gastronome
Dry Creek Kitchen

anne, David and one of anne's coworkers and I went wine tasting in Sonoma on Saturday. We were lucky to find a corner at the bar at Dry Creek Kitchen where the four of us could sit comfortably. We quickly voted to have the tasting menu (and three of us the matched wine pairing) -- Luckily, that didn't apply to the entire bar!

It was pretty amazing. Dry Creek Kitchen, in Healdsburg, is one of Charlie Palmer's restaurants. We had eaten there before, and also at Aureole.

Here are pictures of the tasting menu.

Posted by tim at 10:58 AM

first time, first crush

P picked First Crush for Friday's date night. Partly for the huge wine list and partly because it's two blocks from work.

I got there early and plunked myself at the bar. The bartender was really sweet and made me a yummy Hennesy sidecar. He was trying to get some brandy brought up but I didn't mind. The staff were popping over to the bar to sample a bottle of red they were all tasting.

P arrived and we got seated. It's a cozy types of place though if you end up in front of the window, bring a sweater as there's a massive draft.

Our server was very attentive and well, yummy. P ordered a flight of crisp whites. Lovely. We decided to order a bottle of Storrs White Reisling to go with dinner. First up, two small plates: the duck confit in phyllo and the baby artichoke salad with pecorino and arugala.

I thought the duck would be a nice mixture smooshed into little phyllo triangles but it was actually 3 slices of the confit wrapped in phyllo. The sweet tomato-y sauce and olive slice topping was so delicious. The texture of the duck was smooth but without being creamy (I'm not a pate girl, so that was a *good* thing). The grilled baby artichokes were amazing. Crisp outer leaves and soft soft innards and stems. Dressing not too heavy and big chunks of the cheese.

I think Storrs is my favorite winery.

Then we ordered the Fresh Maine Lobster Tagliatelli (Flat ribbon pasta tossed with fresh Maine lobster in a rich cream sauce with a touch of cayenne). Oh my heaven, dreamy dreamy. Sometimes when I order lobster mixed in with something I often find myself wishing there was more meat. The balance was lovely. The presentation was also very pretty, with a bright red lobster with some meat inside on top of the salmon colored cream sauce. So so so good. And less expensive than the chicken dish... ?

We got the dessert menu, while the charming server teased me over suggesting we'd take the bottle of wine home. If he hadn't kept refilling my glass it might have had a chance!

I didn't even look at the dessert and just ordered the cheese plate. Which was AMAZING.

Served with thinly sliced green apple, walnuts, sliced cornichon, local cured olives, and oven fresh baguette toast points:
Bermuda triangle- Northern California goats milk, nutty taste with lingering sweetness
Grafton's Classic Reserve Cheddar- Cow milk cheese, Vermont’s oldest cheddar
Petit Basque- Sheep milk cheese with a medium soft, creamy texture & rich flavor
St. Agur Bleu- Cow milk blue cheese, classic French, delicate and creamy with a sweet finish

Surprisingly, the bermuda triangle was my winner. P fell in love with the aged cheddar. And oh oh, I'd sell my dog for more of that bleu cheese.

All in all, a swoony dinner in a cozy setting with attentive staff and delicious, well portioned options. I'm so glad we went right to the cheese plate. We'll have to try dessert next time.

Posted by mo at 12:55 PM

Chenery Park - comfort food for a bad day

P took me to Chenery Park to help ease the pain of a bad day. Once again, the amazing service and delicious dinner has me desperate to go back as soon as possible.

We had reservations for 9ish but decided to go ahead and show up early for drinks at the bar. We were seated at a table anyway and ordered their signature cocktail the Wild Orchid. This is my favorite cocktail ever. How do they get Hawaii in my mouth? Could getting tipsy on Hawaii be any more yummy?

We started with the macaroni and cheese which was tortuously hot, yet creamy and crusty and perfect comfort food. It wasn't as sharp as last time, fewer cheeses perhaps? I love tangy mac-n-cheese. Next we ordered an arugala salad with fig and goat cheese crostini. Magical! I'm never exposed to figs and the combination of figs and tart cheese on crostini was absolute heaven. The vinaigrette paired excellently with the super sweet figs and cheese.

Then we ordered me another Wild Orchid.

P ordered the turkey medallions (sauteed and buttery smooth) with chestnut dressing, brussel sprouts and cranberry campari sauce. I thought the menu said chestnut dressing, but it was actually a savory chestnut bread pudding. Eggy with crunchy roasted nuts. Did I already say heavenly?

I had the double pork chop, potatoes and escarole sauteed in apricot and bacon. Oh my. I ate the esacrole immediately and debated whether or not I was going to share any... The potatoes were grilled and I didn't really dig in to them. I had planned to take some of the pork chop home, but somehow that mesquite-y perfectly cooked tender meat just disappeared and all I could do was chomp on the bone to see if could get it to come back.

In the end, we barely managed to make room for dessert which was also sublime. The topping of the blueberry pear cobbler was buttery and crunchy and carmelly and warm and so very comforting.

And once again, the waitstaff was very attentive and delightful. It was fun to have one of the chefs plop down at the table next to us and eat dinner and gossip.

So after a really really horrid day, Chenery Park soothed me completely. I can't wait to go back!

Posted by mo at 08:33 PM

katana-ya ramen

Katana-ya Ramen
10546 San Pablo Ave (at Moeser Lane), El Cerrito

It's hard to add anything to what Dan Leone has to say in the link above, but I'd like to throw in my own glowing recommendation for this little Japanese restaurant in an El Cerrito strip mall. I had one of the ramen combos (ramen + gyoza + salad + pickled vegetables + drink, $8) after church on Sunday, and everything was yummilicious. The menu has literally more than a hundred items and combos to choose from, everything from sushi to noodles to teriyaki. It's not fancy, but the prices are definitely right. By the way, many treasures can be found in El Cerrito strip malls, but more on that later.

Posted by astraea at 07:02 PM

fonda

Fonda
1501 Solano Ave (at Curtis St), Albany

I actually wrote a little blurb about Fonda a couple years ago on Astrarium, and I figured I was long overdue for a trip back, especially as it seems to have survived quite nicely in a time when many restaurants are closing left and right. I arrived in the middle of the dinner rush on a very-warm evening, and boisterous patrons were spilling out onto the patios out front. I chose a place at the bar and ordered the grilled skirt steak. It arrived perfectly arranged on a bed of cactus and avocado salad and the tiniest cherry tomatos ever with the plate studded with mild cheese. Delicious! There was enough to generously fill 3 warm corn tortillas, and I especially liked the twist of lime flavor.

Posted by astraea at 10:22 AM

Lorca - Dali Experience

Wow. Just wow.

Lorca is just such a fantastic restaurant with their regular tasting menu, and I had a feeling their special evenings would be amazing, and having one that was inspired by the works of Salvador Dali definitely promised to be an amazing experience, and I have to say, they exceeded my expectations.

My three companions and I arrived at Lorca at 9pm for our 9pm seating, and waited in the bar until some time between 9:30 and 9:45 to be seated. We were able to peruse the menu in advance, and it was delightfully crypitc. It listed out the nine courses, with images of dali paintings under each. Instead of listing what we were to eat, instead it listed a quote for each course, which we were later to learn would be conversation topics.

Finally, we were seated, and very quickly were served our pre-dinner apertifs. Instead of the usual sherry with cracker and olive, we received little glasses of what I believe was called a menthalyptus liquor, which was just delightful. After we'd sipped ours down, our waiter returned to say, oh, sorry, forgot to mention the extra ingredient in the drinks.... leg of spider.

wooohooo!

And then, the courses began:

Un - "Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it."

Glass latte cups with handles were placed before us, with a plate placed upon them. Our waiter informed us that this was our soup course. The cups contained a chilled avocado and cilantro soup, which we were to drink out of the cups (no spoons). We were instructed (our waiter was all about instructing us) to remove the plates from the cups, drink the soup and eat the items on the plate in whatever order we wished, but he recommend we eat the items on the plate in this order:

Pickle, then marinated mushroom, then cactus, then sesame sticks

My first pickle! I normally avoid them, but it was not bad! The cactus was awfully interesting and flavorful, but the star of this course was really the soup. Even uvula, who hates cilantro, liked it.

Even though it had a special ingredient, which our waiter told us halfway through the course was eyelid of squid.

Dos - "Don't bother about being modern. Unfortunately it is the one thing that whatever you do, you cannot avoid."

Our salad course was a plate of several delights.
A selection of mixed greens with jicama and carrots, next to a pool of mint and red bell pepper oils.
A flat cookie with diced tuna atop it.
A small cigar shape of olive tapenade topped with half a quail egg and tobiko. A cherry tomato with balsamic reduction.

That was the order we were instructed to eat them in.

The mixed greens were delightful, the tuna cookie was my favorite, the olive tapenade was good but very very potent. I couldn't bring myself to overcome my t-negative status, and gave my cherry tomato to davinator.

Tres - "It is either easy or impossible."

This was my favorite course. Two circles of roasted beet, a garlic crouton, goat cheese sprinkled with herbs, and a basil leaf. We were left to our own devices as to how to consume, and each of us ate them in different ways. Such fabulous flavors! I must expore beets more fully. As our waiter had stopped informing us of the secret ingredients, we used our powers of investigation to determine that ground ear wig pinchers had been sprinkled upon the goat cheese.

Quatre - "There are some days when I think I'm going to die from an overdose of satisfaction."

Champagne glasses were brought to the table, filled with what I believe was called Kava, with a scoop of peach sherbert, and a mint leaf. We were to swish the sherbert about, and then drink the concoction down, to cleanse our palates. Which we did, and there was, dare i say, too much satisfaction? And with that, we moved on to our main courses.

Cinc - "I don't take drugs: I am drugs."

Can you tell which quote is my fave?

This was one of the most complex and interesting courses. A piece of braised catfish, sitting on a bed of oxtail, with a smattering of fresh corn and shitakes. A wonderful combination of flavors, especially the corn. Mmmmm.....

Oh, and ant heads. Definitely ant heads mixed in there somewhere.

Sis - "Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them."

Oh, this one was quite special. I like to think of it as the burningman course. A dense piece of chicken breast, flavored with sherry and cinnamon, wrapped in bacon, with an orange glaze (and lying in a pool of orange), which they poured flaming brandy over. Yummah! And oooh! Fire Pretty! uvula's seemed to burn quite a bit longer than hours did.

Oh, and somewhere in there was a single human hair.

Set - "The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet. The first to repeat it was possibly an idiot."

Our last main course was simple yet delicious. Braised lamb with rosemary and red wine, topped with a parmesan cracker, which in turn was topped with a blue cheese mousse. And we are quite convinced that there was a smattering of crushed stag horn beetle horn.

Vuit - "The reason that some portraits don't look true to life is that some people make no effort to resemble their pictures."

Mmmmm... A poached fig lying in a pool of delicious sauce, with a curved thin almond cookie lying vertical, with three dollops of strawberry whipped cream at the top of the plate. The whipped cream made me want to order buckets and buckets of it and just dive on in. Very swoony.

Nou - "Wars have never hurt anybody, except the people who die."

Our final course was a chocolate torte topped with a papaya mousse, with various yummy things around the plate to nibble upon. the papaya mousse had the most amazing flavor ever. Definitely didn't remind me of papaya. Mmmm....

With this, we were all turning into pumpkins (we finished at 12:30am). All in all, a spectacular dining experience. I will definitely go back for their monthly special wednesday tasting menus.

Total Price:

$34 for tasting menu
$15 for wine pairing (three wines, all perfect, no details recorded)

yay lorca!

Posted by carrie at 05:09 PM

miss millie's

Miss Millie's Creative American Cuisine is a wonderful Noe neighborhood secret tucked away at the top of 24th street (between Castro and Diamond). Better known for their breakfast and brunch faire, we discovered this evening that Miss Millie's also boasts a fantastically well rounded dinner menu: about 10 creative salads and over a dozen delicious entrees (some veggie-friendly!), with a tasty looking wine menu and lots of non-alcoholic alternatives. Homemade breads and biscuits were trotted out to start. For my entree I tucked into a dreamy plate of garlicky Linguine and Manila Clams while Tad sampled a beautiful heirloom tomato salad, followed by the ultimate comfort food: a homey plate of mac and cheese. We were too stuffed for dessert (although everything off the dessert menu sounded incredible). The decor was homey and tasteful, but classy: all in all one of the nicest meals I have had in a long time - and at $38 total it was a great bargain! I think we found a new family haunt.

PS - Three words: Fresh raspberry lemonade. Three more: Minty Meyer lemonade. Yum!

Posted by rebecca at 09:58 PM

carrara's cafe

Carrara's Cafe
2735 Broadway (at 27th St), Oakland

I made a deal with myself: if all the culture I'm doing now is free, I can afford one inexpensive meal out each weekend. And I'm keen on seeking out all the nifty places the East Bay has to offer. I think I hit bullseye with Carrara's this morning.

I had one of their benedicts: poached egg, slice of heirloom tomato, HUGE chunk of mozzarella, herb scone, hollandaise sauce on top. It made me do the happy counter dance. Beautifully herbed Yukon gold potato chunks on the side with NO ONIONS topped with a dab of sour cream, also a smattering of fruit. Pure bliss.

For some reason, it's in a car dealership.

Posted by astraea at 03:07 PM

of turkish desserts and a quest

I have, it seems, a weakness for baklava and other sticky-sweet middle eastern desserts. Preferably shared with a friend, with strong hot tea to accompany.

Gyro King (25 Grove, at Larkin) is a good cheap middle eastern cafe by Civic Center. No points for decor, but the food is fresh and tasty and the entire menu is under 10$. The men (and one woman) behind the counter are laid back but very friendly in their service, and they have a great selection of little filo- and semolina-based desserts. The tea comes hot and perfectly brewed and is served in little glass cups. It's the sort of place where the tv is always playing in a language I don't speak, and older men come to chat and sit and drink tea and eat sweets.

So. The challenge. I've flirted with these desserts long enough -- it's really time I got to know them..

According to the friendly staff, tonight I had bulbul yuvasi (sparrow's nest baklava) and revani (semolina cake).

Bulbul yuvasi is a filo-and-pistachio confection rolled up on itself into a snail (or nest) shape, with chopped pistachios on top. The texture is crunchy, softened with ghee and syrup.

Revani is a soft semolina cake served as a square cut from a pan. The texture is crumbly-sticky, very moist. Almost like a light semolina pudding more than a cake.

So I'm on a quest to complete a survey of middle eastern desserts available in the Bay area and learn all their names...

Stay tuned!

Posted by naomi at 11:31 PM

Lorca

It was everything that the reviews and meriko said it would be. One of the best meals of my life, for the mind-boggling low price of $32. This is definitely going to be a monthly indulgence for me.


We went for the "second wednesday" event that I'd been told was a tasting menu all from a specific region on spain. But when we arrived, it didn't appear that it was any night other than a regular night. Our server never mentioned anything about it, and I was too shy to ask.

First treat, they brought is little shots of sherry with tasty little crackers with olives on them resting on the top of the glass.

Second treat from the chef was a very small bowl of chicken and potato soup, that was super yummy.

But then, oh, the impressiveness of the first official course... They bring large soup bowls over, that are soup-free, but plated with 3 little breadstick things, a bit of cooked onion in the middle, and sprinkled with cheese. and then they ladled onion soup into the bowls. Absolutely amazing presentation. And delicious!

Second course was a salad plate, with about 5 small pieces of asparagus wrapped with prosciutto sitting in the middle of the plate, on a sauce, with circles of raw onion surrounding little circles of zucchini drizzled with balsamic on other parts of the plate with a few tiny lemon slices also drizzled in balsamic. Can't really do justice in words to how artfully this was presented as well. So beautiful. And tasty!

Third course was a dish that was like a little mountain of rice, covered in the world's thinnest slice of apple, with a line of a green sauce running through the middle of it and off to the sides. The rice/apple dish tasted amazingly of scampi, just the right amount of butter/lemon flavoring, with a little sweet tartness from the apple. I could have eaten bowl after bowl of it.

Fourth Course was a plate with a triangle of thin paper pocket in it, with a smear of something yellow against the edge of the plate/bowl. Server cut open the paper, and inside was a steamed white fish, with various vegetables,
that was amazing and the yellow stuff was a potato puree of some kind.

Our last savory course was two small pieces of baked pork, with two sauces, one carrot infused, one lime infused, topped with seasoned raw carrot shavings that were amazing, over a garlic puree.

For our sixth course, and first dessert course, we were served little glasses with an amazing custard, with chocolate at the bottom of the glass, and drizzled on top, served with a cinnamon chocolate thin cookie, that looked crisp but was actually relatively flexibly bendy.

For our seventh and last course, they brought out a plate with a tiny vertical rectangle of chocolate and mousse cake, surrounded by chocolate and a bit of strawberry preserves. Then they lit rum on fire, and poured the rum in a circle around the cake, making a firey circle. So fun! Burning man on a plate!

I can't wait to go back :) And next time, with a digital camera

Posted by carrie at 10:54 AM

lorca redux

Another Lorca menu - our tasting menu from this evening. Billed as 7 courses.

Olive crackers & Fino Sherry

Chicken & Potato Ragout

Tomato Quenelles with Green Herbed Broth

Brandade and Tomatoes on Puff Pastry with salad

Paella (served on rice noodles in martini glasses!)

Halibut and Spinach with roasted potatoes and pimiento sauce

Pork in grape sauce with tomato cookie

Orange cake with reduced red wine sauce

Chocolate cake with lovely decorations, flambe'd with cointreau
(much like burning man art, really.)

Posted by shock at 10:08 PM

Ravenous (great food in Healdsburg)

Had a wonderful experience at Ravenous in Healdsburg Saturday night -- great food, service, and ambience.

Sunday was Rodney Strong's annual Wine and Chocolate Fantasy, so we headed up to Healdsburg the day before. Spent Saturday hiking (Armstrong Woods/Austin Creek just north of Guerneville, highly recommended if you like steep trails) rather than wine-and-food-ing, but had a great dinner Saturday night at Ravenous. We hadn't called ahead for reservations, and it's a tiny place, but they surveyed the goings-on at the bar and said they'd have counter seats for us in about 20 minutes, and I think they were spot-on.

We had a nice bottle of Dry Creek Merlot (1999?, $31), but as we watched the bartender work we kind of wished we'd ordered cocktails -- they hand-squeeze fresh fruit directly into the shakers and glasses, and the results looked great. Meriko introduced me to sidecars a few years ago, and it's been my standard ever since -- I bet Ron would have made a great one.

We started with a generous smoked salmon and caviar appetizer and a caesar salad. The salmon came with deep fried corn cakes (must have been a very fine corn meal, you couldn't tell by looking that it was corn) that we both really liked. The caesar had very fresh lettuce, a nice dressing (though I prefer it bolder), and big shavings of quality parmesan.

For entrees, I had a ribeye and John (one of those strange almost-vegetarian types) had the stuffed grilled poblano. The ribeye was cooked medium-rare as requested, and had a nice red wine-cognac butter melting on top. The twice-baked potato was good but not outstanding (I couldn't identify anything specifically wrong, but I didn't quite finish it, and I *always* finish my potatoes) and the grilled veggies were great. I only had a wee bite of poblano, but John really liked it. It also came with the grilled veggies.

We had a blood orange sorbet for dessert -- nice and tangy, with coconut macaroons that really complemented it.

Ron the Bartender was busy but took good care of us, and the maitre d' made sure everything was smooth throughout, after his very welcoming seating efforts.

The restaurant is nicely decorated -- warm orange walls, black wrought-iron fixtures, no hint of country-cute, but not pretentious-elegant. Not a high-romance spot, but warm and inviting.

The bill came to $103 (post-tax, pre-tip) for 2 apps, 2 entrees ($25 and $15, which I think were the highest- and lowest-priced), 1 dessert, 1 bottle of wine. We were very happy.

Ravenous
420 Center Street, Healdsburg
707/431-1302
reservations highly recommended

yum.

Posted by andrea at 10:22 PM

Andalu up uP UP---down...

We went to Andalu on Friday and checked out the pre fixe menu. All the yummy things I had planned to order weren't on there so we passed and went for the usual menu...

I liked the interior: busy, spacious, loud, bustling, kitchen open yet hidden in the back, well stocked bar in front, upstairs banquet area (with "happy birthday" floating down), the huge lovely mural and the simple circular space-theme overhead windows.

We started with the fondue, which was all right. The accompanying toasts were nice and having both pears and apple slices was great. The cheese itself was grainy and somewhat flour-y. It was exactly like a gorgonzola pasta sauce P. makes and I was expecting something thicker and with a smoother texture.

Next up, the polenta fries with tomato sauce. YUM! These sliver-moon shaped fries were cooked perfectly and the tangy tomato viniagrette was great. I added salt to my fries because it just tasted more like sin that way.

The pitcher of sangria was yummy, mild but yummy! Service for glass refilling was excellent as well.

Next up, dish of andalusian olives. Now, I don't quite understand this, but they had a hint of root beer. I kept trying to pin the flavor but never quite got it. These were standard briney olives and a nice in-between dish.

I ordered the butter lettuce salad with radishes and it was excellent. The croutons were flavorful and the light dressing tangy and nice. I didn't go for an entree as there wasn't really one that rang my bell. (more room for dessert) P. had the cassoulette /duck confit and the bite I sampled was delicious.

And onto dessert! I ordered the fresh mini-donuts with Mexican hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was served in small cups. Very strong with thick condensed milk. Yum yum yum. The donuts, unfortunately, were severely disappointing. Not what I was expecting at all. Did you make bread balls as a kid? Where you pull off the crusts of your wonderbread and roll it up in your fist until it's a gummy snow-ball? Cover that memory with powdered sugar and there you have the dessert. I was disappointed by the yeasty bready donuts. I was hoping for some soft cakey ones. Oh well. Maybe they'll catch on that dessert donuts went out of fashion last year?

P. ordered the banana and pecan tartlet and I think I had a bite but I was so unhappily fixated over my donuts that I forgot if it was good or not.

Ah well, guess I'll just have to go back and try it again!

www.andalusf.com

Posted by mo at 02:31 PM

hello, Last Supper Club!

The newest occupant of the old (and much beloved) Radio Valencia space has thrown open the bar and kitchen for business. I predict that The Last Supper Club will be much more sucessful than the mediocre Thai joint that preceeded it. The LSC opened on Monday night; we had dinner there on Tuesday. It's owned by the folks who run Luna Park; the menu is primarily Italian. We ate there again (at the bar, this time) with Andy on Thursday.

The Last Supper Club is located on Valencia at the corner of 23rd street in the Mission district. They serve until 10:30pm on weekdays, and 11:30 on weekends. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 11:30am.

If you can imagine it, take the same spirit of twist on French food you see at Luna Park, and apply it to Italian food - you'll come out the other end with the menu at The Last Supper Club. There is a reasonable vareity of dishes that are priced well for the neighborhood - not taqueria-cheap, but not Foriegn Cinema-expensive. Apps run from 5 to 9 dollars, and pastas and entrees from 8 to 16 or so. Desserts are all $6.

Cocktails are great - and having a full bar is an added bonus for the Borogove family, as Russell drinks no wine and little beer, but plenty of whisky. They serve a Harry's Bar Bellini (fun - a drink i love to make), and leverage the white peach puree to make a white peach cosmo. I tried the peach cosmo on the first visit - not too sweet, and not too tart. A good mix - i can imagine it as a lovely dessert on a hot summer evening. Russell's Manhattan was good; my sidecars were excellent. One of the bartenders "takes [his] sidecars very seriously", and it showed. I let him mix me a second one with Hennessy, after discussing the relative merits of several brandies. They do a lemon drop with limoncello that piques my curiosity. I will report back.

On the appetizer front, we tried the truffled cheese fondue - it was divine, if a bit too truffley for Russell at the beginning. (That's ok with me; i get the first few extra-truffley bites, and am actually doing him a favor!) They use the same cute ramekin-tealight contraptions that Luna Park uses, and the make the same sort of tasty grilled bread chunks; the truffle comes from a healthy dose of truffle oil floated atop the hot cheese. We loved this enough that we ate it a second time when we were there with Andy. This and a salad would be a great meal, in my book.

The carpaccio is pretty standard - it needed salt, but salt is always close at hand in a handy pinch bowl. When we were with Andy, we also tried the wild mushroom, roasted tomato, and chicken liver bruschetta. A lovely surprise; it was three long toasts - one with the mushrooms, one with the roasted tomatoes (and a goat cheese, i think), and a third with a thin, thin slice of chicken liver pate over the top. Each was sensual in its own right, and together they will make a good late-spring supper with a cup of soup or some salad.

Portions are hearty; on our first outing Russell and i split the gnocchi with venison bolognese, and on the second Andy, R & i split two entrees (the chicken-under a brick & the hazelnut ravioli with guinea fowl). There was more than enough food on both outings.

The gnocchi dish was great - the gnocchi were huge, and had a pleasant texture. The sauce was more like a ragout than a bolognese - and it was delicious. Plenty of big melting chunks of venison to lap up. The chicken was well-executed (Russell really liked it, and he doesn't often enjoy roasted chicken dishes past the first few bites.) The ravioli were decadent, filled with a puree that seemed half mascarpone, half hazelnut; they were sweet and rich and contrasted perfectly by the earthy shredded guinea fowl on top.

We only tried dessert on our first outing - an excellent affogato that was HUGE. It had two scoops of espresso gelato, and one of chocolate gelato; the espresso was pre-chilled.

The restaurant is a little more out-of-the-way than Luna Park; i'm hoping it doesn't get terminally hip and crowded every night of the week. Selfishly, albeit - i think i'd love for this to become my new neighborhood haunt.

Posted by shock at 05:37 PM

goodbye, gordon's...

Gordon's House of Fine Eats has closed the doors for the last time. Last Saturday night (18 January) was their last evening of operation...

Russell and i walked over on Thursday for a last meal there - we sat at the bar, had a few cocktails, and revisted some favorites from previous trips. Gordon's is responsible for convincing us that brussells sprouts might we worth eating - i'll have to try and replicate the dish, it's so damned good. Leaf the sprouts, and quickly sauté them in bacon fat. Toss with salt, pepper, the bacon shards, and balsamic-reduced onions. The sprouts should still have a bit of firmness to them. We also sampled the smoked salmon flatbread, and the camembert and pear pizza. And the doughnuts. We had the fantastic, hot, steaming assortment of doughnuts. As usual, we couldn't finish them. We were glad to have you while you were here, Gordon's!

Posted by shock at 05:32 PM

Andiamo - Yummy Italian in the Marina

I rarely find myself in the Marina, so its kind of annoying to discover wonderful little restaurants over there, but last night I found myself over in that area for one of the few reasons I ever do... A movie was playing at the Presidio theater that wasn't showing anywhere else (About Schmidt, by director of Election. A good film, but not a must-see).

Anyway, wasn't going to be able to eat till 10pm, and did a citysearch look to see if there were any interesting looking restaurants open late, and came across this one, that was at the top of the list of user ratings, and right around the corner.

It's called Andiamo and is just around the corner from the theater, web site claiming open till 11pm on a sunday. And the menu boasted an arabbiata, which meriko knows I am extremely partial to. And so, my evening's sustenance was planned, and my companion and I travelled forth into the wasteland known as the Marina, knowing that there would be warm yummy pasta to be had eventually. And, I have to admit, soulless yuppies do know how to eat.

We got there around 9:45ish, and the sign on the door indicated that they closed at 9:30, but they welcomed us in, and seated several people after us, so maybe they are just schizophrenic. Small cute cozy place. And our waiter was of that particular type, the uber friendly flirty handsome italian stud who sits down next to you to take your order, that is one of my favorite bits of small italian restaurants. Ah, must go back to florence.

I ordered the carpaccio (I'm at the point where I order that any time I see it on the menu, especially when it shows up as a special) and the previously mentioned arabbiata (how could I resist), although it was hard, cause they had crab stuffed ravioli in a butter garlic sauce as a special. But must stay focused!

The arabbiata was just wonderful. Probably not as amazing as the angry pasta of pastaio, rest in peace, but the most worthy successor I've found to date. Fresh grated pepper and cheese topped it off perfectly.

The carpaccio was kind of disappointing. The thinly sliced meat came draped over the greens underneath it, and neither the meat or the greens had any sort of vinegar or seasoning or flavor to them at all, on their own. Its the first time I've had carpaccio done in a way where it was just kind of bland. Ended up having to squeeze lemon over it and sprinkle salt (I almost never find myself using salt) and having to chase all the few capers to make each bite fun. Wouldn't get this again there.

Michelle ordered garlic bread and the carbonara. The garlic bread was great, and the bite of carbonara I had was just amazing. So simple, so delicious, so bad for you. Michelle didn't end up finishing all of her pasta, and it was all I could do to keep from throwing myself over the table to lap up the rest of it. But I was able to restrain myself, and with a tear in my eye, I watched the waiter clear away her dish. But I think I am the better woman for it.

If I go again (which I'm sure I will), I will be hardpressed as to which pasta dish I will order, they were both amazing. Maybe I can convince them to do a half and half order :)

We had wine, which michelle picked out (she's a total wine girl) and I don't remember what it was, but I loved it.

We finished things up with tiramisu. I'm not much of a desserts girl, and never really been partial to tiramisu in particular, but this was really excellent. Very light and tasty.

Oh, and did I mention? This place is extremely inexpensive. Two appetizers, two entres, two glasses of wine, and a dessert, and our bill came to $42 pre-tip.

Posted by carrie at 02:52 PM

lorca

Wow. This is 'The Red Place' at the corner of 24th and Van Ness - i first spotted it on Dia De Los Muertos, and resolved to return. Adam, Russell & i were headed for El Farolito, and then out for drinks - but i diverted us on a whim to try Lorca.

Not a mistake. A charming bar - with both a bar and tables. Charming, sweet bartender - who checked whether R liked his Manhattan 'west coast' or 'east coast', and chatted gracefully. The drinks were divine and well-crafted, as well. (Adam drank Parchment Moons; i tried a Sapphire Poppy Punch, followed by a Spanish-inspired gin-based cocktail which is yet unnamed.)

Everything on the menu looked great, but at the top there was the option of a seven course tasting menu, for $28.00 per person. We threw ourselves on the mercy of the chef without hearing what was on the tasting menu. They thoughtfully asked whether we had any allergies the chef should know about.

I'll try and recount as best i can what we ate; overall - the food was impeccable. Spanish food, but not tapas. Our dishes were from a number of regions, north and south, and they were careful to tell us the inspiration for each as it arrived. Dishes were plated with care and served with panache - the soup was served in ways i normally associate with places like La Folie or The French Laundry. When we were served small, lidded casseroles, they made a clear effort (even in the small restaurant) to lift all three lids at the same time. Small touches. And every bite was delicious!

We started with an amuse-bouche type deal - a glass of chilled fino (Spanish for sherry - this one was fairly sweet) with an olive cracker perched on top for eating afterwards. We were told that it should open our appetites.

This was followed by a very small plate of tiny cubed potatoes with beef, served as an appetizer. I think i saw this on the full menu as a main course. The beef and potatoes was followed by what i think was my favorite - a tiny shrimp, a raw-garlic-ey (but not too sharp) puree of maybe potato? and a swirl of balsamic in a soup dish. A puree'd trout soup was poured over this - you scraped up the reduced balsamic as you ate the soup. Divine. I wish i had photographed this for you.

After the soup, we ate a fish course of marinated, cooked sardines, layered with thinly sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and sprouts, with a lovely sauce. In the photo, note the sauce presentation - the dishes were unique to the course, and the sauce is shaped to look like the fish, which is presented as a 'sandwich' architecture. The flavor was superb - you could taste that it was a sardine, and that you were having essense of sardine without feeling it was 'fishy' or 'gamey'.

This was followed by a dish whose name translates to 'bull's tail' - rice and oxtail, wth some capers and herbs. It needed a little salt to bring up the flavor - but there was salt on the table, and i'd rather they under than oversalt. This was tailed by another fish dish - a perfectly seared piece of mahi mahi on a bed of puree'd potatoes, with mushrooms (wild and domestic, if i am calling them correctly), and a mushroom infusion poured around the dish at the table. Again, so tasty and rich - but balanced on the edge.

We then had a pork en adobo - layered with fried potatoes and other tasties. Then some tiny pieces of flan with sliced grapes, served with flaming brandy poured about them; and then a dessert try with small drinks poured at the table of amaretto, OJ, and mint (poured into tiny glasses with caramelized sugar springs), warm chocolate cake bites with orange cookie, and a tiny custard in a tart shell.

I was perfectly fed - not overfull, not hungry, and as Thomas Keller would say, left wanting just one more bite. Perfect. (You know the game. Click on the food to see the full set.)

Posted by shock at 11:15 PM

Limon Redux

Long ago, at the inception of this here site (uh, a few months ago), i passed a restuarant called Limon and posted that i wanted to try it. After eating there once with my dad and Russell, and another time a few weeks later on a business dinner, i was thrilled. The food is fantastic; everyone concurs. The staff is friendly, the joint is small, the prices are reasonable. It's a little further than Villa Poppi, and a different genre of food, but i think that we may have found our replacement for homey, kickass food in the Mission. I scanned the menu for y'all last month, but didn't get around to compressing it and making it readable. I've tried about 2/3 of the things on it now, and would eat them all again, happily. Poking around SFGate today, i saw that Michael Bauer agrees with me. I hope we can still get a table.

Anyone up for a December gastronome outing?

Posted by shock at 10:18 PM

Speed Tokyo

Wow. So, amusingly enough, i think i ate more Japanese food on the plane flights than i did in Japan.

Maybe that's not fair - it's just that both nights i was in Tokyo, we were taken out to business dinners - with the reservations made and menus chosen for us. Don't get me wrong - the food was fantastic - but both nights they were exquisite, fancy, many-course Chinese banquets! Kinda wacky. ;)

I managed to eat Japanese-style breakfasts - my favorite dish being the seaweed, bean, and edamame salad. I loved the piles of cold cucumbers, and the clear soups i drank. And just to be a little silly, i consumed tasty croissants alongside the rice porridge.

Lunch one day was a blitzkreig, 15 minute jaunt through a weird little bakery. I found some buns filled with pork, and with some sort of a rillete. They were fine. Wednesday we picked up bento boxes and onigiri in Shinjuku station and ate them on the JR Narita Express on the way to the airport.

Flying business class has definite perks - the food being one of them. They came out with a menu for each flight - names like Alice Waters, Bradley Ogden, and Wolfgang Puck as consultants on the back. You could choose a Western-style meal or a Japanese one... i (predictably) had the Japanese meal both times. On the way out, my lunch menu was:
A selection of sushi
Kobachi Dish: Rice wine-marinated calmiari accented by wasabi mayonnaise, presented with flying fish roe on a bed of radish sprouts, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, julienned jicama and leaf lettce
Hassun Dish: Grilled chicken topped with carrot paste, accompanied by cauliflower with seared dengaku miso, sweet simmered herring, code roe egg cake, and griled shishito pepper filled with cream cheese.
Simmered Dish: Japanese-style stewed beef with potatoes and carrots
Entree: Stewed Chicken complemented by assorted mushrooms, offered with taro and mizuna in miso.
Soup: Miso soup with wakame seaweek and tofu
Accompanied by steamed rice and assortment of seasonal pickles.

You get the idea.
Next time, i hope to reap the benefits of Forrest's month in Japan, and actually find myself some yakitori, noodles, and other tasty Japanese morsels while i'm on the island.

Posted by shock at 12:35 PM

Limon

When we were crawling for dessert a few weeks back, we stumbled (almost literally, in my case) on a teeny restuarant called Limon. They serve Peruvian food (as billed) with a California edge (as i gleaned from the menu). It was bright and smelled lovely - i vowed we would come back and try it sometime soon. Have any of you been?

CitySearch Page

SFGate had this to say:
Limon: At Limon, fusion cuisine means combining traditional Peruvian recipes with California ingredients. Headed by chef Martin Castillo, Limon brings together the experience of various members of the Castillo family who collectively have worked at Aqua, Rubicon, Mecca, Sol y Luna and ThirstyBear. The space is stylish and spare, with walls painted lime green, chartreuse and orange. Tables and chairs have a retro-modern look. The short menu, which will be tweaked over time, starts with items like papa a la huancaina, tender slices of potato bathed in a cool, creamy sauce with a kick of spice. In the mejillones appetizer, mussels come in a wine sauce enriched with pancetta, saffron and coconut cream. Rotisserie chicken is a house specialty, or choose from entrees like a fat pork chop on a savory bed of cabbage and potatoes sauteed with bacon or halibut in a spicy, tomato-y sauce loaded with fresh shellfish. Some items aren't always available, and so far there is no dessert menu. Instead, diners are offered a bowl of tropical fruit ice cream on the house. 3316 17th St. (between Valencia and Mission), San Francisco; (415) 252-0918. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Beer and wine. Reservations and credit cards accepted. Starters, $4.75-$12.25; entrees, $4.75- $14.95. -- SF Chronicle (8/02)

Posted by shock at 10:08 PM

the french laundry

The NYT on the French Laundry. Maybe not the most interesting thing in the article, but the strangest piece of synergy for me?
"The atmosphere of near silence in the French Laundry kitchen has often been noted. Yet that hardly conveys a level of concentration that probably wouldn't feel out of place at Livermore lab."

Other linkage: My review of our dinner at the French Laundry.

Posted by shock at 11:04 PM