Chefs honor Black History Month with spe­cial menus

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FOOD - By Linda Zavoral and Jes­sica Yade­garan

Chefs in Hay­ward and San Fran­cisco have cre­ated menus for Black History Month that pay trib­ute to trea­sured African Amer­i­can recipes and black-owned winer­ies.

For ex­ec­u­tive chef Jerome “Spike” Wil­liams, of Playt in Hay­ward, it’s a chance to trace African Amer­i­can culi­nary lin­eage from Africa and the Caribbean through­out this coun­try.

“To cel­e­brate, my team and I have chan­neled dishes that span from north­ern Africa to Ok­la­homa and all parts of the south­ern United States,” Wil­liams said. The down­town Hay­ward restau­rant is owned by Michael LeBlanc; both men were for­merly with Picán in Oak­land.

The Mon­day-Satur­day menu this week will fea­ture a dish that Wil­liams says his grand­mother, from Lum­ber­ton, North­ern Carolina, loved: low and slow braised ox­tails with tomato-okra-but­ter­bean suc­co­tash over fried red rice.

From Feb. 17-22 the fo­cus be­comes an Ok­la­homa recipe, smoked ham hocks with smoky kid­ney beans and a side of ca­st­iron corn­bread. And from Feb. 24-29 it will be pork belly and Ni­man Ranch beef meat­loaf, with home­made mo­lasses bar­be­cue sauce, gar­lic mashed pota­toes and smoked col­lard greens.

In San Fran­cisco, chef Banks White (Rambler, the Brix­ton) has col­lab­o­rated with One Mar­ket’s chef-part­ner Mark Dom­men to present a four­course menu avail­able for both lunch and din­ner through Feb. 29 at the One Mar­ket Street site.

Din­ers may order the prix fixe menu ($55) or try the dishes a la carte. Ten per­cent of the pro­ceeds from the prix fixe menu will be do­nated to the Mu­seum of the African Di­as­pora.

The first course, Dom­men’s pick­led shrimp salad, will be fol­lowed by White’s adobo chile-glazed South by South­east fried ribs with okra. For the main course, White is pre­par­ing grilled trout with pineap­ple black for­bid­den fried rice, green pa­paya salad and Malaysian red curry. Cap­ping off the meal will be pastry chef Lyn­d­say Pullem’s pineap­ple up­side down cake with brown sugar ice cream.

Fea­tured wines from African Amer­i­can vint­ners will in­clude the McBride Sis­ters, Theopo­lis, Okapi, Mai­son Noir, Vi­sion, Bod­kin, DarJean Jones, Longevity and Tym­phany.

DE­TAILS >> Playt is lo­cated at 1036 B St., Hay­ward; www.play­tonb.com. One Mar­ket is at One Mar­ket St., San Fran­cisco; www.

one­mar­ket.com.

‘Two-Buck Chuck’ is back at Trader Joe’s

The dar­ling of the dis­count wine world is back.

“Two-Buck Chuck” has re­turned to the shelves of Trader Joe’s at the $1.99 price that in­spired the nick­name.

Chuck, aka Charles Shaw, ac­tu­ally never left — but the price for the wines, avail­able in both red and white, had risen to $2.99 over the years.

“We’ve been able to work with the pro­ducer of Charles Shaw to make some im­prove­ments pack­ag­ing-wise so that it uses less glass and the cork is a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent,” Matt Sloan, vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing and prod­uct at Trader Joe’s, told the Business Jour­nal. “These cost sav­ings have put us into a po­si­tion where we can pass a lot of that sav­ings right onto cus­tomers.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mer­cury News ar­chives, the wine was in­tro­duced in 2002 when the slow econ­omy prompted many vint­ners to cut prices. “Chuck” re­mained at the iconic $1.99 level for 11 years. Dur­ing that time, Trader Joe’s was sell­ing 5 mil­lion a cases a year of the wine.

Shawarma fries, falafel panini at Shawar­maji

In Ara­bic, the term “shawar­maji” trans­lates to “the per­son who is known for mak­ing shawarma.”

That per­son is Mo­ham­mad “Moha” Abu­taha, for­mer sous chef at San Fran­cisco’s Noosh, where his epic fam­ily meals were the best part of the day, ac­cord­ing to Noosh founder Sayat Ozy­il­maz.

Now, we all get to ex­pe­ri­ence chef Moha’s Frenchroll falafel sand­wiches, which he presses on the grid­dle like a panini, as well as his out­ra­geous chicken shawarma-topped fries. On Feb. 16, he’s open­ing his first restau­rant, Shawar­maji, in the cafe por­tion of Oak­land’s For­age Kitchen.

The menu, which fo­cuses on a few dishes made with fresh in­gre­di­ents and unique spins, are in­spired by the tra­di­tional street food in Am­man, Jor­dan, where he grew up.

“Food has been my life­long pas­sion, and I want to share my love for the meals that take me back home,” Abu­taha said via email. “I want to cre­ate an au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence — not just for the Arab di­as­pora here, but for the en­tire com­mu­nity.”

Shawar­maji started as a pop-up at Reem’s Cal­i­for­nia, an­other top-notch Mid­dle Eastern restau­rant grac­ing Abu­taha’s re­sume. He has also worked at Miche­lin-starred The Vil­lage Pub.

Shawar­maji’s open­ing menu in­cludes chicken shawarma wraps made with slow-cooked chicken with toum, a house­made gar­lic aioli, and house­made cu­cum­ber pick­les pressed on the grid­dle; pressed falafel sand­wiches served on a French roll with tahini, toma­toes, cu­cum­ber pick­les and cab­bage slaw; and shawarma fries, french fries topped with chicken, pick­led cu­cum­bers and turnips, and toum.

DE­TAILS >> Shawar­maji will be tucked in­side For­age Kitchen at 478 25th St., Oak­land. Open­ing hours will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon­day-Wednesday and 11 a.m. to mid­night Thurs­day-Satur­day. Find more in­for­ma­tion at Shawar­maji’s Face­book or In­sta­gram.

San Fran­cisco’s La Folie restau­rant to close af­ter 32 years

San Fran­cisco’s el­e­gant and iconic French restau­rant on Polk Street will serve its last es­car­got on March 14.

Af­ter 32 years, Roland and Jamie Pas­sot are clos­ing Rus­sian Hill’s La Folie and La Folie Lounge to fo­cus on their other restau­rants: Vine Dining restau­rants Left Bank Brasserie in San Jose, Menlo Park and Lark­spur; and LB Steak and Meso in San Jose and soon in San Ra­mon.

The cou­ple shared their news in a heart­felt email.

“The restau­rant was our in­fant, our tod­dler and even some­times our de­mand­ing teenager,” they wrote. “We can­not help but look back at our col­lected achieve­ments and mem­o­ries and be grate­ful to all who have cho­sen to cel­e­brate life’s spe­cial mo­ments, in­clud­ing birth­days, wed­ding pro­pos­als and an­niver­saries.”

Pas­sot and his wife opened La Folie in 1988, of­fer­ing con­tem­po­rary sea­sonal and or­ganic French cui­sine in an el­e­gant dining room with warm light­ing, mir­rored pan­els and high-qual­ity ser­vice. In 2009, La Folie ex­panded to open La Folie Lounge next door. The lounge of­fered a more re­laxed vibe, with cock­tails and bar food.

Among the celebrity guests who passed through their doors over the years for caviar and but­ter-poached lob­ster are Bill Clin­ton and for­mer French pres­i­dent Francois Hol­lande.

Meso, the Pas­sots’ new­est restau­rant, opened to solid re­views last fall in San Jose’s San­tana Row. LB Steak San Ra­mon is slated to open this sum­mer at City Cen­ter Bishop Ranch. Look for pop-ups hosted by chef Roland at Left Bank, LB Steak and Meso. Af­ter a short va­ca­tion and a bit of rest, Roland said he will also be­gin work­ing on a book that has been 32 years in the mak­ing.

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