Piperade Remains a Wonderful Dining Experience
As my loyal readers know I fell hard and fast for Basque cuisine as a college kid studying abroad in the 1970s. I was so young, dumb and naive, I told my mom I was in sort of a Hemingway study group. I told my friends I was going to run with the bulls in Pamplona. I actually believed that until the day of the event and got a good look at the race course through town and the loud, annoyed bulls ready to kill anyone who got in their way. Lucky for me I was able to back away into an empty cafe and have a cup of coffee or something stronger to celebrate my decision to remain alive. There was definitely human blood spilled on the streets that day and I was so happy none of it was mine.
Here is an excerpt from one re-telling of this story as it appeared in my regular feature, Cooking and Reading Everyday, for the Enological Society of the Pacific Northwest circa 2002. That was a great year as it also marked the opening of Piperade, a fabulous Basque venue in San Francisco by Chef Gerald Hirigoyen. He was already a veteran owner of several restaurants focused on French cuisine but he missed his Basque heritage flavors. He calls it West Coast Basque Cuisine. Fair enough. Always be Basque wherever you are, that's the Basque expatriates’ philosophy around the world. I mention Chef Hirigoyen’s first book, The Basque Kitchen, in this excerpt as an important reference for Basque cooking. He published Pintxos in 2009 and it is my favorite cookbook on the subject. I refer to it frequently for recipes and inspiration. The photographs are excellent. Both his cookbooks were references for me in writing The Cooking Class in San Sebastian.
I dined at Piperade in the early years of the restaurant and was bowled over by the food. Recently I returned with my best consumers and if anything, it’s even better. Maintaining the quality of the ambiance and the cooking over years is a tough test of any chef and his team. We received a warm welcome at the door by Chef Hirigoyen, who is still handsome and charming. We all found it hard to make decisions as the menu offers enough choices for many visits. The service was prompt and knowledgeable but not pushy. Everyone enjoyed a craft cocktail before the first course was served and we shared a lively Basque white wine with our entrees. The desserts were special and ample enough to circulate the table.
We were encouraged to eat and talk leisurely (so European) with no premature removing of plates, which drives me nuts, or feeling the servers wanted to turn the table one more time. This experience is what you always hope for in fine dining but don’t always receive. My best photos of a few plates will give you the idea of the presentation. You can see many more on the Piperade website. It was great to be at Piperade and it will be an inspiration to visit San Francisco more often.
Piperade 1015 Battery St, San Francisco, CA 94111 Tel 415.391.2555