Shawn Gawle has worked in some of the best restaurants in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. Although he started on the hot line, Gawle is probably better known for his more recent work as a pastry chef. He is now chef of a wine bar in San Francisco where he draws from his experiences on both sides of the kitchen.

Shawn and I met one Saturday morning at the Ferry Terminal Marketplace farmers’ market in San Francisco. We went early to beat the crowds. Afterwards, we headed to his loft apartment where Gawle cooked a dish and a dessert for me and mixed a couple of Absolut Vodka cocktails to pair.

Persimmon season was in full swing, and Gawle was delighted. “I’ll need a few super-ripe ones for one of my cocktails.” He picked through the pile, looking for persimmons so soft that they were almost collapsing under the weight of their own skin.

Navigating the bustling outdoor market, loaded with bags and sacks can be difficult. Having a cart helped tremendously.

The fresh produce at the Ferry Terminal Marketplace farmer’s market is always impressive. Not only are the fruits and vegetables pristine and perfect, but the variety is unbelievable as well. Gawle picked through over a dozen variety of table grapes.

Having cooked under a number of classically French-trained chefs, Gawle has a nice foundation in Old World dishes. Back in Gawle’s kitchen, he prepared gnocchi made from choux pastry. Nestling the gnocchi in a shallow gratiné pan, he added some par-cooked spaghetti squash, kabocha squash, roasted red peppers, and chorizo, and spooned over a layer of Mornay sauce. Mornay sauce is a Béchamel sauce with cheese added to it. Gawle added Comté cheese to his. He baked the casserole until the gnocchi were puffy and light, and the Mornay sauce went bubbly and golden.

To pair with the gnocchi gratiné, Gawle made a Persimmon-Ginger Smash. He peeled the skin off of the ripe persimmons we got at the market, and then pulverized them with a mortar and pestle.

In a cocktail shaker, Gawle combined the persimmon purée with grated ginger and Absolut Vodka.

The smash was thick and velvety, sweet and slightly spicy with ginger. He poured the cocktail over a large ice cube in a short glass.

Gawle garnished the cocktail with julienned persimmon and colorful amaranth.

To give the creamy gnocchi gratiné some textural contrast, Gawle sprinkled over it some crunchy, spiced spaghetti squash seeds.

For dessert, Shawn made a honey chibouste. He started with a pastry cream that he had made with crème fraîche and lemon juice. Then, he heated up some honey, almost to the point of caramelization. Whipping egg whites in a stand mixer, Gawle drizzled the hot honey into the mixer bowl to create an Italian meringue. When the meringue was fluffy and glossy, Gawle folded it into the pastry cream to create a light chibouste.

To pair with the chibouste, Gawle wanted to mix a cocktail that would be light, bubbly, and slightly dry to help cut through the sweetness of the honey and the richness of the chibouste. For this cocktail, which he named the “Absolut HRH Westside,” Gawle combined Absolut Vodka with a splash of Meyer lemon juice for tartness and a touch of simple syrup steeped with lemon verbena for a fragrant sweetness. He topped the cocktail off with Champagne, and then he floated a twist of Meyer lemon rind coated in gold leaf.

Gawle decorated the honey chibouste with some pomegranate seeds, slices of watermelon cucumber, toasted pine nuts, and lime zest. At the very end, he drizzled some fruity extra virgin olive oil over it all.

The finished “Absolut HRH Westside” cocktail together with Gawle’s honey chibouste.

I’m always amazed by how much chefs can accomplish in their tiny kitchens. Made with fresh produce from mindful farmers around the Bay Area, Gawle’s dishes and his cocktails were simple, yet elegant, and very flavorful.

Bonjwing Lee

The Final 75 Miles Story

Justin Cogley

Justin Cogley

For the final installment of 75 Miles, Bonjwing drives down to Carmel for a beach-side meal with Chef Justin Cogley.

Justin's Beach Meal