Thursday, July 22, 2010

Food Crawl Part 3: Oakland and Berkeley

For the third installment of food crawl, we headed over to the East Bay. Heather planned this round which was great because she knows all the good places to hit in Oakland and Berkeley. We were supposed to start at Bakesale Betty's, but they ran out of chicken sandwiches before we got there (at 2:15 - they close at 3).  Big huge bummer. Especially because we must have only just missed it because we saw  plenty of people unwrapping or just starting their incredible looking sandwiches.

So instead, we walked down the road and started at Burma Superstar.  I had never attempted to try Burma Superstar because I've been intimidated by the lines. If you feel the same way, I highly suggest you check out the Oakland location at about 2PM because it was empty. We ordered the  tea leaf salad and rainbow salad and you should too. 

This is the tea leaf salad, and the leaves really do come from Burma (or so says the menu).  I loved the presentation of the salads at the table - they arrive with all the components segregated to a section of the dish and then the waiter (very quickly) goes through all ingredients and then tosses it table side. Besides the tea leaves there are tomatoes, lettuce, peanuts, fried garlic and a whole bunch of other stuff. It tastes like nothing else I've had before and I loved those fried garlic pieces. 

I wanted to try the rainbow salad when I saw that it had 22 different ingredients.  How can you pass up a salad that has 22 ingredients? I wish I could remember what was in it besides noodles (4 different types) more fried garlic, tofu, papaya, pepper, fried onion and 11 other ingredients I now can't remember. I actually liked this salad better than the tea leaf salad. All the different textures and flavors came together to make a really distinct and fun dish. I believe the menu called it "a party in your mouth".

Our next stop was over in Berkeley at Vik's Chaat Corner. This place is part grocery store, part restaurant. The restaurant is no frills: order at the counter, sit at tables that are reminiscent of a high school cafeteria, and eat your food with... biodegradable sporks.

At Vik's we ordered a couple of mango lassis and a veggie kathi and then tried to figure out how to eat the kathi with the sporks.

The four of us quickly devoured both the drinks and the food. The kathi (which is only served on the weekend) was really nicely spiced and flavorful and the lassi would have been perfect to drink with it if I hadn't finished it before the food arrived.  I also liked that nearly everything that was left when we finished eating - plate, cups and sporks - were compostable and the restaurant has a big green bin to allow you to do just that.

Next up on the agenda was the Imperial Tea Court, also in Berkeley.  They have a huge variety of different teas and also a decent selection of food. We decided to try a white tea and an herbal tea as well as some veggie dumplings.

Imperial Tea Court allows you to experience different types of tea service, and we chose the Gaiwan tea presentation.  Both teas were really mild and subtle and though it wasn't my most favorite tea I've ever had, I really enjoyed the presentation of it as well as just hanging out and talking with my friends over tea.

Next up on our list was ice cream. We drove over to Ici in Berkeley and waited in line and debated which flavors to get. We were only going to get two, but we couldn't decide between them all and in the end picked three: toasted almond, chocolate caramel and orange rosemary toffee.

Ici is another shop I would love just for the design, but the ice cream really holds up. My favorite of the three flavors was the orange rosemary toffee - three flavors you wouldn't think to put together but tasted amazing. Everyone else picked the toasted almond chocolate almond as their favorite, but really everything we tried - including the flavors that we sampled before ordering - were great. I have to say, I much prefer Ici to Humphrey Slocomb, and I think it's pretty comparable to Bi-Rite Creamery.

After ice cream, we decided to take a little digestion break and headed over to the Berkeley Rose Garden which is now in full bloom.

We wandered around here for awhile, building up our appetites for our final stop, Boot and Shoe.  Boot and Shoe is a pizza place and the sequel to Pizzaiolo (the name is held over from the former tenants of the location).  We hung out for awhile in the bar, drinking sparkling rose, while we waited for a table.

The bar is tucked away in the back of the restaurant and after awhile we decided to stop waiting for our table and commandeered the back corner of the bar and started ordering food.

This is the farro salad minus the burrata but plus the ricotta. I only had a small bite of this one - at this point our group had grown to six - but I liked what I tried.

We also ordered a couple of pizzas: potato, pancetta, fontina and rosemary and a margherita pizza topped with arugula.

I loved the potato/pancetta combination but wasn't overwhelmed by the margherita.  The atmosphere was fun and I liked the weird paintings on the wall and I would totally go back to hang out there. 

This food crawl was the super-sized version of our previous food crawls and a really good time. Thanks Heather, for picking out such great spots. Now, when can we go back to Bakesale Betty?

(for restaurant addresses and phone numbers, click below)  

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Favorite Summer Meal for Reasonably Lazy People

Lately we've been obsessed with this salad. While it may seem like all we do is eat, during the week we are pretty lazy about making dinner. This salad is SO good and all the ingredients are so fresh and in season right now that it's become our go-to meal after work.  If you have some good bread around you can also do it as a sandwich.

I give Kev full credit for this as it was all his idea. All you need is some combination of arugula, nectarines or peaches (we've also used raspberries), avocado, tomato, prosciutto. I also put crumbled goat cheese on mine.   A little salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil and you're set.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner: More This and That

Another Sunday, another random assortment of food for dinner. This time though there was a main dish, which was an herb crusted salmon from an old issue of Blueprint magazine.  It is ridiculously easy and quick to make and it's one of those recipes that you really can't screw up.  You can find the recipe here.

I also had some ricotta cheese left over from the penne frittata  that I didn't want to go to waste, so I was very excited when Smitten Kitchen posted this recipe for zucchini and ricotta galette.  This is much more complicated to make in that there are a ton of steps - but it turned out very well and I'd make it again. 

We also made a jicama salad that my friend Lex has been raving about - it's just jicama, tomatoes and green apples, tossed with lime juice and goat cheese (Lex had it with cotija cheese but I had goat cheese at home so used that instead).

And last but not least... yup, more tartine bread and a simple green salad.

(click on picture for better viewing)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Frances, Castro

Way back in April, the night of our dinner at Ad Hoc, we returned to San Francisco with Mark and Brittany and got on the internet to book dinner at Frances.  We were excited about it because after being open for only a few months, it had already been nominated as one of the best new restaurants in the country.  And though it was only April, the first weekend reservation we could get wasn't until July. We booked it.

Tonight we finally cashed in that reservation (with different friends, since M & B had gotten double booked) and ate at Frances for the second time. The first time was about a month ago when we had lucked out when some friends from work had reservations and asked us to join them. I had so thoroughly enjoyed our meal the first time and I couldn't wait to go back.  Luckily tonight's dinner did not disappoint - it was just as great as our first meal there.

Don't you just love that logo? It reminds me of doodles in a notebook for some reason.  

The menu is broken into four parts: bouchees, appetizers, entrees and sides. All the bouchees are $6.50 each and it's really hard to decide what to pick. So you can do what we did (on both visits) and order all of them. 

 (Row 1: Applewood smoked bacon beignets with maple creme fraiche & chive; Panisse Frites (chickpea fritters with meyer lemon aioli; Row 2: Grilled calamari with warm bean salad, preserved lemon, Sicilian olive; Roasted beet salad with ras el hanout, wild flower honey, cilantro and avocado; Row 3: toasted firebrand challah with stracciatella cheese and herb salad)

All of these dishes are excellent but I think the chickpea fritters are my favorite thing on the menu. I've been noticing this pop up on menus throughout San Francisco, but I've only eaten them here. The exterior has a nice crunchy texture and the inside is soft and creamy.  The beet salad is also fantastic - simple but so fresh and flavorful - thanks in part to the ras el hanout (I didn't know what that meant either, but our friends who we were with filled us in).

Kev ordered that fun little drink - it's called a Market Shot and "is whatever we find at the market that gets juiced, spiced, spiked".  I can't remember exactly what was in this, but it included peach, meyer lemon and the house white wine. And it was really, really good. It made us all want to make our own and drink it outside on a warm day. 

There were four of us at this dinner, so you might be wondering why there are only two pictures of entrees and it's because three of us ordered the trout.  I usually don't like to order the same meal as Kev, and I never order trout, but last time we were here he had the trout and once I tasted it I was jealous. Not that my pork wasn't amazing, but the trout was something else.  It's a smoked Steelhead trout served with fingerling potatoes, creme fraiche and grain mustard.  The one non-trout dish we ordered was the herb stuffed Guinea hen, with polenta, chanterelles, white corn and apricot. And it was also excellent. Even our friend who ate it thought so and she was being extra critical, "since it's Frances".

And then there was dessert. Kev got the bittersweet chocolate pot du creme with roasted bing cherries, which he ordered for himself, since he's greedy with his desserts. The rest of us shared the cornmeal pound cake with ricotta semifreddo, olive oil and berries. We forgot it was semifreddo and spent the whole time eating it saying "what kind of ice cream is this? It's sooo creamy".  The flavors of the cake, berries and cream all worked really well together and we worked hard to make each bite the perfect bite with bits of all three. The pot du creme was also excellent and not to sweet. The cookies it is served with were a little too salty and dry for our taste. 

All in all it was an excellent meal and I'm glad that we booked a third meal there back in May - we'll be returning for another dinner here in August. 

3870 17th Street
San Francisco, CA 94114-2030
(415) 621-3870

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner: This and That

This was an untraditional Sunday night dinner. We invited a couple of friends over for what I have been calling "snacks".  It wasn't really intended to be dinner, since it was more just some stuff thrown together. I love these kinds of meals. 

I had made a couple of things earlier that day that we snacked on:

That is a cauliflower and carmelized onion tart, from Smitten Kitchen. I had made this once before, a long time ago and had forgotten about this recipe. I'm hoping that by posting it here I won't forget it again. It's pretty time consuming but the results are fantastic. 

I also made this penne frittata with basil and ricotta which I found off of Sunday Suppers. I love how the cross section of this looks. Kev insisted that it "tasted like Christmas".  I still can't figure out why that would be.  I think we all liked the cauliflower tart better - I'm not sure that I would make the frittata again. It was good - just not anything special.

Throw in some cherry tomatoes, avocado and the famous Tartine bread that we love and you've got yourself a meal. 

And if you're still hungry you can always make some (very rustic looking) ice cream sandwiches.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Paulette Macarons, Hayes Valley

Hayes Valley is kind of the mecca for those with a sweet tooth. We've already covered Christopher Elbow and Miette.  And if you aren't satisfied with the options at these two places, there's always Paulette Macarons.

If you go to Paulette, you should know that they have a picture taking policy. The policy is this: you have to ask. You can take a picture but if you don't ask first they will say to you, "excuse me but you have to ask". And then you will say, "I'm so sorry, can I not take photos in here?" and they will say, "yes, you can. But you have to ask". 

I prefer the non-fruit flavored macarons. These here are some combination of espresso, vanilla, chocolate and coconut.  And while they were all excellent, the macarons at Bouchon Bakery remain my favorites.
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