Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Cooking My Way Back Home, Kokkari & Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food

I always get excited about cookbooks with a connection to the Bay Area. There are so many things that make eating here special. Of course, it's the fresh produce, but it's much more than just that. It's also the vibe, the service and personality of our local restaurants. The latest crop of cookbooks capture much of that.

It may sound odd to say I don't go to Mitchell Rosenthal's restaurants, namely Town Hall and Anchor & Hope (never been to Salt House) primarily for the food. Oh the food is good, some of it is outstanding, but I really go because those restaurants just feel so good and welcoming. It's like a party every night, at both places, not in a rowdy way, in a "I can't remember the last time I had so much fun at a restaurant" way. At Town Hall I always sit at the communal table, and I love it. You cannot eat there without making friends with your neighbors and chatting over your dishes. Rosenthal's new cookbook, Cooking My Way Back Home, manages to share a lot of the fun through stories and photos, not to mention recipes.

Cooking My Way Back HomeThankfully my favorite dish from Town Hall is in the new cookbook, it's Faith's Warm Ham & Cheese Toast with Jalapeno Cream as well as my favorite bite from Anchor & Hope, Angels on Horseback with Remoulade. The recipes are a mix of Southern and Jewish/Deli favorites with a few Mexican, Seafood and barbecue recipes and somehow it all works. I'd call it comfort food meets party food. Bookmarked recipes to try include Hot Mixed Nuts with Truffle Honey and Maldon Salt, Sweet Onion and Funky Cheese Fondue, BBQ Shrimp with Toasted Garlic Bread and Lemon Chicken with Olive and Feta.

KokkariKokkari is hand's down the number one Greek restaurant in San Francisco. Of course, we are not a city known for Greek food. What makes the restaurant so successful is a classically trained chef who takes family recipes and elevates them to something even more special. The Kokkari cookbook is a compendium of Chef Erik Cosselmon's refined takes on Greek food and family recipes from the owners of the restaurant, the Frangadakis and Marcus (Moutsanas) families. Recipes you must try include the best Zucchini Cakes (fritters) I have ever had, Spiced Meatballs with Green Olive & Tomato Sauce, Orsa's Flaky Cheese Pastries, Braised Lamb Shanks and Moussaka.

Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good FoodEvery food writer I have spoken to lately is excited about Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food. Bi-Rite is one of the most incredible grocery stores you will ever visit. It is tiny and yet every single item that is there is there for a reason. It is the most curated store you can imagine. If you want to eat like we eat in the Bay Area, this is your book. It's not just recipes, it tells you just what you need to know about the ingredients you use. You'll learn how to store persimmons, how to use fresh fennel, how to buy heritage turkeys and where to best store cheese in your fridge. It also highlights many of the most beloved (mostly Northern California) producers and purveyors like McEvoy Ranch, Cowgirl Creamery and Mariquita Farms.

The book is like one of my other favorite cooking reference books, Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating, only on steroids because it includes so much more information, specifically about fresh meat, seafood, dairy, wines and a plethora of fresh produce. Read it and become an expert on choosing, storing and using the best ingredients possible. Recipes are really secondary, but some to whet your appetite include Cocoa-Cumin Beef Roast, Lemony Kale Caesar Salad, Spanish Deviled Eggs (to die for!) and Roasted Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts with Caper Lemon Butter.

Local Author Events:

On November 17th Mitch Rosenthal of Town Hall will be speaking at Omnivore Books

On November 2nd Sam Mogannam of Bi-Rite will be speaking at the Commonwealth Club.

Thursday, November 3rd Erik Cosselmon of Kokkari will be teaching a demo class on rotisserie and roasting at Purcell Murray Brisbane