Monday, August 30, 2010

Pretty Candy

It's been a busy week and not much time to make food or go out for food. There was time for Miette though.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cafe Des Amis, Marina

Tonight we went over to the Marina to celebrate Britt's birthday with insanely good hamburgers at Cafe Des Amis.  The restaurant is a sort of French Brasserie in the American style - according to our waiter.  Like Spruce and The Village Pub, Cafe Des Amis has a masculine, old-money sort of feel, both in terms of the decor - red velvet walls, zinc bar, lots of highly polished surfaces - and the patrons. We were definitely on the younger side of the crowd in the dining room, but the atmosphere still felt lively and relaxed.

Our reservations were for 5:30 and the place was pretty empty when we arrived.  We got lucky and were seated on the mezzanine level, which was much more spacious, had an awesome chandelier and fireplace and best of all had french doors that let in tons of light and air.

We ordered a few appetizers to get started. My favorite of the three was the nettle and spinach flan, which included organic egg yolk, parmesan, truffle and potato vinaigrette. The texture was really smooth and creamy and the nettles gave it an earthy kind of taste. Plus I love truffles.

We also shared the stuffed zucchini flowers with salmon mousse and a tomato salad with feta. I really enjoyed the zucchini but was underwhelmed by the tomatoes. They weren't very flavorful and didn't have that just-picked-off-the-vine taste that I was expecting. 

Burger time! Between the 5 of us we ordered 4 burgers. You can add on carmelized onions, gruyere, bacon, or even an egg or roquefort. Or all of these if you're feeling insanely decadent.  The burgers are served on brioche buns which is very "fa la la", according to our waiter - I'm not quite sure what he meant by that but I appreciated his enthusiasm. Who doesn't love brioche? 

A couple weeks before this meal I had tried the Spruce burger for the first time and had declared that  to be my favorite burger, but this version is at the very least tied - which isn't all the surprising given that Cafe Des Amis is owned by the same people as Spruce.  It was incredibly juicy and the cheese and onions weren't overpowering - it just added some nice flavor. The bun was warm and soft - which is how I like it - and the fries were very... fried. There wasn't much in the way of potato inside the exterior but because they were cut a bit thicker it didn't bother me as much as it did at Absinthe.

For dessert we ordered the nectarine and blackberry tart and the profiteroles with warm toffee fudge sauce. I loved the tart - it was, well, tart, the pastry was light and the creme fraiche ice cream was a nice contrast with the tartness of the fruit.  I didn't love the profiteroles as much, but I never really love profiteroles so that isn't so surprising. I did enjoy the warm toffee fudge sauce though.

It was an enjoyable dinner overall, and I'm excited to go back again, particularly to order seafood from the raw bar.  Waiters kept appearing at other tables with huge tiered platters of "fruits de mer" - oysters, clams, shrimp, lobster.  They also have late night dining, serving a modified menu from 11pm - 1am and are about to start brunch service.  Something for everyone!

Cafe Des Amis
2000 Union Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 563-7700

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner: Chicken and Pasta

I'm a week behind, since this is last Sunday night's dinner.  I love both of these recipes because they take almost no time, look good on the plate and taste amazing.  The chicken recipe is from here, no surprise it's Jamie Oliver.  The pasta recipe is from an old issue of Domino Magazine. I can't find any links to it online since Domino is no longer around (boo) so instead I'll post it below.  We also made a modified version of our favorite summer salad.  Can you tell I love tomatoes?

(click below for recipe)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Boulette's Larder, Ferry Building

I've been wanting to try Boulette's Larder for approximately one million years but they don't do breakfast on the weekends. I finally made it there during the week and had breakfast for one.

I'm convinced the Blue Bottle coffee they served tasted better than getting it at the Blue Bottle store, which is just down the hall from Boulette's. I had a hard time deciding what to eat,  and was torn between poached eggs and the scramble with nettles, burrata and olive oil.   I picked the scramble, mostly because I will order anything that is served with burrata.  It was good, and I liked the combination of flavors and textures, but for the price I wanted them to be the best eggs of my life, and they weren't (those would be from either Mama's or La Note, in case you're wondering).  But if I happen to be at the Ferry Building between 8 and 10:30 Monday to Friday, I'd definitely go back.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Student Meal

Can't beat beans on toast.  Toast some bread, don't forget to butter the toast, add the beans, salt, pepper and grated cheddar cheese and you're set. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Birthday Brunch!

Had a fun post-birthday picnic-brunch with the girls this morning.

Thanks you guys!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cyrus, Healdsburg

I don't know where to begin writing this post. I'm really apprehensive about it, because I know that 1) words can not do this meal justice and 2) There is no possible way for me to remember all of the amazing components that were part of this meal. And so, I'm starting with a disclaimer: there's a good chance I'm leaving some stuff out, the stuff that was so far beyond my food vocabulary and comprehension that I was not able to retain.
Cyrus is the kind of place you go to for a special occasion, and Kev booked this meal as a birthday present for me.  It was a great idea really, because while I love food, this isn't the kind of thing I'd have ever booked for myself. 

When we got to the restaurant, we were promptly seated and no more than a minute had passed before the champagne and caviar cart rolled on over.  There's probably a whole lot that can be said about both of these items, but we didn't partake in either - I was more excited about the cocktails and caviar just isn't my thing.  The presentation of the cart though did signal that this was going to be a dining experience unlike any other. 

We got our menus and tried to decide between the 5 or 8 course Chef's Tasting Menu. I was partial to the 5 course meal because I was worried the 8 courses would just be too much for me. Kev convinced me to go for the 8 courses ("It's your birthday!").  Our waiter then upped the ante and told us how the chef loves to cook with black truffle, and for a small fee we could also add it to one of the courses.  He recommended the poussin and we agreed. Go big or go home.

We began our journey with the canapes. This was not part of the 8 courses - this was just the first of the precursors to our meal. The idea behind these items is that there is one bite for each of the five tastes: bitter (eggplant with coffee bean); salty (manila clam with powdered chorizo in a gelée); sour (spring roll in a tamarind glaze); sweet (a strawberry bubble-like sphere); umami (shitake mushroom broth). I'm skipping a whole lot of ingredients here - don't forget that disclaimer I mentioned above.  I really enjoyed this whole presentation and it was a great, fun way to start off the meal - and a good indication that this dinner would really be more than just dinner. 

Our next non-course course was the Amuse Bouche.  I'm really embarrassed to say I don't remember what kind of sashimi this was. I know it was flown in from Japan. I know it was incredibly delicate and flavorful and probably one of the best pieces of raw fish I've ever had.  I think it was kampachi. It was served with a small slice of plum and more gelée, and the whole thing was outstanding.  


Oh, would you like some bread? There is something like 8 different varieties of breads that are baked  daily at Cyrus, and are served along with two different types of butters (a salted cow's milk and an unsalted goat's milk) and two different types of salts (a red salt and a maldon sea salt from England - Kev liked this one).  We chose three different breads: bacon cheddar scone, feta and olive pinwheel and a whole wheat roll. The bacon cheddar scone was our favorite. The whole wheat roll was probably the only thing I ate all night that I was underwhelmed by.  I could have made an entire meal out of just the breads and butters - and I would have loved to try them all -  but I was holding back, as we still hadn't even gotten to the first course. 

Ah, the first course. This was the Thai Lobster 2.0.  Our waiter told us it is 2.0 because it's the second incarnation of the dish. While the menu at Cyrus changes frequently, this is one of the dishes that always remains - though now in a slightly different form than the original. I loved this dish. Lobster topped with hearts of palm, with avocado puree, cubed melon and a cilantro/basil/mint marinade.  I wanted a bowl of that marinade to have like soup.  I recently commented to a friend I only like melon when it is room temperature and the perfect level of sweetness, and of course this was that.  All of these flavors together worked perfectly and I was really disappointed when it was gone. It's hard to pick a highlight in a meal like this, but I think this was one of my favorite dishes.

I haven't mentioned my cocktail yet. While Cyrus is also known for it's extensive wine list - and wine pairings - we skipped that part since wine isn't really our thing. I ordered the Peachy Keane - Buffalo Trace bourbon, peach puree, lemon juice, brown sugar-black peppercorn syrup and egg white.  I wouldn't normally order a bourbon cocktail but I'm so glad that I did. It was light and refreshing and probably didn't really go with our meal but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The second course was a choice between foie gras torchon with cherry and pistachio and a buttermilk biscuit or scallop with rice noodles and pickled green papaya with a coconut milk froth. We split the two dishes, and  I started with the scallop which was perfectly seared and succulent and the coconut froth and noodles complimented it perfectly. 

The foie gras.... so this was my first time having foie gras and I really had no idea what to expect. I did not expect to love it as much as I did. It was creamy and smooth and rich and I loved it paired with the cherry compote and biscuit.

Courses three and four: 
3: Turbot with sweet corn and scallions, lemon verbena 
4: Chanterelle ravioli with slow cooked bantam egg and parmesan

The turbot was nice and light, with a crispy outer layer. The corn puree was sweet and was a nice contrast to the fish. 

The ravioli was more like a deconstructed ravioli - which seemed to be a theme for the night. This was a dish that we would have missed had we gone with the 5 course menu and for this dish alone I'm glad we went with the 8. I always enjoy a gooey, runny egg and loved the different textures of the pasta, egg and parmesan crisp.

Course 5 was a choice of either:
Crispy poussin with potato mousseline, haricots verts, fine herbes with shaved black truffles or
Striploin of beef with daikon, ginger-tomato broth

We ordered both dishes. I started with the poussin and while it was good, it wasn't a stand out dish to me - even with the truffles. Had I ordered this in any other restaurant I think I would have felt differently, but at this point I had grown accustomed to the more outrageous dishes and while this was an excellent piece of meat, it didn't blow me away. It also felt like such a huge portion, especially knowing that there were so many more to go. I only ate a few bites of this before passing it over to Kev. 

The meat was a piece of wagyu beef, and they pour the ginger-tomato broth table side. The beef was tender and well seasoned. 

The next course was the cheese course. After you are thoroughly stuffed from all the previous dishes, the cheese cart shows up at your table. The cheese cart looked like art. It was a beautiful display of colors, textures and shapes and I couldn't stop thinking about how much my father-in-law would love this.  Our waiter asked us questions about what kind of cheese we like and don't like (no stinky cheese for me please) and then served us each a piece of goat, sheep and cow's milk cheeses.  Along with the cheese from the cart, we were also presented with a three tiered display of cheese accompaniments -sliced baguette, walnut raisin bread, crackers, pear butter, and a spoonful of date gelée.  The cheese was excellent and our waiter did a great job of choosing suitable cheese for our palate, but I had to leave much of mine on the plate, as there were still two more courses coming. Or so I thought. 

Turns out there were actually three more courses. Good thing I love dessert. As a very special treat, the chef sent out a what I'm calling the birthday course. I won't be able to do justice to the presentation, and it all happened so fast that I wasn't able to get a picture. The waitress who came to our table brought with her a wood platter of sorts. On one side was a bell jar that contained two fresh chocolate chip cookies. On the other side (not in the jar) was a blown up balloon attached to a nozzle. When she let the air out of the balloon, it caused a cocoa confetti explosion in the bell jar, showering the cookies with cocoa powder. I am so bummed that I didn't take a photo. 

If that wasn't enough, a second waiter was also at our table, preparing us egg creams! Growing up my great-grandmother always had the blue glass bottles of seltzer and we frequently had egg creams, but it has been years since I have had one.  This was not the U-Bet's chocolate syrup/milk version from my childhood though. The Cyrus version is way more decadent, with homemade chocolate syrup, cream and their own carbonated water.  I'm totally going to steal this idea for a future party at my house. How awesome are those metal straws? 

Here's dessert part two, and I think my favorite of the four(!) desserts we had, and another item we would have missed had we not had the 8 course meal (here's where I point out that two days later, I am still full). This is passion fruit gelato with miso custard and sesame sable.  There's also some olive oil drizzled on top. It was sweet and tart and creamy and a little salty and just... amazing. One of the best desserts I think I've ever had.  Also I would love to watch the person in the kitchen who lovingly places each leafy green on the sesame sable, so delicately. I actually thought about that a lot through the meal, with all of the dishes - every single thing that is on the dish is put on there so thoughtfully and artfully. I'd love to stand in the corner of the kitchen and just watch them work. 

Here is dessert part three and four. This was the official 8th course of the night and we had a choice of: 
Tiramisu with espresso gelato and toffee crunch or
Red velvelt cake

I started with the tiramisu. At this point I really could have been rolled on out of the restaurant but I had to try both of these. Normally I'm not a big fan of tiramisu, but this was presented as a deconstructed version, different than any other that I've had, and I really enjoyed the three bites I was able to handle. 

The red velvet cake was even more unusual and also deconstructed - two cubes of cake presented with cream cheese frosting, slivers of beets and a little cup with a beet....cream? We loved this too. 

After this it was all sort of a haze. Another cart was rolled over with lollipops, chocolates, salted caramels, shortbreads and more for the taking. We tried a bite of the shortbread and took a lollipop to go -  I couldn't possibly have had another bite of food.  More treats - brownies - were brought over to take home.

It's been 2 days since this meal and yet I can't stop thinking about it - it was more than just the food.  Earlier today I called Cyrus to ask a question about one of the dishes we had tried. The woman who picked up the phone asked me to hold on, and a moment later the Chef was on the line! I repeated my question to him, and not only did he walk me through the ingredients, he asked, "would you like me to email you a copy of the recipe?"  This accessibility was prevalent throughout our whole meal. I didn't spend any time here talking about the service, and how knowledgeable the entire wait staff was, how efficient and unpretentious and how much they seemed to enjoy what they do. Or how fun it was to watch the choreography of all the servers together, setting the food down simultaneously, picking up the finished plates within moments of your fork and knife setting down. 

This dinner was more than a meal, it was an event and not only the best meal I've ever had, but also the best restaurant experience.  Thanks for taking me, Kev!

Cyrus Restaurant
421 Healdsburg Avenue
Healdsburg, CA 95448-3814
(707) 433-3311
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