Archive for the ‘San Francisco’ Category
We are bowled over by molecular gastronomy at Atelier Crenn. This time we settled on their five course menu. And yet again, each plate was an orchestra that brought together purity of flavors and textures to form an exquisite whole.
We had the same table as last and a Spanish chef for our neighbor that evening. Even with his highly broken english, it was clear from his explanation to Chef Dominique that he was on food tourism. He had settled for the ten course meal with wine pairings. With each course, his waiter had painstakingly explained the mile long list of ingredients in Spanish. This time I had decided I wasn’t going to write down the list.
First course was “trio of tomatoes”. Saying that the course was tomatoes says nothing. These were peeled, soft textured, cold grape tomatoes in essence of tomato broth with small bits of goat cheese – an umami bonanza. Next course was seafood medley that was infused with dashi. The third dish was soft cooked kohlrabi coated with coffee served on a bed of kohlrabi puree with kimchi sauce. The bitterness of kohlrabi was extended by coffee and kimchi offered an orthogonal spiciness dimension. Who would have thought that an earthy unpretentious root vegetable such a kohlrabi could be served for fine dining and with success. For palate cleanser, we were offered a shiso-ginger ice which if served with vodka would have made for a fantastic cocktail. The final savory item was guinea hen with huckleberries and chanterelle mushrooms. Desserts started with a not so sweet beet sorbet served to look like a beet. The tail bit was made of chocolate and the soil was composed of chocolate, yogurt and oatmeal. This was followed by eucalyptus popsicle served in a eucalyptus bouquet. Finally, some caramels and fruit jelly candy served on an artificial log but with a real acorn bud for decoration. Charming.
We obviously adore the food here but I wish I could see my food a little better. The main courses here were served on dark slate – the kind I scribbled on with chalk while I was a child. Very stylish and personally very evocative for me but I can’t quite see the sauces. The other courses were served on glass which again has a visibility issue for me – too much specular reflection or transparency. Nevertheless, I am waiting for my next excuse to celebrate.
Gaultier’s exhibition at de Young ended last weekend. The dimly lit cavernous space of de Young felt appropriate for Gaultier’s over the top couture. Projected facial expressions on faces of the mannikins was a brilliant touch that animated the show and added to the sense of engagement.
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Not counting the occasional foam or sous vide, Atelier Crenn was our first molecular gastronomy meal. My husband and I are both scientists who have spent a significant part of our lives studying molecular interactions, so we were of course delighted when the word molecular started to be part of modern food cuisine. But before this meal, I had occasionally wondered if molecular gastronomy was just clever hype. But after this meal, I think a better way to describe this new cuisine is to consider the difference between abstract and realistic art. Just because art is in one category or other, doesn’t make it good or bad. The artist has to work equally hard to capture the imagination of his or her audience. Molecular gastronomy is abstract art and Dominique Crenn’s creations reminded me of Kandinsky’s composition series – many ingredients playing with each other to create something that was larger than sum of its parts.
We had seen chef Mangieri on Chow Obsessives. Location of Una Pizza Napoletana isn’t particularly exciting. Except for the oven, the restaurant interior looks like a bare canteen. From a choice of half dozen toppings, we ordered the Margherita. From any table, you can watch him prep the pizza with focus of a meditative monk. There is no aerial tossing, there is not much talking, there is no clinking of glasses, there is no busy moving to and fro from the kitchen… in fact there is no wasted movement, just obsessive placing of basil leaves and cheese on the dough. A baby, who was in the pram next to his station, presumably his, is growing up on the sweet smell of bread and basil.
Even though this one is situated in the heart of Chinatown, this is not your average Chinese restaurant. You definitely can’t go by the yelp averages. Think of it as anti-thesis Chinese takeout – there is nothing fast, cheap or expected about Jai Yun. So be prepared to love it or hate it.
For us, the occasion was my 40th Birthday. What better day to treat oneself to something out of the ordinary. We walked in early that evening to a familiar restaurant. No, it was our first at Jai Yun but their current location is where another unusually good restaurant used to be – The Flying Pan. We ate our way through an upwards of 20 dishes, all distinctly different in textures and flavors. Our server described each dish in detail without which it would have been very difficult to tell what we were eating. Pacing was superb. If I had to pick a single star item, it would be pig ear scented with five spice mix but all the dishes could be described somewhere between competent to superb. Even though each dish was quite light in itself, after the 15th or 16th dish we did get a bit tired of eating.
All in all, definitely something worth doing once – like celebrating a 40th.
Ferry Building at San Francisco is perhaps my favorite spot in the city when I am feeling lazy or when the weather is not at its best. They have everything to cheer you up – good coffee (Blue Bottle), good food (Slanted Door), good chocolates (Recchiuti), good bread (Acme), good cheese (Cowgirl creamery), the Farmer’s market and excellent views. This time, I found another reason, Miette Cakes. We picked up a chocolate ganache cake and it was delicious. The chocolate was intense (Scharffen Berger). The size was big enough to share with significant other and small enough to disallow fat/sugar overdose.
Four Barrel on Valencia is a well reviewed coffee mecca in Mission District of San Francisco. The queues are long but is a good opportunity to watch city fashions. The space has a modern warehouse look with a coffee bar at the entrance, the main coffee station in the middle and stock at the back. Seating is somewhat minimal but if you hang out long enough, you are bound to find a table. The coffee bar is akin to a wine bar where you pay to sample their brews. My husband was very excited about the coffee after having sampled 4 varietals! The music is played in an old fashioned way where a real person selects a record out of the collection and plays it on a record player. Unless you want a caffeine kick that makes you want to dance a jitterbug, I recommend picking their brew of the day, grabbing a seat and watching the extensive and non-hurried ritual the baristas follow.
Kathi or kati roll – kababs wrapped in paratha, flat fried bread, and served with a variety of condiments such as chopped onions, spicy green chillies, yogurt, chutneys and salsas. Admittedly, these rolls originated as street food in Calcutta. Close variations on the concept exists in other cuisines – replace the paratha with a naan and you can be standing at Khan market in New Delhi. Put the kabab and condiments it a pita pocket and you end up with the popular gyros.
But when you set up a hip taqueria on the gentle rolling hills of beautiful Pacific Heights in San Francisco, and serve home style Kathi rolls, you have done something brand new. For one, the milieu is orthogonal to the neon lit battered stall on the crowded Calcutta street that serves a hungry crowd of pedestrians on hot summer evenings.
And secondly, can there even be a concept of homestyle Kathi rolls? Did Kathi roll not originate to satisfy the hunger for spicy, juicy meat held together by flaky, chewy fried bread? Are these rolls not to be had in the anonymity of street crowd - away from the watchful eyes of the dear spouse, away from the responsibility of being the ideal parent? Why would the average Calcutta babu seek out nutritiously balanced and healthy food on the street.
For food purists, Kasa will never reach the divine heights of unwholesome Calcutta street food. However, for the rest of us, there is something to be said about enjoying a glass of mango lassi with a turkey kathi and not having to worry about the number of sick days one has left.
- Location: Fourth Street, Berkeley
- Coffee: I forgot to notice – chocolates were too pretty. There is a Peet’s coffee in the vicinity.
- Chocolates: Chocolate tart and flavored Amedei chocolates – champagne and popcorn, grains of paradise (a west African aromatic and peppery spice), ….
Combine growing up on self-sustaining farms, training at Charlie Trotter’s and a passion for the best ingredients … and then add the sensitivity of an artist (this comes from the better half) – you end up with great tasting chocolates so pretty that you wish you have a young love and Valentine’s day just around the corner.
Should have called it “Taste of Italy”….
Find out what Italian food and kinky sex has in common at Perbacco.
If you are going to the financial district of San Francisco, also check out:
For me, San Francisco is a pretty city with great food. But, the traffic gets on my nerves. Before our household got a GPS assistant, going to the city invariably meant an argument – about taking the one way only turn, and not finding a parking that cost less than the meal. Now, at least we avoid taking the wrong turn and if we do, we are not pathetically lost.
We have recently returned from a short visit to Delhi and are a little home sick. So a couple of weekends ago we decided to go to the Stern Grove Festival for Kailash Kher’s group Kailasa. The thought of soaking in the coolness of Stern Grove listening to Tauba Tauba sounded fantastic after Delhi’s grueling heat and mugginess.
What better way to celebrate July 4th than with the most American of art forms – Jazz. And the Fillmore Street Jazz Festival does the celebration with gusto. This year it was spread across eight or so blocks on Fillmore street, four main performance stages, and many smaller performances going on all along the street and in Jazz clubs lining Fillmore.
- Location: Market Street, Financial District
- Coffee: None! Although you can find imported bottled soda here. And magazines …
- Chocolate: Tasting bites and bars - Dolfin, Vosges, Scharffen Berger to new a few …
FCN is not your atypical chcocolate store. It is an atypical magazine shop. If you like to lay your hands on hard to find magazines and periodicals, this is your place to be. Ditto for chocolates. The store fits in with busy life of financial district. Grab a chocolate and a magazine and be on the run…or, grab a soda and a magazine and be on the run … May even be a nice spot to spend ten minutes browsing during the dull part of the day. And to pick up gifts as well.
- Location: Ferry Plaza
- Coffee: Peets’ or Blue Bottle is available a few doors down.
- Chocolates: Truffles, caramels, …
Recchiuti’s is what you would expect a fancy chocolate store to look like. All trim, polished and glittery and that is just the staff. No chairs for shoppers to sit around and look flabby, unpolished and drab. No coffee either to ruin any nice perfumes the staff or customers may be wearing. Their price helps to not overindulge.
Are we sounding curmudgeonly?
- Location: Pier 17, San Francisco
- Coffee: Blue Bottle
- Chocolates: Tasting squares and bars
We had known about Tcho long before we sampled it. They had been getting reviewed on boingboing since their beta days (yes, even chocolates have beta versions in silicon valley).
Our first taste of Tcho’s chocolates was on a walk along Embarcadero. On that occasion, we tasted all four of their varieties and picked up a small pack of 8 tasting squares. On our last visit, we picked up a 30 day package called tcho-a-day.
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David Lebovitz says that some of the best artisan chocolatiers these days are from America. So, we decided to bring to you as many of them as we can find in San Francisco.
We start with XoX Truffles – a friendly shop for a cup of coffee and some handmade truffles.
- Location: North Beach, San Francisco
- Coffee: Espresso
- Chocolates: Handmade truffles
The store front is unpretentious, the coffee delightfully strong, and the handmade truffles are small nuggets of perfection. These truffles have won so many awards that the list of awards exceeded our attention span.
They give away a free truffle for every cup of coffee you buy. Our plan is to sample all their truffles for free. OK, we lie. We buy them too. This time we bought a few Earl Grey truffles.
Walking in front of “Old Ship Saloon”, you would have never guessed it. Looks like any other brick building surrounded by many other buildings. But this saloon was originally on a ship. How did the ship get here? How did the saloon get here? Well?
Yes, the famous parrots. Not as many bees as there are flowers. And, last but not the least – the stairs – lots of them.
Telegraph Hill is where Coit Tower sits. You can’t miss Coit Tower if you are in San Francisco. You can see it from far and wide, standing out like a light house which it is not. Long time back, and for San Francisco, 150 years is a long time ago, Telegraph Hill used to be a bald hill. Because of the line of visibility, the location was used as a semaphore line. The role of the obervatory was to note the type of shipping vessel crossing Golden Gate Strait and let the town folk know. Even now, in spite of the dense foliage on the hill, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge.
What have we got at the edge of San Francisco? Sutro baths of course. Our very own modern ruins. And fog. I doubt a hundred years have changed the course of San Francisco’s weather. So, who built a public bath house on a generally cold and often foggy beach? A rich dude, of course. In 1896, Mr. Sutro, who owned most of San Francisco’s western front, built an indoor swimming pool, in fact a set of seven swimming pools, at a cost of over a million dollars. Why? I guess, because he could.
Choose a day that isn’t too cold. Start the walk from Ferry Plaza. If you start on a Saturday, you will be able to pick up your lunch from the Farmer’s market. When you are done exploring Ferry Plaza, start walking westwards and stay as close to the bay as possible. Many of these piers offer pedestrian walkways. The route is unmistakable, so there is little to no chance of getting lost. If you are planning on completing the hike, plan on walking about 10-12 miles and spending anywhere between 3-6 hours.
Here is what you will see on this hike – San Francisco skyline from several vista points, sailboats dotting the sea, yachts moored at the harbors, large container ships crossing underneath the Golden Gate bridge, kites doing acrobatic maneuvers by the marina, kids playing in big or small groups, people of all ages sunbathing or jogging, couples of all genders holding hands or kissing, buildings with military architecture – extensions of Presidio. In spring, you will see Crissy Field in a wildflower bloom.
At first glance, San Francisco’s Chinatown appears to be a collection of trinket shops. Only during the Chinese New Year celebration does this place truly come alive and then one has to be prepared to brave the cold winter rains which often afflicts the celebration, and huge crowds.