Fine Dining with Richard

Join my friends and I while we explore some of the best restaurants in the Bay Area.

Coqueta by Michael Chiarello

Lunch with Alfredo

This was the second time out for lunch at Coqueta for both of us. The newish Spanish water front fine dinning establishment by celebrity chef Michael Chiarello. He was the founding chef of the Napa valley pioneer restaurant Tra Vigne which featured his family’s native Calabria. Coqueta is a complete departure for Chef Chiarello’s Italian roots and brings an amazing take on Spanish small plates, cured meats, cheeses of Iberia, both hot and cold Tapas!

We Started the lunch with the perfect Baby beets with Sausalito watercress, beet vinagreta and tierra, and cabrales blue cheese show both a visual and taste sensation. 
Next came the Red Kale Ensalada with roasted squash, apricot, roasted pumpkin seeds, and warm rancho cord chickpea dressing. This salad makes you want to eat your veggies! Alfredo and i both felt Kale never tasted so good.
We then shared the Whole Monterey calamari on the planchas with an onion jam and squid ink alioli a plate of two perfect little calamari with a drizzle of black squid ink decorating the plate along with a salad of frisee and grapefruit.
The wood grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes, pimento and olive oil!
Lunch ended with Chef Chiarello personally plating the amazing fruit Gazpacho frozen by liquid nitrogen he regaled us with funny stories of people trying to eat the dish too soon and having frost bite,  He is a charming host and you feel welcome by him and the staff while the food is the star!
The Coqueta wine list features a great collection of Spanish wines but Gintonic spanish gins and the Sangria offer a fun wine alternative.
Alfredo and I both would return often.



Dinner at Chez Panisse Cafe

Weeknight Dinner at Chez Panisse Café January 2014

Mary and I had a night out without our significant others. We had tickets for Berkeley Rep’s showing of the Kneehigh theaters Tristan & Yseult a modern take on Wagner’s opera. What better way to start the night in Berkeley than with dinner at Chez Panisse Café. The restaurant has recovered from their recent fire.

Mary started the meal with  a carrot soup with ginger and coriander; while I enjoyed the smoked steelhead with roasted beets, crème fraîche, steelhead roe and dill; both first courses where fantastic but the fish had more substance and a silky and creamy smoky texture. 

Next we both loved the Stemple Creek Ranch sirloin roast with shoestring potatoes, spinach, and horseradish salsa. The steak was done perfectly rare while the shoestrings where perfectly crispy and a wonderful indulgence.

We both enjoyed the St. Innocent Pinot Noir 2010 It had a ripe raspberry, violet and spice scent. The somewhat lean, mid-weight body shows currant and tea flavors with ample fine tannins on the finish and for the price it was a nice but not over the top mid week wine.

We ended the meal with the tangerine sherbet meringata with pistachio nougatine and the Hachiya persimmon pudding with bourbon caramel and crème Chantilly; the sherbet had intense tangerine flavor and the meringata is like a puff of crispy air; while the pudding is lush and rich and a perfect ending to a rich and overall perfectly balanced meal.

Alice Waters reigns supreme with her farm to table cuisine where the perfect ingredients are never over powered; considering the restaurant was established in 1971 it is truly remarkable that she has never lost focus and the food is as fresh and perfect as always.







Happy Holidays 2013! All the best to you and yours, Richard

Bistro Ralph Healdsburg. 

Mid week lunch options in the wine country are limited. Healdsburg has seen resent new fine dining options expand with the opening of Spoon Bar but the mid week lunch scene is limited. Spoon bar not open for lunch, Dry Creek Kitchen serves lunch only on the weekend from Friday to Sunday.  The now closed Cyrus leaves a vacuum at the top of the restaurant food chain. So where is one to eat on a Wednesday in Healdsburg.  

For over 20 years Ralph Tingle has been serving his take on French Bistro fare in his wine country restaurant on the town square in Healdsburg. It is the perfect place for dinner or lunch if you want to rub elbows with local wine makers. Prior to opening Bistro Ralph he cooked at some of the best restaurants in Paris and the US including Taillevant Paris, Academie du Vin, Cordon Bleu, Auberge de Soliel to name a few.

When he opened 20 years ago Healdsburg was not a city with destination restaurants he was a pioneer in the wine country. 20 years later he is still turning out fine French food with an American flare while others have come and gone namely Cyrus which closed after only  a few years due to a dispute with their landlord (the food was amazing and will be missed).

Today’s lunch started with the whole leaf sweet gem Caesar salad with Vella Aged Jack cheese. The lettuce was perfect with one perfect crouton.

Next I enjoyed the “Texas” Veal Chop charbroiled with anchovy butter, sweet potato fries and watercress salad.

I indulged in the Chocolate Taillevant tart served with crème anglaise roasted hazelnuts and cherries. This is a classic flour-less chocolate cake very rich and intense the portion seems small but size can be deceptive.

This restaurant gives you everything and more than you expect in a wine country dining experience, great comfort food, great wines and casual and efficient service.

Bistro Ralph.

Alfredo Birthday Lunch.

Stars…Stars Café. Chez Panisee…Chez Panisee Café. These two started the hi and low fine dining and more casual and affordable off spring. Quince and Cotogna take the high low to a new level and blur the line even more.

Quince takes you to a Venetian palazzo like setting and brings the finest Italian inspired food to San Francisco. It’s sibling Cotogna brings a more casual atmosphere but the food is just as good as it’s big sister with amazing affordable wines.

We started lunch with wine and cocktails. Some of the best cocktails in the city.

Next we shared the Delta asparagus with tropea onion and romesco sauce and La Quercia prosciutto and nectarine. Two perfect dishes to share to start a perfect birthday lunch.

Both of us being Italian American we can’t avoid the pasta. We split the most perfect triangular raviolis the Heger Farm corn triangoli with chanterelle mushrooms, the corn was so amazingly sweet the server took an oath that the kitchen adds no sugar to this dish the corn is perfect and the sauce is the finest.

For our main course we split the Squash blossom pizza with basil and cherry tomato the char on the pizza is perfect crispy but not too over done.

Finally we ended lunch with a delightful and not to over whelming Cherry torta, with amazing ripe cherries. 

This is a restaurant you can return to over and over and never be less than amazed with the freshest ingredients, Italian casual food and not break the bank.



Lunch after court at the Rotunda Restaurant at Neiman Marcus San Francisco. I always end up kicking myself when i don’t order the Lobster club sandwich.  Don’t every let the server try and persuade you otherwise, it really is the only thing on the menu to get!

xoxo RAL

The Rotunda

Who says you can’t make dinner at home week nights! That is what RAL said until the new stove got hooked up with a grill!

2012 Thanksgiving Dinner with Mom, Dad, Aunt Martha, Tomas and Mr. A’s San Diego!

Mr. A’s.

Those of you who love Mexican cuisine and are big fans of Diana Kennedy and “The Art of Mexican Cooking” have i am sure by now discovered one of the three incarnations of Tocolicious! I had a light lunch after court and chowed down on four wonderful tacos with a side of the fresh made guacamole! If you love spicy don’t pass up the trio of salsas that come with each taco order! YUM! 


The Rebel Within

Late friday lunch with Alfredo the food at Craftsman and Wolves at 746 Valencia St. is so rich if you want to enjoy a decadent lunch and save room for one or more of the fantastic sweets you should think about splitting one of the salads and sandwiches with a friend then you might still have room to enjoy one of the many decadent offerings such as “the devil” a chocolate cake with toffee and adorned with “cocoa nibs” just one of the many sweet offerings not to be missed!