Archive for the 'Bay Area' Category

Taylor’s Automatic Refresher

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July 8, 2007
Cuisine: Burgers, Sandwiches

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco 94111

Phone: 866-328-3663
Website: www.taylorsrefresher.com

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Garlic Fries Tossed in garlic butter & parsley ($2.99)

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Fried Calamari With aioli & lemon ($6.49)

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Onion Rings Thick, beer batter style ($3.99)

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Chicken Fingers (2) served with honey mustard fries ($4.99)

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Western Bacon Blue Ring – a burger topped with an onion ring, crumbled blue cheese, bacon, pickles, red onion & BBQ sauce on a toasted egg bun ($8.99)

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Ahi Burger – Fresh Ahi tuna seared rare with ginger wasabi mayo & Asian slaw on a toasted egg bun ($13.99)

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Blue Cheese Burger – topped with a pile of crumbled blue, lettuce, tomato, pickles & secret sauce on a toasted egg bun ($7.25)   

A trip to The Bay just wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Ferry Building. The Astronomer and I had a ball there last spring pursuing the shops and sampling a plethora of gourmet goodness. Even though my aunt and uncle reside only a short drive from the Ferry Building, this was their first trip to the gastronomic Mecca. Since we were in the neighborhood, we picked up Cousin Timmy at SFSU to join us for lunch.

During my previous visit to the Ferry Building, The Astronomer and I constructed a multi-course lunch from a number of different vendors. This time, the majority of my family was in the mood for Taylor’s Automatic Refresher, so I figured it would be best to join them rather than venturing on my own. You know how it is in big groups…

I ordered the Ahi Burger, which was the priciest item on the menu. The seared tuna’s flesh was pleasantly pink and a refreshing alternative to a standard beef patty. I’ve consumed a lot of seared tuna in my days, but never in between two pieces of bread so I was pleasantly surprised by how well the combination worked. The slaw was crisp and dressed in a soy vinaigrette, while the ginger and wasabi mayonnaise was relatively mild. All of Taylor’s burgers are served on a toasted egg bun, which was terrific. Overall a solid burger, but perhaps priced a bit too high.

Uncle Brian enjoyed his Western Bacon Blue Ring enormously. The one bite I had was really great—the onion ring and BBQ sauce hit all the right flavors and textures. The burger reminded me of the ones served up at Carl’s Junior, but much more satisfying and dramatically less messy. Cousin Timmy ordered the Blue Cheese Burger, which he liked, but I didn’t get the impression that it blew him away. Cousins Megan and Madison both ate Chicken Fingers (surprise, surprise). The honey mustard sauce that accompanied the fingers was sweet, tangy, and so downright delectable that I had to dip everything in sight.

The table shared an order of garlic fries, calamari, and onion rings, which were all very good. My favorite was the onion rings, which were spectacular with ketchup. My uncle didn’t care much for the onion rings because the batter wasn’t crunchy enough for his tastes. Rather than serving neat little rings of calamari like most restaurants do, Taylor’s served up squid heads! The calamari was well-seasoned and softer than I expected. I’m not too big on fries, but the garlic fries held their own.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am definitely a fan of high-end renditions of classic American junk food.

Zibibbo

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July 7, 2007
Cuisine: Mediteranean, American (New)

430 Kipling St.
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Phone: 650-328-6722
Website: http://www.zibibborestaurant.com

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Potato Rosemary Bread with butter (complimentary) 

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Iron Skillet Roasted Mussels with Lemon-Herb Butter ($12.95)

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Roasted Corn on the Cob with Rosemary Harissa Butter ($5)

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Baby Mixed Greens with Herb Goat Cheese Crouton and Mustard Vinaigrette ($7.95)

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Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Pork Loin with Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes ($17.50) 

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Antipasti – Roasted Baby Beets with Fresh Goat Cheese, Eggplant Caponata with Currants and Mint, Pork Pate with Grain Mustard and Cornichons ($14.95) 

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Chocolate Cake with Caramel Ice Cream ($9)

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Before jetting off to Vietnam, I’m spending a month in California with my family. Hopefully after thirty days with me, they’ll miss me a little less when I’m gone. The weather has been unbeatable and I’m learning a lot about Vietnamese cooking from my grandma—hence the increased number of Vietnamese recipes on the site as of late. There’s a whole lot more to come!

On a recent weekend, I flew to the The Bay to spend time with my favorite aunt Thao, Uncle Brian, and Cousins Megan and Madison. The weather up north is too cool and breezy for me, but the company and food were absolute perfection. On the first evening of my visit, we drove to Palo Alto to dine at Zibibbo, which was named one of the 20 best American restaurants by the readers of Gourmet. Zibibbo’s website touts:

Palo Alto’s Zibibbo offers an inventive pan-Mediterranean menu that changes with the seasons in the tranquil surroundings of a renovated Victorian home. Its compass ranges from the Pillars of Hercules to the Golden Horn, offering foods from Spain, Morocco, Greece and Italy in addition to the Provençal-inspired dishes made famous by sister property Restaurant LuLu in San Francisco.

My aunt chose Zibibbo because she had a great experience on a previous visit with some friends. The restaurant’s space is roomy, well-lit, and has a lovely open kitchen complete with a rotisserie and coal oven. The laid back and classy vibe embodied the spirit of the cuisine.

We started with some complimentary potato and rosemary bread. The bread had a crusty exterior and mild flavor that leaned more toward potato than rosemary. The butter was rich and spread-able. Both my aunt and uncle enjoyed the bread and butter immensely.

At the suggestion of my aunt, my uncle and I shared the Iron Skillet Roasted Mussels with Lemon-Herb Butter for our appetizer. This was my first encounter with mussels not prepared in a white wine or tomato broth. The skillet preparations unleashed a smoky flavor on to the au naturale mussels and created a dry dish overall. The butter did not contain strong lemon and herb flavor and as a result, the dish was one dimensional.

My aunt created a vegetarian small plates experience by ordering the Roasted Corn on the Cob with Rosemary Harissa Butter and Baby Mixed Greens with Herb Goat Cheese Crouton and Mustard Vinaigrette for her “entrée”. The corn was generously buttered, delightfully robust, and crisp to the bite. I haven’t had corn this good since my trip to Iowa years ago. My aunt really enjoyed this selection and couldn’t stop raving about it during and after the meal. The mixed greens salad was fresh, but average. I didn’t get a bite of the crouton, but my aunt thought the goat cheese was too strong, while my uncle liked it quite a bit.

In the sharing mood, my uncle and I split the Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Pork Loin with Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes for our entrée. The portions at Zibibbo are intentionally humongous to encourage family style eating. The pork loin lacked a distinct pomegranate and molasses flavor, but was a true standout regardless. The cuts of pork were moist and fatty in all the right places. The mashed potatoes were smooth, creamy, and worked well with the pork.

In addition to the pork loin, my uncle and I also shared an antipasti plate. I chose the Roasted Baby Beets with Fresh Goat Cheese and Eggplant Caponata with Currants and Mint, while my uncle selected the Pork Pate with Grain Mustard and Cornichons. The beets were simply prepared and a feast for the eyes and mouth. My aunt and uncle were not fans of the beets, so I ate the majority of them. The eggplant was sweet and refreshing due to the mint, but needed a vehicle of some sort, perhaps some crostini, to enhance the flavors. My uncle consumed most of the pate because I didn’t care much for it. He said the pate reminded him of the pate he enjoyed on a recent trip to Paris with my aunt.

My cousin Megan selected the Chocolate Cake with Caramel Ice Cream for dessert and devoured the bulk of it. The cake contained a molten center and was intensely chocolaty, but not too bitter for Megan’s sensitive palette. The caramel flavor in the ice cream was lacking, but Megan didn’t seem to mind because she ate every last drop.

Pizzeria Delfina

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March 15, 2007
Cuisine: Pizza, Italian

3611 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Phone: 415-437-6800
Website: http://www.pizzeriadelfina.com/

Appetizer I: Spicy Cauliflower – with capers, garlic and Calabrian chilies ($6)

Appetizer II: Collard Greens – with guanciale and chili ($6.50)

Pizza I: Panna – tomato sauce, cream, basil, shaved Parmigiano ($10)

Pizza II: Hen O the Woods – mushroom, thyme, Taleggio ($15)

A trip to The Bay would not be complete without a meal with my Oaktown friends, Maria and Jessica. Jessica heard good things about Pizzeria Delfina, namely that it was tasty, vegetarian-friendly, and not too pricey. The pizzeria is an offshoot of Delfina, a high-end restaurant next door. I do appreciate fancy restaurants opening up more casual eateries with equally fabulous food such as Otto (Babbo), Osteria (Vetri), Brasserie Perrier (Le Bec Fin), etc.

We started our dinner by sharing two vegetable plates–collard greens and cauliflower. Maria insisted on having leafy greens because she’s a bigger health nut than I am, while Jessica and I chose the starchier cauliflower. The Spicy Cauliflower was garlicky, just firm enough, and fried to perfection; the chilies added a sensational bite. I wish cauliflower could always be this delicious. The collard greens also included some chilies, which tied together the two veggies nicely. Neither Jessica, Maria, The Astronomer, or I had ever had collard greens that weren’t cooked to death a la Soul Food. We were all surprised by how flavorful and delicate the greens were. The guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig’s jowl or cheeks) were fabulous because bacon makes just about everything better!

Unfortunately, the pizzas were not nearly as spectacular as the appetizers. Jessica, Maria, and I shared the Hen O the Woods. Surprisingly, the mushrooms were tasteless and not the least bit woodsy and as a result, the pizza fell flat. Additionally, the crust was mediocre and the thyme was missing in action. We should have listened to Maria and ordered the Broccoli Rabe. The Astronomer’s Panna suited his taste, but was pretty basic and thus boring.

Ferry Building Marketplace

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March 16, 2007
Cuisine: International

One Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94111

Phone: 415-693-0996
Website: http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/

The Gastronomer: The Ferry Building, located on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, is truly a gastronomic paradise. The Marketplace brings together local farmers, artisan producers, and independently owned and operated food businesses under one architecturally beautiful roof. The Astronomer and I felt like little kids in a candy store and wanted to try a bit of everything.

The Astronomer: It was a rare sunny day in San Francisco, and the quality of the food was on par with the quality of the weather. Our first hour was spent perusing the available options and consuming as many free samples as possible. The number of vendors was somewhat smaller than at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, but nearly every stand looked like it would offer an ideal lunch. I decided that the wisest approach would be to order small dishes from several different vendors.

The Gastronomer: Our first stop was at Japanese Deli – DELICArf-1. I ordered a lunch plate with two salads and one main entree ($9). For one of my salads, I chose the Hijiki and Soybean Salad – Hijiki mixed with dried soybeans, edamame, konnyaku, daikon, wild mizuna, fried tofu, and kuko (wolfberry). For my second salad, I chose the Spicy Burdock and Lotus Root Salad – a spicy mix of braised burdock, lotus roots, and konnyaku (mountain potato) tossed with thin slices of white onion, celery, julienne carrots, and wild mizuna. Both salads were vegan. For my main entree, I went with the Tofu & Chicken Patty with Hijiki – Free-range chicken and organic tofu patty with hijiki seaweed and carrot served in a sweet soy sauce. My Japanese lunch plate was fresh and flavorful. The salads were out of this world, I really need more seaweed in my life. I kept thinking as I was eating that this is what food should be–healthy, delicious, and creative!

The Astronomer: I began my four course adventure by ordering two fried items, the Potato Croquette ($1.50/ea) — delicately fried Russet and Yukon gold potato and sautéed onion croquette and the Sweet & Spicy Chicken ($1.25/ea) — marinated chicken, lightly fried, served with sweet & spicy sauce. These were petite, but well worth the price. The chicken had just the right amount of flavor. The potato croquette reminded me of a crab cake–it was lightly breaded and balanced the chicken nicely. The Gastronomer thought the croquette tasted like an onion ring.

The Astronomer: To compliment my Japanese appetizers, I stopped by Acme Bread Company and ordered a ham and cheese croissant. It was an entirely different flavor–powerfully cheesy, but also deeply sensual. For around $3, it was quite a deal.

The Gastronomer: For my first dessert, I went for a Chocolate Croissant ($2). The croissant was perfectly flaky, I enjoyed peeling away each layer and having them melt individually in my mouth. In the end, I was left with lots of chocolate and only a thin layer of croissant, which was completely decadent.

The Astronomer: My search for desert took me to the Miette Patisserie, where the chocolate madeleine ($0.75) looked irresistible. I also ordered a miniature creme fraiche scone ($0.50). We ate our desserts outside in the sun–the madeleine was delicious, much like a slice of my favorite chocolate poundcake, and the scone also hit the spot. What could be better than chocolate with cream? Perhaps chocolate with cream and fruit.

The Gastronomer: Even though we were both pretty stuffed after our first round of desserts, we decided to go all out and have some gelato too! We ordered the smallest size with two flavors–I chose Dulce de Leche and The Astronomer chose Blueberry. We asked for  separate cups because blueberry and caramel do not mix well. The Caramel was good, but nearly melted. The overly soft texture sadly took away from the flavor. However, I did appreciate Ciao Bella’s authentic Italian square spoons!

The Astronomer: I ordered a scoop of blueberry, which actually tasted like it had been made with real berries. Delightful.

The Astronomer: All in all, I would highly recommend the Ferry Building for those in search of a tasty and economical lunch, a sampling of champagne and caviar, the world’s most fibrous pancakes, or simply a nice walk along an avenue overflowing with pleasant aromas.

The Gastronomer: If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the Bay Area, do your tastebuds a favor and head to the Ferry Building.

Beard Papa’s

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March 15, 2007
Cuisine: Desserts & Bakeries

865 Market Street (Store FE16)
San Francisco, CA 94103

Phone: 415-512 6776
Website: http://www.muginohousa.com/

Caramel Cream Puff ($1.95)

Gawd, Beard Papa’s is so good. On a recent trip to San Francisco, The Astronomer and I stopped by the newest addition to the Westfield San Francisco Centre to check out Bloomingdales and the most wonderful food court in America: The Food Emporium. Although every vendor looked delectable, we only grabbed a quick bite at Beard Papa’s because we were due for dinner soon. The prices at this location were about 20 cents higher than in New York City, which I found pretty surprising. I normally order the Éclair Cream Puff, but decided to try the Caramel daily special.

The pastry shell was crisp as I bit into it and soft within. The custard tasted just like caramel and was not overly sweet. I love how the abundant amount of custard piped into the puff causes it to ooze. Truly, the perfect cream puff. When will Papa come to Philly and San Diego? Hopefully soon.