Bluestem Brasserie: A Terrific San Francisco Restaurant
My boyfriend and I have finally found our favorite New York restaurant, only it’s in San Francisco. Thanks to the 2,569 miles separating us from Bluestem Brasserie, we won’t — alas — be regulars. But you go and enjoy it for us, and when you order the profiteroles for dessert, think of me.
Eric and I ate dinner there one weeknight in early June. I had researched San Francisco restaurants like crazy before we left New York, and Bluestem sounded terrific. Just the kind of food I like to eat. And just the kind of food I would cook if I were a much, much better cook and had ready access to incredible, fresh, mostly Napa and Sonoma ingredients.
Bluestem is downtown and urban, so there is a cool, but open, airy feel that gives it a spring-in-Marin vibe. Think unfussy chic: natural textures, mostly neutral colors. The three-year-old restaurant is run by husband-and-wife team, Adam and Stacy Jed, who pride themselves on serving sustainable, grass-fed beef, and maintaining strong working relationships with their purveyors. (Is it here where I announce that I am the author of The Brisket Book: A Love Story With Recipes and a big proponent of grass-fed beef and best practices?) It turns out that the Jeds are former vegans, and opened Bluestem as a way to advocate and showcase ranchers and farmers committed to working in harmony with nature. This is especially significant to me since I live in New York, where there is very little harmony and even less nature.
The Jeds share a big passion for what they are doing; they have big ambitions; and they are running a restaurant so big (it seats 220) that it could probably qualify for its own zip code — but they manage to make the place feel neighborly.
In some ways our dinner at Bluestem started before Eric and I ever got there. I was swooning while reading a menu online that made me both curious (what does “crispy lamb belly” taste like?) and pre-hungry (a duck confit salad that comes with a tangle of fresh greens and a fried duck egg — Yum!). The range of dishes, flavors, and combinations was intriguing. Thank you, chef Francis Hogan, for getting fresh with us, with beautifully balanced offerings like acorn-fed pork with fennel sauerkraut, duck fat potatoes, lardons, and cherry mostarda riesling jus; white-wine-steamed mussels with andouille, shallots, and orange fondue; and wild mushroom hash, and zesty lemon-pepper fettuccine. Chef Hogan also curates a cheeseboard that reminds you why “dreamy” rhymes with “creamy.” it featured Strawberry Peak Snow Mountain Creamery sheep’s milk from Eden (of course!) Utah, served with roasted strawberry and lavender jam; my compliments to the sheep!
While you might think it was my must-have cookbook and fame as a world-class Brisketeer that caught Adam Jed’s attention, it was actually that once we sat down we noticed that our table tipped, which Adam stopped instantly by sticking something under one of the legs and apologizing. So I guess you could say we met cute. Adam introduced himself and we did the same. We saw him again only moments later when I literally “knocked back” the Negroni I had ordered — all over the table and Eric’s lap. Adam rushed over to help mop it up. I got a fresh napkin and a fresh Negroni on the house and we had a great long conversation with Adam about sustainability and brisket and why it’s hard to get local salmon in California, and how the chef compresses six lamb bellies to add enough fat to make it tasty. Adam, by the way (Stacy was not there the night we had dinner) is so genuinely welcoming that I would not be at all surprised to find out that he is Danny Meyer’s long-lost brother.
Eric and I loved our dinner, every single one of the 450 things we ordered. It was one of those magical nights where you float home and you know it isn’t the prosecco. The service: knowledgeable and well-paced, attentive and helpful. The atmosphere: mellow. Eric’s lap: wet. The bill: we felt like we got incredible value for what we ate. The takeaway: a genuinely warm and welcoming place with a menu so enticing it was hard to choose what to eat. I, of course, chose to eat a lot of what Eric ordered as well as my own.