Sunday, March 11, 2012
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
So last month, in a moment I should file under "what was I thinking," I made a new year's resolution to eat less carbs. It lasted all of 2 1/2, maybe 3 weeks, until I heard about about Ramen Parlor, the newest member of the uber-popular ramen family that includes the crazy crowd-drawing Santa Ramen and Ramen Dojo.
The menu is a bit limited at lunchtime, especially for our friends with kids who weren’t able to order dinner-only items like miso soup (come on, really?) or chicken karage. But I guess that's what happens when you're very, very focused. Ramen is definitely the draw here, boasting rich, complex broths and chewy, toothsome noodles. Oh, and did I mention lobster oil?
I choose the regular ramen with the soy sauce-flavored broth, which was a salty, savory and unctuous (without feeling heavy) delight. The noodles were flavorful and chewy, and the lobster oil added a subtle seafood-y luxuriousness (plus, it just sounds super fancy!)
There were a few specials that day, including a spicy tan men that included soft shell crab which MFM raved about, while others at our table added a variety of the extra toppings, which included corn, mushrooms, and spicy cod roe.
If I compare it to its siblings, I have to say I liked it more than RD (which was wasted on me since I couldn't handle the spicy, "stamina" style ramen) but slightly less than SR, which to me is a bit simpler and purer (plus they have that yummy stewed pork belly).
But I'd have to go back at least once or twice to be sure. At least.
SAMIWICH'S TASTE RATING
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Thursday, February 09, 2012
What I envisioned: A posh, private, and ultra swanky dinner in a posh, private and ultra swanky secret location.
What we got: An arguably posh, semi-private table set up in the restaurant’s adjoining bakery that you have to tromp through the dining room and kitchen to reach.
Okay, so I didn’t mean that to come off as snarky as it did (and who am I to talk, since my only previous private dining experience has been at the Pope’s Table at Buca di Beppo). In truth, the delicious food, cozy atmosphere and warm service at Baker & Banker made for one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time.
To make sure we reached the chef’s table minimum (which was $750), my dining companions and I ordered their 8-course tasting menu, with a few adding on the wine pairing as well. And for the next 3 1/2 hours, the gracious chef and friendly waitstaff delighted us course after course with exciting food, warm hospitality and great conversation.
Maybe I can blame it on too much Top Chef (oh wait, that's Judges Table, not chef's table) but as I said, I was expecting something a little more that a table set up in its only-open-during-the-day bakery. Still, it was a cozy, charming space with lovely, lingering bakery smells, and hustle and bustle of the pastry chefs busily preparing desserts nearby.
It began with a spicy tuna spring roll amuse bouche and then went on to a delicate, flavorful butternut squash soup. Next came a rabbit sausage and foie gras salad with lentils (tasty, but perhaps not my favorite way to enjoy foie) and seared scallops with chanterells and brussel sprouts.
Speaking of Top Chef, there were plenty of Top Chef moments, including duck confit with smoked almonds, dates and some kind of foam, and a chorizo-crusted flounder in garlic saffron boulibasse, Israeli couscous and fried parsley. There was definitely a lot of wow factor going on here.
My favorite dish was the soft, tender and melt in your mouth wagyu beef that was served with winter vegetables and short rib canneloni. Or maybe it was the dessert of custard filled lemon meringue donut holes which was an amazing combination of some of my favorite things.
The chef (Mr. Banker) brought many of the dishes to our table himself and both he and our server, Brian, made us feel at home while serving us these beautiful, delicious dishes that felt truly special. Our last dish was a spiced apple sorbet that was brought to the table and doused with sparking wine before serving.
So despite my prior snarkiness, I can say nothing but good things about this dinner, which turned out to be one of my favorite dining experiences ever. And that pie-in-the-sky notion of a chef's table I had seems so not the point after thoroughly enjoying myself here.
But I'm still a bit curious. Has anyone else out there had a memorable chef's table dining experience?
SAMIWICH'S TASTE RATING
Sunday, February 05, 2012
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
I was listening to something on the news about Groundhog Day – the actual day, which made me think about the movie, which started my wondering what my ideal/perfect day would be if I had to re-live it over and over. And while I’m still figuring out what the majority of that day would look like (so far I have Milo (my dog) time, a Storage Wars marathon, playing Words With Friends in peace, and a nap) – a visit to the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market would be nice to add onto that list.
Which is why it’s crazy that it’s taken me this long to actually go. Happening on Thursdays and Saturdays, the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building is definitely a destination for foodies and shoppers alike - a gourmet's paradise against the picturesque backdrop of the bay. Add to that clear skies and sunshine, and you have one of those perfect, why-would-you-want-to-live-anywhere-else San Francisco type of days.
I was first drawn to Roli Roti, this ridiculous food truck-slash-rotisserie on wheels, as were a ton of others as I joined a line that was probably 50 people deep. I didn't even know what porchetta was - but quickly learned it's pork loin wrapped in pork belly and herbs and roasted to a juicy, glistening perfection. Add some fresh greens, onion marmalade and a chewy Acme roll and you have # 12 on 7x7's 2010 list of things to eat before you die.Next I siddled up to Blue Bottle Coffee's stand for one of the Bay Area's strongest, purest hand-pours. At $4 a cup it's a bit steep, but experiencing the near-science experiment skill and precision of the barista is almost worth it.
I was a bit torn at my next stop, Mexican food spot Primavera, between ordering one of my all-time favorite dishes, chilaquiles - or chicken tinga, something I never had before. The chilaquiles won out and me over - as I dug into a warm, spicy plate of soft eggs, beans, tortilla strips, cheese and fresh avocado covered with a gorgeous red chile sauce.
I'm already a big fan of Namu, but couldn't pass up a chance to try their version of loco moco - a comforting bowl of rice with a grass fed beef patty and fried egg and topped with a luscious dashi gravy. And while I'm still not 100% sold on a sheet of nori being an adequate taco shell stand in, Namu's taco with tender short rib meat, pickled daikon, seasoned rice, kimchi remoulade and a drizzle of homemade teriyaki was pure yum.
Finally, I stopped at 4505 Meats and while I sadly didn't have any more room (their bacon hot dog sure sounded enticing) - I bought a couple of bags of chicaronnes. For the uninitiated, these fried pieces of pork skin aren't quite like the stuff you get at 7-11. An article I read referred to them as "pig candy" and they will simply amaze you. One bite is a crunchy, crispy, slightly sweet, spicy, melt in your mouth combo that will make an instant addict out of you. (And it's not just me, SFoodie ranks it #76 on their top local foods list).
So yes, an hour at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market is defintely something I could re-live over and over. So what does your ideal/perfect/Groundhog day look like?
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Which means I might not have said hello to silky, shitake-studded chawanmushi or met one of my new favorite bowls of garlic ramen. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Does anyone else use their garage for storage (and not for parking a car?) Ok yes, I happen to be one those people. So this story begins when MFM bought a new car, and after we cleaned it out, started parking his car in the garage when he visited.
However, we soon discovered that the opening and closing of the old, antiquated garage door was causing a huge, disturbing clatter. Enter family friend Pat-strami, who generously offered to help install a new Home Depot-bought garage door opener, which saved me from plunking down almost $700 to hire someone.
So as a thank you, we took Pat-strami to dinner. He chose Miki, a tiny Japanese restaurant in the outer Richmond. I don’t know why I’ve never been here before! It’s tiny – holding 8-10 tables at most – but its compact kitchen churned out some of the tastiest, most reasonable, and authentic-tasting Japanese food that I’ve had in a long, long time.
The aforementioned garlic ramen was rich, hearty and toothsome, topped with tender pork belly and a potent punch of garlic – and was probably one of two or three bowls I’ve had in San Francisco that I’d go back for again and again.
Our appetizers of agedashi tofu, a spicy scallop roll, and seaweed salad were among the best I’ve tasted, and the karage curry delivered the deep-fried, spicy kick it's supposed to. But our table was probably most impressed with the chawanmushi, a smooth, silky dashi-flavored custard that was studded with shitake mushrooms.
Which was special, as it’s a dish you don’t see everyday. Also unique – they serve natto – a sticky, slippery dish of fermented soybeans – if that’s your cup of tea.
We ended the meal with a yummy dessert of fried mochi, red bean and green tea ice cream. It was one of the best meals I’d had in a while, and I’ll happily go back. And by the way, just in case you’re wondering – my new garage door opener, the Chamberlain Whisper Drive, is really, really awesome. I'd recommend that too.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
makes one 9" cake
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
I have a feeling this place may be my new Kenny's.
When I was in college, my friends and I frequented a cafe in West LA called Kenny's. It was always a treat to go there, and after my first bite of a "royale" - a simple, heartening scramble of Asian-marinated meat, onions and eggs served with rice and topped with salsa, I was smitten. Every biteful was meaty, eggy, spicy, and slightly sweet - a perfect balance - and comfort food at its best.
Which is why we were all heartbroken when a city-mandated redesign (you entered this homespun spot by first walking through its open kitchen) proved too expensive, causing them to shut down.
Fast forward more than a few years, to when my friend Ms. Gorgongzola, who knows a lot of great spots in the Bay Area, told me about an old school Asian-infused coffee shop located at the edge of South Park. It piqued my interest. But delivered way more than that.
I’m not exactly sure what a greasy spoon is, but HRD has a lot of that dive-y, diner-y, old school energy (in fact, Diners, Drive Ins and Dives featured this very place last year). Starting with the name, which according to lore, derives from an old Human Resources Department that used to be housed near there.
Whether that’s true or not, there’s certainly a well-worn authenticity about this place. The grill looks like it’s satisfied millions of hungry customers, and the formica-topped counters and stools look almost Edward Hopper-esque.
But the menu is 100% in the moment – without being trendy, if that makes sense. You’ll find typical diner fare – like burgers, omelettes and fries, but the bulk of the menu offers Chinese, Korean and Japanese dishes. Only done with an American slant - like Korean tacos, Asian pork chops with fries, or a sloppy "jojo" with pork and kimchi.
I tried the spicy pork burrito, which was delicious with Korean-marinated meat, kimchi, fried rice, nori, and a spicy bean paste sauce instead of salsa. And their “Mongolian cheesesteak” was a sweet/savory combination of meat, mozzarella cheese and hoisin sauce – a hearty combination I have never quite tasted before.
Ms. Gorgongzola also advised trying the “Crunchy Roll fried rice” – a fiery dish of spicy pork, spam, and chicken fried rice topped with a fried egg – which is a plateful of Asian comfort food at its best.
And that’s the thing about comfort food – if it does its job correctly, one bite can take you back to a moment or place in time. For me, it took me back to my college days and Kenny's in West LA. To royales and coffee and the kind of good times you can only have in those days before life got serious. And that just might be one of the highest compliments I can give.
But be forewarned, just like Kenny's used to, HRD only opens for breakfast and lunch Monday-Saturday, and if you're going for lunch, you'd better get there early to avoid the long lines which snake out the door and down the block.
Sunday, January 15, 2012