Archives for category: Dinner


News today of bar Jules closing after brunch this Sunday is a sad thing for Hayes Valley. It’s been my favorite burger spot for lunch for years. Here is an interview I did with Jessica for Apartamento Magazine.

I’ve always loved a neighborhood restaurant. I’ve actually met some great friends at local eating establishments – you know you’ll at least have one thing in common, and thats the food.

When you eat out in Hayes Valley it feels more neighborly than almost any other district in San Francisco. Many restaurants here have seemed to find their niche and become great staples in our city, garnering cultish obsession and faithful followers in the devoted eaters that call this neighborhood home. A great example is Hayes Street Grill which has been serving opera, symphony and ballet patrons for more than 30 years and continues to stay true to its clientele with its passionate staff and their signature dishes.

Resting on the western edge of Hayes Valley at the end of the strip, bar Jules is six years old. To the uninitiated, this little 38-seat restaurant may be just another in a burgeoning atmosphere of San Francisco institutions committed to serving sustainable fish, meats, and produce from the best small farmers in the area but for all of the years that I’ve been dining and shopping on Hayes Street bar Jules has managed to virtually redefine the lines of what is considered to be Hayes Valley. The location offers a feeling that is both edgy and sophisticated.

Owner Jessica Boncutter has worked at Zuni Cafe and as the chef at Hog Island Oyster Co, two of my favorite places to eat in San Francisco. Here she spends her time working the restaurant as a mother would in her own home. The menu at bar Jules isn’t fancy or punched with tons of trendy ideals – in fact they don’t even bother printing one out for you, it’s written on a blackboard.

The wonderful thing about bar Jules is that it feels so much like an integral part of the community, you’d think it had been where it is longer than it has.

How long have you been in Hayes Valley?
Bar Jules opened in November of 2007.

What attracted you to open your business in Hayes Valley?
I loved that it felt both edgy and sophisticated at the same time.

More than any other Hayes Valley restaurant, Bar Jules appears to be a classic model for a neighborhood institution. Was this your intention when you opened it?
Thank you! Yes that was my intention above everything else!

Your menu changes so often – what have your regulars made you keep on it?
I think the regulars like that the menu changes. It feels like going over to a friend’s house for dinner.

What have the challenges been in basing your restaurant around a menu that changes daily?
Writing menus everyday can be hard. Sometimes you think dang it would be much easier if I had opened a Houston’s.

Hayes Valley seems to be in a constant state of evolution. Would you say the ever-shifting menu is reflective of this?
I hope so. I feel very proud that Bar Jules still feels fresh and unique after being open for 6 years.

Who are some of your culinary heroes?
Some of my culinary heroes include Julia Child, Rose Gray and Ruthie Rogers from the River Cafe, Judy Rodgers from Zuni Cafe, Carol Bever from Zuni Cafe,  Diana Kennedy and Margot and Fergus Henderson from St John, and Rochelle Canteen respectively.

Is the menu at bar Jules reflective of what you actually eat on a day to day basis? Describe your ideal lunch or dinner.
Yes it is. I usually eat very simply with a lot of vegetables.

Do you have any aspirations on opening up another restaurant in San Francisco?
I do and I don’t. Sometimes your personal touch can be lost if you are running more than one restaurant at a time.

Is there or has there ever been something you love that has been unsuccessful on the menu?
Beef tongue for obvious reasons. It is so delicious and anyone brave enough to order it is solo happy.

Many of my good friends are frequent diners at the restaurant and all of them talk about it as though it is there second home. What has inspired you to create that atmosphere at bar Jules?
I have always loved the idea of a canteen or a neighborhood restaurant. Nothing makes me happier than to have regular customers.

You have worked at two other local San Francisco restaurants that are staples for me – Zuni Cafe and Hog Island Oyster Company. What did you take away from those experiences?
Zuni Cafe and Hog Island Oyster Company were very different from each other. What was similar about the two of them was the dedication to the best quality ingredients.

I’ve been toying with the idea of opening a cafe / restaurant in San Francisco for years. Can you give me a sage piece of advice?
Don’t do it! Ha ha just joking. Like anything that is worth something in life, it’s a ton of hard work.

I have a blog titled Juanita Eats Out and I like to ask friends a few questions about their eating habits. What is the strangest or most inspiring thing you’ve ever eaten?
Casu marzu – it is a sheep cheese that has worms (live insect larvae) in it from Sardinia.

What was your favorite breakfast cereal as a kid?
We had to eat grape nuts growing up – but I loved Lucky Charms.

What is your favorite dessert?
My favorite dessert is simple – cheese.

What is your favorite food to pig-out on after a late night?
I love to grab Chinese food after a late night.

What is always in your refrigerator at home?
I always have Champagne in my refrigerator.

Where did the name bar Jules come from?
Bar Jules is named after my old lady dog Jules. She is an 18 year old basset hound that I have had since she was three months old. She is the love of my life.

The HECHO Valentine Dinner staff!

The HECHO Valentine Dinner staff!

Thank you to everyone that came to the Valentine Dinner at HECHO – it was such a huge success. I want to give some special love to the great talents of Chef Cory Armenta for executing my families simple home recipes with so much respect and style. Our sous chefs Cole Church, Sean Lackey & Michael Christopher made working in the kitchen such an absolute joy. And, a special thank you to HECHO owners Dana Gleim and Jesse Woodward for letting me do it!

You can find most of the recipes right here on my food blog. The Tomatillo & Chipolte Salsa, Anaheim Chile and Chicken Stew and my grandmothers Capirotada (we served it with Humphry Slowcombe Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream.

I so enjoyed cooking for you and look forward to more food projects in the future! You can join my mailing list HERE to get updates about all kinds of amazing events!

Images by Uel Renteria from the event can be found in this ALBUM on my Facebook profile.

Loads of Love,



Valentine's Day Dinner at Hecho

Valentine’s Day Dinner at Hecho

Join me and HECHO Restaurant in the Castro for a special Valentine’s Day Dinner. I will be taking over the kitchen with House of MORE! chef Cory Armenta. We have created a prix fixe menu that revolves around some of my favorite family recipes – including my grandmothers delicious bread pudding. Dinner includes your choice of one of the three entrees – plus appetizer, salad and dessert. The restaurant has booths that accommodate 4-6 people (double & triple dates) and a communal table for singles (please email the restaurant directly to reserve a single seat).

Saturday, February 14, 2015
HECHO Restaurant, 2200 Market Street at Sanchez, SF 94114
Seatings: 5:30 PM, 7:30 PM & 9:30 PM
Cost: $55



Choice of one entree

Juanita’s Chipotle & Tomatillo Salsa with Chips

Hearts of Romaine Salad with Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette & Queso Fresco

Braised Chicken with Anaheim Chiles

Mulato Chile Braised Beef Short Ribs

Chile Rellenos

Petra’s Capirotada with Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream

Be my Valentine.

Be my Valentine.

I love coming up with different ways to prepare turkey – it’s one of my favorites. During the holiday I cherished the time I spent in my grandmothers kitchen. The day before Thanksgiving I would help her clean and salt the bird and then we would tie it up by its legs and hang it upside down in the cold, dark pantry overnight. I sometimes couldn’t sleep with anticipation of untying the bird in the morning and stuffing it before putting it in the oven. The following recipe isn’t the one my Grandma would make – this is a variation of a Mexican braise. Mulato chiles – are from the poblano family and have a dark rich and complex flavor with very little heat. They are most popularly used in moles. I wanted those flavors in this braise – but not the rich sauce of the mole.

Grandma basting the holiday turkey.

Grandma basting the holiday turkey.

Mulato chili braised and roasted turkey

One 12-pound turkey, cut into six pieces
8 dried Mulato chiles
12 cups turkey stock
1/3-cup cider vinegar
2 small heads garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
Salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick, 4”
6 whole cloves
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
Pinch of Mexican oregano
4 large onions, finely diced

1 turkey carcass, from a 12- to 15-pound turkey, cut into large pieces
2 carrots, scrubbed and halved crosswise
1 stalk celery, halved crosswise
1 medium onion, quartered
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
10 to 14 cups water

To serve
1 bunch cilantro
1 small white onion, finely diced
Lime wedges
Corn tortillas

Turkey and chili paste prep

Turkey and chili paste prep

The day before – heat a heavy pan over medium heat and toast the chilies until they puff. Remove the seeds and stems and soak in 2 cups of hot water for about 10 minutes. Puree together the chilies, garlic, vinegar and cooking liquid until smooth and allow the mixture to cool.

Debone the turkey and cut it into six pieces – you can ask your butcher to do this part. Save the carcass for making the stock.

Make the stock the day before by placing the carcass, carrots, celery, onion, and peppercorns in a roasting pan and place in a 350* oven and roast until brown about 1 hour. Place the roasted stock ingredients into a large stockpot. Add water to cover by 2 inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and gently simmer, skimming foam as needed, for 2 hours. Strain, and discard solids. Skim fat from top. (Stock can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen up to 3 months.)

Season the turkey pieces well with salt and pepper. Smear the chile paste all over the turkey pieces. Place the legs and wings in a container and refrigerate. Wrap the breasts in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

To make the turkey stock roast the bones in a 400* oven with an onion, carrot and celery stick and a couple bay leaves for about 30 minutes. Transfer to a stockpot and add 6 quarts of water. Bring to a boil skimming off any scum and simmer for 1 ½ hours. Strain the stock and cool, refrigerating until ready to use.

Start braising by placing the turkey legs and wings into a heavy bottomed roasting pan with all of the chili paste. Add the turkey stock, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cloves, cumin, oregano and onions. Bring the liquid just up to heat, cover and place in a 350* oven. Cook for about 1-½ – 2 hours until the meat is bone tender. Let the braise sit for 30 minutes and skim fat.

Meanwhile reset the oven to 375*. Remove the breasts from the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature. Roast for 30 minutes and allow to rest for 15 before carving.

Pull apart the braised meat and slice the breast – serve with green rice and garnish with diced white onions, cilantro and lime.

Photo (23)

Grandma’s Chili Beans

My Puerto Rican grandmother was a really great cook. She also took great pride in her position as authority of all things Puerto Rican in the kitchen. I spent many curious afternoons with her as a kid in both her amazing garden and kitchen, trying to figure out how she made some of my family’s favorite dishes. I was most fascinated by watching her make Arroz con Gandules, a combination of rice, pigeon peas and pork, cooked all together in the same pot. It is a dish that is traditionally cooked only around the holidays, though I would request that she made it for me any time of the year. She always obliged – I was her favorite after all. The savory aroma of that rice cooking is still one that brings me right back to my childhood every time I make it now.

Grandma basting the holiday turkey.

Grandma basting the holiday turkey.

The smell of food conjures up memories for everyone. When I’m cooking Puerto Rican food at home, fellow Latin guests can rejoice in the same aromatic and amorous sense of nostalgia. We are bound by the same history of comfort through food.

So when my dear friend, companion, mother, father, brother, sister – Mr. David comes over to create a new gown for me, I in exchange cook for him. And, I know exactly what things make him most happy at my table. Most of you probably think that he survives on cigarettes, coffee, and whiskey. Though that may be true, I know a better way to his heart and also a much more loving way to get that gown finished. It is simply by cooking him Arroz con Gandules or a pot of my grandmother’s chili beans. This exchange has become a cornerstone of our most perfect union and the bridge chartering numerous artistic collaborations.

Mr. David enjoying my grandmothers chili beans.

Mr. David enjoying my grandmothers chili beans.

There is nothing fancy about these beans. They are very simple to make. All they require is the patience to let the beans gently simmer until they are perfectly done.

Chili Beans

3 Tablespoons Achiote lard (recipe follows)
1 pound ground beef
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon Gebhardt Chili powder
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup Sofrito (recipe follows)
8 ounce can tomato sauce
2 quarts water
1 pound dried pinto beans, rinsed and picked over
1 tablespoon salt

In a heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the achiote lard and
add the ground beef to the hot pan and cook, stirring occasionally,
until the meat is well browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the chili powder,
cumin, oregano, bay leaf and sofrito and cook about 4 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce, water and beans and bring to a boil. Reduce the
heat to a simmer, partially cover the pot, and cook, stirring
occasionally, until meat and beans are tender and sauce is thick and
flavorful, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add the salt after the first hour
of cooking.

My grandmother used to serve us these beans over a bowl of steamed white rice.

Achiote Lard
1 cup lard
2 tablespoons achiote (annatto) seeds

Heat the lard and annatto seeds in a small skillet over medium heat
just until the seeds give off a lively, steady sizzle. Don’t overheat
the mixture or the seeds will turn black and the oil a nasty green.
Once they’re sizzling away, pull the pan from the heat and let stand
until the sizzling stops. Strain as much of the oil as you are going
to use right away into the pan; store the rest for up to 4 days at
room temperature in a jar with a tight fitting lid.

To make the sofrito follow this link to view a past post.

While I was recently staying in Brooklyn I got the chance to eat at this super cute low profile new restaurant called Lulu & Po in Fort Greene. The names Lulu & Po come from the chef and owner Matthew Hamilton’s daughter and wife. It’s a small – maybe 30 seat spot that feels like the coziest family / neighborhood restaurant.

The menu is made up of mostly small plates. But not in that annoying teenie-tiny way. They are thoughtfully put together and with the big current trend of focusing on seasonal vegetables and using meat as a side dish. Stating that – what really coxed me in was the call of Bone Marrow Tacos – two big bones served with corn tortillas, cilantro, pickled onions, capers and parsley which brightened the dish up nicely. My marrow craving was truly satisfied.

Bone Marrow Tacos

My dinner guest and Brooklyn host Kristofer has recently turned vegetarian – I don’t know if it was because of the three 22 pound turkeys I cooked in his apartment last Thanksgiving or the side of pork I roasted in the dead of winter last year or not. But he is a great eater and wasn’t shy about tasting a piece of the succulent pork belly I ordered after the tacos.

The vegetable dishes were outstanding and we kept adding more of those delicious little plates to our table. Standouts included the Sweet Corn Succotash, the grilled pizza dough with house made ricotta and the summer squash with brown butter and almonds.

Summer Squash with Brown Butter and Almonds

As we were wrapping up dinner I noticed the table next to us had order the Beef Burger – it was starting to haunt me. I asked our server if the kitchen would make me one to-go. She said they didn’t serve to-go food but would ask. The kitchen looked over at me and I told them I wasn’t getting off work until 5AM that next morning and would desperately need that burger. It arrived wrapped in foil. And, I ate the entire thing after DJing at Vandam all night. It  would have been amazing hot – but at 5AM it was just perfect cold.

Beef Burger

I can’t wait to go back there in the winter.

Kristofer and I

Kristofer and I after a long night.