It's a lot to run a restaurant, to develop a menu and then evolve it over the seasons. But one of the many ways that San Francisco's Bar Tartine is awesome is that they do more than that. On top of the regular weekly grind, they've hosted a "Curiosities" dinner each Monday this fall, inviting guest chefs to join them in the kitchen and the dining room for explorations beyond the regular lineup of dishes.
Sometimes the Monday night feast is a pop-up for a local chef testing out a concept (backed up with side dishes and lovely breadstuffs from the Tartine team) and other times it's a collaboration to celebrate a visiting food luminary or recently released book. Whatever it is, these unusual Mondays are not a night off for the BT kitchen, and they're not even just a way to bring recipes from a new book or guest chef to life. Instead, the visitors provide an inspiration for new explorations, for the development of one-night-only dishes sparked by the theme or the book in question. "In a way," says Bar Tartine's Vinny Eng, chefs "Cortney [Burns] and Nick [Balla] are dialoguing with these people" through the food.
The most recent dialogue was a five-course feast inspired by Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. We tried to stay cool while meeting the authors, but it was pretty exciting to shake hands with the man behind Plenty, one of our favorite vegetable cookbooks of all time. And it was also exciting to taste food inspired by the brand new book, which features recipes from Ottolenghi and Tamimi's childhoods on two different sides of Jerusalem.
The meal began with an impressive array of salads and dips to pile on chewy slab bread, and wrapped up with a citrus-glazed kamut cake perched on a bed of chocolate buttercream sauce, plus a quince and pistachio crumble served with cardamom-yogurt cream. (Because of course one dessert wouldn't be enough.) The meal, says Cortney Burns, was "inspired by the release of the book, but it was also an overdue homage to flavors from the Middle East that we love to eat."