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    SPQR: Michelin Dining, Neighborhood Style

    By David Landis–

    Innovative. Inventive. Italian. But most of all, delicious. Those are just a few words to describe the elevated dining experience at Fillmore Street’s neighborhood, Michelin-starred gem SPQR.

    An acronym for Senatus Populusque Romanus, SPQR translates to “The People and Senate of Rome” and was the emblem of the Roman Empire. A medallion to that effect stands outside this unpretentious yet esteemed Pacific Heights eatery.

    Now at the helm for more than 10 years, Chef Matthew Accarrino doesn’t rest on his laurels. “Food should be comforting,” says the youthful, award-winning chef, “but we’re very grounded in flavors and technique. My approach has 3 elements. The first is ingredients: shopping and cooking need to be well-sourced. The second starts with what I call a ‘flavor memory.’ For instance, the genesis for our broccoli dish was cream of mushroom soup. The ingredients include broccoli pesto, marinated hen of the woods mushrooms, and gouda cheese, but I asked myself, ‘How do I pack that flavor into a custard?’ The third element is innovation: how do I compose these ingredients to make something new?”

    Chef Matthew Accarrino

    Chef Accarrino is well-known for making his own caviar, foraging for his own ingredients, and creating his own modern take on desserts. “I’m motivated by passion, but I want to be focused,” Accarino says. “Nowadays, there’s an urgency and expectation for successful chefs to quickly open many restaurants. I resisted that. With time, wisdom is derived through practice.”

    A typical SPQR brunch is anything but typical. The Gay Gourmet loves to sit at the marble counter, because part of the fun of dining at SPQR is the imaginative, one-of-a-kind wine program. Wine selections change almost weekly, generally sourced from smaller and lesser-known producers. The servers gladly pour a taste so that diners can get to know the all-Italian wine list.

    Every brunch begins with Chef Matthew’s homemade biscuits and jam that changes seasonally. Some of my personal brunch menu favorites are the creamy chicken liver mousse, with a modern twist of fruit marmellata and balsamic gelatin. The home-made, rustic bucanti straw and hay pasta also is a winner and adds a tangy combination of blue cheese, kale, walnut, and sage butter.

    At a recent Cirelli winemaker dinner, our evening started with Accarrino’s own caviar, coupled with potato frittelle, egg yolk, and crema fresca (paired with a refreshing sparkling rose from Montepulciano). The next course took full advantage of the season: a re-invented little gem lettuce salad highlighted by bacon-wrapped dates, fuyu persimmons and a mulled wine vinaigrette (paired with a Trebbiano Anfora from Abruzzo).

    A slice of heaven followed: mushroom cannelloni as light as air, paired with a delicious Montepulciano wine from Abruzzo; and the final course was one of the best beef ribeyes offered at any San Francisco restaurant: perfectly-cooked to medium rare and served with a chestnut and delicata squash gratinate in a red wine sauce. The Montepulciano Anfora from Abruzzo expertly complemented the tastes and textures of the tender meat.

    Desserts, created by Chef Accarrino, currently range from a PSB spiced biscuit donut with pumpkin bavarese, cranberry, and egg nog gelato to a carmel budino with pecan, toasted meringue, and graham cracker gelato.

    Intimate and inviting, the compact restaurant features table seating, bar seating, and a chef’s counter, where diners can watch Chef Matthew in action, making the most of the tiny 200-square-foot kitchen.

    Customers can take SPQR home with them since Chef Matthew teamed up with former owner Shelley Lindgren to write one of the most beautiful cookbooks on the market: SPQR – Modern Italian Food and Wine (from Ten Speed Press). This nearly 300-page tome, available at the restaurant, provides some of the Chef’s more innovative recipes, as well as techniques such as stove-top smoking and more.

    SPQR creates special dining every day, but New Year’s Eve takes it to the next level. It’s a great way to celebrate the holiday at a more approachable and casual neighborhood restaurant. However, make your reservations now: SPQR only has 45 seats and books up early.

    Chef Matthew deliciously sums up the SPQR culinary experience like this: “The capacity to create memories for our customers brings us joy. It’s the greatest gift of the restaurant business. We’re part of that every night.”

    For further information, visit SPQR online at https://www.spqrsf.com/

    You can make reservations at: https://www.opentable.com/

    David Landis, aka “The Gay Gourmet,” is a foodie, a freelance writer, and a PR executive. Follow him on Instagram @GayGourmetSF, on Twitter @david_landis, email him at: david@landispr.com or visit him online at: https://gaygourmetsf.com/

    Published on November 28, 2019


    Final Greens’ Anniversary Series Dinner, Permanent Collection Pop-Up

    Greens Restaurant this year has been celebrating 40 years of delicious and healthy vegetarian cuisine in their beautiful location with incredible views of the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and more. Their Anniversary Dinner Series has highlighted renowned local women chefs: Reem Assil (Reem’s California), Alice Waters (Chez Panisse), Suzette Gresham (Acquerello), Kim Alter (Nightbird), and Tanya Holland (Brown Sugar Kitchen). Each evening provided a rare opportunity not only to enjoy vegetarian meals from these culinary superstars, but also to speak with them at length in Greens’ cozy, casual setting.

    The final dinner in the series will take place on December 11 and will feature Pam Mazzola of Prospect. Mazzola is known for dishes driven by top-quality seasonal ingredients sourced from local farmers and purveyors. Whether treating visiting guests to an historic, special occasion meal, or just treating yourself, the night is sure to be memorable. Don’t miss the wine pairings, and the non-alcoholic pairings, too. We love that Greens offers both, allowing even teetotalers to indulge.

    https://greensrestaurant.com/

    Also be sure to admire the large redwood sculpture inside Greens. It was created by mid-century artist JB Blunk (1926–2002), who additionally created The Planet piece highlighted at the Oakland Museum. Greens sometimes even allows diners to eat on the sculpture, which was carved to include tables and seating areas.

    Blunk’s daughter Mariah Nielson and Waters’ daughter Fanny Singer run Permanent Collection, a line of clothing, accessories, and objects based on historical and contemporary originals. They recently opened a pop-up at Marin Country Mart in Larkspur, and are featuring in-store events with their favorite brands and designers.

    We miss the Celebration of Craftswomen that used to happen annually during the holiday season at Fort Mason. “Betty’s List” and the San Francisco Bay Times had a booth there for many years. Permanent Collection also supports independent craftspeople offering unique items made with skill and passion. The items, as a result, do not come with box store prices, but as the line’s name suggests, they hold lasting quality and appeal.

    For more information: https://permanentcollection.com/pages/events