It’s nice to go away and nice to come home — especially with a great recipe. We ate and drank our way across the East Bay last week, and finished in San Francisco at Ichi. Of all the places we went, I commend to you Gather in Berkeley and Fish in Sausalito.

Besides excellent food from exec chef Sean Baker (we had a terrine and an incredibly light brick-oven pizza), Gather has my favorite resto design: a crescent with the kitchen at the core and the bar in back. Easy for the servers, lots of room for the customers. At Fish, (exec chef Megan Smith), there is the sensible protocol Order At Counter, Take Number, Find Seat, Get Served. So easy, so efficient and well, great fish. Here’s my smoked sturgeon taco:

fish taco

Our favorite restaurant meal came at Ichi, even though Sushi Chef Timmy took the night off. Yet I’m asking you not to go to Ichi. Please. It’s already too crowded. We spent hours at a dive bar down the street drinking margaritas and waiting for a call that our table was ready. It was awful, having to drink tequila and talk to our friends.


Ichi … See how little this place is?

Once we got into Ichi, we waved away the sushi rolls and gorged on nigiri: Tuna Tataki, Aji, Hotaru Ika, Inada, Kamasu, Katsuo, Maguro Zuke, Kona Kampachi, Shima Aji, Umi Masu, Mirugai. Then we thought we finished with unfiltered sake (do it) … but our Chef / Tour Guide Nate Keller kept ordering. An hour later, we staggered out way too full.

Great meal. And yet, some of the best eating of the week came from our BFF Heidi Cotler. It was the San Francisco treat. Not Rice-A-Roni … Cioppino.

When we got home, I told my daughter I’d make some for her. Here’s what she texted me:

What’s that?!

Culture me dad.


Culture me? Jeez. I sent her the wiki entry:

“Cioppino is a fish stew originating in San Francisco. It is considered an Italian-American dish, and is related to various regional fish soups and stews of Italian cuisine. Cioppino is traditionally made from the catch of the day, which in the dish’s place of origin is typically a combination of dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish. The seafood is then combined with fresh tomatoes in a wine sauce, and served with toasted bread, either sourdough or baguette.”

Because I have an awesome sourdough starter from my Berkeley-grad friend Bob Young, it was a natural.


Here goes. If you’re playing along at home, full recipe at the end.


As with so many things, start with onions in a saute pan over medium heat.  Cook for about 10 minutes while you cut up a red bell pepper, some mushrooms, two cloves of garlic.


Add them to the pan with a couple bay leaves and a big pinch of chile flakes. When the garlic starts to smell toasty, add a cup of fish stock or chicken stock and some white wine, open a 28-ounce can of tomatoes — whole, peeled Italian tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes in your hand as you add them to the dish. Turn up the heat and bring the pan to a bare simmer. You should see wisps of steam, maybe some little bubbles, nothing more vigorous than that.


Now comes the fish. I’ve been using flounder, sea scallops and shrimp, about 1 1/2 pounds total; not fresh, because we don’t live on the coast, but frozen and defrosted overnight. When I made this for my mother-in-law, who has shellfish allergies, I just used whitefish and it tasted pretty good.

cioppino pan

Turn the heat back to low or medium low, put a lid on it and cook for 10 minutes. Serve with lots of sourdough bread.


Here’s a recipe:


Drizzle of olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small red pepper, finely chopped

pinch red pepper flakes

2 bay leaves

1 cup fish or chicken stock

4 oz white wine

28-ounce can whole tomatoes

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1/2 pound firm flesh white fish (pollock or flounder, for example), cut into 3 inch chunks

1/2 pound scallops

1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined


Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes, then add garlic, red pepper, red pepper flakes and bay leaves and cook until garlic is aromatic – about 4 minutes.

Pour stock and tomatoes over veg mixture and bring to a simmer, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Add fish, scallops and shrimp to the pan, turn heat down and cover. Cook about 10 minutes. Serve with sliced scallions and toasted bread (ideally sourdough).


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