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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Foggy Summer Nights

I am in somewhat of a fog.  Maybe it is due to being overworked or sleep deprived.  I keep forgetting to allow myself the time to reflect on some of my culinary adventures. Like, for instance, Plum Preview Dinner # 3 at Il Cane Rosso, 2 Monday's ago. What a great night that was.  It was nice to see the Master Chef Daniel Patterson in his element.  He really delivered a menu that  highlighted his abilities to create the most delicious savory dishes and show his soft and sweet side as well.

The table first got a most righteous snack of crisp chicken skin dosed with seaweed powder.  It was momentary and fantastic.  We were a group of robust diners at this table.  3 Bears and a skinner, tall guy to be exact. But we still managed to share graciously.

Then came our own dishes of warm smoked black cod- potato puree with a grilled pepper wild fennel relish and olive oil cracker.  The dish was delivered at the most perfect temperature, warm and edible.  And boy, did we chow down.

You can imagine our delight when the next dish, a cauliflower glazed with lemon & garum, bulghur, and a dandelion salsa verde arrived. Here was that sweet side I was referring to.  It balanced out the previous course and was great preparation for what was up next.

This time, slow-cooked pork shoulder, turnip-apple miso and fresh seaweeds. It screamed Peter Brady, 21st Century Style. It was cooked preciously the way you handle that meat. That plate looked incredible as with all the dishes of the night.  everything was so thoughtful and full of subtle and intentional detail.  It also helped to have a very delightful server to enhance the whole experience.

So, we got to the tail end of our prix fixe and a raspberry custard with sable breton, some yogurt and rooiboos was placed in front of each of us.  Gorgeous, both in presentation and taste.  They also had these yummy curried chocolate covered almonds to share. Again, the company of men acted appropriately with fair portions to snack on.

We stumbled over to Slanted Door for a nightcap and a chance to reflect on our great meal.  Although the fog was thick that night and the air very cool, our bellies kept us warm. We toasted one another a true and happy "Cheers!"

Monday, August 9, 2010

100 Reasons To Celebrate A New Mission Destination

Last night I got to visit some old friends at the new Commonwealth restaurant located on Mission Street.  I was with Jake for their soft opening and it was fantastic.  First of all, the room is elegant and comfortable.  I had been to the space for a beer tasting not too long ago, when it was still under construction and I amazed at the results.  But let's get to the menu, shall we?

Jake and I were hungry and certainly left satisfied.  We were sipping on some white wine and ordering like Mad Men.  The first dish to arrive were the Shishito peppers with goat cheese and rose petals.  A perfect combination of flavor and spice.  The goat cheese balanced it out well.  We shared the summer squash, which was a chilled soup with fried squash blossoms, shaved salad and Vadouven.  I may not know what that all means but it certainly tasted good.  The blossoms were the stars of the dish, but everything that accompanied deserves Best Supporting Nods too.

Moving on to those garden tomatoes and basil.  Man, that was incredible!  Just think about this for a minute. Black olive crumble! Smoked bread! And that Idiazabal cheese took the cake.  Very in season and very addicting.  But the dish of the night had to be the potato gnocchi.  Everyone was talking about it too.  It had corn, it had Maitake mushrooms.  But the truffle oil and the sage with the Parmesan Reggiano made it heavenly.  That gnocchi was so smooth and delicious, I could have walked into the kitchen and stolen another helping if I wasn't so bashful.

We had to order the brown butter poached skate wing with cauliflower, Dashi and sea beans.  Also in season right now and done with real thought, precision and class.  This dish exploded with yummyness.  I was reminded of Le Jules Verne in Paris with the foam on the plate.  I love foam!  I also loved loved loved the guinea hen and spot prawn. Three words, chocolate-almond emulsion.  I was onto a great glass of red wine at this point.

There was a salt cured Foie Gras on the Chef's Tasting Menu that we had to try.  We boldly asked for it and truly were glad.  It had Umeboshi and a seaweed brioche to spread it on.  We each had our own plate to avoid confrontation.  Mine disappeared too quickly.  Very impressive.

When it came time for dessert we ordered the White Russian.  This epic combo of coffee ice cream, Vodka Gelee, raw milk mousse and Genoise cake.  And we can't forget the Cinnamon Mille-Feuille with cardamom marshmallow, chocolate ganache and burnt honey ice cream.  It reminded me of the ultimate broken down smore. 

My curiosity about the narwhal was killing me from the dinner menu.  They mentioned nitrogen and that was it.  I needed to try this floc de gascogne, sake, ambrosia melon and shiso.  It was tremendous and worked as a last course.  The familiar faces and the ease of the night were very noteworthy, especially for a soft opening.  They had everything under a meticulous control and made it look easy.  I was so proud to be among the first to experience this place.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Subtle Perfections Are Evident At Baker & Banker

A week ago my friend Steve was visiting from Pasadena. We made plans to hang out and grab dinner. I had heard great things about Baker & Banker up in the Pacific Heights area.  And we really did enjoy our visit. The food, the service, the ambiance is all here on Octavia Street. I felt a little out-of-place because of my attire.  I chose the comfortable look with a T-Shirt and jeans.  But, so what, it is after all, California. And they still welcomed us with open arms.

Upon arrival in the dining room, Chef Lori recognized me right away.  She was so nice and immediately offered us glasses of Francois Pinon Vouvray Petillant "Non-Dose" (2008) to sip while they got our table together.  We ordered another round after we sat down and placed our order.

The Grilled octopus salad, yellow watermelon, spicy Asian vinaigrette, sea beans just seemed too good to pass up. It was quite something.  The elegant octopus was so delicious alongside that fruit and the spice was just the right amount.  It was one of those remarkable dishes that stays with you.  The Sparkles paired incredibly well with it too.

Lori makes the most amazing bread that goes in their Bread baskets.  I should know, I ordered 2 more baskets after the initial one. And if you want to go after my heart, that's the secret. Bread is life, it warms you. It is so satisfying when done well.

I continued to warm up with a glass of Von Simmern Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling (2007).   At this point the Soy and mirin braised black cod had arrived.  The texture of the fish was truly a masterpiece.  I had a chance to mention it when Lori's husband came around to check on us. Jeff was so gracious too, as I mentioned how in love I was with his foie gras-shitake sticky rice.  I traded bites of my dish for Steve's Housemade pappardelle, wild mushrooms, summer squash, roasted ricotta salata and fresh mint.  No wonder it got all silent during our main courses.  We were under the spell and the flavors were bursting and leaving their mark.

The seduction reached it's max as we moved into dessert.  Once again, Lori took charge and we not only got the PB&J but the crisp as well.  The PB& J was her strawberry jam filled doughnuts with the most decadent peanut butter dipping sauce. The crisp was made with Nectarine and plum , brown sugar-pecan streusel and blueberry swirl ice cream.  Both nearly blew us out of our chairs.  We were childlike and competitive when it came to sticking our forks and spoons.  The whole meal was a work of art.  I felt spoiled and delighted all at the same time.  I look forward to going back to the bakery they are just opening next door!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Quick Bite And A Few Flights

The other night, I had a chance to finally try Spencer on the Go.  I have been to Chez Spencer many times but never their food truck.  I was with my friend, Tabitha, and my dog.  It was a cool night but we  still decided to eat outside. We practically had everything on the menu too.  The first thing we popped in our mouths were the Escargot Puff Lollipops.  They were "bananas!" I wish I ordered 6 of them.  We were also very impressed with the slider they had on the menu that night.  The meat was cooked to perfection.

Other things we shared included the Cauliflower Soup and Lobster Bisque. I loved the truffles in the Lobster Bisque and the cream. We insisted on asking for croutons for dipping. And the Parmesan chip layered in the Cauliflower Soup was excellent.  They certainly warmed us up with the chill in the air.

The Roasted Beet Salad with the Point Reyes Blue Cheese was so plentiful. And the Asparagus was also very tasty.  I insisted we try the Braised Lamb Cheeks Sandwich as well and I am so glad we did.  It was just the right amount of food we needed to continue on for cocktails next door.

Waiter, my pooch is welcome at Bloodhound right there on Folsom Street, so we walked over there for some whiskey and beer.  We had a Four Roses Bloodhound Barrel straight up to heat things up.  I ordered a Belgian Beer to follow it up. A mighty fine Abbey called Tripel Karmelie .  After 2 rounds we called it quits and headed home.  It was just one of those perfect, San Francisco, cold, summer nights.