France and California are sworn enemies when it comes to wine. But in the kitchen of San Francisco’s famed restaurant Jardinière, they not only get along but also actually work together. The chief negotiator behind this truce is James Beard Award-winning chef Traci des Jardins. Since her establishment opened in 1997, des Jardins has won acclaim for her delicious hybrid of the two cuisines.
This dual citizenship of course extends to the restaurant’s impressive wine list, but Jardinière has also been on the leading edge of San Francisco’s mixology scene. Some of the city’s finest bartenders have worked there, including Thad Vogler and current bar manager Brian MacGregor. So it should come as no surprise that the chef is also into cocktails and spirits.
“My standard is a Margarita,” says des Jardins. And her test for new bartenders is to see how well they can mix up the drink. “It makes them somewhat nervous,” she admits. Her home bar is naturally stocked with a selection of tequilas, like Ocho Plata, Partida Blanco and 7 Leguas Reposado. “I realized there was a whole other world that didn’t involve Jose Cuervo,” she says.
The chef is also “pleasantly surprised at how food-friendly tequila is.” Not convinced? Try her delicious Black Mission fig and blistered padrón pepper salad with MacGregor’s spicy watermelon-and-tequila Coa Fresca. The pairing may just inspire you to find some inner peace.
Black Mission Fig and Padrón Pepper Salad
Contributed by Traci des Jardins
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
.33 cup Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
8 Black Mission figs, halved
1 bunch Arugula, washed and de-stemmed
8 Mint leaves, torn in half
1 bunch Chives, minced
24 to 30 Padrón peppers
Garnish: .25 cup Chopped toasted almonds
Whisk together the sherry and mustard in a bowl and slowly add the olive oil while whisking. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine the figs, arugula, mint and chives in a separate large bowl, dress with the vinaigrette and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauté the peppers in a medium pan over high heat until slightly blistered. Add the peppers to the bowl and toss to combine. Arrange salad on four individual plates and garnish with the chopped almonds.
Contributed by Brian MacGregor
3 Watermelon chunks
1.5 oz Blanco tequila
.5 oz Martinique sugar cane syrup
.75 oz Lime juice
Dash Thai Chile Tincture*
Muddle the watermelon in a shaker. Add the remaining ingredients and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a bucket glass filled with fresh ice.
*Thai Chile Tincture
Place a handful of hot chile peppers in a mason jar and fill with Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum. Seal the jar and let stand four days. Strain into a clean bottle.