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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kim Alter: Gardener, Butcher, Chef

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2011 at 10:43 AM

Plate Shop's Kim Alter, making monkey bread. - KIMBERLY SANDIE
  • Kimberly Sandie
  • Plate Shop's Kim Alter, making monkey bread.

I caught Kim Alter, Plate Shop's chef, on the phone for a quick interview last week as I was wrapping up my first draft of this week's review. After cooling her heels for more than a year while Plate Shop's opening kept being delayed ― working at Ubuntu with both Jeremy Fox and Aaron London, waiting tables at Acquerello ― she's now in full-tilt mode, working as head chef, butcher, gardener, and pastry chef. Here are a few excerpts from our interview:

SFoodie: How long ago did you start the back garden?

Alter: April 2009 was the first time I stepped into it. It didn't see any progress until August, though. We brought in two tons of dirt, got water tubs, and put drain rocks in. We took chain saws to the ivy, which had not been touched for 20 years ― it took me a long time to get the garden where it is now. I thought we were going to open in August 2010, so the garden was fully up and running. I had to give or sell produce to restaurants like Coi, Acquerello, and Citizen's Band because I didn't want to throw it away. We finally opened in February.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kasa's Anamika Khanna and Tim Volkema on the Closure, Pop-Ups, and the Kati Roller Truck

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 5:22 PM

Britney's last-minute venue change isn't the only disappointment hanging heavy on the Castro these days. Late last month, the owners of Kasa Indian Eatery ― which opened in the Castro in 2008 ― shuttered its year-old second restaurant, on Fillmore Street in the Marina/Cow Hollow. Writing on the Kasa blog, owner Tim Volkema made reference to his partners Suresh and Anamika Khanna, in a goodbye wrapped in a very honest assessment of what went wrong:

Kasa Castro was the first restaurant venture Anamika, Suresh, and I have ever participated in, and honestly we took its success for granted. We thought: provide delicious and unique food and good service at a reasonable price, and you'll make a profit. And amazingly we were right! Until we weren't.
But while 2010 proved a tough year for Kasa's owners (Anamika Khanna says the closure felt like a "miscarriage"), 2011 has been crowded with new projects.

Anamika Khanna. - KASA
  • Kasa
  • Anamika Khanna.

This month, Anamika Khanna ― who grew up in a Punjabi enclave in London ― began orchestrating a Wednesday-night $20 prix-fixe pop-up at the Corner ― all but one has been vegan. And three weeks ago, the Kasa partners joined dozens of other mobile vending hopefuls in a weekend camp-out to secure a good chance of getting permits to launch a food truck ― Kasa Indian: The Kati Roller ― in the Financial District. SFoodie had back-to-back phone conversations yesterday with Anamika Khanna and Tim Volkema about Kasa's present, past, and future.

SFoodie: Why go vegan for the pop-ups?

Anamika: I did vegan food for the first one, and for the second one I wanted to do authentic Punjabi food, with fish and so on. But after that, I just felt that for San Francisco, they could really benefit more from vegan than from Punjabi. It's really hard for vegans to go out and get an all-vegan meal somewhere. These are the first pop-ups that we've done, and the first night we were overwhelmed ― everybody just comes in at once! But we're trying to keep it casual. The first couple of pop-ups have been just Kasa fans following us, but over the last couple of weeks we've been picking up other customers, even chefs from other restaurants.

How long do you plan on doing them?

Anamika: We said we'd try it for the month of March, but they've been going so well the Corner suggested I keep going. So I don't know when we'll stop. The only problem is it's so much work!

And the Kati Roller truck? When do you think you'll have that up and running?

Anamika: The city is always up and down with their timing, so it's pretty hard to say. Do we start renting a truck, do we buy a truck ― we're literally going in circles. We've been looking at trucks for months now, but we already have the design, we have a menu.

What's the menu looking like?

Anamika: We'll have the kati rolls [we do at Kasa]. We won't do the thalis, but we'll probably have rice bowls, and definitely some Indian street food, like the little vegetable fritters ― pakoras ― and pav bhaji. We've done those here at the restaurant, they're a very authentic Indian street food, like an Indian sloppy Joe but vegetarian. Tim's been messing around with Sandwich Fridays in the Castro ― they've been happening every other Friday. We've done French baguettes with fillings inside.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Will He Stay or Will He Go? Soul Cocina's Roger Feely May Be Outta Here Soon

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2011 at 11:58 AM

Soul Cocina's Roger Feely (in cap) at Off the Grid. - SJSHARKTANK/FLICKR
  • sjsharktank/Flickr
  • Soul Cocina's Roger Feely (in cap) at Off the Grid.

Ask anyone who follows San Francisco's street-food scene which vendor hustles hardest, and chances are they'll name Soul Cocina's Roger Feely.

The man is everywhere. Festivals, secret after-hour street-food parties, weekly pop-up dinners, Indian cooking classes ― you name it ― Feely has a wide variety of outlets for slinging what SFoodie editor John Birdsall once called "the most polished and straight-up delicious food."

But as one of the original folks from the 2009 Street Food Explosion (which included Magic Curry Kart and Adobo Hobo), Feely says he might be forced to leave S.F.'s streets for Chicago, where his family now lives.

"I'm really upset about leaving," Feely tells SFoodie, citing his work connections, clients, and street-food comrades as things he'll miss most. Feeley has given himself a deadline of April 1 to decide if there's enough business for him to stay in the city, or if he'll pack up for the Midwest.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

'Dissident Chef' Plays Nice for Studio Gourmet

Posted By on Mon, Feb 14, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Russell Jackson. - SONYA YU
  • Sonya Yu
  • Russell Jackson.

Russell Jackson at Studio Gourmet

Where: Horatius, 350 Kansas (at 17th St.), 252-3500

When: Sun., Feb. 20, 2:30 p.m.

Cost: $45

The rundown: Occasionally mohawked ex-underground chef Russell Jackson of Lafitte is the draw for Studio Gourmet's latest cooking demo/interview at odd but beautiful event space Horatius. Expect a glass of sparkling wine and small bites (pork trotter crépinettes with sabayon and oyster; potato-kale gratin; cuttlefish and spring onion soubise; etc.), plus a cooking demonstration and interview. Jackson calls himself the "dissident chef," so things should skew at least a little oh-no-he-din't.

Tickets available via Studio Gourmet

Check out other upcoming events on SFoodie.

Follow us on Twitter at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook. Follow Mary Ladd at @mladdfood.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Q&A with Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman of Wise Sons Jewish Deli

Posted By on Thu, Jan 27, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Wise guys: Evan Bloom, left, and Leo Beckerman. - MEGAN ROSE MARTIN
  • Megan Rose Martin
  • Wise guys: Evan Bloom, left, and Leo Beckerman.

Wise Sons, the Jewish deli pop-up from Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman, debuted last Saturday at Jackie's Vinoteca, part of Off the Grid: McCoppin Hub. Though they're both from Southern California, Bloom and Beckerman met as undergrads at U.C. Berkeley, then veered off into different career paths, Bloom in local construction management, Beckerman at a D.C. nonprofit. SFoodie caught up with them this week after their Wise Sons launch with one big question on our mind: Is San Francisco ready for a Jewish deli?

SFoodie: What inspired you to open a deli?

Beckerman: We started making meals for our friends in college at the Berkeley Hillel House, beginning with a kosher Southern barbecue dinner for 250 people, then Chinese, then Creole. We knew that we loved to cook and we were more excited about these meals than classes.

Bloom: We couldn't get good pastrami up here so we looked to make our own ... but a recipe for pastrami really doesn't exist.

Beckerman: So we started tinkering around on our own and trying to create a pastrami. Slowly we went from, "This isn't so bad," to, "Hey, this tastes like pastrami!" We test-drove it one night on my family in L.A. and it was gone the next day: They had picked away at it, and I woke up to my uncle using the last scraps to make pastrami and eggs. We knew that we were on to something.

Bloom: Yeah, that's when I first thought to myself, "This is real, this is happening." At around the same time, I volunteered to help with the physical layout of the first La Cocina street-food festival and became friends with [executive director] Caleb Zigas and started discussing business ideas with him ― we would be six months to a year behind without La Cocina. Caleb helped us develop a business plan, even providing templates on which to write it. We owe everything to La Cocina ... we consult with them so much still. I also spent a lot of time recently in New York, just eating tons of deli at places like Second Avenue Deli and Barney Greengrass. I hung out for hours with Noah Berminoff at Mile End and so many of the things he said that they do were in line with our ideas. It made us feel more comfortable with what we were trying to do.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Monk's Kettle Chef Adam Dulye Spikes the Pot

Posted By on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 at 5:37 PM

Brew chef Adam Dulye. - CULINARYSCHOOLROCKIES/FLICKR

Monk's Kettle has been a gastropub since its inception. The biblically proportioned beer menu has served as a strong foundation to explore pairings with the upscale pub grub that emerged from the kitchen of departed chef Kevin Kroger. And while the Monk's menu has always steered diners to specific beer-style pairings, the restaurant rolled out a completely revamped menu this week that seeks to push its beer cuisine to the next level: by incorporating beer into the food itself.

This isn't as easy as pouring a can of High Life into the soup pot (it's okay ― we've all been there), since certain styles of beer can be tricky to cook with. (Quick public service announcement: Cooking down a hoppy brew can lead to the ultimate bitter beer face.) A chef must be intimately familiar with the flavor profiles of the beers she's using, and how to treat them without over-exaggerating the bitter, roasty, or sweet aspects of particular styles.

This is where new chef Adam Dulye is prepped to shine. Dulye's invitation to cook a paired beer dinner at James Beard House in New York was an acknowledgment of his skills. So far at Monk's, you can find Dulye experimenting with beer in a handful of new menu items:

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pauline's Sidney Weinstein, Farmer and Pizzaiolo, Talks to SFoodie: Part 2

Posted By on Tue, Dec 14, 2010 at 10:16 AM

sidney_weinstein.jpg
Next Tuesday, Pauline's Pizza -- the airy-crust pizza place that grows most of its own vegetables -- celebrates its 25th anniversary. In honor of the celebration, I spoke to Sidney Weinstein about the history of the quietly trail-blazing restaurant she owns with husband Randy Nathan. In part 1 of the interview, which ran yesterday, Weinstein talked about Pauline's origins, including who Pauline was. Today, she talks about the couple's decision to grow their own vegetables and make wine. 

Please note, if you plan to go to Pauline's on Tue., Dec. 21, to help Weinstein and her staff celebrate, she asks you to make a reservation so she doesn't run out of dough. Call 552-2050 or e-mail paulines@paulinespizza.com.

SFoodie: When did you start up a garden to supply ingredients for the pizzeria?

Weinstein: Pauline's started in 1985. At that time, there were all these small organic farms around Santa Cruz and other places that were producing an incredible array of

heirloom, open-pollinated vegetables and greens ― for example, these

beautiful mid-sized lettuces that had beautiful color and were

shiny and delicious, not sloppy like those baby lettuces. But the

recession took a toll on those farms, and a lot of them got eaten up by

big guys like Riverside, who went into mass production. The big guys

were responsible for the development of spring mix.


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Monday, December 13, 2010

As Pauline's Pizza Turns 25, We Chat with Owner Sidney Weinstein: Part 1

Posted By on Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 5:30 PM

sidney_weinstein.jpg
Pauline's Pizza, the little yellow pizzeria on Valencia that still feels hidden away from the Mission's main restaurant strip, is celebrating its 25th anniversary next Tuesday. And while its pies, with their crackly crusts and seasonal toppings, resemble anything you'll find at Pizzeria Delfina or Gialina, December 1985 was a good 20 years before the San Francisco artisanal pizza rush began. Owners Sidney Weinstein and Randy Nathan also began growing vegetables for the restaurant not long after it started, a farm-to-plate commitment that feels even more timely now than it did in 1985. On the eve of the pizzeria's anniversary, I interviewed Sidney Weinstein about the pizzeria's history. 

In part 1 today, she talks about the restaurant's origins. In part 2, Weinstein focuses on the gardens and her thoughts on why pizza has gone upscale.

SFoodie: One of the things I've been coming to Pauline's for since the early 1990s was your crust. Where did it come from? Were you a baker?

Weinstein: I taught myself to cook by baking. The crust itself came from our first chef, Salvario. However, he left abruptly six months into the restaurant's life, and we had to close the restaurant and come up with an equivalent crust because he never taught it to us. He would make the dough in secret. [Before he left,] we started measuring the ingredients to get some idea of the amounts he was using, but there was a secret ingredient we couldn't figure out.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Brandon Lee, S.F.'s Porn Star Chef

Posted By on Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 2:09 PM

After a boyfriend breakup last summer, the star of films including "Fortune Nookie" moved from L.A. to S.F. - ADAM BOUSKA/NOH8CAMPAIGN.COM
  • Adam Bouska/noh8campaign.com
  • After a boyfriend breakup last summer, the star of films including "Fortune Nookie" moved from L.A. to S.F.
Jimmy T., a pharmacy fraud investigator who'd prefer not to give his last name, wanted to make sure people showed up for a Halloween party at his SOMA apartment. So he booked porn star Brandon Lee.

If you're into gay porn, you may know Lee as the scrappy, inked-up Filipino American who banged through stereotypes to be the first famous Asian top. You may not know that after breaking up with his real-life partner, Lee moved to San Francisco from L.A. in July for a fresh start. As a chef.

Advertising his catering business on Facebook with the slogan "Want to taste something ... naughty?" Lee's been consistently booked for parties and private classes by, so far, an all-gay clientele. He's prepared desserts and savory dishes ― often working in a Filipino twist ― for anywhere from two to 50 guests.

While he still does occasional films, he claims he's now making more dough sautéing than he ever did screwing. Oddly enough, myth has it that Lee's porn career started with food ― he was discovered at 18 while delivering Chinese takeout to a porn shoot, after a director asked "to see his egg roll."

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Someone Besides Us Takes Notice of Danny Bowien

Posted By on Thu, Dec 2, 2010 at 6:18 PM

Bowien in the dumpling station at Mission Chinese Food. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Bowien in the dumpling station at Mission Chinese Food.

Our favorite morsel from the blogs.

Chow senior editor Lessley Anderson files a feature-length profile of Mission Chinese Food's lovable Danny Bowien, the chef with a personal style as quirky as his food vision. Actually, as Anderson's piece pays witness to, it's not as quirky as all that. Instead of keeping himself yoked to the starchy signature chef's jacket, Bowien pretty much said fuck you to the conventional chef's racket (the progression from line cook to sous to executive, all the while punching a time card). And instead of cooking in the local vernacular of polenta, Neapolitan thin crust, and chicken-under-a-brick, Bowien is assiduously hammering together something novel: a bistro-trained chef's interpretation of Chinese regional dishes filtered through the American restaurant, the way Bowien and partner Anthony Myint foud a completely cerebral way in to restructure the otherwise hackneyed burger. As for Bowien's work at Mission Chinese Food, Anderson's is the kind of trend-defining portraiture the New Yorker eats up with rosewood chopsticks, except that New York hasn't caught on to Bowien. Not yet.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com

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