Most Wine Country chefs like to keep it simple at home, especially after being on their feet all day preparing multi-course meals.
"The last thing you want to do when you get home is cook again," said Gabe Nahas of the Awful Falafel food truck. "I love making chicken soup, because it's easy and it lasts a couple of days."
In our informal survey of 10 local restaurant chefs, we found out how these culinary whiz kids throw together dinners with high flavor, low fuss and little or no cleanup.
Utilizing what's on hand — produce and eggs from the backyard, leftovers and a can of beans or sardines — our chefs manage to turn out a tasty array of tacos and sandwiches, grilled meats and pastas, Asian stir-frys and soups. Just like the rest of us.
"I'll take stock of what's available," said Brandon Guenther, chef/owner of Rocker Oysterfeller's in Valley Ford, "then challenge myself to make something delicious out of what's there."
Cheese and salumi are two of the most popular go-to ingredients chefs always keep on hand, especially for late-night snacking. But beer is also deemed essential, especially after a long, hot night at the stove.
"My favorite beer is Dos Equis Amber," said Carlo Cavallo of Sonoma Meritage Restaurant and Oyster Bar. "I've got a big wine cellar at home, but I don't drink wine at home."
<strong> Brian Anderson of Bistro 29 in Santa Rosa:</strong>
<strong>Dishes:</strong> "When I do cook, it's usually some kind of pasta. The other day, I made a Thai noodle soup with curry."
<strong>Staples:</strong> "We always have a can of sardines in our pantry, and some kind of cheese and salame in our refrigerator."
<strong>Carlo Cavallo of Meritage in Sonoma:</strong>
<strong>Dishes:</strong> "I cook very simple Asian dishes at home. I'll do a very spicy Thai or Vietnamese soup or stew. I really love to barbecue, so I'll do ribs or chicken. Or I'll cook a fish taco or fajitas. Comfort food for me is very basic ... my grandma's tomato-basil sauce over spaghettini."
<strong>Staples:</strong> "Some good Parmesan, goat cheese and salame for my late-night snack."
<strong> Duskie Estes of Zazu Kitchen and Farm in Sebastopol:</strong>
<strong>Dishes:</strong> "We always have bacon fat, so we eat a lot of popcorn in the bacon fat. (Daughter) McKenzie is raising rabbit, so rabbit taco is our favorite go-to dish. And every Tuesday night, we make bacon s'mores for dessert."
<strong>Staples:</strong> "Bacon and salumi and cheese, and usually there's avocado and salsa and chips. I like the Hand Made Style Corn Tortillas from La Tortilla Factory. I put them in the toaster and smear cheese on them, and we use them for the rabbit tacos."
<strong> Chris Greenwald of Bay Laurel Culinary catering company in Petaluma:</strong>
<strong>Dishes:</strong> "I like to eat sandwiches, so I always have an array of cold cuts and cheeses in the drawer, and really good bread from Full Circle Bakery in Penngrove. We also like Della Fattoria's Pullman loaves. I slice it extra thick, melt cheese and throw on coppa or Molinari salame. There's always Parmesan, because we cook a lot of simple pastas."
<strong>Staples:</strong> "Leftover pate or rillettes, and a bottle of bubbles. Really good butter and a can of Clover Organic Whipped Cream for dessert, and milk chocolate."