Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mr. Pollo: San Francisco

Date:  22 octobre 2010
Location:  2823 Mission St x 24th
San Francisco, CA  94110
Tel:  +1 415 374 5546 

I don't know where to begin!  This is a really fantastic restaurant and great bang for the buck.  A true San Franciscan experience.  Five star fine dining dishes in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the eclectic Mission neighborhood.  Executive Chef Manny Jimenez (a real cutie, by the way) hails from Michelin Star restaurants such as Quince and Coi in SF.  Taking his skills from the upscale restaurants to his smaller class room project, Manny now cooks as a 1 man team in his own restaurant:  Mr Pollo.  

The menu is short and sweet.  A few starters include classic cheese arepas, empenadas, and freshly made columbian fruit drinks (passion fruit, blackberry).  You will want to save your appetite for Manny's Chef Tasting Menu.  For roughly $20, you'll get a number of courses specially designed by Manny based on whatever he finds in season at the local farmer's markets that day.  Expect each dish to be cooked with personal attention and design.  His dishes are decorated with small details of orange flavored flowers, or tiny purple flower petals.  Manny does not rush it.  He loves his craft.  You can watch him create magic as he cooks in his open kitchen in front of his guests.  Smiling and winking all the while.  Yes, I am a fan!

Oh... save room for dessert.  I am serious.  You may THINK you are full, but once the dessert arrives, you'll be surprised to find that suddenly you have room in your stomach again.  The table of 4 sitting next to us couldn't stop ordering desserts after consuming their Chef Tasting Menus...  I think they ordered 7 desserts!

This is a tiny restaurant, with roughly 5 tables, and maybe two chicken pictures (one is made of velour) on the walls.  There used to be more, I guess (hence Mr. Pollo).  It's just Manny in there as one chef, cooking by himself.  He's got one assistant who helps him a great deal during the busy hours... if you get there early, Manny will be taking your order and serving you personally as he comes out from behind his kitchen.  Mr. Pollo aired on Food Network few weeks back.   But that's not how I discovered this gem.  It was through word of mouth from a fellow Master Sommelier Jesse Becker who recommended it.  Great call!  It's my #1 must share place for my fellow foodie friends.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Nombe Izakaya: San Francisco

Date:  2 octobre 2010
Location:  2491 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Tel:  +1 415 681 7150

I'll say it once and I'll say it again.  I love SF because it is one of the food and wine capitals of the world.  I love it more because I can find just about any sort of authentic cuisine, within minutes of my home (now in the eclectic Potrero Hill/Mission hood).  On a whim, I went on an athoc food run with a sommelier friend of mine.  Had no idea what I was in for.   

Nombe (pronounced nom-bay) is a fun, casual, very mission-esque restaurant in the heart of the Mission District.  Across the street from Medjool and Foreign Cinema.  Japanese street food directed by esteemed Executive Chef Nick Balla (who spent years perfecting his skills in Tokyo amongst other high end establishments in SF), crafted with the freshest seasonal ingredients the region has to offer.  Paired with great sake from a winning sake list prepared by Sake Sommelier Gil Payne (who also hails from Tokyo).

We sat at the bar (Soledad's favorite place to be seated) and ordered Asahi and Sapporo on tap to start.  Cold light beer on tap always gets a smile on!  Then came the menu...  yakitori sampler (chicken heart, chicken spicy sausage, fried chicken skin, CHICKEN!), seasonal persimmon salad (refreshing, sweet, tangy!), pork belly (wow - super soft and savory, melted in my mouth), and the FRIED CHICKEN WINGS was one of my favorites!  Crispy, sweet, a little tangy lime, with a little added spiciness from jalapeno...  small side dishes of gobo and cucumber... some other radish root thingy that offset the palate in between the savory bites of yummy grilled Japanese street food.

I felt like I was in Japan!  With one huge difference - the staff conversed with me in fluent English (thank God!!!) and even quenched (no pun intended) my thirst for sake pairing with the foods we ordered.  I appreciated that Gil Payne came to share two kinds of sake with us that evening and explained the characteristics in each one that would make it pair with the tendon, pork belly, and other fried or grilled dishes.  What a true delight!!  Of course, handy cold draft Sapporo was always at hand's reach to cleanse the palate in between tastes.  :)

I am so excited about this new find.  Nombe has been around for about a year, since November 2009.  Yay!  Oh and guess whaaattt.. they open and serve until 2am!!  Love it - another late night snack find in San Francisco (the city that sleep at 10pm PST).  I will definitely be bringing my Top Chef friends and out of towners to try this place out.  Tokyo - in San Francisco!  Thanks NOMBE!   

Okay, up next... MR POLLO!!

Harvest Farm-to-Table: Carmel

Date:  25-26 septembre 2010
Location:  Quail Lodge Golf Club
8205 Valley Greens Drive
Carmel, CA 93923
Tel: +1 831 624 2888

What an amazing event!  Fresh, organic, seasonal food, wine, and music all in one place!  "Harvest:  Farm-to-Table" is a yearly event presented by my friends at Coastal Luxury Management in Carmel, California.  Appropriately named, Harvest takes place just at the end of summer/beginning of fall, when produce is at its best.  Colorful, bright, rich in flavors and textures, summer/fall seasons are a chef's delight.  Over 50 regional celebrity chefs and over 100 wineries gather to showcase their goodies in a series of non-stop food and free flowing wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, and also cheese education!  A celebration of local agriculture and viticulture!

The weather was perfectly sunny and warm as we made our way around the entire event at least twice.  We made super repeat visits to the raw oysters and the Pouilly Fuisse!  I loved the mini strawberry muffins with strawberry icing on top.  I had two.  A difficult place to be if you're on a diet.  I really liked the mini salad made with organic seasonal broccoli and cauiliflower, summer greens and arugula, heirloom tomatoe, some feta, and ANCHOVY!  So bright, delicious, fresh, and savory!  Then, I walked right up to any of the wines and asked for a pour to help wash down the food.  Really hard to beat this day!

I made sure to attend the Riedel wine tasting demonstration.  We tasted four different wines in the appropriate stemware.  What a difference the proper wine glass truly makes.  I had no idea that Chardonnay would have such an open bouquet in the right glass.  Thought my bordeaux "one glass for all" was suitable... apparently not. 

Gin Blossoms was also playing live that Sunday.  It was an intimate gathering as we were able to get up close and personal to the lead singer Robin Wilson.  Over ten years later, he is still looking hot and singing smooth!!

Can't wait for Harvest Farm to Table 2011!