Tuesday, March 24, 2015

HARVEY'S IN THE CASTRO....THIS TIME I KNOW IT'S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD

It's been awhile since I've been to a "San Francisco institution." Recently me and the SO found ourselves down in the Castro neighborhood, a place we don't frequent so much anymore these days. We were standing at the corner of 18th and Castro, staring at the rainbow crosswalk and thinking about getting a lunch bite to eat. I was staring across the street at Harvey's and casually said, "you know, I don't think I've actually eaten there before." The SO was like, "well, if we go, you have to review it." I thought, sure why not. It's the "heart of the Castro," and why not have some old-school fun.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS TO CONSUME...AND SOME MUSHROOMS AND CHEESE

My journey through Neighbor Bakehouse continues this week with savory offering--the mushroom and manchego cheese croissant tart thingy. Croissant crust is the thing they have down here. It is flaky, buttery, light and everything you want in a croissant. Not necessarily a dessert, but for a breakfast croissant like this, it is perfect. I really liked the mix of manchego and mushroom--the earthy with the buttery--was a pleasant flavor profile that made it a great breakfast, mid-morning treat. While I was eating it, I kept thing how great it would go with an egg on top. I know that is one of the trendy things of the moment but in this case, I think it would add a whole other level to it. Something like the perfect breakfast tart/open faced sandwich. I know they are a bakery, but, if they were thinking of adding to their current line up of take out, it's an option, just throwing that out there. At $3.50 a pop it is a pretty decent size and you do get a fair share of cheese and mushroom on top. I ended up getting this because they were out of their ginger sugar bun and as something at the opposite end of the spectrum, it was a nice alternative and I didn't have to worry about all the sugar I wasn't getting (even though my sweet tooth missed it a little). I would most definitely recommend and get this again. Next, if I plan ahead (ha, that's funny) maybe I'll take along an egg with me and plop it on top. Protein, veggies and a carb, it's a great way to start a day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

JUST FOR YOU CAFE....UH, NO, I'M NOT HERE FOR BRUNCH

There are innumerable places in San Francisco that specialize in brunch and it's non-combo meals. They open around 8am, serve till 2:30ish then close up shop. Everybody knows them from doing these meals up right which is why you will find a wait to get in on most any day you stop by. Every now and then one of these places decides they want to expand the menu and stretch their offerings  by serving up dinner, to varying degrees of success. One such spot that has been dishing it out for over 20 years now is Just For You Cafe in Dogpatch. I vaguely remember them trying dinner service a number of years ago, but it seemed to come and go so quickly I never got around to trying it. This time around, they are testing it (?) on Friday and Saturday nights only. Since I was in the hood, I decided to give it a try.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS TO CONSUME....AND A CHOCOLATE BEAR CLAW THINGY!

As with any new thing, lines have finally subsided to the point where I can run by Neighbor Bakehouse without a wait of interminable proportion. Though, I still run into the already sold out issue. I'm choosing to look at this, however, as an opportunity to try my way through the other baked goods they offer. This time around I went for the chocolate bear claw. Though this is only a claw in the name sense, I'd say it's more of a chocolate croissant in the shape of a claw. You get the light, fluffy, flaky crust with spots of semi-sweet dark chocolate in almost every bite. Fans of the the everyday chocolate croissant will not be disappointed in this pastry confection as it hits all the same notes. For a pastry junkie like myself, it's just a tad on the twee side, as you know, I like my sweets to have some bit of heft and thickness to them. While this does not fill that need for me it does work as a  light morning compliment to a coffee or tea. For that I'll give it thumbs up. If you are searching for something more desserty and substantial you'll need to try something else, which, of course, is exactly what I will continue to do. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

JUNK FOOD JUNKIE: FALLING DOWN A RED VELVET K-HOLE

Red velvet, traditionally a cake with origins going back many years, it's been sort of a specialty cake that popped up here and there as either a Southern treat or holiday type cake due to it's red and white nature. It also had an air of uniqueness to it that whenever I saw it on a menu I was like, ooh, I need to try that. Over the years it's popularity began to soar and it started showing up on more and more menus. I'll attribute this to the cupcake boom that started sometime in the 90's. Since the cake itself is sometimes challenging to make, the fact you could just make a small easy version made it appealing for bakers. Pretty soon, the whole red velvet thing took off and you could find versions ranging from cheesecake to whoopie pies. Abominations, maybe. Some worked, some didn't. These days, that aura of specialness has unfortunately totally worn off for red velvet, particularly where bastardized versions of the flavor are concerned. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the latest "creations" to hit the grocery shelves, being marketed as one time only (we can hope) get them while they last flavors. And, yes, of course I'm going to try them. Ladies and gentlemen I present the latest variation jumping on the (really late) bandwagon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

NAKED LUNCH IN SAN FRANCISCO.....GET YOUR MINDS OUT OF THE GUTTER

Ah, lunch in San Francisco, it is always a challenge. You want something good, sometimes healthy, but you don't want to spend a boat load of money on a midday meal that will probably make you sleepy in your cubicle by 2pm. Sadly the rise of the $10 sandwich in SF doesn't always make it that easy to find a place to go. On a recent sunny Tuesday I decided to eschew the basic lunch rules and just hit up Naked Lunch, a place that has garnered a following, and see what all the fuss was about.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS TO CONSUME AND POT PIE!!

I was at the Ferry Building recently trying to quell some hunger pangs. Suddenly I had a taste for some comfort food when I wandered by Golden Gate Meat Co. and saw these pot pies. Yes, that's what I want today. The sign said chicken or beef so I asked the counter clerk which one I should get, he said the chicken was sold out. Well, that made my decision easier, for $7 I got the beef. It's a pretty large and heavy portion so I had no qualms with the cost ratio on this It is served warm and the crust on top is a nice flaky brown and one bite of it reminded me of home made pies instead of those frozen Swanson ones I fondly remember from my childhood. I dug into it and steam rose out..ooo yum! You can see the beef filling below. Cubes of beef, carrot, potato, onion and what looked like bits of barley.  I took a big spoonful in my mouth and.....well, it won't good. In fact, it tasted sour, like old juice. I tried picking out individual pieces of what was inside but the flavor had pervaded everything from the gravy on down. Not good, not good in anyway. I didn't even finish it, which for me is saying a lot. I was so totally bummed that I couldn't get my comfort food fix I had to drown my sorrows by eating a cookie. Yeah, I know, sad, but ya' gotta' do what ya' gotta' do sometimes. Oh well, obviously there won't be a next time. I know I could probably go to Safeway and get one, then take it home and heat it up.....ugh I'm already tired. I think the sugar rush from the cookie is wearing off. I'm just gonna go lay down now. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

FOOD TRUCK QUICK BITE: SMOHTERED IN SAUCE...FRIES THAT IS

Poutine--that's fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds (yum!)--has been a popular menu item in the Bay Area for a few years now. I guess it was only a matter of time before a food truck doing variations on that theme showed up. And only a matter of time before our paths crossed at SOMA StrEat Food Park. That day came for me and the Smothered Food Truck, at least I think that's their name, though they also seem to go by Smothered In Sauce, either way, you get the theme. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS TO CONSUME....RED VELVET CAKE EDITION

What a surprise! The SO made red velvet cake for me us on VDay as a real treat. This lovely homemade version is from my grandmother's recipe, one she purloined from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York back in the late 40's or early 50's (details are a little sketchy). This is old school red velvet, not that new fangled version with cream cheese icing. This one is chocolate cake made from scratch with food coloring to get the brilliant red velvety color. The icing is a cooked one made with flour, milk, sugar and that most special of ingredients--Crisco. Yeah, I can see all you folks out there blanching, but believe me when I tell you the combination works, creating an icing that is smooth, creamy and not too sweet. A great counter balance to the sweetness of the cake itself. This was always a special occasion cake in our family and both my grandmother and mother made this in quite spectacular tasting versions. Since neither is around anymore, the SO has made it his mission to re-create the best version possible and with each iteration, comes closer and closer to the best. Of course, as we all know, no one ever makes things as good as our parents, but the fact they try, makes it very special. Each time I have a bite it will always bring up fond memories from childhood of birthdays and holidays with the family. It's an extremely difficult cake recipe to make as you have to be quite exact and when cooking the icing--it burns and curdles easily. Needless to say, I appreciate every time he whips one out and relish every bite for the both the effort and the memories. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

HARD KNOX CAFE...EATING SOUTHERN WHENEVER I WANT TO

Southern food (soul food or whatever you'd like to call it) was the fad of the moment a few years ago with an array of restaurants in the Bay Area doing it to one degree or another with varying measures of success. Back in 1999 though, it became the goal of one Tony Hua to open a place that served up delicious homestyle soul food. He realized that dream with the opening of Hard Knox Cafe in what at the time was a little known SF hood called Dogpatch. These days, Dogpatch is happening with UCSF, tech start-ups, new condo construction, Third Street Rail and the future home of the Golden State Warriors at 16th and Third St. But the restaurant was a success long before that and even spawned an location out in the Richmond District. I've been going for many years to eat there and considered it one of my hidden out of the way faves. Sadly, particularly when there is a baseball game, the place can be mobbed. Still, during the week it's relatively easy to get in or get take out. I figured I might as well review the place for those few folks who don't already know what they may be missing.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS TO CONSUME AND SOME JUNK FOOD JUNKIE

Sometimes the corner market can yield surprises, especially if you've got the munchies. I wandered into one recently to get a soda and saw this bag of delight sitting on the shelf. I remembered that Lay's did another one of their fan created flavor contests and they had paired it down to 4 flavors for folks to vote on. Evidently, the winning flavor was wasabi ginger--which makes me gag a little bit--but there still seem to be some of this other one floating around. I would have thought this had a better chance of winning since it has the hallmarks of comfort food. Still, I was interested to try some and plopped my money down and ran home with my bag. I gripped the edges of the bag tightly and slowly pulled it apart. The immediate aroma from the bag nearly attacked my senses with a smell that bordered somewhere between fake bacon dog treat and vomit. It was strong, like a mushroom cloud invading the apartment. I kept the bag at arms length and debated should I really even try one. Ha, who am I kidding, yes I'm gonna try. I take a chip out of the bag while simultaneously holding my nose and pop it into my mouth. The instant flavor I get is salty, then I'm hit with notes of some cheesiness and more salt, but not really any bacon. I felt like a I was in that "Golden Girls" episode where Rose makes that foul smelling crispies dessert and the girls all sit around the table eating it while holding their noses. Yeah, just like that. The chips just taste like salty cheesy potato chips and beyond the stink I can see why they didn't win. I'm still wondering how they thought they could infuse the mac part into it as none of it really brings back memories of bacon, mac or cheese. I didn't even finish the bag and neither did the SO. Normally he can eat anything, but not these. Kind of tells you how bad they smelled and how ordinary they tasted. Well, while they didn't bring up any childhood comfort food memories I did get that "Golden Girls" flash so I will take "comfort" in that, but I definitely wouldn't recommend these--unless you are out of Beggin' Strips for the dog.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

BARTLETT HALL IN UNION SQUARE....LUNCHING WITH HIPSTER MILLENIALS

Union Square is a hotbed of tourist activity and a place many of us locals usually try to avoid unless entertaining out of town guests. I don't usually look for places to eat in the area. I know they are there but images of over priced tourist traps dance through my mind when I think about it. It's an area I've been to a lot, though my knowledge food establishments around it is limited. I have noticed over the last few months there have been a number of places that have opened in the area to some modicum of fanfare and I've kept them on my radar of--if I happen to be in the area--to give them a try. Recently the SO and I had a friend visiting who was staying downtown so what better time to eat someplace new. One spot I'd seen was Bartlett Hall. It was one of those places where the booze menu seemed to be as important as the food menu so what better time to try it than lunch! Yeah, I don't necessarily drink and I'm all about the food, so that's what I'm going for.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

SOUL GROOVE IN THE TENDERLOIN.....GETTING MY CARBS ON

The Tenderloin is a sketchy neighborhood in downtown San Francisco. That's not a knock, it just is what it is, and anyone who has lived here a long time will tell you the same. It's one of the last 'hoods to experience the makeover process that is going around in the rest of the city. Make no mistake, it is currently happening, it is just taking a little longer. Eventually it will become a little less interesting than it's current state. Till then, if you want to enjoy some of it's "charms" best to hit it up now before all is gone. Some of the interesting things found there are of the food variety--and you can definitely come across all flavors. Most are unique hole in the wall places serving up decent, not too pricey fare for the lunch goers who work near City Hall and Civic Center area. One such place I stumbled across one day while looking for Saigon Sandwich was Soul Groove. A small spot that's gotten a rep for serving up chicken and waffle sandwiches. Of course, they had me at waffle, and I finally had a week day off to get back there and give them a try.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

APPLE FRITTER EDITION OF YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS

Walk into most any corner donut shop in this town and you'll find the bestests, worstest "donut" of all time. Yes, I mean the apple fritter. Me and the fritter go way back and I have a real love/hate relationship with it. The love--it's deep fried dough with apple bits, cinnamon, occasionally some brown sugar covered in a sugared glaze. And since it is also the size of a baby's head it is a sugar crash come in waiting. I've been eating these for nearly 20 years. There was a time (meaning younger) when I seemed to have one practically every other day. But you know, the body doesn't process these things as well the older we get so these days I will break done and get one if I'm in the mood for a pound of sugar and fried dough. Of course the hate is the calorie count from even just a small bite--it is carb overload. Also, depending on where you get one there are varying degrees of doneness. I like mine a nice golden brown, but sometimes I see ones that are nearly black along the edges and more mahogany than golden. Usually that means it was cooked too long and will taste like burnt sugar or the oil in their fryers hasn't been changed in awhile and god only knows what it is gonna taste like. Sometimes ones you get will be done on the outside but still a little doughy on the inside. Some folks like this, me, not so much. I do like them cooked all the way through. I also wish some places would put more apple in them. Many times I'll come across a clump here and there, but even distribution seems to be elusive. The one seen above and below was mostly all the things I like in a good one, though a little doughy and the apples clumped in the middle a bit. Still, it was a sugar rush and I gluttonly ate the whole thing. You'd think that much greasy dough would upset the stomach but not mine. Though I do throw that out there as something to be aware of for folks--grease, dough, sugar--it's all here. This is not for lightweight dessert eaters, it is for the hardy--like me--so first timers need to be careful. I would like to add that the big surprise for me is how popular they are in this city that can seem a bit health conscious. I guess I can just chalk it up to transplanted folks like me or drunks and pot--yeah, it's probably the drunks and pot. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

TAQUERIA LOS COYOTES...WOULD IT STILL BE GOOD IF I WASN'T REALLY, REALLY, REALLY HUNGRY?

Taquerias in the Mission, they are a like Starbucks in the rest of the city--there's one on every corner. But how do you tell one from the other. Some are crowded, some are empty, some look large, clean and spacious and some look like you could get food poisoning, mugged or stabbed just by walking in the door. Most times though you just have to take a chance as some of the best places to eat are quite literally a hole in the wall, especially where the Mission is concerned. On this particular Sunday night me and the SO are in the hood to catch a show at the Victoria and are really hungry. Enough so that we don't want to walk to far to find someplace to eat. Thus by default, we end up a block up 16th Street from the theater at Taqueria Los Coyotes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

JOLE IN CALISTOGA...OH GOODY, THEY ARE INTRODUCING A NEW MENU TONIGHT

On our wine country jaunt over the holidays we were able to try many different wines and several different restaurants in the area. I previously reviewed several of the places we went though not all of them. There was one restaurant we dined at that has gotten some good press since it opened. It's one of those farm to table places run by a husband and wife team--he's chef she's pastry chef. I was mildly intrigued to try the place based on reviews I'd come across. It's called JoLe and it's on the main drag of downtown Calistoga. We had reservation for New Year's Eve of all times. It's in the ground floor of a hotel and is a smallish place with two topper tables and a small bar. We took our seats and as the hostess handed us our menus we were informed they were presenting brand new menu this evening. Oh joy, I thought, untested dishes. Thus it has taken me sometime to digest what I thought about what we had while taking into consideration our guinea pig status. But hey, that's what eating out is about sometimes, being adventurous and trying something new.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS TO CONSUME...PLUS SUGAR DESSERT SADNESS

My tour of Neighbor Bakehouse continues with what I'm gonna call one of their light bites--a sugared brioche. This was almost like a puff of sugared air. Light puffed dough sprinkled liberally with sugar. As dessert pastries go, this is very light, like a puff of air. Almost too light, particularly for me. Liked it? Yeah, but after I ate it, it was gone from both my senses. I vaguely remember sugared bread and then not much else. As opposed to the sugar bun thing I had from last week, this one didn't leave much of an impression. I usually like some heft to my desserts and this did not have that. If you are looking for a light bite then this is your bet, if you want something a little more substantial, you'll need to get another item. Though getting something else at this point may become a challenge for you as it has for me. Word seems to have gotten out about this place and on my last 3 visits there has been a line of some substance and well, I don't do lines. Not to mention that when I peaked in the window, most of their offerings were already gone. One day they were totally out of all sweet treats. The lady said they will have some more in 8 minutes or so, which was not worth the wait for me since I was already in a hurry to get to work. I guess popularity is breeding some discontent for me. I'm happy they are doing well, but bummed that, unless I get lucky one day, I won't be able to stop here anymore since I don't usually have time to wait in a long line and then find out they are out of what I'm looking to get. For those of us who live/work in the hood we can be happy for Bakehouse but sad it's no longer easy for us to just pop in for something. That seems to be the case with anything really good in SF no matter where it is located. People find out and come in droves and those of us who were first on the scene get sort of shut out. I can only hope the frenzy dies down a bit and they can reach of balance of shorter lines and product availability. Till then I'll continue my dessert quest in other ways. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

FOOD TRUCK QUICK BITE: SEOUL OF TAIPEI...I'M GUESSING IT'S FUSION?

Holiday weekends are odd--Saturdays feel like Friday, Sundays seem amiss and Mondays feel like Sunday. That was the case a few weeks ago when me and the SO were out and about and starting to feel the need for food. We hit upon jaunting by SOMA StrEatFood Park to see what was going on. Turns out, not a lot. There were maybe five trucks operating and at first it seemed a little weird then I was like, oh yeah, it's a Monday night, not the weekend. Since the choices were few and I'd been to most of them already, me and the SO actually were able to agree on trying a new we hadn't seen called Seoul of Taipei, I think it was the fries covered in stuff that caught both our attentions on the menu.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

OUTERLANDS....ALL THE WAY OUT TO OCEAN BEACH FOR A MEAL?

San Francisco is a city of only 49 or so square miles, though when you are thinking of going out for a bite to eat, you have a tendency to stick relatively close to home because driving and parking in this town suck and riding MUNI most anywhere really sucks. Every now and then however, me and the SO manage to pull it all together and make actual reservations to try a place that's gotten raves and is quite literally on the other side of the city from where we live. In this instance I mean Outerlands. While many folks know this as a go to brunch spot for the Sunset set, they have recently expanded the restaurant and are doing the full on dinner service. So on a recent Sunday night we made our 30 minute way across town to give them a try.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS TO CONSUME..LOADED WITH SUGAR AND BUTTER

Neighbor Bakehouse just opened up a store front recently in the Dogpatch neighborhood and of course I was all over that. The seem to run out of things so depending on when you get there the choices could be more or less. On my recent foray they were starting to run low but I managed to zero in on what would normally be called a kouign amain, though when I said that, the girl behind the counter would call it that directly, she said it was more a variation on it and different from that other famous one you can get here in town. At $3.50 a pop my first thought was it's a little on the pricey side but once I got it, I completely changed my mind. It's a very heavy, dense, fried-like pastry bun full of caramelized sugar. It kind of reminded me of those apple fritter things you find at Happy Donuts and for me, that's a good thing. You can peel off flaky bits that are sweet, buttery and yummy to the tongue. While there is a possibility it was next to or baked with something that had rosemary ginger in it, I was almost sure I could taste hints of that in the dough. Again, for me, not really a bad thing. It was very light and and seemed to compliment the sweetness of the bun. Who knows? Maybe my taste buds were just imagining it, either way, I did like the small notes of whatever it was. The only small thing was some of the sugar had hardened so much around parts of the bottom that it was a little too sticky, crunchy and hard to chew. Other than that I really liked this sweet bun and it could become one of my favorite go to desserts whenever I'm in the Dogpatch hood. Though seems like I'd have to go early to make sure I get one and sometimes laziness can prevent that. But if I'm near and I can then I will.