I Challenged Cotogna. Cotogna Won.

Rating: ★★★★★

Cotogna. San Francisco’s new hot spot. Situated on a beautiful block in the financial district, right next door to a little place called Quince. Rustic Italian cuisine brought to you by one of this city’s most celebrated chefs, Michael Tusk.

Clearly, Cotogna has a lot going for it – and many people have noticed. This establishment has attracted a huge amount of attention from both important figures in the San Francisco restaurant industry, as well as local dining enthusiasts. In fact, on my first visit there was such a cloud of hype surrounding this restaurant that it was hard to even see the front door. Having dined at Quince several times, I had always left with the feeling that, while delicious, it never quite lived up to its widespread publicity. So, in all honesty I walked into Cotogna with a bit of an attitude, entering with my chin held high as if to say, “Okay hot shot. Impress me.”Continue Reading

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Roasted Golden Beet Salad: My Damn Good Recipe

Roasted Golden Beet Salad (w/ watercress, slivered almonds, avocado, goat cheese, homemade croutons)

Makes enough for 4. (*I buy all of my supplies at Bi-Rite, they have all of this. I know Whole Foods doesn’t even have everything this calls for so I suggest making a little trip to the Mission if you can)…Continue Reading

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Marea’s Press May be the Best, But in the Kitchen it Misses the Mark

Rating: ★★½☆☆

First of all, let me say that my last trip to New York City happened at the end of May 2010, so this post is sadly a bit outdated. But, it has been sitting as a draft in my files for the last 8 months, which means this article was written when the meal was still fresh in my mind. Although some tweaks may have been made to the menu, 3 of the 4 items that I ordered last May are actually still on the menu, and since I haven’t revisited the restaurant, my initial opinion has stuck with me. So, rather than let a completed article (and a couple of nice photos) go to waste, I’m sharing it now.

For many people, an ideal vacation may only need to consist of a hot sun, a relaxing beach, and a limitless number of naps. Others like to spend those precious few days exploring distant, unfamiliar countries. But if you’re like me, nothing says “vacation” quite like cramped subways, hectic daily schedules, little sleep, and constantly eating incredible food. Hello New York!

Prior to arriving in New York City, my fourth visit in 4 years, I had done a significant amount of research on what new restaurants were catching headlines and had already made reservations at all of my top picks. Although Marea wasn’t one of them, after only one day in Manhattan I realized that I’d had made a big mistake – everyone, and I mean everyone, was talking about Marea. With only two days notice and one incredibly lucky phone call, I found myself with a lunch reservation at New York’s hottest restaurant…Continue Reading

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A Casual Brunch Becomes an Upscale Affair at Redd

Rating: ★★★★★

What better way to follow up an extravagant meal at Meadowood than with an extravagant brunch at Redd?! Although going on a Michelin-starred restaurant spree wasn’t in the plan, I was in Napa with nothing but time and wasn’t going to settle for scrambled eggs. And, since I didn’t have a backup reserve of Knead with me, I figured I’d settle on a couple of pastries from Nicole Plue, the Beard winner for best pastries in the countryContinue Reading

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Rush Creek Reserve: a Life-Changing Cheese

I know that I have a page on this website dedicated solely to cheese, but recently I experienced a cheese that was so incredible, possibly even life changing, that I had to dedicate an entire post to it. Before the holidays I was lucky enough to be invited to a class on Wisconsin cheese at the Cheese School of San Francisco, and the first selection that was served was one nobody had heard of: Rush Creek Reserve.

It’s produced by the Uplands Cheese Company, the same makers who produce Pleasant Ridge Reserve, which has one best in show for 3 years at the ACS. The Rush Creek Reserve is brand new, the only other cheese being sold by this company, and in my opinion, 500 times better than the Pleasant Ridge…Continue Reading

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KelsEats’ Top 10 Dishes of 2010 – #10

10) Dungeness Crab Salad, One Market

At long last, we’ve come to the end of this captivating culinary journey. And what a better way to end this best-of list than with the last dish that wowed me in 2010: One Market’s Dungeness Crab Salad. What I love about One Market is how the menu reads fairly plain: Hand-picked Dungeness Crab, fuyu persimmon, pomegranate, hearts of palm. At first glance, there’s not much about this description that’s particularly exciting, but what’s placed in front of you is nothing short of a beautifully presented, technically advanced dish indicative of a one star Michelin-rated restaurant. It’s a classic shock and awe maneuver, and it works…Continue Reading

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KelsEats’ Top 10 Dishes of 2010 – #9

9) Whole-Roasted Poularde, Saison

2010 also marked the year that I was introduced to the high-end chicken dish. No more of those traditional marinated, grilled, or fried preparations that I’d been used to – no, no. Instead, “poularde” replaced the common “chicken” on upscale menus, and techniques like “slow-cooked” or “Hung for 3 days to intensify flavor” started popping up. In just one year this mild, overlooked, household meat transformed into a tender, moist, must-order entrée, and nobody did it better than Saison. In 8 extraordinary dishes, it was the Whole-Roasted Poularde with berbere spices, smoked date milk, and roasting juices, paired with a chard leaf rolled with foie gras mousse, that stood out…Continue Reading

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KelsEats’ Top 10 Dishes of 2010 – #8

8 ) Grass-Fed Burger, Nopa

For me, 2010 seemed to be the year of the burger. Prior to last year, I don’t think I had ordered a burger at a restaurant since I was young enough to use the kid’s menu (so about 16, 17 maybe). But, for whatever reason, I suddenly went on a burger binge, determined to find the best gourmet burger in San Francisco. After visits to Fish&Farm, Serpentine, Bar Tartine, Roam, Burgermeister, B3, Nopa, and Spruce, there was a clear winner: Nopa didn’t just have the best damn burger in the City, it was the best burger I’ve ever tried…Continue Reading

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KelsEats’ Top 10 Dishes of 2010 – #7

7) Buttermilk Panna Cotta w/ Cherry Blossom, Coi

Yes, Coi pops up on this list for the second time. Although I wanted to get a good mix of restaurants represented in my top 10, I just couldn’t avoid including this dish – it was just too damn incredible. The dish, which I was lucky enough to get on my first visit to this restaurant, will forever remain in my memory: buttermilk Panna Cotta accompanied by cherry blossoms and topped with budding shoots of wild fennel. First and foremost, the flavor was overwhelming – the buttermilk (a special culture acquired through their in-house butter-making process), infused with cured cherry blossoms, along with the hints of pickled and wild fennel was a perfect balance of delicate freshness and creamy richness. And, the aromatic qualities the cherry blossom twig, left on the plate purely to smell, transformed the flavor into something truly unique and created a dish that really represents Daniel Patterson as a chef. It was the culinary incarnation of early spring. To read more about the other dishes from that night, check out my full account of Coi.

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KelsEats’ Top 10 Dishes of 2010 – #6

6) Grilled Calamari, Frances

Less than a month after opening, Frances nailed it. This particular dish was actually the first I had ever ordered way back in January, and the memory of it stuck with me for the entire year. With only 5 ingredients (squid, Rugosa squash, preserved lemon, currants, arugula), to me this dish represents the type of food served at this restaurant: uncomplicated, seasonal, well-executed, and incredibly flavorful. I was happy to see grilled calamari served without cannellini beans and capers, and Perello’s unique combination of ingredients was particularly thoughtful. The squash mirrored the texture of that type of bean but provided an extra layer of sweetness, while the preserved lemon almost functioned as a caper substitute, adding both acidity to the calamari and tartness to balance the squash. The play between sweet and tart was also found in the tiny currants, making it so that with every bite layers of sweet-sour-salty flavor unfolded in your mouth. Although I tried other incarnations of this dish (which varied with the season), this particular composition was the most impressive. You can read about all the other dishes from that night at Frances here.

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