December 02, 2014

Flour + Water's Thomas McNaughton on the Magic of Toasted Fennel Seed and Chili Flake

Flour + Water opened five years ago in San Francisco's Mission District. It's nearly impossible to get a reservation at this deceptively low-key neighborhood spot: the lines are always long, the music loud, the kitchen partly open, and the stained glass partitions lend an intimate feeling to the dining atmosphere.

Before opening this unassuming pizza-meets-pasta spot with partners David Steele and David White, chef Thomas McNaughton was sous chef at two of San Francisco's great restaurants, Gary Danko and Quince, staged at Michelin-starred restaurants in France, Germany, and Italy, and worked at a pasta factory in Bologna.

As a result, at Flour + Water, McNaughton serves serious pizza--with toppings that include bone marrow, fresh horseradish, and caciocavallo cheese.

His menu combines Old World, Italian dough-making techniques with modern, Northern Californian innovations--the ricotta is made in-house, and the meats are butchered in-house, ingredients are sourced from local, small farms. And for those of us who don't live nearby, McNaughton has published a new cookbook.

"I hope this cookbook makes pasta production as approachable as possible," said McNaughton. "Any of these recipes would be a great addition to any dinner party. Bring friends over to be a part of the process and enjoy the food together!"
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We agree that McNaughton's recipes are more weekend projects than weeknight dinners, but this Homemade Squid Ink Pasta is worth the effort.

Any tips or tricks that you'd like to share?

"Don't be afraid to practice. The more you work with these pasta recipes, the more comfortable you will become."

What is your favorite kitchen appliance of tool?

"A heavy-weighted rolling pin is irreplaceable--from rolling out pasta dough to pounding chicken cutlets. This versatile tool will be with you for the rest of your life!"

What is your favorite spice or ingredient?

"I love the combination of toasted fennel seed and chili flake. When used sparingly it brings spice and cooling anise to round out any dish."

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