after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Napa/SF: Day 4’s End

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t says: So, for dinner on our first day in SF – how to choose? how to choose! We knew we were going to be tired from our trip, so I wanted a place within walking distance from our hotel near Union Square. That said, I wasn’t exactly going to go for something I could get anywhere (lookin’ at you, McDonald’s). So I took a poll. No, not on adsz, rather, on a fairly active kitchen cutlery forum (nerdy, I know) which is full of food-centric people, including chefs and ex-chefs. So when I asked where in SF I should eat, one of the recommendations was to go to a restaurant called “Sons and Daughters”. It was brand new (well, it’d been open for a few months) and it was recommended that they have great food and a hard-working, humble chef. So I booked the reservation and off we went!

9/2010, Friday Dinner, Party of 2. Now, I was told that reservations would be difficult to come by on a Friday night. Undeterred, I got one. We showed up for our 8pm reservation … and it was empty. We were the only ones there. It was a small place with a very dark atmosphere and we were alone. It would have been a great place for a somewhat romantic date, given the intimate setting, however, romance is replaced with spookiness if you’re the only ones there. I had a flashback to L2. It was weird. We figured, “well, maybe they just do dinner late in SF”, crossed our fingers, and stepped up to the host/waiter.

We were given the option to sit anywhere we wanted, so we selected a table that was by itself – no chance of sitting next to unfamiliar people. We were seated and given menus. We were told that they offer a multicourse tasting menu for under $50 – that actually sounded like a deal! BUT – we just weren’t starving enough. Nanking had filled us up. So we ordered two main dishes and an appetizer. Enter the problem … some three weeks later, as I write this to you now, we realized that we have completely forgotten two of those three! Actually, we forgot even more than that! Let’s go through what we remember …

So, our waiter was very … absent-minded. But not goofy-absent-minded, just kind of blank. He was there physically, yes, but whenever he spoke to us, he stared off into space. It’s hard to get excited by the food if the server doesn’t engage you. Then, after we ordered, he seemed a bit disappointed! It was like he felt that we weren’t going to get “the full experience” because we didn’t do the tasting- either that or we couldn’t afford the full experience – I’m not sure. He actually started to walk away before I could place our drink order! That, too, was weird. It was as if he assumed that we also weren’t getting drinks because we cheaped out on dinner. But we did – so ha! g ordered a glass of sparkling rose, and me, a still rose (I wanted something cold – it was hot outside, but I didn’t want white). We placed our order, and off he went.

The first thing that came back was an amuse bouche. Apparently, it didn’t blow us away because I can’t remember what was in it! I do recall some sort of little gelatin balls that tasted of cucumber. I remember it being refreshing, but not super-surprising knock-my-socks-off.

Next, we were given some of their beet soup, “on the house”. I guess we ordered too little and they didn’t want to see us go hungry. That was nice of them. But we remember the beet soup. It was funny because as we looked at the menu earlier, we decided it was too hot for soup. And here we had it … Also funny was that g had been just confessing that she just hasn’t had enough beet to decide if she’d be “in” to them. Well, she definitely got enough beet here. The soup was profoundly beet-y and very rich. Her verdict: “Well, I only ate a little of it – as much as I could mix with the creme fraiche – I’m just not that into beet.” She hit the nail on the head, I think, as the soup was almost overwhelming with the flavor of beet – it needed some zing or some playfulness or something (even some sort of herby bread!). It just wasn’t the kind of thing you really want a whole bowl of. For the night that we went (i.e. a warm one), I suspect it would have been better if it was a little shot glass (or maybe a double-shot glass), but certainly not an entire bowl, and maybe chilled would have been interesting.

When they took away the bowl, g looked into the open kitchen and said that she saw the chef ask about why there was so much left [on g’s plate – I did quite a number on mine]. The server explained that we said we thought it was good, but just weren’t famished. Apparently the chef had a momentary look of distress/panic/sadness. But then he put his game face on and got ready for round 2. When g told me this, I felt a little bad about the soup incident – we really didn’t mean to send the wrong signal – but I totally dug that he had noticed … of course … we were the only table there, so it’d be hard not to …

Round 2 was the appetizer we ordered. I can’t remember what it was. g can’t either. Darn. It wasn’t bad, whatever it was. We more remember that by this time, we had not yet received our wine, which was peculiar. It became funny when g told me that she had watched while the wines were poured and set aside, but they just had not yet come to the table. When we told our waiter, he looked disappointed in something – I’m not sure what – and he said he’d be right back. But he didn’t come right back. By this point there were a couple more tables filled, so maybe he didn’t want to just swipe the drinks that were ours and deliver them? I don’t know. Our drinks did appear, eventually, right as we received one of our entrees – the mystery one. g’s recollection was that it was some sort of meat – lamb tenderloin perhaps? Once again, good, but not good enough to remember details.

We then received the squab. The squab, we remember. There were actually two pieces – a breast and a leg. I know the leg was prepared confit, but I’m not sure about the breast. The squab was excellent. Now, I won’t lie and claim to be an expert on the preparation of pigeon, however, I can say that the meat was tender, the skin was crisp, and the jus was excellent. Yes, there were probably accompaniments, but squab, itself, was clearly the star of the dish and I liked it quite a lot. I don’t know if g was turned off or not by the foot of the squab that was visible on the plate. We actually heard the table next to us say something like, “yea, it looks like a wizard’s wand” when they got their squab … people say the darndest things …

We did order dessert as well. But, unlike the kinds of things I normally would order for dessert, we ordered something that g wanted for dessert. We went for the cheese plate. Once again, the cheese is not going to be something we actually remember, but I would not be surprised if it was the testun al Barolo sheep’s cheese that’s still on the menu (it actually sounds familiar). It was accompanied by nuts and some sort of fruit. It was absolutely fantastic. This combination was the most profound mix of flavors we had all night (it’s a shame that they probably can’t take too much credit, themselves, on making the cheese). It was even better than the cheese course at Ad Hoc.

As we paid our bill and got up to leave, I noticed that the place was packed. Really, there was not a seat left! It was amazing to see how the place filled up from being completely deserted when we arrived and being a loud, buzz-filled restaurant when we left (it was Melograno-on-a-busy-night loud). Good for them!

On our way out, I held the door for g, and we were approached by our waiter. He said, and I quote, “Yea, you better tell you friends to make reservations soon … our Bauer review comes out tomorrow.” I responded, “Ok – will do!”. We had no idea what he was talking about but figured that Bauer was some sort of food critic. Interestingly, he assumed not only that we were local but also that we had friends. How presumptuous of him! We went home that night and looked up Bauer to confirm he was indeed a food critic. We predicted that this place would get pretty good marks for food – maybe 3 out of 4 stars, max, if for nothing else than creativity (the menu had requisite fancy items like foie and squab and sweetbreads), but if our waiter was waiting on Bauer, they’d be screwed – he just didn’t have the polish to pull off the “awesome local shnazzy restaurant”. In the end, it turned out that our waiter lied, though – the Bauer review didn’t come out the next day (we checked) – it came out the day after. And you know what – he had similar feelings that we did: Good food, young/spotty service.

Conclusions: I’d go back to Sons and Daughters and give it another whirl – but this time, I’ll go hungry. Also, g and I apparently get an F for blogging because we couldn’t remember more than half of what we ate. Oops! What’s interesting is that although I kept every receipt from our trip – this is the only one missing! How weird! Better luck next time …

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Written by afterdinnersneeze

27 October 2010 at 6:31pm

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