Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Secret menu items are all the rage, or at least they have been for some time now. From Starbucks to In-And-Out Burger to Chipotle and so on, these so-called off menu items are the holy grail of in the know foodies who want to feel like they are trying something other folks don't know about--like they are in some secret foodie spy ring or something. Just say the magic words to the cashier or server and they will nod or wink knowingly and poof, like magic, a dish that is not on the menu for the world to see, presents itself for your culinary amusement. These dishes are not limited to chain restaurants either, supposedly homegrown faves also offer these off-menu dishes, again, if you are in the know. Sometimes I follow this out of amusement, sometimes I decide to give one a try to see what all the fuss is about. Such was the case when news that Adam Richman was in town filming his new show Man Finds Food and trying 4 "secret menu" items in San Francisco. One of those dishes is at Little Skillet in SOMA. Since it is around the corner from where I live, it was an easy choice to try it out.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


I'm continuing my hole in the wall week with a trip down cookie lane. Dogpatch is an up and coming neighborhood (though they've been saying that for years now) and it does have some out of the way spots to get a quick bite to eat. One such place is tucked away in the back of one of the American Industrial Buildings on 3rd Street and it can be difficult to find if you haven't been there before. Called Jolt N Bolt Cafe, it is strictly a Monday through Friday lunch spot for those who work in the hood. They make a handful of salads and sandwiches for the tech crowd offices in the building but they also make their own baked goods on premises and this, of course, is what drew me in. Particularly the large chocolate chip cookie you see above. I'm a sucker for big chocolate chip and this one did not disappoint. It's as big as my hand and loaded with tiny little chocolate bits pretty much throughout every bite. The edges are crisp leading to a soft center. The middle is also thick, but unlike other cookies, it is cooked properly and neither too doughy or or too dry. For me, it is one of the better large size cookies in this town. At $2.25 a pop, the price and what you get match up nicely to make it worth it. The only thing that could make it better is to be served warm, but that's not always possible, plus a few seconds in the microwave can take care of that easily. The do offer a smaller size version of this for $1 and it also good, but hey, why bother. If I'm gonna cookie it up I'm going all the way for the big one and enjoy every bite will chowing down on it. 

Friday, April 17, 2015


I'm continuing my hole in the wall theme this week with a visit to a place I've walked by innumerable times, but never went in. I was working down by the Ferry Building recently and when lunch time rolled around, I just didn't want to deal with the lines or the high prices there, so I set out to roam a few blocks over to see if I could find a more reasonable bite to eat. As I crossed over Drumm Street I spotted Les Croissants and thought, maybe I should just have a donut for lunch--yes I do that sometimes-don't judge me. I feel like this place has been here for as long as I've lived in this city and I've always thought of it as one of those Happy Donut alternatives if I'm ever in the hood. Though, as I said, I hadn't tried them and now seemed as good a time as any.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Sometimes neighborhood spots you go to on a regular basis for one thing can occasionally surprise you with something else. Down the street from me is a Happy Donuts, that ubiquitous, not really a chain, sort of a whole in the wall, sometimes sketchy, everyday donut shop serving up the basics from old-fashions to apple fritters. I've been to the one located at 3rd and King Street near AT&T Park more times than I'd care to admit. At one time this place was in danger of disappearing due to high rents, property values and whatever other shenanigans San Francisco real estate holds these days. Somehow, it overcame these odds, several different owners and sort of a makeover to maintain it's corner spot and be mine (and sadly boat loads of baseball fans) go to spot for a quick donut fix. In all the years I've visited they have served other stuff there like sandwiches and fried stuff, but I never really paid attention. I'm just here for the donuts--as they say (more like blinded by the donuts). A few years ago, the current owners added something called "Famous Louisiana Fried Chicken" to their moniker and while I'd briefly glanced at the menu, I'd never really considered it. One day last week, I'm not sure why, I was hankering for some fried chicken and when the Safeway near was actually sold out, I thought, well, why not give this a try. They've been serving it for awhile now, so if it wasn't any good they'd have stopped right? Seemed like as a good a reason as any to give their chicken a shot. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015


Sometimes you run across the most unexpected things in random places. Such was the case recently when I was in tiny sandwich shop grabbing a bite and came across the little nugget above. Being from the South I am an ardent fan of pecan pie, even though the best of them can be sugar bombs of the utmost sweetness. Still, I'm usually undaunted by that and decided to give this pre-packaged version a shot to see if it even comes close to the original. As you can see in the below picture they come close to replicating the filling in both color and texture. (It's an interesting mix of brown sugar, corn syrup, eggs, butter and vanilla, for the most part) They also got a cooked crust type topping that should have been a mix of pecans and sugar (see lots of sugar). For the most part, it sort of tasted like a pecan pie. Though comparatively, the crust wasn't quite buttery enough and it lacked actual whole pecans on top to give it some needed crunch and texture. I'm pretty sure there were small bits of crushed pecans on top, but they were few and far between. Oddly enough, this is one of my favorite nuts and I just happened to have some of them around the house so I added my own to this version and sure enough, it brought the flavor level up a notch and the sugar level (at least taste wise) down a notch. So overall, not terrible, moderately edible, a very sweet treat and in a pinch, a decent $1 dessert substitute for those of us who can stand a sugar bomb or two. I do think if they up the actual pecan quotient it could be even better than most, though, considering the cost of nuts these days, probably not gonna happen. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Sprig: A new, "artisanally crafted", sometimes chef curated, meal delivery service/start-up, offering hot, fresh delivery in 20 minutes (or so) that has taken off in San Francisco since it was launched.

Matthew Accarrino: recently nominated James Beard Award chef de cuisine at SPQR. Him and the restaurant have gotten acclaim from the get go a number of years ago. He's been best chef something or other over the last few years and even has his own book (then again, don't they all).

Convergence: moving toward one point and coming together to meet and form one interest, purpose or goal.

Such was the case for Sprig and Accarrino who came together and coordinated on some chef curated meals by him, coincidentally, just a day after he was named a finalist for a James Beard Award--Best Chef: West. I'd not been to SPQR since he started his run there and I had been wanting to try Sprig since I'd heard about it. When I saw the Accarrino pairing, it seemed like the perfect time to order from them, see if they measure up to what they are offering and to try the chefs food. Granted, he didn't actually cook each dish, I'd need to hit up SPQR for that, but he did create the recipes, chose the ingredients and, I'm assuming, showed the Sprig chefs how to prepare the dishes to his specifications, thus I'm just going with "it's just like he did it himself."

The Chef from SPQR book author photo.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Sometimes you gotta' hand it to Safeway to directly market to customers in a particular neighborhood, such is the case with the one at Church and Market. I just happened to be through there killing time one day and came across this little pre-packed selection they are calling the grilled chicken and humus box. Me, I'm gonna call it gay lunchables (that's not a slight--I owning it and buying it!) because it is offering up protein and veggies in a convenient grab and go when you are fresh out of your gym workout/bike ride/hike/yoga/whatever. I thought it was a great idea. Sometimes you don't want those useless cracker carbs or whatever else they pack up and pass off as snacks. This is a perfect fit, even for those of us who like to pretend we are occasionally healthy and aren't looking for some bready sandwich thing. It's hard to mess up the veggie part so those were fine. The chicken was on the dry side a tad and they need to fix that, it had good flavor though and hey, it had grill marks and pretty much hit the spot. For $3.99, I considered it a bargain bite for the on the go healthy snack concious gym boy (or girl) and for those of us pretending to be. Well done, Safeway, now if you could just offer this at your other locations as I have yet to see it anywhere but the Market/Church one. What? You don't think folks heading to AT&T Park want a quick healthy bite to wash down with their beer? Okay, maybe not, but this would pair really well with some garlic fries, I'm just saying. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Brunch in San Francisco is a rite of passage, if you live here, you must do it. Whether you wait in line (like most folks in town) or make a reservation, whenever the weekend rolls around, it’s time to fall out of bed, throw on some clothes and grab some grub. This is especially true when holidays and weekends converge—like Easter Sunday. If you have already made plans, don’t fret, The City is chock full of establishments serving up pancakes, scrambles and mimosas to sate your appetite. Here are just a few places worth the wait and or journey to try. 

"The Plow" from Plow

Plow: Go early, go late, sadly it doesn't seem to matter when you hit up this small gem in Potrero Hill, there will always be a wait. If you are lucky, sometimes it won't be as long as at other times. They serve up brunch in all it's basic finery here and if you want an excellent hearty sampling of all they do then get "The Plow"--eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes and lemon ricotta pancake. You'll probably want a little nap afterwards.

Croque Monsieur from The Butler and The Chef

The Butler and The Chef: Located on a little circlet called South Park in SOMA, this long, narrow bistro has the look and feel of a Parisian boĆ®te, complete with French chef serving up croque madames and house made quiches. It’s a perfect intimate spot to feel like your are sipping your cafe au lait on the Seine without all the jet lag. 

Magic Flute Garden Ristorante: Whimsical, frilly and a great outdoor patio combine with eggs benedict and smoked hash to create a relaxed and charming atmosphere at the Pac Heights gem. An enchanting ambiance that lets you stop and smell the flowers with a nice espresso. 

The beignets from Just For You Cafe

Dogpatch Neighborhood: I’m mentioning this as a whole neighborhood as you have multiple choices to meet any palate that will be well worth the journey over to 3rd and 22nd Street. From Serpentine to Piccino to Just For You to Hard Knox Cafe to Smokestack  They all are serving up good food for brunchies and each offers something different. If you can’t find something at one of these places then you really are a picky eater. 

El Techo de Lolinda: The food is good and Latin American inspired and what better way to enjoy it on a sunny day in The Mission than on their rooftop deck. Enjoy your bunuelos and chicharrones de carne under the bright sky (and an umbrella) above all the hustle and bustle on the street below. Be sure to relax with a pitcher of margarita del Techo while watching Karl the Fog creep in around Sutro Tower. How much San Francisco can you get?

Town’s End Restaurant & Bakery: They specialize in breakfast, lunch brunch only and while they aren’t breaking new ground with their offerings you can’t beat the complimentary basket of house made assorted mini-muffins that greet as you sit down. Plus, if you ask, they will bring more. The space is big and they have outdoor tables offering up a view of San Francisco Bay. After filling up on either an omelet or a French toast sampler, you can walk off your morning meal with a leisurely stroll down the Embarcadero. 

Turkey hash from Slow Club

Slow Club: Everyone talks about their burger and you can get it during brunch but they also serve up some killer hash and frittatas. It’s a funky night club like space that has hipster brunch stenciled all over it, but don’t let that deter you. The food is pretty darn good. 

Johnny cakes from Brenda's Meat & Three

Brenda’s Meat & Three: This Divisadero offshoot of the Brenda’s French Soul Food is a great new option if you don’t feel like waiting in line at the original location in the Tenderloin, and really, who does. It offers many of the same down home, delicious dishes in a more relaxed, less busy location including shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy and ham steak with red-eye gravy and sweet potato pancakes—just like mama used to make. I’m getting hungry just writing about it. 

Duck and grits from The Corner Store

Corner Store: Yes, they are all the way out Geary at Masonic, but don't let the possible 38 ride deter you. This cute little spot is a great brunch/lunch spot offering up unique takes on classic dishes like duck and grits. Does get crowded and noisy inside so ask for a seat on their covered patio if you can. 

These are just a few places to try, and as I stated above, you can pretty much get brunch in any hood in The City. (I'm pretty sure it's an unspoken requirement for anyone who opens a restaurant in town.) All you have to do is get out there and eat, it really is the thing to do in San Francisco. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


San Francisco is a small city, but sometimes the whole idea of getting on MUNI and riding out to say, the Richmond District, can be exhausting. It's a bus trip only for those of us with no car and when you stop at every other corner, it can take a toll, some time, mental anguish, etc. Because my friend Ms. O works out that way, every now and then I'll text her up and say "hey, how 'bout I come out your way to try some place there." That's what happened a few weeks ago when I deliriously decided to take something besides the 38 Geary. Instead, I opted for the 1 California just to be different. Yes, it was a slow slog, but then the driver decided that one particular stop was his last before turning around or going on break or something and we all had to get off roughly 10 blocks from where we all thought the end run was gonna be. Ugh, MUNI. Needless to say, after a transfer, I reached my destination and me and O met up at Cafe Europa (oddly, they have no website).

Sunday, March 29, 2015


I was strolling down Market Street when I passed by The Market, that new amalgam of grocery store and mini-food service spots in the ground floor of the Twitter building. I wasn't really hungry, but I thought since I was in the hood I would at least check the place out to see what all the buzz was about. It is a market, mostly for grab and go stuff, but it also has places to get quick bites to eat circling the shopping part. It reminds me of a smaller, diverse version of Eataly in Chicago. After rounding the store I came across what I believe is their coffee shop at the front and spotted this cookie in the case. Now, I'm all about a big ass cookie and this was definitely it. I know it is hard to tell from the pic but it was bigger than my hand and thick around the middle too. At $3 (plus tax) it was a decent price considering the size. I took my prize and sat at a nearby counter to see if it tasted as good as it looked. Without drawing out the suspense here, my answer to that question is, no, no it didn't. Doing big cookies can be difficult if not done right, but they are possible. My favorite at Cafe Madeline is a good example of a big tasty cookie. While the look and the browning on the outside were nice, the inside of the cookie was dry, dry, dry and thick, thick, thick. It's like they thought because it is thicker in the middle they needed to cook it a little longer, leading to over baking and a crumbly, not very tasty mess. And to top it off, it could have used a little better chocolate dispersement. Ultimately, after a few bites, I just couldn't finish it. Maybe if I'd also had a giant glass of milk or scoop of ice cream to trade off the dryness, I could have soldiered through it but, alas, I could not. Oh well, lesson learned, bigger is not always better, at least where this particular cookie is concerned. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.