By Liam Mayclem, the KCBS Foodie Chap
Bar Bambino Executive Chef Elizabeth Binder was born and raised in South Africa where she attended the internationally recognized Christina Martin School of Food and Wine in her hometown of Durban. After graduating, she landed her first cooking job at the small luxury hotel, Blue Mountain Lodge in Kruger Park. At the age of nineteen she was named the hotel’s Executive Chef. At Blue Mountain, her notoriety rose as she cooked state dinners for both F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.
“Cooking to me is good food shared with good people.”
– Chef Elizabeth Binder
In 1990, when sanctions against South Africa were lifted, Elizabeth packed her bags to embark on a career that would take her around the world. Her first stop was the UK where she worked for Sir Terrence Conrad’s Del Ponte and at Clarke’s, owned by Alice Waters’ protege Sally Clarke. She landed in San Francisco upon venturing to the U.S. and was part of Traci des Jardin’s orignal team at Jardinaire. Then on to Bizou with Loretta Keller.
In 2006, after the birth of her first child, Elizabeth met Bar Bambino owner Christopher Losa. The two worked hand-in-hand to develop the menu and open Bar Bambino. In three short years they and their team have developed the restaurant into one of the most recognized and awarded restaurants in San Francisco’s Mission District. At Bar Bambino, Elizabeth has been able to fully develop her concept of rustically elegant cuisine, offering a menu that is grounded in the traditions of Italy and Central Europe, but heightened by her finesse with respect for local, fresh, and extraordinary ingredients.
Chef Lizzie won my heart when this past year I fell in love with her Northern Italian cuisine at the sexy Bar Bambino. Organic, sustainable and approachable are the mainstays on a menu that features light bites to hearty but healthy fare. Bar Bambino is where Chef and I connected for our Foodie Chap chat and cooking demo.
5 Tasty Questions with Chef Elizabeth Binder
1. Define your cuisine.
Reaching specific to the Northeastern corner of Italy, particularly the Friullian region and the surrounding regions crossing those borders.
2. You want a midnight snack; you go to your fridge, what’s always there?
A good 34-36 month reggiano. It’s the best easy snack. It’s great over fish pasta. Delicious!
3. If you weren’t a chef, what other career might you be enjoying right now?
I love beautiful things around me, everything has to be aesthetically pleasing, so probably an architect or an interior designer.
4. It’s your last supper, who will be at the table with you?
My last supper would have to be on Sheffield Beach in South Africa, which is very special to me, with all my family from all over the world and all of my closest friends all brought together.
5. What will you eat?
There would be fabulous, delicious, delicate, elegant white wines and lots of fish my dad just pulled from the ocean.
LM: Five tasty answers. Thank you.
Bar Bambino’s Spring Frico
A Friulian classic, frico is a delicious and addictive snack made with Montasio cheese. We form ours into a small nest and fill it with a salad composed of the seasons best. Here, crisp green asparagus and fava beans are especially highlighted by the nutty Montasio cheese.
Serves 4 as an appetizer
1/2 lbs Montasio cheese, aged 16-18 months old
6 asparagus, shaved lengthwise with a peeler or sliced finely with a sharp knife
1 cup fava beans, removed from their pods and their outer skins peeled
1 bunch arugula, washed and dried
2 Tbsp chive blossoms, chive flowers separated from their stalks
1 Tbsp honey, preferably rhododendron honey or any light fragrant honey
1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Grate the cheese using the coarse, large-holed side of a grater. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or use a non-stick baking sheet. Using a large round cookie cutter (approx. 4” diameter) to provide a form, fill 4 circles per baking sheet with approximately 2 tablespoons of cheese to form the frico. Using your fingers, gently distribute the cheese evenly within the form. Bake frico on the middle rack of the oven until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Take frico out of the oven and immediately remove crisps from baking sheet with a spatula, and drape over the bottom of a ramekin to form a cup shape. Cool completely to preserve the shape.
Whisk the lemon juice, honey, salt, and ground pepper together until the salt is integrated. Add the extra virgin olive oil together and whisk until emulsified. Taste and correct seasoning as desired.
Bring a pot water to a boil and add salt. Blanch peeled fava beans for 1 or 2 minutes until just tender. Immediately remove from boiling water and place into an ice bath. Once chilled, drain. In a bowl gently toss the shaved asparagus, fava beans, arugula and the chive blossoms with the dressing. Fill each frico cup with the salad mix and serve together with a glass of Friuliano or any delicate white Friulian wine.
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