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Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Second Helping Of FRANCES

Last night was my second trip to FRANCES. It was outstanding. Everything Jake and I ordered knocked our socks off. It all began with the Panisse Frites -Crispy Chickpea Fritters with a Meyer Lemon Aioli. They were thick and moist and went too fast. We also shared a plate of the Marquita Farm Baby Fava Beans done Tempura style. I guess it is Fava Bean season, because it has become a constant on many menus. This particular version stood out with an orange essence and a great batter.

I ordered the Dungeness Crab Salad with Little Gem Lettuce, Kumquats and an Avocado Vinaigrette. The crab was perfect and chunky, just like I like it. And there were plenty of chunks of crab meat on the plate. I shared a few bites of my salad in exchange for a few bites of Jake's Ricotta Gnocchi. It had Green Garlic, Fava Bean and Morel Mushroom Ragout. It was tremendous.

In terms of entrees, I selected the Organic Chicken which was done really good last night. The Parmesan Pudding that came underneath the chicken was pure poetry. I also got some nibbles of Jake's Watson Farm Spring Lamb dish. It had a lot of meat on the plate. Jake scooped up the Butter Beans, Artichoke and CasteIveltrano Olives to offer me the perfect bite.

I deserved the Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Strawberries and Shortbread Cookies. At least, that is what I told myself after 2 very hard workouts yesterday. And I am so glad I indulged. I also indulged in the Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Sea Salt Cookies and Burnt Caramel Creme. I mean, how could you not eat anything that has salt and chocolate? You would have to be mad.

I must mention that they have Magnolia Prescription Ale on tap and 3 other great beers in a bottle. I had the Koshihik Ari Echigo as well and it really went well with the Fava Beans.

When the chef came out to talk to us about our meal, I concurred with Jake that it just gets better every time one goes to FRANCES.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Got My Fix At Bistro Aix

Thursday night I met some friends in the Marina at Bistro Aix.  It was my first time and I heard they had just gone through some extensive renovations. Whatever it was, this place was fabulous.  It all started with Cotes de Provence Rose, Domaine Houchart, 2009.  The kitchen brought us the Grilled Monterey Calamari with Black Olive, White Bean Crostini, Lemon, Olive Oil & Parsley Salad.  This was flawless and everyone was grabbing for more bread to scoop up the remaining sauce that lingered around the dish.  It was literally, some of the best squid I have ever had. I have been talking about it for 2 days.

We decided to share  more starters as well. The first thing that stood out for me was the Burrata with Ligurian Olive Oil and Spring Vegetables. It was delicate and soft and oh so sublime. The House Cured Salmon also had a great impression on us with it's Dill Cream, Potato Galette & Mixed Baby Greens.

We ordered both the Wild Arugula Salad with Cara Cara Orange, fior di Sardo & Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette and the Bolinas Baby Beets with baby Spinach, Goat Cheese & Seville Orange Vinaigrette. We had a vegan at the table, what can I say... But they were excellent to boot.

I kept getting more impressed with the place as my Grilled Sun Farms Top Sirloin came out with Watercress, French Fries & Anchoide Butter.  At this point, I was onto red wine by the glass.  Many glasses actually.  The meat was tender, rare and quite satisfying.

I seem to recall dessert.  I am remembering a Crème brûlée of sorts and I am sure more.  See what good times with good friends will do to ya? 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thanks Mommy!!

So, last night I decided to try Gracias Madre, a Mexican restaurant in the Mission. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the dishes. Created by Matthew & Terces Engelhart, the folks that brought us Cafe Gratitude, Gracias Madres is the first organic, vegan, non-GMO Mexican food in the Bay Area. I was joined by my friend Paul and we shared several things.

Colifor con Queso Fundido just is fun to say and order. Plus the fact that is roasted cauliflower and cashew cheese gratin topped with garlic breadcrumbs just sounded like it was going to be a winner. And it certainly took top prize of the meal. I should know I practically licked the plate.

Also getting honors, was the Papas al Horno, Potatoes roasted with olive oil and garlic topped with cashew nacho cheese. We split the Ensalada de Caesar, which was their version of Caesar Cardini's famous salad from Tijuana Mexico. I liked it. It was creamy with avocado and there were bits of nut throughout. It was clean and yummy.

For our Entrada, we decided to also share the Tacos. The tortillas are made with Organic Heirloom Corn. We chose the Asparagus grilled with cumin, the Rajas-roasted poblano chile strips sauteed with onion and Calabaza asada-roasted butternut squash. I also loved the freshness of this dish. The flavors were simple and vegetables were alive and nourishing. I especially liked the black beans mashed on the plate.

For a well-fed meat eater like myself, I was impressed with the not only the food but the atmosphere. The decor is simple and the tables seemed to create a great community amongst the patrons. Even when they moved us from one to the bar, there was just a truly friendly and kind vibe. So needed, after a long day at the office. It was a nice experience.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Definitely Loving Delfina...Pizzeria

Friday, I went to lunch at Pizzeria Delfina on 18th Street. I was with my friend Jake and new friend Diana and we were all hungry when we arrived. They had this suspicious Octopus dish on the menu made "Bay of Naples Style." Apparently, the Octopus is stewed in it's own juices. Now that got me licking my lips. The broth had potatoes and tomatoes and this green salsa. It exploded with color. The toasted bread got all soaked up in the stew. All 3 forks were diving in the dish with rapid speed chasing after the slices.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention what we had even prior to that. They had on FRITTI selections, the Young Favas w/ aioli. Another race, this time fingers grabbing at each bean with determination. You don't even need the aioli, because the taste and the crunch were exquisite.

When it came time to ordering the Pizzas, I let my guests make all the decisions. And I loved the 2 that were chosen. One was the 4 Formaggi with Tomato, mozzarella, fontal, provolone and pecorino. I'm a 4 Formage Fanatic and this is by far, one of the greatest. We also shared the Broccoli Raab (Star Route Farms) with caciocavallo, mozzarella, olives and hot peppers. It reminded me of Jersey and my mom. She would take me all over the place, to so many great Italian restaurants, growing up. Eating the slices of my pizza, I was brought back to that time.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Panna Cotta My Eye

check out the video above by clicking on the play button

It was awesome to see Remi yesterday from Goody Goodie cream & sugar. She gave me such a nice surprise. I'm still remembering the sweet, creamy goodyness...Thanks for the taste!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let's Just Order Everything On The Menu...

I finally got to Nopalito for some delicious Mexican cuisine. My friend Mark from Concreteworks and I, along with a few friends, had quite a meal. Right when we sat down, they brought over their Totopos con Chile: Tortilla chips, salsa de arbol, cotija cheese, crema and lime. Damn! It was like a natural and amazingly delicious ode to the Dorito Chip, I swear! They also brought this out-of-this-world Ceviche Verde de Pescado y Calamari where they Marinated rock cod, calamari with lime, tomatillo, cilantro and avocado. Different shaped chips were also accompanying the dish and they were outrageous with this salty, sweet taste.

I ordered the Carnitas as my main course. I had talked about this dish earlier with my bud Eric over coffee at Vega At Langton. He cooks at Murray Circle at Cavallo Point, so I appreciate his palate. The dish was comprised of Long braised pork, orange, bay leaf, cinnamon and beer Cabbage salad, pickled jalapenos and salsa de tomatillo. I made my tacos with the house made tortillas and was transported to a familiar flavor I experienced in Mexico last year. I was floating, eyes closed, smile on my face.

I opened my eyes to dessert. Arroz con leche was the first thing they brought out. This amazing rice pudding with raisins and other goodies that popped in your mouth when you took a sliver. There was chunks of house made salted chocolate all over the top of this marvelous masterpiece. And would you believe, they brought us 3 Paletas which is like a Mexican Popsicle. Mine was de chocolate y cinnamon y muy bien! Ok, and I am not kidding, if that weren't generous enough, we each had a Almond shortbread cookie. But, I forget the name they called it and it is not listed on the menu, ARGH!!

How could I have a follow up to such a monumental lunch? Well, dinner at Outlanders, I tell ya...And what a cool thing I have not done in a while, drive to the Sunset District. Located out on Judah and 45th Ave, to be exact. I was dining with some of my favorite folks who cook and pour shots and love what they do. I am so jealous of their dedication to their craft. And we picked a perfect gathering place, " a cozy haven nestled amidst the vast landscape of ocean beach." And so we ordered and shared everything listed on last night's menu. Are you ready?

We must have had at 3 orders of the Outerlands levain toast baked fresh daily with herbs, garlic and olive oil to dip it in. We were like savages fighting for every slot they gave us. We saw more of the toast with celery soup and the split pea soup with ham hock and creme fraiche. Oh, I dipped my bread in both of those quite a bit...

We passed around the table a mixed green salad that had radishes, pickled red onions, pumpkin seeds and a sherry-mustard vinaigrette. As well as a beet salad with oranges, hazelnuts, goat cheese and a citrus vinaigrette. I love salad and there is never enough. In fact, I think we ordered 2 orders of the wilted mustard greens because of how popular it was. I couldn't help but notice how quickly it and the roasted cauliflower and walnut gremolata that accompanied it on the plate were devoured. That was a mouth full.

I don't think I got to experience the roasted asparagus because of my tardiness. Apparently, it came with a remoulade, oyster mushroom and a poached egg. I do remember seeing the last bites float around the table but never stuck a fork in it. I did, however, stick my fork in the blue cheese souffle with apples, fennel and bacon and the savory bread pudding with roasted onions, oregano and swiss. I stuck it in and I kept sticking it in as often as I could with more than 10 people at the table.

We also had the warm sardine on great northern beans and pork sausage and their seafood bisque of salmon, mussels and clams and that was just dinner. We ordered all of the special desserts to share as well. The bittersweet chocolate cake with pear peppermint honey and creme fraiche was to die, I mean, to die... The meyer lemon tart and the dutch apple pie were also big hits.

I had an assortment of beer from the Napa Smith Pale Ale and Amber to the Aventinus that definitely tasted like bananas. It was just really an all-around incredible first trip to this destination. Neighborhood folks were lining up to get into the joint and take over the huge space we had occupied for nearly 2 hours.

So...yeah...I had a really good day. I got to try places I know I will be back to with friends and family. Now, I am off to see Faith No More at The Warfield...Jealous much?

Finding All The Comfort Food, Rain Or Shine

Sunday was a day to recover and stay in from the rain. I finally had to get out of the house at around 1:30pm in the afternoon. I hadn't had any coffee yet, so I decided to go visit my friends at Four Barrel. I was psyched because I got to see my friend Thad before he took off to get hitched. Matt was working as well and offered me some espresso from Guatemala. The Bella Carmona was the blend that has hints of semi-sweet chocolate balanced with honey. It pepped me right up.

From coffee to a burger and a beer a few blocks away at Mission Beach Cafe only moments later. This was not just your typical hamburger. They use Prather Ranch Beef with caramelized onions, oven roasted tomatoes, Winchester Gouda and garlic aioli. Of course it comes with fries and I had no hesitation to order my burger with bacon as well. The beer I selected was a 22 oz of Green Flash Imperial IPA. The burger was everything I could have hoped for on such a lazy day. The staff were awesome and convinced me to treat myself to their famous Brooklyn Blackout Cake. And so I did.

Monday was pretty typical. Started with a personal training appointment at 7:30 and then got my coffee at Vega. A cappuccino and a Goody Goodie cookie made "with a chocolate ratio of 4:1, they’re not messing around. Imagine decadent chocolate chips, premium cocoa nibs, and big, sexy chunks of chocolate swirled together with the finest ingredients."

At lunch, I took a couple of co-workers to Pal's Take-Away. Vytas and I shared the Southern Lao minced chicken Banh Mi with cilantro, pickled carrot-daikon, cucumber and jalapeno on acme bun and the Hidden Farms/Marin Sun Moroccan spiced lamb shoulder with French feta-mint salsa verde, spring garlic and black olive. Both were thoughtful and definitely delivered.

It that wasn't enough I treated everyone to Humphry Slocombe for dessert. I got a combination of Rosemary's Baby and Magnolia Smoke Stack in a cup. I must have been on a dessert kick that day, because only a few hours later, was I in TCHO along the Embarcadero having a creamy Mocha.

After work, I completed another percent point on the 100 Things You To Try Before You Die according to 7X7 Magazine. I tried the Sopa de albondigas from Mijita at the AT&T Park. Described as beef & pork meatballs tomato based broth with vegetables. It was terrific along with the fried chicken taco with spicy cilantro-serrano salsa lettuce & cream I also ordered.

I had also had some beers at Public House, like the Cask brew of Magnolia/PH's Billy Sunday Bitter (4.9% ABV) and the Lost Abbey Carnevale & Devotion Ales. Great treats from this very impressive beer list.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How Much Fun Can One Have On A Saturday?

This past Saturday my friend Stuart and I decided to venture to the Western Addition or NOPA as it has recently been nicknamed. I had heard about this awesome Mexican restaurant called Green Chile Kitchen. I was psyched to see that they had Eel River's Blonde on tap and ordered the combo-plate. I had a pork tamale, the chicken enchilada and the crispy steak taco. I also chose the green chile over the red chile and requested it to be mild. We sat at the bar and had a great time.

It was then a hop, skip and a jump down to their sister Chile Pie & Ice Cream for some dessert. Stuart and I both decided on the Green Chile Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust...a la mode, of course. They were serving Three Twins ice cream and we went for the Strauss Vanilla. The pie had just the right kick of spice and the cheese and apple crispy texture was so fine.

After pie, a Macchiato was in order and so we walked in Matching Half for our fix.  Sermon Espresso by Verve Coffee and done with a  Slayer machine, what more can a boy ask for? Plus, the decor is fantastic and the folks that run the joint are so joyful.  It was a great trip to this side of town.

After I left Stuart in the Castro, I cruised on down Folsom Street to City Beer Store to meet Shana. Because I was in the mood, I ordered the Decadent Darkness on tap. A very strong ale, combination, Imperial Stout and Barley Wine, from the Valley Brew folks. It was mighty! Especially with the Quejo Amareloda Beira Baixa from Quinta Serra da Gardunha... aka Salami and 4 cheeses. The Grafton Village 2 year cheddar from Vermont, the Cravenzina from Caseificio d'ell Alta (Italy), the St Andreas from BellwetherFarms in California and the Casalinga from Creminelli in Utah. I had made it through a pint of Oskar Blues ODB as well. This 4 Gold Medal World Beer Champ Old Double Bagger Barleywine has a 13.2% Alcohol content and is only 6 months old. It was nice to see a keg of it on the list.

For our last beer, I decided to go to the fridge for an Old Viscosity from the Port Brewing folks in San Marcos, CA.  A great priced strong beer that poured dark and was full of rich ingredients. Shana and I shared it as we planned our next stop.

Teased by the cheese, we decided to go try Radius when my buddy Rich arrived from Berkeley. It was the Rocky Jr. Fried Chicken that all 3 of us decided on. We also shared a Bread Salad with tomatoes, basil, mint, parsley, arugula, red onions and ricotta salata with red wine, tomato water and olive oil. The chicken was so thick and juicy and the skin was so crunchy and desirable. The salad was a masterpiece of flavor. Everything tasted so fresh. All the pastries and desserts looked really scrumptious. I had tastes of the cookies and cakes they were sampling.

From there, we went to Bloodhound, next door for cocktails. Basil Hayden's on the rocks for me and neat for Shana. It was a great bar I had never been to before. I totally fell in love with this Olde English Bulldogge named Abby that was roaming around. She was the sweetest girl with an amazing personality. I kind of ignored my friends and totally paid complete attention to her until she left with her daddy.

After about 3 whiskeys, Rich and I left Shana on the corner of 11th and Folsom and we headed to Slim's to dance with the boys at Blow Off. This was some, fun Saturday!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Take Me Out To Ballgame...

Friday was opening day at AT&T Park and what a day for baseball. I braved the crowd and entered Public House. Traci Des Jardin's latest project, has brought one of the largest draft beer and cask ale offerings to the home of the San Francisco Giants. The restaurant also has Mijita adjacent to it. This is the 2nd location to the original inside the Ferry Building. I managed to find a stool to sit on through the chaos and ordered the Split Pea Soup with Country Ham and Firestone Walker Unfiltered DBA out of the Cask.

I started talking to Suzie, seated next to me as I ordered my next brew. I decided on the Lost Abbey Judgement Day with an alcohol content of 10.5% It was quite the massive Belgian Dark Quad styled Ale to drink alongside my PH Burger with Avocado, Bacon & Cheese. Suzie is a sweet social worker who loves good food, good coffee and good beer. My kinda girl! I ordered us Valley Brew London Tavern Ales as we shared some fries. Very smooth and mild as most English ales are. This one just had perfect hop and caramel flavor.

Before I took off I got one last beer for the road. Stone Sublimely Self Righteous just seemed fitting. The staff was incredibly friendly with all the pandemonium around them. I was actually quite amazed by the whole situation. So many Giant fans, it seemed like a record turnout.

Later, at happy hour, I got a dozen oysters at Anchor and Hope with a buddy. They were doing Pearl Points from Oregon for a $1 each. Umm, no-brainer! That and a Cask brew of Drakes 1500 always does the trick too. And since I am being completely honest, I also had a Russian River Damnation. All before riding my bike home to Noe Valley through the traffic from the game.

And the night did not stop there. My buddy Kirk and I met up with our friend Mark at Limon on Valencia Street. It was my first time in the place and I was immediately drawn to the Cevicheria selections on the menu. We all tried the Limon Shooter: Finely diced seafood and lobster meat in leche de tigre. It was spicy and had a great kick. Mark, Kirk and I go to Hawaii every year and we love poke. So, when we saw sushi grade Ahi tuna done sashimi style in rocoto-ponzu sauce (Tiradito de Atun), we had to order some. As for appetizers, we shared the Empanadas de Carne and really enjoyed the combination of the braised beef, raisins, eggs, onions and that rocoto sauce. And the crispy spare ribs with Peruvian slaw were quite yummy to share as well.

Kirk got the Lomo Saltado for his main course. I got to take of bite of his wok-tossed sirloin with red onions, tomatoes, soy and french fries. Mark got the pan roasted pork chop over cabbage-bacon hash & mushroom ragout. I traded bites of my Pollo Latino for that pork. My dish was a pan roasted Rocky Jr. farms chicken breast, mushroom mashed potato and red wine demiglaze. We were all delighted especially with that side of truffle infused mac n cheese that appeared on the table. We had a few pitchers of their legendary Sangria and dessert too. The Bandido, otherwise know as,warm chocolate cake with caramelized bananas, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce was really something. And so was the Tres Leches de Ron y Coco.

Kirk and I managed to head out to the bars for cocktails after dinner but we did not last long. It was a tremendous day indeed!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Good Weather, Great Food, Good Times...

I think today was some of the most perfect weather you can ask for in San Francisco. The sun was out and it was not too hot and cool enough to find any excuse to stroll around. It was Christian over at Vega that suggested the Ferry Building for lunch. Robbie Lewis was the top chef at Tacolicious today, at the Farmer's Market. Lewis who has worked at epic eateries such as Boulevard and Jardinere,was milling rabbit livers into his Guajillo sauce just a couple nights ago. This was all in preparation for the tacos he delivered today. "Top chef taco- rabbit braised in guajillo chilies with fava bean salad & cojita." They were divine. I got a carnitas and shot-and-a-beer braised Petaluma chicken to round out the 3 for $9 offer that stands every week on a Thursday at the Ferry Building.

Meanwhile, I had my co-worker on line for the 4505 specials of the day. And Aaron certainly got the job done. He came back with 2 orders of the Bacon Macaroni Salad. And when I took some bites of it, I was instantly brought to the vision of a summer day at a southern bbq. Aaron also brought over the Spicy Thai Sausage Sandwich that had fennel, radish & cilantro vinegar salad, $$$ Money sauce & mayo. This was all on a griddled olive oil bun from Omega Breads. We were fighting over this sandwich but it was all friendly and fun. The combination of flavor in the sausage and the overall sandwich was absolutely incredible. We were also lucky to have had one of the last Muffuletta Sandwiches that was on today's menu. The sandwich was made with assorted cured meats & salami, smoked Mortadella Terrine, Gruyere , olive salad on a poppy seed bun from Omega Breads as well.

After lunch, Aaron got on the Ciao Bella line for Sorbet and I went to the side window of Blue Bottle to once again experience a Single-origin Espresso from Uganda. A.J. was behind the bar and we had a chance to catch up even though I was just there to see him the day before. What can I say, I love it!

On our way back to the office, coffee in hand, I dropped by the Arlequin booth before we left the Farmer's Market, for a scone to munch on. Today, I chose to go back to the Fromage blanc, fig, honey glaze and instantly remembered exactly why, upon first nibble. Louie was there, all smiles, behind the counter. I even bumped into our friend Ben on the bench, while devouring my heavenly pastry.

After work and a private boxing lesson from Mike (michaeltheboxer), I decided to ride my bike over to Nombe. I am so glad I did. Sarah, a new friend behind the bar directed me through her favorites on the menu. Her first mention was the Mission motzu-spicy grilled tripe with lime. The special that stood out was the CA yellowtail poke with hijiki seaweed and sesame. And finally, I decided to also go with an order of the Grilled fava beans with sea salt and lemon. I mean why not? Let me tell you, this place has it down. I was amazed by the spice, but also, with how delicately placed it was in the presentation. The atmosphere is great and the kitchen was just a glance away from where I sat at the bar. I treated myself to 2 Firestone DBA's, even though, I promised my trainer that I'd abstain from drinking during the weekdays. Oh well, I had to get the whole experience and the Tap was calling my name. Nombe will be calling my name very soon as well...Maybe brunch, this weekend?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Great Lunch at Bar Jules and a Sneak Peek of Lafitte...

Yesterday was fun. I dined at Bar Jules for lunch with my new friend Andreas. We both ordered Butter lettuces with beets, walnuts and champagne vinaigrette. I got their Preserved Albacore Tuna Sandwich and Andreas got the La Queria Prosciutto and Gruyere Sandwich. We split each sandwich and the waiter brought us the butterscotch pudding to top off the whole experience. These folks about kill me. Even the bread and olive oil they offer is dramatic and absolutely delectable.

Last night was also fun. I got to go to my good buddy's soft opening/tasting. Lafitte is located at Pier 5 along the Embarcadero. The interior design of the space was my friend Riley's contribution. And it was rather amazing. The bird's eye view of the kitchen and the overall process is something I find very inviting. I loved being in "the thick of it." It also helped to have some Prosecco and their specialty Gin cocktail to blend with the celebratory mood.

When it came to the menu, I was really impressed with the AMUSE. A seared Day Boat Scallop with Castelvetrano Olive Tapenade, Peppered Etrog & Sesame Vinaigrette. It was clean, simple and delicious. And the Appetizer of Trifecta Terrine in Guanciale with pickled Celery Root, Agrodolce Spring Onions & Italian Fennel Pan de Mie was quite pleasing with the white wine they were pouring.

The atmosphere was most comfortable and the staff were dressed to impress. They moved from the App to the Mid, which was a Pasta with Pan Roasted Sardine, Sauteed Escarole & Bacon Jus. I have to say that I really enjoyed the texture of the pasta. And who wouldn't love a little Bacon Jus in their life? I dipped my bread in it!

When it came time to choose my entree, it was clearly the Pork Trio that stood out. I mean, we are talking about a Seared Pork Belly with braised Pink Lady Apples, a Pork & Spanish Almond Sausage with Flageolet Beans and the Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Braised Parsnips. All very tasty and fun.

I also chose the best dessert, which was their Caramel Chocolate Blondie. My guests were stealing bites left and right, that's how I know. I did also enjoy the Spiced Kumquat Ice Cream that came with a Chocolate Cake. And again, who wouldn't love a little Burnt Rum Raisin Brown Butter Ice Cream? Especially, if paired with a Banana Cream Pie. It was rather seductive. I do have a sweet tooth, so I am a rather easy audience for all things related sweet. My overall feel of
Lafitte, was just that, very sweet.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A First Time For Everything

April Fool's Day was quite a day for me. It all started when I got to sample some single origin coffee at Four Barrel. Having already ordered a Macchiato, I left rocket-fueled. By close to noon time, I finally got a snack at the Sandbox Bakery up in Bernal Heights. Although I did get to taste their negi-miso made of Challah dough wrapped around green onions and miso, I decided to break my cherry with their Yuzu marmalade & sage brioche. It was sticky and complex. The rind and the sage seriously stood out in the overall flavor.

Lunchtime was another cherry-breaking experience. Even though I am the mayor of The Front Porch... on foursquare, that is, I never have experienced their lunch. Thank goodness I had friends to help me get a good sampler of most of the poboys on the menu. I ordered the fried shrimp one with remoulade. My Adventure Girl, Karri, ordered the cornmeal crusted fried oysters. Chris got the fried chicken poboy with creole mayo. And we all shared sides of the gumbo, the coleslaw, and the porch fries. I walked away from my first experience with a 3 way tie for my favorite. The overall sandwich is built well and hearty with meat, regardless of the selection. That was most impressive and appreciative. I encourage folks to join them Wednesday thru Friday for the very pleasurable lunch fare.

My friend Don and I went over to Harlot for a Special Xtra Happy Hour. Kirk, one of the partners of Special Xtra, suggested I try the Harper 67 made with blue bottle espresso, simple syrup, half & half and rum. I liked it but went for Bourbon for my 2nd cocktail.

I continued my cherry-popping, whiskey trip when we arrived at Wexler's for dinner. Kate, an amazing bartender, was making a very special Mexican Old Fashioned. She used Four Roses Bourbon, Trader Tiki's cinnamon syrup, fee bros. aztec chocolate bitters and an orange slice. She was even gracious enough to break down her preparation for me. Apparently, she muddles the orange with the cinnamon syrup and bitters. The adds the Bourbon. Slowly, she adds the ice while stirring all the ingredients together. She finally adds a splash of water and poof...Well, it was an incredible concoction. And I was loving the chocolate bitters and felt the drink was quite unique and tasty.

Don and I shared the shrimp and grits, which were rocking. The grits were prepared like a cake, griddled to ultimate perfection. Even the artichoke had us buzzing. We also went for their BBQ Scotch Eggs. Each of us got to try their interpretation of a very classic dish. The soft boiled egg, the short rib that surrounded it, the spicy BBQ flavor, all were, in the end result, genius.

I got the Plate of Pork which changes nightly. Tonight it was presented with a chicken fried pork tenderloin, a Bourbon apple cider braised pork belly, confit marble potatoes, roasted fennel, a violet mustard pork reduction sauce and pickled granny smith apples. It was quite decadent and heavenly.

Instead of dessert, I had Kate prepare another Bourbon cocktail. She made a Crossroads that included vermouth, averna, absinthe, orange bitters and a burnt orange rind garnish. It was similar to the Manhattan but deep, dark and way more delicious. Kate came out and said hi at the end of the meal and I got to convey my admiration for her style.

The day was full of firsts. I tasted some amazing things and learned a lot. I got to be with friends and I got to smile. How blessed I am...

Another Reason to Cross The Bay Bridge...

Tonight, I had the pleasure of venturing over the Bay Bridge to Oakland and experiencing Pizzaiolo. The menu popped out some easy suggestions for my best bud Ron and I to explore. Ron immediately was drawn to the Kaki Farm asparagus with marjoram-walnut pesto, baked ricotta & roasted beets. And it certainly lived up to it's description. The ricotta was complete perfection!

Next up, was the Monterey Bay squid from the wood oven with sun dried gypsy peppers, rosemary & toasted breadcrumbs. There is not enough I could say to describe how enthralled we were eating this masterpiece. The texture of the squid was executed impeccably. It certainly helped to have all those amazing ingredients to accompany the presentation. But we were definitely under it's spell.

For a Secondi, it was told that the signature Buttermilk fried chicken with ceci ragu, spring vegetables & chili oil was the go-getter. And we went for it with a vengeance. It was thick and juicy and really delectable.

When it came time to pick our Pizze, we asked the waitress for her recommendation. She had no hesitations when she suggested the Rapini & house made sausage. Well, she was spot-on. I can say this, having devoured most of the Bay Area's pizza offerings from the North to the East and down to the South Bay. It may have been the wood oven and the the timing of it's production, but I was moved, moaning with enthusiasm and it really stood out in a special way. Ron concurred.

In terms of drinks, I jumped on the Fata Morgana because of the bourbon, amaro nonino, dry vermouth, blood orange & cardamon. What a mirage of flavor and taste. Ron went for the Tina Modotti that was made with tequila, aperol, lime & grapefruit. After a few tastes of mine, he ordered it as his 2nd drink. I allowed the bartender to take me on a journey with her Crusta and then her Old Fashioned. I was much obliged and quite liquored up by dessert.

Speaking of dessert, the Burnt caramel ice cream fleur de sel was a no-brainer. Ron was seduced by the Arborio rice pudding with candied orange & saba. The waitstaff even brought us the Alambic Brandy to sip on during our feast on sweets.

All-in-all, an amazing time was had. The room was exposed in just the right amount. The red theme was apparent and note-worthy. But most-of-all, dining with my friend and seeing folks devoted to the craft of making excellent cuisine was the major highlight. I anticipate, that this will be a beginning of a very beautiful friendship between me and Pizzaiolo.