Chef Jake Des Voignes doesn’t just prep and cook the food at Local Mission Eatery. Sometimes he even gets down on his hands and knees to plant, tend and pick those spring veggies for the farfalle or that asparagus for the soup himself.
Des Voignes’ daily-changing menu is all about “what is in the height of season and what will taste good,” he says. And it’s his mission to ensure that diners get the freshest and most wholesome local ingredients available. Even if it means growing his own fruits, vegetables and herbs at his in-laws’ acreage in Lodi, about 100 miles outside the city. (And if things go as planned, he’ll eventually be using eggs from the laying hens he recently started raising there.)
The chef also gets his supplies from local farmers’ markets and a group of trusted area purveyors, which — because of its small size — can offer only a limited selection of goods. So his menu “has to have a lot of flexibility to it,” he says. “It’s in constant flux and rotation because of the way we source.”
Des Voignes says he enjoys the challenge of constantly creating new dishes or mixing up existing ones. “It keeps the creative juices going, and it’s fun for the diners to have something new to try.”
Although Des Voignes starts with the humblest of ingredients — carrots, apples, onions, bacon — his attractively presented creations show off his culinary roots. He learned French cooking technique at Santa Barbara’s Miró, worked under celebrity chef Tom Colicchio at New York’s Craft, earned a Michelin star at San Francisco’s Fifth Floor and then landed at Fish and Farm, where he first met Local Mission Eatery’s owner Yaron Milgrom.
He keeps his daily menu brief, he says, so diners will find it approachable and interesting. “We want to keep it a small menu without being a boring menu.”
The night we visited with a group of Bay area friends, Des Voignes was offering three “bites” ($5 each/$12 all) for starters. Our group sampled all three: cool and creamy asparagus soup; cornmeal-dusted pickled carrots and onions; and very simple rosemary almonds.
The menu features both tasting- and regular-sized portions of its “dinner” items. And diners are encouraged to mix and match the various offerings. I paired a small apple and potato soup ($8/$14) with a small order of Tomales Bay clams ($11/$21). The soup was served with crispy and lightly sweet pippin apples, savory leeks and a rich poached quail egg. The tender clams — which were a popular choice among our group — were combined with crunchy fennel, apples, and bacon and served with rustic bread for soaking up the slightly spicy white wine broth.
The two dishes were enough to fill me up. But those with larger appetites may want to order the larger portions.
The Hubby and his old buddy Colin, for example, satisfactorily split two full orders — Monterey Bay squid ($13/23) with leek top, butternut squash romesco, wild black rice, and blood orange, as well as rabbit roulade with mustard-braised cabbage, young carrots, fava leaves and radishes ($14/$27).
Our group was no-holds-barred when it came to dessert, which is offered in one-size portions. We devoured all three offerings ($8 each) from Knead Patissierie, which Des Voignes’ wife Shauna operates out of the back of the restaurant. Lemon ricotta tart was served with thyme and honey. Tangy panna cotta had pucker-inducing grapefruit, tarragon and a Teeccino herbal coffee crumble topping.
But my favorite was a dreamy, fluffy pain perdu with chocolate, brown butter and walnut butter. I left wishing that it too came in an entrée-sized portion.
Local Mission Eatery
3111 24th Street
San Francisco, California 94110