Toque of San Francisco Summer 2009
By Carol & Joe Davis
The trend today in San Francisco is for restaurants to offer reasonably priced cuisine with special offers like “early and late bird specials” and multi-course Pris Fixe Menus with value priced wines. This summer we dined at restaurants in San Francisco, all around the Bay, as well as in Palm Springs, New York City, Las Vegas, Boise and Raleigh. We also attended the San Francisco’s Premier Food Event called S.F. Chefs. Food. Wine. and Michael Chiarello’s outdoor Zin & Ribs Party at Bottega in Yountville.
Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant
One of our favorite new restaurants in San Francisco is Local Kitchen. The urban chic décor and lively bistro/bar atmosphere are inviting and the cuisine is terrific. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and even deliver anything on the menu to homes and businesses in walking distance. They also have a wine store where you can buy wines from around the world. We met Owner/ Manager Maria Hilario who said she was really pleased that the neighborhood had embraced the relatively new restaurant.
Owner/ Manager Maria Hilario
We ordered The Tasting Flight of European Rieslings and were pleased to see that they use Riedel wine glasses which make a big difference in the taste of wines. We enjoyed a Pierre Sparr 2006 Alsace, France which was dry, a 2005 Toni Jost Mitterhein, Germany which was sweet and a 2007 Loimer Kamptal, Austria which was semi sweet. We started out by ordering a delicious Pear and Cheese salad that consisted of Caramelized Bosc pears and local Point Reyes Blue Cheese with Black Pepper Gastrique. The homemade bread sticks were a great compliment to the salad.
Pear and Cheese Salad
Next we had the Mussels and an order of Truffle Parmesan fries which are tossed with shaved Parmesan cheese and truffle oil. The mussels were tender and the white wine chili and tomato sauce was so fabulous that we asked for a spoon to be able to savor every drop of this spicy fabulous broth. Pizzas are very popular and we enjoyed the Roasted Sonoma Shitake Mushroom Pizza topped with green olives, mozzarella, roasted garlic and arugula. The main course that was light and healthy was the Organic Chicken from their rotisserie served with arugula fennel salad and lemon vinaigrette. A side of their delicious Brussels sprouts that are sautéed with bacon and lemon was an excellent addition. All of the portions are just the right size, so you can have multiple courses and still have room for dessert. With our dinner we enjoyed wines by Gerhard Blanc De Noirs, Troken, Rheingau, Germany which was a bold wine made from white pinot noir grapes and a Granfort, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah, VIN de Pays d’Oc France.
The dessert we enjoyed the vanilla Panna Cotta and lingered over a cappuccino and an espresso. We have the feeling that Local Kitchen will be a huge success. The atmosphere is inviting, the cuisine by Executive Chef Ola Fendert is excellent, and the service is crisp and friendly. Have the mussels and you’ll be happy as a clam!
Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant
330 First Street
San Francisco, Ca. 94105
415-777-4212 (Wine Merchant)
Nob Hill Grille
We really loved the Nob Hill Grille in San Francisco where they feature gourmet New American comfort food which is made with locally sourced and organic ingredients. The restaurant’s decor is simple and low key with its counter seating, open kitchen and high ceilings. We ordered some wines that we enjoyed including the Terra Nova Malbec Mendoza, Argentina which was very smooth and the Ceago Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County which is a bio dynamic and sustainable grown wine. We started our dinner with summer salads. We loved the Burrata and Heirlooms.
The Creamy style mozzarella made in-house served with heirloom tomatoes, micro basil and balsamic was excellent. The Summer Salad with sweet grilled peaches, mache blue cheese, brioche croutons and watermelon dressed with mustard vinaigrette was also amazing. We felt nostalgic as it brought back memories of mom’s toasted peach sandwiches of our youth. Next we had the Baby Back Ribs topped with their signature bourbon chipolte barbeque sauce, homemade mac and cheese with white cheddar bread crumbs and sautéed Swiss chard. The rib sauce was spicy and the lucious ribs melted in your mouth. The other entrée that we loved was their Pot Pie made with sautéed chicken breast, pancetta, carrots, peas, onions, and broccoli in a sherry cream sauce served between puff pastry.
One of the desserts that we loved was Peaches and Cream Crepes which consisted of bourbon macerated peaches with hand whipped cream in homemade sweet crepes. It was light and delicious and not too sweet. The team of Fabio Stefani, Rich Paez and Executive Chef Heli Samaniego has created a focused menu with something for everyone. The cuisine was delicious and there is no wonder why the keep getting Best of SF accolades!
Nob Hill Grille
949 Hyde Street (at Pine)
San Francisco, Ca. 9410
As we entered Home on Market Street in San Francisco, we felt very comfortable and could see why it has been such a success for so long. We started out by ordering Signature Cocktails. We loved the Homegirl which was made with Citrus Vodka, Fresh Lime, and Cranberry then shaken and served up with a kiss of Champagne and the Hugo’s Besitos which was made with Ketel One Vodka, Cranberry, Pineapple, and Fresh Lime with a splash of Ginger Ale. Both were tasty, refreshing and a great way to relax before our meal. Home is known for its Contemporary American Cuisine Comfort Food which features many ingredients from local and organic farms and is fortunate to have a new talented Executive Chef Jim Wimborough.
Executive Chef Jim Wimborough
We started out with the Mediterranean Plate which consisted of house made flat bread, hummus, marinated red peppers, cucumber yogurt, Feta cheese and olives. It was fresh and light. Next we had the delicious Garlic and Chile spiced grilled Lamb Riblets with pickled cucumber and mint salad. This was amazing, tender and the meat was cooked to perfection and fell off the bone. The Deviled Eggs with honey cured ham, red peppers, Dijon mustard, chives, parsley and aioli are also delicious, fresh and light. You must try the soups. We loved the Italian Butter Bean Soup with bacon and sausage in a tomato broth! The cornbread with honey butter was very light and the best we have ever tasted. The Entrees that we enjoyed were the tender and juicy Meyers Ranch Flat Iron Steak with French Fries, red wine butter, Worcestershire vinaigrette which was prepared rare as requested and the Classic Meat Loaf with killer mashed potatoes, gravy, tomato glaze, brown sugar and sweet carrots. We had a few wines by the glass from their affordable Wine List including the MJLords 2006 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
Classic Meat Loaf
Banana Bread Pudding
The Desserts that we enjoyed with our double espressos were the Mango Sorbet with coconut Macadamia Cookies which was light and Home’s spectacular Banana Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce and vanilla whipped cream created by Pastry Chef Daniel Saravia. The Banana Bread Pudding portion was huge and sufficient for 4 co-workers the next day. Home has great comfort food, is casual, has a sweet vibe, convenient Valet Parking and is great for people watching from the window tables. Come early and have the nightly Early Bird Dinner Special for $13.00. It is a great value which includes three courses and a glass of wine.
2100 Market St. @ Church
San Francisco, CA. 94114
Oola Restaurant & Bar
Oola Restaurant & Bar is near the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. Executive Chef/ Owner Ola Fendert cuisine features seasonal, locally sourced ingredients and offers Late Night Dining. There is also a very lively active bar scene where locals and tourists mingle in a festive but classy atmosphere. We started out with some cocktails. We loved our Grey Goose Martini and the Watermelon Cosmopolitan made with vodka, fresh watermelon puree, Cointreau and a squeeze of lime. They were both very refreshing and strong. The décor features comfortable antique velvet booths, high ceiling, a brick wall and a long bar. Our first course was the Caesar Salad with Boquerones. The White large anchovy and the fabulous lemon anchovy dressing, basil and parmesan cheese made it a superior salad. Next, we had an order of Hamma Hamma and Kumamoto Oysters on the half shell which were fresh and tasty.
Another excellent starter was the All Natural Baby Back Ribs with cilantro, ginger and soy glaze with red cabbage-apple slaw. We really enjoyed both of our entrees. The Slow cooked Confit of Duck with a grilled peach, Bing cherry, arugula, frisse salad and thyme vinaigrette was so tender and the Grilled Flat Iron Steak and Croque Madame served with tomato Provencal, grilled asparagus and a red wine demi was just as fantastic. We’re glad we added a side of their signature fried potatoes with parmesan and truffle oil.
Grilled Flat Iron Steak
Chocolate Caramel Cake
The Wine that we enjoyed was the 2006 Byron Pinot Noir ,Nielson Vineyard, Santa Maria, Ca. We had two excellent desserts. The Chocolate Caramel Cake made by Pastry Chef Alicia Montalvo was a Warm Chocolate and caramel fleur de sel cake, served with praline and vanilla yogurt sorbet was quite decadent and the Champagne Sorbet served with Casis reduction and candied Meyer lemon zest was a light perfect finish to our fabulous meal.
Oola Restaurant & Bar
860 Folsom Street
San Francisco, Ca. 94107
Moss Beach Distillery
The Moss Beach Distillery is located a short drive down the coast from San Francisco, just north of Half Moon Bay off of Highway One. Built in the 1920’s the restaurant is rich in history and folklore, as it was supposedly a Speakeasy during prohibition and some contend that it is haunted as well. The cuisine is Contemporary American and there is multi-level dining both indoors and outdoors including a dog friendly outdoor patio with fire pits. The spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean makes it a great destination.
Executive Chef Brian Barisione
We have dined here many times and always enjoy going especially for lunch. We opted to dine upstairs right off the Bar in the Fitzgerald Room, which is more causal dining offering fantastic views of the cliffs and ocean. When you dine in this room you just put in your order at the Bar and get a beeper to pick up your food when it is ready. It’s actually a lot of fun! Peter, the Bartender got us started with Signature Cocktails. We enjoyed the resident Spirit’s namesake Blue Lady Martini made with Absolut Vodka, triple sec, fresh lemon, and a splash of Blue Curacao and served with a sugared rim. Our beeper went off and we headed to the bar to pick up our first course. We loved the Crab and Avocado Quesadilla made with Dungeness crab, melted jack cheese and avocado topped with sour cream, chipolte mayo and pico de gallo. Next, we enjoyed the Coast Sliders which were a tasty trio of mini seafood sandwiches including Crab cake with gingered cabbage, grilled salmon with watercress and bacon, and sesame yellow fin tuna with pickled ginger. The Distillery Steamers which were tasty fresh clams steamed with chardonnay, garlic, tomatoes, sweet butter, cilantro, and toasted ciabatta had a great broth which was garlicky and rich. We were pleased that we ordered the Distillery Clam Chowder which was a Classic New England style clam chowder with manila clams, potatoes and brandy. It was not too rich or thick and tasted great with a little added pepper.
Tempura Green Beans
We relaxed and watched the waves until our beeper went off again and we headed to the bar to pick up our second course. The Adam’s Ribs were natural pork ribs that came with pineapple molasses bbq sauce and honey ginger cole slaw. The ribs were fabulous, sweet and tender. A must have are the Tempura Green Beans with fabulous smoked chili sauce and wasabi aioli. This alone is worth the trip to the Moss Beach Distillery. The Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc was the perfect light and refreshing wine to go with all of our food. You must save room for desserts. We ordered Espressos and two desserts. Both the Affogato Sundae which had Vanilla and Espresso gelato drowned in warm chocolate sauce topped with whipped cream and Sylvia’s warmed Brownie with espresso gelato, hot fudge, and whipped cream were over the top decadent. We had a chance to speak with the new Executive Chef Brian Barisione and thanked him for tweaking the menu and refining the food.
Moss Beach Distillery
140 Beach Way
Moss Beach, CA. 94038
Lafayette, in the East Bay, has a new restaurant called Artisan Bistro that features contemporary California French Cuisine made with fresh local seasonal sustainable raised and organic ingredients. Located in a charming Historic 1922 cottage it has both indoor and outdoor patio dining. To our delight, as we entered we heard French Music in background. We started with a delicious soup. The Cauliflower- Almond Soup with espelette pepper and toasted almonds was pungent yet subtle. Next, we had a terrific Salmon Tartare with crème fraiche, capers, and red onion, hard boiled eggs and California Osetra caviar.
Chef/Owner John Marquez
We also enjoyed the Artisan Foie Gras Terrine, toasted brioche, balsamic, kumquat and red grape carpaccio which was delicious. Definitely have the Steamed PEI Mussels with spicy fried garlic, tomatoes, parsley, shallots, sherry. It had an excellent broth. Our favorite entrée was the Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with fresh bean ragout, olive oil potatoes and a roasted tomato. The lamb was very tender, moist and fabulous. A must side was the delicious Broccoli Rabe with pecorino and lemon zest.
Artisan Foie Gras Terrine
Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb
The wines we enjoyed were the 2008 Groth Sauvignon Blanc which was fruity and lively and the 2005 Conn Creek Napa Cabernet Sauvignon which was full bodied and paired well with the lamb. We enjoyed both of our tasty desserts. The Meyer Lemon Tart with fresh blackberries and candied lemon was excellent and the Dark Chocolate Molten Cake with Mint chocolate chip Ice Cream and Raspberry coulis was delicious. The Chateau Lafaurie – Peyraguey Sauternes Dessert Wine paired perfectly with the desserts. Chef/Owner John Marquez who has worked at The French Laundry in Yountville, Per Se in New York and Picasso in Las Vegas and is now realizing his dream of owning his own restaurant.
1005 Brown Ave.
Lafayette, CA. 94549
Meridian International Sports Café
Berkeley is a foodie town, so there is no real surprise that you can dine on gourmet cuisine in a sports bar. Our host for the afternoon was Johnny Diamond, the floor manager, who we really enjoyed. He assisted us with our dining choices and also introduced us to the Executive Chef Brian Burris. Brian is very talented Chef with a resume which includes cooking for Thomas Keller and Charlie Trotter. Brian’s menu offers the choice of small plates, soups, salads, vegan and vegetarian specials and classic pub fare with a global influence.
Executive Chef Brian Burris
Of course they are TVs everywhere but there are also comfortable leather chairs for dining in the restaurant which has an industrial chic décor. We started with some appetizers that were beautifully served on slate slabs. We loved the Grilled Flatbread with charcuterie, summer roma, boursin and torn basil. The Truffle Deviled Eggs with crumbled bacon, tomatoes and chives had a Dijon kick and were a wow!! We ordered the Chefs Dinner for two which included two entrée and a bottle of wine which was very value priced. We loved the Moroccan Barbeque Wild King Salmon with Jasmine Tea infused rice, spice rubbed vegetables as well as the all natural Hanger Steak Frites with duck fat Yukon Gold potatoes, Bloomsdale Spinach and an excellent Garlic Jim Beam Bourbon sauce.
Truffle Deviled Eggs
Meringue Cobbler Cake
The entrees were especially tender as they specialize in precise low temperature and extended time cooking resulting in textures, uniform doneness and unrivaled flavors. Meridian offers over 20 beers on tap as well as 25 wines by the glass and they make delicious Sangria. We enjoyed The 2006 Tangent Edna Valley Sauvignon Blanc which was fruity and lively. For dessert, we loved the Lemon Meringue Cobbler Cake with lemon Curd and blackberries dessert along with Montan Brothers Espressos. Meridian is a real treat!
Meridian International Sports Café
2050 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA. 94704
Novato, in Marin County, has a new restaurant in the Hamilton Marketplace called Toast where they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu created by Chef Michael Garcia and Restaurateur Shahram Bijan is contemporary American food with something for everyone including children. The décor is modern and friendly with an open kitchen, large and small tables, counter and outdoor seating. Even though the restaurant was full when we dined, there was a low noise level which allowed us to talk easily.
Chilled Curried Carrot and Coconut Soup
Our first appetizer was the Open Roasted Whole Artichoke with balsamic, olive oil, and delicious basil aioli. Next, we had Crispy Fried Nori wrapped Ahi Tuna with Asian Slaw wasabi vinaigrette. It was fresh and delicious and we loved the excellent pickled ginger. We also loved the Chicken Watermelon Salad with marinated grilled chicken, watermelon, daikon, bean sprouts, crispy won tons, chopped lettuce and a light and healthy peanut vinaigrette dressing. We were thrilled by the Chilled Curried Carrot and Coconut Soup with poached prawns and basil crème fraiche. It was refreshing, tasty and luscious!
Nori wrapped Ahi Tuna
Service with a Smile by Annie & Patty
Our favorite Entrée was the Grilled Marinated Lamb Chops with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables, lamb jus and fried onions. They were prepared rare as ordered and a huge portion. The wines we enjoyed were the Sorelle Bronca Prosecco di Valdobbiadene and the 2007 Haraszky Solus Sto Amador County Zinfandel paired well with the lamb chops. There is no corkage charge if you bring your own wine. . Save room for dessert as the Banana Cream Pie with caramel sauce and a Mr. Espresso Espresso will hit the spot.
5800 Nave Drive
Hotel Zoso Palm Springs
This summer we enjoyed a terrific long weekend in Palm Springs where we got some sun, did some shopping, a little gambling at the Indian Casinos and enjoyed some entertainment. One evening we met some friends and had dinner at Eatz in the stylish Hotel Zoso. This hip, chic café with contemporary décor serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is known for their salads and small plates as well as excellent appetizers and entrees. We opted to just have a three course dinner as the hot weather lends itself to lighter meals.
Hotel Zoso Diver Scallop appetizer
Hotel Zoso Grilled Chateau Steak
Hotel Zoso Sorbet Dessert
We had a fabulous seared Diver Scallop appetizer which had a lovely presentation, arrived piping hot and was fresh and tender. Next, we had the Grilled Chateau Steak au poivre served with sautéed spinach and garlic pomme frites with sea salt and aioli which was prepared medium rare as ordered and was quite delicious. Sorbet was the perfect light dessert. After dinner, we lingered with some wine and enjoyed the live music in the bar area.
150 South Indian Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA. 92262
We enjoyed a summer trip to Boise, Idaho where we attended our beautiful niece’s Wedding at the Boise Botanical Gardens. We also toured around this lovely city and dined at a number of restaurants. We enjoyed La Vie En Rose www.lavieenrosebakery.com where we had pastries and breakfast, Bonefish Grill www.bonefishgrill.com where had the “Best Crab Cakes” for lunch and Chandler’s Steakhouse www.chandlersboise.com where we enjoyed Bar Manager, Pat Carden’s, 2009 Best of Boise “Ten Minute Martini” which he perfected while working at Steamer Gold in Petaluma, California.
Chandler’s Bar Manager Pat Carden
SF Chefs. Food. Wine
San Francisco, the epicenter of culinary innovation surely knows how to throw a Culinary Weekend Party. The recipe was simple, put up a Grand Tasting Tent in Union Square, set up informative sessions, demos, tasting and classes with the restaurant industry’s top chefs, winemakers and personalities then invite 5000 food and wine lovers, 200 chefs and 400 wineries all with the goal of enticing your palate. Produced by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association www.ggra.com SF Chefs. Food.Wine. was a sustainable zero waste event where everything was recyclable. There were five Charities that benefited from the proceeds including Meals on Wheels, SF Food Bank, Open Hand, Feeding America and GGNRA Scholarship Foundation. The festivities started on Thursday night with Chef and TV personality Tyler Florence as M.C. for the ribbon cutting ceremony with San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom. The tent was then open and we were able to indulge ourselves on fabulous food prepared by the San Francisco Chronicle’s 25 Rising Star Chefs. All of the cuisine was fantastic and we particularly loved the luscious lamb chops prepared by Chef Erik Hopfinger from Circa. Over the next three days there would be more great chefs, more great food and more great wine.
Mayor Gavin Newsom
Larry Stone M.S and Rajat Parr
Chef Erik Hopfinger from Circa
The Who’s Who of San Francisco Chefs included Hubert Keller, Roland Passot, Martin Yan, Michael Mina, Cindy Pawlcyn, Elizabeth Faulkner, Jamie Lauren, Traci Des Jardin ,Charles Phan Gary Danko, Parke Ulrich, Jan Birnbaum, Thomas Keller and many more. Media celebrities Gene Burns and Spencer Christian also participated. One of the seminars that we really enjoyed was the “Raid The Cellar Wine Tasting” featuring wines from around the world that was hosted by Larry Stone M.S (Rubicon Estate) and Rajat Parr (Michael Mina & RN74). The wines were all unique and we appreciated the commentary as well as the flavors and bouquets of each
Circa Lamb Chop
Roland Passot and Spencer Christian
Hubert Keller, Roland Passot
We also learned that collecting wines is rarer than you would think, that Wine Cellars are a bank account for restaurants as values rise with aging and that 95% of all wine is consumed within 24 hours of purchase. We didn’t attend but were told that The Best Cocktail completion was won by Nick Varacalli of RN74 with his Ambassador Pepper made with Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon. The weekend was a huge success and there are already plans for 2010. All weekend we heard comments like “It’s about time SF had its own Culinary Festival weekend” and now we do!!
Zin & Ribs Party at Bottega in Yountville
There is nothing like a lovely afternoon lawn party in the Wine Country complete with food and wine. Almost 700 people attended the sold out event on the Pavilion lawn next to Bottega in Yountville. It was a reunion and book signing by Bravo’s Four Bay Area Top Chefs including Michael Chiarello from Bottega, Hubert Keller from Fleur de Lys, Cindy Pawlcyn from Mustards Grill www.mustardsgrill.com and Elizabeth Faulkner from Citizen Cake / Orson www.orsonsf.com . Proceeds from the event benefited Clinic Ole www.clinicole.org and the Land Trust of Napa County’s Connolly Ranch www.connollyranch.org.
Both the food and wine were excellent. We loved the Bottega Barbequed Honey Espresso Ribs which were cooked with almond wood and oak wood giving them a softer flavor. Over 1000 pounds of ribs were cooked which were tender, juicy, fell off the bone and were topped with a fabulous BBQ sauce! The cole slaw, corn bread and watermelon were the perfect compliments to this lovely lunch.
Barbequed Honey Espresso Ribs
The Wines that we enjoyed were the Chiarello Family Vineyards www.chiarellovineyards.com Zinfandel, Conn Creek www.conncreek.com Zinfandel, Renteria Wines www.renteriawines.com Pinot Noir and the Duckhorn Vineyards www.duckhornvineyards.com Sauvignon Blanc. Hopefully this will become an annual event but be sure to get tickets in advance as it was sold out.
Bottega Ristorante Napa Valley
6525 Washington Street
Yountville, CA. 94599
Until we eat again…………