Dishes for a winter's night - Page 2

From Sonoma duck ragout to creamy chestnut soup; culinary cheer for the chills

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Warm up: Chestnut soup topped with fried sage leaves at Bouche.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY VIRGINIA MILLER

Bouche (603 Bush, SF. 415-956-0396 www.bouchesf.com) has only been open a couple weeks and thus is too new to comment in-depth upon. On a recent visit, I suffered tiny pangs of nostalgia, wishing Bar Crudo, since moved to the Panhandle, was still in this tiny, charming space. But the one dish out of a number of Bouche's small plates ($6-18) that began to assuage those pangs was a creamy chestnut soup ($6). Its aroma evokes a winter panorama, the soup dotted with sage leaves fried in butter (which I could smell downstairs before the dish arrived to my table upstairs), with a side of crispy root vegetable chips to place on top.

HEALTHY "UNFRIED" CHICKEN IN PALO ALTO

Call it healthy "fast food" for the Peninsula set: LYFE Kitchen (167 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto. 650-325-5933, www.lyfekitchen.com) is a bustling, new eatery in downtown Palo Alto. Draft beers, wines, smoothies, and juices flow, while vegan, vegetarian, and organic foods encourage guilt-free eating. This sort of place would take off in downtown SF: its healthful approach doesn't leave taste behind, while its connection to celebrity chef Art Smith is a point of interest for foodies.

Alhough not everything worked (I'm afraid fries are ultimately better — and less soggy — when actually fried), two stand-outs are Art's unfried chicken ($11.99) and a roasted beets and farro salad ($7.79). Chicken is a dish I often brush past for more enticing options, but this tender, "unfried" chicken is pounded flat, textural with breaded crust, on a heartwarming bed of roasted squash, brussels sprouts, dried cranberries, tied together by a drizzle of cashew cream and Dijon vinaigrette. The salad is loaded with roasted red beets over whole-grain farro and field greens, with a melange of fennel, walnuts, dried cranberries, oranges, red onion, and basil in maple-sherry vinaigrette. Every bite packs a flavor punch. Here one can fill up with a clear conscience. *

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