Town’s End Restaurant and Bakery, San Francisco CA

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Town’s End Restaurant and Bakery

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Complimentary Pastry Basket – Peach and Banana Nut Muffins, Raisin Scone, Strawberry Jam

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French Toast Sampler with Egg, Whole Wheat, Raisin Walnut Bread

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Grilled Polenta

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Exiting Bonjour Patisserie and turning right it was in the warm morning sun that I walked on Townsend towards the Embarcadero and literally reaching the end of Townsend I found my destination – the appropriately titled Town’s End. Clearly a clever bunch and offering a menu with plenty I figured to fancy it was to a surprisingly long, multiple-leveled dining room that I arrived and with only a few patrons present amidst a sea of white tablecloths I was given my choice of seats, a cozy two-top toward the back but overlooking the front my eventual choice. Oft cited for their complimentary basket of miniature pastries to start it was within a matter of seconds that a quartet in three flavors arrived but with only the peach muffin trumping a typical hotel’s continental options I felt a little underwhelmed – a trend only to continue as proper plates arrived. Slow but smiling in service, a leisurely place to linger for some, it was after nearly twenty-five minutes that my order landed on the table and with a cheery “enjoy” from my waitress I tried my best – the polenta underportioned for the price but nicely prepared while homemade breads dipped in batter came off as eggy and dry – a combination done no favors by the lackluster ‘syrup’ that only further made three different breads taste no better than that from Wonder.

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RECOMMENDED: Peach Muffin

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AVOID: French Toast.

TIP: For those in a hurry there is a small bakery counter up front, the mini-muffins at 40-cents seemingly a safe option for those on the run.

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http://www.townsendrb.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, California, Food, French Toast, San Francisco, Town’s End, Town’s End Restaurant and Bakery, Vacation

Bonjour Patisserie, San Francisco CA

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Bonjour Patisserie

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Almond Croissant

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Bostock

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Blueberry Financier

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Canele

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Chocolate and Coffee Éclair

Selected for early morning pastry due to its SoMA location combined with the fact that several of my San Francisco favorites are closed on Monday it was just after the break of day that I walked into Bonjour Patisserie and although a locally-owned business nothing about the décor or still service could shake the corporate feel of the Adobe-adjacent space. Small in size and still stocking the shelves as I entered it was presumably the owner and baker that I soon met and eyeing me suspiciously without even a hello as I perused the pastries a ‘can I help you?’ eventually emerged – three items for now with two taken to go my eventual order. Still impersonal as goods were packed and stared versus glared at as I snapped a few photos it was first in the croissant that I partook and although slightly over-sweetened the laminated layers gave way with good break to wispy insides perfumed with light frangipane, but not overly so. Moving next to more time-sensitive selections the sizeable canele would prove admirable in its springy custard despite a slightly soft shell while an espresso glazed éclair with rich chocolate cream showed Bonjour’s command of choux. At this point packing bags for a proper breakfast with more tasting to come at a conference break it was again without words until I said my “thanks” that I passed the counter and as much as I dislike passing praise onto such an inhospitable place I must say that both the toothsome financier and buttery bostock proved excellent nearly four hours later, though the later did make quite the mess of another Moscone Center table.

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RECOMMENDED: Bostock and Financier.

AVOID: Decent, but trumped by several of San Francisco’s best, I’d pass on the canele and croissant unless focused solely on convenience.

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TIP: Featuring soups and sandwiches later in the day along with some bagged grab-and-go options amidst an area somewhat devoid of better it came as no surprise that other patrons were obviously ‘regulars,’ yet even then service seemed strained to speak or smile – odd considering a name like Bonjour.

http://www.facebook.com/BonjourPatisserie

Posted in Bonjour Patisserie, Breakfast, California, Canele, Croissant, Dessert, Food, San Francisco, Vacation

Hard Water, San Francisco CA

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Hard Water

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Oregon Pink Shrimp Hushpuppies – Lemon and Herb Mayonnaise

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Stoneground Grits – Cabot Cheddar, Cultured Butter

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Almond Flour Fried Chicken, Buttermilk Waffles, Pepper Jelly

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Whiskey Kiss – Caramel Covered Marshmallow

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Again pulling double duty to give due diligence to an ever expanding culinary ‘to-do’ list it was nearly two-hours after exiting Stone’s Throw that I cozied up to the center island of the wharf’s “Hard Water” and although more celebrated for the impressive bar than the tiny kitchen I must say the N’awlins inspired cuisine was ‘none too shabby’ neither. Undoubtedly a swanky spot for booze amongst the Bay area’s elite but a bit empty In the waning hours of Father’s Day 2014 it was with wide eyes followed by wide-angle lens that I gazed on the wall of whiskey and although not my spirit of choice the collection deserves credit, as did the low pressure bartenders who seemed just as happy chat while I sipped water as they were to pour a $100+ shot. Somewhat limited, or perhaps more so ‘well-culled,’ in its culinary offerings it was with much debate that I perused the menu of sustenance and bearing in mind the long day past it was in a quartet of items I partook – six ping-pong balls of fried cornmeal dense with sweet shrimp and a shallow bowl of exceeding creamy grits kicking things off. At this point happily sated but still with room to spare it was only after a thirty minute delay due to several late arrivals that my final course was delivered and as much as I’d have preferred the re-toasted waffle fresh from an iron the salt-cured fried bird left little room to quibble as crispy seasoned skin shattered to tooth giving way to supple flesh dripping with juices I greedily mopped up with waffles slathered in surprising subtle jam…an adjective in no way applicable to the tiny two-dollar and fifty cent feather-light caramel tinged with booze.

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RECOMMENDED: Fried Chicken, Grits.

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AVOID: With only one dessert and the pricey ‘kiss’ dessert is better sought elsewhere while the waffle could be improved if prepped to order.

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TIP: One of the few spots open in the area and unfortunately sharing a commode with others in the building there were several panhandlers in the area that night and although largely innocuous one is best to be mindful when walking in isolated areas en route to the restroom where several were camped out.

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http://hardwaterbar.com/

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Posted in California, Dessert, Food, Hard Water, San Francisco, Vacation, Waffles

Stone’s Throw, San Francisco CA

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Stone’s Throw

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Crispy Tomato Cream Wafers – Crushed Fava Bean Dip

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Puffed Potato and Eggs – Cauliflower Mousse, Chives, Crispy Chicken Skin

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Duck Pate and Mousse – French’s Mustard, Cornichons, Warm Soft Pretzels

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Warm Octopus & Okonomiyaki Pancake – Bacon Dashi, Spicy Turnips, Marinated Mushrooms

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Crispy 38 North Duck Breast & Duck Taquito – Roasted Fennel, Braised Rhubarb, Pistachio Butter

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Chocolate Bananas Foster – Warm Brown Sugar Soaked Bananas, Frozen Chocolate Covered Banana Milkshake, Chocolate Brownies, Bubbling Walnut-Caramel

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Donuts – Brioche Beignets, Peanut Butter, Milk Chocolate, Grape Jelly

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Again planning a double-duty dinner it was mere moments before 5:30 that I arrived to find the doors of Jason Kirmse and Cy Hia’s Stone’s Throw already unlocked and although having missed out on Fat Angel during previous Bay Area dining adventures I entered with high expectations – two of my Saison servers having described Chef Jason Halverson’s cuisine as “so delicious, so fun” with desserts “like a fat kid’s paradise.”  Deceptively large despite its tree-shaded façade on Hyde Street with an up-front bar, open kitchen in back, plus hip yet exceedingly well trained staff at every turn it was to a monthly-changing menu that I soon found myself challenged and with nearly every dish something I’d consider ordering elsewhere hard decisions were made – a half-dozen plates increased +1 by a gift from the kitchen without a single disappointing bite in the bunch. Divided largely into bites, appetizers, larger plates, and sweets it was first the gift of light tomato chips and creamed broad beans that I began and moving next to things more substantial both the molten centered puffs and silky liver would prove oddly reminiscent of simpler things refined – the former harkening a “loaded” baked potato while the later, slathered on a warm pretzel, invoked memories of Big Mac…but in a good way. Clearly leaning on concepts of ethnic comforts it was next in tender Pacific octopus grilled and set adjacent to a savory pancake served with condiments that I found my favorite savory of the evening and only slightly less impressed by rosy duck melded to seasonal vegetables by smoky nut butter it was onto desserts I progressed – that “fat kid” comment immediately making sense as a box at the bottom of the menu requested customer’s childhood favorites. At this point warned twice by my waiter that I had overordered it was at my insistence that a duo of desserts arrived and beginning with four pillowy beignets finding their flavor inspired by many kids’ lunch the light cocoa cream proved an admirable segue to the NOLA tilted brownie sundae – the flambéed sauce poured tableside to melt a frozen cylinder into a rich pudding far more interesting than anything I experienced at Brennan’s.

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RECOMMENDED: Puffed Potatoes are a mainstay – order them – while the rest is subject to change. If you see the Okonomiyaki I’d strongly suggest it…and dessert(s)

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AVOID: N/A

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TIP: Taking inspiration from patrons for dessert the restaurant offers a free visit to concepts selected…I also have it on good word that brunch is fantastic and whenever I’m next in town I fully plan to disprove my server’s assertion that he has never seen anyone finish the butter-fried pancakes on their own.

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http://stonesthrowsf.com/

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Posted in California, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Octopus, Pancakes, San Francisco, Stone’s Throw, Vacation

R&G Lounge, San Francisco CA

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R&G Lounge

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Hot Tea

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Salt and Pepper Crab

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Egg Custard with Mussels

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Peking Duck

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Walnut Shrimp

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Cold Plate – Ham, Vegetarian Goose

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Cold Plate – Borurbon Squab

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Frequently featured in articles referencing the “Best of the Bay” but always falling short of my personal “short list” as I awaited additional diners with whom I could share it was finally a Father’s Day lunch with a former colleague and her family that brought me to R&G Lounge and with both service and cuisine that pleased three immigrants from mainland China, two Midwesterners, and even a child I must say the restaurant lived up to the press. Truly a ‘destination’ restaurant for Asian families and all the more so for a holiday lunch it was with a bit of luck that I landed the reservation for a six-top with only two week’s notice and quickly seated in a room beneath the streets of Chinatown upon our 11am arrival it was clear expeditious ordering would be to our benefit – a seven plate meal served in five courses with clockwork timing while surrounding tables sat in wait. Beginning with tea and focusing largely on signature plates plus a few of my friends’ family favorites it was in R&G’s fabled fried crab that we began and with light batter laden with spice overlying the crustacean’s sweet flesh everyone at the table smiled, a similar effect generated by the cold-plate trio whose ham and ‘goose’ wowed while the boozy whole-bird found more favor with my friends than it did with me. Still licking fingers and picking at the crab’s crisp carapace it would not be long before more shellfish arrived and this time trending sweet it would pose a difficult decision whether to focus on snappy shrimp with caramelized walnuts or mussel studded egg pudding, particularly bearing in mind that yet to come – a crispy whole duck with plenty of bao that was carved in the kitchen but still piping hot and rich with fat and flavor to round out a truly memorable meal in setting, service, friendship, and food.

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RECOMMENDED: Salt and Pepper Crab, Walnut Prawns, Mussel Custard.

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AVOID: Squab was far too boozy for me and although apparently a traditional dish even my friend commented that this was a more potent preparation than most.

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TIP: Dessert consists of only ice cream so those in need of something sweet may look elsewhere – Golden Gate Bakery is nearby as are several other traditional Asian alternatives…plus the rest of the San Francisco’s remarkable patisseries, bakeries, and scoop shops.

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http://rnglounge.com/

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Posted in California, Crab, Food, Pork, R&G Lounge, San Francisco, Vacation

Flour & Co, San Francisco CA

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Flour & Co

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Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake

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Sticky Bun with Pecan-Walnut Caramel

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Savory Cornbread – Corn, Onions, Chives

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Oatmeal Praline Cookie

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Chocolate Chunk Cookie

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French Toast Sandwich – Lightly Sweetened Cream Cheese, Raspberry Jam, Cinnamon Swirl

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Carrot Cake – Pecans, Walnuts, Raisins, Pineapple, Cream Cheese Frosting

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Moving on from Mymy it was a quick trip up Nob Hill to Flour & Co that again saw me fraught with temptation and with owner Emily Day hard at work in the kitchen while her delightful staff promised me “everything” was delicious I quickly succumbed to my whims – a seven item order serving in part as a continuation of breakfast with the rest saved for dessert after lunch. All natural and largely locally purveyed it was with a duo of items that my tasting began and although the toasty sandwich of housemade jam on fresh baked bread with a touch of cream cheese was lovely the carrot cake set a new standard – its moist crumb rife spice and so well packed with nuts, carrots, and dried fruit that one wondered if there was any filler or flour at all. Moving on to more after a Father’s Day lunch with friends at R&G it was with toothsome and herbaceous cornbread that I started and with the savory option showing equally impressive as prior items it was back to sweets I turned, the crisply rimmed cookies giving way to tender centers while toasty sugared pecans crowned dense coffee-cake and an very sticky brioche swirl.

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RECOMMENDED: Carrot Cake, Cornbread, French Toast Sandwich.

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AVOID: While nothing was even remotely subpar bad there are simply better cookies and sticky buns to be had in the San Francisco when there is so much else to explore at Flour & Co.

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TIP: Featuring Free Wi-Fi and several prepped-to-order selections with seating for no more than twenty an early arrival or off-peak visit is recommended for those desiring to dine-in.

http://flourandco.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, California, Cornbread, Dessert, Flour & Co, Flour and Co, Food, French Toast, San Francisco, Vacation

Mymy, San Francisco CA

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Mymy

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Banana Blueberry Souffle Pancake – Vanilla Curd, Candied Walnut

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Vanilla Sponge French Toast – Butterscotch Drizzle, Bananas, Strawberries, Blueberries

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Featuring a surprisingly similar menu to breakfast on day one and interestingly located cattycorner to the awful Olea where I’d dined the year prior it was early Sunday morning when I entered mymy and seated quickly at the wallside counter a familiar order took shape. Small in size with a semi-open kitchen where a young Asian line cook worked diligently firing plate after plate as the small staff attended to each guest’s needs with a cheerful vibe it was seemingly seconds between dinging bells indicating ‘order up’ and starting with downy-soft pancakes sandwiching rich vanilla curd with decorative berry puree and candied nuts I swooned – a texture even lighter than those from Griddle Fresh with fruit flavors far more poignant enlivening every bite. Moving next to French toast but this time eschewing the boule it was next the “vanilla sponge” that greeted my palate and although slightly more bready than I’d have preferred at its core the caramelized crackle of the golden exterior proved excellent while butterscotch sauce and fresh berries rendered maple syrup irrelevant.

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RECOMMENDED: Much like Griddle Fresh, you’re here for the pancakes.

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AVOID: Arriving after 8:30 on weekends – limited seating and those prone to linger had already generated a thirty minute wait list when I exited just prior to 9am.

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TIP: Working in extremely small quarters quirky modifications appear to be declined, my vegan/vegetarian neighbor at the counter opting to walk out when she could not be guaranteed no animal products would come into contact with her plate.

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http://sanfrancisco.menupages.com/restaurants/mymy-coffee-shop/

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Posted in Breakfast, California, Food, French Toast, My My, Mymy, Pancakes, San Francisco, Vacation

A16, San Francisco CA

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A16

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Semolina Bread with Olive Oil

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Wild Nettle Ricotta Gnocchi – Pioppini Mushroom, Garlic, Mushroom Brodo, Herbs, Caciocavallo

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Trippa Napoletana – Onions, Tomato, Chiles, White Wine, Breadcrumbs

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Margherita – Tomato, Mozzarella, Grana Padano, Basil, Olive Oil

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Wood Fired Dry Peach Crostata – Buttermilk Sorbet

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Chocolate Budino Tart – Sea Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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Owned by the same team behind Michelin starred SPQR and located steps from the Presidio a late night bite at A16 with an old friend was set to cap Saturday night but with my pal suddenly called out of town on business I was instead left to fly solo – an early arrival due to a meal shorter than expected at Nico leaving me standing amidst a crowd of walk-ins as incompetent hostesses struggled to keep tabs on a growing ‘list.’ Originally offered a seat at the Chef’s counter only to have the suggestion soon rescinded it was not until nearly thirty-five minutes later that I was informed that the bar was ‘first come, first serve, full service’ and having watched seats come and go along with another long-delayed duo it would be ten minutes more before we each procured a seat – my new friends suddenly a silver lining allowing for me to over-order and share. Still jostled from behind as more potential patrons packed the front foyer it was from the bartender that plates would soon be ordered and although substantial delays persisted to the point of being gifted a complimentary plate of creamy gnocchi I have to say the food universally justified the hassles. Conceptually based in the cuisine of Campania it was with warm semolina bread and clean, fruity olive oil that the meal got started and with aforementioned gnocchi understatedly herbal and aromatic it was with course two that flavors began to ‘pop’ – the tender tripe fully embracing a sauce of acid and wine prior to a reference standard Margherita whose springy crust bubbled up in pecan wood char with just enough aged cheese to enliven hand-crushed tomatoes and fresh-pulled mozz. Again finding myself solo as bar-mates turned elsewhere for more drinks it was simply illogical to me to eschew dessert and after debating a seasonal favorite against a 10-year classic the only right answer was “both” – the wood-oven singed puff pastry lovely and light while the dark chocolate budino proved every bit deserving of its status on many “Best of the Bay” lists – a light kiss of salt serving to enliven the fruitiness of the oil and accentuate the subtle sweetness of an otherwise intense finale.

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RECOMMENDED: Pizza, Tripe, Budino.

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AVOID: Having spent so much time waiting and witnessing several walk-outs due to late-seated reservations I’d suggest avoiding Saturday nights, though perhaps my visit was an anomaly. Pastas additionally seemed to trend small considering the prices.

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TIP: Yeah, the bar is first come, first serve, and full service even if they don’t tell you that up front…and although I’m sure they’d deny it those residing on the ‘wait list’ would be well served to check-in often as persons friendly with the staff seemed oddly capable of securing previously ‘unavailable’ seats up front shortly after walking in.

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http://www.a16sf.com/

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Posted in A16, Bread Basket, California, Dessert, Food, Gnocchi, Ice Cream, Italian, Pizza, San Francisco, Vacation

Nico, San Francisco CA

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Nico

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Hearth Bread

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Stone Fruit Colada – Rum, Coconut, Pineapple, Sage

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Panisse – Squash

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Duck Liver Pate – Asian Pear, Crouton

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Potato – Egg, Porcini, Beaufort

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Apricots, Pistachio Cake, Goat’s Milk Ice Cream

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Port Poached Cherries, Brown Butter Cake, Yogurt Ice Cream

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Salted Caramel

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One of the hottest tickets in town and a reservation for which advanced planning is requisite given the restaurant’s small size it was to Pacific Heights’ Nico that I sat down for my first of two dinners on Saturday and featuring a well-culled menu of seasonal French small plates I was happy to find both service and cuisine befitting the praise. Tucked away on Sacramento Street and seating less than fifty amidst casual décor with a Plexiglas window affording full view of Chef Nicholas Delaroque’s gleaming kitchen it was mere moments after Nico unlocked its doors that I was welcomed to a cozy two-top and quickly perusing the menu of a man who honed his skills with Crenn and Kinch a five-course meal focused on Northern California’s glorious produce took shape. Clearly a kitchen already accustomed to serving at high volume and at times perhaps flowing a bit too fast it was with a slice of warm Manresa-esque bread and a lovely muddled-fruit cocktail that I began and moving next to a duo of appetizers the fried chickpeas with squash puree would prove light and crisp while terrine was coarse, rich, and complimented just enough to tame the expected mineral funk. Moving next to the night’s lone vegetarian entrée, a slightly overpriced $22 plate of creamy egg yolk melding crisp potatoes and tender mushrooms I was soon onward to dessert and with the clock ticking just past 6:30 my smile beamed bright, first at the intense sweetness of golden apricots over a toothsome cake seemingly made of nothing but ground pistachios and a bit of butter and then to a boozy mountain of cherries reined in by tangy ice cream and chunks of spongy cake, a duo from which I’d not be able to determine a favorite when asked by my server who soon delivered the check along with a buttery salted caramel and cheerful thanks for stopping in.

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RECOMMENDED: Desserts were a highlight and a veritable steal at $8 while appetizers also shined at $6-$8 each.

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AVIOID: Main courses, both mine and those at neighboring tables, seem to trend small for the price.

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TIP: Online menus are described as representative of the restaurant’s cuisine and should be taken as such as not a single item from the website on June 14th was offered in house that day.

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http://www.nicosf.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, California, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Nico, San Francisco, Vacation

Tout Sweet Patisserie, San Francisco CA

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Tout Sweet

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Burnt Caramel and Sea Salt, Peanut Butter and Raspberry Jam Macaron

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Nutella Sugar Bun with Almond Nougatine

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St. Honore

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Hazelnut Crumb Brioche Bread Pudding with Sea Salt, Ceylon Cinnamon, Vanilla Bean Custard

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Chocolate Chunk Cookie

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Brown Butter/Peanut/Cornflake Cookie

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Preferring to indulge in actual food rather than Food Network programming I’d admittedly known nothing of “Top Chef – Just Dessert” winner Yigit Pura’s flagship patisserie inside the Union Square Macy’s until it was mentioned to me by the clerk at Humphry Slocombe and admittedly skeptical even after a leisurely stroll through several stores in the area I decided due diligence at least warranted a cursory glance…the resultant order of a seven confections largely a result of eye-catching design overlying childish whimsy despite a high-school aged staff that would have been far better suited peddling French fries than French pastry. Expectedly high in price given the prime real estate but equally high in quality with a focus on local organic product it came to me as no surprise that Chef Pura calls The Bay Area home and although I passed on seasonal fruit tarts to focus on standardizing personal favorites nearly every item on offer shined with jewelbox presentation – my first bites of beautiful macarons delivering a crisp break with flavors washing over the palate and slow to dissipate. Moving onward to things more hearty it was to a duo of decidedly American cookies that I turned and with crisp edges guarding soft centers a similar effect soon arrived warm from the kitchen in the form of buttery bread pudding harkening coffee cake in texture with a salty cinnamon tinge to the overlying streusel and vanilla bean caramel. Enjoying most of my selections as halves while saving the rest for later it was next to the atypical geometric St. Honore that I turned my attention and although slightly compromised by damp choux the custard and cream were both surprisingly restrained in sweetness and impressively light…neither of which qualities were particularly applicable to the brioche Nutella bun that also seemed a bit soggy but was so stuffed with decadent hazelnut spread that one would hardly notice.

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RECOMMENDED: Macarons, Bread Pudding, Brown Butter/Peanut/Cornflake Cookie

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AVOID: St. Honore and other filled items that may be more time sensitive.

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TIP: Obviously popular due to its celebrity chef inside a high traffic environs while offering a salon-style respite from the shopping madness outside don’t be surprised to find all seats taken at Tout Sweet, occasionally not even by patisserie patrons – not only is the storefront small but persons lucky enough to find a chair are likely to linger while the juvenile staff struggles to service the counter let alone bus or track tables.

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http://www.toutsweetsf.com/

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Posted in Bread Pudding, California, Dessert, Food, Macaroon, San Francisco, Tout Sweet, Tout Sweet Patisserie, Vacation

Fog City, San Francisco CA

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Fog City

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Warm Old Fashioned Doughnuts – Sugar Dusted

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Aaron’s Buttermilk Biscuits – Strawberry Compote

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Fog City Hot Brown – Roasted Heritage Turkey, Country Sourdough, Mornay Sauce, Nueskie’s Bacon, Roma Tomato

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Brioche French Toast – Yerena Farm Strawberries, Maple Whipped Cream, Shaved Almonds

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With the meeting adjourned for lunch and several hours of digestion aided by Moscone Center coffee now behind me it was up the Embarcadero that I again marched and this time traveling farther north than usual it was just past one o’clock when I sat down at Fog City, a gregarious middle-aged gentleman with a sweaty brow providing Michelin-quality service to myself as well as patrons both inside and out during a nearly 75-minute brunch. Seemingly understaffed at the front-of-the-house while a team of five manned the open fire oven and stoves in the kitchen it was with one famous dish on my mind that I entered Fog City but featuring a recently renovated brunch menu promising several personal favorites my order instead unfolded in three parts, an opening duo of cinnamon-sugar brioche donuts a touch too bready while flaky golden biscuits varnished in sugar and butter proved exemplary. Moving onward to the original object of my desire it was after a nearly thirty minute delay that Fog City’s riff on the Louisville Hot Brown arrived and gussied up with artisan touches as only The Bay Area can do suffice it to say that it puts J. Graham’s original to shame – a bubbling pot of creamy Mornay smothering tangy sourdough and smoked turkey with a crown of crisp bacon and lightly griddled tomatoes added straight from the pan. Clearly unwilling to pass on dessert it was with a small menu of frozen custards, crullers, and shortcake that I was presented and although the later featured the strawberry finale I desired so did the brunch menu French Toast, a buttery trio of triangles so saturated with maple-infused custard that the interior was nearly liquid beneath a crunchy golden coat ready to be dressed in even more maple, whipped cream, and lightly reduced berries that made me wonder not only why more has not been said of this dish but why anyone would sell themselves short with the shortcake.

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RECOMMENDED: Hot Brown, French Toast, Biscuits.

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AVOID: Brioche Donuts.

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TIP: An unassuming space low-set in a small park with ocean views to the left reservations are recommended but with full-service available at the restaurant’s triangular central bar walk-ins are equally welcome – just be aware that the Hot-Brown is not offered at dinner while weekend brunch and weekday lunch also differ substantially.

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http://fogcitysf.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, California, Dessert, Fog City, Food, French Toast, Pork, San Francisco, Vacation

Three Babes Bakeshop, San Francisco CA

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Three Babes Bakeshop

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Salty Honey Walnut

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Chocolate Pecan with Graham Cracker Crust

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Making my way from the Ferry Plaza Marketplace en route back to the hotel for a shower before the conference I quickly debated joining the surprisingly short line at Roli Roti but glancing towards the water I did a very ‘guy-like’ double-take at the sight of Three Babes…Bakeshop. Another Mission-based business but lacking a true brick-and-mortar “Three Babes” is actually a kickstarter funded concept from two young women from central California and although prices may run as high as $40 for a single pie the team’s artisan work has undeniably earned a cult following and substantial accolades – the combination finding them sold out of one option while I nabbed the last slice of Chocolate Pecan just after 8:30am. Verbose in words like all-natural, organic, and sustainable that are meaningful to many but no marker for ‘taste’ it was to the $12 toll of two slices that I partook in Anna and Lenore’s baked goods and although the Chocolate Pecan was indeed delicious with flavors harkening a ‘Turtle’ candy it could not hold a candle to the signature Salty Honey Walnut – the buttery crust still flaky and crisp beneath an avalanche of toasty walnuts whose soft bitters found balance in local honey flecked with bits of sea salt – a truly remarkable pie tiptoeing the line between sweet and savory while wowing in every bite.

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RECOMMENDED: Salty Honey Walnut

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AVOID: Arriving after noon when, I’ve been told, more than half of the pies are often sold out.

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TIP: …is it just me, or would a warm slice of the Salty Honey Walnut be perfect if made a la mode with a scoop of Harvey Milk and Honey Graham from Humphry Slocombe inside? Not really a tip…or is it?

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http://threebabesbakeshop.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, California, Dessert, Food, San Francisco, Three Babes Bakeshop, Vacation

Humphry Slocombe at Ferry Plaza, San Francisco CA

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Humphry Slocombe

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Secret Breakfast with Bourbon Caramel

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Butter by Moonlight / Harvey Milk and Honey Graham

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Still abuzz from the Kings double-OT Stanley Cup victory and a landmark meal at Saison it was after a long morning jog along the Embarcadero that I stopped to refuel at the Ferry Plaza Market and although samples of fruit and cheese were plentiful it was pie and ice cream that I craved – the latter found first in the new storefront of an old favorite. Twice visited in The Mission but featuring new digs in a white tile space formerly inhabited by Ciao Bella it was moments before 8am that the hinged wall unfolded and stepping quickly into line smiles flourished – a few jokes about ice cream for breakfast and several samples leading to a $10 two-cup order. Beginning first with two new-to-me novelties it was in the exclusive brown butter and blueberry swirl of Butter by Moonlight that I first partook and taken bite for bite with the “Milk” Ice Cream studded with housemade honey grahams I continued to marvel at Slocombe’s velvety texture while restrained sweetness allowed natural flavors to shine. Moving onward to my second dish it was more my willingness to indulge like a child than any need for hair of the dog that led to my ‘double shot’ of bourbon and with a name like Secret Breakfast the bourbon milk and cvornflake composition proved even more memorable when doused in boozy, hot caramel…a breakfast of champions indeed.

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RECOMMENDED: Sampling everything and ordering whatever tastes best.

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AVOID: Arriving too late in the day as popular flavors do sell out.

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TIP: Opening at 8:00am on Saturday and at 11:00am the rest of the week lines can run as long as those at Blue Bottle during peak hours, those with work (or in my case conference) time constraints should plan accordingly.

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http://www.humphryslocombe.com/www.humphryslocombe.com/Home.html

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Posted in Breakfast, California, Dessert, Food, Humphry Slocombe, Humphry Slocombe at Ferry Plaza, Ice Cream, San Francisco, Vacation

Saison [3,] San Francisco CA

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Saison

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Krug Grand Cuvee

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Tea – Herbs from our garden and their flora, Meyer lemon

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White Sturgeon Caviar – Shell torn sturgeon belly cured and smoked on kelp, gelee of the grilled bones, Spring citrus

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Beignets of bitter vegetables and anchovy, milk thistle, soy and citrus

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Arteis and Co Brut 1999

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Diamond Turbot – fresh shiso, chrysanthemum pickled in dry mustard, mountain yam, sea bean, Meyer lemon sea salt, white soy infused with oils from the fish’s head, nori, skin

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Untitled – Gin, Juniper, Verjus, egg white, Absinthe, Chamomile Tea Syrup, White Ale

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Trout – Smoked in the wood oven, tea, pickled daikon, anise hyssop

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First of the season Corn – Pudding, dried tomatoes, trout roe

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Sea Urchin Toast – Butter soaked Tartine toast, river vegetables and avocado, uni, uni bottarga

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Abalone – Roasted over the embers, sauce of the liver and capers

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Surf Clam – Herbal broth, bitters, dropwood

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Sea Cucumber – The ribs grilled in the flora and stuffed with scallop farce, salted broth

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Sea Cucumber – Chicharon, grilled kelp and bonito dusted with egg yolk fish sauce

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Goddess Melon Soup – Crackling of pork, salted shiso

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Ling Cod – Roasted over the coals, sauce of rangpur lime and yogurt, head

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Untitled – 5 Island Rum, Jamaican Rum, Honey Syrup, Fresh Lime Juice, Tiki Bitters, Blanc de Blanc (not photographed)

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Brassicas – Dried over the fire

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Sartarelli Tralivio

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Parker House Rolls

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Duck Toffee – Scented with caramelized white chocolate, milk, bread, beer

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Beef – Grilled alongside its bones in the fire, cultured buckwheat, bitter herbs

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1987 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon

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Pickles and a bouillion of beef bones – eggplant in brown sugar and soy, carrots in turmeric, turnips in nuka, salted squash blossom, beets in sauerkraut, daikon and burdock, cucumber

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Cheese – Bellwether Farms Sheeps’ Milk Ricotta with honey, Sofia, Pecorino, Rimrocker, Winnimere, Grilled Wheat Bread, Peach Soda with elderflower musk

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Krug sorbet

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Rhubarb – Jasmine and kumquat, sorrel granite

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Buckwheat tea and canele, milk chocolate

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Take Home – orange brioche, canele

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Landing atop my list of best meals for 2013 a third visit to Saison was a given during my most recent trip to San Francisco and although I’d have never imagined the circumstances when I booked the reservation nearly three months prior I’m relatively certain the Friday the 13th visit will linger as one of the most memorable nights in my life – a nearly four hour experience of superlative food, beverage, and service unfolding while the Los Angeles Kings captured their second Stanley Cup. Admittedly known to Chef Skenes as well as Maitre D’ Matthew Mako and welcomed at the door like an old friend it was to the restaurant’s longer Discovery Menu that I was treated and with 20+ courses comprised of a cornucopia of exotic ingredients manipulated only as much as necessary to maximize both flavor and texture not a single bite would prove less than ambitious and, perhaps more importantly, delicious. Undeniably a tasting menu rooted in logical progression yet at the same time often hinting at things to come or flavors just passed it would be nearly impossible to single out a dish as the meal’s strongest and as such focusing on one ‘segment’ that exemplified everything from sourcing to technique one would be best served to witness the urchin, abalone, surf clam, and sea cucumber quartet – each plate a stirring tribute to its ingredients but the succession a veritable work of art with brine, bitter, smoke, and sweet all delivered in harmony with texture moving deftly from crunchy to creamy and back. As much an event as a meal I’ve said before that Saison is the best restaurant in the country and although other factors may indeed be tinting my most recent experience I am just as comfortable now suggesting that both the food and the service better than ever, a proclamation leaving me to wonder just how much better it can get…and eager to return and find out.

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RECOMMENDED: Discovery Menu

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AVOID: N/A

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TIP: Amongst the nation’s most expensive restaurants and now upping the ante with a $498 Saturday Chef’s Tasting where Joshua Skenes is set to explore his newest concepts potential diners should do their homework before visiting Saison – simply put, this is not cuisine for ‘everyone’ and persons with more timid palates may find themselves challenged by several of the courses served throughout the night.

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http://saisonsf.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, California, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Pork, Saison, San Francisco, Tasting Menu, Vacation

Chile Pies (Sweet & Savory), San Francisco CA

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Chile Pies (Sweet & Savory)

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Green Chile Apple with Three Twins Vanilla Ice Cream

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Mexican Chocolate Pecan

With desserts a no-go during lunch at Mozzeria I was left with the enviable decision of whether to return to Craftsman & Wolves or to try something new and as much as the former was sure to wow it was to pie that I turned, the beguiling flavors of Chile Pies having caught my eye earlier in the day as I walked south from Thorough Bread to Knead. Unbeknownst to me one of three ‘Chile’ spaces from Chef Trevor Logan the subtitled ‘Sweet & Savory’ is a decidedly tight space and with a menu spanning from burritos, stews, and salads to a single cake alongside several pies it was in the clerk that I placed my trust; the restaurant’s signature take on apple pie an obvious recommendation while her second pick was precisely what I’d have selected had I not ventured to ask. Opting for the first slice warmed and served a la mode with the other taken to go it was with some skepticism that I approached the green chile apple slice and although appreciably fruit forward there was no mistaking the fiery finish, a bit of balance provided by the creamy chill of Three Twins organic vanilla but not something I’d opt for again given my limited appreciation for such spice. At this point taking to the streets in order to attend the opening lectures of my conference it would be some four hours later before I indulged in my second slice and although cut far smaller than the Apple in order to accommodate the carry-out container the results were far more befitting my palate as hefty notes of cinnamon mingled with toasted peanuts, rich chocolate, and just a touch of chili powder atop a golden butter crust plenty flaky enough to make a proper mess of the Moscone Center table.

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RECOMMENDED: Mexican Chocolate Pecan

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AVOID: While the Green Chile Apple proved a bit too spicy for my palate I’m sure others more fond of such flavors would find the experience far more palatable.

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TIP: With only enough seating for perhaps ten those looking for a more comfortable dine-in experience would be well served to check out the original Chile Pies location, particularly considering the strong reviews of their recently launched weekend brunch.

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http://www.greenchilekitchen.com

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Posted in California, Chile Pies, Chile Pies (Sweet & Savory), Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, San Francisco, Three Twins, Vacation

Mozzeria, San Francisco CA

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Mozzeria

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Margherita DOP

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Peking Duck

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Located in The Mission and boasting VPN certification despite several pies one would never see in Naples it was with high expectations that I approached Russ and Melody Stein’s Mozzeria, the small shop having received plenty of attention for its all-deaf staff but according to many not nearly enough for the quality of its product. Largely trattoria in concept featuring an array of pizzas plus a few small plates during counterside lunch with additional pastas and secondi appearing for table-service dinners it can rightfully be assumed that anyone importing a two-ton Stefano Ferrera oven is serious about their craft and with a minimalist décor of red, black, and wood as local arts decorate the walls the diners attention is squarely focused on the plate…or at least it should be after watching Russ expertly stretch, dress, and fire the rounds of ‘00’ dough. Burning around 850F on a combination of pecan and oak a pizza at Mozzeria begins with a smoky char to the pliable crust and featuring light saucing amidst pools of bubbly buffala mozzarella the Margherita DOP was a reliable classic while the crispy duck skin and supple flesh topping a crust flecked with sesame seeds that followed was simply stunning – a touch of hoisin and scallions served alongside added to outperform many more ‘authentic’ attempts throughout the United States.

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RECOMMENDED: Going with a friend or three, particularly if dining at dinner where more than ten items caught my eye.

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AVOID: N/A.

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TIP: For those unaware of the ownership and employees a first visit may be somewhat perplexing but from my experience both Russ and his wife are excellent lip readers, even able to answer atypical questions about the type of wood used in the oven without me repeating myself…and if you’re still worried, pads of paper and pens are provided at each and every table.

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http://www.mozzeria.com/

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Posted in California, Food, Italian, Mozzeria, Pizza, San Francisco, Vacation

St. Francis Fountain, San Francisco CA

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St Francis Fountain

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Dreamsicle – Milk, Orange Juice, Vanilla, Vanilla Ice Cream, Orange Sherbet, Whipped Cream, Cherry on top

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Warm Brownie

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French Toast Delight – Yogurt, Granola, Apples, Bananas, Strawberries, Pineapple

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Exiting east out of Knead and waltzing down 24th Street towards Dynamo Donuts it was with long-held interest that I once again passed by St. Francis Fountain and with daily selections less than inspiring from the small storefront at 2760 I finally decided to quell my curiosity, a short walk back just one block landing me at a two-top in the 1918 soda fountain. Kitschy in décor with toys and trading cards from my youth available for purchase in a glass case while booths and tables sat tightly spaced juxtaposing the Formica bar it would be mere moments before I was greeted by the diner’s lone server and confirming hopes of an ‘all-day’ menu my order quickly took shape, a duo of childhood favorites readied at the counter along with French Toast arriving less than ten minutes later. Eschewing coffee in favor of things far sweeter it was in the classic Dreamsicle that my indulgence began and with Mitchell’s vanilla ice cream beneath a hefty scoop of orange sherbet plus just enough liquid to make the concoction sippable through a straw memories of meals at Friendly’s as a youngster came flooding back, a warm wedge of brownie delivered simultaneously equally worthy of reminiscence in its sheer simplicity – a lack of ‘artisan’ details oddly satisfying given the setting. Already all smiles as patrons aged five to seventy-five slowly began to trickle through the doors it was with my drink still half-full but the brownie long gone that my two slices of griddled sourdough next arrived and buried beneath a mountain of granola, fresh fruit, and tangy yogurt there was only one thing to do – a $1 supplement of pure maple syrup quickly flooding the plate adding an exclamation point to my ‘delight.’

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RECOMMENDED: Dreamsicle, French Toast Delight

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AVOID: The Brownie, while tasty enough, is priced a bit steep at $2.50 given the fact that the quality is similar to that from a box.

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TIP: Undoubtedly a diner but never pretending to be anything more it is important to visit St. Francis with appropriate expectations – sure prices are higher chains such as Friendly’s serving food of arguably similar quality but part of what you’re paying for here is history and the experience, something that shouldn’t always be quantified in dollars and cents.

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http://www.stfrancisfountainsf.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, California, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Ice Cream, San Francisco, St. Francis Fountain, Vacation

Knead Patisserie [5], San Francisco CA

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Knead Patisserie

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Pomme d’Amour

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Butter Pecan Croissant

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Cream Croissant

With destination dining at Quince and Saison decorating my first two days in San Francisco it was to no less excitement that I once again entered the doors of Local Mission Eatery on Friday morning and making a bee-line to the back my smile was quickly met by a familiar face, the talented Shauna Des Voignes setting out a fresh batch of her signature pomme d’amour amidst a collection of pastries all so familiar from my previous four visits. Rarely one to revisit a restaurant unless truly enthralled and even less frequently ordering the same item twice it was after a bit of small talk (ie me gushing with praise) that my order was settled and taking my items to the front while The Ramones played overhead Knead’s song remained the same, the still-jiggling puff of crème brulee devoured first and soon followed by my fifth butter pecan croissant – its hundreds of shattering layers overlying buttery caverns still the best laminated pastry to ever grace my palate. Tempted as always by the s’mores jar, cookies, and scones it was instead to a new confection that I turned in order to complete my trio and with paper-thin pastry just as delicate as those before it the “cream croissant” left me reeling; the lightly sweetened whipped cream piped into a golden butter croissant bursting forth both literally and figuratively with textures and flavors similar but superior to Boston’s fabled Lobster Tail…a strong contender along with many of the offerings at b.patisserie for second best laminated pastry I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter on this side of the Atlantic.

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RECOMMENDED: Getting there early while items are fresh and ordering anything that strikes your fancy…plus a butter pecan croissant.

AVOID: Going on Monday – they are closed.

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TIP: Located on 24th Street in The Mission with Dynamo Donuts, St. Francis Fountain, Butter Love Bakeshop, and countless ethnic bakeries just steps away the savvy diner would be well served to gather a group for a decidedly sweet walking tour of the Mission – an optional lunch of burritos and tacos to follow.

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http://www.kneadpatisserie.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, California, Croissant, Dessert, Food, Knead Patisserie, San Francisco, Vacation

Thorough Bread & Pastry, San Francisco CA

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Thorough Bread & Pastry

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Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

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Almond Croissant

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Carrot Cake

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Blueberry Scone

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Sticky Bun

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Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Snickerdoodle Cookie

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Long ignored due to my infatuation with Knead, b. patisserie, and Craftsman & Wolves it was with an early morning eleven mile run already under my belt that I finally made my way to Castro-favorite Thorough Bread & Pastry and although dismissive hipster service marred my experience at the counter I’d be lying if pronounced the pastry as anything less than impressive – only an overly-sweet frangipane-croissant disappointing in the least while the remaining half dozen selections shined. Certainly more classic in approach than the aforementioned trio and not nearly as storied as Tartine it was just after 7:15am that I arrived at the Church Street storefront and with obvious sighs plus an eye-roll accompanying requests for separate plates and warm bread pudding it was to the back patio that I retired to indulge, the buttery bread pudding an decadent first bite as laminated pastry proved an admirable scaffold for rich custard and pockets of melting dark chocolate. Underwhelmed by the croissant it was onward to two crisp cookies that my tasting progressed and with a soft scone well-endowed with butter plus blueberries quick to follow the best was yet to come – a salty caramel strew sticky bun crowned with toasty chopped pecans followed by reference standard spice cake chock full of carrots and lightly sweetened by layers cream cheese frosting that would make all but the most picky Southern Grandma swoon.

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RECOMMENDED: Bread Pudding, Carrot Cake, Sticky Bun, Snickerdoodle.

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AVOID: Almond Croissant

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TIP: Featuring many of their cakes and signature items in both individual and full-sized options advanced orders are recommended for either size, particularly for early birds as certain selections are not otherwise offered until later in the day.

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http://thoroughbreadandpastry.com/

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Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, California, Croissant, Dessert, Food, San Francisco, Thorough Bread, Thorough Bread & Pastry, Thorough Bread and Pastry, Vacation

The Square, San Francisco CA

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The Square

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Verve Coffee

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Parker Roll with Butter

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Crème Fraiche Gougeres with Dill and Chives

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Slow Cooked Pork Belly, Dark Hill Egg, Brussel Sprouts

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Blackberry Tart with Orange Fizz Geranium Ice Cream

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Roasted Strawberry Cream Puff

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Aerated Chocolate and Peanut Butter, Pansy Dusted Shortbread

Located on Russian Hill and conceptualized by the team behind Sons & Daughters it was following a long walk after dinner at Quince that I stopped in at The Square and although one particular plate proved amongst the best I experienced during my six days in the city little else about my experience proved memorable save for the amicable service and excessive decibels. Limited in menu with a focus on the bar it was just prior to 9:15 when I entered the renovated wood amidst brick space and finding the restaurant filled to perhaps half capacity beneath the glow of naked bulbs a seat was procured, orders soon to follow with a focus on small bites and desserts. Deferring on cocktails and instead opting for coffee that would prove both luke-warm and acrid it was with a single buttery roll and cultured butter that the evening began and progressing onward to a ‘snack’ and an ‘appetizer’ the gougeres would prove far too sour for my palate while the tender pork belly topped with crisp ears was a perfectly fine savory, though largely forgettable save for peppery bitter notes lent by a fresh radish. Moving onwards to desserts it was for two of the menu’s three selections that I opted and although the well-buttered tart was tilted too far savory in by an aggressively alkaline ice cream the follow-up cream puff was nothing short of dazzling – the choux pastry lightly coated with sugar while ethereal cream played soft balance to Northern California’s always impressive strawberries with a light smokiness tickling the palate in each bite.

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RECOMMENDED: Strawberry Cream Puff, Parker Roll

AVOID: Crème Fraiche Gougeres

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TIP: Largely due to a combination of stone walls and overhead music it should be noted that even at 50% capacity The Square is a loud restaurant and for those overly sensitive to sound I’d strongly recommend taking business elsewhere – a trip to Son’s & Daughters not only delivering a better experience but also far better food at a price point not substantially more expensive when accounting for the number of courses served.

http://www.thesquaresf.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, California, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Pork, San Francisco, The Square, Vacation, Verve Coffee