Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Super Local Summer BBQ

The Super Local Summer BBQ
September 15, 2007

"Robertson Estate" Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade
Hangar One Vodka
Sodas and Assorted Local Beers

Oasis Hummus
La Salsa Chilena Chips and Salsa
Winchester Gouda cheese
Herbed Queso Fresco with Fresh Vegetables
Crostini

Deviled San Pasqual Academy Eggs
Rancho Gordo Yellow Indian Woman Beans
Farmer’s Market Heirloom Tomato and Basil Salad
with Burrata Cheese

Brandt Beef Burgers
Linkery Sausages
Bread on Market Rolls

Homemade Spicy Ketchup and Grain Mustard
Shaved Medium-Aged Winchester Gouda
Pickled Red Onions
Onions, Tomatoes and Leaf Lettuces

Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
"Boulevard" Hot Fudge
Salted Peanuts
Whipped Cream

Chocolate Caramel Tart Bites
Brownie Bites

I know I've been a delinquent blogger as of late, but I have an excuse. I was busy preparing for the party we threw last Saturday - the first one since we re-did our backyard specifically for that purpose. It was great to see everyone out there enjoying themselves. If you came, I hope you had a good time!

Jay from the Linkery supplied us with the meat, burgers and sausages at a very reasonable price, and we bought cheeses from Taste in Hillcrest (including local Gouda from Winchester, near Temecula), veggies from the La Mesa and Hillcrest Farmers Markets, dairy from Strauss, beans from Rancho Gordo (not San Diego local, but small and conscientious - plus Steve is just really cool) and I made some other stuff from local produce - including pretty decent batches of ketchup and homemade mustard. We also made (actually, Jodi made) a huge batch of lemonade from the lemons off our tree - which we served in one of those giant glass spigot jars.

I'm also overdue on my last San Francisco post, and I'm going to the Gourmet Institute in October, so any of you New Yorkers out there, please feel free to give me some recommendations. So far, Doughnut Plant, Balthazar, the Spotted Pig and the Shake Shack are on the list, but who knows how much I'll have time for - much of the time will be scheduled, and I have some friends I want to visit. I'm very excited though, it should be a lot of fun.

If anyone else is going, please feel free to drop me a line - I will be all on my own in the Big City!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pizzas, People and Places to See - San Francisco - August.07, Chapter 3


On Day Two of my most recent SF trip, I experienced something rare - for me at least - a day full of the pleasures of the City with no responsibilities. San Francisco is not an "easy" city - it's hard to navigate - incredibly difficult to park, and everywhere you go you feel like you're jostling for space with all of the other inhabitants. If you can get past the frustration though, there are some incredible rewards.

The first thing I did was sleep in until ten o'clock. That's right - ten o' clock on a weekday morning. I couldn't believe it - but I woke up fantastically refreshed. By the time I wiped the sleep out of my eyes, it was time to go meet Joy for lunch at Pizzeria Delfina. I have been reading Joy's smart and hilarious blog for a long time - suffice it to say she doesn't really talk like that, but she is a hoot. We had a lovely meal at the Pizzeria. I have to say I think I'm in love with that block in the Mission - Tartine, the Pizzeria, and Delfina restaurant all in a row - and then a stones throw down the block, Bi Rite Creamery (not to mention the Bi Rite Market.) It was so great to see people sitting outside on the sidewalk enjoying the sun on a Friday afternoon.
Pizzeria Delfina
Joy ordered for us at the restaurant, since she knows what's good. We shared an Insalata Tricolore salad with shaved Grana Padano and Lemon Vinaigrette - tart and very refreshing. We also had the house-cured Nostrano - and we fought the urge to order the Fresh Stretched Mozzarella, or the Blue Lake beans with Pancetta, Parmigiana and extra virgin olive oil. (We couldn't completely overdo it - we had ice cream in our future.) We also split the salsiccia pizza - with housemade fennel sausage, tomato, bell peppers, onions and mozzarella. Their pizzas are large and bubbly, with a slightly sweet tomato concasse-style sauce. Dare I say it (please don't hit me Joy!) it was delicious, but it wasn't as good as Oliveto the day before. I'm definitely planning to go back though, to try some more of their housemade menu items - they have a standard menu, but add some interesting sounding specials daily as well - such as the Roasted Corn with Lardo Butter, and "Cherry Pie" pizza, with marinated cherry tomatoes, ricotta salata and basil. It's also very affordable with starters under $10.00 and pizzas around $15.00. Not surprisingly, it gets crowded. There are few tables (all two tops) and even at 1:00 PM we had to wait a few minutes. Get there early or go at and odd time if you want to be assured of a table - otherwise you'll be waiting for a while.
Bi-Rite Creamery Flavors
After nearly polishing off our pizza, we headed down the block to Bi-Rite Creamery for ice cream. I swore I was going to go back to this place before I left town, but alas I only had one opportunity to stuff myself with their gorgeous flavors. I chose Salted Caramel, which was a no-brainer after my fantastic experience making this ice cream myself, and Mint Chocolate Chip - one of the best renditions of this flavor I think I've ever tasted. They also make great chocolate chip cookies, which they will cut up and put on top of the ice cream. They stuck slices of cookie in mine like a little cookie forest. Pure genius. When I go back, I have at least a half a dozen flavors I will have to fight with myself to choose from - Ritual Coffee Toffee, Balsamic Strawberry... the list goes on. They also have a freezer case with pints to go, and ready-made ice cream sandwiches. I also picked up a bag of their chocolate chip cookies to take home to Tommy (I'm nothing if not a good guest) and they were better (in my opinion anyway) than the ones I bought at Tartine on an earlier trip, and the ones I had purchased at La Farine the day before. Speaking of Tartine, we swung by there on our way out hoping for some croissants for breakfast the next morning - but they were sold out. C'est la vie.
View from the Tower
Joy and I parted ways after lunch. I had hoped to spend some time with my friend Tracy that afternoon, but she was stuck in her conference for the duration, so I decided to do a solo trip to the De Young Museum. There is truly nothing more beautiful than Golden Gate Park on a day when the weather cooperates. I drove past the amazing Conservatory of Flowers - which I will have to make sure to visit on a return trip. It looks like a Victorian Wedding Cake - really an amazing structure. The De Young is also spectacular in its own way. I thoroughly enjoyed strolling through the galleries and I was impressed with the collections and the way they are arranged. It's a beautiful place and a great way to spend an afternoon. Highly, highly recommend. At Amy's suggestion I also made sure to go up to the view tower, which was spectacular - given the aforementioned fantastic weather. I also stopped in their cafe for a cup of coffee. The coffee was nothing extra, but the outdoor patio is a really pleasant place to sit. I'm not sure why but I just love museum cafes and gift shops, and theirs are great examples. In the shop I bought a few pictures and gew gaws to take home - including a Wayne Thiebaud print that is now hanging in our living room (for $5.00!!)
The De Young Cafe Dining Room
Dinner that night was at Boulevard - one of my favorites. It was good, but I am not sure it was as good as it has been on my last couple of visits. Perhaps we ordered poorly. We had a scallop starter with sweet corn bisque, tuna tartare with avocado and wasabi roe for starters, and Tracy and I each ordered a roasted halibut dish with beer battered mussel fritters, aioli and tomato risotto, sauced with "mussel bisque buerre fondue." Tommy had the steak with crisp potatoes and mushrooms. Our server had to warn us that the scallop starter was actually more of a bisque with a scallop accompaniment, and he was right - there were two scallops in the center of the bowl of bisque, whereas by the description I would have expected seared scallops with a side of bisque - maybe a shooter. It was fine, but really pretty basic. The ahi tartare was also good but ordinary. I expect Boulevard to serve something a little more inventive than the daily norm, so it was a little bit of a let down. The halibut entree was very good, and the mussel fritters were the highlight of the meal.

The dessert selection did not seem to me to be quite up to their usual standard. We had an ice cream s'more pie type of thing that was fine but again not very interesting. I do think I've become more critical of pastry menus since taking my classes, not because I'm some sort of expert pastry chef myself, but because I know what goes into these things. I definitely think they can do better. The company was more than enjoyable though - getting together with Tommy and Tracy is always a treat, and I couldn't have been happier about that.

(Next up - Days 3 and 4, more pizza, Tomales Bay Foods, and Breakfast at Boulette's - again!)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Pizzas, People and Places to See - San Francisco - August.07, Chapter 2

(Continued from this earlier installment)

Bar Crudo is a tiny jewelbox of place, with of a raw bar on the ground floor with a narrow counter, and an attic-like upstairs dining room. It looks like one of those European buildings from the time when people paid taxes according to the width of their houses. The decor is modern and fanciful, with zinc topped tables, and an artistic installation of lights designed to look like jellyfish dangling at the end of the room above the staircase.
The Raw Bar at Bar Crudo
Crudo roughly translates to the Italian version of sushi, and at Bar Crudo, the thinly sliced raw fish are composed with inventive accompaniments to compliment the flavors. In addition to the raw bar items, there are a number of salads and hot dishes on the menu - including their made to order seafood chowder, and a whole grilled fish.
Arctic Char at Bar Crudo
We tried nearly every raw dish and shared everything. As you might expect, some of the combinations were more successful than others, and some of us liked them more than the others did. The Arctic Char with creme fraiche and dill was universally adored - it was melt in your mouth buttery and sweet. (It was recommended to me by at least two respectable foodies when I told them we were dining there.) The selections change frequently, but many of their flavor combinations are consistent - we liked the accompaniment of sprouts, daikon and citrus with the hamachi - but I was less impressed with the lobster oil and pineapple vinaigrette that came with the tombo. If I were to go back, I frankly might not order the raw fish at all - I was so thoroughly captivated by the heirloom tomato salad with lobster and burrata and the sublime house-made chowder that it would be difficult for me not to order both.
Bar Crudo - Lobster Salad with Burrata, Arugula and Heirlooms
The lobster salad, pictured above - was a inventive but thoroughly appropriate combination of large wedges of heirloom tomato, fresh arugula, basil - mild, creamy burrata and chilled poached lobster. The only off note in the whole thing was that the peas on the plate were completely raw. While I believe that most vegetables do taste better uncooked - peas are not in that category. They were hard and starchy, and would have been far better blanched.

The chowder is a bacon-accented bisque, loaded with fresh seafood. Each bowl is made to order, ensuring that nobody winds up with the overcooked rubbery stuff at the bottom of the bucket. It's extremely rich and a large serving - two could easily share it.
Who's that food blogger hiding behind her glass?
We had a great time at dinner - I really enjoyed introducing Sam to Tracy and Tommy and they loved her as well of course!

(Next up, day two - lunch at Pizzeria Delfina and Bi Rite Creamery with Joy, the De Young Museum and Boulevard!)