September 23, 2009

Life in the Bay

San Francisco Bay, California

Dinner at Troya

Having dinner in the Richmond district of San Francisco always seems cozy. Every day as the sun disappears at the edge of the Pacific fog rolls in and blankets the Richmond district. The mist swirls down the street and around the buildings.

A little while ago we arrived at Troya on Clement Street on a particularly foggy evening for dinner. The restaurant is a warm and inviting respite from the cold street. It has a charming atmosphere and friendly staff.

But, let's get to the food. We chose a meal of mezes and began with the Turkish lentil soup. Next we shared hummus, grilled halloumi cheese, and sauteed greens. My husband also ordered the flatbread and lamb chops. Everything was excellent, but my favorites were the soup and the grilled cheese! The soup was fabulous – delicate and flavorful – and the cheese was perfectly grilled and paired with heirloom tomatoes. We ended our meal with some tasty baklava!

This was not my first visit to Troya – nor will it be my last! The staff is great, the food is consistently delicious, and I look forward to going back soon!

September 15, 2009

Esperpento Tapas Restaurant in the Mission

Tapas is one of my favorite styles of food to eat and share. There are several fabulous tapas restaurants in San Francisco including Alegrias on Lombard Street, Zarzula in Russian Hill, and Lolo in the Mission. But this blog is about Esperpento, also located in the Mission.

On 22nd Street, Esperpento Tapas Restaurant is a vibrant and welcoming cafe reminiscent of another continent. My husband and I have enjoyed dinner here numerous times. This is a comforting neighborhood restaurant serves wonderful tapas and sangria at a very reasonable price.

On our more recent visit I ordered the queso manchego, espinacas con bechamel, and alcachofas a la plancha (grilled artichokes with garlic & parsley). Jonathan ordered boquerones fritos, calamares a la plancha, and chorizo. As always, all the food was fantastic! The spinach with bechamel sauce is one of my favorite tapas dishes at Esperpento. It is a creamy, rich, and comforting dish. The cheese was excellent, Jonathan enjoyed his meat and seafood dishes, and the grilled artichokes were so good we got a second order. To accompany our food we ordered the house-made sangria. We finished our meal by sharing a flan – which is rich, creamy, and perfect! Some other tapas I have tried and enjoyed on previous visits to Esperpento are the tortilla de patata (potato omelet), patatas bravas (spicy potatos), champinones al ajillo (sauted mushrooms), and ensalada de pimientos rojos (roasted red peppers).

I look forward to going to Esperpento Tapas Restaurant again soon!

September 11, 2009

A Meal for Me

Some meals are for necessity, others for leisure or luxury. Some meals are to feed hunger or heal, others are for show. And then some meals are personal. Made by friends, family, or loved ones to bring comfort and joy to the object of affection these meals are about much more than sustenance, decadence, or necessity. These meals about love.

In the hubbub and routine of everyday we often loose track of the personal and intimate parts of life. Or just don't have time for them. We are propelled through the days, weeks, and months by work, chores, and obligations. We get caught up in the whirlwind of overwhelmed senses and possibilities. We overlook the basic.

And then something makes us stop. Sometimes it is at the urging of a friend. Sometimes it is our own desire to rest or need to rejuvenate. And sometimes it is for the perfect meal, created by someone special. Perfect. Thank you.

September 9, 2009

RN74 – a Road That Doesn't Quite Make it to Wow

When I visit a restaurant that has received a great deal of hype and is owned by famous chef I have pretty high expectations. I imagine everything will be perfect (or pretty close to it). When these expectations are met – like on my trip to Aziza – all is well. However, when even one part of the dining experience falls short the overall visit becomes tinged with disappointment.

Now to the subject at hand, Michael Mina's newest restaurant in San Francisco, a French wine bar called RN74. With so many good (and more moderately priced) wine bars around the city I was anticipating RN74 to be really over the top, a dining experience worthy of a special occasion. We decided to go and see what the place was all about last Friday night. The restaurant and bar is in the Millennium Tower (a new luxury high rise in SOMA) and exudes a sense of cool now with an elegant and modern interior. The staff is friendly and accommodating and the service is outstanding.

So far so good. But, let's talk about the food and wine. My husband and I ordered two flatbreads and some appetizers. My flatbread had potatoes, a fabulously stinky cheese (epoisses), rosemary, and fleur de sal. It had an intense and wonderful flavor. To accompany the flatbread I got some heirloom tomatoes that were good. Jonathan thought his flatbread (topped with merguez, peppers, herbs, and yogurt) was tasty and a bit dry, but enjoyed his soft-shell crab and clams. Now the wine. RN74 is named after a highway in France and the restaurant is designed to make the wine star of the meal. We each tried a couple different wines, but were not overly impressed. They were good, but just good. If we had been at a different restaurant that would have been sufficient, however, at the price range charged at RN74 it was a bit of a disappointment.

But, on to dessert... We ordered white sesame pot de crème. It was fantastic – very creamy with a soft sesame flavor and topped with chocolate! Definitely a good way to end our visit to RN74. Overall I would say the meal was good – but just good.

Next time I want to go enjoy French wine and food I will choose either Amelie on Polk Street or Terroir on Folsom Street instead. Both of these wine bars serve excellent wines accompanied by wonderful cheeses (and meats for carnivorous diners) at much more reasonable prices.

September 1, 2009

Bánh mì

So, I have a new obsession – bánh mì or Vietnamese Sandwiches. This craze began very recently – about a month ago to be exact – when my husband introduced me to this delicious treat.

In my travels I have often seen signs advertising banh mi but always assumed a sandwich is a sandwich. But, I should have been wiser. On my first trip to Paris I learned that the baguettes with brie served on the streets of the city of lights were far superior to American cheese sandwiches. I love the spicy and sweet of Vietnamese cuisine, but, I never drew the correlation.

So, fast forward to my introduction to the bánh mì. Like the American, English, and French versions, Vietnamese sandwiches come in many different varieties. Many of the styles of bánh mì are made from pork, chicken, paté, or ham, but there are also tofu and vegetable ones too!

Since my introduction to bánh mì I have been excited to try them at different sandwich shops around the city. Today we picked up bánh mì for lunch at the Saigon Sandwich Shop on Larkin Street in the Tenderloin district – the best rated Vietnamese sandwich shop on Yelp. Like many similar shops, Saigon Sandwich Shop is a small convenience store and deli. It is a small and dingy space, but the bánh mì are amazing! I got the tofu sandwich and my husband got the special combination. The bread is crunchy, the vegetables are crisp and fresh, and the tofu sauce were excellent. Definitely my favorite bánh mì so far! I look forward to trying more around the city and on my travels.