Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Dinner: Timpano a la Big Night

This year for Christmas, we essentially had one very long Sunday Night Dinner, which started on Friday afternoon and ended on Sunday morning - complete with two sleep overs. For Christmas Eve we made Kev's beef stew and for Christmas morning I made this strata.  None of that compares though with what we ate on Christmas night.  If you've seen the movie Big Night, you probably know what a Timpano is. If you haven't - you can check it out here.  

I wish I could take credit for this creation, but it was really all Simon. He had been talking about making a timpano for well over a year and this seemed like the perfect time to do it. The recipe isn't hard, but it is super time consuming and labor intensive.  He prepared the meatballs and sauce a couple of days in advance and then the rest of the steps were done on Christmas day. 

While he made the dough, we drank some tea and ate some of Heather's amazing linzer torte. 

And then the assembly began.  We prepared two different timpanos - one meat and one veggie.

(click on any photo to make it bigger) 

 Got all that? Once the timpano comes out of the oven, you let it sit in the bowl for 30 minutes and then you very delicately flip it over onto a plate - this requires two people.  Let that sit there for another 20 minutes. 

Here's one of our timpanos (timpani?) patiently waiting its required 20 minutes. 

And then, very very carefully, we sliced into it. 

This is the veggie version. We held off slicing the meat version until we had all had a slice of the veggie. By the time we made it into the meat version, I was already in a food coma so don't expect any photos of that one.

After we were all thoroughly stuffed and couldn't possibly eat another bite, we had dessert.  I made this Pear and Raspberry Crostata, from a new cookbook I received as a present.  I love that the pears are halved and not thinly sliced.  I also love the little hints of ginger in there and the tartness of the cranberries. This recipe is a keeper. 

We used the timpano recipe from the official Big Night Cookbook. If you don't have $1,000 to spend on a cookbook (Simon found his in a used bookstore), you can look here for the recipe.

Hope you all had a happy Christmas as well.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner: Slow Cooked Brisket + a Whole Lot of Other Stuff

Hello Internet! I took an unintended break from writing/photographing, for no real reason actually, but then one week became two then two became... six and then here we are. So annnyway...

Here's a meal from a few weeks ago that makes me super happy.  It was our turn to cook Sunday Night Dinner, and it was a cold and gray day, so I took the opportunity to spend the day in the kitchen, something I really wish I would do more of.  The starting point for the meal was that I wanted to slow cook something, and I thought that this pulled brisket recipe sounded pretty good.  But that didn't take all day, because basically you just brown it, add some spices and let that thing sit in the slow cooker all day. And by all day I mean, all day - a good 8 - 10 hours. Make sure you start early. 

What did take all day were the accessories.  The Smitten Kitchen recipe suggests serving the pulled pork with pickled onions and some slaw. Those things all sounded good to me, so I got to work on that.  Because we weren't going to be eating though for another 8-10 hours, I just prepped what I could ahead of time, which meant getting those onions pickling, making the dressing for the slaw and chopping up a bunch of cabbage.  Also, because we were transporting all of this stuff over to our friends' house I got to use our fancy new glass storage containers, which I highly recommend.

And then the baking began. I wanted to bring some cookies into work, and I frequently check out the Smitten Kitchen cookie section and think, "I wish I had time to make those" about pretty much everything on there. And since I was already having a love affair with Smitten Kitchen, and spending the day in my kitchen, I decided to make two different types: Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip and Pecan and Chocolate Toffee.

These are the Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip, Pecan (but you knew that). I forgot to take pictures of the Chocolate Toffee cookies, which is just as well because I didn't think that they looked nearly as pretty as they should have.  I highly recommend these oatmeal ones though, especially for this time of year. They taste like fall, due to the orange zest, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon, but still have that good old fashioned chocolate chip texture thing going on. These are a keeper.  I personally didn't love the chocolate toffee cookies, but others preferred them, so go figure. 

After all the cookies finally finished baking, we transported ourselves, the glass containers, and a slow cooker full of brisket over to our friends' house.  We plugged the slower cooker back in for another two hours, and got back to work - next up was Mac and Cheese.  I decided to use the Jamie Oliver version, because well, I love Jamie Oliver and also I liked that he used tomatoes in his as well as breadcrumbs on the top.  We also added in what we like to call "cheesy nuggets" - basically the rinds of the parmesan that are set aside when the cheese is all done.  These little bits add lots of chewy, cheesy surprises in the dish. While that was baking, we assembled all the other ingredients.. and then had ourselves a feast. 

The only low point of the meal for me were the rolls - they just weren't very good.  The brisket was excellent, and super super easy.  The verdict on the mac n cheese was: More Cheese! (and that was after we had added well more than was called for) but I'd still make it again. 

It was a long day and in the end, I wasn't very hungry - somehow being around all the food all day just completely made me lose my appetite - but it was extremely satisfying. I am very much looking forward to having some time off in the next few weeks to get back to making some more big meals.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Summit, Mission

Valencia Street seems completely unaware that the rest of the country is still in the middle of a recession.  In the last six months or so, it seems like every time I walk along there I notice new stores and restaurants, and it's getting hard to keep up. I'm not complaining though, I love that this little neighborhood is thriving. 

On Halloween we headed over to the brand new cafe The Summit.

At 2pm the place was packed and it was hard to find a seat, which seems slightly strange because the place is so huge. I think they probably could have done a better job of laying it out to make better use of the space.

Fear the beard!

I wanted a coffee and Kev wanted some tea, but tea is only served by the pot, so I went with that too.  Check out the presentation: cute little tray with tea pot and cups and also a 1/3/5 minute hour glass timer.  FauxBrian Wilson instructed us to wait until the green sand ran out and our tea would be done steeping.


I wish I liked the tea as much as I liked the presentation, but sadly (or not, sadly for my wallet) I prefer good old PG Tips

I also ordered the pulled pork sandwich which was... ok. Not bad, but not great.

After a little while of sitting on a stool over by the window, the couch opened up and we headed over there.  I got the coffee I had wanted originally (they serve Blue Bottle, by the way) and we sat on the couch with our books and just hung out.  And the thing is, while I could sit on my own couch with my PG Tips and read a book, sometimes it's just nice to get out of the house - which to me is the appeal of this place.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

25 Lusk, SOMA

When I saw a reservation on OpenTable for 25 Lusk, it seemed obvious that I should book it. That week I had read about the opening several times (emails from Daily Candy, Urban Daddy and TableHopper) and Kev had told me that the owner is the brother-in-law of his friend. 

The restaurant is located down a small alley (Lusk Street, to be exact) that I had never noticed before, near AT&T park.

The space itself has been written about tons, and it is really impressive.  They've kept a lot of the original structure (beams and brick) and added modern details, some really warm lighting and lots of rich looking woods.  The upstairs is the main dining room and I liked how spacious it was. At so many restaurants in San Francisco, you're on top of the tables beside you and can't help but feel as though you are part of the conversation of people at the tables next to you. The booths here are roomy and private and it's easy to forget that there are others in the restaurant too. Someone later asked me what the crowd was like the night we were there, and I had no idea - I hadn't even noticed them. 

There were four of us at this dinner and we ordered a whole lot of stuff for all of us to try. 

Cauliflower crème brulee, sunchoke escabeche, truffled wild arugula.  This was my favorite of the appetizers. It sounds crazy - but it was amazing.  Imagine taking cauliflower soup then brulee-ing the whole thing and adding truffled arugula on top and this is what you get. It was savory and smooth but also sweet and crunchy. 

Wild Arugula, watercress, cucumber, grilled fig in a champagne vinaigrette.  Fresh and flavorful, but nothing to write home about.

Braised pork cheek terrine, with roasted quince and apple compote, swiss chard and spiced cider reduction.  I had texture issues with this one - the pork texture didn't work for me, but Kev really liked it.

Lobster ravioli, saffron lobster nage, shaved thai basil.  It looks like soup, but hidden in that creamy broth are ravioli, stuffed with lots of meaty lobster. We all really enjoyed this one. 

We also ordered four entrees to pass around between us.

This was the braised short ribs with roasted sweet potatoes and wilted escarole in a syrah demi-glace.  The good part about sharing is you get to try everything. The bad part is you only get a little bit of everything. I really liked the short ribs, they were perfectly tender and were barely hanging on to the bone.  The sauce was rich and a good match to the meat.

Verbena steamed pacific halibut, sea beans, tomato, eggplant, lemon-lobster vinaigrette.  The fish tasted incredibly fresh and the citrus-y sauce made the dish feel really light.   We liked this one a lot. 

Grilled top lamb sirloin, roasted garlic, potato rosti, apple-spearmint demi-glace.  I love baby carrots.  This lamb didn't have that super-distinctive lamb flavor, which meant that Kev would eat it (whoever heard of a Welshman that didn't like lamb?).   I liked this one, but it's been a week and I can't remember much more about it!

Pappardelle, grilled treviso, roasted baby fennel, braised artichokes, parmesan.  Pappardelle might be my new favorite pasta, there's something about those fat ribbons that I always enjoy. This dish had a really smoky flavor, and while I didn't think it was as successful as the other dishes, I still enjoyed it. 

Somehow after all of this food, our waitress convinced us we needed to order not one, but two of the dessert sample platters. We agreed.

There's a whole lot of stuff on this plate, but my favorite by far was the dulce de leche cheesecake. I'd definitely just order that if I were to get dessert here again. Not too sweet, creamy and light, it was the perfect dessert. 

After dinner, Kev and I debated where this restaurant fell in terms of our favorite places to eat. I liked it - and I'd put it on the same level as my meal at RN74 or Commonwealth - but wasn't blown away like I was at Frances, which is now my high bar.  Kev disagreed and thought it was up there with Frances. Either way, it was an impressive meal, especially considering they had only been open six days when we ate there. I'll be curious to return in a few months when they've really established their rhythm. 

25 Lusk
25 Lusk St
San Francisco, CA 94107

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Universal Cafe, Mission

It seems that no matter how many new (to me) places I eat at in San Francisco, I still haven't scratched the surface.  Every week I'll read about a place, or someone will mention a spot that I haven't tried, and then I go home and add it to my "Eat Here" Google doc.  Universal Cafe (like Bar Tartine) is one of those places that I somehow had never managed to try, even though people frequently mention how great it is. And so this past weekend, I headed there with the girls for breakfast.

This place is clearly popular, as we arrived there at 9:30 and even though it was raining out, there was a thirty minute wait.

We started with the beignets in a raspberry sauce (or were they doughnuts?).  They were good, but not my favorites - a little too cakey for me, I wanted them to be lighter.  The raspberry sauce also seemed a little thin. 

Heather and I both ordered the soft scrambled eggs with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella.

The eggs were cooked the perfectly and the tomatoes gave it a nice sweetness. The salad was good too -  fresh and crisp and perfectly dressed.  The coffee was also really good, and surprisingly, not from Blue Bottle, Ritual or Four Barrel, where it seems most of the rest of the city gets their coffee (they serve Equator Coffee, if you're wondering).

Sarah ordered the veggie burger which I think she liked.  I liked that it had a giant slice of heirloom tomato on top and lots of avocado

It was a solid brunch overall and I'd go back - though I don't know that I'd wait 30 minutes in the rain.

Universal Cafe
2814 19th St
San Francisco, CA 94110

(415) 821-4608

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bar Tartine, Mission

Yesterday for breakfast we went on a hunt for the best poached egg. The hunt consisted of me doing doing some googling for poached eggs in the Mission. We landed on Bar Tartine and I'm so happy we did.  I've posted a few times on this blog about Tartine the bakery (see: here) but somehow, up until yesterday, I had never been to Bar Tartine

When we walked in I became almost overwhelmed with how much I liked the interior.  Before we had even touched the food I knew I wanted to come back because I liked the space so much.  It's kind of like... deconstructed elegance.  It's an amazing combination of classic (marble bar + mirrors), rustic (wooden tables and floors + antler chandelier), artsy (huge bouquets of flowers + eclectic groupings of artwork on the walls) and I love how high contrast it is  (white walls + dark floors + pools of light).

The menu was different than what we had seen online, which was disappointing because there were two poached egg choices that I had read about and was really excited to try.  While there weren't any replacement options, they did offer a side of two poached eggs, so I ordered that with a couple of slices of toasted Tartine bread.

I had high hopes when they put the eggs down in front of me.  I like the whites of the egg to look  fluffy and almost like balls of mozzarella, and these looked perfect. I fully expected when I put my knife in the yolk would ooze out, but it didn't - it was cooked pretty thoroughly inside.  Nevertheless, my undying love for the bread made it all ok and I enjoyed it well enough - though it wasn't the perfect poached egg I was looking for.

Kev's food, on the other hand, was even better than I expected and it also was made with Tartine bread so I was very  happy when he offered to share with me.

This was the Croque Provencal - gruyere, ham and heirloom tomato, topped with a fried egg, and it was so good. All of the ingredients they use are farm sourced and you can taste how fresh and flavorful it all is. One of the best breakfast dishes I've had in a long, long time.

My only complaint about eating here was the noise. Besides all the oohing and ahhing, we spent a lot of time saying, "What?" which gets kind of annoying.  Nevertheless, I fully intend to go back - and soon.

Bar Tartine
561 Valencia St. 
San Francisco, CA 94110
415 487 1600

Monday, October 18, 2010

Il Cane Rosso, Ferry Building

Last week I had a vacation day so we headed over to the Ferry Building to have lunch at Il Cane Rosso - Daniel Patterson's rotisserie/sandwich shop. 

I really love the Ferry Building, even if it is a huge tourist destination with really expensive food. But the thing is, the food is really good. And you can't beat it on a warm, bright, sunny day when you can sit outside and watch your favorite 1 year old show off her brand new walking skills. 

We were lucky to score a table outside - and even luckier that we didn't need a jacket. I love October in San Francisco. It really is my favorite time of year here.

All of the food here is straight from the farm - this is the Marin Sun Farms roast pork sandwich (with jalapeno pepper relish and cracklins’).  Don't be fooled by the look of this sandwich - it might look very basic, but the meat is juicy and tender and super flavorful. 

This is the beef tagliata sandwich (meat also from Marin Sun Farms), with aged cheddar, roasted onions, rosemary, lemon aoli.  I liked this one - but preferred the simpler pork sandwich in the end.

And what does a one-year-old from San Francisco eat for lunch? Iacopi Farm baked beans and polenta with sage brown butter and parmesan, of course.  Luckily this one-year-old is a good sharer, and she didn't mind me reaching in and helping myself. I'm normally not a huge fan of polenta, but this one was super creamy and lovely.

And, to make this meal even better, it was 50% off. Have you seen Scoutmob? It's awesome. Just download the (free) app and you can present your iPhone to the cashier and voila - 50% off at Il Cane Rosso through December.  And no, they aren't paying me to say that.

Il Cane Rosso
1 Ferry Building # 41
San Francisco, CA 94111-4231
(415) 391-7599

Monday, October 11, 2010

Camino, Oakland

I love brunch. And I loved this brunch, in particular, with two of my favorite ladies, Sarah and Heather.  This was another case of wanting to go somewhere (900 Grayson) and then finding out last minute that they don't do brunch on Sundays. Happily, we went to Camino instead.

I really loved the way this place looked. Lots of brick, worn wood and antique furniture.  Not to be too California, but I was really feeling the vibe there.

Heather and I did our usual and shared some things - including these homemade doughnuts with apple and the french toast with fruit compote, hazelnuts and crème fraiche.

The french toast was insanely filling - I could barely finish my one slice. I also love that they give you a choice of still or sparkling water - and leave a carafe of it on the table for you.

Great meal, great company and now I'm ready to try dinner here as well.

3917 Grand Ave
Oakland, California 94610
(510) 547-5035

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Baby Blues BBQ, Venice

Just your typical baby shower, at the BBQ joint.

More photos here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Commonwealth, Mission

I wanted to try Commonwealth because I can't stop reading about it. It seems like every local food site has had some mention of it since it opened a month ago.  If you've seen any of these articles, you know that the new restaurant is the product of Jason Fox (Bar Tartine) and Anthony Myint (Mission Street Food) and that it donates $10 from every tasting menu to local charities.  We didn't order the tasting menu last night though, and instead ordered a bunch of different dishes and shared them amongst the four of us.

Instead of bread, Commonwealth serves homemade chips with vinegar foam.  I liked that it was something different, but I'm not hugely into chips so this wasn't really my thing - I would have preferred some rustic bread and butter, but that's just me. 

We ordered a few different appetizers, but I only got a picture of the soup.  This here is the "summer squash, chilled soup, fried blossoms, shaved salad, vadouvan".  I liked the soup - it was refreshing and flavorful, but I didn't like the fried blossoms as much as I did at Cafe Des Amis.  We also ordered the tomato salad (nice, ripe tomatoes with olive, cheese and basil),  shisito peppers with goat cheese and the gnocchi (with corn, maitake mushrooms, sage, parmesan and truffle oil). We all loved the gnocchi and agreed that if we were to come back we'd all want our own - no sharing this dish again. 

We also ordered the halibut, hangar steak and the young hen with spot prawns in a chocolate-almond emulsion. I really enjoyed the halibut, which had a nice coconut flavor to it, and the hen, which was really tender.  The spot prawns freaked me out a little - I don't like seeing their eyes - but once we removed their outfits (love that phrase, thanks Britt!) I felt much more comfortable. 

For dessert, we ordered the White Russian (coffee ice cream, vodka gelée, raw milk mousse,  génoise cake) and the Cinnamon Mille-Feuille (cardamom marshmallow, chocolate ganache, and burnt honey ice cream). Both of these were really different and complex, and I really liked certain flavors but not others. The vodka gelée was like a fancy vodka jello shot, and I could have done without it, but I liked the rest of the dish.  I really liked the ice cream in both desserts as well, and it seemed extra cold and creamy.

It was a good meal, with some great dishes, but I didn't leave feeling as excited as I felt leaving Frances, for example. 

As a side note, here's a little behind-the-scenes shot from our dinner -  it was really dark in there, but thanks to some strategically placed candles (and some brightening in Photoshop) I was able to salvage a few photos.
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