striped bass from San Francisco Fish Company stuffed with fennel, basil, onions, garlic and lemons

Whenever I come back to this spectacular City by the Bay, I make a beeline for the Ferry Building which my friend Tracy calls “complete sensory overload”. I call it heaven. The Ferry Building is a food lovers version of crack and nothing short of addicting. From the clam chowder and three-cheese grilled cheese at Hog Island Oyster Company to the mosaic of delights at Boulette’s Larder to the dizzying Sur la Table where I simply want to ask for “one of everything” to the Saturday morning market insanity, the Ferry Building is the Louvre of food, a showcase and tribute to the sophistication and appreciation that thrives in this once bawdy gold rush outpost.

When I had to come up with a menu for a friend’s 50th birthday dinner, I naturally zeroed in on the Ferry Building. Where else can you shop for an entire meal, from caviar to chocolate, in one place, one stop, one parking lot and call it a day. Gotta’ love that! With Tracy in tow, we bought the foie gras at the San Francisco Meat Co, the striped bass from Bill at the San Francisco Fish Company, caviar at Tsar Nicolai, chocolate at Scharfenberger, cheese from Rachel at Cow Girl Creamery, and vegetables and herbs from the maze of produce stands that gift wrap the building.

future star chef Amy, Laura (not me), Tracy and birthday girl Patty

Tracy, Patty, and I shared a memorable meal a year ago at Manresa ending with the promise to get together and cook whenever we were all in the same city. So cook we did, enlisting Patty and her oldest daughter Amy, a student at the Calfornia Culinary Academy in San Francisco, as sous chefs and Tracy as official brusher of olive oil on croutons, quality control, and ensuring our wine glasses were never empty. From 1pm to 11pm we chopped and sauteed and reduced and sipped and toasted and cheered and ate and ate and ate. Voila le menu…

Bonne 50eme Anniversaire Patty!

Gougeres de Comte
Saumon Fumee avec Creme Fraiche Citron sure Brioche Grille
Filet Mignon et Oignons de Porto et Balsamique sur Baguette Grille
– Aperitif de Champagne Krug avec Framboises et Cassis

Foie Gras Saute avec Confiture des Figues,
Brioche Grille et Oignons de Porto et Balsamique
-1981 Chateau d’Yquem Sauterne

Bar Roti Entier avec Fenouil et Basilic et une Melange
des Pommes des Terres et Pommes Douces avec Sauge et Grasse de Canard
Tomates “Heirloom” Farci Provencal
– 2002 Chassagne Montrachet
– 1975 Joseph Swan Pinot Noir

Assiette des Fromages
Epoisse, Comte, Morbiere, Red Hawk, Forme d’Ambert, Fromager d’Affinois, Harley Farms Chevre
– 2004 Reynolds Family Winery Russian River Pinot Noir
– 2004 Reynolds Family Winery Carnasos Pinto Noir

Gateau du Chocolat Moelleux
Glace a la Vanille chez Patty

The following are my prep notes that I followed to stay on track throughout the day.

1. mise en place, plates, pots/pans

2. reduce balsamic and port

3. make ice cream

4. make chocolate cake batter, test one for timing

5. make gougeres

slowly melting the butter in the water

Patty grating the comte

Amy piping the gougeres

6. set out cheese on platter

7. make tomato stuffing – toast/cuisinart bread, parsley, garlic, toasted hazelnuts

8. sear tenderloin

9. cut, stew onions in port

10. make croutons for apps

11. make potatoes – cube, roast in duck fat and sage, finish w/ saute. I bought the duck fat at Boulette’s Larder.

12. toast brioche – circles for foie gras

13. make lemon creme fraiche – creme fraiche, lemon zest, lemon juice

14. make beurre blanc

14. cut, partially roast fennel

15. stuff fish

Timing is always the most challeging part for – once I’ve come up with a menu – so I always make a timeline and a step by step prep list (above). For this dinner, I tried to follow this time line. Don’t get stuck sticking to a schedule, rather go with the flow of the evening (and the flow of champagne!).

5:45 assemble apps
6:00 plate apps

6:45 plate brioche, onions, chutney
sear foie gras

Amy plating the foie gras starter

7:00 put fish in oven
serve foie gras

7:30 take fish out, finish sauteing potatoes, warm beurre blanc. put tomatoes in oven to heat.

7:45 plate dinner

8:45 serve cheese course
9:15 cake in oven
9:30 serve cake

Bon appetit!

A Ferry Building Farmers Market Dinner 2 September,2006Cucina Testa Rossa

  • shuna fish lydon

    Hey wait a second. Now, not only do I not feel so bad about not feeding you, I want to know how come I was not invited to this dinner??!!!?

    Good god woman. This meal is a masterpiece.

  • cucina testa rossa

    it’s ok, i stopped at mc donald’s off 880 on my way home. kidding 😉 if it was *my* dinner party, you’d have most certainly been there! thanks for a fabulously delicious day at the berkeley farmers market. so fun 🙂 i am still thinking about those peaches!


Cucina Testa Rossa

After a decade in Silicon Valley, Laura traded her keyboard for a cutting board and moved to New York City to immerse herself in food and wine studies and restaurant operations. She graduated from the French Culinary Institute where she studied under Master Chefs Jacques Pépin, André Soltner, Alain Sailhac, and Master Sommelier Andrea Immer. While in New York, Laura cooked with some of the world’s most highly acclaimed chefs including Mario Lohninger (Danube), Morimoto, Mark Franz & Emily Luchetti (Farallon), Michael Romano (Union Square Café), Mario Batali, Marcella Hazan, Jonathan Cartwright (White Barn Inn), Martin Heierling (Bellagio), Dave Pasternack (Esca), Richard Reddington (Redd, Auberge du Soleil), and the legendary Alice Waters (Chez Panisse).

After working as the Back Kitchen Chef of Jacques Pépin’s PBS cooking show, “Fast Food, My Way”, Laura moved to France to cook her way around the country. She cooked at the Cannes Film Festival, then to the northwest corner of France, to Britanny, to cook on a lobster boat, then east to Paris to the world famous Pierre Hermé Patisserie where she made thousands of his macarons every day! Laura cooked for the fabulous Olivia de Havilland and interned at 3 Michelin Star Le Cinq under Chef Philippe Legendre and Pastry Chef Fabrice Lecleir. Laura was the executive chef and cooking instructor at the DaVinci Code chateau outside of Paris where she was on set during the filming of the movie.

In Fall 2007, Laura worked on Jacques Pepin’s most recent PBS television series as prop and food stylist. “More Fast Food, My Way” should air in the Spring of 2008. “My Keyboard for a Cutting Board ~ Adventures in a French kitchen v1.0”, Laura’s first book highlights her first three months cooking in France, was published in Summer 2006. Convivialité is her second book and will hopefully be published in the fall.

Laura now splits her time between Paris and the San Francisco Bay Area doing private chefing, teaching cooking classes and leading market tours when in Paris. Bon Appetit!

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