Thursday, March 25, 2010

Anchor and Hope - San Francisco

Anchor and Hope for lunch - San Francisco 2.10
A good seafood house - the kind with lots of wood, a big long bar with beer taps, free oyster crackers and big bowls of chowder - is just about my favorite kind of restaurant, so I had high hopes for Anchor & Hope going in. I tried to go with a friend when I was in town for the BlogHer Food convention a few months ago, but they aren't open for lunch on weekends. On this visit we needed a place to meet pescetarian friends for lunch downtown (other than the all you can eat curry buffet they suggested) and I thought it would fit the bill nicely.
Anchor and Hope - San Francisco
Located on a tucked-away alley just south of Market, the restaurant is central enough to be convenient for the working crowd, but far away enough not to feel like just another business lunch spot. The dining room is airy and spacious, with lots of natural light pouring through huge skylights. Service is on the ball but unpretentious, and the whole place has a nice feel to it - with a good bit of style added to the classic seafood-house style decor. Lots of ropes, vintage lighting, varnished wood - but no cutesiness or stuffiness to speak of.
Anchor and Hope - SOMA, San Francisco
The menu offers a nice mixture of seafood-house standards and more inventive dishes. Prices are not inexpensive, but certainly not exorbitant for a sit down meal with a cloth napkin, and a beer or two if you choose. Main dishes range from $15. to $25. and appetizers are right around $10. I opted for my favorite seafood house classics - a crab louis, with a bowl of clam chowder on the side.
Crab Louis at Anchor and Hope
The crab louis featured a generous portion of perfectly seasoned lump crab meat accompanied by a gem-like baby green salad with cherry tomatoes, heirloom beans and a tiny quail egg, and a ramekin of rich remoulade dressing. The chowder was fine too, but I probably wouldn't order it again. If you're craving chowder, you're better off at Hog Island Oyster Co. in the Ferry Building. I was also mightily tempted by the Vietnamese-style shrimp fritter sandwich with pickled carrot slaw and jalapeno aioli, and the lobster roll.
Clam Chowder at Anchor and Hope
The lobster roll is served in one of those lovely split-top brioche rolls, with lots of potato chips and slaw.
Lobster Roll at Anchor and Hope
James had the burger, which he said was very good, and the fish and chips was a classic presentation. I did notice they served both of these with thick potato wedges, but they also had fries on the menu as a side. They seem to offer a plethora of potato options: chips, thick wedges and thin fries.

I wasn't taken with their dessert offerings, and if you can't tempt me, that's saying something. There were only three, a chocolate blackout cake, a gingerbread with apple and squash compote, and a Bailey's malted milkshake with oatmeal cookies. They all sounded a little, I don't know, brown - but maybe as the weather warms they'll add some new options. At dinner they offer the classic shellfish "plateaux" - a tiered cold seafood presentation at the ominous "Market Price," and appetizers in the low teens. Entrees are in the high twenties. It may actually be a better bargain at dinner than lunch, now that I think about it.

The best bargain of all though, is undoubtedly their happy hour - available between 4:30 and 6. It features one dollar oysters and inexpensive snacks such as shrimp fritters, braised bacon and fries ($4 - $12) along with wines by the glass for $5. and beers for $4. With deals like these and their lovely light-filled atmosphere, it would not surprise me at all to learn that seats at their bar are in very high demand on late Spring weekday afternoons.

Anchor and Hope
83 Minna Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 501-9100
reservations available on OpenTable and are highly recommended - even for lunch.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring To Do List...

Tulips on the Magnificent Mile - Chicago
  1. renew passport and plan a trip.

  2. go photo safari-ing

  3. restock birthday cards

  4. make Thomas Keller fried chicken

  5. order melon seeds

  6. plan summer movie nights in the backyard

  7. buy some lavender and sage plants

  8. get herb barrels going

  9. plant tomatoes, cutting flowers and pole beans

  10. get some handmade leather sandals

  11. get knives sharpened

  12. make lemonade

  13. eat popcorn for dinner

  14. read more books

  15. go swimming

  16. go to Disneyland (the hankering comes around every couple of years.)

  17. lounge in the back yard

  18. make ice cream

  19. clean my office

  20. Spring clean kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, hall closets and light fixtures

  21. send cuckoo clock out to be fixed and copper pots to be retinned

  22. eat fava beans and strawberries

  23. walk the dogs

  24. hike Torrey Pines and go to Pannikin Bookworks after for lunch and some browsing

  25. go to Barry's third Saturday pizza potlucks at La Milpa

photo of last Spring's tulips in Chicago

Monday, March 15, 2010

Donna's House and Garden

Last weekend I found myself mesmerized by my friend Donna's gorgeous house and garden. About a year ago, she re-planted her front yard entirely with edibles. I visited when she was first planning it, and I was struck by the variety and lushness of it now. Instead of shrubs, she has towering vines of peas, artichokes, carrots, strawberries, herbs, cabbages, etc. They're not only delicious to eat but beautiful too - with a constantly changing palette of colors, textures and shapes.

We have a garden of raised beds - but I'm inspired to do something like this in the front yard when the time comes for new landscaping. (I'm getting to the point where I'm finding it difficult to see the purpose of plants that don't produce something delicious!) Cardoons, kales, artichokes, nasturtiums and cabbages are all especially well suited for landscaping - since they produce both color and foliage, and are as lovely to look at as they are to eat.

The inside of the house is vintage and eclectic with art deco touches - lots of black and white, hardwood floors, a batchelder fireplace, beautiful eat in kitchen, a tv room with Moroccan touches, picture windows looking out to the bay...

Definitely the kind of place where you might eyeball the guest room greedily, thinking "Yes, I could definitely live here!"

More photos can be viewed here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Wa Dining Okan - San Diego

salad with fried gobo at Okan
I've got a couple more San Francisco posts in the queue (Anchor and Hope and Vietnamese breakfast at Out the Door) but I thought I'd take a break from that for a minute, and talk about a great place a little closer to home. I'd been hearing about Okan and dying to go there for a while, so I was very excited when the occasion finally arose a few weeks ago. I thought I knew where it was, but when the time came I drove around for ages trying to find it, so let me save you the trouble. It's in the Nijiya shopping center on the South end of Convoy - just behind Nijiya.
pork gyoza dumplings at Okan
Like it's sister (brother?) restaurant Oton, Okan is a hidden jewel box. The aesthetics are startlingly lovely, with soothing and stylish natural wood decor. It's small, so you will definitely want to make a reservation - though singles or couples may be able to find seats at the square bar in the center of the room. I love their assorted pottery and earthenware dishes, especially the large pottery tumblers they used to serve beer.
fried something or other with soy, daikon, ginger and green tea salt
Sushi or tempura probably come to mind when most people think of Japanese food, but the menu here goes a step further, with some more original dishes. It is an Izakaya, and the dishes could loosely be described as Japanese tapas. Most are small plates, meant to be shared. Our party was fortunate enough to have the assistance of a Japanese chef in choosing what to order, and we were more than pleased with her suggestions. We had the must-try fried gobo root salad, pictured up top, braised pork "Nagasaki style" that literally melted in the mouth, a few of their small starter snacks including fried tofu (pictured above) and some amazing gyoza. We also shared the salmon and scallop carpaccio, the egg omelet with eel, and a pot of rice with king crab meat. (There were five in our party.)
steamed rice with king crab at Okan
The rice was delivered to the table in a cast iron pot, and scooped into bowls by our server - it was slightly toasted and crunchy, and the sweet crabmeat was delicious. It was all excellent, but the gobo salad was especially fabulous and unusual, with young, tender, bitter greens, tossed with a sesame dressing and topped with a giant tangle of fried gobo root. The pot stickers and pork belly are also definite must-haves. They were out of another highly recommended dish - the chilled egg custard, but I plan to try it on a return visit. We washed it all down with beer and sake, served in their beautiful pottery tumblers.
green tea tiramisu at Okan
Unlike most Asian restaurants, dessert here is more than an afterthought. There were three choices, and two out of the three were very worthwhile - the green tea tiramisu, and the pudding with black honey. (The third, a promising-sounding ice cream sundae, didn't quite measure up.) The tiramisu has perfect texture, and a subtle flavor of green tea in place of the espresso, and the liberal sprinkling of cocoa powder on the top is surprisingly harmonious. The pudding with black honey is like a soft flan - topped with a deep honey-tinged caramel syrup. If you like flan or custards, you will undoubtedly love this.
pudding with black honey sauce (like flan) at Okan
Okan also serves lunch during the week. It's a limited menu, but a very good set price of $6.50 for 3 small tapas, miso soup, pickles and brown rice. They also offer add-on entrees for $3.00 to $3.50. - seems worth checking out if you're in the area. Note that they only accept cash at lunch time.

Okan means "mother" in Japanese slang, and the owners recently opened another restaurant, called "Robata-ya Oton" - Oton meaning father. It's located in a small strip mall just off 163 at Clairemont Mesa boulevard. It's only open for dinner, and is somewhat more difficult to find, since it has no sign. It's in the strip mall behind the Arco station, on the far right hand side. After 6:00 pm the door should be open, and after dark, you can see the large globe shaped paper lanterns glowing through the windows. Oton's menu shares some dishes with Okan, but there are some differences. I think it would be best to cover those in a separate post, so stay tuned...

3860 Convoy St #110
in the Nijiya shopping center, just behind Nijiya on the left
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 279-0941
reservations recommended

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Tale of Two Porchettas - Il Cane Rosso and Roli Roti, San Francisco

Porchetta Sandwich from Roli Roti at the Farmers' Market

Not just two porchettas, two porchettas on the same day at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. I know, right? And people wonder why I love San Francisco so much. (Actually, they don't.)

Porchetta is a traditional Italian pork dish made from a whole pork loin, seasoned and stuffed or wrapped with a whole pork belly. The whole assembly is tied and allowed to dry in the fridge for a bit so the skin will crisp, and then roasted in an oven or on a rotisserie. The meat is thinly sliced and piled onto sandwiches with some of the juices, bits of the crispy skin, and pork-complimentary condiments such as mustard or onion marmalade and bitter greens. (If you want to try making it at home, Cesar Casella's recipe can be found here.)
Il Cane Rosso at the Ferry Building Farmers' Market

Roli Roti is a very popular rotisserie meat stall just outside the south end of the Ferry Building, in the Farmers Market proper. Though it's only available in that location every Saturday, their porchetta sandwich has become a cult favorite in the City - one of those "must do" things for visitors and locals alike. In fact, it's holding steady as #12 on the 2010 list of 100 Things to Eat Before You Die from 7x7 in San Francisco. The line is long, but it moves pretty fast.

Their sandwich, pictured up top, definitely wins the beauty contest. The meat was thinly sliced and piled high on a baguette type french roll, topped with onion marmalade and a tangle of baby greens. It was flavorful, but the meat wasn't as juicy or tender as I hoped given the hype. This also may just be a personal thing, but I wasn't crazy about the hard, crunchy pieces of skin mixed in. It kind of feels like you're crunching on bits of gristle.
Menu At Il Cane Rosso

Il Cane Rosso (the red dog, in Italian) is a walk up stand in the Ferry Building, opened in July, 2009 by Daniel Patterson, chef/owner of Coi and Lauren Kino, an alum of Delfina. (It's named after her dog.) There are tables where you can perch and eat, or you can take your food to go. The menu varies quite a bit, but generally offers salads, soups, sandwiches and rotisserie platters with hearty sides. On the day we visited, it included their version of porchetta, pictured below.
Porchetta Sandwich from Il Cane Rosso

The Il Cane Rosso sandwich wasn't as large or as pretty as Roli Roti's, but it was still perfectly satisfying. Their condiments include a thick-sliced pickled cabbage slaw, plum mostarda, and some fresh curly endive. This juicy, succulent, sweet, sour, crunchy and salty combination was piled onto a soft hollowed out rustic baguette roll with just the right amount of chew. It's clear that a lot of thought has gone into the combination, and the result is more than the sum of its parts. It does cost a couple of dollars more than the Roli Roti sandwich, but all in all, I think it's worth it. No long lines, a place to sit, available almost every day? For me it's an easy choice. (The little dish on the side held a couple of pickled carrot slices.)
Root Vegetable Panzanella at Il Cane Rosso

At Il Cane Rosso, I was accompanied by friends Sam and Catherine. We shared not only the sandwich, but a winter panzanella salad with squash, winter greens and croutons, and a butter lettuce salad with bleu cheese and apples. The panzanella didn't have as many pieces of squash as we would have liked but we all loved the apple salad. It was crisp and sweet, perfectly dressed and seasoned.
Butter Lettuce Salad with apples and blue cheese at Il Cane Rosso

Catherine also had the open faced warm egg salad sandwich. There's something about warm egg salad that just doesn't seem right to me - but she enjoyed it and it is a popular dish there, so take that with a grain of salt!

Special thanks to my friend Andrew Spurgin - for not only sharing his Roli Roti porchetta sandwich with me, but for waiting until I took the photo up top to eat it!

Roli Roti
Mobile Rotisserie and Catering
Ferry Building - South End, Saturday Mornings
San Francisco, CA 94101
(510) 780-0300

Il Cane Rosso
1 Ferry Building # 41
San Francisco, CA 94111-4231
(415) 391-7599
menus for lunch and dinner