Located in San Francisco’s Clift Hotel, the Velvet Room provides guests with locally grown ingredients in an elegant atmosphere. Chef Thomas Weibull places high value on seasonal produce, especially those of local farmers who grow fruits and vegetables organically and sustainably. By considering seasonal product to this extent, the ever-evolving Velvet Room utilizes foods at the peak of freshness and tastiness. This farm-to-table approach contributes to a menu full of delicious options, the exact dining experience that Chef Weibull aims to create.
I was able to speak with Chef Weibull to find out just how he makes locally grown ingredients so upscale.
JL: What types of foods do you grow in your garden?
CW: Well unfortunately we don’t have a garden, but if we did I would probably do an herb garden on our hotel roof. Dill, thyme, tarragon, chives.
JL: Are there any seasonal items that you are growing/using right now?
CW: Right now in Cali there is so much one can use, but fava beans and black mission figs are now in and are on my menu. Also, the heirloom tomatoes are awesome and the season here just gets better and better for those tasty tomatoes. I must say chefs in Cali definitely get spoiled with all of these great products.
JL: How do the seasons influence your menu choices?
CW: Well, the seasons here play a big role in our menu development; as soon as one item is over, we search for a new product that is in season. We then begin the process of playing and testing.
JL: Which fresh-grown ingredients inspire you most?
CW: Chanterelles are my favorite inspiring ingredient . I have such a great childhood memory of foraging them in Sweden with my grandparents that it’s not hard to have it on my menu when season is around. I would just create a menu based on the mushroom first and not the protein.
JL: What atmosphere do you aim to create in your restaurant?
CW: I like to invoke memories old and new with food. There is nothing more enjoyable than eating something for the first time or recalling a childhood moment and feeling the effects it has with you. At Velvet Room and Clift we are all about creating lasting experiences.
JL: Any particular favorite menu items?
CW: Yes! It’s the Summer Baby Vegetable Cassoulet/Smoked Ricotta/and Roasted Sweet Onion Jus. It’s a play on a the classic french dish; it’s such a simple cornucopia of all the summer vegetables.