relations have been pretty good.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Doc's of the Bay Owner on SF's New Food Truck Regulations: 'The Law Is Flawed'

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 12:30 PM

The Doc's of the Bay truck. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • The Doc's of the Bay truck.

As I chronicled in this week's food lead story, the San Francisco Board of Appeals last week struck down two street-parking permits that the Department of Public Works had granted to Kasa's kati roller truck and Doc's of the Bay after an arduous eight-month permitting process. Back in March, Doc's owners Lauren Smith and Zak Silverman camped out in the rain for three days to apply for their top choices for parking spots they wanted to build into a route. The DPW struck down several of their permits during the initial hearing process, and during the Dec. 14 Board of Appeals meeting, downtown restaurants and building managers blocked two more.

The day after the hearing, I spoke to Silverman about San Francisco's new street-food regulations.

SFoodie: So how many permits do you have left after this process?

Silverman: We came away from the hearing with three of our five locations [a twice-a-week spot in the Financial District that remained uncontested, and two weekend nights in the Mission]. Ultimately, we're concerned even for those. Last night was the first time so far that any board in San Francisco has had the opportunity to evaluate the law. We were really discouraged by the DPW's presentation at the hearing, which gave us the sense that the permits we do have are liable to be taken from us at any point based on oversights that make the law rotten.

For instance, the parking clause that says we have to abide by all current and existing parking regulations. [Background: One of the grounds on which the Board of Appeals rejected the permits was that they were multi-hour permits for one-hour parking spots.] That was a known flaw from the get-go, and board member Mike Garcia said that,

on those grounds alone, this law should have been fixed before.

We still have a location at Washington Street next to the Transamierca building, but it gives us cause for concern that we can be reported for violating the law and our permit can be revoked. Everyone knows that food trucks are breaking the law by parking at these parking spaces for more than an hour at a time. But that was glossed over in the new law.

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  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"