This is the sweet story of how two chefs, Bridget Batson and Patrick Kelly, met and fell in love. The now-married couple work and cook together at the date-worthy French and Spanish gypsy-inspired Gitane restaurant, off of Union Square. They met at an after-party for the huge Meals on Wheels event. According to Bridget, there were two huge factors that sealed the deal for the couple -- she passed Patrick’s roasted chicken test (silly chef love games!), and early on in their dating, Patrick gifted Bridget a tray of uni (sea urchin) for Valentine's Day.
Making and eating a meal of sea urchin pasta is now an ongoing tradition for the couple, and on the Monday after Valentine’s Day, Patrick will buy a tray of uni, and Bridget will make her infamous uni pasta (see recipe below). Customers looking for their own sumptuous seafood and aphrodisiac inspired Valentine’s menu can book a table at Gitane from February 14-16. Bay Area Bites interviewed the SOMA residents recently and their comments have been edited for clarity and grammar.
Bay Area Bites: What is it like to work together? How do you negotiate work vs. home life?
Batson: All these fun questions! We’re both extremely different. One thing we struggled with was carving out the time to be at work. I usually work in the morning and he works at night. We do have a good eight hours of crossover. We started working together at Gitane after I’d been here a couple of years. I needed some culinary help (laughs) and the Claude Group was expanding.
Kelly: We definitely had to draw some ground rules and make sure that our Sundays are work-free. We work in different ways at the restaurant. She is a brilliant organizer and I’m more food focused. We definitely work together well.
Bay Area Bites: What are you serving up for Valentine’s Day?
Batson: Seafood including lobster, oysters and scallops. There will be a special chocolate dessert, too.
Kelly: We wanted to make the menu approachable and went with all those sexy items like oysters and a lot of shellfish. (Bridget laughs). Gitane is such a phenomenal date place and it makes sense to have those items that are aphrodisiacs. There is an option to add black truffles, which we get regularly for our special events.
Bay Area Bites: Where are a few of your favorite romantic spots in the Bay Area and why?
Batson: Hmmm. We like Kokkari together. There is something about spit-roasted meats that is romantic to us! (They both laugh). At the Buena Vista, we have an Irish coffee and walk by the water and take our dog.
Kelly: The Buena Vista may not be very romantic but it’s definitely a lot of fun. We also love taking our dog to Golden Gate Park and the Presidio as well.
Bay Area Bites: What’s your favorite dessert?
Batson: One of the fun things we both like and grew up with are malted floats. Made with root beer. You don’t see it on menus that much. We make ourselves floats at home.
Kelly: A favorite pastry chef of mine is from La Folie. Whatever she makes is great. Honestly we don’t get there that often.
Bay Area Bites: What is your guiltiest food pleasure?
Batson: Old school tuna casserole with frozen peas made with cream of mushroom soup and mashed up potato chips on top. That’s a ‘Patrick specialty.’
Kelly: I love fried chicken at home. I don’t get to do it at home too often. It’s a big mess but I love it.
Bay Area Bites: The uni dish is so rich and different, yet sounds like a great tradition to keep up. Tell us more.
Batson: We were lucky and once got a live version of sea urchin when a friend of ours went diving at Sea Ranch Mendocino. We tried live ones in the shell and a bunch of abalone. That was great.
Kelly: I give myself a reminder to order the uni and get it dropped off and delivered at the restaurant. Having uni together was one of those things we first did when we got together. I brought her a tray of uni instead of flowers. We started a tradition (laughs).
Batson: If every woman is lucky enough to get uni!... We’ll celebrate on Saturday or Sunday.
Bay Area Bites: Where do you get your inspiration for the restaurant?
Kelly: We just got back from a trip to Spain. That was a lot of fun and we ate our way everywhere. We were doing a black rice dish on the menu that we found during our earlier travels. We’ll definitely put it back on the menu. Also, baked fideo will be back soon on the menu. In Spain, we found tons of rice dishes and fresh seafood. We’re doing a roasted monkfish steak on top of paella rice that is completely inspired by our travels.
For more inspiration and recipes, we like to read and are on the internet constantly. We have a ridiculously large cookbook collection. Travel is about recreating dish. Being in San Francisco, we are sensitive to seasonal changes yet we keep the menu focused on Spain.
Recipe: Batson & Kelly Style Uni Pasta
- 8 – 10 pieces uni (also called sea urchin or tongues)
- 1 lb capellini or angel hair pasta
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 1/2 Tbs garlic, chopped
- 4 Tbs parsley, chopped
- 1 Tbs chili flakes
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 stick butter
- salt & pepper
- 1 lemon
Cook the pasta as directed, set aside. In a sauté pan, warm the olive oil for 1 minute, add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes or until soft. Add the chili flakes and white wine, simmer for about 3 minutes or until the alcohol flavor is gone. Add in your pasta, butter and parsley and toss until the butter is melted and the pasta is hot through out, season with salt and pepper.
Gently fold in the uni until it is barely incorporated being careful to not break the tongues. Place in a big bowl for two (of course! ) and finish with a squeeze of lemon to taste.