Monday, November 30, 2009

NOPA: San Francisco

Date:  mardi 24 novembre 2009
Location:  560 Divisadero @ Hayes
San Francisco, CA


My good friend Hosea Rosenberg (Top Chef Season 5) had been visiting San Francisco for a week.  We had literally ran the gamut across town the past week with sights and activities all revolving around food and wine (Spruce, Town Hall, Fairmont, Delfina, Bar Crudo, Boulettes Larder, numerous bars).  Nopa was definitely on the list of restos to try - and so it was for Hosea's last hurrah, we found ourselves at the North of the Panhandle restaurant.  

I like Nopa.  The food is delicious, savory, consistent, quintessential San Francisco (fresh, seasonal, organic, local, etc. etc.).  They call their food "urban rustic" - which is a perfect description.  The presentation is none too fussy nor perfect;  it is beautiful yet casual.  Same with their place settings and serving etiquette.  It is an easy place to feel comfortable for any San Franciscan (though my girlfriend recently told me that she overheard Nopa as the resto where Marina girls go when venturing outside of the Marina but too scared to go into the Mission).  It is not the first restaurant that would come to mind when treating out of towners due to the raucous din that arises in the space after 8pm.

Thus, we dined at 6pm.  Even still, reservations were impossible to procure.  Luckily, we gently tossed Hosea's name around which immediately got us a table... then an upgrade to a booth.  Team effort well done!

The four of us had spent a solid 14hours together just two days prior in Napa.  So tonight, it was the opportunity to debrief on our previous first time field trip together.  Yes, we were still alive despite things having gotten a little CRAZY from time to time in Napa.  It was obvious when we all reconvened that Tuesday evening that we were detoxed and had an easy going night in mind (sure, heard that one before, every night prior).  

As true foodies, the four of us collaborated magically and strategically ordered different dishes to share alongside a good mix of appetizers (after a good 45minutes catching up over cocktails first).  Hosea ordered the chicken, J and M ordered the pork (J - medium rare on the rare side, my kind of girl), and I ordered the duck tagliatelle.  We all shared our dishes because we love to try different tastes.  We had a bottle of red wine (French syrah), dessert, and digestifs.  Dinner and drinks was marvelous, paired with the perfect company and witty intelligent conversation.  I miss that evening much. 

The chemistry amongst the four of us was so off beat.  J remarked how odd it was that after spending an entire day together - that still none of us understood each other's humor - and I chimed in that somehow it just all works!  Felt like we had known each other for years, kindred spirits were easily woven the past few days, and topped off with a warm fuzzy rustic meal at NOPA.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

James Beard House: New York

Date:  lundi 9 novembre 2009
Location:  167 West 12th Street
New York, NY

Following the James Beard Foundation blog, I answered their blog purely for fun one afternoon.  Share with JBF and its members what is one's favorite dessert wine?  Winner receives 6-pc set of Spieglau digestif stemware.  Without so much as even trying to win - I won.  Here I am... at #10th responder.

I flew to New York to pick up the stemware and was graciously greeted by the gorgeous Kristopher Moon, Director of House Operations and House Events at the James Beard House.  He took the time to walk with me and give me a full tour of the original James Beard House which operates today as part office, and full kitchen and dining room for its members.  Everyone at the house is just full of LOVE - big heart for sure.  While passing through the kitchen (which boasts La Cornue stoves - !!), I witnessed handsome, sexy Italian chefs who had just flow in one day prior, prepping ingredients for that evening's meal to be prepared for JBF members.  Oh how I wish I was invited... or could be a sous chef... but to be in that very kitchen from which amazing meals are created........  ahhhhh!!

Being a food and wine enthusiast, I was nothing short of grinning and smiling ear to ear to traverse the same very stairs, rooms, and kitchen that James Beard himself did when he lived in the house.  Kristopher was the kindest host.  I loved him to death - and promised that someday soon we will get together with Hosea and all cook a meal together.

Visiting the James Beard House was one of the major high points of my last minute excursion to NY... 

Spruce SF: San Francisco

Date:  mardi 17 novembre 2009
Location:  3640 Sacramento St
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 931-5100

Epitome of fine dining at its best.  This is an elegant restaurant in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, one of the most expensive areas in the nation.  It caters to the neighboring old riche that walk a few blocks to dine at Spruce - oftentimes more than once a week.  I have been frequenting Spruce over the past two years.  It is by far my favorite restaurant in the world - consistency and quality in food, cocktails, wines (boasts an amazing encyclopedic wine list/book with aged wines/liqueurs from around the world), decorous and grand atmosphere without the snob appeal - and most of all - impeccable service without the pretension.  I suppose I love this place because aside from the orgasmic food and grand wine menu and sophisticated cocktail creations, I just feel beautiful stepping foot into spruce's sleek, sexy, dark wood atmosphere.  Regardless of what I am wearing (dolce gabbana, laboutin, gucci, vans velcro sneaks, jeans, even casual sweats and baseball cap...) I am still treated like a beautiful woman.  It is one of those places that I liken to my description of shoes...  a woman can wear the most beautiful Italian shoes on her perfectly well manicured feet - yet it is not until a gorgeous man tells her that her shoes are beautiful - beautiful on her - that the woman then feels that she has truly captured the essence of what it means to be an alluring woman.  After all, what is the point of wearing beautiful shoes in isolation...  Spruce is one of those places, that a lovely woman can walk into... be greeted by the elegant tall, dark, and handsome male staff, and just feel absolutely radiant and perfect. 

The gifted and extremely knowledgeable staff come from years of previous experience in high end restaurants and hotels.  Spruce evokes that certain mood appeal that makes you feel luxurious yet still human...  not superficial, gaudy, feigned or stuffy.  For me, the entire eating experience must be "comfortable."  That is, all perfect cues in place - yet without you even noticing that they are trying so hard.  Music is at the perfect decibel, just high enough so that you can feel groovy sexy - yet low enough that you can converse with your guest without so much as having to raise your voice. 

Since coming here, I have befriended the somms behind the bar.  Scott, Evans, and Josha.  Their Somms are incredibly well knowledged in wines and spirits from around the globe.  It is their second skin.  I wish I could live in their brain for just a moment... to be the master of all that amazing wine knowledge...  nothing would make me happier and feel more complete.  

Spruce was voted by Food and Wine magazine to be one of the world's best wine bars.  I concur, absolumente.  Madeiras over 60 years old (and older I am sure)...  Single malt scotch whiskys from the 1800s...  what more can you ask for.  The reaches of the imagination and tasting palate are limitless at Spruce.

I won't go into how perfect the food is here.  It completely goes without saying, that one does not enter into a restaurant such as Spruce without expecting the best of the best.  And getting it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

202 Chelsea Market: NYC

Date:  dimanche 8 novembre 2009
Location:  202 75 9th Avenue
New York, NY   
Tel:  (646) 638-0115

There is nothing quite like strolling through the hip, stylish, east-coast preppy feel of New York City Chelsea Market.  It reminds me of the Embarcadero in San Francisco - yet spiked up a few solid heavy notches in urbanite character and charm.  Think dark worn brick, heavy original wood floors, bright art, NYC denizens with sassy pea coats, stylish women with not-too-contrived coiffed hair, sharp men in sexy jeans and perfectly designed facial hair...  so many things to see, feel, touch, smell.  Endless eye candy for the senses. You just feel young and cool walking around Chelsea Market.  

Left:   Delicious scone that the three of us shared while waiting for our fabulous brunch...

As a weekend visitor to NYC, I have no idea where to begin tasting food and wine.  Unlike SF where the food in general is very good and wine is plentiful, NY has soooo many restos that one could waste a lot of time and money on less than average restaurants.  Luckily, I was in the great hands of fellow foodies friends Sandy and Henry - San Franciscans who have since relocated to NY for a number of years now.  We have similar palates, so I knew that I would not be disappointed. 

We went to Sunday brunch at 202 Chelsea.  I did not know what to expect other than being guaranteed a tasty experience and fun time reconnecting with S&H.  202 Chelsea is a chic, all-day cafe/brasserie and Nicole Farhi clothing and homewear products boutique.  I wasn't quite sure what to make of the store/cafe concept - but, it works! The wait was long - as is any delicious brunch place in SF or NYC.  Sandy and I toured the Chelsea Market while Henry waited back for our table (too tired and hung over to window shop with us I suppose). 

Left:  French Toast with bacon...  the texture of the French Toast was like magic - very thick (2 inches I am willing to bet!) and sooo soft, spongy, and fluffy.  I do not know how they get all that AIR into their toast.  Delightfully yummy with the maple syrup that was served.  The bacon - SAVORY and of course left me wanting more.

The food is savory, amazing, and memorable - as are their to be remembered Bloody Marys and cup of morning joe.  I highly recommend this place to anyone visiting NY - I actually like this place better than my coveted Toast Eatery in SF.  <-- YES you read that right!  A good change of taste and scenery was well appreciated.  

Left:  Cinnamon Raisin French Toast with Apple Sauce.  Terribly delicious!

Left:  Classic English Breakfast with poached eggs, sausage, mushroom, heirloom baby tomatoes, bacon, and potatoe.  Completely drenched in savory tastes that coat your entire palate..   the best sausage and bacon and tomatoe I have ever had.  The perfect bite - with the tomatoe, potatoe, and runny poached egg.  Thank you, Sandy and  Henry, and thank you, NEW YORK! 

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lulu: San Franciso

Date:  jeudi 5 novembre 2009
Location:  816 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94107-1123
(415) 495-5775

This place sucks on all levels.  Sucky service.  Very bland tasting food and even worse presentation.  Super ugly "pear beignet" dessert (which came as part of Montforte's prix fixe lunch menu) which looked like a dried, hacked up unmentionable body part.  The "pear" dessert contained no pear save for a few square bits on the bottom (might be del monte canned too!)...  very disappointing on both content and presentation.  I will refrain from posting the picture as I do not want to taint my blog.  To the right is some goat cheese grape leaves thing on cardboard bread with some crappy olive oil.


The service mildly made my blood boil.  The server/waiter/runner kept "cutting" into the natural conversation/energy of our table.  Proper sommelier serving etiquette deems that servers present drinks and dishes counter-clockwise per the host at the table;  also based on the set up, one should serve accordingly so as not to "cut" into the customers' conversations.  After the server did this 3x - I absolutely forbid it to happen again.  Politely asked him to kindly please serve AROUND the other side of the table.  

To the left is my romaine pomegranete salad.  Horrible looking!  Taste was not "too" bad but really absolutely nothing memorable whatsoever.

To the left is some chicken sandwich that tasted better than it looked.  The presentation is horrible.  It looks like a mexican jalopy (junk car).  

I do not know what kind of vibe this restaurant is going for.  Maybe they are trying to go for pseudo-chic older crowd.  The interior was out dated as well.  I do not mind this so long as the resto stays true to its character, and does not try to be something it is not.  Lulu is just a sad, sad, pathetic, facade on all accounts.  Faker.