Sunday, February 28, 2010

SF Hot Chocolate: Farmers' Market, Ferry Building

You have to know where to look to spot this hot chocolate at the Ferry Building Farmers' Market.  There is a table tucked away against the wall, right by the Sur La Table entrance. And there you will find the most intense hot chocolate of your life - one small cup is more than Kev and I can drink together.

Get a group of your ten closest friends and go try it out.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Fig Cafe, Glen Ellen

Over the weekend we had a great family brunch at The Fig Cafe.  Sunday was John's last day here, so we drove up to see the relatives in Sonoma County.

When Kev told me we where we were going to eat, and said "it's at some place with fig in it" I got really excited and shouted "The Girl and the Fig??!" but then had no idea where I knew it from or why I had wanted to go.

We ordered both breakfast and lunch from the menu, since it was already after 1:00 pm. I was torn between the two until I saw the soup of the day: winter root vegetable soup with truffle oil. Truffle oil? Sold! I also ordered the fig and arugula salad, with chèvre, pecans and pancetta in a fig and port vinaigrette.  The soup was made with parsnip, rutabaga and celery root, but I only really tasted the parsnip. It was really creamy and smooth, but I don't know that I would order it again. I think pureed soups are just not really my thing, even if they do have truffle oil. The salad was fantastic - our waitress told us it was one of three items that had been on the menu unchanged since the restaurant opened. 

The burger - with grilled onions and cheese - is another item that hasn't changed.  I'm getting hungry looking at this picture. 

Here's a fun fact about the Fig Cafe: they don't have a corkage fee.  Here's a fun fact about Kev's family: they bring their own champagne.  You've got to love a family that  brings their own alcohol and orders dessert at lunch.  You know, to have with their champagne. We ordered a whole bunch of different desserts, including poached pear cheesecake and fig and port ice cream.  The ice cream was a big hit - John loved it so much that he ordered a second bowl of it. Next time we can have it waiting in our freezer when he gets here - it's made by Ciao Bella.

Limon Rotisserie, Mission

Sarah and I wanted to have dinner, but there were a lot of logistics involved in making that happen. Neither of us were free on the weekend. I don't get out of work until late. Sarah doesn't have a car. And both of us wanted it to be inexpensive. Our criteria became: somewhere in the city (easier for me), near BART (easy for Sarah) and cheap. Normally that means burritos, but this time we came up with a better plan: Limon Rotisserie.

This might be the best deal in San Francisco, and I can't stop talking about it. For $7.25 you get 1/4 chicken plus two sides and two dipping sauces. And it was all really tasty. Sarah and I got the tacu-tacu, papas fritas, vegetales salteados and choclo. We didn't know what most of those things were either, so here's a visual aide. 

Sarah thought the corn was a little too mealy but really liked the tacu-tacu. I thought the corn was meaty and good, and really liked the papas fritas. We both liked the chicken, which was super flavorful and also the check, which was $25.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner: Four Cheese Risotto

Really this dinner was on Wednesday, but it seemed like our normal Sunday night dinner, so I'm posting under this category.

Tonia's cousin Sylvia and her two friends have been visiting from Italy and volunteered to make us (and teach me to make) four cheese risotto.  They are from Asiago, so it was going to include asiago cheese, but they couldn't find it so in its place was: Swiss Emmental, Parmesan, Gorgonzola and Pecorino.

We sliced the cheese and diced half an onion, then sauteed the onion with some oil and butter. If you want to do this the true Italian way, you must say, "bellisima!" many times throughout this process. 

Sylvia discarded the onion after it had been sauteed (I think to infuse the oil and butter with the onion flavor, but we had a language barrier issue so I'm just inferring that) and then added many handfuls of arborio rice and began the stirring, stirring, stirring process that makes risotto. 

We gradually added some beef broth, did more stirring, then stirred some more, then added some more broth. Finally we added our cheese ("Bellisima!"). If you're like me and you don't like Gorgonzola, you take your portion before that bit is added.

Sylvia and friends also bought us this lemon meringue cake from Tartine. This is one of those cakes I see in their display and wonder if it tastes as good as it looks.  I really liked the meringue and the caramel/lemon creme filling but didn't love the cake layers. I realize I may get thrown out of San Francisco for saying this, but I haven't been that impressed with any of the cakes I've had at Tartine. I'd much rather have a tart or some bread or the quiche. Ohhh the quiche. We'll save that for another day.

Grazie, Sylvia, for a lovely meal (and not minding me taking a million photos)!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Charcoal Crackers

Not gonna lie, I only bought these because I liked the box and also, what is a charcoal cracker?
It turns out the point of the cracker is to be neutral, to be eaten with something else, and to let the flavor of what it's paired with to shine through.

And these crackers aren't just easy on the eyes: when I just checked the website, it also mentions that these crackers are good for "gastrointestinal distress".  Just in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Guaymas Restaurant, Tiburon

Yesterday we made like tourists and took the ferry over to Tiburon for lunch.  It's nice to have visitors in town so you can do things in your city you wouldn't ordinarily do - like going to Fisherman's Wharf, for example.  The ferry to Tiburon drops you off right in front of Guaymas - very handy if you are bad at directions.

My experience with restaurants directly on the water - especially in touristy areas - is that the food is generally bad. I was really pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food here - especially the guacamole, which was really flavorful. I prefer guac to be a little more chunky, not so smooth, but the flavor made up for the texture.

There were 8 of us, so we ordered the appetizer platter which included these tamales wrapped like little presents.  There were also flautas, empanadas and chalupas.

By the time the entrees arrived, I was already pretty full.  I'm not sure why I even bother to order at Mexican restaurants, because this happens nearly every time I go to one - I eat WAY too many chips and then don't want the rest of my food. I ordered shrimp fajitas, which I didn't love. They weren't bad,  but they seemed to lack some flavor.  To be fair,  I will say that everyone else that ordered fajitas seemed to like them more than I liked mine. The best dish at our table was the Camarones Rellenos - giant grilled shrimp with cheese and jalapenos, and wrapped with bacon. 

While this certainly wasn't the best meal I had this weekend (see here and here) it was a really good time and great for such a large group. Go here for that - the food is really secondary.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner: Coq Au Vin

Even though we were supposed to cook this week, we once again had a lovely meal prepared for us. This week's recipe was Coq Au Vin, from this cookbook. So far everything out of this book has been a winner, and the coq au vin was no exception.

Usually while the meal is cooking, we have these bread sticks as a snack. The Smiths seem to have a never ending supply of these. They come from Noe Valley Bakery if you're wondering.  I hear that usually there is also cheese tasting pre-dinner, but somehow, even though there are only four of us, I  have been totally unaware that this has been going on. Next time I would like some cheese please.  And maybe a photo or two. 

I like how the table always looks so elegant at our dinners when really, the table top is just an old door! Throw in a few wine glasses and candles and you've got yourself a fancy looking table.

How have I never had this meal before? It was fantastic! Shallots + wine + garlic + butter... obviously this was going to be a winning combination. This is one of those dishes that I have wanted to make before, but all the steps in the preparation have put me off. After eating it though, I want to put it on my list of things I want to make in the future.

Because we were concenred that we hadn't consumed enough calories for one day, we followed up dinner with an apple pie, also from Noe Valley Bakery. The pie crust was much more cinnamon-y than I've had before, but I thought it really worked with the texture of the pastry.

There is something really nice about having these dinners as a way to cap off the weekend, and get yourself ready for the week.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Old Port Lobster Shack, Redwood City

Today we climbed up a (small) hill and then Kev had the awesome idea to reward ourselves by going to the Old Port Lobster Shack.  The Lobster Shack is approximately a 4 minute drive from where I work, yet I was only introduced to it last year. How did we not meet sooner, Lobster Shack?

Mmmm Manhattan clam chowder. How you've alluded me these past 8 years living in California. I'm so glad we found each other again.

We also got a cup of lobster bisque and a cup of New England clam chowder. Normally I'm not a fan of creamy soups, but I gave both of these a try and they were good! Also I love that they are served in these mugs. 

The owner of the place was very sweet and didn't mind me wandering around taking photos. He even took that giant lobster out of his tank so I could get a good picture. Thanks Russell!

Are you even reading anymore, or are you still looking at that picture of the lobster roll? I can't stop looking at that picture and wanting another one. You can order it "naked" - just the lobster meat, like I did, or you can get it dressed with mayo and seasoning, but the meat is so good and fresh I always just get it naked. And sometimes use some of that drawn butter on top. The two Brits ordered... fish and chips! Which was funny, because I felt like we were going to have this very American (ok well New England) style lunch and then they had fish and chips, but whatever. 

Unfortunately, we didn't order this lobster. I just wish we had.

Friday, February 12, 2010

La Note, Berkeley

La Note is in my top 3 breakfast places in the Bay Area. The first time I went there was the first time I was ever in this area - when I was living in LA and had come up to visit Heather. We had so much fun that day, which started with a huge breakfast of eggs and pancakes and I can't remember what else - but enough that we had to take a stack of pancakes to go. I remember that we attempted to drive out to Stinson Beach after, with our extra food, but got bored of driving and pulled over at some other (closer) beach instead and had a picnic of leftovers. That first trip was when I first started thinking "I should really move to San Francisco" and eventually I came to my senses and did just that (well, Oakland really, at the time). 

When Kev and I first started dating, this is one of the first places I took him in the East Bay. He won extra points for loving it as much as I did. When his parents came to visit a few months later, we took them there too. Guess what? They also loved it. 

Fast forward 5+ years later. Kev and I are now married and living in San Francisco and no longer go to La Note as often. Yesterday his dad John arrived for a visit from Wales. We both took today off and had plans to go to Mama's in North Beach for breakfast. We got there at 10:30, but there was a huge line (I know. There's always a huge line, but it's Friday, don't you people have to work?).  John said: What about that place you took me to in Berkeley?

And so we headed over the bridge to Berkeley, where there was a line at La Note, but we braved the wait and it was so so worth it. The first thing I ever ate at La Note was the Cote Nord (or as we like to call it - eggs on bread) and I still order that 90% of the time. They scramble the eggs so that they are super creamy, and then they are placed on toasted levain bread with either goat cheese or cream cheese. AND they are served with the most amazing roasted tomatoes. 
Both dad and son got ham and cheese omelettes, which were also incredible - and not at all dry. But we weren't done there - we also wanted pancakes. We couldn't decide between the oatmeal raspberry and the lemon gingerbread with poached pears - so we got both. I love that you can opt for just one of each, instead of a whole stack.
You see that empty plate? All of our plates looked just like that. But if that isn't enough to convince you to go, I will leave you with this thought. As we were eating, John said "sometimes at home, I think about this place.  I never thought I'd get to go back".

Go here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Today life gave me lemons

I know, I can't believe I wrote that either, but today I really did get a big bag of lemons from Trin, and also it was a super crappy day at work. How very convenient.

And both literally and metaphorically, I really need to figure out what to do with these lemons. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Trip to LA: Senor G's and Juice, Playa Del Rey

This weekend we went down to Los Angeles and had a couple of breakfasts out in Playa Del Rey. I'm not really sure how I lived in LA for two years and never once went over to Playa. Now whenever we go to LA, this is where we stay because that's where our friends are.

On Saturday morning, we walked down to Senor G's. It's a juice bar/Mexican restaurant and has that beach-y vibe going on that seems to be going on anywhere you go in Playa. I liked the wall color and drink selection. 

We got some smoothies and a shot of wheat grass. Well I didn't have the shot of wheat grass, but I thought it looked kinda cool. I had the Strava - strawberry, banana, guava juice with fat free vanilla yogurt and ice. It was gooooood.                              
I like that they serve you chips and salsa, even though it is 10 AM. I bet if you had a hangover you'd really like that they serve you chips and salsa before 10 AM. The salsa is that really chunky kind, that isn't spicy but just really tomato-y. I like that in a salsa.
I forgot the name of this dish. It came with tortillas though.

I didn't take enough pictures of the food because we all wanted to get eating.    

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Katz's Deli, New York

Katz's Deli is one of those NY institutions that I never went to the first 20 years of my life, even though throughout all of those years I only lived less than an hour away. One of the reasons I never went was that for the last 5 of those years, I worked in a Jewish deli and ate many, many meals there so that the idea of going out to deli probably wouldn't have been all that appealing.

Now though, the idea is very appealing. West coast delis just don't compare, and so now every time I go back to NY, there is a trip to Katz's deli.

These pictures are from last time I was in NY, a few months ago, but they seemed much more interesting than tonight's dinner (beans on toast!).


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dinner at Home: Bacon Sarnie (or British bacon sandwich, if you're not from 'ol Blighty)

This is another example of a British staple that a certain someone did not think you could get in America. There were many, many years that this someone mourned the loss of British bacon. And then one day we were in a little shop on Castro St (Healthy Spirits, if you're in the market for some British bacon) and there it was, in the frozen goods area. And there was much rejoicing in all the land.

Since that fateful day, bacon has been spotted in locations such as The Liberties Irish Bar in the Mission and Roxie's Market in the Sunset.

Tonight, British bacon was spotted in our kitchen. And for you, here is a step by step guide in how to make your own:

Step 1: Get your bacon out and cut 2 slices of white bread (can be any bread but "it tastes better on white bread").

Step 2: Heat up your pan on the stove with some oil and throw the bacon in with it. While that is cooking, butter your bread (bread is not to be cooked!)

Step 3: Take cooked bacon out of your pan and put it on your bread and watch the cool looking steam rise.

Step 4: Eat!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner: Pizzas

Every Sunday, we have a standing dinner reservation over at the Smiths'. We started this about six months ago when their baby was born, and we've kept this going over the last few months. This week's dinner was homemade pizza.  

I have to admit I don't have very much to say about the pizza making process because I was either taking photos or hanging out with a super cute 6 month old.  I think what happened was :

Dough was made, tomatoes were crushed
 ingredients were gathered up (in a very stylish way)
  and then finally the pizzas got prepped (click for better view):.
We had (left to right):
1. tomato/basil/mozzarella/parmesan
2. tomato/basil/spinach/mushroom/mozzarella/parmesan/prosciutto
3. tomato/cheddar/pear/basil
#3 would have been with gorgonzola, but I really don't like gorgonzola so they humored me and switched it to cheddar.

Here are the end results (click for better view):
I think #2 was my favorite. The saltiness of the prosciutto always makes for a great pizza, especially when there is also parmesan. #3 was also a hit - I wasn't sure how I'd feel about pear and cheddar on a pizza, but it was surprisingly good.  Interesting fact:  The first pizza we used some leftover dough from a previous pizza making night. It had been frozen and then defrosted, and I actually liked dough best. It had much more flavor than the fresh dough and a better texture as well.

Next week we are the ones cooking - I need to come up with a good follow up to this meal (especially since the last Sunday night dinner I cooked over there was such a bust!)

Monday, February 1, 2010

5PM Fresh baked bread at Tartine, Mission

Last year I got really into the 7x7 100 Things to Try Before you Die list.  Tartine is on the list twice - for their morning bun and also for their fresh bread - specifically, a loaf fresh out of the oven. We live just a couple of blocks away from Tartine, and go there often enough, but somehow we had never gotten the bread. I'd always forget at 5PM, or I'd be walking by and it would be hours earlier, or more recently, wait in line for 20 minutes to find out that they don't bake bread on Mondays.
Yesterday though, the stars aligned and as we were driving home we passed Tartine at 4:45 and I remembered! And it was a Sunday, and they make bread on Sunday! We parked the car and I walked over, and of course there was a long line (is there ever not a long line?) and I waited and waited and then it was my turn and they handed over this giant loaf of bread, that was in fact still warm. 

So. How much can you really say about a loaf of bread? It's just bread right? This bread though really may be the Best Bread in the Entire World Ever. Super crunchy outside + chewy inside, with just the teensiest flavor of sourdough. Just look at it! You see all those crumbs? You cut into it and little crumbs start flying everywhere, which normally I do not like because I know I'm the one who is going to have to clean up those crumbs.  Yesterday though, I did not care. Fly crumbs, fly wherever you would like to go, I will be too busy enjoying my bread to care. 

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