Sunday, January 31, 2010

SF Hot Chocolate: Cocoa Bella, Marina

We headed over to the Marina today to return some stuff over there. It was actually a really nice (no rain!) day, so we decided to wander around and we just happened to be walking past Cocoa Bella... so we figured we should try the hot chocolate.

I haven't been in Cocoa Bella before, and the display cases were impressive - really incredibly beautiful pieces of chocolate, more than I've seen in other chocolate shops.  For their hot chocolate, they let you pick what type milk and chocolate you want - dark, extra dark, milk or white. 

I picked the classic hot chocolate, with milk chocolate and skim milk (which I know, not really fair to compare a skim milk hot chocolate with the Christopher Elbow, full fat hot chocolate, but whatever). Kev got the raspberry hot chocolate with whole milk. They also had a bunch more flavors, like peanut butter and hazelnut and hot & spicy.

The drinks were slightly above average. The raspberry was interesting, but a little too much raspberry - just bordering on artificial. Mine was very chocolatey but also pretty thin - though not a fair comparison since it wasn't whole milk.

I have mixed feelings on this place. I feel like I should like it - the drinks were decent, the chocolates looked amazing. Something about it just seemed kinda off though.  The more I think about it, I feel like it is a cleverly disguised chocolate shop - where the prices, location and look of the store are trying to convince you it is a high end shop when really -  it's just average chocolate.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dinner at Home: Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Yes, it is officially butter week here at our house.

I never have ingredients for things, unless I specifically go out to buy them, and I am terrible at making dinner during the week. Tonight I came home and there was nothing to eat, and then I remembered that I had an onion. And butter. And a can of tomatoes. And then I remembered this post (I guess it is also smitten kitchen week at our house). Like I said, today was my lucky day.

I don't know that I would call it the best sauce I've ever had, but it really was quite good. The butter  adds an unusual flavor, really smooth and rich and well, buttery. My only complaint is that it didn't really stick to the pasta.

Also! This sauce was the easiest thing to make. Just dump in the tomatoes, cut off a piece of butter, and slice an onion in half. Even I, the laziest of lazies when it comes to weeknight dinners, couldn't really complain. Throw it all on the stove, and 45 minutes later, you've got yourself a meal.   Just make sure to check that you have pasta first, as we were down to our last tiny morsels of it (I told you I never have ingredients!)

SF Coffee: Philz Coffee, Castro

I managed to leave the house this morning with enough time to stop at Philz for a coffee. My plan was to only stop if there was a parking spot. It was my lucky day because there was one right in front.

For a few years I would walk by Philz and never go in because... I am a font snob. But after hearing from so many people how great their coffee is, I gave in and tried it.  They have a whole bunch of different blends, and the girl who helped me was so enthusiastic about finding the one that she thought I'd like best.  The truth is I now like it more than Blue Bottle or Ritual, but man, I hate their design. Do a rebrand guys!
I have been ordering the Tesora lately - it is the house blend and is super tasty and not very acidic. They tell you in the store if it is your first time there, that is the one to order.

There was an older man standing next to me waiting for his coffee. When they handed it over to him, he took a sip and said, "What a gentle way to start the morning".  Maybe not exactly the words I would have used, but I can appreciate the sentiment.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SF Ice Cream: Bi Rite Creamery, Mission

This is not a post about the salted caramel ice cream that everyone is talking about. I really like that flavor, but I don't agree that it should be on the list of the top 5 desserts of the year. Mainly because I way prefer the coffee toffee that is on the menu. I've always loved coffee ice cream, but this takes it to a whole new level. It is made with coffee from Ritual Roasters which is just a few blocks away PLUS toffee that they make in the shop.

When we first moved to this neighborhood, we may have been the #1 customers at the creamery. We went there.. a lot. And when we weren't going there, we were buying tubs of the ice cream at the grocery store down the street. Two years later, we've cut down on our ice cream intake, but every now and then we still pick up a pint to take home.

And maybe this was my dinner tonight. Don't tell K.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Brunch at Home

Technically this blog is supposed to be about trying food around the Bay Area, but today we had a really nice brunch at home AND we remembered to take pictures, so we'll go with that.

The idea behind this brunch were these jam butters. I had seen this post when it first went up, and had been wanting to try them ever since. Then I spotted these fancy butters and had to figure out which to make, because really, how much butter can 6 people eat?  In the end, I picked the raspberry and the lemon rosemary and we were not disappointed. Both recipes say to use 1 stick of butter - next time I think I'm going to halve that though, because even after sending our friends home with butter doggy bags (really) we still have a whole bunch left over.  Luckily we also have some home made scones left over (thanks Britt!) and they are amazing with the butter.
The rest of the brunch centered around Smitten Kitchen recipes. I loved the idea of making everything the night before, and went with that. First up was the spinach and cheese strata. It was pretty easy to make, except for the part where you have to squeeze all the excess liquid out of the thawed spinach. I hate that part, even when I use cheese cloth to do it. Spinach aside, this dish is a winner. You basically just layer fresh cubes of bread with cheese and spinach, then pour an egg mixture over it, and refrigerate over night. Then 30 minutes before your guests show up, stick it in the oven. It's kind of like a savory bread pudding.  This is definitely on the make-again list.

Not on the make-again list: This winter fruit salad. The idea behind it - apples, pears, dried apricots and figs, soaking over night in a vanilla/sugar/lemon/anise syrup - sounded great. The problem for me was the texture of the apples and pears post soaking - they got a little too mealy for me. Also the anise was stronger than I would have liked. 

On the plus side, I really liked how they looked in the ramekins.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Woodhouse Fish Co., Fillmore

Today was a day of lots of eating. Post hot chocolate, we headed over to Fillmore to walk around, and then wanted some lunch. First off: Is it just me, or does it seem like every restaurant is opening additional locations in the Fillmore area? Delfina Pizza, Dosa, Slanted Door, Kasa and Woodhouse Fish Co., to name a few.

Delfina was already packed, so we decided to go to Woodhouse. We have eaten at Woodhouse twice before: first here at the Fillmore location, and then another time at the original Market street location. The first time we ate here, I was pysched because they had Manhattan clam chowder on the menu. Why is this so hard to come by on the west coast? In NY, every diner on Long Island has Manhattan clam chowder on the menu. I grew up eating that and I just can't get into the New England version. The second time, we went to the Market street location because we were nearby, and after waiting 45 minutes for a table, we found out that they don't serve Manhattan style at that location. Big bummer.

Anyway, back to today. We ordered 2 big bowls of the Manhattan clam chowder, crab cakes and sauteed spinach. We got the chowder first, and well... it wasn't so good. What happened? Had I imagined it the first time, because I was just so excited it was on the menu? Or did someone accidentally knock the entire supply of pepper into the bowl, because that is all we tasted. I tried to persevere, but at a certain point, it was really just feeling like work eating this gigantic bowl of pepper. So I gave up, and moved onto the rest of the food.

The rest of the food, like this picture, was just not that good. The spinach was cooked totally unevenly - some leaves were barely wilted, others were way over done and the crab cakes were just too fishy. 

Maybe I got spoiled, because we had only just recently eaten at The Lobster Shack (where I forgot to bring my camera) and their chowder AND lobster rolls are out of control amazing, or maybe it was just an off day at Woodhouse. Either way, I think next time we'll stand in line at Delfina.

SF Hot Chocolate: Christopher Elbow Chocolate, Hayes Valley

Today was raining and gray and the perfect day for hot chocolate. K humored me and agreed to leave the house (when I know that he would have preferred to stay in pajamas all day) so I needed the hot chocolate to be really good. Epic.

So we went off to Hayes Valley, to Christopher Elbow Chocolates, and we were not disappointed. K got the orange citrus and I had the European style.  They had many more to choose from too, including a Venezuela spice one that the guy working there said was their most popular - but I'm kind of a wuss when it comes to spicy, so I passed on that one.

It was nice to be able to taste the two different versions next to each other. The orange citrus was made with milk, and so it was more warm than hot. It was also creamier and lighter, with really subtle orange flavor - subtle enough that I had a hard time tasting it. K insisted it was there and "are you losing your taste buds?" Followed by "This is a triumph". Epic indeed!

The European style one I had was hot, since it was made with water and not milk (there is an Americana version that is made with milk if you prefer that). It was very, very rich, but not super thick, which is a good thing in my book. Sometimes when it is both really rich and really thick it's just too much. This was not too much, this was just right.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Foreign Cinema Brunch, Mission

I met up with Heather this morning for brunch at Foreign Cinema. I haven't had brunch there in a few years and had forgotten how great their brunch menu is. I don't think there was anything listed that I didn't want to try. It was easy to narrow down the options though since Heather is vegetarian and we were going to share.

We decided on: mixed Fruit Salad with ricotta cheese, mint and pistachios and home made pop tarts! This one was cranberry, and there was also kumquat available today.

The pop tarts are great - really flaky, as was evidenced by all the tiny pieces on my black pants. I really enjoyed the salad too - loved the citrus with the mint and cheese. Pistachios aren't my thing, but easy to avoid.

We also split the lager and chanterelle omelet with truffle oil and cheddar. I think because I got so excited by the ingredients on the menu, I neglected to notice that it was an omelet. I never order omelets, because I usually think that the eggy part tastes dry and has a weird texture.  Usually if I see that on a menu and like the ingredients I ask them to scramble it.  Heather thinks I'm weird because she thinks the reverse is true - that scrambled eggs are dry. Annnyway, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the omelet was really creamy, and have I mentioned how I feel about truffles? Oh and the potatoes were amazing - nice crunchy outside, soft creamy inside.

I'll be back here soon!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gift Idea: Salt Pig

Love these salt pigs from Nigella Lawson. I'm surprised that so many celebrity chefs have such cool looking products for sale.

Gift idea: Adopt an olive Tree

A couple of years ago I somehow stumbled onto the website for Nudo and immediately thought that would make a great gift. Specifically, I thought it would make a great gift for friends of ours who were getting married in Italy, and love to cook.

The idea is that you can adopt an olive tree from the grove for a year, and then in the fall and spring, they'll send you the produce from your tree (plus some from the neighboring trees).

We've gotten to try the olive oil and were talking about adopting a tree of our own. Our friends stepped in and adopted one for us for Christmas, so now we are waiting for our own olive oil supply to come in.

Also - the packaging is super cute. You can also just go online and buy tins of the oil (as well as other food stuffs).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jamie Oliver Christmas Crackers

I'm so bummed I didn't see this before Christmas. These crackers are great, so much better than the little paper hats that don't fit on my head! They are on sale now, maybe I should stock up for next year...

How cute is that mini grater and spoon? 


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lovejoy's Tea Room, Noe Valley

It was a Noe Valley weekend. We went to Lovejoy's this afternoon for High Tea with the (extended) family. I love that place, it's like you're in your grandmother's living room, if your grandmother was really into collecting tea pots, tea cozies and doilies.

When we first discovered this place, we were super excited, because when K and I first started dating, he'd always tell me how he wishes he could have me try a British cream tea, but alas, they do not have such things in America! Meanwhile, he was unaware that 2 blocks away was Lovejoys Tea Room.
We got a big selection of teas and tea sandwiches today since there were so many of us. The sandwiches are decent, but really what you want are the scones with the Double Devon Cream. The Brit says "it's not like off the farm, but it's pretty good". The American (me) says "more please!"

SF Hot Chocolate: La Boulange, Noe Valley

While running some errands on 24th St, we stopped in the new La Boulange for a hot chocolate. It was.. ok. Tasted like what I would make at home (heat some water, add some hot chocolate mix). I liked that it wasn't overly sweet, but overall, kinda disappointing. K thought "it didn't taste like anything at all".
Looked nice though.

Up next on the list: Christopher Elbow, Town Hall, TCHO, Cocoa Bella, and the lady at the Ferry Building Farmers Market.
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