Thursday, June 28, 2007


This week-end, June 30 and July 1, will be the great Jazz Festival of Fillmore Street, the biggest street Jazz event on the West Coast. I believe it, being several blocks long and loaded with all kinds of folks who have one thing in common – they love jazz and, wow, is it good.

Vivande will be open for lunch and dinner as usual. Come on over to hear the sweet sound of music and have a meal. Parking is a NIGHTMARE! Do what the smart folks do; find a parking facility nearby and park your car, then 1.) walk – that is best; 2.) take a bus (the City always finds ways to let them through); 3.) take a taxi and get as close as you can. It is fun, worth any effort (not all that much), and have a great time. Remember: there will be over 90,000 people here over the week-end – be a part of it all. Drink responsibly; eat irresponsibly. Check out the Jazz Festival website. It is really good and very informative, and there are some great parking tips.

Monday, June 25, 2007


I can tell it is summer, because now I am dreaming about cold, sweet, red, dense watermelon – lots of it. Even though I can get by with just a spoonful of ice cream if absolutely necessary (you know about waistlines, don’t you?), when it comes to cocomero (Sicilian word for watermelon) it is either huge slices or forget it.

My wife Lisa and I had lunch in our garden yesterday; perfect San Francisco summer weather, 70 degrees F., gossamer breeze, all shaded by tiny-leafed Japanese maple trees. Simple chicken salad with huge beefsteak tomatoes, Japanese cucumbers, raw snap peas, bruschetta, the best extra virgin olive oil, Trebbiano white wine – what a meal. Watermelon in huge chunks was our dessert. With the giant Bing cherries I got the day before, it was heaven; a bite of melon, a cherry, and so on. Ah, summer.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bread and Chocolate? Wine and Chocolate!

I wrote something about this a couple of days ago, and there is more to come.Here is how we described the first of the three chocolates served with the three wines we thought complemented each other the best: “Pistachio-Almond - A double layer of pistachio-almond marzipan set atop creamy almond/chocolate enrobed in dark chocolate, finished with roasted almonds.” The chocolates are tiny, but so are pearls and diamonds.

We poured a terrific 2005 Nero d’Avola made by di Giovanna, a fruit-forward, luscious berry-kissed wine. This Sicilian wine holds its own with many of the world wines available. The Sicilians have made a huge contribution to the wine drinkers of our planet. The wine intensified the marzipan taste, and of course, if almonds aren’t Sicilian, than neither are pistachios (more about them in another blog.)

A tiny bite of chocolate to “set” the moth, and a miniscule sip of wine prepares you for long lovely tastes. A true treat and a rare one. You shouldn’t miss out on this.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bread and Chocolate? How About Wine and Chocolate?

I loved the film Bread and Chocolate. To me it was one of the most tragic stories done in such as funny way that many people missed the irony. Now, however, we have wine and chocolates to wile away our time and woes.

The wines are chosen by me and my staff at Vivande. The chocolates I am talking about come from a fabulous, small, artisanal shop Chocolaterie Wanders, in the old fashioned way, with a highly trained, journeyman German chocolatier and his wife, she a trained chef – wow – what a combo. The chocolates are small, hand made entirely, even cut by hand – no molds needed or wanted here (I will explain why in a later blog – stay tuned).

Right now we are offering, in our restaurant, a flight of three wines, and a flight of chocolates together on a beautiful ceramic tray. In the next couple of days I will give you our combinations. Our customers are raving about the chocolates! And lapping up the wine.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Fish to Fry

Someone said to me he could not fry fish the way he gets in the restaurant. He likes it almost crisp on the outside and very moist in the middle. It is very hard to make both sides crisp unless you have a very thick piece of fish. But whether you pan roast it (brown it and then pop it into the oven), fry it, grill it or broil it, the theory is the same.

Broiling is hardly worth doing unless you have a super-hot (1,800°F. or more) broiler. Otherwise you just up poaching it. The fish ideally should be about 1 ½ inches thick for best results; 1 inch will work but watch out you don’t overcook it. Pat the fish very dry with towels, and lightly salt and pepper it all over. To fry the fish, the best alternative to grilling, is to put a heavy frying pan on medium heat, add a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and let it get hot, about 1 minute. Carefully put in the fish, and then LEAVE IT ALONE! Do not try to move it around. People love to do that; put it in, and immediately start the hockey game pushing it here and there,

In about 2 minutes you should see from the side that it has cooked about 20% of the way from the bottom. When it is almost 33% cooked (you can easily see where it is cooked and where it is still raw), carefully flip it over with a spatula. The bottom should be beautifully dark, and not have stuck at all. Cook up to another 2 minutes. Remove the fish from the pan onto a towel-draped warm place to drain excess oil. Let it stand about 3 minutes, then serve it on a very warm plate garnished any way that pleases you.

Serve hot. Give yourself a treat; do not put any lemon juice on the fish and see how you like it. Lemon is put on everything it seems, and sometimes the flavor of the fish disappears under a swamp of acidic juice.