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Food Awards 2012

Dig in to this year's top food!


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Signature Dishes

As told to Sara Hare. Photography by Jennifer Martiné

“Depending on the season, I change up the vegetable accompaniments in this dish. John Dory is a fairly light, flaky fish—this one wild from New Zealand—that matches the flavor of the saffron broth and works well with a wide variety of lightly poached vegetables. With saffron and fish and mussels, this dish has French roots, and that’s what I was going for.”  —John Marquez, chef-owner

1005 Brown Ave., Lafayette, (925) 962-0882, artisanlafayette.com


“At Chevalier, I create the classic dishes of France, not the new trends. Time-tested plates like boeuf bourguignon. The sweetbreads in puff pastry with morels is one of those, although more unusual: Its origins go way back in French cooking. I source the sweetbreads from veal and braise gently with Madeira sauce and veal stock for at least an hour until it’s very tender.”  —Philippe Chevalier, chef-owner

960 Moraga Rd., Lafayette, (925) 385-0793, chevalierrestaurant.com.


“This dish says a lot about what I am trying to do at Élevé: create Vietnamese dishes with complex flavors and ingredients, with an overlay of European traditions. The xào lăn uses my signature sauce—a lemongrass base with Thai basil, curry, coconut, and some heat. Traditionally, it’s prepared with frog’s legs, but I use fresh fish, and add the coconut milk to balance the sharpness of the curry. I think it shows off how sophisticated traditional Vietnamese food can be.”  —Michele Nguyen, chef-owner

1677 North Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 979-1677, eleverestaurant.com.


“I take the leg of the duck, smoke it, roast it, and then braise it until it’s tender and falls into little bites that melt on your tongue. The food at Ottavio is based on the cuisine of the Venice region, with a modern interpretation. I make the gnocchi lighter by using ricotta, for example. The gnocchi dish was inspired by an old recipe with penne and duck prosciutto that is very Venetian. And that is what Ottavio is about.”  —Valentino Luchin, chef-owner

1606 North Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 930-8008, ottavio-osteria.com

Sara Hare is a long-time restaurant reviewer and food and wine writer, as well as Editor-in-Chief of InGest Magazine.


“The restaurant name comes from the food I wanted to cook: peasant food. Slow-cooked dishes made with lesser-known cuts of meat that we sear, simmer, and braise with fresh ingredients to create flavor. The Italian lamb shank is a perfect example. This is country, peasant food. No matter what time of year, it is by far our most popular dish.”  —Rodney Worth, chef-owner

267 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 820-6611, thepeasantandthepear.com.

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