Wednesday, April 28, 2010

J'adore Bar Jules

JA and I snagged some killer window seats in shoe-box sized Bar Jules last Friday night. It was the first of many good things to come our way. That night's menu (it changes daily) had a number of tantalizing items such as a chiogga golden beet salad with farm-fresh greens (yes, please); tender, springy, grilled scallops with uber-fresh, sweet baby carrots and crisp-tender asparagus in an herbacious sauce gribiche (that too, yes); and a strawberry-almond tart with a big ol' dollop of whipped cream (please sir, could I have some more?).

Suffice it to say that with every bite of our amazing meal (and sip of our accompanying vino), the week's stresses and worries washed away from us.

By the time, we'd scooped up the last bit of dessert, we were super relaxed and incredibly pleased with ourselves and the world.

Bar Jules remains one of my top-10 faves in the city.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Buon Cibo at Bar Bambino

Cousin MC2 and I happily tucked into a medley of wonderfully prepared dishes at Bar Bambino in the Mission a couple of weeks ago. It was our first time there. I had bypassed this Italian wine bar and restaurant over the years because I'd heard mixed reviews. But recently, a trusted source gave it a resounding rave. So, we gave it a go. And we loved almost everything that came out of the kitchen ...

The lovely spread of cured meats—from prosciutto to spicy salami—whet our appetites for what was to come.

God, I love peas. This from a gal who used to gag at the grainy texture when I was kid. Well, no longer. After a tap or two of the salt shaker, the creamy richness of Bar Bambino's spring pea puree touched with mint was to-die-for. The only tiny negative: Some cook had rubbed the raw garlic into the bruschetta with a bit too much vim and vigor.

My trusted source had warned me against the octopus and yet we went there. We figured, maybe it had been a bad day in the kitchen when she'd had the eight-armed beast. But no, trusted source was right. Chewy and slightly underseasoned octopod is not ideal—I'd say braising and then grilling the thing had really killed it. But heck, the balsamico dressing basting the meat and chicory salad gave it all a sweet tartness that we could and did appreciate.

Bar Bambino really rises to the occasion when it comes to pasta. That day's special braised rabbit was perfectly seasoned, the gnocchi just the right texture—airy pillows that practically floated into your mouth. MC2 doesn't care much for the wily wabbit, and yet she really went for this dish.

Our fave was the trofie—long, skinny spirals of eggless pasta—bathed in a luscious, creamy sauce laden with Parmiggiano-Reggiano and house-made sausage. We both readily agreed we could eat this every day ... as we scraped the plate clean. But it's probably a good thing that we can't—or else we'd be packing on the pounds.

We finished off the night with a moist polenta cake accompanied by a tangy citrus compote and sweet orange butter. Thanks, MC2, for celebrating my day with me!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Comfort me with ... meatloaf

Last weekend, I wanted to cook. For my friends. Something comforting, easy and full of flavor. Meatloaf, mashies and green beans came to mind. It seemed only natural to want to recreate the giddy pleasure I'd felt when I sat down to the ever-popular Blue Plate version not too long ago.

Here you see 2 pounds of organic, grass-fed ground beef with 1 pound of ground pork sausage (after all, you gotta have some fat to ensure a moist and flavorful loaf), dotted with chopped onion and red pepper, crushed tomatoes, flavored with lotsa smoky BBQ sauce, a couple dashes of Worcestershire, a huge handful of crushed crackers to loosen the loaf plus a couple of eggs to bind it together, and finally generous amounts of salt and pepper to season it up.

Heavenly aromas wafted from the kitchen as the loaf bubbled and cooked.

Buttery, fluffy yukon gold mashed potatoes and green beans basted in garlicky olive oil and more butter helped take this dish over the top.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Incanto is aptly named

Incanto means enchantment, and it really was an enchanting meal we three had last weekend at this cozy, out-of-the-way Noe Valley establishment, whose chef Chris Cosentino has been written up in the NYTimes and made multiple appearances on the Food Network.

We demolished the house-made salumi platter with accompanying roasted garlic, carrots and beets.

Made quick work of the thinly shaved crispy asparagus and radish salad, plus blistered-on-the-grill fava beans.

Polished off the perfectly creamy green almond risotto and slighty-too-salty oxtail pasta.

And tucked right into Incanto's hefty portion of fall-off-the-bone short ribs with accompanying sauteed veg. Lotsa good red wine to go with, and we rolled on home sated and oh so happy.

The next time we go, I'd like to try the flaming salami (aka "nduja") that has gotten so much hype. Must find out for myself if it's all that it's cracked up to be.

Wait and see ...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Girls' Night at Isa

The babysitter cancelled, so Mr. H was left at home with the kiddies while Mrs. H. came out for some really good eats at contemporary French resto Isa. Despite its less-than-stellar location (the—yawn—Marina), we two still had a fab time.

Fresh chunks of yellowfin tuna and avocado came dressed in spicy sriracha and soy, sprinkled with toasted sesame and nori strips.

The grilled local calamari had a hint of sweetness from a coating of honey spice; it came out super tender and perfectly complemented with some lemon zest and peppery arugula, plus a generous helping of flageolet beans.

And the tender Maple leaf farm duck breast came out with a nicely crisped skin and a tangy, not-heavy huckleberry sauce to balance sweet against savory. The sharp, sweet and peppery flavors of the goat cheese, beet and arugula salad added even more punch to the dish.

Though I'd heard and read good things about the restaurant, I was a tiny bit concerned when I was told the chef/owner had sold Isa just last month after a 10-year run. But I needn't have worried. PH and I enjoyed everything that hit our table. Let's hope things stay that way.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Woodhouse Fish on Fillmore

We Koreans like our crab. I grew up eating it steamed and pretty much plain—fresh, fleshy cracked crab sitting around the dinner table. But I really like it the way Woodhouse Fish Co. does it: cracked and steamed in white wine, lemon and plenty o' garlic butter. Mmm, mmm, good. My only regret was that I didn't go whole hog—a half a crab is simply not enough.

Oh yah. And DA's cioppino—chock full of fruits de mare in a zesty tomato stew—was also really delightful.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sushi Ran Sushi Like Buttah

I'd been hearing about the much-revered Sushi Ran in Sausalito ever since I got back to SF in '06, and yet it still took me this long to get out here. Ah well, I've had much on my mind of late, but thank you, PM, for getting me off my duff and across the bay. It was well worth the trip.