Acclaimed Chef Jennifer Puccio
Have Quail, Will Travel
by Anneli Rufus
Jennifer Puccio, executive chef/partner of San Francisco’s Marlowe and Park Tavern restaurants, was recently the guest chef at La Toque restaurant in The Westin Verasa. La Toque’s world-famous chef Ken Frank kept to the sidelines as Puccio prepared a gala feast which was part of the Somm Sisters Soirée, an International Women’s Day celebration organized by the hotel and Women of the Vine, a Napa-based winery selling only the products of female vintners.
Puccio has worked at a string of noted restaurants, including Berkeley’s Rivoli Restaurant and Napa’s Ubuntu. She has earned high critical acclaim at Marlowe and Park Tavern, both of which are owned by New Zealander Anna Weinberg — who happens to hail from a winemaking family herself, and who soon plans to open The Cavalier restaurant in San Francisco’s South of Market district. Puccio is a partner in this latest project as well.
“I had been the chef at a few restaurants in San Francisco already when Anna hired me to be the opening chef at Marlowe,” Puccio told me. “It quickly became apparent that we are very much on the same page as far as how we wanted to run a restaurant…. After spending so many years in the restaurant business, it is amazing to have found such a talented, driven partner with the same goals and ideals” as Puccio has herself. “That she is a woman is just the icing on the cake.”
At La Toque, the amuse-bouche was cauliflower panna cotta topped with uni and caviar, followed by a Little Gem salad featuring fresh seasonal vegetables and paired with a Long Meadow Ranch 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. Then came baked oysters served in their shells with New England-style chowder paired with a Stags’ Leap 2010 Chardonnay, then a triple-meat main course comprising venison carpaccio, Angus beef tartare and crispy bone marrow paired with a Handley 2009 Pinot Noir.
The penultimate course was quail with fresh black truffles, cippolini onions and crispy Parmesan stuffing paired with a Crocker & Starr 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. Dessert was vanilla-bean panna cotta with cacao nib biscotti, which appears on the menu at Marlowe, as do the baked oysters. The meat and quail courses are on the menu at Park Tavern.
“As a chef, the food you make is very personal,” Puccio said. “So the fact that I am a woman certainly influences my cooking style. The food at our restaurants is based on what I love eating on my days off. As much as I enjoy meat, I think it still maintains a certain feminine aesthetic.”
The next evening’s Grand Tasting Event in the Westin Verasa’s courtyard featured over a dozen female vintners affiliated with Women of the Vine, pouring whites and reds galore. Cheers!
You can click on each photo to enlarge.