t says: Because we pre-Holiday’d on the east coast, g and I were prepared for a relaxed time here in SF for real-Christmas. Wanting to jazz it up and try something we had never made by ourself, I scoured the Safeway coupons until I landed on a one-day sale of NY Strip Roast. I was determined. We were going to roast a big-ass hunk of meat and not overcook it. Mission: Not-Overcooked commenced …
t says: g and I decided that the best time to run east for the holidays was the few weeks before Christmas – the flights were just so much cheaper! It was a great visit, with good times had with friends and family. Here are some food-related highlights:
As you can tell, we had a lot of great food during our visit. I wish there was one more place I could mention, but I can’t … because they refused to serve us. Well – they refused to serve some of us. g, a, v and I wanted to go toHungry Pigeon. g and I had heard so many great things, and a is a Hungry Pigeon veteran. We (the four of us) rolled in at 10:51 (exactly), when the lady behind the counter, upon seeing us enter, announced that breakfast would be over at 11 (that’s why I know the time – I got scared and looked at my phone). Scared we’d miss breakfast, we immediately got in line behind a woman with a very convoluted drink order (it was 10:56 by the time she finished). I ordered for g and me and paid using my credit card and signed. I took one step to the side to allow a to the counter so he could order for himself and v. The woman announced that breakfast was over (it was 10:59 – I checked my phone). a was dumbstruck. He thought it was a joke, but the hipster-glass-wearing barista deadpanned. She offered up only silence and an empty stare. No “sorry”, no apologies, nothing. Not even a “you could buy something from our lunch menu” (actually I don’t know if we could or not – I don’t know when lunch officially starts) or “we have some yummy pastries” or anything. Just a robotic emptiness. We pleaded, as we had all come in together and were in line promptly, but nothing. I had no choice but to cancel my order (what was I going to do? eat my breakfast in front of a and v?). I actually wonder if she would have stopped me in mid-order had I attempted to order food for the four of us. Afterwards, I did tweet at them to see if such Seinfeldian-soup-nazi rule was a “real” thing, and got a response directly from @hungry_pigeon indicating that “she was right. Lunch starts at 11. Sorry, we make no exceptions”. Bummer. I hate it when that Cinderella-at-midnight moment happens and the carriage turns into a pumpkin and the cooks get amnesia and all the ingredients necessary to make a breakfast bowl and an avocado toast instantly spoil (that brown rice porridge must be very temperamental!). Although we left Hungry Pigeon still hungry, we were rescued by nearby South Street Philly Bagels and invited to enjoy them inside Ox Coffee – how civilized of them! Now, I’m not sure if I’m over-reacting by vowing to never go to Hungry Pigeon ever again, but being as we don’t live in Philly, I’m pretty sure it’s a vow I can keep.
t says: g and I happened to be meeting a wonderful winemaker in Napa (lunch at Mustard’s Grill!), when we got back into the car and pondered, “where to next?”. Having just done a trip to Heitz on our previous visit, we wondered whether other free [good] visits could be had. One name came to mind: Merry Edwards. This pinot/chardonnay/SB powerhouse has been making great wine in Sonoma for some time, now … and they, like Heitz, are one of the few top caliber wineries to still give free tastings! … appointment-free!!
So g and I toughed it through the windy roads of the mountains/hills that lay between Napa and Sonoma. It was surreal to be seeing such fabulous views from our own tiny little C30 that we owned in Philly for all those years … And then we finally arrived:We did walk around Sebastapol’s The Barlow as well, an area with some tasting rooms (including Kosta Browne and Wind Gap!), restaurants, and other tchotchke-vendors. It was quite cute. This was our first trip to Sonoma, and it’s laid the groundwork for future visits. Just try and keep us away!
t says: Maybe you’ve noticed that g and I have been eating a lot of Asian foods. From our ramen adventures to our recent Asian-inflected Hawaiian brunch, we had to break the trend. k knew just the thing: Spanish tapas.
So yea – Picaro was excellent, unfussy, and a good deal. AND they took reservations!
t says: g and I are psyched for our first trip to Hawaii (coming in January 2017!). I have to go to a conference (time to nerd out!), but g’s going for the sun! This will mark our first island trip since our honeymoon (St. Lucia 2007!); bathing suits in winter, here we come!
To prep for the trip, we just had to check out one of SF’s latest brunch sensations, Aina. I have to confess that I was a little hesitant, as one of my Hawaiian colleagues felt that it was “not as good as it is in Hawaii” … however, I imagine that Korean food in SF is not as good as it is in Korea, either, so I still had hope (especially after a recent tasty soondubu outing). Located in Dogpatch, I was ecstatic that it was only a short walk away. While there was a wait involved, the hostess was friendly and, more importantly, accurate with her projected wait times, allowing us to do a little bit of pre-gaming at Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous (yum!). So on to brunch:
So brunch at Aina was pretty good, but I can’t say that it’s Plow-good. What I’m really looking forward to, however, is dinner; I’ve heard it’s amazing. As I look at the dinner menu, I have to say that I see a ton of potential. There’s seafood and kimchi everywhere! That gnocchi dish looks crazy! So we’ll have to pay them a revisit soon … even if the doughnuts were heart-breakingly sad.
t says: When thinking about what SF is best at, I am often tempted to say: “separating you from your money”. If you have $10, $100, or $1000 in your wallet, SF will have innumerable options on how to spend it … all of it. Consequently, g and I have had to show a little more restraint when it comes to eating out. In what I will now call “The Midatlantic Years”, we’d go to dinner, blow $100 at some of the “best” restaurants in town and be super-satisfied that we pretty much got “the best” of whatever was available. Now, in the “The Bay Area Years”, we are a little bit more cautious. There’s always some chef somewhere who wants to find a way to squeeze in a little bit of foie, or truffle, or saffron, to bump prices. Or they want to use the chicken they raised in their backyard along with the fish they raised in their bathtub. Or they want to use the fruit that was hand-harvested by blind, armless monks. Fortunately, SF also has a ton of answers to the tasting menu insanity, with an abundance of reasonably priced places weaved throughout the wallet landmines. For g and me, ramen is one of these answers. For g, it’s like pasta … a nice al dente pasta … which really tugs at her South Jersey Italian heart strings (which are right next to her adopted kimchi-loving Korean heart strings). For me, it’s the way something that’s supposed to be so “homely” is so full of persnickety precision – an existential crisis in food. And we both love that it’s never over $18 (or if it is, we refuse).
As we mentioned last time, we hit up Itani Ramen in Oakland. It was ok, but you could probably gather from my tone that I wasn’t as pleased with it as I had hoped. And now, after a bit more “research”, I can say without a doubt that it is the worst ramen we’ve had in SF (coming second even to the ramen food truck). Welcome to our ramen showdown …