Saturday, October 31, 2009

Amelie Le Bar A Vin: San Francisco

Date:  vendredi 30 octobre 2009
Location:  1754 Polk Street,
San Francisco, CA

Red, warm, cozy, run by Frenchies.  Always a delight to practice my broken french...  more or less can order a drink or plate or two with a few grammar errors.  *_*  Yummy french wines, cannot go wrong.  Did not eat here hence cannot comment on food;  had 3 cheese plate.  Wheat bread was soft, warm, sweet.  Great ambience to enjoy with a good buddy (Luke).  Yet, beware of noise levels as is such with most SF establishments.  Darling bar area...  Wishing I were in Paris at this moment...  need to get back with my French cultural predilections... je suis une francophile... immersion, immersion.... 

Bar Johnny @ Polk and Green: San Francisco

Date:  samedi 24 octobre 2009
Location:  2209 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109-1815
(415) 268-0140

The best fried chicken and waffles, better than Roscoe's in LA from the famed Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles (Hollywood movies).  Only served before 6pm or after 11pm.  Bar Johhny CFW is served with belgian waffle!  A great SF secret...  Bar Johnny is one of the few restost that serves until 1am.  The other is Oola in SOMA.  Lately I have begun to think that Oola overdoes their dishes with too much flavor, too much sauce, too much pomp and circumstance...  sometimes less is more!!

Anyhow, this particular Saturday I worked from home all night... starved... and had my head set on getting my 1/2 yearly fix of late night chicken and waffles.  I was happy in the end. 

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Vicoletto Restaurant and Wine Bar: San Francisco

Date:  mercredi 28 octobre 2009
Location:  550 Green St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 989-2289

5pm in North Beach, early for 7pm dinner with the girls.  Hummm, I had planned to cozy up in a cafe and get some work done on my lappy.  Instead, found myself in an Italian resto/wine bar "Vicoletto" - casual, chic, and friendly vibe.  Tasted two contrasting red wines, the 2007 N'ero d'Avola (like a Syrah) which had a delightful alcohol content leaving the back of my throat and tongue nicely warm, and the 2006 Nebbiolo d'Alba, which was a bright ruby red wine which had a smooth velvety texture.  Befriended the GM, Chris, who tried to persuade me to order the homemade ravioli dish stuffed with local wild boar, prepared with a carmelized crispy brown sage butter, topped with 3g of Alba shaved white truffle.  He brought out the beautiful Italian truffles on a serving plate to tantalize me.  Evil!  They smelled heavenly, enough to make one's eyes roll back in their head in ecstasy.  It is true, I can see why people say that truffles can be an aphrodisiac.  I am willing to bet that most people who can appreciate truffles probably also like fresh uni.  They both measure highly on the sexual richter scale... one whiff of these amazing white truffles and I wanted to let my head fall back onto a soft white down pillow.... 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tom Yum Soup, Shao Style ^^: San Francisco

Online recipe (NOT SHAO'S):

Wooweee!  Finally I have been hanging out with my cool neighbor more often.  Usually we just hear each other slamming doors.  Lucky chap got to take care of me drunk this past Friday night.  Then he was a good sport in attending a surprise birthday party with me this evening at Matrix Fillmore in the Marina.  Now, same evening, I am sitting in his living room working remotely on my laptop (while stealing my own wireless internet through the wall lol).  He is cooking a pot full of delicious Tom Yum Thai Soup!  WOowowowow!  I had no idea he was such a fantastic cook!  

So, I am sitting here on his couch, tearing strips of fruit roll ups that he gave me to snack on @_@.  He is busy in his kitchen, chopping, mixing, washing, stirring, checking on ingredients.  I am just working away ... but before I know it, amazing aromas keep wafting my direction!  WHAO.  It smells like some exhilarating South East Asian kitchen here.  I mean seriously, I can close my eyes and just pretend what it must be like in Bali, Bangkok, or maybe even Cambodia and Vietnam.  The refreshing fragrant aromas of lemon, lime, lemongrass, chicken, .....  boiling away - my senses are awakened!!  Maybe if some trickling water was running, and some spa music was playing, I would truly feel I was in another world!! 

Tom Yum soup is a famous and delicious Thai style sweet and sour soup.  It is my favorite Thai soup.  Shao's recipe has the following ingredients (let me shout to him now and ask...).  Water, lemon, lime, onions, chicken broth, tomatoes, shallots, lemon grass, galanga (ginger like thing), fish sauce, oyster mushrooms, fresh thai chili.  SO GOOD!!  Just missing tamarind as per Shao, but I do not think even the restaurants use tamarind (expensive).  His version apparently is the finer version of Tom Yum.  I have never had Tom Yum at King of Thai or any other Thai restaurant that contained as many super ingredients as Shao's.  

I do not have the final outcome photo, as I am leaving to go home before the final product has finished cooking.  Boohooo.

I have never tried cooking Thai food.  It is so tasty - yet requires far too many ingredients!  And, I am lazy.  I included photos of his soup in the process...  I won't be trying it tonight but maybe he will invite me over later this week to have a taste!  ^^  Will update with final photos if so!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Woodhouse Fish Company: San Francisco

Date:  samedi 24 octobre 2009
Location:  1914 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA
Tel:  +1 415 437 CRAB


Great Cioppino!  I was sluggish, slow, and hungover.  Seafood Cioppino was the perfect cure.  Fish, shrimp, crab claws, muscles, clams, scallops.  The sauce may look red based and heavy, but surprisingly it is light tasting and just a tad sweet.  It was a water based stew.  I loved the shrimp and fish in the dish - though they gave us only one large shrimp.  The fish chunks and muscles were tender and juicy.  The had been slow cooking in the Cioppino seafood stew soup for some time.  All the flavors were gently and deliciously packed inside the mini seafood portions.  I think there were clams also but I did not get to try one (hmmm eating partner forgot to share with me haha).  It is a perfect sized dish for two people to share. I imagine it would have paired wonderfully with a Chardonnay, but I just was not in the mood.  Water please!

The sauteed spinach was also a delight and refreshing.  I know we can all sautee garlic with spinach, but their's was so fragrant!  I think because they are using delicate, organic spinach leaves, vs the big testosterone injected ones from the Chinese supermarket that have ginormous, thick, rough leaves.  Anyway, I just loved how clean and green and delicate the spinach turned out.   

We ordered the fish and chips (my bad, my call, because I was hung over, needed some fried bready things).  I have had better fish and chips.  I did not like how their fish was so flaky and falling to pieces in my plate...  the batter was also too floury, so whenever i tried to break a piece off, the chunk just disentegrated to bits.  Frustrating to eat when you are hung over, tired, and have lost some of your senses.  Anyhow, I took a bite or two then just pushed it around on my plate (what I usually do when I come across a dish I do not like - makes it look like I am eating it).  

The ambience is cute, quaint, clean, and bright.  I can see it being a super place to find refuge on a cold, foggy, wet, San Franciscan afternoon, and warm your tummies with steaming Cioppino.  They should add espresso to their list if they do not already have it.  I will definitely try to get back on one of the Tuesday nights for the one dollar oysters!

Friday, October 23, 2009

VIN12 "NO PINOT" Pinot Parade Urban Wine Retreat: San Francisco

Date:  jeudi 22 octobre 2009

Location:  55 2nd Street, San Francisco

The theme of this month's wine retreat was "Pinot Parade."  What this supposedly meant, as per their website marketing blurb is "Enjoy over 50 different wines including a variety of Pinot Noirs from Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Napa and select VIN12 producers from throughout California."  

I won't write too much about this event... not much to say.  We were amused that there may not have been more than 2 or 3 Pinots in sight.  We tasted a bunch of other whites, roses, and reds... all Californian save for 2 Italian wines (prosecco and dolcetta).  My visit to Abruzzo, Italy earlier this month spoiled my taste buds - so the 2 very average Italian wines at this event were not too great.  

However, the best thing of the evening was reconnecting with my friend Zach.  The last time I saw him was for my Birthday.  The good sport showed up to my bday drinks at Disrict back in February... too bad I got so drunk I don't remember much from that evening.  But, it was a blast from what I remember, and woke up with many mystery bruises.  I have known Zach for going on ten years now... one of those intelligent, creative, considerate folks.  Well educated (a Georgetown baby) and well traveled.  And apparently has an amazing palate for wine.  

I did really like this 2006 Charles Krug Merlot, though.  Enough that it bears mentioning!  It is their Mondavi Family Napa Valley Merlot - balanced, rich and polished with ripe currant and black cherry flavors.  This fine wine offers a supple tannin structure and a medley of vanilla, chocolate and spice notes in its lingering finish.  $20 retail!  I liked it because it was BOLD and had a HUGE personality, and left a memorable spicy long finish on my palate - I would have guessed it to be a Cabernet... which indeed this wine upset quite a few merlot/cab afficionados because of its betraying character.  I loved it.  

Here is a great photo of Zach sitting meditatively, wondering where the hell the Pinot Noir was.

See you again soon Zach! 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cha Cha Cha Tapas & Restaurant Bar: San Francisco

Date:  vendredi 16 octobre 2009
Location:  1801 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA  94117
Tel:  1 415 386 7670

Ohhh what a wonderful evening.  It had been quite a few months since I had last seen my very good friend, the lone Ducati rider, Carlos.  Aka the cool cat.  A fellow aquarian, I am convinced that this is why Carlos understands me well.  Dreams, love of foreign things, cultures, foods, and languages.  Wearing torn things, sweaters and jeans.  Most of all, the ever off-calm-uncertain anxiety that resounds in all aquarians... we love all of that (minus anxiety).  We met back in early 2000s when we both worked on the engineering team for a wireless start up.  Yes, you saw that right,  I was a software engineer.  At least that is what it read on my card.  Snort.  Yup and pigs do fly!  Ok no really, we did write code in XSL and XSLT, worked with 3 weblogic servers on each of our machines... and learned how to sms really super duper fast.  This was back in 2000. 

Logistics and activities keep Carlos and I from seeing each other too often.  Carlos is a Mexico City boy, now living in Palo Alto.  He loves his socco (as all Mexicans do and they are so good at it!), his Duc, his super cool looking all black riding gear, and lounging around with his Mexican bro Chelo and Chelo's Russian girlfriend Anja.  They incidentally both live right down the street from me in Russia.

It was time to reunite.  We loosely planned to meet at 8pm.  Destination?  He pinged me Friday am - "Cha Cha Cha, Haight Street."  Normally I avoid Cha Cha Cha.  It is crowded, fussy, muggy, takes FOREVER to be seated, noisy, and the food is heavy.  I did not enjoy it so much the last time I dined at this very same Cha3 in mid-2005.  However, Soledad is all about saying YES to things she would normally say no to.  So, I said OK CARLOS!  Then, I set my mood to enjoy at least a good long hour wait with sangria in hand, waiting for our table.  I actually looked forward to it, as the extra time would allow us to catch up. 

Sure enough, we waited 1h25mins.  We had sangrias.  We chatted.  We got hungry.  We waited some more...  at a certain moment we passed the point of no return.  We were starving, yet too weary and hungry to feel upset about having waited so long.  Then it became test - to resume waiting until we were seated and not be quitters.  Carlos started hallucinating, almost jinxing us by saying that it would really be horrible, if after we waited over an hour, to be seated and then have the server tell us that they were out of plantains.  I told him to DO NOT SAY THAT!  Do not jinx us!!!  That would be a tragedy! But really - come on, plantains are plentiful, they are cheap, they are a staple of the Mexican cuisine.  I was not worried.  Carlos was still a little worried, though.  ^^

Well, we got our seats at the bar finally.  We were gleefully happy.  Like 2 forlorn souls, coming in from the cold, waiting for our hot meals.

We were not disapointed.  I am still dreaming about our creamy plantains.  PLANTAINS, he taught me to say in Spanish.  Carlos is fun, bc we trade languages all the time.  Flittering in and out of Espanol, Francaise, Anglias... un peu Chinois...  we both wish we knew more foreign languages.  Neither of us really think about having kids but swear that if we did, they would speak at least 5 or more foreign languages!  Ahhh, back to the plantains.  Warm, creamy, with black beans, a little bit of sour cream.  Sweet.  Filling.  Oh my friendly banana plantains, how I love you so.  I really do. 

It is hard for me to move on from writing about the anticipation leading up to the plantains, but I will carry on.  We also ordered ceviche, which was also SO YUMMY!  I loved the chewy texture of some of the seafoodies...  for some reason that night I particularly enjoyed the chewy tentacles of the mini baby octopus.  I typically say NO to octopus, but what the hey, I am saying YES to all things now and I am happier than before when I lived a rigid life.  So, YES to octopus, and yummy fun!

We also shared the red snapper dish cooked in banana leaf that came with a side of plantains (MORE plantains YAH!), black beans (w00t!), and mexican red rice.  Oh my goodness.  I just do not know how to tell you that our entire meal was utmost fantastic.

Of course, we did not forget to order more sangria.  In our older age these days, we certainly do not drink the way we used to.  So, we ordered just a small pitcher of sangria.  Good to the every last droP.  oh ohohohoh!!  We had FLAN!!!!

We felt so good that night.  Warm food, even warmer friendship, catching up on over 10 years it seems of coming and going in and out of each other's lives.

It was one of those nights, I went home thinking to myself my life has been so simple and bare this past year.  Yet at the same time, it has been perhaps the most beautiful, colorful,  rich, and poignant year I have ever lived.  So long as u have just a few really good friends - your pockets will always be full.  And your bellies too.  =*)

Oh the story does not end here.  Carlos and I went home and passed out before 12am.  The next day - we continued on to TOAST (yes the brunch place I am "always going on and on about" as per my friendling foodie friends quip).  Again, we sat.  We ate.  We pondered life, the passage of time.  Listened to a well-to-do Spanish couple sitting next to use discuss how they were going to increase their current family of 4 to a family of 10 (8 kids!).   Ahh, the joys of a beautiful life.  I love you, my dear friend!  Thank you for being my sound of reason so many times when I needed you.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pork Tenderloin & Figs, with 2004 Ch. Montelena Estate at Russian House: San Francisco

Ahhh sometimes it is just necessary to pair the food with the wine - vs the wine with the food (against everything the Master Court has taught me).  I had a gorgeous 2004 Chateau Montelena Estate Napa Cabernet Sauvignon sleeping in my wine cellar.  It was purchased at Costco, at about 30$ less than retail from K&L Wines.  The Montelena earthy-berry aroma is very concentrated, showing lovely, classic Cabernet, warm earth and sun baked cassis with licorice and spice. On the palate there is integration of strong, deep, concentrated fruit in a perfect balance. Super fine tannin grips the palate, with ripe, round flavors that dance right on the seam between classic Bordeaux and California styles.  Being a young 2004 vintage, the Estate Montelena really can stand to be aged beautifully for another 20 years.  I decided to take my changes against my own greedy will.  

Rack of lamb was in order, however it was nowhere to be found at moment's notice.  Still, I was not going to change the wine (had my heart set on opening it).  So... next up was a delicious pork tenderloin.  It was marinated in a citrus/spicy sauce made with orange and lemon citrus, salt and pepper, and some kind of pepper.  Perhaps a pairing with a Pinot Noir or Gewurztraminer would have done well here too but what the hey, sometimes working outside the box with food/wine pairings just has to be done!  Served alongside the pork tenderloin was baked organic black mission figs.  And of course, signature heirloom tomatoes in the basic beautiful extra virgin olive oil.  

Oh!  I had also called in an order of Tartine fresh baked country bread loaf the day prior.  Anyone who is a local in SF knows that a tall meal is in order when Tartine fresh bread is brought to the table.  It is a special treat and warms the tummy while fulfilling the chewy, mastication cravings of the mouth.  

The pork came out beautifully from the oven.  It was a perfect, juicy, tender, light pink in the middle.  JUICY.  I was lucky to be sous chef once again - cooking meats makes me nervous and becomes a big production for me (from my nascent cooking perspective).  The pairing of the pork with the figs was TRES EXCELENT.  Honestly, I was DELIGHTED to be surprised with the fig pairing, as we are dangerously nearing the end of fig season!  CRISIS! Every last bite I can get of these scrumptious ovally/round little gems of fruit from now until their season's end, I shall savor romantically!

Now for the wine.  Ahhh.  Well, the age old adage always rings true.  Good things comes to those who wait.  Alas, I should have waited another 5 years at least before opening this young bottle.  It was just SHOUTING "potential."  Granted, it still tasted beautifully - yet, I could tell that the full nose and tasting notes had not even begun developing.  Still far too young to be opened in 2009... sitting on loads of screaming potential. 

Regardless, dinner was grand.  And - I was sure to pass out no less than 30 minutes after eating.  Maybe even snoozed off into a light snoring slumber.  But, I guess I would not know! 

Bon appetit a moi meme !

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Soupe De Tomate Aux Vermicelles: Monoprix Supermarche, Paris!

I love this tomato soup by MAGGI.  It can be found in Paris supermarkets, especially Monoprix.  The last time I came back from Paris January 2008, I must have brought back over 40 of these packets with me.  I am down to less than 20.  Danger zone!  Another trip back to Paris is in order.  These tomato vermicelli soup packets also were my staple diet when I lived in London for 6months.  I detested the British diet and the scant availability of organic, gourmet vegetables and meats to choose from.  So, I just did not eat.  I spent most the time pissed off in the UK because of their rubbish food. 

While in the Beirut Monoprix Supermarket, we scoured two different Beirut Monoprix' fiendishly.  To no avail.  We were so frustrated and disappointed!  

El Farolito Mexican Food: San Francisco

Date:  mardi 6 octobre 2009
Location:  2779 Mission St
(between 23rd St & 24th St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 824-7877

Hole in the wall, juicy junket of a mexican taco joint.  Authentic tacos.  Your choice of flour or corn tortillas (I choose corn!).  They grill their meats on an open grill where you can see the mouth watering fatty juices drizzling off the side of the grill...  I first came here a few year ago on Halloween 2007?  My old buddy Min came to visit SF (his old stomping grounds) from HK/Shanghai for a quick R&D tour of his favorite restos.  Min is a restaurateur in Asia with 3 going on more establishments.  I remember that day well - we busted through the Mission one school day afternoon and ripped through 2 mexican joints short of 30 minutes.  We were on a tasting frenzy.  I still have that photo of Min SO HAPPY to be reunited with these little juicy tacos that he sees in his dreams!

El Farolito has amazing meat - the usual seasoned beef, pork, beef head, beef brain... shrimp, etc.  It is seasoned well and the flavors do not ever leave your memory.  I actually want to go down to the Mission district right now and grab a cheap pork taco for lunch (pictured top Left).  They are indeed evilly delicious. 

I am also a big fan of their pork or beef quesadillas (left photo)!  Anyhow, I deliberately came here this night with my Mexican friend visiting from Cabo San Lucas, originally from Mexico City.  I wanted him to tell me if the food at El Farolito was authentic or not?  He nodded feverishly that YES, the tacos were indeed authentic.  Burritos, not so much.  Quesadillas, he said were good but nothing special and he could make it better at home - spoken like a true food master and wine sommelier, dear Christian!

COCO500: San Francisco

Date:  jeudi 08 octobre 2009
Location:  500 Brannan St
San Francisco, CA 94107-1611
(415) 543-2222

cool vibe.  yummy drinks.  nice lesbian bartenders.  known to have yummy food.  went there for drinks/cocktails.  i had a tequila something with egg white.  i like drinks with egg white bc it lends the drink a creamy texture.  much like the pisco sour. it was served in a peculiar glass, with a whole dried organic cherry at the bottom. 

Salt Baked Fish at Russian House: San Francisco

Date:  jeudi 8 octobre 2009
Location:  à la maison russe, San Francisco

After celebration drinks at COCO500 (where we sipped on delicious, sexy, quintessential San Francisco fresh organic cocktails), we decided to cook at home rather than eat out.  That's the thing about living in SF...  we become so accustomed to the constant plethora of quality restos and organic food sources that a lot of the time we prefer to eat in.  We enjoy being executive chefs in our own kitchen.  Moi, if I am lucky, I will find myself in a friend's beautiful kitchen as sous chef!  Most of my friends in SF are self-proclaimed foodies like myself.  We love being with our friends and conversing over our own food and wine in a relaxed atmosphere.  Engaging in thoughtful, intelligent, and cozy conversation.

Tonight was no exception.  We had the idea to make a "salt baked fish," having seen it on a cooking show few nights prior.  The idea is to bake the fish completely covered in salt... similar to baking a fish in the ground when camping.  The salt naturally seasons the fish as it is baking;  it is common to stuff the fish with lemon slices, rosemary or thyme, depending on the fish and the flavor one desires.  I learned tonight that this style of salt baking fish is quite common in the Mediterranean.  I guess I had either not paid attention to how my fishes meals were cooked while visiting Barcelona and Beirut.  Or, I just never had it prepared this way before.  In any case, I was a little eager beaver completely watching and taking notes as the executive chef effortlessly worked away.

The fish was stuffed with perfectly sliced meyer lemons, smothered in rock salt, then baked for under 20 minutes.  Then the fun part came, which was cracking the baked salt apart and scooping it off the fish.  The fish skin was gently removed, and the fish pieces placed beautifully on our serving plates. Left over tomato olive oil juice was drizzled on the tender fish pieces.  The fish tasted marvelous!!  Oh!  Do not forget to eat the fish cheeks!  This is a fine delicacy in Chinese culture, usually the fish cheeks are reserved for the oldest person at the table.  I taught my fine Russian friend that night the fine art and delicacy of eating fish cheeks.  Imagine, all the world's fish cheeks gone uneaten and unappreciated!  Tragedy!!! 

Alongside the salt baked fish, we had gorgeous giant red heirloom tomato, prepared simply with true authentic Italian extra virgin olive oil, and a dash of pepper and salt.  We enjoyed the meal so much that when we were done, we stood over the fish remains in the salt baking pan, and picked out left over fish pieces with our fingers and finished eating every possible last morsel that remained on the fish. 

Finally for dessert, we had french toast squares prepared with Italian nutella.  WOW!  What a beautiful celebratory meal.  And I love eating fish!  It was my favorite meat since I was 5 years old... my Mom said that as a kid, I was so adept at eating fish and going meandering around the fish bones.  Somehow, eating fish always reminds me happily of my childhood and my Mom's Chinese style steamed fishies.  ^^ 

I am lucky to be reintroduced to my favorite meat.  Yay.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Herb Beignets Recipe, Robert Sinskey Vineyards Recipe; Napa, CA

Robert Sinskey Vineyards (great for their Pinot Noirs)
6320 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA  94558
Tel:  +1 800 869 2030

I love Robert Sinskey Vineyard.  If you get a chance to take a tour, they will take you down to their underground windy tunnels wine making/storage facilities.  Reminds me of walking through the Paris catacombs (minus the skulls).  This is a smaller, more quaint winery - which gets very packed on weekends.  Sinskey makes excellent Pinot Noirs.  They also serve food pairings (complimentary) with their wine tastings, which is a real added treat (no pun intended LOL!).  

This is their HERB BEIGNETS recipe.  Bon appetit!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

King of Thai: San Francisco

Date:  lundi 5 octobre 2009
Location:  639 Clement St
(between 7th Ave & 8th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 831-9953

King of Thai is one of the yummiest, cheapest, fresh fast-food thai joints in town.  The location listed here is the ORIGINAL King of Thai.  There are about 3 other locations throughout SF, yet this one is the smaller and more authentic location.  They are a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall with an open kitchen and fast, friendly service.  Mouth watering recipes are served alongside traditional vinegar-pepper sauces, pepper flakes, etc.  They also close late (~2am).  

I love their green curry and pumpkin squash curry.  You have a choice of adding chicken, pork, or tofu.  House fried rice is also delicious with duck, though personally I have cut back on rice and breads.  It is a fun place to go to on a casual night when you want to catch up with a close friend over a home cooked meal. 

I came here this evening to request a quick order of their green curry, and a diet coke.  ^^  I was tired and exhausted after a full 10 hours of wine education and driving around like a mad woman looking for paper post 6pm in the Outer Richmond.  It was getting cold outside... and I was alone and hungry...  straight drive by to KING OF THAI!

My friends from Southern California (Lee Pee Pee you know who you are) crave this place.  They  make it a point to venture to the Inner Richmond to get their fill when visiting SF.  I am so lucky because it is in my hood!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Paulette Macarons: San Francisco

Date:  samedi 3 octobre 2009
Location:  437 Hayes Street x Gough Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Tel:  +1 415 864 2400

La Duree a Champs Elysee macarons need no introduction.  Famous French pastry Chef, Christophe Michalak, has perfected the secret to these delicious little wonders.  Paris being my hometown, there are things that I miss that I just cannot get here in the states.  For instance, powdered instant tomato vermicelli soup, french unpasteurized cheese fondue, and of course - the happiness inducing famous Parisian macaron.  Soooo, I was ever delighted when Christophe brought his secret treasures to San Francisco to share with us. 

These beautiful little gems taste like the colors of the rainbow.  My friend once said of the purple cassis macaron, "If I were to describe the color violet to a blind person, this is what I would tell him it tasted like..."

Paulette's macarons cheer me up on any given day.  I will squeel in delight when I see these colorful, coquettish, round little perfections of saccharin love.  I do not know how else to explain it other than that these macarons really make me HAPPY.  

Emporio Rulli Gran Cafe: San Francisco

Date:  vendredi 2 octobre 2009
Location:  2300 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA 94123-2610
Tel:  +1 415 923 6464 

Last Monday, lundi 28 Septembre 2009, I was in Abruzzo, Italy.  I tasted wines through over 13 regions and feasted on "slow food" by two of Abruzzo's most cherished culinary stars.  It just so happened that 4 days later, their cooking tour landed them in San Francisco at the Emporio Rulli Gran Caffe.  Ercole and Stefano Fasciocco are two brothers from the Guardia Vomano (the Teramo region of Abruzzo).  They are the latest of several generations of the Fasciocco family to run the Antica Macelleria Fasciocco, a butcher shop.  But these two brothers do more than what Americans would expect of a butcher.  They buy animals only from small scale local farmers.  They are artisan "salumieri," making many types of sausages and cured meats.  They are also reknowned as the best meat cooks in the Guardia Vomano region.  They came to SF to prepare their famous PORCHETTA DINNER for us, a specialty of the Abruzzo region. 

They had beautiful olive skin like that of most Italians, and piercing dark eyes and the darkest of dark hair.  Perhaps some of the mystery about them may have lay in the language barrier, who knows.  Whatever it is, they were strong men. 

I arrived at the restaurant late, as usual.  My friends were already outside on the Emporio Rulli patio sitting comfortably under the heated lamps.  Liberata, the gracious sommelier whom I met also in Abruzzo early on Monday, greeted me with the typical CIAO CIAO KISS KISS on each cheek.  There is just something so warm about being in the company of Italian and Spanish people.  I really enjoy these cultures and its peoples.   

My first glass of wine (pictured here to the RIGHT) was the La Maschera Prosecco (which you may have read about in my review from Abruzzo).  Wonderful way to begin a Friday evening.  I have to reiterate that this prosecco retails for about $10US per bottle.  It is a steal and so easy to drink! 

Appetizers consisted of seafood and salatini starters.  They were perfectly and delicately prepared in bite sized portions.  I loved it with the prosecco.  The evening was warm, and I was in the company of fabulous friends, two whom were visiting from Chicago.  

We all moved to the dining room for dinner.  We were served two famous dishes representational of the Abruzzo region:  TIMBALLO ALLA TERAMANA (Teramo style oven baked pasta, tomato sauce, eggs, veal, and mozzarella).  The last time I tasted anything similar was in Rome at Osteria Del Gallo  I learned this evening that it is not customary to add fresh cracked pepper to dishes served in the Abruzzo region fashion.  I could appreciate this, despite being a true fresh cracked pepper fanatic.  The main dish of the evening was the PORCHETTA DI CAMPLI (overn roasted porchetta), served simply with rosemary cubed potatoes and simple green beans.  I loved it.  I imagined myself transported back to Abruzzo, Italy.  Dining in the company of warm friends also made the evening just perfect.  

Finally, dessert was served.  PAROZZO D'ANNUNZIO CON TARALLUCCI (chocolate glazed almond cake with grape must [mosto cotto] cookies).  OH MY GOODNESS this dessert not only looked heavenly (pictured here to the RGHT) - they tasted every scrumptious morsel just as lovely.  I was already stuffed, but the delicious grape must inside the moon shaped cookies literally made my eyes roll back in my head.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Best Sidecar in Town, Spruce Restaurant: San Francisco

Date:  jeudi 1 octobre 2009
Location:  3640 Sacramento St
San Francisco, CA 94118 
Tel:  +1  415  931 5100  

My favorite restaurant + resto bar in SF!  Why?  Extremeley sophisticated and elegant in its decor along with impeccable service minus the pretentious attitude.   Boasts Food & Wine Magazine's 2009 recommendation as "the best wine bar" in the city of SF out of a global poll of world wine bars. I was very pleased to read this, which gave me some sort of smug vote of confidence that my predilection for fine things is on par with the experts.   

I recommend sitting at the bar if you are just a table of 2.  There are proper seating tables in the bar area, and you will have a gorgeous view of the bar and its masters of spirits making the most exceptional cocktails in the city.  There is a proper menu, as well as a casual bar menu.  Both may be eaten at the bar.  Be sure to take a look at their on site charcuterie shop immediately to your left just before you enter the grand establishment.  The space used to be an art gallery, much of the feel which has been preserved - yet decorated beautifully so that its patrons feel lush and cozy.   

The music choice and decibel level is always some kind of sexy groovy.  The acoustics in the restaurant is also such that it is one of the rare gorgeous restos in the city where one does not have to shout at their friend to be heard (or croon your neck over the table resulting in a sore neck/back!).   

My personal favorite cocktail of all time is the sidecar.  I like it because it is just my kind of drink - contemporary and yet so vintage in its history.  Probably also because not many people know this drink, and I tend to have a penchant for liking and seeking out rare, unique things that others have not heard of.  I like to be different.  You won't find me ordering up some trashy martini.  I do believe that one's drink of choice says a lot about who they are and their lifestyle preferences. 

 A little history on the sidecar.  The sidecar is a classic cocktail which most bartenders know, but seems to be rarely ordered. Part of this is because it is poorly made, and more often than not made with sour mix instead of fresh ingredients.  Yes, a classy and sophisticated upper class restaurant such as Spruce will surely use fresh ingredients of the finest grade.  It is most certainly a classic cocktail classic cocktail traditionally made with cognac, orange liquer (cointreau, grand marnier or another triple sec), and lemon juice.  The exact origin of the sidecar is unclear, yet it is thought to have been invented around the end of WWI in either London or Paris.  The original recipe from Harry's Bar in Paris in 1920 consists of 1.5oz brandy, 0.5oz triple sec, and 0.5oz lemon or lime juice.   
 Spruce's house version is called the KENTUCKY SIDECAR.  It is made with Maker's Mark Bourbon, Cointrea, maple syrup, and lemon.  It is a solid one, classy despite southern whisky.  They know what they are doing here, and not just the drinks, but from top to bottom wines, full course meals, and dessert. 

They also have the best beignets in town served with two chocolate sauces for dipping:  creme anglaise (you can see the spreckels of real vanilla bean) and aruguani chocolate sauce (hints of orange). 

Toast Eatery: San Francisco

Yummy Date:  jeudi 1 octobre 2009 
Location:  1748 Church St
San Francisco, CA 94131

Tel:  +1 415 282 4328 

I love this place.  Dropped in around 8am for breakfast at my favorite non-touristy breakfast joint.  Located in Noe Valley off of the hustle bustle, it is a place one can enjoy their first meal of the day amongst other local San Francisco peeps of diverse origins and interests.  Today I ordered something unusual.  Also known as a "Boring Breakfast."  Usually I will have cofffee, cup of fruit, and some melange of eggs florentine, coco loco pancakes (pancakes made wtih coconut shavings and macademia nuts), or lately I have actually been ordering their classic burger.  I have been a faux vegetarian for the past 3 years, however am trying this "diet by blood type" thingy.  Anyhow - Toast Eatery has consistent, FRESH, and savory dishes.  The foods are served looking clean and bright, and cooked healthily, pure quintessential San Franciscan style. 

It is the ONLY breakfast/brunch place I will EVER go to in San Francisco.  Well, I take that back.  I would go to Toast or the Ritz Carlton (actually have nott been to the Ritz yet but I have heard many accolades before).  For the ambiance and price point, I much rather go to Toast.  I can show up in sweats and flip flops, unwashed hair, no makeup, sunglasses, and the gals at Toast - Areej especially - still greet me with smiles and always know that I start with a fresh cup of coffee and cup of fresh fruit.   I have this self developed theory that one can judge the quality of a brunch place by its fruit plate.  So far I have never been wrong.  Crappy fruit will yield you an even crappier brunch with 2 day old coffee.  No.  We want freshly brewed coffee from freshly ground beans no less than an hour prior.  And because I am such a spoiled foodie, I know where to get freshly ground, hand pressed espresso in San Francisco.  AKA "Beautiful Coffee" vs "Ugly Coffee."  However, a true foodie sometimes never reveals her little secrets.  ^^  Ahhh that little gem shall remain just for me.   Oh, and yes, Toast does indeed have the most gorgeous seasonal fruit.  Come on guys, it is not hard to procure fresh fruit in SF.  Be like Toast!

Earlier this summer, a group of us were meeting up for breakfast before driving/riding down to the Motorcycle Grand Prix in Carmel, CA.  Some twitwit suggeseted Ella's on California Street.  My emailed response:

"Let it be known that I HATE Ella’s.  I refuse to so much as step inside that poor excuse of a breakfast joint.  They better watch out or I’ll get my nasty little fingers on yelp and write up a real nasty scathing review.  Totally inconsistent quality, poor service, unsavory and unhealthy foods.  The only thing consistent about that dried up joint is the lack of quality all around.  This is why I don’t yelp – I could really derail some rip-off places.  If their prices were cheaper, I’d excuse them.  For those prices I’d rather go eat at Toast (which is cheaper and 200% better) or take myself to Ritz Carlton for guaranteed quality and service.  Please don’t ever say the name ELLA in front of me.  It really makes my blood boil.  Meow."  That's right.  In other words, do NOT go to Ella's.  Ever!  

LOL.  Yes, we are freakishly fanatic about our food here in SF.

Zachary's Pizza: Oakland, CA

Date:  mercredi 30 septembre 2009 
Location:  5801 College Avenue
Oakland, CA  94618
Tel:  +1 510 655 6385

About a month ago, my friend Patrick posted a photo of a Zachary's pizza on Facebook.  His family was visiting so he was playing tourguide.  That photo started quite a flurry amongst our mutual friends, also fellow food and wine brats.  And so it began, a month in advance notice Evite to recreate the pizza fest for a group of 10 San Franciscan friends, who would all venture across the Bay Bridge on a week night (*gasp!* leaving the 7x& city for food!?).  Yup.  Zachary's deep dish pizza is always worth it.

It was a night of bringing together old and new friends.  Me being the host, could not help arriving 20 minutes late.  Two of my guy friends who arrived early/on time were quite pleased.   They found themselves at the "early/on time" arrivals table with my very cute Taiwanese girlfriends who also arrived earlier.  One of them sports Asian dreadlocks.  How punk rock is that?!

I finally arrived, running down the street in patent leather eel skin Dolce Gabbana's.  I hate being late, but often am.  Pizza_S_ had already been ordered (thank God).  My friends know how to delegate in order to take charge for the group when dining.  All seasoned foodies.  No pun intended.  

We must have ordered 5 stuffed pizzas!  MMMMMMmmmmmmMmmmmm!
1.  Zachary's Special (Sausage, green pepper, onion, and mushroom. A classic combination!!!)
2.  Chicken (Baked chicken breast, mushrooms, and a fresh basil, garlic, tomato sauce with mozzarella cheese)
3.   Chorizo Style (Mexican style chorizo sausage topped with jack cheese and diced green chiles)
4.  Spinach & Mushroom (Zachary's "Pride and Joy" - A blend of cheeses, special spices, fresh spinach and mushrooms)
5.  ???  I can not remember but I know we had doubled up on one of the above.

Everything tasted FABULOUS.  The freshest ingredients.  A resto just can NOT survive in this region without fresh competition;  again no pun intended.  Chock full of diced tomatoes on Z's secret tomato paste recipe.  Mouth watering to every last bite!  And the thick, perfectly baked to perfection crust!  Drinks on the table consisted of house red wine, beer, diet Coke (that's me!), water.

Zachary's pizza really is some of the best pizza around for deep dish.  Anything better and you'd have to go xixi gourmet style (ie Delfina Pizzeria in SF).  And that is quite a step up - xixi Delfina and we are talking tastefully done egg yolk on thin crust pizza with fancy smancy ingredients from someones organic garden in the back.

We were all stuffed (last fun meal before some of them started their "Halloween Diet").  I took some home (score!).  Always just as delicious the next day.  If not more so because the flavors have sunken in.

And because I am such a pig... on the way back home, I stopped off at Oola's on Folsom to partake in their seasonal Fig Tart and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc Chablis.  I am such a lucky girl.  ^^  Great food, even greater friends, in the world's loveliest city ever.