Foodie Chap: Sweetwater Music Hall In Mill Valley
Gordon Drysdale brings three decades of experience to his role as Chef at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, Calif. For the Sweetwater Music Hall, Drysdale has crafted farmers’ market-driven menus of locally sourced and organic fare that offers a variation on the theme of California cooking, with bright flavors drawn from varied ethnicities.
He has been a longtime fixture in the Bay Area dining scene with a reputation for modern, seasonal cuisine with classic roots. It was this approach to cooking that earned him Esquire Magazine’s “Best New Restaurant Award” in 2000 for his celebrated Gordon’s House of Fine Eats.
Drysdale began his restaurant career as a dishwasher at the age of 16 and hasn’t left the kitchen since. Although initially drawn to the buzz of a busy commercial kitchen, it was the creativity of cooking that really attracted him. As someone who spent the better part of his teens in the high school art room, Drysdale appreciated the artistic aspects of the culinary world. Following high school, he brought together his attraction to the kitchen with his creative pursuits by enrolling in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
After completing the culinary academy, Drysdale worked for the Sheraton Grand Hotel, a four star, four diamond hotel in downtown Los Angeles. In 1988, Drysdale moved to the Bay Area and worked under the tutelage of Cindy Pawlcyn, founder of Real Restaurants Group. It was there where he learned to appreciate the flavor of food as much as its artistry. Drysdale went on to become the opening chef and later a partner in critically acclaimed Bix in San Francisco.
Drysdale opened Gordon’s House of Fine Eats in 1999 to rave reviews and a packed house. His innovative take on classic American cuisine translated into a menu of comforting old childhood favorites executed with inventive new twists. A few years later, Drysdale joined Bacchus Management Group and opened their first Pizza Antica, an upscale pizzeria in San Jose. Bacchus has since opened three more locations in Mill Valley, Santa Monica and Lafayette.
In February 2009, Drysdale assisted in the opening of Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Palo Alto, a full service bakery and 80-seat cafe serving simple, rustic American dishes highlighting seasonal, fresh produce. It was not long before he began working on his next big project, Café des Amis, a Parisian-style brasserie located in San Francisco.
Most recently, Drysdale served as Chef/Partner at Bacchus Management Group, where he oversaw the kitchens at multiple Pizza Antica locations, Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Palo Alto,and Café des Amis is San Francisco. Now Gordon is bringing together two passions food and music.
Sweetwater Music Hall is the venue in Mill Valley got this latest venture. Here Chef is serving up approachable, fresh, local cuisine inspired by music and the farmers market. It is “music food” or “haute stoner food” Gordon told me when we connected recently for our Foodie Chap chat.
The menu like the roster of artists at Sweetwater Music Hall is rich and varied and hits all the high notes. It’s divided into interesting categories: herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, sweetavore.
Chef Gordon is always a treat to hang with and we did so recently at Sweetwater Cafe for our Foodie Chap chat.
“5 Tasty Questions with Chef Gordon Drysdale”
Burrata Bruschetta with Chard and Olive Oil
4 ea. balls of fresh, quality burrata
1 ea. small yellow onion sliced thin
¾ # red chard (can substitute other, mild braising greens)
1 ea. small loaf ciabatta (or other light, airy country white bread, but not Wonder-style)
1 ea. large clove garlic, peeled and cut open
1/2 c. high quality, low-acid extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp. fleur de sel, or other quality, not-too-small sea salt
– Clean the chard by removing the stems, cutting into ½” squares and soaking in cold water…remove the chard from the water, drain and set aside while warming olive oil
– To braise, add the sliced onions to the warmed olive oil and cook gently until wilted but not colored; add chard stems and wilt, then add the chard leaves and cook until very soft and succulent, around 20 minutes…season with salt and pepper and set aside
– Meanwhile, cut bread into ¾” thick slices, brush with olive oil on both sides, and place under a broiler, or in a very hot oven and toast until crisp and browned on the outside, but still soft on the inside…immediately rub all sides with the cut side of the garlic
– When toasts are prepared, place a little of not-too-juicy chard mix on each piece, top with a thick slice of burrata, drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle thoroughly with sea salt (it’s bland otherwise)…serve immediately, with lemon wedges for garnish
Sweetwater Music Hall
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