Saturday, December 10, 2011
Deciding where to dine in San Francisco stresses me out. In a city where everything is "good" sometimes finding "worthwhile" gets a little hectic.
Thank goodness for friends.
On my last trip, my lovely hosts informed me "we have reservations for brunch on Sunday at Bar Agricole." What a relief! Come Sunday we approached the closed gate, with a smattering of other trolling groups, hungry fire in their eyes. Open open open...
Beyond the gate, a spacious deck patio leads into an airy interior of high ceilings and concrete, warmed with worn wood and spectral skylight sculptures.
Denim napkins. I mean, so hip.
It was breakfast, so naturally I ordered a Scrimshaw pilsner. In a cute little glass.
Prized company. Casey and Catherine of Coffee Pencil Knife always know where to take me.
Of course Andy of the Wind Attack was along. We were skipping out on the Foodbuzz Blogger Fest's farewell brunch, and determined to trump it with the meal ahead.
We started with the buckwheat beignets with rum raisins and cream. These fluffy doughnuts melt in your mouth. Into it.
Keeping with the dessert first, the crêpe cake with persimmon was next. An impressive stack, brûléed to a satisfying crisp.
Casey was feeling Nordic, and feasted on King salmon gravlax with rye, roasted beets and horseradish. Gorgeous, and delicious.
Catherine's three scrambled eggs with leeks, rainbow chard, chives and chantrelles inspired. A scrambled egg is an art, and these fellows were golden perfection.
Neither Andy or I could resist the corned beef brisket with potato hash, a poached egg and mustard hollandaise, and were happy to not to have to share. Intensely awesome.
Oh, what's one more beer? They're tiny.
355 11th St. San Francisco, CA 94103; 415.355.9400
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Blind dates are funny.
Especially platonic ones (that spring from successful romantic ones).
While in San Francisco for Foodbuzz Blogger Fest, my new beau's best friend (who lives in the Mission) and I decided we should most definitely meet, if independently. She suggested lunch at Starbelly in the Castro. For some reason the name to me conjured pho or vegan fare. Thus I was happily surprised by the casual modern pub known best for their pizza.
Our server asked if this would be a boozy brunch. Laura and I exchanged a thin-lipped smile, before blurting out drink orders. Day drinking is nicely disguised with a little lemonade, so I went the shandy route. But Laura's spicy michelada was something serious. I was happy to learn right away that in addition to tending several bars in such a serious cocktail city Laura is also an aspiring blogger (goose!).
My weekend was to be filled with big meals, sampling rich gourmet products and boozing hard, so I voted for veggies and Laura heartily agreed. We started with the little gem caesar with avocado and buttery croutons and a side of broccoli tossed with garlic, chile and lemon. Despite their simplicity both dishes were pleasing and wholesome, and exactly what we wanted.
But this is a pizza place. We ordered a seasonal special, painted with black garlic puree and embellished with smooth ricotta, roasted butternut squash, fried sage and pine nuts. The thin toasty crust and mellow, warming flavors were perfect for a chilly afternoon respite. We devoured our slices, but not without a second beer cocktail. Our server said he was shocked to [over]hear this was our first meeting, and snapped our picture with Laura's camera. Of us, and an old Polaroid snapshot of our meeting-sake, of course.
The sun was starting to slowly disappear behind the townhouses of the Mission walking Laura back. She turned suddenly toward a storefront and I mistook it as a step toward a divey pizza joint. But I was ready to follow her in for another beer and slice. I suppose that makes a good first date - willingness to relive it. Or at least to try.
3583 16th St. San Francisco, CA 94114; 415.252.7500
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Foodbuzz Blogger Fest 2011 left lasting impressions in several forms, but Tyler Florence's "#T-Flo" Twitter trending during his cooking demo at the gala dinner may be the favorite of many attendees. While we waited, hungry for our first course, bloggers giggled at T-Flo's casual chatty demeanor, sensual relationship with his ingredients, and appreciation of steam. He whipped up cider-marinated pork chops, red cabbage, handmade spaetzle and mustard sauce before our eyes in minutes. We could smell it. We couldn't wait. We wanted it. We needed it.
Suffice to say we were not served T-Flo's mouth-watering Eastern European-inspired supper. (We got wedding steak). But that didn't stop Sabrina The Tomato Tart, Andy Windattack and I from trying our hand at his menu the evening Foodbuzz Fest came to a close. And dare I say largely improving it?!
Sabrina is one mad host. She even had enough frilly vintage aprons for everyone!
After our trip to Bi-Rite for all the goods, Mark of [No Recipes] came over to help. He didn't put on his apron though...
First thing's first, we got our Heritage Foods pork chops marinating in a bath of Samuel Smith's organic cider, brown sugar, salt, allspice berries and whole long pepper.
Red cabbage: Check.
Beer break! Sabrina produced a chilled bottle of honey ale from her cellar - perfect with the Bi-Rite pretzel I nabbed for a starter.
Not surprisingly, Andy had a vision for a delicious salad to start the meal of right.
Gorgeous persimmon, pomegranate, and paper-thin radishes bejeweled his citrus-kissed winter salad.
An Alsatian 2010 Domiane Roland Schmitt Sylvaner Grand A Petit Leon was a crisp and supple wine pairing with the salad (and might have been into the entree course, had we not finished the spritely bottle while cooking!)
Handmade spaetzle? Yawn. We decided stinging nettles might amp up this dish. Nettle spaetzle? What sounds cooler than that? Mark volunteered for the dangerous task and helped whip up a killer dough.
Many kitchen tools were tested for spaetzle-making ability, but a simple dough scraper and utility knife won. The technique is what took the most time...
We rendered pancetta fat to lightly fry the fluffy boiled spaetzle in for added crispness and flavor.
We couldn't leave dessert out of our Germanic feast. As the cool autumn air was settling into the bay, warm apple pie was the clear solution. Sabrina was all over it.
Would T-Flo approve of basic apple pie? Perhaps... But we wouldn't. I suggested adding some dimension with crumbles of pork sausage, and naturally cheese came up next. Aged white cheddar, pile it on!
Andy plates while bloggers document. Just another day...
Behold: Our cider-marinated pork chop, pickled red cabbage and fennel kraut, parsnip & sunchoke mashers, fried nettle spaetzle, and creamy yogurt mustard sauce.
We enjoyed the meal with a 2009 Van Volxem Saar Riesling, a delightfully dry fruity German wine, and perfect blind date.
The pie was a delicious brunch-for-dessert disguised treat, gussied up with a scoop of Bi-Rite Maple Walnut ice cream. The table was split in favor of the sausage, but in the end everyone's plate was clean.
Groggy from the long Foodbuzz weekend, hours of cooking, glasses of wine, and hermitage from the cold outside beyond the steamy window, we sat, admiring our tablescape with gratuitous irony sharing laughs. You're right T-Flo, spaetzle is the new black. But what's the new nettle?