Nosh Talk: Suzanne Drexhage, Bartavelle

Suzanne Drexhage
Suzanne Drexhage. Photo: Kate Farnady

Nosh Talk is a regular Q&A with an East Bay chef, restaurateur or food artisan, published on Berkeleyside Nosh, in which we snoop for inside intelligence…

What is always in your refrigerator?
Preserved lemons, butter, and for some reason, Prosecco. And chicken stock and last summer’s slow roasted tomatoes in the freezer. Just in case.

What do you cook up for a late night snack?
I don’t usually snack late, but we occasionally eat a pretty late dinner after Stan gets home from work, maybe cooked greens with pasta or eggs, or leftover soft tofu soup. [Stan is Stanislaw Sobolewski, cookbook manager at Moe’s Books.]

Where/what do you eat on your day off? 
So many good places to check out lately, it’s hard to decide, but I love Fusebox in West Oakland, the new Ramen Shop on College Ave., Ippuku in Berkeley, and Duende in downtown Oakland.


Do you have a secret ‘junk food’ vice?
I don’t eat junk food. Street food, sure. Taco trucks, yes!

Any food you can’t stand?
Junk food.

What is your fantasy ‘last meal’?
I’d be really happy with Dungeness crab and a chicory salad.

What ingredient is overused and needs to be retired? 
I’m thinking quinoa. I use it in the Bartavelle porridge, but am looking for a replacement, since the U.S. and other markets are driving the price up so far that some people that once relied on it for food can no longer afford it.

What’s the next big thing?
I hope the next big thing is that all the people growing up now learn how to cook real food at home.


Your favorite special meal to cook?
My favorite special meal is one cooked  with friends and family, all together in the kitchen. Doesn’t have to be fancy, just good. The above Dungeness crab and chicory salad would be great, maybe with some home-cured salmon roe.

Favorite restaurant in the world?
A hard one, but I realize every day how Chez Panisse has influenced so many people’s cooking over the years, including, of course, mine. I still love it, and am lucky that I get to eat there every so often.

Who would you like to have dinner with (alive or dead)?
Luis Buñuel. I’m pretty sure he would have made a very fun dining companion.

A food tip/secret to share with readers?
It is totally worth learning how to properly hold and use a chef’s knife in the kitchen. It’s not that hard, but can seem awkward at first and probably isn’t something you do naturally unless somebody shows you how. Check out videos online or ask a friend who cooks to show you. Once you can handle a knife, you can learn to love prepping, and the rest will follow.

Suzanne Drexhage is the proprietor of Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar, which she runs with her son, Sam Sobolewski. After years working front of house in restaurants around San Francisco and the East Bay (including the Café at Chez Panisse), she spent another dozen years working for Kermit Lynch and cooking on the side. Bartavelle is her first venture.


Related:
Bartavelle owner: What’s cooking for ex-Café Fanny space [05.25.12]

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