text & photography by CHRISTINA MUELLER
Mediterranean food is nothing new for San Francisco but this now-hot food trend finds its North African voice at Sens. Located on San Francisco’s downtown waterfront, Sens boasts stellar bay views and a menu that re-imagines North African, Turkish and Italian flavors from all-American chef Michel Adams. The restaurant and “rooftop” dining area, designed by renowned restaurateur Pat Kuleto and French-Tunisian owner Kais Bouzidi, boasts epic views and a few key design elements that make the space feel Tunisian/Moroccan yet local. Chef Michael Adams’s recipes bring new energy to the Cal-Med food that California is known for.
Take a few cues from Sens to transition your patio or deck from warm Indian summer days through cool autumn nights. A warming seasonal dish of ricotta gnocchi with Brussels sprouts and squash from Sens chef Michael Adams helps everyone feel warm and cozy.
Invite the Sun
The sun is a popular motif in Middle Eastern cultures, representing warmth and rebirth. At Sens, Bouzidi mimics the sun’s heat and expresses the warmth of Mediterranean hospitality by threading sun motifs through the restaurant. Bring the sun into your home with hammered candleholders and a mirror that looks like a sunburst.
Arrange Seating To Inspire Conversation
Sens’s seating arrangements are purposely designed to create a community feel with lots of chairs, couches and seating options that face one another. Guests gather in the single, large outdoor room to enjoy great food and atmosphere- something that is very Mediterranean by nature.
Mimic Patterns On Walls And On
Furniture Fabrics Sens’s chairs and pillow cushions are cloaked with an orange and gray Mediterranean design. Comfortable and cozy, the pillow’s bright orange and muted grey fall in line with the typical Mediterranean color pallet. The circular pattern repeats the shapes used elsewhere in the room and creates a harmonious style. Bring the outdoors in by using natural materials such as wood, cotton and linen.
Add Some Heavy Metal
The hand-hammered brass lamps, chargers and metal tables Bouzidi brought into Sens are Moroccan antiques but the warm-hued metals add a North African touch and reflect the glow of any light placed nearby.
Don’t Forget The Heat Lamps
Everyone knows and loves the camaraderie that develops around a campfire, its heat and sparkle drawing in even the most reluctant party-goer. A heat lamp is the modern day, urban equivalent, encouraging friends to gather under its arc of warmth.
Sens Sautéed Ricotta Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts and White Truffle Oil
by Chef Michael Adams
- 4 Russet potatoes
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for dusting
- 1 egg1 cup ricotta cheese
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus extra for garnish
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 small Butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 10-15 Brussels sprouts1 tbsp. unsalted butter
- Pinch of finely grated lemon zest
- A few drops of white truffle oil
- ½ cup heavy cream, plus more for additional batches
- 8 whole sage leaves
- 20 whole parsley leaves
START THE GNOCCHI
- Prick potatoes with a fork and roast in 350°F oven until soft to the touch, about one hour.
- When potatoes are done, immediately peel and process in a food mill. Spread on a baking sheet and let cool.
- When potatoes are cool, spread them onto a smooth work surface. Sprinkle flour over potatoes, then crack the egg on top. Add ricotta, ½ cup of the Parmesan, nutmeg, and 1 tbsp. salt.
- Slowly fold flour dough ingredients together, then knead dough until it just comes together, being careful not to overmix. Dough should be soft but not sticky. If it is sticky, add a little more floor.
- On a clean, lightly floured work surface, in small batches, roll dough into nickel-size diameter logs. Cut logs into 1 inch pieces.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. When water starts to boil, add gnocchi. When gnocchi float, wait 30 seconds, then remove gnocchi to a bowl of ice water using a large slotted spoon or wire strainer. Let gnocchi chill for 10 minutes and then remove into a colander to drain. Set aside.
MAKE THE VEGETABLES AND FINISH THE DISH
- Toss Butternut squash with a pinch of salt and the olive oil.
- Roast butternut squash in 350°F oven until just soft, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool.
- Trim outer leaves from Brussels sprouts. Slice thin or remove core and separate leaves.
- Heat butter in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat until butter starts to sizzle. Add enough gnocchi to cover half of pan. Add sage and sauté with gnocchi until lightly brown on all sides, stirring with a heatproof plastic spatula. Add Brussels sprouts and Butternut squash and sauté for one minute. Add lemon zest, truffle oil, cream and a pinch of salt. Continue cooking until cream is reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
- Repeat the process with additional gnocchi, adding more cream if needed.
- Serve in a bowl with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and the parsley leaves.
- Any leftover gnocchi can be lightly tossed with oil, tightly wrapped and frozen.