Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Stars Come Out at the 2011 San Francisco Michelin Guide Release Party

Yesterday, the Michelin folks released the fifth edition of its restaurant guide for the San Francisco Bay Area and Wine Country, and last night they threw a party for a whole bunch of industry folks and a few of the lucky chefs who were deemed worthy of the coveted Michelin stars.

And I happened to be there, feeling kind of like the guy who sneaked in through the kitchen for a peek at the city’s fooderati. Officially, I was invited although they couldn't find my name on the list because I’m often invited as “The Single Guy” instead of my real name, and now I know how awkward it is to say “The Single Guy” out loud in line.

But I forgot all that as I walked down the corridor of a suite at the Clift Hotel and made a beeline to the bar, where several visiting bartenders from New York were mixing up some specialty drinks. I got something called the “Shanghai Maid” that was a refreshing mix of gin and cucumber juice, among other things.

While the drinks came from a cocktail group from New York, the meal was produced by several underground supper clubs from San Francisco, such as Radio Africa, Spice, Cook with James, and forageSF. The passed h’orderves included plates of goat and liver pate, mountain mushroom crostini and some kind of interesting panna cotta and cheese combo in a spoon.

It was a night out for many of the city’s best chefs who hung up their chefs’ whites and put on their civilian threads to mingle with colleagues. I was mostly going around gawking at them. Among them were Chef Mark Sullivan, a partner of Spruce (1 star); and Chef Melissa Perello of the newly inducted one-star Frances.

Looking so French chic with a San Francisco flair was Chef Dominique Crenn of Luce (1 star). She totally made my night when I introduced myself and she told me that she has actually read my blog! Yay!

The man creating much of the buzz upon his arrival was (extreme right) Chef Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena in Napa Valley. The new Michelin Guide bestowed the ultimate ranking of three stars to Chef Kostow and Meadowood, making him only the second American-born chef to receive three stars. In the center is Jean-Luc Naret of the Michelin Guide and (extreme left) Chef Thomas Keller, who was the first American-born chef to achieve three stars for The French Laundry in Napa Valley and Per Se in New York.

All the chefs seemed to get along like they were in some kind of special club, and nothing like the competitiveness you would imagine (I guess I’ve been watching too much Top Chef). Above are more chefs having a good time with each other, including (from left) Chef James Syhabout of Oakland’s Commis (the only East Bay restaurant that received a Michelin star), Chef Mourad Lahlou of Aziza (1 star) and Chef Kostow.

Of course, there was more food as the local supper clubs dished up Moroccan lamb and Zinfandel braised beef short ribs. Some of my favorite dishes were a pumpkin gazpacho with pomegranate from graffEats and a stuffed squid from “Outstanding in the Field.”

This year’s San Francisco Michelin Guide includes 519 restaurants, a testament to the variety of stellar restaurants the Michelin inspectors found worthy in the Bay Area to include. My only question: How do I get a job as a Michelin inspector? Just putting it out there in the universe. :)


Amy Sherman said...

A fun night seeing so many industry folks, but I thought the food was a major misstep. Everything I had was average or worse.

Hungry Dog said...

Cool! I was invited but couldn't go. (Too bad--we could have hung out!) Looks like a great time.

Kim said...

That's so awesome you were invited and went! Next time you need a date, let me know. I can call myself "Single Gal."

Anonymous said...

Very cool event. Those are the who's who of the Bay Area culinary world. Side note: You have to check out the Restaurant at Meadowood. That's seriously a great restaurant and deserving of three stars. -- David

foodhoe said...

how cool, did you get free guides too? Looks like a fun night out

Single Guy Ben said...

Amy, I think you're right about the food. I liked some things, and I didn't get to try everything because there was some tables that had an issue keeping up with the crowds. I have to say the lamb I had was off.

HD and Kim, I'll keep you guys on my standby list for next year! ;-)

David, I really want to try Meadowood. I bet it's going to be even more crazy to get reservations now.

Foodhoe, yes, got a guide and shifting through all the ratings to see how they match up with my own ratings.

Anonymous said...

Are u going to the LUSH party tomorrow night? Cardamom-Rose Yogurt and Pistachio Gelato is the flavor that won. I hope it's not too crowded - no place for the huge crowd that might show up.


Dinner ideas said...

very nice. i'm impressed

Carolyn Jung said...

Sorry I had to miss the Michelin-star-studded event. Couldn't be happier for Christopher Kostow. He's so talented. What a thrill to join the ranks of the French Laundry! ;)

Jonny Cigar said...

The Cocktail group from New York was EVOE! and the wines were provided by The Noble Rot, a "traveling wine saloon" based out of Brooklyn. Amy, if you were there, why didn't you say hello? The wines, by the way, were outstanding. And the supper clubs all did an excellent job, regardless of you not liking their food. For those interested to know what happened: The supper clubs all love what they do and it was an honor for them to serve food to San Francisco's culinary upper echelon. They are not professionals working in 3-star kitchens, rather amazing people who cook great food and foster a unique atmosphere. This was a fabulous event for Michelin, having outstanding personalities serve their starred chefs food and libations with a heightened social interaction. The event was incredibly fun.

Passionate Eater said...

I am not surprised big chefs read your blog--that is yet more proof that you should keep up the good work!!