The Morris and Its Quirky Charms, in Five Dishes (Yes, Including the Duck)
The Morris is a neighborhood gem located in the Potrero Flats (Media Gulch) on Mariposa St. You could call the restaurant a bistro, and you could call its food contemporary Californian. Labels aside, The Morris has received praise from critics locally and nationally since opening in 2016, landing a spot in Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America list.
It’s run by owner and sommelier Paul Einbund and chef Gavin Schmidt, who both met while working together at the Michelin-starred Coi. “After years of running restaurants for other people, Gavin and I wanted to do our own thing,” says Einbund. “We wanted to create the type of restaurant that we wanted to eat (and drink) at. The kind of place we wanted to go all the time, not just for special events.”
And that they did. We sat down with the two to go over five of their essential, must-order menu items, dish by dish, along with suggested wine pairings from Einbund.
1. Chartreuse Slushy
One thing to know about Paul Einbund is that he is obsessed with Chartreuse, the neon green, herbaceous French liqueur. “I bet if you took some blood there would be a percentage of me that is green,” Einbund jokes. “It’s the only spirit to give its name to a color, and it’s the only spirit that dramatically develops and changes with age. It’s made of 130 herbs and plants and only two monks currently know the recipe — what’s not to be obsessed with?”
As such, you’ll find an entire page on the wine list dedicated to Chartreuse. But a fun, accessible entryway into the liqueur is the Chartreuse Slushy. Inspired by a drink called the mamadeta that’s served at the annual Santa Tecla Festival in Tarragona, Spain, Einbund’s version is made with a tart lemonade, palm sugar syrup, green Chartreuse, and ice blended in a Vitamix. It’s not too sweet, and an excellent start to a long dinner.
Another essential move at The Morris is to start off with a charcuterie plate.
“Everything is made in-house,” says Gavin Schmidt, chef and charcuterie enthusiast. “I buy whole pigs and rabbits from Mark Pasternack of Devil’s Gulch Ranch, which makes up most of the charcuterie, along with the ducks I get from Liberty Farms in Petaluma. You’ll never see the pate de campagne leave the board — it’s my favorite and was my main introduction to charcuterie from when I worked at a restaurant called Campagne back in Seattle. Also, the rabbit is always there, because it has Chartreuse in it (duh!).”
A selection of five is an appropriate option for two diners, but any more and you’ll want to go with The Full Monty, which comes with everything available from that day along with pickled root vegetables, mustard, and crostini.
Paul’s pairing: “I love gamay with Gavin’s charcuterie but am also happy with off-dry, richer-style white wines like Alsatian pinot gris or maybe a richer style from Austria….and of course, Champagne!”
3. Charred Broccoli, Grilled Squid
“This dish was actually something I made on a camping trip before we opened,” says Schmidt. “I think it really speaks to what we do at The Morris. No fluff, no tweezers, just a pile of broccoli and squid and not trying to be anything but a flavor bomb. The squid comes from Monterrey Bay and is lightly grilled, and the broccoli (which come from various farms throughout the year like from Front Porc, Iacopi, and Heirloom Organics) is charred in the wok and dressed with a chile lime vinaigrette and fish sauce. It’s spicy, salty, and tangy — a bright plate focused on quality ingredients and big flavor.”
Paul’s pairing: “This is the toughest wine dish we have on the menu, but it may be the best dish as well! Off-dry German riesling is perfect, and a richer style chenin blanc works great. Did I mention Champagne?”
4. Smoked Duck
“Much of the food we do at the Morris is meant to be shared. Big platters of food feel homey, like a cozy Sunday night dinner with family and friends. Having a larger format roasted item to be shared is something we knew we wanted, so we spent a lot of evenings while searching for a space playing with ideas (read: eating and drinking!), and one evening I roasted a duck. I remember being very annoyed at how it came out, nitpicking what I could have done better and Paul said, ‘If this is your duck on a bad day, show me your best duck, and we’ll have something.’ Seven years and tens-of-thousands of ducks later I think we are starting to get it down!
The ducks come from Jim Reichardt at Liberty Farms — we brine them (salt, sugar, garlic, thyme) for a day then age them for 7-10 days. They’re smoked over hickory and roasted in the oven to finish and come with roasted root vegetables, smashed fingerling potatoes, and an au jus seasoned with espresso, honey, and Szechuan peppercorns.”
Paul’s pairing: “Loire Valley cabernet franc, Northern Rhone syrah, and the amazing domestic versions that are emerging from all corners right now! So many amazing local wines that are seemingly coming out of the woodworks now, it’s such an exciting time to drink California!”
“Donuts are a buckwheat brioche dough with with all-purpose flour, buckwheat flour, maple syrup, egg, milk, butter, and yeast that are fried and tossed in sugar, cinnamon, and a little chile powder and served with a whiskey maple creme anglaise (a mixture of cream, egg, maple sugar, and rye whiskey). Why does one need a reason to eat donuts?? They’re donuts!! who doesn’t like donuts??”
Paul’s pairing: “Madeira is one of my favorite things to drink in any situation, the ideal wine to just have at home for whenever….but whiskey, maple, creme anglaise AND madeira? Come on!”