after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco


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t says:  It’s my fault.  It’s not due to a lack of eating.  It’s not due to a lack of photo-taking.  It’s not even due to a lack of time to type.  I’m not sure what’s gobbling up my time (it’s clearly not because Scrubs is now on … ok … maybe it is …).  Let’s play some catch-up:


While in SF, we went to Nopalito, where g had her most “craveable” meal. I mean, we ate a LOT of good things, but she chose this place when pushed (g confesses: I think it’s dumb when t asks me these questions, like, “what was your best meal?” – they were all fantastic meals – for different reasons – how do you choose? [t breaks in: ok “every-parent-ever”; “no I can’t choose between my children – I love them all the same – just differently] back to g: *rolls her eyes* whatever … anyways, I was telling t that when I look back, I’d definitely “crave” the food at Nopalito – it’s simple but it’s soooo good, and it’s not too fancy of a place, and the prices are reasonable and it’s not too much of a production when you get there – you pick up a menu, you order, and delicious food comes out! done!)!  t takes over: so above is a seafood and avocado “soup”/gazpacho thing that was wonderful opposite the ?Brussels sprout quesadilla?.  Yes.  Brussels sprouts.  In Quesadilla.  Boom.  Mind blown.  Brain bits splattered on the wall behind you.


And of courrse, the carnitas, which is like the best tacos I could ever put together. Oh, and the empanada in the foreground? See all those bright colors. As good as it looks, it was 10 times better to taste. Gawd we love this place.  g says:  and it’s different than when we get “fancier” Tex/Mexican food in Philly.  Our dishes weren’t “too heavy” or “too oily”.  I mean this was heavier than Don Pepe that cm’s parent’s delivered, but it still was much lighter than here in Philly.


Oh yes … Griddle Fresh for brunch … first page of the menu blew my mind – I had no need to read anything else on the pages that followed.


green tea latte – exactly as you imagine it would taste. It did look like a milkshake, however, which was a funny incongruence with what it tasted like (it’s a warm drink).


This mess-of-a-dish was fabulous. I should incorporate more parm-reg in all of my morning breakfasts. The savory-salty note really helped me consume more sweet-juicy strawberries and syrup-laden French toast. Dangerous …


k had some issues with her pancakes. she asked if they were going to be “too cheesy”. The guy said “no – not at all – they’re pancakes”. I think the miscommunication centered around exactly how cooked through the marscapone/ricotta pancakes were going to be. It’s ok – they were delicious.


If your corned beef hash experiences are like mine, they are courtesy of a Hormel canned product … but not in California … where they use real corned beef slices and real potato chunks to make their hash. I swear cm must have had a whole cow’s worth of beef in this thing (don’t be fooled by the photo – it was a lot of hash – I’m pretty sure he had some leftover).


g went fruit + egg. No frills. Just fruit and an egg. Snoozeville, right? I agree. Well … just so long as she’s happy …


Dinner at Redd was “ok”. I mean, the food was good, and in line with what we’d expect to pay for fine dining in Napa. However, they didn’t quite nail the dishes as they did the first time we went. We missed the “spark”.


I have no idea where I ate this.  I distinctly remembered “wanting to be healthy” … so I got a “salad”.  Of course, it had these little pork cubes on the side – so as a “salad” and it was fabulous. I should routinely take some shreds of pork and fry them together into a chicken-nugget-like objects more often.


my name is t, and I have a problem. No, the problem is not alcoholism, the problem is that I only have 12 spaces in my wine-bottle-carrier for the airplane. Fortunately, I’m also a master probem-solver (we had to drink a bottle or two right then-and-there …).


kp has bigger problems than me. He lacks the 55-bottle wine fridge I have. So he had to perform a “draft” of which of his bottles were going to be stored in perfect conditions … and which ones were going to be in “near-perfect” 65-degrees of his SF apartment … cuz, you know, temperatures don’t really get much colder than that in SF … *looks out the window at the 27-degree weather outside right now in Philly*


We hit up brenda’s “Meat and Three”, which is probably kp’s most frequented restaurant/take-out. This is their watermelon sweet tea. Yes it’s outrageously good. Can’t believe I’ve gone this long without Snapple bottling this stuff. Sooooo good.


Imagine banana chocolate chip pancakes you might have had at Honey’s. And make them better. Like WAY better. Much fluffier, with a richer more buttermilky taste. I’m thankful my pants couldn’t expand anymore, otherwise I would eaten myself into insulin resistance.


Meanwhile … back in Philly … a and I hit up Zavino for lunch. Here they started off with a bang – a delicious “ricotta of the day” that was light and sproingy (“sproingy”? is that a word? is it onomatopoiea? sure, why not?) Not as decadent as Barbuzzo, but at least they give you ample bread …


Also had top-notch meatballs – I was afraid the sauce was going to be too sweet, but these were solid.


And now: bacon pizza … BACON PIZZA. Slam dunk, right? WRONG. a and I can’t figure out what went wrong. It had bacon and onion and arugula. But it just couldn’t get itself together. It also had some pickle on it, which made it weird – it made it come off like “all-the-toppings-you’d-want-on-a-burger-but-no-burger”. Weird. We won’t be ordered that again. We missed the ‘Stache pizza. Teaches us for committing to “trying something new”.


As I’ve been eating out a lot, my waistline is growing. It was hard to notice because I spend so much time in pants with drawstrings … but it was noticed! As a result, I had to miss out on a bakesale. How good could the “Ultimate Bake Shop Triple Choc Cake” be? I don’t know.


g and I hit up Pizzeria Vetri the other day as well. The salad was an interesting concoction of cauliflower, kale, raisins, etc. I felt like it was the best thing we ate!


This cinnamon-roll-looking thing was actually dough, rolled up with a layer of prosciutto and topped with nuts. It’s funny because all of the visual cues and proprioceptive cues (like the feeling of the fork as I was cutting it) and textural cues were that of a cinnabon … but it tasted like meat and nuts. So bizarre. It didn’t stop me from finishing it.


g loved the pizza. Personally, I felt like it was a little sweet, but she loved the fennel-on-fennel-sausage combo. She housed it.


But for me – I saved room for one of the most delicious affogatos ever. Affogato made with soft-serve? Yes please!

Ok, so now my iPhoto is all caught up.  Hooray!  Now I feel far less guilty about not updating the blog.  Ahhhhh.  I’ll be sure to try and keep up with the holiday eating season.  It’s tough, but I’m up for the challenge.


Written by afterdinnersneeze

8 December 2014 at 10:36am

California Photo-Storm (pt 1)!

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t says: g and I are in the Golden State once again – we just can’t stop visiting!  Between the friends, the food, and the wine – it’s a triple threat!  We would have mentioned weather for a quadruple threat, but today, it decided to rain on us … hard … so we’re deducting points.  But at least it gave us time to stop and make this post.


Ridge Vineyards: go there and look out onto Cupertino/Palo Alto/whatever it is that lies below.  And wines are quite good – lots of varietals to taste!


Anyone want to start up a library of Ridge Monte Bellow cabs?  The cost is steep … but doable …


 Just watch out for rattlesnakes (there are a lot of signs warning visitors … although we saw no rattlesnakes – much to k’s satisfaction).


We went to Gabriella Cafe for dinner.  It’s a little, unassuming place tucked away in Santa Cruz … and they served things like this: mushroom-stuffed gnocchia with a pesto and butternut squash.  I was floored.  I did not expect this non-descript eatery to nail this dish, but they did.  Never have I seen gnocchi injected with something like mushroom, but they did it!  I guess that makes it more like a ravioli?  I have no idea.


g’s tortilla soup was also quite nice.


the next morning, we went to Kelly’s French Bakery, where we enjoyed a few morning treats.  Above is a chocolate “goodfellow”.  I have no idea if it was done “properly” or not, but it was quite good and something I wish I could find elsewhere.


Coffee at Verve roasters was a highlight as well.  We snapped this photo because a had mentinoed that his heaven would be a cafe that also served bourbon … so here’s a coffee drink that uses some kind of Bulleit mixture (I assume they burned off the alcohol?).  So, it’s final: heaven is in Santa Cruz.  Next time, we’ll have to try it (they were out of it the day we visited).

There were lots of awesome photos of us scaling rocks in Monterey … but they reveal our identities, so we’ll skip them.  Let’s just say that I’m pretty agile on those rocky shores …


La Bicyclette in  Carmel-by-the-Sea offered up some simple breakfast items done very well …


… like the prototypical “California” breakfast featuring tomatoes, eggs, avocado, and a green of some sort.  Not pictured was the flakiest, lightest croissant we ever had in the states.  Rock on La Bicyclette.

hiking ...

We did some pretty awesome hiking around Point Lobos.  We were tempted to do the 17-mile drive … but refused to pay money to see beautiful sights when we saw plenty of beautiful sights for free!

driving ...

This was followed by a twisty-turny drive down US-1, with some of the craziest views ever!

pit-stopping ...

By the end of our drive, we were a little tired, so we stopped at San Simeo, where I was able to walk up to these seabirds and they didn’t flinch at all!


Enchilada at Estrella in Paso was unfortunately mediocre.  The wine list was a little too focused on nearby producers – which would be fine if they would offer some small flights or something like that for tourists like us.  However, given the quality of the food, we’d pass on Estrella in the future – Artisan and La Cosecha looked great.


The diner across from our hotel was hi-lar-i-ous.  Take a look at these menu shots!


lo-cal plate, anyone?


these are the banana pancakes at Margie’s.  the syrup packet is there for scale.  they were enormous.  and don’t be fooled – they were chocked full of bananas (to be seen on the underside).  I only finished half the plate.  WHY on earth would anyone need pancakes to be this huge?  I don’t know. But if we were staying in Paso Robles for more than a day, I would have brought them with me to the hotel to reheat for later (they had a microwave!).

We did a variety of wine tastings in Paso.  Our fave was Clos Solene.  Sure, their wines are a bit pricey, but Guillaume and Solene are gracious hosts with absolutely superb wines.  Definitely the best Syrah I’ve ever had in the US.  And the barrel-sampling of rose and white wines were fabulous – we’re totally in for some Clos Solene next Spring.


Inbetween wine-tatings, g and I finally conquered In-n-Out Burger – something g had been wanting to do for years!  Welcome to the “animal style” burger with a “well done” set of fries.  Personally, I think that the “secret menu” is kinda silly.  But whatever.  Grub’s good – I’d go back.  It’s a notch above Mickey-D’s.

On the way back from Paso, we stopped in Mountainview to visit some friends, who treated us to this great little Indian restaurant nearby.  I have no idea what it was called, but all I can say is that it was tiny and had great food.


After returning to SF, we went to a restaurant called Saru for lunch.  cm unerwent an 8-piece tasting which made his eyes roll to the back of his head a few times out of pure enjoyment.  They did look fabulous …


I did some fancy yellowtail sashimi (it was some special kind of yellowtail I don’t recall), as well as some way-off-the-hook Chirashi (in the background).  Seriously.  This Chirashi was like full-on 8 slabs of sashimi with egg, mushrooms, and rice for around $15.  This was some of the best raw fish I’ve ever had (up there with Kiss Seafood, also in SF).


welcome to the grilled yellowtail collar.  keep in mind that we, a bunch of silly sushi neophytes (face it, if your only experience with sushi is Philly nigiri and an occasional o-toro  or “sushi tasting” when you want to feel “spendy” … you’re a noob), had no idea what we were ordering.  now, having googled it, we understand where on the fish this piece comes from.  And let us tell you: it was crazy-good.  I haven’t had grilled fish this good in years.  YEARS.  If you go to Saru, you HAVE to order this and share it with a tablemate or two.


We brought a bottle of Quintessa with us from Philly to share with kp.  A 2007, it was drinking beautifully, with a purity of fruit that was only beginning to gain some age.  What a treat.


And now, for the grand finale of this post: our meal at State Bird Provisions.  kp is a SBP veteran.  He knows the standbys like the back of his hand.  And, because of the dim sum style, there were SO many dishes that it was hard to keep up.  The details are fuzzy, so if you are dissatisfied, you’re just going to have to go there yourself for the full experience.  Above is the pork loin with an apple mustarda.  A great way to start the meal (that one was early on).


Lamb pierogies in its own braising liquid.  You know – how can you go wrong?  Take some pierogies, which are inherently good, and jam some lamb up in there … and you have heaven …


… well … you had heaven until you ate this, and then you transcend to a whole new heaven.  This was  the “burrata on a sourdough garlic knot” topped with 5 spices.  Easy enough, right?  you figure, “oh, this is a bullshit dish – it’s all bait, and I’ve had it at Barbuzzo, so it can’t possibly be better”.  WRONG.  It can.  And it was.  I don’t know why or how.  Was it the texture of the burrata?  Was it the spices or infused olive oil?  Or maybe it was the pull-apart texture of the bread.  Well, whatever it was, it has taken over as the new Best Burrata to have ever touched these lips …


This is the dish that made g drool.  Correction.  The food didn’t make her drool – the smell did!  It hit the table  right in front of g, and she immediately started drooling based on smell alone.  She had to wipe her mouth because she was drooling too much – I took a picture of it, but she threatened to delete it if I posted it.  So what was the dish, you ask?  It was the signature “California State Bird with Provisions” – fried quail with strips of cheese and herbed braised onions underneath.  Now, I missed out on the onions (cm interjects: t, your meal must have sucked not having had those”; g agrees: big mistake … huge.), but the quail was juicy and delicious.  To be fair, it could have broccoli for all I cared – it was so fabulously fried – but the quail did complete the dish nicely.


Yet another dish that sounded underwhelming but delivered the goods: sourdough, sauerkraut, and ricotta.  They look like benign little pancake thingees … but what you got on the palate was a luscious burst of cheese and onion that made you want to order 10 more …


… but don’t order 10 of those, order 10 of THESE.  These are the dumplings.  They are filled with guinea hen and a combination of spices that was insane.  The waiter’s description required like 3 sentences, 4 dependent clauses, and 5 breaths to finish.  And it killed it.  After that, there was simply nothing else I needed or wanted.  Now the broth that you see it sitting in is the real dark horse.  kp and I could have downed it by the cup.  Meanwhile k spoke out: “you know … it’s too salty”.  We were flabbergasted.  No way.  It was perfect.  I guess you’ll just have to go and decide for yourself.


The desserts sound lame on the mnu.  Trust us: they aren’t.  They are full on flavors and as complicated as the regular menu items.  I won’t bore you with the details, but just know that they keep the party going and aren’t in the least bit “phoned in”.  cm wants there to be special mention of the huckleberries on the apple cake you see in the background, “they really made the dessert”.

would you sell your soul for a beignet?

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t says: g and I found ourselves in San Francisco (and Bay Area) recently, and, like our last trip to Cali, we made sure to go around and frequent delicious restaurants and cupcakes.  But rather than bore you with every single thing we ate, I will instead tell you about the awesomest thing we ate.  On the Saturday morning before leaving, g and I wanted to get some brunch.  Unfortunately, the places we remembered from our research for our last trip were primarily Sunday brunch spots.  The Ferry Building could have been had, however, we did it once before and we were taunted by g’s cousin: “Don’t do that again – you’ve already done it once – do something else!”  We pulled out the iPad and started googling “Best Saturday Brunch” and limiting our scope to within walking distance from our hotel.  A place called “Brenda’s” popped up, and it felt like a place I had heard of before.  Boasting “soul food”, it promised to offer a little something different than we were used to.

When we arrived, we promptly put our name on a giant chalkboard that allowed us to see where we were on the waiting list.  As far as two-top tables were concerned, we were fourth in line.  We secured some seats in the waiting area (g does not like to wait standing) and cast hungry eyes in the general direction of the diners.  The specials on the board in the dining room included Bananas Foster French Toast and Pork Belly with Brussels Sprouts and Grits … simply put: I refused to go anywhere else.

Now, I could tell you all about how the French Toast was delicious (but honestly, Cochon, in the hayday of the Elvis French Toast does it better), and how the watermelon iced tea was very refreshing, blah blah blah.  But really, the dish of the meal was our first dish:

four beignets, lined up in a row

When we ordered them, we figured they’d be tiny, kind of like Talula’s Garden’s beignets.  They were not.  Seriously, one order of Beignets would have KO’d both of us had we finished them (we saved some to go for later).  The three powdered sugar ones consisted of the following: plain (i.e. unfilled), apple-filled, Ghiardelli chocolate-filled.  The last one, which did not have powdered sugar on it, was “crawfish-filled”.  Don’t believe me?  Look for yourself.

get in my belly!

The crawfish one was delightful.  Chunks of seafood in a delectable sauce of creole spices all inside a perfectly fried crust.  Sooo good.  It was like some sort of seafood stew but shoved inside fried dough.  But as good as it was, it was only second place in my book because that chocolate one haunts me to this very day.  It has single handedly ruined beignets for me.  The chocolate tasted exactly like Ghiardelli chocolate chips (trust me, I’ve eaten enough of them in our chocolate chip cookies to know).  It was powerful and rich and wonderful.  It made my bananas foster French Toast seem kind of “boring” in comparison – that’s how good it was.

g, who’s a sucker for doughnuts, was similarly in heaven.  I’m not sure which one was her favorite (maybe the apple one), but I can tell you that by the time we were leaving, she was adding Brenda’s to the short list of restaurants we absolutely have to eat at the next time we’re in town (actually, “the list” only includes Kiss Seafood and Kara’s Cupcakes so that’s pretty impressive!).

Long story short: go to Brenda’s for brunch – the beignets are worth the wait.  That’s right – it’s a brunch spot worth waiting for – a g&t first!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

24 January 2012 at 3:53pm

Napa/SF: Days 6 and 7

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t says: A long time ago, g and I cataloged our adventures in Napa and SF.  However, we left out days 6 and 7.  Half of this was due to our laziness, and 49% was due to our fear that readers would have heard enough about California.  The last 1% was a more of a “test” to ourselves – could we remember what we ate?  As I recall, we did do some very fun and exciting things on these final days.  We visited SFMoMA and Yerba Buena Gardens.  We went shopping.  We ate at the Samovar Tea Lounge for lunch, which had surprisingly good food – I wish we had a comparable teal lounge in Philly (or maybe there is one and I just don’t know about it?  Does Tbar have good food?).  But really, the grand finale of eating for those final days was a trip to Range for dinner on night 6.

Range was a significant meal for us, as it’s a Michelin one-star restaurant in SF, and it’s probably the only starred that we could afford to go to.  Located in the Mission, it was a little further to get to than our other dining destinations that trip, but it didn’t matter to us because we were so jazzed to be dining at our first Michelin starred restaurant!!  But, as I sit here now, 9 months later … I can’t remember much about it at all.  I do remember that they didn’t have the wine I had originally ordered from their list … but as far as the food went – I am drawing a blank.  So I pulled out the receipt that I had annotated (I do this a lot) and here’s what we had.

1 salad: bacon, little gem, radish, peppercorn
1 pasta: goat cheese, sorrel, lemon-butter, chive
1 steak (g got steak … surprise!)
1 pork: pork shoulder and sausage
some wine … which wasn’t my first choice … and
1 souffle: chocolate, raspberry, tea leaf

And then my memory finally started to work … a little.  I recall the pasta appetizer – I remember it being very rich – with the goat cheese overtaking a lot of the taste and texture (it was ravioli I believe).  It was one helluva brick of an appetizer – it could have been a full meal if they doubled the portion size.  I distinctly remember asking the server if it was going to be “too heavy” or not (it was a hot day outside, so I wanted something “Springier” – if that’s a word) and she said that it would be hearty, but fit to start a meal.  Methinks she was a bit misinformed.  But that’s ok, because I now remember my pork.  It was the superior dish of the two.  Actually, it was like a different chef conceived of this dish.  There were some beautiful flavors hidden in a piece of pork shoulder that was very tenderly cooked.  And while I forget the details, I recall that the dish had balance, quite unlike that appetizer.  It was accompanied by some house made sausage, but to be honest, that was only “good” – I can remember no more about it.

And then there was the souffle – only notable because the “tea leaf” was this kind of sauce that you could pour into the souffle.  I’m not sure if this is sacrilege for souffle enthusiasts, but I recall the tea flavor rather nicely accompanying the dark chocolate and hint of raspberry.  Actually, of all the things I ate that night, this perhaps was the one taste I can remember the most vividly – it was new and different and made me think a little.  I liked it.

In the end, I guess I failed the test of memory – I simply could not remember what I ate before pulling out the receipt.  However, there are countless meals on the trip where I still remember quite a bit – from our stops in Napa to those in SF.  So for some reason Range failed to make a lasting impression.  I put forth then that maybe that was the real test: could SF’s one-star restaurant give me something that would stay with me?  So it was not I who failed, rather Range failed.

But this got g and I thinking …  Would any of the restaurants around here be able to compete for a sacred star?  If Range earned one, surely some Philly restaurant could pull one off, right?  Is this such a ridiculous thought?  Those who are critical of the whole star-endowing system claim that it’s not just about the food, but also about the cost, ambience, and service [and politics] … So does that mean that it must be hoidy-toidy like Lacroix? Or could a tiny BYO like Bibou nab one?  Or do you need a taste of something different, like Zahav?  Beats me.  There’s some food for thought.

On our last night there, g and I split a custom-built burger Burger Bar.  Sadly, g did not see Hubert Keller there.  Oh well.  The burger was executed well, but the real shining star was the cookie dough milkshake … oh, and the view of Union Square.  It was a comfy end to a long trip.  We bid adieu to SF.  We’re sure we’ll meet up again in the future … just maybe not at Range.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

25 May 2011 at 11:47pm

Napa/SF: Day 5

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t says: Alrightie-then. Our third-to-last day!! We started off our Saturday in SF as every single guide-book to SF suggests: Ferry Building Market. We hiked on over to check out what is apparently the combination of a food mall and an outdoor farmer’s market. Overall, it was a rather interesting food-centric attraction, however, I’m not sure if it was the end-all be-all of awesomeness. I was expecting something that could not be described by words – but there it is – I described it. Now, I will say that if we had more time in SF, like if we were visiting some friends and cooking a meal together, then yes, the Ferry Building would have been far more fun because we could have indulged in shopping for the various produce and meats and things … next time …

As we walked around, we got kind of hungry. But we had an inside tip: cm told us that we had to go to Blue Point Oyster Company for their New England Clam Chowder. It was going to be unlike any clam chowder that we had ever tasted and would completely blow our minds. So we were ready to have our minds blown … except that we couldn’t find it. There was a “Hog Island Oyster Company” – but surely this is not what he had meant because aside from “Oyster Company”, the two names bear zero similarity. Perhaps this was some sort of imitation and Blue Point was the “real deal”, while this one would suck. So, we decided to skip it and instead went for what I felt was a somewhat oxymoronically named vendor:

There was this stand there which was run by a small army (family) of Spanish-speaking people (minus the two thin white girls who gave you your food – not sure if they were somehow related, or just the hired eye-candy). There was a line about 6 people deep. And every book on SF food kept talking about chilaquiles – we had never had one before, but we figured this would be a good place to at least find one representative sample. It was actually quite delicious. The combination of egg, tortillas that were fried and cooked in some kind of tomato-based mixture, beans, cheese, and sour cream. Simple, satisfying, and fried – what a great way to start the day.

So, where to next? Fisherman’s Wharf of course! We got on a cable car, took our seats, and waited as more people boarded. Then, alluvasudden, a group of “kids” came on and said …
Girl: “Hi – we’re here for a college trip doing a scavenger hunt. One of our missions is to get people on a form of public transportation to sing our dorm song.”

Girl: “It goes like this – ‘When I say ‘Who’s house?’, you say C’s House … Who’s house-”
Disgruntled passenger: “SHUT UP”.

Yea, that’s right. The anthem ended right then and there. You see, there was a rather disgruntled passenger on board. She had been cursing at random people (including the voice of the car operator) just before the kids had come on. She did not appear to be a tourist, rather, an SF local. Judging by her appearance, I’d say that she was one of SF’s homeless population, but maybe she was just really really unkempt. She apparently did not want to join in the dorm song. Thank goodness. I didn’t want to sing it, either, but she gave us all a reason not to not say a peep. We rode in complete silence from that point on … except for the random shouting at fictitious people from the disgruntled lady.

We rode the cable car the 4 minutes it took to get to Fisherman’s Wharf and realized that there were a lot of tourists there. We simply wanted to go just to say we went, but we really didn’t know what else to do. So we did what all tourists do … we booked a tour of the city! It was some of the best money we spent on the trip! The tour took us all throughout SF (including Golden Gate Park and the Bridge and Presidio and a bunch of other places all around the city) on a converted cable car. Our guide had a sense of humor and kept altering the route so he could avoid traffic … but then, because of construction, he’d have to double-back and just go the original route, anyways. The result: a bonus hour of touring! But it was great because it gave us an overall view of the entire city and exonerated us from having to spend the time to get to and visit places that would have been interesting for approximately 15 minutes (looking at you, Presidio). Definitely a great tour, operated by Grayline, but not that double-decker bus one.

After the tour, we felt obligated to eat some Dungeness crab at the Wharf – so we did. We went to Tarantino’s … for no other reason than we saw an open door and suspected that there was proper seating (i.e. a calm lunch vs. the chaos of the Wharf). Actually, the place turned out to be a fairly relaxed atmosphere to enjoy lunch with nice views (on the second floor) and rather dated decor. I had the crab and clam chowder soup and g went for the crab salad sandwich. Nothing super-remarkable about the food, but for what we wanted, which was a quiet place to break away from the madness that is Fisherman’s Wharf, it was splendid. It was also pretty reasonable as far as the cost of Wharf food is concerned.

Next, we set out for Ghirardelli Square. g and I have an honest question to ask anyone who is contemplating taking children to Ghirardelli Square. Why/How would that ever be a good idea? There’s absolutely nothing good about it for your family. It is packed – there’s no room! There’s really not much to see/learn, as it is a giant sugar-filled tourist trap … meaning that children will turn into absolute animals covered in chocolate and ice cream, therefore driving their parents insane. Couple all of this with the obligatory price increase of visiting/eating in a tourist trap, as well as dealing with the children running around that aren’t your own … To quote my mom, “This is not a vacation.”

But wait … why did we go? Two words. Kara’s Cupcakes. Yeah, that’s right. I found me some more Fleur de Sel chocolate cupcakes. I bought one to eat there (and a banana caramel one for g – she’s not into super-rich chocolate like I am), and I bought two more to take back to the hotel [for me … for later … when g’s asleep]. They … were … so … good. Just yesterday I had a Brown Betty’s PB and Chocolate cupcake (and some of the Red Velvet cupcake), and it’s just no contest: I miss Kara.

We eventually got back to our hotel (we took a cab back – a cab that was accosted by someone else who wanted to hail it who didn’t realize we were sitting in the back, so he just thought the cabbie didn’t want to drive him) and relaxed/recharged. Dinner was coming …

We went to Kiss Seafood for dinner. This place is run by the absolute cutest Japanese couple. Go ahead and call them up right now and listen to the answering machine with the husband on it – it’s so cute! But man is his place tiny. It fits like 12 people, total. Actually, when we got there 5 minutes before our reservation, we were told by the lady that there was no space for us. g mistook her and thought that she had meant, “oops, we’re overbooked for tonight – get out”, but I understood that she actually meant, “could you occupy yourselves for 5 minutes and come back?”. And that’s what we did. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much to do in that part of Japantown at 8pm – so we just walked around the block and looked at the houses. We contemplated picking up some wine, but knew that it wouldn’t be the right temperature for dinner. Darn.

We returned to Kiss Seafood and our table was ready. We didn’t score a seat at the sushi bar, which would have been cool (so we could watch the husband do his sushi thing), but we did enjoy how we could see the entirety of the restaurant. It was tiny, bright, open (you could see into the “kitchen” behind the sushi bar), and it was absolutely 100-percent spotless. g remarked that if my parents had a restaurant, this is what it would be like. Nothing flashy – just minimalist, and clean. I noted that if my mom ran a restaurant, that that’s the way it would be … dad would somehow manage to stick “Native American heads and vintage coke machines” in it (inside joke).

How was the food? Well, I went for the omakase, while g went with the sushi (she was a little full still from lunch and her cupcake). Now, I didn’t just go “omakase”, I went for their premium omakase, which included toro. The fish we had was absolutely sublime. It has actually made me a little snobbish about sushi lately – as places that I used to think were “pretty good” before are now under the “only ok” column. Yes, the other food at Kiss was very good (and a unique experience, including this one concoction that was layered from top to bottom with a scallop, a broth, an egg custard, and some kind of poached fish), and the omakase was a wonderful experience, from the pickles in the beginning to the orange slices at the end (this place doesn’t do dessert … thankfully, I had a cupcake at the hotel, so I was ok with that), but it was the raw fish that demonstrated supreme deliciosity. If there’s a next time, I’m getting one chef’s special sushi platter and one chef’s special sashimi platter, because the raw fish there was the most mind-blowing raw fish I’ve ever had (up there with that one piece of eel sushi I got from Morimoto. The toro was obviously delectable – there’s something about the fattiness and the taste that you just can’t really get in another fish. But, there was one sea creature that tasted even better [to me]. Baby sea bass. That’s it. Baby sea bass. Nothing fancy. But it was creamy and mineraly and fishy (not in a bad way) and clean, with that perfect amount of give as you chewed – it was that ideal of piece of fish that other fish want to be. I had it once as sashimi and once as sushi throughout the meal. So good. Actually, it was so good that it wins the “t’s San Francisco’s Best Bite Award”, as it was the single best bite of food I had on our entire trip.

All in all, this was another superb day of our trip. We got to see the city, taste something new, taste something obligatory, and taste something old done extraordinarily well. Fantastic!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

6 November 2010 at 8:51pm

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 …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

27 October 2010 at 6:31pm