Spanish Summer Menu Blends Authentic Recipes and Local Ingredients At Canela

Inspired by the best of authentic Spanish food and a commitment to a modern, sustainable approach to Mediterranean cuisine, Canela Bistro and Wine Bar in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro district has upped its game with a new array of lively summer dishes. In addition, the San Francisco Spanish restaurant is offering a more tightly honed focus on Spanish wine varietals–including an array of exclusive reserve wines that are drawing aficionados from throughout the Bay Area.

Since opening in fall 2010, executive chef Mat Schuster has proven to be a customer-driven perfectionist with a passion for inventive, seasonal fare that combines authentic recipes he studied in Spain with local, farmers market quality ingredients. Now working with his life and business partner, Madrid native Paco Cifuentes, Schuster has designed a seasonal menu that is not only pleasing to the eye and the palate, but is especially geared toward a new wine list that is unequaled in the city for its Spanish and Spanish-inspired offerings. In addition, gluten-free, vegetarian and dairy-free items are readily available.

“We envision a menu for Canela that is at both casual and in harmony with the seasons; merging unmistakably Iberian flavors and recipes culled from years of visits to Paco’s family in Madrid and travels throughout Spain with a local ‘farm to table’ approach,” chef Schuster said. Cifuentes added: “We’re also insistent that what is poured in the glass should be as much a reason to come to Canela as what was served on the plate. Toward that end, our new wine program has expanded beyond direct Spanish imports to include exclusive California wines by vintners, such as Napa’s Joseph Gary Cellars and ZD Cellars, that simultaneously pay homage to traditional roots while being in line with contemporary area tastes.”

The new summer menu features creative Coca Flatbreads with Sofrito (a classic sauté of onion, red bell pepper and tomato) and Farmers Sheep Cheese with a variety of topping combinations, including spinach, olives, roasted squash and blue cheese; Serrano Ham and Mushroom; and Anchovy with Sautéed Leeks and Cherry Tomato. Classic Tapas and larger “Racione” portions feature a full range of Spanish favorites such as Croquetas Jamon (fried béchamel croquetes flavored with Spanish ham), Patatas Bravas with spicy tomato sauce; Seared Calamari with White Beans; Garlicy Gamba Shrimp with Smoky Paprika; Clams Sautéed with Leeks; as well as more modern creations such as Pimentos de Piquillo stuffed with goat cheese, spinach, oyster mushrooms and shallot in tomato pepper sauce; Seared Morcilla Sausage on purple potato puree; and Fried Eggplant with Bitter Honey. A tight selection of Entrée Plates includes Almond and Pistachio Crusted Fresh Fish with Caper Lemon Sauce; Grilled Steak in Sherry Wine Reduction; Chicken Breast stuffed with Manchego, Serrano Ham and Zucchini; plus Spanish-style Braised Pork Ribs with Membrillo and Orange Glaze.

“We believe in sustainable and humane farming, and using only the freshest seasonal produce from local farmers markets,” Schuster said. “We also serve the best of authentic ingredients from Spain, including piquillo peppers, Manchego cheese, authentic chorizo and hard-to-find, top-quality Iberico ham. As for desserts–some, like our rice pudding, come from Paco’s family recipes, while others take a more modern Spanish approach.”

With the recent addition of new reserve wines, such as the 2004 Castillo de Ygay and the 2005 Remirez the Ganuza to its list, the wine bar clearly offers one of the best and most competitive selections of Spanish varietals, from Rioja to Ribera del Duero to crisp white Albarino, favored with seafood. Its list also includes a much sought after Pago Casa de Blanco (a category of single-estates with an international reputation) and four sherries. Available by the bottle, half bottle or the glass; Canela also offers wine pairings, vertical tastings and eight beers, including Moritz of Barcelona, to encourage its patrons to explore the complexity of one of the world’s great cuisines in true Spanish style.

For more information about Canela, call 415-830-9678, view the bistro and wine menus at or visit Canela on Facebook under Canela Bistro Bar.

Located at 2272 Market St. between Noe and Sanchez at the crossroads of San Francisco’s Castro and Duboce Triangle districts, Canela is open seven days a week, Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 11:00 p.m.; Friday from 11:30 am to midnight; Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Group dining for 20 to 40 is available on its semi-private mezzanine for lunch and weekend brunch, as well as dinner and wine receptions. Reservations are accepted by calling the Spanish restaurant, online at and through Open Table.