Weekly Dish: Hot Chefs
Michelin-starred chef coming to Walnut Creek; myriad dining at Bishop Ranch in San Ramon; new chefs and menus in Orinda; and springtime events.
by Sara Hare
Big news this week: World-class chef Carlos Altamirano has announced he is opening Parada in Walnut Creek in less than a month. And yes—I mean world class.
One of Altamirano’s other restaurants, La Costanera in Montara, which serves up contemporary Peruvian cuisine, has earned some of those highly coveted Michelin stars. Altamirano also owns two casual San Francisco restaurants, Mochica, in Potrero Hill, and Piqueos, a tapas bar in Bernal Heights—as well as a bevy of Latin-inspired food trucks called Sanguchon.
Parada, will be a Peruvian comfort food restaurant named for the infamous food market in Lima, Peru. And I simply cannot wait.
For months now, after workouts at my health club, I’ve scrambled across Treat Boulevard near the Pleasant Hill BART station to check out the slo-mo progress on this eatery located in a storefront on an isolated stretch in northern Walnut Creek. Even though Parada is an Andean trek from chic downtown Walnut Creek (near no other restaurants except, you guessed it, Starbucks), I think Altamirano is going to kill it in this location. And not just because I will go broke eating there.
Here’s just one cool tidbit: Altamirano has an acre of land near Half Moon Bay solely dedicated to producing rocoto, a variety of pepper that is a foundation in Peruvian cuisine, Altamirano’s specialty.
That’s not just sustainable sourcing, which is all the buzz these days. It’s the kind of dedication that earns you Michelin stars.
For 20 years Altamirano worked in the kitchens of big San Francisco restaurants such as Grand Café, Kuleto’s, One Market, Rose Pistola, and Hawthorne Lane. At his Walnut Creek restaurant, the chef and his wife, Shu Dai, are planning a spot where rotisserie chicken (sustainably sourced Mary’s Chicken, of course), will “star” as the Peruvian speciality, Polla a la Brasa. A selection of small plates, including ceviches and grilled skewers (anticuchos), are also planned, along with a full bar of cocktails—such as the magical Chilcano, a pisco cocktail blended with tamarind. Aye! Sounds amazing, right?
Altamirano’s team tells me that their target opening date is June 23. You can make reservations on Open Table now.
Another SF Chef Coming to the East Bay Soon
Sustainable sourcing is also on the minds of the team behind Sabio’s on Main in Pleasanton, an upcoming 98-seat Spanish-Mediterranean small-plates place slated to open in Pastime Plaza. Owner Jim McDonnell has just announced that he has tapped talented San Francisco chef Francis Hogan, formerly of Bluestem Brasserie as well as Farallon and Hawthorne Lane, to create a menu so sustainable that they will be “shopping at farmers markets and changing up the menu on a daily basis.”
Chef Hogan likes to work with farmers and ranchers directly, such as the Bay Area’s BN Ranch and Devil’s Gulch Ranch, to service his whole-animal butchery program. In addition to signature dishes such as lamb meatballs—with currents and pine nuts, and served with bulgur salad and house made yogurt—Hogan will also be, uh, beefing up his charcuterie program with eclectic offerings that will be displayed in the front of the house, next to the wine case.
In addition, a “vast selection of vegetable-centric dishes” is planned, including one that sounds incredible: fresh-charred asparagus cured with egg yolks. “It’s a kind of Caesar salad presentation,” says Hogan.
Sabio’s is named for Spain’s 13th century King Alfonso X, also called El Sabio, or “The Wise.” I was so impressed with the vision that Hogan, a New Jersey native, has for Sabio’s that I couldn’t resist telling him that I think there’s now a new wise guy in town. And it just might be him! Look for a late summer opening.
Bishop Ranch Dining Couture
In a few months, no one will ever brown-bag it for lunch at Bishop Ranch again. The business park’s owner, Sunset Development, has just announced a partnership with San Rafael’s Moana Restaurant Group to create a culinary hub of five distinct dining experiences in the existing 2600 building. It will be called Roundhouse Market and will offer three fast-casual concepts: a Mexican taqueria, an Italian pizzeria, and a gourmet sandwich and salad bar, as well as an upscale restaurant that will also be open for dinner and a coffee bar.
I’m still waiting for details about restaurant names and chefs, but Moana tells me the quick-serve places will be open by the end of 2015, with the restaurant and coffee bar coming online in 2016. Eventually, there will be electric boat rides available on the lake.
The Roundhouse Market restaurants should not be confused with the new Renzo Piano-designed building that will be in the City Center and will showcase a host of eateries of its own.
New Chefs at Orinda’s Theatre Square
The other day, I caught up with Michael Karp, owner of Table 24 and Barbacoa, who explained that, after a few years of revolving-door chefs (a restaurant owner’s biggest headache!), he’s finally found a couple of talented new chefs whose menus are gaining traction with the community.
At Table 24, chef Jonathan Williams, previously of Clair Tappaan Lodge in Tahoe, has taken the reins at this neighborhood comfort food hot spot where daily specials are back in a big way—as is seasonally driven cuisine and, yes, sustainably sourced foods!
Signature dishes include a new buffalo chicken mac ‘n’ cheese topped with panko and finished in the oven; slow-smoked pork baby back ribs; and a grass-fed, house-ground burger made using three different cuts of meat. Williams and Karp both grew up in the same hometown north of Boston, so it seems like a lock.
At Barbacoa, the Mexican-inspired eatery in Theatre Square, chef Remberto Garcia sounds like he’s making magic, uh, milagros for dinner. His pedigree is impressive. According to Karp, Garcia worked with Hubert Keller at SF’s Fleur de Lys for 22 years. Holy spun sugar!
Signature dishes at Barbacoa are the ahi tuna taco with pico de gallo and cilantro pesto crema, and the carne asada taquito. New front-of-the-house teams have also been brought in at both restaurants, as well as new catering with Dianna Condon Cuisine. I can’t wait to get down to these two great neighborhood eateries to check out the menus. Karp is also a co-owner of Forge Pizza in Jack London Square and Danville, as well as upcoming locations in Napa and Phoenix.
Gin—or is that Jin?
There’s something new brewing over at Sasa. Bar manager Ian Baker has brought in a new gin from Holland that he’s aging in small barrels right on the back bar. The gin is made by Nolet’s, a company owned by Diageo, the same people who bring us Ketel One Vodka.
It all started when Baker won a cocktail competition in Berkeley last year. Pretty soon, Nolet’s was knock-knock-knocking on his door, and Baker came up with the idea to age the gin in American oak barrels to create aromatics and more flavor. The gin ages for about six weeks, a process that imparts notes of caramel, vanilla and, yes, even cherry.
Baker has just finished his first batch, and he is now making some pretty remarkable classic cocktails, from Old Fashioneds to Negronis. This is not any gin, folks. “It drinks like a whiskey,” says Baker. Paired with the yellowtail with ponzu sauce or the sizzling steak on a stone, these Nolet’s gin cocktails enhance the flavor profiles and exceed all expectations. I’ve always thought that cocktails were better paired with Asian cuisine than wine. Stop by soon to sample some of Baker’s first batch.
May 30: It’s that time again, folks. The Walnut Creek Art and Wine Festival takes place in Heather Farm Park next weekend. In between the arts and crafts booths, there will be some stellar food booths, but what I’m really excited about is the wine and craft beer.
Look at who will be pouring in the premium wine tent: Schramsberg, Cakebread, Clos du Val, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Brandlin, Caymus, Wente, and more. In the craft beer garden, look for a silly selection of suds from an all East Bay line-up: Cleophus Quealy, Calicraft, Drake's, Schubros, Altamont Beer Works, Black Diamond, 8 Bridges, E.J. Phair, Faction, and Fieldwork. Sat., May 30, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sun., May 31, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
May 30: Interested in popular ancient grains such as black rice, red quinoa, and golden Kamut berries? Don’t miss the book discussion that will tell you what they are and how to cook ’em! Speck’s first book, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, was named a top cookbook by both The New York Times and the Washington Post. Speck has also been featured in the upcoming documentary The Grain Divide, starring Dan Barber, Chad Robertson, and Michael Pollan among others. Sat., May 30, 1-3 p.m. Free. Click here to register.
June 5-7: There is a mighty foodie fest coming up at Levi’s Stadium called BITE Silicon Valley that bills itself as “the first festival to celebrate the intersection of food and tech.” Not sure what that means, but some pretty food-worthy speakers will be there, including the likes of chef and MSNBC food correspondent Tom Colicchio, chef José Andres, chef Michael Voltaggio, and many more.
The event will tackle the subjects of food waste (my personal peeve), how to feed the world, GMOs, and more. The presentation will take place in the 501 Loft on Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. On Saturday and Sunday, cooking demos and tasting will take place in the United Club and Yahoo Fantasy Sports Lounge. Now this is my kind of sporting event! Check it out.
June 6: At a time when gluten is being denounced by dieticians, celebrities, and popular culture, investigative journalist Steven Yafa set out to separate truth from fiction in his latest book, Grain of Truth. He discovers through scientific evidence that mass-production processing methods and monoculture are to blame for the fall of gluten, not the inherent genetic make-up of wheat itself. Sat., June 6, 1-3 p.m. Free. Click here to register.
Crafts Creamery in Danville opens today!