Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More than Beer at Monk's Kettle

Monk's Kettle in the Mission is swimming in beer. It's got no less than two dozen on tap, and a whopping 124 (yes, I counted) bottled varieties. And that's not the best part.

What I love most about Monk's Kettle is the food: the spongey-chewy homemade giant pretzel, big basket o' crispety fries and the baked mac 'n cheese with bacon doused in a creamy bechamel sauce.

OK, so one of the salads was a wash, but I'm thinking roughage ain't Monk's forte. Next time, I think I'll try the lamb burger or the pulled pork sammy. Hmmm, or better yet the pot pie ... can't wait.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pizzetta 211 is Unicorn Good

When it comes to thin-crust pizzas, Pizzetta 211's got the magic. The tiny Outer Richmond eatery—it seats maybe 14—kicks out some really tasty and creative combinations. Mr. H especially loves the egg, creamy ricotta, tomato, spring onion flower and pesto special. I have to admit the thought of ovos on my pie kinda put me off, but to my happy surprise, the entire thing worked. Really really well.

My number-one pie (we tried 3) was the prosciutto, nectarine, hazelnut, balsamic vinegar and fresh arugula combo. Turkey and cranberry, pork and apple, lamb and sweet potato, prosciutto and nectarine ... these are a few of my favorite things.

Even the freakout by a neighboring diner over the discovery of a creepy crawly in her pie couldn't bring us out of our pizzapalooza haze. From the way she was carrying on, you'd think she'd found a cockroach or mouse poop. But a mere potato bug? I'd be willing to bet it came straight from the farm as Pizzetta 211 gets its ingredients in fresh daily. Well, she may never go back, but I certainly will. Because right now, Pizzetta 211's got the best pizza in town.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chez Papa c'est très bon

Dinner and a movie with friends: It's a really good formula to spend a Sunday afternoon. And that's what AG, AC and I did today, albeit in reverse. I'd heard that the new Chez Papa—opened just 2 months prior—was worth a visit and as it was just around the corner from the theater, we decided to do a drive-by to see if we could get in.

We were in luck: Chez Papa had a table for us. Soon after we'd been seated, our attentive waiter took our orders, and we got down to business. We made quick work of the crisp-tender grilled green asparagus spears, dotted with smaller cuts of white asparagus, lightly drizzled in a pleasingly mild Meyer lemon vinaigrette and sprinkled with largish shavings of nutty Parmigiano Reggiano. AC voted that we pair the green veg with the "pommes frites with rosemary aïoli"—who am I to get in the way of a gal with a serious hankering for french fries. I was glad to have obliged as these were some really tasty tubers. Not quite shoe-string, but thin enough to keep them crispy throughout.

As for the entrees? AG and AC both liked the sound of the "slow-poached Alaskan halibut with leek ribbons, asparagus, black truffle emulsion and sel gris." We all really liked the look of it too—with its crazy green mop of deep-fried leeks and foaming fuzz of black truffle. Looks can be deceiving though. Lucky for us, beauty ain't skin deep when it comes to Chez Papa. This dish was full of skillfully controlled flavors—in a word: stupendous.

I was happy to take a bite of each of their dishes, but happier still to dig into my own heart-warming bowl of Châteauneuf du Pape braised lamb daube with baby carrots and turnips and a touch of rosemary oil. I made sure to sop up every bit of the stick-to-your-ribs succulent wine sauce with big hunks of french bread.

And the dessert? Well, the strawberry ravioli didn't quite do it for us. Made of soy gelatin and strawberry sauce, the "pasta" reminded us more of a fruit roll-up than anything else. And here we thought we were ordering a dough-based dessert, either deep-fried or baked a la mini calzones or the like. Well, I'll give 'em points for creativity. The flavor was there; it just wasn't what we were looking for.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Yeehaw! Paragon's Corn Dogs

I don't think I've had a corn dog since the time I went with my fambly to Frontier Village, a Western-themed amusement park that had its heydey ages ago. We discovered these deep-fried wonders somewhere between Indian Jim's canoes and the Lost Dutchman train ride, and fell head over heels—at least my mom, sister and I did. I have a feeling my dad would've preferred we leave this discovery behind us. But no, my mom had to recreate it, and she did semi-successfully, using Bisquick—her go-to baking product for everything from pancakes to fried chicken.

The mini versions that MN and I ordered up at Paragon sent me hurtling back to the "good ol' days." Dipped in a viscous honey-mustard sauce, the crispy-on-the-outside, springy-on-the-inside pork pops were mighty good.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fish and Farm does Dine About Town right

AS wanted to hit Fish & Farm during Dine About Town, which happens twice a year when a bunch of SF eateries sport super 3-course prix-fixe deals. Having really enjoyed my one-and-only visit to the restaurant-with-a-conscience just a couple of months prior, I was more than game.

The cozy little resto—think wood, marble and burnished leather, along with pig, bird and antler accoutrement—immediately put us at ease, as did the organic cocktails. But I was a tiny bit anxious that the folks at Fish & Farm were going to half-ass the dishes on offer via Dine About Town. I've experienced the half-assing first-hand (at Asia de Cuba, for one), where restos treat DAT as if it were an after-thought. Too bad since it's their chance to get in front of a whole new set of folks outside their usual clientele.

OK, I'll get off the soapbox. After all, the food is what tells the story. Once upon a time ...

... there was a country pate and pickled ramp plate that called my name. Slivers of radish, stone-ground mustard and grilled bits of bread completed the yin and yang of flavors. Yum.

Enter the milk-braised pork. The slight bitterness of the greens, the sweet tang of the roasted tomatoes and the piquancy of the sauce proved the perfect foil to the ever-so-easy-going meat.

Cut to the finale: The soft and creamy vanilla-infused panna cotta with blueberry and basil was like a dream.

Wait. Rewind. KG's mesquite smoked carnaroli risotto with English pea puree, Parmesan and herbed mascarpone was cooked just right and skillfully showcased the local, seasonal products that Fish & Farm sources within a 100-mile radius of the city.

Needless to say, we lived happily ever after ...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Marnee Thai 2 is Number 2

I finally hit the Marnee Thai on 9th. I'd been meaning to check it out for years, but with the original MT just a few blocks from where I live (and having heard that it's the better of the two), I just kept putting it off. So here's how it breaks down:

The crispy Corn Cakes and cucumber salad are delightful, though MT #1's are more gingery and better seasoned than MT #2's. Nevertheless, I gobbled up 3 fritters in 3 minutes (or less?).

The Chan Pad Poo (a variation of pad thai but with crab meat instead) was just as fun to eat as it is to say (Chan Pad Poo ... Chan Pad Poo ... Chan Pad Poo), though I think it was kept in the wok a hair too long—a little too much cling in them thar stick rice noodles.

The Prig Khing - J (green beans, tofu cubes, baby corn and mushrooms sautéed with a hot chili paste) also got good marks, but again I think it was a B+ to MT #1's A. This version's a bit sweeter than I remember the other one to be. (My Thai cook friend's number one criticism of Americanized Thai cuisine is that sugar is used with a heavy hand. ... I agree.)

And finally, the Kang Keaw (spicy green curry with coconut milk, chunks of eggplant and lots of basil leaves) was just right. It gave off a frolicking heat that was cut very nicely by the creamy coconut milk and sugar (and in this case, the perfect amount of sweet to savory).

Both Marnee Thais put out good food, but sequels rarely top the original.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Alembic for Second Supper

So after my pigout session at Tsunami with SS, I went on to The Alembic with PS and found myself partaking of a second round of good eats—this one of the swine and spirits variety. Ice crushed to order in my ever-so-fine mint julep helped soften the initial bite of the bourbon (as I'm usually inclined to sip on a clear liquor vs. a dark one). Into my mouth went a serrano ham-wrapped date with goat cheese, drizzled with a syrupy balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Exploding with flavor, it was lusciously sweet and savory with a few flaky bits of sea salt adding snap to the dish. We also polished off a heaping pile of "herb and spice dusted" frites along with a good-lookin' plate of charcuterie—thumbs up on the salumi, spiced duck rillettes, cornichons, mustard and roasted grapes, but the foliage? I'm a fan of the greens, but they have no place on a meaty plate such as this. Other than that, The Alembic did right by us. And our server was fab.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Boulange for Boo-boos

Note to self: Don't fiddle with your ipod when running along a rocky road; otherwise, you'll find yourself taking a dive when your clumsy self trips on big rock sticking out of said road. Save for a couple of skinned elbows, bruised thigh and ego, I was fine.

And I was better than fine when I met up with AB at La Boulange in Hayes Valley later that day. Boulange's big bowl of fruit with creamy Greek yogurt, house-made granola and honey along with AB's sparkling company made my woes a distant memory.

The newest of the Bay Bread chain of boulangeries, this one is by far the biggest, but as far as decor goes, it's just as homey and inviting as the others. Now if only they'd open one in the Avenues ...