gastronome
February 22, 2005
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?

Cases-in-point.

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
February 13, 2005
Tamarind Shrimp Curry
This curry from Mary Anne's A Taste of Serendib is fantastic. A clear favorite at NYF this year, and redone already for a Sunday Leckman-Borogove dinner - I think this is going to wind up in my regular repetoire. You can sub in tofu and carrots if you have veggies around, but the sauce really is better with some shrimp stock in it!

Serves 4-6

Mary Anne's mother makes the curry sauce and then adds shelled, deveined shrimp. But shrimp shells hold a lot of flavor, and this is a classic technique for extracting some of the flavor and saving it for your dish.

1 lb raw shrimp, shelled.
2 c. water
3 medium yellow onions, chopped fine
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp black mustard seed
1/4 tsp cumin seed
1-2 rounded tsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
1 tbsp Sri Lankan curry powder
1/3 c. ketchup
1 heaping tsp salt
1 rounded tsp tamarind paste

1. Boil shrimp shells in water for 15 minutes or so. Drain, reserving water. Discard shells
2. Sauté onions in oil on high with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden/translucent (not brown). Add chili powder and cook 1 minute, until you start to cough. Immediately add curry powder, ketchup and salt. Stir well.
3. Add reserved shrimp water and bring to a boil. Add tamarind paste and dissolve.
4. Lower heat to medium. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 20-30 minutes. When sauce is thick and well-reduced, add shrimp and cook until shrimp are firm and pink. Serve hot.

meriko's notes: If you don't use the shrimp water, you can serve fishy folks and vegetarians with the same dish: after 20 minutes of simmering, divide the sauce into two pans. Add cubed tofu and thickly sliced carrots into one, and leave the other one alone until it's shrimp time.

Posted by shock on February 13, 2005
February 12, 2005
yang chow fried rice

Who needs takeout when you can make it at home? This recipe from the Jan/Feb 2005 Cooking Light is a veggie reinterpretation of the dish you get at the Chinese place on the corner, just without the shrimp and ham. The most time-consuming part is cooking the rice and then chilling it; my rice was still slightly warm and the grains stuck together a little when I stir-fried them. I can't think of a tastier way to use up extra rice you might have sitting in the fridge. Also substantial enough to eat as a main course.

Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 large eggs, lightly beaten; swirl to coat bottom of pan evenly. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and dash of salt; cook 3 minutes or until egg is done. Remove egg from pan; thinly slice, and set aside.

Wipe pan clean with a paper towel. Heat 4 teaspoons canola oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup thinly sliced green onions, 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger, and 2 garlic cloves, minced; stir-fry 30 seconds. Add 2 large eggs, lightly beaten, and 5 cups cooked short-grain rice, chilled; stir-fry 3 minutes. Stir in half of egg strips, 3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 (10-ounce) package frozen green peas, thawed; cook 30 seconds, stirring well to combine. Top with remaining egg strips and 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro. Yield: 6 servings.

Posted by astraea on February 12, 2005
February 06, 2005
it begins and ends with thyme

Saturday night we had Tammy, Todd & Forrest over for dinner. You can blame the circular thyme theme on my savasana practice at yoga. We started with a "trifle" with alternating layers of Laura Chenel chevre blended with thyme and Carolina B's fig and sesame jam. Some warm flatbread sprinkled with coarse pink sea salt, and cyprus cocktails with sprigs of rosemary completed our first course. We ended with a Navarro 2001 muscat blanc and fresh thyme sorbet. Read on for the rest of the menu....

Goat cheese, thyme, and fig-sesame trifle with warm flatbread
Cyprus cocktails: hand-squeezed grapefruit juice, Roederer brut rosé, sink of Campari, rosemary sprig.

Crab & champagne risotto with roasted cauliflower and grilled asparagus
Bonny Doon Viognier

Mixed green salad dressed with sherry-shallot vinaigrette with Point Reyes Blue and bosc pears

Muscat & thyme sorbet

Posted by shock on February 06, 2005
February 03, 2005
Menu For Hope

If you read more than one or two food blogs, you probably noticed a pretty vase of white flowers followed by a menu, full of links. A group of food bloggers, led by Pim, put together a tasting menu in hopes of raising tsunami relief funds. Each blogger posted the menu and their recipe yesterday, and some information about why each of them hope you will take a little time out and donate a few dollars to UNICEF. If many readers click and give even a few dollars, the results could be staggaring.

Please go enjoy the menu. And if you can? Click through and give a little more today. There are a lot of folks who need your help. (Direct link to the donation site)

Posted by shock on February 03, 2005
February 02, 2005
Salmon Baked in Foil

salmon in foil.jpg
As if we needed another reason to love Giada De Laurentiis' recipes... her Salmon Baked in Foil was absolutely delicious, and super easy. In the half hour or so it took to prepare and bake the salmon filets, I was able to throw together our favorite arugula salad and make a basic risotto with fresh herbs and Parmagiano. I stayed true to Giada's recipe, except that I added fresh thyme after the salmon came out of the oven, instead of adding dried at the start (it was what we had on hand). We paired this with the wonderful Evolution wine, an off-dry white which is a blend of 9 different grapes. It was a perfect complement to our meal, and a wine which we'll certainly drink again. All in all, it was a wonderful, quick and easy meal for a busy weeknight.

Posted by jenblossom on February 02, 2005