From top left to right: Douglas Monsalud and wife Kimberly Stevens, Yigit Pura, Will Werner and girlfriend Sarah Logan, Richie Nakano.
It’s no secret chefs don’t get much time off–certainly not on holidays. And Valentine’s Day is a biggie. Folks make reservations well in advance and snatch up flowers and confections to bring home to their loved ones. After chatting with some of my favorite local chefs, it became clear that Valentine’s Day really is just another day and there are many occasions to sit down, toast one another, and prepare a special meal. I asked three simple questions to get to the heart of what a romantic day looks like in their world. Here’s what I discovered.
Douglas Monsalud: Kitchenette SF So Valentine’s Day. Or let’s just say, on a typical romantically-minded evening, tell us about what you and your partner like to cook/eat together at home? We LOVE to make food that takes a while to cook so that we can hang out, talk while we cook, and drink good wine ; ) With that in mind, we have cooked everything from bouillabaisse to pozole, porchetta to pot roast. You know…simple, rustic, one-pot meals that are comfortable and really make you feel like you are home.
Favorite dessert? Wow, favorite dessert is a tough one. I like desserts that are lighter and fruity…like the goats milk yoghurt panna cotta with blood orange compote that we’ve served at Heart Wine Bar. Similarly, I have always loved creme brulee and a nice, flaky crostata with a scoop of ice cream always gets my attention.
If you weren’t eating at home, where are a few of your favorite romantic spots in the Bay Area and why? Aziza and Gitane ooze romance. They have great food and the atmosphere is at once exotic and warm. Also, I always think getting a dozen oysters from the Marshall Store up on Tomales Bay with a bottle of something bubbly and eating them on a bench overlooking the water is as sexy as it gets.
William Werner: Tell Tale Preserve Co. So Valentine’s Day. Or let’s just say, on a typical romantically-minded evening, tell us about what you and your partner like to cook/eat together at home? We don’t get to spend a lot of time together as of late– so usually a romantic dinner would consist of something simple, to spend more time together than in the kitchen, more than likely, champagne, oysters with lemon, market greens, a risotto of mushrooms and nettles, and of course chocolate (Valrhona feves straight from the bag).
Favorite dessert? Of the moment: kishu mandarins.
If you weren’t eating at home, where are a few of your favorite romantic spots in the Bay Area and why? Coi, for getting dressed and a luxurious, intimate evening of thoughtful food. Burgers and beer in the back corner booth at Bar Tartine for dressing down and hanging out.
Richie Nakano: Hapa Ramen So Valentine’s Day. Or let’s just say, on a typical romantically-minded evening, tell us about what you and your partner like to cook/eat together at home? When we’re eating at home we keep it pretty simple: farro with roasted chicken, or an easy pasta. We also get treats from Fatted Calf: charcuterie, cheese, olives. We have a 9 month old son, so there’s not a lot of quiet romantic evenings these days, but we do like to unwind with a bottle of kruner or falanghina.
If you weren’t eating at home, where are a few of your favorite romantic spots in the Bay Area and why? Aziza always comes to mind, it’s such a beautiful setting in there, and the food is really elegant. La Ciccia is really intimate also, but the sexiest place in town is the Flour & Water dough room. If you can snag a seat at a dinner in there…
Yigit Pura: Executive Pastry Chef, Taste Catering; Winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts So Valentine’s Day. Maybe, like a lot of folks, you see it as any other day—but let’s just say, on a typical romantically-minded evening, tell us about what you and a date like to cook/eat together? I think any day is a good day to be romantic. I would cook what I know they love and tickles their soft spot, even if it goes against my grain as a chef. I find just showing you paid attention will always get you brownie points.
Favorite dessert? As cliché as it sounds, you can’t go wrong with chocolate. And I know there are myths around it but I still love a great chocolate soufflé. Be it a professional or home chef, it still gets people excited. Take it another step forward and make a really lovely salted caramel ice cream, and put a small scoop straight in the middle. The contrast between the hot and cold is always very sexy!
If you weren’t eating at home, where are a few of your favorite romantic spots in the Bay Area and why? Lately I’m in LOVE with Barbacco. Modern and really beautiful ambiance, great service, and just really tasty bites, and very reasonably priced. Last time I ate there everything was so great, I am already looking forward to the next time.
Jessica Boncutter: Bar Jules A typical romantically-minded meal? That would have to be beef fillet roasted medium rare with salt roasted potatoes, baby carrots and horseradish cream.
Favorite Dessert? Definitely finish it off with a chocolate pot de creme and a little Serge Gainsbourg on the record player!
If you weren’t eating at home, where are a few of your favorite romantic spots in the Bay Area and why? Romantic places in the San Francisco Bay Area are upstairs at Chez Panisse for lunch or Manka’s in Inverness for the night or Tosca for a drink or of course Bar Jules is so romantic. Chez Panisse lunch during the week feels like you are playing hooky from work with a lover. Manka’s, well you just have to stay there one night to experience it. Tosca is a classic always feels special no matter who you are with.