Bar Tartine Mingles Science & Cuisine

San Francisco Food
Illustration by Joseph Larkowsky

A low-ceilinged flight of stairs leads down into the groundbreaking restaurant Bar Tartine’s sprawling basement. In a wine cellar, multiple kinds of house-made vinegars are blooming, including a blood orange variety that tastes as if the citrus made a crash landing in southern Spain. Hachiya persimmons hang from rope, emulating the Japanese method for preserving the fruit. Upstairs, four dehydrators sit high on a shelf next to an oversized rice cooker filled with garlic bulbs. In a little over a week, the garlic bulbs will transform, turning black and sweet. All around are enormous plastic tubs loaded with cabbages and mustard greens morphing into sauerkraut and pickles. Dozens of dairy products bubble and age in a fridge. A boundless collection of quart containers are filled with homemade dried ingredients and powders: onion, parsnip, burnt eggplant, stevia, coriander, flowers, burned bread. The clock seems to slack its gait as these ingredients decay, ferment, pickle, and desiccate.

Johnny Cash’s “Daddy Sang Bass” pours from Bar Tartine’s speakers. A prep cook chops button mushrooms. Nicolaus Balla, one of the restaurant’s two co-chefs, mutters, “We’re fucked,” as Mindy and Juston Enos of Full Table Farm deliver a produce bounty, including pea shoots, pea tendrils, Portuguese kale, and an early crop of green garlic. The Enoses do this twice a week. They bring nearly anything and everything that grows at their farm in the Napa Valley. “It pushes our creativity because we never know what we’re getting from Justin and Mindy,” Balla says.

In walks Cortney Burns, Balla’s partner in restaurant and life, fresh from a double- header of yoga and a Barry’s Bootcamp session. She changes clothes, dons an apron and starts trimming the edges of a steamed squash cake that will be served as dessert with chestnuts and buttermilk.

The food Burns and Balla cook is hard to categorize. When the pair started cooking at Bar Tartine in 2011, they were running an ostensibly Hungarian restaurant. Even now, there is usually vivid red paprika in the kitchen. There is pork, too, and lots of sour cherries when they appear in midsummer. But these days, Bar Tartine feels more like the prismatic vision of two curious, talented chefs who wandered to the Pacific coast from the Midwest. The couple’s cooking references antiquity with its focus on preservation. It nods at Japan, with an assimilation of that cuisine’s savory intensity and clean building of flavors. Bar Tartine in Burns and Balla’s hands is old, new, Japanese, European. It is personal and perfectly now.

Chefs from Chicago to Copenhagen are enraptured. Food insiders and curious home cooks have been fawning over Burns and Balla’s Bar Tartine cookbook: a useful, beautiful treatise that captures the innovative soul of their handiwork. All that project cooking the two do at Bar Tartine — the powders, the pastes, the pickles — play with time, arresting a range of deeply flavorful ingredients at various points of intensity. That teeming pantry becomes an arsenal, a battalion for layering flavor. One crazed example: the simple sounding “warm mushrooms with bone marrow.” For that dish, beef broth is spiked with seaweed and Japanese-style dried fish, then reduced to a syrup. Then wild mushrooms are added, and it is all cooked down again into an intense paste. To order, whole roasted wild mushrooms are set on the concentrated paste and topped with pieces of melting bone marrow. The way Burns and Balla cook is like a 50-person orchestra seamlessly condensing its notes into one wall of integrated sound: You feel every note acutely, but you cannot extract the individual ones.

Japanese cuisine, pickling, and preservation — much of what interests Burns and Balla is now popular in the hipper subsets of the food world. “We never meant to be on trend,” Burns says. “We want to make things we like and that people do, too. You just hope people think your food is delicious.”

Balla comes near to investigate the squash cake. Johnny and June’s “Long-Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man” comes on. Burns and Balla’s camaraderie is apparent, though you wonder whether constant proximity is ever a strain. “She gets sick of me,” Balla says as he squats to pick something up. “I never get sick of her.” Burns grimaces and squints her eyes. “Yeah, right,” she replies.

As the clock ticks toward the arrival of the first guests, the restaurant begins to quicken. Much of the work is done already. Bar Tartine, fully armed, bolts to life. Its stoves flaming, its plates wiped clean, and the clinking and clanking of giddy people eating, most of them unaware how all around them — from the upstairs larders to the basement cellars — time is slowing, stopping, and starting.


Fermenting honey gives it slight acidity and a more complex flavor. Capped honey will not ferment in its natural state of 17% to 18% moisture content; it will ferment, however, if it is above 60 degrees with greater than 20% moisture content. Use this honey as you would any other honey.

Servings: 1 cup
1 cup honey
2 tablespoons water

In a small glass jar, stir together the honey and water and cover the jar with cheesecloth. Place in a clean, well-protected, low-light area with an ambient temperature of 60 to 68 degrees for two weeks. Stir the contents once daily, just until the honey starts to sour very slightly. The flavor will be subtle when the honey is finished fermenting. Cap tightly and refrigerate for up to one year.

Are Drones the New Supermodels? Why You Should Care About Silicon Valley Fashion Week

Photo courtesy of Betabrand

Silicon Valley Fashion Week kicks off today. As if we needed another one! SVFW runs through May 14, is hosted by online clothier, Betabrand, a San Francisco-based company that crowdsources and crowdfunds new designs on the daily. With this event, it appears the company has its sights set on ushering in a new era of technologically-minded, and engineered, fashion.

SVFW founder Chris Lindland sees the fashion world through the eyes of a tech entrepreneur–that much is clear. His thoughts on the future of fashion: 

“With technology in every pocket and soon every wrist, Silicon Valley has an out-sized impact on the way people look and experience the world. The next Valentino is likely staring into a computer, drinking his 4th Red Bull right now!”

The three-day ‘week’ is broken up by theme, rather than designer. Today’s show is titled “Motion and Light: The New Commuter,” while tomorrow’s will focus on wearable tech, and Friday’s on crowdfunded fashion.

In SV, no element of FW as we know it is entirely safe. Drones will replace runway models. And though we don’t necessarily agree with the suggestion posed in the question, “Are runway models headed for extinction?” (We still love you Gigi, Joan…), we can appreciate the eerie, cool effect of clothes flying via drone.

Toasting Spring: Five Wine Bars to Check Out in San Francisco

Photo: Press Club

We’re putting a cork (literally) in deep reds of the colder seasons and raising an expertly-curated glass to sunshine, a nice breeze, and the end of a long day’s work. We chatted with the sommeliers at some of our favorite wine bars in the whole U.S. of A. (see San Francisco here, and check back later for guides to Los Angeles and New York City) and have here, their exclusive picks for your springtime orders right here.


320 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102


ENOCharcuteriePhotos: ENO

Joel Kampfe, Certified Sommelier, and ENO Brand Wine Director makes the following recommendations for spring sipping:

Floral whites such as Viognier, especially 2013 Kivelstadt Viognier, Roussanne blend from Lake County, Ca.

Light, bright and aromatic reds like Nebbiolo, such as 2007 La Castellina Valtalina Nebbiolo.


216 Townsend Street at 3rd. San Francisco, CA, 94107

districtPhoto: Caterina Mirabelli

District San Francisco 1 high res Dec 2014Photo: District

District’s sommelier and wine director Caterina Mirabelli recommends the following picks for spring:

County Line Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Napa, CA 2014. Of this pick, Mirabelli says, “It is a 100% Pinot Noir Rosé from the producers of Radio Coteau. It has notes of raspberry, key lime, lemon zest, lemon verbena an a touch of cherry on the nose and palate. It’s crisp and fresh with a bright acidity and a lively, dry finish.”

Tournage Riant, Grolleau Noir Blend, Touraine, France 2013 “This wine is your traditional, provence-style rosé, blended with malbec, cabernet franc and gamay. It has notes of sour cherry, lemon curd, cherry liqueur, and lemon zest on both the nose and palate. For a rose, it’s somewhat full bodied, with a mild acidityand a long, lingering and dry finish,” says Mirabelli.

IdleWild winery is home to the only Grenache Gris in the states. It has 110 year old vines. “Their Grenache Gris, Mendocino County, CA 2013 is not a red wine and yet, not quite a rosé–it pushes rosé to the brink of being a light red wine. A truly esoteric glass, it has intense notes of orange spiced tea, cinnamon sticks, blood orange, raspberry tart, and cherry cordial are found on both the nose and palate. It’s medium bodied with a refreshing acidity and a long, spicy finish,” Mirabelli notes.

The Hidden Vine

408 Merchant Street, San Francisco, CA, 94111



fireplace2hiddenvinePhotos: The Hidden Vine

The Hidden Vine’s sommelier, Jessica Jamison, makes the following wine recommendations for spring:

Alex Kaufman Riesling, Central Otago, New Zealand 2013. “This crisp and dry Riesling has aromas of gardenia, honeydew, and green apples. A perfect pairing with sunshine and a friendly game of bocce,” says Jamison.

Triennes Rose (Cinsault), Provence, France 2013, “Nothing says Spring like Rose! Light bodied and dry with hints of unripe strawberries and orange peel. This wine pairs perfectly with pulled pork sliders,” Jamison says.

Press Club

20 Yerba Buena Ln, San Francisco, CA, 94103

Taste-PressClub-Food 130(1)

Photos: Press Club

The head sommelier at Press Club, Mauro Cirilli, notes that every spring their menu focuses on fresh green ingredients from local farmers and the wines are chosen to match.

His top three picks for spring include:

2014 Turnbull Sauvignon Blanc of which he notes that, “the acidity brings out the fresh flavors of the springtime ingredients.”

Ampelos Viognieror or the red Italian Parpiniello Monica di Sardegna have “aromatic, fruity, and floral components,” Cirilli notes.

Stoller Pinot Noir from Oregon is “smooth and elegant and won’t overpower even the most delicate of spring dishes,” says Cirilli.


301 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA, 94105

RN74 bar lounge high rez

RN74 bar high rez(1)Photos: RN74

David Castleberry, Lead Sommelier at RN74, makes the following wine recommendations for the season:

2014 Arnot Roberts Touriga Nacional Rose from Clear Lake, CA. “It’s bright, red fruited and delicious,” he says. “The kind of wine that screams to be drunk on spring afternoons.”

2011 Chablis from Moreau-Naudet “A 100% Chardonnay coming from Burgundy in France and a nice departure from the oaky-buttery interpretations of the grape,” Castleberry notes. “It’s got loads of citrus and fresh apple, stony minerality and more acid than Burning Man. Oysters? Yes please!”

Check out our guide to what to sip where in NYC here.


Google Buses: Gentrifying the Home of The Summer of Love

I was visiting San Francisco this past week. The freaky people used to run the show in the City By The Bay, but now when you cross the city limits, the town feels like it has a big, shiny, corporate tech sponsor. A stroll through San Francisco feels like walking through Palo Alto North; weeknights have become strangely silent. (Sh-sh-sh! You’ll wake the tech millionaires!) Hot hipster hippie girls have been replaced by those who know a lot about html. San Francisco has become a city filled with people who’d think riding a razor scooter around the office is the craziest thing you can ever do. 

Obviously, tech-titans like Twitter have moved to town, trumpeting the Bataan death march of low rent and the city’s artistic community.

A big symbol of the sea of gentrification and change are the regular Silicon Valley private buses that whisk people in the city to their high-paying tech jobs at giant companies like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo. Much like an extension of junior high, each morning tech workers wait at designated bus stops so large metallic buses can provide them with the morning commute to billion-dollar Silicon Valley corporations. (Of course the buses are equipped with Wi-Fi to squeeze an extra few hours of work out of everyone.)

Yesterday, though, crunchy was added to the smooth:

A group of protesters surrounded and blocked a Google employee commuter bus for more than a half hour Monday morning at a Muni bus stop at 24th and Valencia streets in San Francisco’s Mission District. The buses have, for some, become a symbol of tech-fueled gentrification, economic inequality and soaring housing prices in the city.

The bus, which was headed to Google’s Mountain View campus, had riders on board. A dozen protesters stood around the bus with signs saying “Public $$$$, Private Gains,” “Stop Displacement Now,” “Fine $271, Total Fine $1 Billion,” and “Warning: Two-Tier System.”

San Francisco is currently going through a major eviction crisis; droves of artists are being driven from the town that fostered the Summer of Love, The Dead Kennedys, and The Beatnik Movement. Adding insult to injury, the Google buses have become a symbol of economic disparity and class warfare, slapping the city’s predominantly Latino neighborhood. (Though, in pure San Francisco irony, the buses do cut down in CO2 emissions.)

The revolution won’t be televised, but it will be live-streamed on your iPhone.

Memorial Tribute to Musician and Graffiti Artist Ana Bender This Weekend

Late-night romps can be cruel after you have done in it for decades. Today’s sunlight is lashing me awake and I haven’t the strength to wash the evening out of my hair. Hotel Chantelle was absolutely off the hook last night, with Sam Valentine, Michael Tee, Miss Guy, and Michael Cavadias and a slew of others whipping the crowd into a frenzy. I think the weather had something to do with it as well. The early spring brings flowers early and confusion into club circles. When it’s nice, the places are packed, but when the weather returns to form and a cold rain requires clothes that have been packed away till next year, the hordes stay home. This Sunday, the two-hour premier of Mad Men will hurt Sunday club ambitions.

After memorial tributes in San Francisco and Seattle for Ana Dyson aka ANA BENDER aka AYBEE, NYC gets its turn. White posters pasted on walls that hipsters pass announced the memorial, which will start at 7pm MARCH 25 at Legion, 790 Metropolitan Avenue. It’s a free show. The posters were produced by Ana’s friend Katsu. This comes from the 12ozProphet website:
4/26/1987 – 2/2/2012
Ana Dyson aka ANA BENDER aka AYBEE
Was an influential musician and graffiti artist from Seattle that lived in NYC and SF.
She was known for her raw and pure punk/folk music style as well as her graffiti tags “AYBEE”.
AYBEE was a close friend of the BTM graffiti crew both on the west and east coasts.
She lived in New York City for a time.
She lived in SF for a time.
A free event is happening this Sunday."
There will be performances by JAPANTHER, Soft Dov, Brohammer, and Dead Reich and DJs Maxwell 57, NineLives, The Cat, Grace of Spades, Ella, and Chloe.
Tonight I will attend a very special affair that is hush hush, super duper, uber secret and I have sworn to only speak of it come Monday. It’s one of these "show up on a corner late-night and you will be led to it’" events.
Twenty years ago I would have thought I was being whacked. I can’t offer you more today; my body is upset at my brain for the insults of last night. My brain needs to turn itself off for a couple of hours. It asks for your forgiveness. I got the usual, "Don’t you ever sleep?" from the waitstaff at Kellogg’s Diner at 6am. They had seen me for breakfast 20 hours earlier. I replied with my usual: "I’ll get all the sleep I need in 20 or 30 years." I realized over my eggs that I started saying that 15 years ago.  

Rock & Rock and Vodka in Iceland, Magic Monday at Tammany Hall

Our post-BINGO Monday night crawl, which almost always ends up at Joe’s Shanghai, took a detour this week. Dana Dynamite, that Sailor Jerry Rum P.R., was intent on meatballs – and a man my age knows to never get between a gal and her cravings. Shoot, I ended up married a couple of times to women that could have done better following that advice for me. Amanda was a willing lemming as well, as we vowed to follow Dana off any cliff. Waylaid at the door of Tammany Hall by my old friend and newish manager Christine Jennings, my stop-and-chat had the girls wandering into Mission Chinese Food, 154 Orchard Street. I’ve seen the lines and heard the news about folks from Momofuku and Blue Hill Farm and the Mission Chinese San Francisco joint that the NYC spot was all the rage. It was 11pm on a Monday night and the dapper maitre d’ told us 20 minutes. Seemed like a plan.

It was red hot chili peppers meets Mean Mr. Mustard and Steve vs. the Volcano. Hot stuff! Dana was doing her thing and telling me all about this Icelandic Vodka, Reyka, and this rock and roll festival. I was all ears, as my mouth and nose were too numb to be of use. The Icelandic Airwaves Music Festival will whisk Dirty Projectors, Of Monsters and Men, Sigur Rós, and 70+ other bands to that fiery rock with those sexy people October 31 – November 4, 2012. They say it’s “the hippest long weekend on the annual music-festival calendar.” This is Reyka’s second year in a row sponsoring this thing and there has been an online screening process to choose the bands, called “Breakthrough at Airwaves.”

Today is the last day for bands to submit tracks to "Two bands, selected by the festival will win a weeklong trip to Reykjavik, including travel and lodging, and get to perform alongside some of the most exciting and inspired names in music." They’ll announce the winners August 14th. Iceland in November gets, like, 16 hours of night – perfect for Goodnight Mr. Lewis. I’m just saying.

Anyway, after surviving the ridiculously delicious but way too spicy meal, we decided to pop into Tammany Hall to check out the infamous Magic Monday soiree. It’s been running six months now and Christine and Ky told me all about it:

"Breedlove performs every week, along with the guest bands booked by Ky. The party starts at 10pm, is always free, and there is an open Bud Light bar for the first hour, which happens to be Breedlove’s beer of choice."

Ky impressed me. She seems to have those musical chops that are so rare in this biz. Managers are a dime a dozen, door people maybe a quarter, and I wouldn’t go past two cents for a waitron or bartender. They are all replaceable in hours. A person who can book bands and get it right…now that’s a rarity. We’ll be back, but this time we’ll opt for the meatballs.

Feds Shut Down Online Drug Marketplace Silk Road

This morning, U.S. law enforcement authorities have shut down Silk Road.  Are you familiar with the site; it’s the web marketplace for illegal drugs (heroin and cocaine are you listening?), as well as such criminal activities such as murder for hire and tutorials on hacking ATM machines. (Think of Silk Road like Pirate Bay – but with drugs rather than a downloaded copy of Big Mama’s House 2.) FBI in San Francisco arrested Silk Road owner Ross William Ulbricht – also known as "Dread Pirate Roberts " – depsite the fact that the site has a huge disclaimer that reads; 

"In no way condone or promote any illegal activity and this website is only meant to be used for educational purposes as most of the items for sale on the Silkroad market are illegal."

The times have changed since Lou Reed had to go "Up To Lexington, 125" to score some smack.  All transactions conducted on Silk Road were completed via Bitcoin; rather than cash or credit cards. Authorities seized $3.6 million worth of digital currency. The website was said to generate sales of more than 9.5 million Bitcoins, roughly equivalent to $1.2 billion.

"Silk Road has emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet today," sadi FBI agent Christopher Tarbell.  The Feds estimated that the site was used by "several thousand drug dealers" to sell "hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs – and we’re not talking about blackmarket Viagra either!


-The online marketplace was located on a website hidden away from ordinary internet browsers.

– To access it, buyers used Tor: a software which anonymises internet connections by bouncing data around the globe. Tor was originally sponsored by the United States Naval Research Laboratory; it’s used by political activists around the world to send messages.

-Bitcoin payments are extremely difficult to trace – and ideal for online drug-deals.

– Silk Road, payment worked through an escrow service. To minimise losses, drugs were often hidden inside birthday cards or packets of candy. Happy birthday!

-Going by the online moniker, Dread Pirate Roberts, scares away the Feds in the same way garlic scares away vampires.



The Mantles Talk Songwriting, Flying Nun, & Famous Neighbors

The Mantles, a quartet out of San Francisco, have given us one seemingly effortless garage-pop nugget after another in their sophomore LP, Long Enough to Leave, which officially drops June 19. But sounding this laid-back takes hard work—and sometimes, a little encouragement from the music icon next door. Below, we ask the band about their roots and where they’re headed, and stream the jangly album closer, “Shadow of Your Step.”

Tell me about a favorite place to practice or jam as a band. For obvious reasons, it’s hard not to picture y’all in a garage.
Virginia: The original incarnation of the band did practice in my garage in the Bayview district of SF. One of the dudes from the Village People lived next door at the time and came out to tell us to "keep up the good work." Honestly doesn’t get much better than that.

In my opinion, Long Enough To Leave is essential listening for Flying Nun acolytes. Which of those bands really click for you?
Matt: Love tons of those bands, but the records I still go back to the most are The Verlaines’ 10 O’Clock in the Afternoon EP and The Doublehappys’ "Needles and Plastic" single.
Virginia: I’ll second the Verlaines, and I have a particular soft spot in my heart for The Bats. We get to play with them for our San Francisco record release show and I am beyond excited.
Michael: I honestly didn’t know about the Flying Nun bands until Matt and Virginia introduced me. I’m really into the Clean now.

What’s the single biggest difference between the new album and your self-titled debut?
Matt: Well, the lineup changed between then and now so that’s going to make it inherently different. Also a few of us were probably still getting our instruments down back then, so maybe it’s a little more assured. It’s definitely more melodic, and we didn’t really bother with trying to ‘rock’ all that much. 

Did any songs fall together almost effortlessly? Was any an ongoing struggle?
Michael: Virginia and I took a guitar to the park and wrote "Raspberry Thighs" and "Long Enough to Leave" in one afternoon, only to awkwardly stop when people hiked by on the trail we were sitting next to. The one that was definitely a struggle was "More That I Pay," which only came together when we were recording it at Kelley Stoltz’ studio.
Virginia: Michael’s impromptu piano part at the end of that song finally brought the whole thing together.

Lastly, which city really rocks hardest, and why?
Matt: Well, our definition of hard-rocking is probably not what you might think. Usually, if we see a bunch of old dudes with grey hair and old band t-shirts, it’s probably going to be a good show. And wherever beer is cheapest and most abundant.

Follow Miles on Twitter here

This Looks Cool: 1AM Mobile, A Neighborhood Art Tour in App Form

Sometimes, the best places to look for what’s great and new in the art world can be found in your own backyard, or in your own neighborhood. Street art and mural tours popping up in neighborhoods in cities all over the world, but you don’t want to be part of those totally commercial tourist traps. You’d rather travel and explore on your own. Now you can, for free, with the new app from San Francisco’s First Amendment Gallery, 1AM Mobile.

The purpose of the app is to document street art you may see on your daily ramblings and share it with a community who may also be into doing that. If you’re in a new city, you can check out what other people have posted and create a little street art tour out of postings that look interesting that you’ve found. There are even directions, so you don’t have to go through the embarrassment of asking locals where to find that legendary tag.

But, you say, 1AM Mobile, what will you do to address the ephemeral nature of street art? What if one of the community’s active users gets a great snap of a particularly wonderful and poignant mural, only for it to be painted-over or covered up days later? All uploads are time-stamped so interested readers can see how one particular site evolved—what was there before, how long a piece lasted, if it sucks and is worth covering up with your own work, all of that. 1AM Mobile is available at the App Store for iPhone and iDevices. So get out and do some exploring this weekend. The fresh air will do you good. It’s been a long week.