Showing posts with label mission. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mission. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Croquer: Bar Tartine

San Francisco's Mission neighborhood has a need for new restaurants and bars about as much as I need second dessert. Yet amongst the hullabaloo, a constant star has always been Tartine Bakery. Though I'd peeked into the windows of their younger sister restaurant Bar Tartine, I had not had the pleasure to dine there.
Lucky for me, that is where Catherine decided we would dine for her 30th birthday. And did we!

As three of the four of us went to college in the Willamette Valley, the Adelsheim Pinot Gris seemed fitting for the celebration. The crisp, clean pinot gris provided a wonderful companion to the vegetable-forward Eastern European-influenced menu.

To start, we grazed on duck pate, rye bread, gooseberry jam, elderberry and coriander mustards. And chewy Tartine Bakery bread, of course.

A jar of green cherry tomato pickles added a bright accompaniment to the board.

Our succession of veggie-heavy small plates started with the smoked eggplant, cranberry beans, and garlic sausage. Rich and smoky, yet somehow (albeit sharing) I did not get a bite of eggplant!

Probably my favorite of the lot, the romano beans, potatoes, basil, and corn sauce was a stunner. So simple, yet we all silently fought over the last beans, and even scraped the tangy corn sauce from the dish...

Halászlé is a Hungarian fisherman's soup, here comprised of mussels, sturgeon, tomato, green chili, purslane, and fennel. The paprika broth is a bold and delicious base for mussels. A runner up for my favorite, though selfishly I wished for a couple more mussels!

The butter boletes mushrooms, yoghurt, turnip sauce, carrot, and radish was an earthy side in the disguise of a stand-aone dish. Not terribly memorable on the shadow of the Halászlé.

The side of summer squash, squash blossoms, and curried squash sauce was brought out last. We consumed it vacantly (read: on the side of ubiquitous), possibly due to the coursing order. Might have fit more nicely at the beginning of the meal.

The dessert left a little to be desired as well. Layers of sour cream custard, lemon curd, poppyseed, and a cherry/oat/walnut crumble suggested disparate flavors and sensations, but lacked a certain pride that any one of the contents of the Tartine Bakery case exudes.

After dinner we walked around the corner to spend the rest of Catherine's birthday sipping drinks upstairs in The Hideout, the back room bar at Dalva (3121 16th St.) The cocktails here are serious, such was the "Whisky In Church": Smokehead Scotch, Oloroso Sherry, and a splash of maple and pear syrup. Holy! Bittersweet amaro cocktails quickly lulled us into pleasant propensity.
The night was good.

Bar Tartine
561 Valencia St. San Francisco, CA 94110; 415.487.1600
Bar Tartine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Croquer: Starbelly

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
Starbelly on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 27, 2010

Super Bon!: Humphry Slocombe

And then one day everything changed.

I began following Humphry Slocombe on Twitter, well, because the voice and vision intrigued me. How could it not? With ice cream and sorbet flavor announcements such as Jesus Juice (red wine and Coke) and Elvis, the Fat Years (banana ice cream with bacon peanut brittle) the balance of whimsy and mouth watering possibility seemed endless. While several local LA institutions such as Scoops have opened doors wide for ice cream play, something about this Humphry Slocombe "character", sense of humor, and -pardon me- balls surpassed its contemporaries. Finally after months of tweet lust, I was visiting the little Mission shop of my dreams.

It was nearing closing time and Humphry Slocombe was warm inside, the aroma of baking berry crisp thick in the air. The cream mongers smiled, rolling their heads back toward the prep area. "Pastries for the morning," they explained, clearly noticing my eyes widen and nose lift in the air.

The case holds about 12 flavors at a time, which rotate regularly. Several in the case included other SF local favorites, such as Boccolone Prosciutto and Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee. I tasted the prosciutto first, creamy and not overly sweet, with a soft pleasant pigginess. The Pumpkin Seed and Black Sesame were both appropriately nutty and robust. After several tastes I became too shy to push it, and went without trying the Jesus Juice (sigh).

Double scoop it was - the no-brainer was their signature Secret Breakfast (bourbon & cornflakes). I boldly chose the un-tested Salted Licorice for its mate and prayed for success. While the first bite of Secret Breakfast wooed me with liquor and mellow cereality, after tasting the electric licorice it ceased to hold up. Fireworks accompanied this salted licorice - intense smokiness, tang, and creamy framing made it a near perfect flavor in my mind. I looked helplessly around for a small corner big enough to sleep in, maybe dwell with few belongings. I couldn't fathom leaving here. How could I go on a usual life after this? Another sigh, a wave to the smiley mongers and we were off into the dark.

2790 Harrison St. San Francisco, CA 94110; 415.550.6971
Humphry Slocombe on Urbanspoon

Croquer: Mission Chinese Food

San Francisco is a kick ass food town, this we know. So when in Rome, how does one pick a dinner destination when there is only one slot to fill? How can you ever decide? Well, apparently just ask Lessley Anderson. She seems to always be right, and suggested without hesitation Mission Chinese Food. Once the popular Mission Street Food, the owners took their popular dishes indoors. A funny "in-the-know" type of joint, Mission Chinese Food is a pop-up inside of another restaurant - the divey Lung Shan Chinese Restaurant. Both menus are served, but the waiters seem to know which menu to drop by the table.
Perhaps due to their name and surroundings, the Mission Chinese chefs are careful to disclaim their craft, plainly labeling their offerings "Americanized Oriental Food." They are quick to bolster the term, stating: "Though we'll focus on Chinese food, we're leaving ourselves the freedom to incorporate other Asian flavor profiles. Our use of the term "oriental" is not meant to be offensive. The word is derived from a root meaning "eastern," which represents a Eurocentric orientation to Asia, and it was most often used in a bygone era when Europeans viewed the regions east of the Mediterranean as exotic lands full of "romance and intrigue." For us, as Asian-American cooks, using this loaded term is an indictment of the Eurocentricity of fine dining, but it's also meant to desensitize the term in that transcending-racism-by-not-interpreting-every-single-thing-as-racist way. You know, like the "queers" did." (cite)
This open approach to the cooking has brought an intoxicating array of atypical dishes to the menu. Selecting was near impossible. We decided to start with the tart and spicy Szechuan Pickles - Salted pickled cabbage, cucumber, roasted peanut, fresh coriander, and chili oil.
The slow-cooked Char Siu Pork Belly with tea smoked egg, ginger scallion, rolled noodles, and cucumber was melt-in-your mouth rich. Indulgence that can't not bring a smile to your face.
The Thrice Cooked Bacon was smoky and spicy - Thick cuts of meaty bacon tossed with rice cakes, bitter melon, tofu skin, scallion, black bean, and chili oil. A contender for favorite, the texture was as interesting as the flavor profile. Where have stir fried rice cakes been all my life???
The Westlake Lamb Dumplings -my other favorite- were handmade several feet away from our table. The lamb was terrifically spiced, steamed in freshly made rice dough, served with braised peanut, coriander, dill, and brown rice vinegar. Shockingly toothsome.
Lastly we sampled Lung Shan's Vegan Delight with shitake and oyster mushroom dumplings in miso soup. The light dish worked well as a palate cleanser after such a rich and incredible meal.
We sat in blissful awe, finished our beers while laughing, the soft chopping and forming of dough on the wood counter behind us. The hushed sound of happiness being wrought into consumable form.
*Mission Chinese Food donates seventy-five cents from each menu item to the SF Food Bank.

2234 Mission St.(Lung Shan Restaurant) San Francisco, CA 94110; 415.863.2800
Mission Chinese Food on Urbanspoon

Croquer: Tartine Bakery

With our Four Barrel Coffees in hand, we continued our stroll through the Mission up to the doorstep of San Francisco heavyweight Tartine Bakery & Cafe. With a line existing for good reason, my eyes scoured the cases, menus and bread themed art covering the walls. I sipped my coffee as the perennial scales weighed - Savory? Or sweet?
I stuttered an order to the man at the counter as I flipped through the Tartine cookbook, already regretting my choice purely out of covetousness.
The orange and cinnamon Morning Bun is a fluffy delicacy, and seems to be a defining item on the bakery's go-to list.
A simple salad, done right. One of the most beautiful sights.
Catherine's open-faced sandwich with mushrooms, vegetables and gruyere was a savory win.
You can't go wrong with creamy sheep cheese, jam, and sliced fruit... and this crusty hot pressed sandwich delivered just that.
My warmed flaky double pain au chocolat may have been simple, but the smooth Valrhona chocolate and buttery encasement made my heart sing. And left little desire for lunch.
Down the street on Valencia we passed the bakery's sister Bar Tartine. They weren't open yet, but the door was ajar and I snuck a peek of the interior. Sexy, with a reputation proceeding it, it's easily top of my list for SF return trip. 

600 Guerrero St. San Francisco, CA 94110; 415.487.2600
Tartine Bakery on Urbanspoon