I, Forager

SPQR's Matthew Accarrino gets down and dirty

Matthew Accarrino, the new chef at SPQR in Pacific Heights, cooks food that is infinitely more sophisticated than that of his predecessor. But don't misinterpret: At heart, Accarrino is a wild man.

He gathers watercress from across the Golden Gate, using the cress's unfettered sharpness as a counterpoint for his burrata with peperonata. He also adds the watercress–and foraged wild chickweed–to a baby-beet salad made with Gorgonzola and walnuts.

Accarrino learned the art of foraging while he was cooking at Craft in Los Angeles. One day, noted forager Kerry Clasby introduced herself, and she has since become an invaluable resource.

Before the local wild fennel went to seed, Accarrino culled as much pollen as he could and dehydrated it. The pollen is infused in the batter and encrusted on the brunch menu's smashing Italian toast. Wild fennel is also the predominant flavor of Accarrino's veal sweetbreads: The sweetbreads are skewered with wild fennel stalks, and fresh fennel buds star in the accompanying sofrito.

Lucky for Accarrino, the passion for wild things extends to the rest of his staff. "One of our servers brought in the most amazing porcinis from the Berkeley Hills," he says. " I can't wait for her to show me the spot."

SPQR, 1911 Fillmore St. (at Bush St.); 415-771-7779 or spqrsf.com