Coffee Isn’t an Afterthought at These San Francisco Fine Dining Restaurants


In San Francisco, there are some fine-dining restaurants that prioritize the importance of post-dinner coffee. Some of these restaurants, such as Nob Hill’s Michelin-starred Sons and Daughters, have a coffee program that is not an afterthought. The restaurant’s beverage director David Kolvek oversees the venture, which has held a Michelin star since 2012 and has executive chef Harrison Cheney and Kolvek both joining the team in 2014. The coffee service, which highlights the Sunset District’s Andytown Coffee, takes five to eight minutes to execute. The team comes tableside with a handsome tray and all the gear ready to go, including a butane burner to brew the coffee. That flame goes beneath the siphon, a brewing device that runs coffee from a lower chamber into a top chamber to extract a cleaner final cup than other methods. The device and style of brewing provide a long-form, interactive experience for guests.

Anecdotally, about half of guests end up ordering coffee after dinner. Many have never seen siphon coffee before or tasted the clean, light cup that is its final result. In fine dining, the team plays off of guest expectations; a robust and surprising final beverage is another elevated chance to subvert and delight. Ending with such an ornate experience is a charming prestige to the larger act at Sons & Daughters. “There’s always a sense of discovery throughout,” Kolvek says. “The coffee is almost a bowtie of wonder.”

Kim Alter of Nightbird in Hayes Valley says her team uses Grand Coffee after meeting co-owner of the Mission District roastery, Adrian Lopez, at Rintaro. He came in to demonstrate the proper way to do tableside pour over. She describes her restaurant as very Portlandia in that staff can tell the stories behind every ingredient if customers want. This coffee story is about a woman-run cooperative in Guatemala; Grand roasts their beans, so serving the business’s Axolá Women’s Cooperative coffee is a chance for Alter to align Nightbird’s woman-led values through something as deceptively simple as post-dinner coffee.

But not all programs are so straightforward. Take SoMa’s Birdsong where chef Chris Bleidon’s love of the drink turned into a full-on commitment to craft coffee inside the restaurant. The coffee station — which stocks coffees from Saint Frank and teas from Red Blossom — is a part of the kitchen; there’s no cart service, and the equipment is high-end. Guests can order pour overs and flat whites, and choose between robusta and arabica varietals, which are ground to order. “We have a pretty legit setup,” Bleidon says. “We offer the same coffee experience you’d get from a high-end coffee shop in the city.”

Birdsong serves its coffee with one of Yesenia Castanon’s incredible chocolate chip cookies. Bleidon says when he first tried her creation — given to him by Castanon alongside a cup of coffee on his birthday a few years ago — he knew it had to go on the menu. To this day, it’s the only item he’s served without any changes. Within short order, guests came in speaking of a secret menu item they had to try.

When wondering why a restaurant would or wouldn’t execute such a high level of coffee fandom, Bleidon turns the idea back on its head. In fine dining and at his restaurant, everything the team does, even how the staff walks through the kitchen, is the result of layers of detail.

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Source: Coffee Talk

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