Chef Gordon Drysdale is back in the kitchen, at the newly opened Café Des Amis, a Union Street restaurant project that he has been working on via his role as Chef & Partner for the locally owned Bacchus Management Group. Drysdale is also in charge of the kitchens at Pizza Antica locations, which recently opened a Santa Monica outpost. Drysdale still fields requests for his trademark dish of Brussels sprouts salad, which he calls an unlikely best seller, "It's like having rutabaga on the menu, with 100s of thousands of people asking 'when will it be on the menu?'" adding he's happy to have a popular dish that resonates. The dish first caught notice in the late 1990s, at his much celebrated Gordon's House of Fine Eats.
Drysdale has lived in the Homestead Valley area of Mill Valley for years, with his wife Susie, and two pre-teen sons, Miles, and Monroe. The Rochester, New York native describes the area as "old timey and cool, very Kerouac-ish." He admits that he likes to dine out with the family when he has a day off, but given the chance, "I'd probably go to Benu tonight if I could, like everyone else." The chef has visited Royal Thai Restaurant in San Rafael at least 900 times in the past twenty years, and he orders the same three dishes each visit. "Tofu with spicy green beans and basil; wheat gluten with potato and yellow curry; and ground pork with lime and chili. My older son, Miles gets his own order of the ground pork dish, and Monroe digs into the chicken satay." This restaurant gets the highest praise from Drysdale, who said, "it's the most consistent restaurant I've eaten anywhere. In my life.'
Cactus Café in Mill Valley is where Drysdale likes to eat a house salad with "what tastes like a marjoram laced dressing, very interesting. It comes with a quesadilla, and is very simple. For a son of authentic British stock, this is very easy to take."
Drysdale deadpans, "We're always looking for some variation on the theme of white for Monroe: pasta, pizza, and French fries." Mamacita in the Marina keeps his sons happy, where carnitas tacos with guacamole grace the table.
Special Occasions, Sweets
For his wedding anniversary in October, Drysdale and Susie go to Manresa. Chef David Kinch’s food is "lighter, with more 'unexpected' going on. And the sommelier does the most amazing wine pairings with the food. It's a raw deal that Manresa only has one Michelin star." The two also trek to Powell's Sweet Shoppe in Los Gatos, to buy sweet treats for their sons in a store that "has almost an Eisenhower feel to it.' Miette in the Ferry Building is another go-to for the sweet fixes.
"If I every have another New Year's Eve free, I'd spend it at Bix" where he was the opening chef for the Doug Biederbeck-Real Restaurant Gold Coast spot. He and Susie spent many a memorable night there, and "it's flat out magical, and hard to beat expectations here. Doug Biederbeck really draws it out on New Year's."
Produce and The Big Mac
The Marin Farmers Market is "for my money, the one to beat," said Drysdale. "There's some charm to the Ferry Plaza... a lot of great things go on there." Drysdale packs a bag lunch in his car daily, with "annoyingly healthy" carrots, celery, and apples. "But in that bag, there's always chocolate," he said. "I am a recent devotee and passionate fan of TCHO." Chocolate is a guilty pleasure, and once a year, he and Susie have a ritual Big Mac with extra pickles from McDonald's. Adding pickles "makes sure they are making it right then and there, right." Still, "I may never do it again," and am loathe to admit it is an item he consumes, even once a year.
Chefs & Cookbooks That Inspire
"I am a lifelong, ardent and passionate believer in Alice Waters. Of course I am," said Drysdale, adding, "Who isn't?" He loves the Chez Panisse Café, and the simple pleasure one gets there, that "you can't get anywhere else. A perfect peach, lightly chilled. Some may deter, but I love a perfect peach sometimes. The Chez Panisse Café cookbook is wonderful, and I can't wait for the December-January run of steelhead to do steelhead roe."
Drysdale has been using Jasper White's Cooking from New England cookbook for twenty-five years, and also loves the books and restaurants of Mario Batali. Paula Wolfert is another favorite resource, for her "cool, weird recipes that make me go 'Huh, wow, okay."'