January 15, 2011

One Market (San Francisco) – Thanksgiving Dinner 2010

There are many different holidays in the Western world which are celebrated in all countries like Christmas or Easter but there are certain holidays which are very specific for each country. Often these holidays are related to the founding of a country like Independence Day in the US, Bastille Day in France or the Day of German Unity. The day which represents for us from a foodie perspective the most specific American celebration of gathering and food was always Thanksgiving. There are remotely related holidays in Europe like Erntedankfest in Germany but those celebrations are much more based on a religious background and are often only celebrated in scattered areas.

When we moved to the US Thanksgiving was for the first few years always an international potluck we celebrated with many coworkers from all over the world at the research institute we worked at that time. In the last few years we often used the Thanksgiving break for a short foodie trip to Las Vegas but this year Thanksgiving was for us the starting day of a longer trip to the Bay Area and the wine country. We never really had problems to find a good restaurant in Las Vegas on Thanksgiving but it turned out to be surprisingly challenging to find something suitable in San Francisco. Either many restaurants we were interested in weren’t open for Thanksgiving or they were open but had very boring and vastly overpriced special menus. After many phone calls and emails with different restaurants we finally settled on One Market for our Thanksgiving Dinner.

One Market is the best known restaurant of the Lark Creek Restaurant Group. The Lark Creek Restaurant Group was founded by Chef Bradley Ogden and business partner Michael Dellar in 1989. Bradley Ogden has over the years established himself as a well respected chef in the culinary world and was critical in setting up all twelve restaurant of the Lark Creek Restaurant Group throughout California and Las Vegas with several more planned in the near future. Even though Bradley Ogden was the founding chef of One Market in 1993 since then a number of executive chefs have followed him with Mark Dommen at the helm for the last six years. Chef Dommen started his culinary education at the California Culinary Academy before honing his skills and moving up the ranks by working for many exceptional chefs like Hubert Keller (Fleur de Lys), Gary Kunz (Lespinasse) and Jean-Louis Palladin (Palladin). He was also opening chef of Julia’s Kitchen in Napa before joining One Market.

One Market restaurant is located across the Ferry Building in one of the large buildings which house banks and investment firms. The restaurant is on the first floor and has windows all-around which gives the place an open feeling.

When we arrived at One Market the place was extremely crowded in the entrance and it soon became clear that they were about 20-30 minutes behind their schedule. They have a small bar area to the right where most people waited for their table.

The dining area has two levels. We were seated on the lower level and even though the tables are relatively close to each other the restaurant didn’t feel too overcrowded.

We started the night with two cocktails. No Partridge – Hangar One spiced pear vodka, Orchard pear liqueur, Domaine de canton ginger liqueur. Pleasantly fruity cocktail with nice pear flavor which got a nice kick from the ginger liqueur. The drink had a nice balance between alcohol and fruitiness. Hot Apple Pie – Tuaca, mulled apple cider, cinnamon whipped cream. The warm cocktail was perfect for this cold night and was indeed reminiscent of an apple pie. The vanilla liqueur paired nicely with the apple cider.

The bread was an epi-style bread which reminded us on the bread you get at the different Bouchon restaurants. A simple but very fresh bread.

Amuse Bouche: Duck liver mousse, quinoa tabbouleh, pickled cauliflowers and carrots.
The menu just mentioned an amuse bouche to start the dinner but our waiter brought a rather large plate of a few different appetizers – a light version of tabbouleh with quinoa instead of the normal bulgur which gave it a more nutty flavor, pickled cauliflowers and carrots which weren’t overly sour like many pickled vegetables often tend to be and, as the highlight of the plate, a very creamy and smooth duck liver mousse. One often sees chicken liver mousse on restaurant menus but duck liver mousse seems to be much less popular which is surprising as this example shows a wonderfully rich and creamy version which has a nuanced livery taste and is perfectly accompanied by toasted bread.

Course 1a: Golden lentil soup, vadouvan, yogurt cloud.
This soup was made of pureed lentils so that it had a smooth and creamy consistency without the use of cream which made the soup very light and enjoyable. Vadouvan seems to be one of the current trendy spice mixes often used now by chefs and is a French version of an Indian curry by adding onions, shallots and garlic to classic Indian curry mixes. Since lentils are frequently used in French and Indian cooking the use of vadouvan was a clever way to bring these two worlds together. The addition of spinach and croutons gave the soup some color and textural variety.

Course 1b: Red wine risotto, duck confit, gizzard, chicories
Risotto cooked al dente can be some of the simplest but most satisfying dishes and this red wine risotto was no exception. The carnaroli rice had the right balance between creaminess and some toothiness from the firmer center. The red wine not only gave the dish an impressive bright color but together with some duck stock gave the dish a solid foundation. The duck confit, but even more importantly the duck gizzard, pronounced the duck flavor of the dish. The chicory completed the dish by adding some slight bitterness.

Course 2a: Spit-roasted Berkshire pork loin, fennel, apple, potato puree, cider
Pork often tends to be overly dry but Chef Dommen used spit-roasting to ensure a juicy cooked pork loin on the bone which also had fortunately not all fat trimmed of. The spit-roasting also gave the pork loin a flavorful crust. The creamy potato puree and sautéed apple-fennel mixture accompanied the meat fittingly to give a simple but expertly prepared dish.

Course 2b: Roasted Willy Bird turkey, cornbread & applewood-smoked bacon stuffing, creamed spinach, shallot-thyme gravy
What is Thanksgiving without turkey ? One Market presented a rather classical but very tasty version. Large pieces of moist, tender turkey meat, not overly dry cornbread stuffing with a strong bacon flavor, good gravy and some cranberry jam. The unexpected star of this good Thanksgiving dish was the creamed spinach – a perfect preparation with a pronounced garlic flavor.

Course 3a: Valrhona chocolate soufflé cake, chocolate-banana ice cream, chocolate malt cream
The souffle cake was light, well prepared and had a good balance between the sweetness and some bitterness from the chocolate. Even though the ice cream and the cream on top of the soufflé also had chocolate incorporated the dessert didn’t feel like chocolate overkill and overly sweet but was balanced.

Course 3b: Triple layer pumpkin cheesecake, maple sugar pecans, egg nog ice cream
Nice presentation of this fall dessert with rather subdued pumpkin flavor in the cheesecake. We normally are not big fans of egg nog but here the flavor wasn’t too dominant and went well together with the cheesecake.

Surprisingly good espresso ended the night at One Market

We came to One Market with low expectations - We had so much problems to find any interesting restaurant for Thanksgiving in San Francisco. Reviews were mixed and pointed more towards a meeting place for bankers and politicians. Thanksgiving, together with Valentine’s Day, is normally a day when you should avoid restaurants like the plague and when we arrived the restaurant was clearly overwhelmed by the rush of the customers. So we were quite worried when we waited for our table that the evening would become a disaster but it turned out to be quite an enjoyable dinner. The cooking style from Chef Dommen at One Market might not be the most innovative but it produces very solid dishes which had some surprising twists. It was refreshing to see that he used even at such a dinner where you would expect that he cooks for the lowest denominator some unusual ingredients as duck liver or gizzards. A special mention deserves the service at One Market. We normally prefer a very slow pacing but were expecting to be rushed at such circumstances but instead our server made sure from the very beginning that we had a relaxing night and ensured a slow progression of the dishes throughout the night. Even though he was responsible for many tables our server always recognized when we needed bread, water etc.
One Market might not be a destination restaurant in San Francisco especially if you just come for a visit to the city. But if we would be living in San Francisco we would be interested to try more dishes at One Market. Especially the “Weekly Beast” from Chef Dommen where he offers whole animal menus with a strong emphasis on local ingredients sounds very interesting.

1 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 777-5577


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