Showing posts with label pizza. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pizza. Show all posts

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, June 13, 2011

Voyager Bien: The Big [Mill] Chill part 1

Sometimes magic happens.
Simple, unhurried, effortless magic.

It was a blustery spring morning when I flew into JFK, red-eyed from a sleepless red eye with a high school glee club, and an emotional veil leftover from my grandmother’s funeral the previous day. The crowd in baggage claim parted and there was Brooke, bundled in hiker’s packs, red-eyed herself, and ready with a warm hug.

Renting a car in New York is about as surreal as it gets. After trekking from JFK and scooping up two more of my bestest friends in Brooklyn (and a few growlers of beer), we were off upstate through pizzelle-sized snowflakes, the warmth already returning to my cheeks.
When we first wound down the old country road leading to our abode for the next few days, we passed the turn-off – quickly halting to a stop on the bridge just past. There, across the creek, through a clearing of naked trees was The Mill. White water rushing around its steady stone base. A sentinel. A lounging giant. No one breathed for several seconds. Simply magical.
The structure was originally built in 1913 as a cider mill, partially using stones from a destroyed cotton mill at the same site. Research found it was once owned by a Rowland Hazard of South Kingstown, Rhode Island (uh, family ghosts?)
The interior was gutted in the late seventies and renovated as a living space in a (then) modern fashion, now fused with a decidedly rustic mid-century aesthetic. Breezy airways exist between the rooms and floors, geometric peek-a-boos for airflow and the ever-present white noise of the powerful water rushing through the Mill’s veins.
An impressive collection of enamelware and unique kitchen tools immediately won me over.. (A vintage fondue set for 24? Fantastic). We were home.
To settle in, we tapped a growler and sipped IPA with cheese and apples while Judah prepared our first of several fantastic dinners. His cauliflower quiche was modest but comforting and flavorful, served with cast-iron roasted Brussels sprouts and a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
After dinner reading from the Mill's library proved that I may, in fact, be an alcoholic.
Morning meant sunlight (goodbye veils and rainclouds) and a bustle in the kitchen as "the Germans" prepared us a proper European style continental spread. Lox, dilled cucumbers, herbed potato salad, frittata, mushroom scramble, prosciutto & melon, cheeses, dry-cured sausages, soft rye and crusty breads. And lots of coffee.
To make the most of our day, we the chefs of the next few meals drove into town right after breakfast to hit up Adams Fairacre Farms and Arlington Wine & Liquor Store to stock up for the rest of the weekend. Back at the Mill, Brooke prepared her short ribs and then we were off to explore the grounds.
The patio on the back side of the mill's upper floor is a ghostly shrine, comprised of the ruins of the previous cotton mill (circa 1840) which burnt down in 1873.
In the sticks beyond the Mill are the foundations of an old ice house. Full of roots and empty glass bottles, ancient and less ancient.
The mill pond (which believe it or not we jumped into one icy afternoon).
As the sun filtered away little by little through the trees, it felt like the right time for a cold craft beer. We returned to our arsenal of growlers, filled at infamous Williamsburg Brew York City inside of a Bedford corner Duane Reade pharmacy. It didn't take us long to go through the 64 oz bottles of Kelso Nut Brown, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Righteous Rye, and Peak Organic IPA.
Dinner #2: Brooke (little bird big city) made us braised short ribs!
Liz contributed her hand-made focaccia (some for now, and some for later).
Alongside the delicious stew-like ribs Brooke made cheesey cast iron cornbread and kale beet salad with chevre.
But Brooke REALLY spoiled us with dessert (she IS a professional at this)... Her scratch butterscotch caramel puddings were literally to die for.
Already I felt like someone was writing the screenplay for my perfect relaxing weekend retreat as it was unfolding. And to think it had only just begun!