Sunday, June 27, 2010

Absinthe, Hayes Valley

Yesterday morning we made our way over to Hayes Valley for brunch. The original plan was to go to Suppenkuche but it turns out they don't do brunch on Saturdays - just Sundays. Good to know.  So we made our way down the street to Absinthe instead.

We got there about 15 minutes before they opened and no one else was waiting. About 2 minutes before they opened the doors people started lining up. About 10 minutes after we were seated, the place was full. Moral of the story: get there early or make a reservation, as it seemed like most of the crowd had reserved.  

We ordered two egg dishes: the wild mushroom omelet with caramelized onions, gruyere and truffle butter and the fried green tomatoes with poached eggs and wilted chard in a ham hollandaise sauce.   Both of these came with their breakfast potatoes, but we didn't realize that so we also ordered some fries.

Overall, I liked the omelet the best. All of the food was good, but I didn't think any of it was great.   The poached egg and tomato didn't seen to have all that much flavor and I like my fries to have more... potato. These fries had a nice exterior but not so much going on inside. I think looking back we should have gone for a sweet as well as a savory - the ricotta-stuffed french toast or the banana-blueberry souffle pancake is sounding very enticing to me as I type up this post.

If you're in Hayes Valley and want some breakfast, I'd still go here over say, Stacks. What I was most impressed with at Absinthe was the cocktail menu, which I fully intend to go back for.

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
398 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 551-1590

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner: Jamie Oliver Style

I love Jamie Oliver. His recipes are always straight forward and even better, so so tasty. Last Sunday, Kev and I made his Spanish Roast Chicken as well as his peach and mozzarella salad. We've made the chicken before and I don't know why we don't make it more often -- it was better than I remembered. 

Kev had fun decorating the chicken with chorizo.

This salad is perfect for summer. Here's how you make it: take a whole bunch of mint leaves, combine it with whatever salad leaves you have on hand, throw in some slices of ripe peach and rip up some buffalo mozzarella. Oh and prosciutto! Tear off some pieces of prosciutto and throw that in there as well.  Top with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil.  We used the Nudo lemon olive oil and it worked really nicely with this.

You might want to click on this picture to fully appreciate the potatoes. They cook with the chicken and the chorizo and absorb the flavors of both and cook for long enough that they get almost caramelized on the outside.  The chicken stays incredibly juicy thanks to the whole lemons that are steaming inside it as it cooks. 

If you're having a small dinner party, I highly recommend this recipe - it is so simple but a big crowd pleaser. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner: Steak and Potatoes

I've been delinquent posting about Sunday Night Dinners. This dinner took place on Memorial Day and was a great way to welcome in the summer.  The barbecue was bought earlier that morning and these steaks were the perfect thing to christen them with. 

Some drawings and drinking were done while we waited to eat.

(UPDATE: you can vote on this as a t-shirt design here).
That's chive cream cheese on those steaks. That was not my idea - but now I think all steaks should be accompanied with cream cheese. Try it.


Happy Summer!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Range, The Mission

Last night we were fortunate to get last minute reservations at Range. This made for one very happy Kev, since this is his favorite restaurant in the city.  The last time we were there, we had reservations for 8:30. We didn't get seated until around 9 but they were so gracious about it - sending us extra appetizers and desserts to make up for it.  To me, a gesture like that really goes a long way, and I'm surprised that more restaurants don't do this when they keep you waiting.  

The menu - including the cocktail menu - changes regularly. Last night we ordered the Bottle Rocket - tequila, strawberries, chile, ginger, yellow chartreuse and  lemon.  The cocktails are always great here, and if you can't get a table, it's fun to sit at the bar and watch the bartenders create all sorts of fun drinks. This drink was interesting with the addition of chile - it gave it just the teeniest, tiniest little kick. 

Though the menu changes often, you can always find both a simple green salad and a stuffed pasta listed. While all of the food at Range is great, I think the thing I most look forward to when going there are the salads. Last night we ordered the little gem salad with fried capers, radishes and paremesan in a roasted garlic vinaigrette. It was our lucky night because they sent over a second salad as well: This one was with aprium (apricot+plum), goat cheese, amaranth and walnuts.  I'm really not sure which one I liked more: the little gem salad was a little salty and crunchy and full of flavor. The aprium salad was a little bit lighter and more summery and the leaves themselves had so much taste. The best thing about the salads at Range are that they are always perfectly dressed - never too much or too little dressing and they are always so fresh.  

The pasta was artichoke ravioli with fromage blanc, meyer lemon and olive oil.  It was perfect. They are really masters at putting different flavor combinations together. 

If you are eating at Range and they have steak on the menu, however it is prepared, you should order that.  Last night the option was pan roasted bavette steak with squash blossoms, basil, wheat berries and parmesan jus.  Kev ordered that and I was jealous. So was the guy next to us - I overheard him tell his date he had food envy when this arrived at our table.  The outside had a really nice crust to it and the inside was tender and juicy.  

I ordered the Alaskan halibut with English peas, morel mushrooms, baby turnips and horseradish.  This was a really nice, light dish and I liked the addition of the horseradish, but it wasn't nearly as impressive as the steak. 

The desserts here are also pretty spectacular and we particularly like the fruit based options. This one was a pluot and aprium tart, which I thought was pretty clever. It was served with cardamom ice cream which was a nice contrast to the tartness of the fruit.

On our walk home we were talking about our top five places in the city for dinner and Range is high on that list.  But don't go taking all the reservations now, it's hard enough to get in as is!

842 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pizzetta 211, Outer Richmond

I first heard about Pizzetta 211 from this article in Sunset Magazine about the best pizza places in the Bay Area.  A couple of weeks ago I happened to be driving by and noticed it, and thought it looked so sweet - just a little storefront with a few tables and a tree with twinkly lights. So when it came time to pick a spot for a girls' lunch today, and one of the girls lives in the Richmond, this seemed like a good choice. 

We got there around 1PM, and there was no one waiting ahead of us. This was lucky for us, because with only seven tables total - inside and out - we could have had a long, long wait. 

We started off with some Limonatas, which is the best drink ever on a hot day, plus I love the little bottles they come in. The menu changes weekly, and I think this week must be goat cheese week, which is fine by me because I love goat cheese.  Usually when a menu changes regularly, there aren't any specials - but they always have an addition of a daily appetizer and dessert on the menu.  We had the special salad of beet, beet greens and crostini with goat cheese.

I really enjoyed this dish - it was really light and simple but incredibly flavorful, with little bits of chili  to give it some kick. This is one to remember, because it would be so simple to make at home.

We then moved on to the main course: calzone and pizza. The calzone was filled with  ricotta, tomato sauce and.... goat cheese! I really loved the calzone. The dough was chewy and had a great texture, and the sauce and the cheeses all worked really nicely together. 

The pizza was topped with  lamb sausage, roasted pepper, garlic confit and ricotta salata.  Oh, and that's not basil you see on top - that's mint.  It's really surprising when you take your first bite,  expecting to taste basil and to find that it is something else entirely, but I thought it worked really well.  The lamb meatballs were really juicy and flavorful and I liked how potent the garlic confit was. The crust on the pizzas here are much thinner than a lot of the other artisinal pizza shops in San Francisco.  I enjoyed it, but the others in my group prefer the lighter, fluffier dough at Pizzeria Delfina. 

We ended the meal with a piece of flourless chocolate cake and fresh cream, and really, what better way to end a meal than with a piece of chocolate cake? 

With all of the amazing pizza places in San Francisco, and so many in my neighborhood, I don't know that I would go all the way across town to come back here.  But next time I'm in the Outer Richmond I'll know just where to go. 

211 23rd Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94121-2008
(415) 379-9880
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