eating out

A Perfect San Francisco Weekend

image from farm2.staticflickr.com
It's one of those rare incredibly sunny and warm weekends we never expct in San Francisco, and I've been taking advantage of it.

Last night, L's mom and stepdad came into the city and we enjoyed a leisurely walk down Geary and a tasty family style dinner at Ton Kiang. My favorite entree was the sweet and sour pork, hands down. It was brought to us sizzly from the frying pan. Almost too hot to eat, even. Which made it that much more delicious. The Kung Pao chicken and the basil beef were also very good, but I was a little less impresssed with the Mongolian Beef. It didn't have quite the kick I was expecting. But it was a good dinner overall anyhow.

Because we are spoiled, L's mom brought us a huge bag of the bounty from their garden. Tons of fresh herbs, butter lettuce, baby red onions, and leeks. There is going to be an amazing salad in our future tonight I assure you. Given that it is 90 degrees in our 4th floor apartment, however, it may have to accompany something we order in. Even the convection oven feels like too much additional heat to add to the house tonight...

Brunch was someplace new for J, L and I, Cafe Bunn Mi on Clement. The place was packed with a line out the door, but luckily for us, it was mostly take-out orders so we were able to quickly claim a table and sit down to enjoy some graet viatnamese sandwiches, thai iced tea, and assorted tasty fried foods. An excellent way to start a Saturday. And will definitely be going back there. This reminds me to note: our nieghborhood needs more sandwich places!

I was able to cool off for a bit and catch up w/an old friend, Beth, who was in town today taking her daughter to a swim meet. I met up with them for ice cream at Joe's up the street, then introduced them to our kitties. Even our bravest kitty, Bolvar, was a little taken aback by the fast moving spirited children. I'd forgotten that this was their first time meeting non-adult people.

It does make me feel a little old to be meeting children of friends who are older than the age at which I met those friends. 

:)

I envision an evening of playing on Pinterest and in SWTOR. Until next time...

xo me

 


What I'm Doing During my SF Holiday Staycation

burger and shoestring fries at Zuni Cafe in SF

It's hard to believe I am only halfway through  my holiday staycation! Needless to say, I'm definitely finally feeling relaxed, as one should on a vacation. Even the kitties are cooperating by being good.

So far, this staycation has been a busy one. I kicked off the week with getting all my holiday cards completed, and shipping out a few packages. But Tuesday is what felt like the real kickoff.  I treated myself to a long leisurely lunch at Zuni Cafe, long one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. I even splurged on a great glass of pinot noir and saved room for dessert -- the always delicious espresso granita. Despite being a one-top in a sea of larger parties, I was well taken care of, and had a prime seat in the sunny main room, with plenty of people watching.

After lunch, I hopped on the F Market Streetcar and made my way to Macy's Union Square, for my two-hour shift volunteering for the SFSPCA and their holiday windows fundraiser and adoption event. If you're not familiar with the SFSPCA holiday windows, check out the window cams of adorable adoptable kitties and puppies now. Be warned that you may be overloaded with cuteness.

I've volunteered for this annual fundraiser at least a half dozen times over the past 12 years. This year, as with most years, I was on duty to answer questions about the adoptable pets in the windows and the SFSPCA. There was not too much foot traffic, which is not surprising given we were on the O'Farell side of the building, post-lunch and pre-evening crowds. But I still had the opportunity to talk to a number of animal lovers about their pets, which is always one of the nice side effects of this volunteering.

I gathered about $100 in my collection box, and spread the word to dozens of folks. And I think a 4-year-old poodle may have found himself a forever home as a result of our shift too. A rather enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. I highly encourage SF peeps to sign up for a shift. But don't blame me if you end up coming home with a new furry family member...

The rest of this week has been consumed with plowing through the Hunger Games book series (I am 75% of the way through the third book now), and getting started with playing the new Star Wars MMORPG. If you're interested in learning more about that part of my week, peek at the blog I've started that focuses on my SWTOR adventures.

Next week, I am most looking forward to my significant other finally being able to eat solid, chewy food again after 3 weeks of post-surgery recovery, and making a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at home, then heading up to Sonoma for Christmas Day. So nice to have a relaxing holiday season for once, instead of trying to cram in all the to-do's after work in the weeks leading up to the holiday. I hope to have the opportunity to take this time frame off again.


Dopo

A couple of years ago, I recall talking with my friend Olivia about how my boy and I needed to cross the bridge to have dinner at Dopo, a local Italian place with amazing pizza. That conversation was followed by our car deciding it would make a better doorstop than a means of transportation.

Fast forward. This morning, SF Chronicle editor Michael's Bauer's blog focuses on Dopo today, as part of his every Friday pizza series. It's fortuitous timing -- we are in possession of a car that likes going places. And I am in need of some house cured salumi...


Battle of the Wine Heavyweights at Indigo

Williams Selyem  vs. Dehlinger -- yes, it's not quite at the level of suspense as an Iron Chef America episode featuring Todd English, but it's a great idea nonetheless. San Francisco's Indigo Restaurant has put a fresh spin on their popular wine lovers dinners with a new "Battle of the Varietals" format for the rest of this month.

Details from the restaurant behind the cut.

Continue reading "Battle of the Wine Heavyweights at Indigo" »


Happy Birthday Indigo!

Nestled into the greater SF Symphony/Opera House neighborhood, Indigo is one of my favorite places to take small groups of friends for celebratory dinners. Not as fancy or expensive as the nearby Jardiniere, Indigo provides good value tasty seasonally-influenced multi-course dinners with a well thought-out wine list. I just received the following note from them, with some of the festivities they have planned to mark their 10th Anniversary:

Dear Friends of Indigo:

Please join us in celebrating our 10 Year Anniversary!  It is hard to believe that so much time has passed and so many other restaurants have closed their doors over the last 10 years.  We have you to thank for our success.

Our way of saying "Thank You" is simple and fun.  If you join us on May 8, 9, 10 or 15, 16, 17, at the end of your meal you will get to pick one envelope from a box. 
That envelope is guaranteed to have one of the following treats:

* Receive 10% off your entire meal! or
* Receive 20% off your entire meal! or
* Your most expensive bottle of wine is FREE! or
* Receive a complimentary round of cocktails for your entire table at Jade bar! or
* Your ENTIRE meal is FREE!

Another way of our saying thanks is for you to book a table in our WINE CELLAR and enjoy a

custom 4-course meal paired with one bottle of each of these boutique wines:
* 2005 Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc
* 2005 Peter Michael Belle Cote Chardonnay
* 2004 Dehlinger Pinot Noir Goldridge Vineyard
* 2003 Plumpjack Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville

We will be doing one dinner in the cellar each night, with a minimum of 4 people and a max of 8 people.
Price is $89 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity.  Wine cellar reservations must be made by phone (415-673-9353), and do not receive an envelope.

For reservations please go to www.indigorestaurant.com or call 415-673-9353.

Again, thanks for your support over the last 10 years, we hope to see you on May 8, 9, 10 or 15, 16, 17!

Best,

Greg and the Indigo Staff

Indigo Restaurant is located at:

687 Mcallister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415.673.9353
Fax: 415.673.9369


For more information (dress code, parking, map, etc.) or to make reservations at
Indigo Restaurant:
http://www.opentable.com/restaurant_profile.asp?ID=1413&restref=1413


TWO, a restaurant review

Every time I mentioned I was going to TWO for dinner last Friday, people stopped to ask "Hmmm, T-O-O?" Not even one guessed "t-w-o". No matter.

TWO is the new place in the Hawthorne Lane space, from the same chef team. But it's a distinctly hipper update from the stately, elegant, special occasion vibe of the old restaurant. I'd been to Hawthorne Lane many times for cocktails and the addictive tempura green beans, but had dinner there only once, with the ex who deemed every extraordinary food experience we shared as "not bad." TWO retains the same innovative approch to food, but with starters $7-$15, and main dishes $9-$36 (the top end for steak, low end sandwiches).

We started with cocktails -- I had the house Cosmopolitan, while my companion had the Espresso Martini -- Ketel One vodka, Kahlua, and Godiva White Chocolate liqueur are shaken together with a shot of fresh espresso and marked with foam. It was one of the best signature cocktails I've had in SF.

We moved on to crispy cornmeal battered calamari and a chopped vegetable salad with small chunks of avocado and parmesan. Main dishes come without sides, allowing you to fully customize your dinner. I added perfectly carmelized brussels sprouts with bacon to my meatball lasagne, while my comapnion added crispy potatoe skins to his burger.

Desserts were the only hit-or-miss portion of the experience. We've enjoyed the trend of mhi ice cream sandwiches that has taken hold of dessertplates across the city and were anxious to try this one. The first one I bit into had a mint ice cream that was herbacious and more like chewing a fresh mint leaf than eating a traditional mint ice cream. The next one I bit into was apparently an oatmeal raisin cookie. I almost gagged. You see, I have a childhood aversion to raisins, due to overeating. And had I known the ice cream sandiwches invovled raisins, I would not hav ordered them. I suspiciously eyed the final of the three on the plate, and decided it looked like the chocolate chip cookies also harbored raisins. Thankfully, my companion flagged down the waitress to address our dessert emregency and procured 2 mini cupcakes. That, plus a few sips of sauternes, made it all better.

I'm looking forward to trying TWO again soon.


Pizzeria Delfina

Delfina has held a special place in my heart since I first dined there on a special birthday back when they were still a tiny little space. Not only did they hold us a bar table after I called to give up our dining room table when my dinner companion was delayed horribly by traffic on the 101, they had Turley zinfandel on the list at a great price. I was smitten.

Given my crush on Delfina, and my love for crispy Neapolitan style pizza, it's an understatement to say I was excited about the opening of Pizzeria Delfina. I've spent the last few years (since my 2001 trek through Southern Italy) perfecting my own pizza technique with the assistance of Todd English's Figs Cookbook, and was hoping Pizzeria Delfina would be on a par -- at a minimum -- with English's pizzas.

My first visit was excellent for the most part, with cafe-style service that was prompt and courteous but nothing to write home about, and good pizzas that were pretty thin, but not quite as crunchy as I would like. I like to eat my pizza by hand and get bummed out when slices have to be eaten with a knife and fork, as was the case with all but the fennel sausage pizza. This minor disappointment was more than made up for by the amazing lemon budina dessert, and for the salad prep person surprising us with some parmesan cheese shavings after catching us sighing over his tossing away the remnants left over from the salads he was plating. Overall I was so pleased that I grabbed a 4-cheese with house cured pepperoni to go to surprise my boyfriend with when he arrived home from work.

The next visit almost a week later was not so sweet, however. The surly service from the waitress was some of the worst ever. We felt badgered about our choices, neglected with our wine service, and abandoned overall. Had it been crowded, or a weekend night, we might have seen a reason for a less than stellar evening, but this was a Wednesday night! And our overall bill, including our bottle of wine, was over $50,  so it wasn't that we were cheapskates. Who knows what the waitress' issues were that evening, but taking them out on the customers is not OK by me. I won't be back, and I won't be recommending them either, which bums me out. I'm hoping that things improve.


This is a bad place for a diet... or for reliable service or consistently tasty food

It’s a shame when good restaurants go bad.

Honestly, having a truly wretched experience at a restaurant you used to count on as a good place for a tasty meal is almost worse than having a beloved restaurant close. At least when it closes you are left with your sweet memories of dinners past. (R.I.P. Avenue 9 and Ristorante Castelluci).

This train of thought was spawned by what is likely to be my last meal at Max’s. The formerly ubiquitous San Francisco-based restaurant chain has been slowly closing down its Max’s Eatz/Sweet Max’s sandwich shops in the financial district for years (most locations seem to have been taken over by the cheap and serviceable Lee’s chain.) This year saw the closure of their Moscone Center-adjacent Max’s Diner property, which, with its emphasis on comfort food including milk shakes, was my favorite.

Intent on something warm and filling for lunch with a decadent shake of some sort for dessert, we set off to Max’s Opera Plaza. After a short wait at the bar, where we obtained ice teas strangely served ready to drink and not in the standard Max’s style of pot of tea that you steep to your liking then pour over a glass of ice, we were seated.

The first thing we noticed as amiss was the lack of a dessert menu. I retrieved one from the hostess and then learned the awful truth: this Max’s lacked milkshakes. Given that milkshakes were our primary reason for heading here, we should have gotten up and left. But, instead, we stayed.

Our orders were taken uneventfully by our soon to be inattentive waiter. He never offered or brought us water, which is becoming a pet peeve of mine. Why should diners be forced to plead with wait staff to obtain water?

My sandwich arrived with its special request (no tomatoes) fulfilled. My dining partner’s grilled cheese with bacon arrived with so much cheese that it oozed out all over the French fries. And the bacon…well... it was limp and chewy, soggy where you’d expect and want some crunch. Disappointed, my dining partner reached for the ketchup to salvage the meal by indulging full in the French fries. Upon first squirt, a rectangular piece of plastic went flying off the squeeze bottle, landing in the midst of the French fries. Strangely ketchup-less French fries. Upon inspection, the squeeze bottle had never been opened, hence the lack of ketchup.

I got up and walked the ketchup over to the wait stand, and asked for another one. With my waiter looking on from behind a partition, never acknowledging me or the issue at hand, I was berated by a waitress for having the nerve to come up there and make a request for a new bottle rather than fixing the problem myself.

“All you have to do,” she said condescendingly, “is squeeze it really hard and it usually pops open.”

“I’d like an opened bottle of ketchup, please,” I repeated.

A few minutes after the ketchup issue, our waiter made his reappearance, with an obligatory “Is everything OK?” dashed off as he was already walking towards another table.

“Yeah. It’s fine now.”

Yes, I have had far worse dining experiences in the City, with surly wait staff even. But this is starting to be a trend at Max’s which bums me out. The last time I was there with this same dining partner, I was actually insulted by the waiter; a waiter who also brought us the wrong drinks, then forgot to bring part of the order.

So yes, it was hardly my worst dining experience ever, but it casts a pall on the idea of eating there again. It might be OK, but there’s a good chance it also might be terrible. And with so many places to eat in this City, why would I take that chance?