Bistro Central Parc

Bistro Central Parc

February 3, 2011  |  food & drink, san francisco  |  No Comments

This is one joyful restaurant. Located in the Panhandle, at the corner of Central and Grove Street, this secluded spot draws a young and distinguished crowd. The decor is minimalist, and the layout displays a huge bar and open kitchen. A simple black chalkboard on the wall (ardoise) and a Fanny film poster are the only signs that the place is French… of course only if you didn’t know who the owner is. Jacques, who is there to greet his guests every night, has been in the San Francisco restaurant scene for a very long time, and he has a lot of fans.

The food is prepared with love. I ordered Gallette de Pomme de Terre (warm brie on potato pancake, mizuna salad) that tasted light and flavorful. When I heard that the chef was from Marseille, I had to have the Bouillabaisse. It had a nice consistency and golden color. The Volcan au Chocolat was amazing! When I bit into it, a huge lava of chocolate made its way out. The plates are nicely decorated, the staff speaks French, and the service is fast and efficient.

  • Bistro Central Parc
  • 560 Central Avenue, San Francisco
  • (415) 931-7272

Dinner: Wednesday-Sunday | Brunch: Saturday-Sunday

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February 3, 2011  |  food & drink, san francisco  |  No Comments

Amélie is a hugely successful wine bar where you can hear French every night of the week. The concept is a bar/lounge, where drinking good wine is fun, enjoyable and affordable. “Here wine is for everyone,” says Germain, a co-owner. “I wanted to transform the image of wine from being boring and elitist to being fun and affordable.” On most nights beautiful people, regulars, and friends gather at Amélie to socialize with huge glasses of wine, deriving pleasure from idle time, good company, and joyful ambiance.

The clientele is international. The staff is European and courteous, and it hasn’t changed in years. “Having the same staff is a French touch and a very important aspect,” says Germain. “In France people expect to see familiar faces in their favorite places.” This is why Amélie has become a sort of gathering space for a lot of young French people who come to say hello to each other and share some good laughs.

The stellar décor makes everyone feel good and happy (Art/Design). It is a sensual place, and music is crucial to the scene. European tunes with jazzy tones play softly in the background. The Victor Hugo’s poem on the ceiling has a personal and sentimental value for Germain, whose grandfather used to read to him “La Légende des Siècles” when he was a child. Ever since, he dreamed of opening his own bar. He developed a palate for wine from working in restaurants and bars in the Vallée du Rhone, where he is from.

Amélie also offers delicious food to dazzle your senses and accompany your drinks. You can ask for a table in the back to enjoy a light meal of an extensive variety of cheeses, charcuterie, raviolis, salads, and small pizzas. And don’t forget to end the night with a chocolate plate — a selection of dark and white truffles.


  • Amélie Le Bar à Vin
  • 1754 Polk Street, San Francisco
  • Visit website!

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At the Farmers' market with Roland Passot

At the Farmers’ market with Roland Passot

February 3, 2011  |  food & drink, people, san francisco  |  1 Comment

Roland Passot, the chef of the iconic French restaurant in San Francisco, La Folie, is a charming and charismatic man and a recognizable figure in a sea of merchants at the Farmers’ Market in San Rafael. I joined him one Thursday morning to talk about his restaurant, his food and the man himself — a man, whose famous restaurant has become, in the last twenty years since he opened it on Polk Street, an institution for fine dining, fabulous food and a culinary experience for the senses.

He goes to the Farmers’ Market at the Civic Center each Thursday and Sunday to buy produce for his menu, a ritual so engrained since his childhood years in Lyon that it feels to him like going to church. With his easy-going personality, he weaves down the stalls greeting merchants, laughing aloud, asking about their business and their day, and seeing what looks good, fresh and ripe. He tells me that he knows most of the local farms, what they produce and what they bring to the market, and that he tries, as much as possible, to buy from all of them to make them happy. He seems at home, genuinely joyous to see and say hello to everyone.

“We are lucky to have farmers’ markets in the Bay Area,” he tells me, “because they bring European culture. When I finish shopping, I like to stay on at the market and chat with my friends.”

We stop at Paul’s stand, a French cheese maker, who produces fresh cheeses in small quantities. Roland asks him what kind of cheese he brought today. “Un petit marcelle frais and sec, un pavé, une bûche très jeune,” Paul responds. After carefully examining and sampling each one of them, then pausing to think for a second and staring back at the cheeses, Roland settles for le pavé et la bûche to offer to his clients at La Folie that same night. The merchants at the neighboring stalls are waiting for their clients while Paul makes a comment about their patience and calmness in contrast to the loud merchants at the French farmers’ markets. Roland nods in return, smiling, still admiring the cheeses.

Strolling along through the abundance of the Californian harvest, we meet a charcuterie vendor from “Fabrique Délices” who offers us a taste of coppa, pâté, rillettes and rosette de Lyon (dry sausage, Lyon style). A talkative Dutch woman hands Roland a a full bag of green vibrant salad. He seems impressed by the quality and the variety. He tastes and smells the raspberries offered by another farm and buys some for the restaurant. Then, he tells the tomato merchant, after looking and gently pressing his tomatoes, that he would stop by on Sunday.

When he bought a few dozen duck eggs, I asked him what he would do with them. He explains to me that he is offering on the menu of La Folie a tempura of duck eggs, served on a pancake of sweetbreads and truffles, with a salad of green beans. “The egg is poached softly and then fried, but it stays soft in the middle (moelleux au milieu),” he explains.

As we walk from one side of the market to the other, the music in the background changes. We hear a banjo, then a band. It feels somewhat like a fair.

“Socializing is a big part of French culture. In France, people don’t take themselves seriously. We tend to forget our age. We like to spend time with friends, eat at restaurants and dance.”

It is one of the reasons he opened La Folie Lounge, adjacent to La Folie. He wanted to add a casual touch, to create a comfortable place where people can enjoy themselves while sampling a lounge menu, as well as order food from the restaurant in a more relaxed setting. He wanted to appeal to the younger, professional, tech-savvy generation, who are expanding their palate level to finer culinary experiences and who are ready to be impressed and captured by his food.

Roland can also be seen dining regularly with his family at the Left Bank restaurant in Larkspur, which he co-owns with a partner. The Left Bank was envisioned as an improvisation of a 1920 Parisian style brasserie in the style of Les Deux Magots. It offers regional French dishes — tartes lyonnaises (Roland is from Lyon), tartes flambées, quenelles, coq au vin, bouillabaisse, cassoulet, pâté de canard, pâté de campagne, escargots. The restaurant’s fantastic terrace and sunny location draws crowds of people and regulars. It is a place close to Roland’s home (Marin) and dear to his heart, a place where he goes to enjoy French food with family and friends — when he is not creating dazzling, palate-pleasing dishes at La Folie.

  • La Folie
  • 2316 Polk Street, San Francisco
  • (415) 776-5577
  • Visit website!

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