Born in Merced, California, and trained at the California Culinary Academy, David Garrison — the Legion of Honor Café’s chef since February — has been immersed in the flavors of California. Local tastes come to fruition in a café menu designed to appeal to what David considers the “refined taste” of the museum visitor. “Even with the Bay Area, this group is educated, open-minded, and well-traveled. I am not worried about overwhelming them with new or strong flavors.”
For example, his popular sandwich prepared from pork loin that has brined for two days is accented with nicoise olives, feta, and homemade apple chutney. For David, housemade items are just one of the many details that contribute to great food, from the fresh baked bread that is delivered every morning to the pickled red onion and marinated artichoke hearts that are prepared right in the café kitchen.
In creating menus, David is inspired by the seasons. For fall, he plans to transition to using seasonal flavors like squash and pumpkin in deep, rich, slow-cooked foods that people crave when the weather turns brisk. He is also inspired by the special exhibitions on view. When Japanesque opens in the special exhibition galleries, visitors will discover a changing daily menu highlighted by Japanese influences, such as a bento box featuring misoyaki fish or tempura.
So popular is the Legion Café, says David, “it is becoming a destination restaurant for the neighborhood.” Many people are becoming aware that they can visit the restaurant even when they are short on time for visiting the galleries. But best of all is to experience great food as a complement to great art.
The Legion of Honor Café is open Tuesday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Enjoy coffee, tea, and pastries in the morning, and a lunch menu from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Japanesque: the Japanese Print in the Era of Impressionism opens at the Legion of Honor on October 16 and runs through January 9, 2011.