Tuesday, December 13, 2011
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.
561 Valencia St. San Francisco, CA 94110; 415.487.1600
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
It's a little nutty to look back on the past year and everything that's occurred since my first Foobuzz Blogger Fest in San Francisco. A chance meeting on the street outside the hotel lead to my fast friendship with Andy of the Windattack, and also an introduction to Greg of Sippitysup at the kick-off event. Who knew we'd have a podcast together several months later?? On Joy the Baker's network, no less! This demonstrates that while Foodbuzz Blogger Fest has a lot to do with food and blogging, it has way more to do with casual, social, and fun networking. I approached 2011's fest with a renewed set of expectations, mostly modest set on simply meeting and talking with great people.
The kick-off party this year was off to a roaring start before I'd finished my first glass of wine. I enjoyed a lovely conversation with the reps from Bonny Doon Vineyard over a lambent glass of their 2010 ¿Querry? Apple/Pear/Quince Hard Sparkling Cider (Delish! And perfect for your Turkey Day). The smorgasbord sampling buffet was topped off with classy immaculate sweet bites by Yigit Pura. A delightful way to finish a festive evening reuniting with friends.
Saturday's Taste Pavilion offered an intimidating amount to sample, so I zeroed in on the good stuff, and surprised myself by occasionally coming back for seconds. I spent a little too much time at Redwood Hill Farm and Bellweather Farms' tables shoveling goat, cow, and sheep's milk cheeses. I washed the cheese down with drinking chocolate and coins of Tcho's spectrum of cocoa products. Cross-pollinating makes everything more exciting, so I asked House of Balsamic (my favorite) to drizzle their apple balsamic vinegar on my Three Twins Organic vanilla ice cream. Brilliant!
There was plenty to drink and it couldn't have made me happier! New to me was Bloom Gin, a premium London Dry Gin with lush floral notes of chamomile, pomelo and honeysuckle. My favorite non-alcoholic delight was the super dry California Brut flavor of the popular Vignette Wine Country Soda. 21st Amendment did it again (their Fireside Chat and Hell of High Watermelon won me over last year) with their newest ale Allies Win The War, a collaboration with Eugene, OR's Ninkasi Brewery. The earthy ale is brewed with dates, lending it a kiss of mellow sweetness. I ended the afternoon getting up close and personal with the Skyy portfolio of brands, including Espolon Tequila, Campari, Wild Turkey and Frangelico... and watching the determination to make them all work together in one cup. Witness the boozy horchata and tequila-based cocktail below, made pink by a splash of Campari...
Greg of SippitySup getting TikiBuzzed.
I probably should have taken a cocktail break, but kept calm and carried on to The Tonga Room to co-host The Table Set's TikiBuzz Happy Hour! We met some listeners and shared wonderfully potent potables with our new friends.
Our gala dinner was set in the bowels of the Grand Hyatt, with an exhibition kitchen worthy of Iron Chef helming the banquet room. Tyler Florence (quickly dubbed #T-Flo by FoodBuzzards on Twitter) demoed a lovely Eastern European-inspired meal, whilst a very different menu was being plated for us backstage.
A butter lettuce salad kit.
Pro photo tip: Candle Saucer bounce!
Kristin The Cuisinerd, ready for meat!
I lucked out sitting with a pretty amazing table really of some of the best bloggers out there. We brandished knives. We awaited delicious food. We spoke of the T-Flo.
Andy, not letting his meal cramp his swagger.
Wedding steak surf n' turf does not a T-Flo cider-marinated pork chop make.
Joy the Baker contemplates the intention of her bulgar wheat and braised leek entree.
After a lackluster dessert our table retreated to the top floor of the hotel for liquid dessert, but the bar was a little TOO hopping. Forced to hang at the fringes we couldn't help but notice an open back door to a similarly lackluster wedding reception. Evil comes in many forms, and after an unsatisfactory meal, beware the mind of a foodbuzzed blogger. I won't elaborate, but maybe the reception was crashed by a flash mob, and maybe there was an animated conga line, and maybe their guest book ended up with a few extra John Hancocks. But I couldn't be sure about any of that.
Strolling back to the apartment I smiled at the crisp San Francisco night. Another year! So many accomplishments and yet so much inspiration still untapped. What fruits might the coming year produce? How will the unexpected surprise? And how will I look back at it all this time next year? Well friend, I suppose time will tell.