Independent Food Festival: Best Use of Tabasco by an Establishment That Serves Dollar Beer
That would be the Oysters on the Half Shell with Tabasco Sorbet at Blue Plate in San Francisco.

Blue Plate is simply marvellous. They manage to be clever without pretension and inventive without being precious. Their food is tasty, comforting, satisfying, and interesting. It's one of my very favorite local joints. Through partnerships with local farms and producers, they garner and serve top-notch ingredients; their menu changes daily. The room is crazy and cozy - my favorite place to eat is at the bar that wraps around the kitchen.

The staff is friendly, and happy to answer questions. I can always find an interesting and reasonably-priced wine on the menu - if I'm feeling like drinking one of my own, the corkage is fairly-priced, as well. (And there's always a dollar can on the beer list for your favorite anti-snob. Right now, it's Oly.)

And the food. Did I mention the food?


There's always a salad with grilled romaine hearts. This week, it's a "caesar" - nice and simple with some roasted garlic in the vinaigrette, two of the plumpest, most succulent boquerones I've had in a while, grana & crunchy croutons.

Rosemary-skewered scallops. The scallops are grilled perfectly - just to the hair's edge of solid in the middle. They're served on salad that defies me - I dislike fennel, but this one of shaved fennel, blood oranges, tarragon and mint has me clearing the plate.
Dungeness crab. One of the marvellous things about winter in the Bay Area that removes the sting of the end of chantarelle season is the beginning of crab season. Blue Plate's current offering is a pile of sweet crab meat with vanilla oil, jewel-toned winter citrus, and miner's lettuce.
Housemade fennel sausage and manila clams. Corey-behind-the-counter counseled us to try the sausage and clams. He was absolutely right. (What is it with the fennel turnaround, lately?) Served on a bed of celery root purée & spinach, surrounded by clams and clam sauce, and topped with more celery root, they were a fantastic combination of salty sausage and sweet clams.
Macaroni & drunken Spanish goat cheese. This is the one dish on the menu that stays, always. I don't have a lot to say about it, other than I make sure to order it everytime I take someone to Blue Plate anew. Sometimes Russell has to get his very own, to hoard.
Also to try: The housemade focaccia with crunchy salt crystals and olive oil. Meatloaf. Grilled chicken. Tolinas Farm quail.

Chocolate Baby Cakes. Assorted Sorbets. Pomegranate Crème Brulée. The desserts are tasty, and petit in the nicest of ways. Share one, and you can each have just a few bites. My kind of dessert.

Oh and the oysters? A perfect example of the magic. They're not on the menu just now, but I have it on good authority that they'll be back soon. I look forward to them tremendously. I usually prefer lemon and mignonette on my raw oysters, but Tabasco sorbet spices them up nicely, keeps them cold, and gives a fleeting but captivating mouth feel as it crunches and melts on the way down. Clever, but not pretentious.

You can find Blue Plate at the black hole where Mission and Valencia meet. It's marked simply with a sign that says "Eat", in blue. Go on - give it a try. I bet you'll like it. (My small confession? I like to think that if I ever decided to take the plunge and try my hand in the restaurant business, I'd end up with a place & menu like this. Funky, cozy, inventive, and a labor of love. It's clear that these folks are really into what they do.)

Check out the rest of the awards from the First Annual Independent Food Festival - sponsered by the nifty folks over at Taste Everything.

All photos by Kathryn Hill. Rights reserved.
Kathryn Hill is a documentary photographer residing in San Francisco's Mission District where she enjoys everything from $1.25 chorizo tacos from the taco window next to her house to Jardiniere's grilled ono with oestra caviar.

Posted by shock on February 22, 2005 | TrackBack

This was so much fun - hope we can do this again!

Posted by: Kathryn on February 22, 2005 8:56 AM

Wonderful review -- I'm in San Francisco right now and may check it out. (My only complaint is that I had to make it all the way to the end to find out what city the it was in.)

Posted by: Kelly Sue on February 22, 2005 10:15 AM

I love the blue pate and especially the crusty topping on the macaroni.

Posted by: Sam on February 26, 2005 7:33 AM
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