Chefs honor Black History Month with special menus
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.
‘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.