Archive for us – bay area

Saison (SF) – Fire and Time

This fire started in 2010. A few different leaves were elaborately grilled for striking contrasts in texture. Small smoky bursts stuck to the last pops of caviar. Embers kissed fish with a sudden puff of smoke. Smoky fragrances in light seafood bone broths. Vegetables painted with gradations of carbon across their surfaces. Aged proteins grilled on the primal flame. A slow burn for four years and twenty meals – from pop-up to three stars.

The hearth is inspiration and draw.1 But it does not solely define Saison’s identity.

Honoring ingredients has been a Saison dictum since its earliest days. Serve the best ingredients available with the minimum intervention to exact their ideals. This approach is increasingly tied to the idea of place. Each season sees the restaurant getting more local. Farming plots are de rigueur and Saison now has one. Despite the cliche, there is a huge advantage for plucking produce at its prime, hours before serving. Dairy now comes from their own cow – what comparison can be made between fresh raw milk and even the best commercial product? Seafood comes from local waters, using their own boat.

Battle Creek trout roe

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Aubergine – A Walk on the Sea

The water crashes. Birds squawk. A salty smell is swept briskly through the seaside town of Carmel By The Sea. Wave after wave, dish after dish. Four blocks uphill, Justin Cogley and Aaron Koseba walk along the ocean’s edge. Of seaweeds and tidal pools.

The salt clings to the palate. Seaweed curls around the plate, jut out as dried chips, or accent like an aquatic herb. And sometimes they pop like caviar. Raw fish is not the only vector of a seafood cuisine. Local ingredients from the Monterey Bay are showcased and championed but the far side of the sea is still the same sea. A recurring brine, rhythmic like a wave, threads the meal. By plate. By terroir. By imagination. A journey into the wine-dark sea.1

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Commis (Oakland) – A Quiet Calm

Oh, the helpless customers beguiled by tyrannical tasting menus. They are unwittingly tricked into a gluttony they did not want. Disregarded in the chatter, however, is the ability of extended menus to better showcase intricate food. The longer form creates a narrative space,1 where the chef can explore and create dishes that unfold on their own terms. The tasting menu at Commis now has a depth and nuance that better frames its sophisticated dishes. The tyranny, in fact, is a liberation from the previous disjointed a la carte offering.2

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Saison (SF) – My Favorite Meal of 2012

A meal at Saison is a slow burn through the night. Flavors are clean and light. A soft salinity brushes some plates like an ocean mist. Smoke wafts throughout. Imparts of faint bitterness. Tight concentrations of umami. Sometimes a funk. And always the striking dash of herbs. The fire is the heart, the essence and purpose. Singularity.

Follow the embers to the wild and the pure.

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Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel – Fog of the Sea

With the sting of an herb and brine of the sea, Justin Cogley’s food at Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel captures the Central Coast outside. Ocean mists and forest floors. His palette is largely the surrounding land and it clearly influences his work. And just as oranges, reds, violets, and blue swirl together during a Carmel sunset, flavors blend seamlessly in strong focused dishes. Naturalist, without masking ingredients, it also draws much from across the Pacific.

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