Thursday, December 30, 2010

Blue Plate gives me the warm fuzzies

My go-to meal at Blue Plate always includes an order of the gloriously decadent macaroni and drunken goat cheese and the huge hunka hunk o burnin' love, aka crumbly best-rendition-ever meatloaf with buttery mashed potatoes sitting in a pool of gravy with a pile of crisp-tender blue lake green beans on top.

American Grilled Cheese Is Alright

Heck, The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen is better than alright. Yah, it's a bit pricey and if you order a whole grilled sando, you're asking for a gutbomb-food-coma-combo. But I can see why AGC's owner is the 7-time grilled cheese invitational champ. Her stuff is stick-to-your-ribs savory and just plain old good.

What you see above is the Mushroom Gruyère on levain bread, which comes slathered with thyme butter and additionally packed with fontina, roasted gold potatoes (the mushrooms are also roasted), melted leeks and caramelized onions. I haven't been in a while, but think it's about time to get back over there for the half sando/salad special. That's about all the AGC I can handle in one sitting. And how.

Tsunami's Shonen Knife

I've only been to Tsunami Mission Bay a couple of times, but on both visits, enjoyed some really fresh sushi/sashimi for pretty reasonable prices. This here's the Shonen Knife bento lunch box. Not only does it please the eye, with the jewel-toned raw fish artfully fanned across the plate, but the palate as well.

Note to self: more Tsunami in 2011.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Crab Season Is On

... which means it's time to head to the Outer Sunset to Thanh Long, though of course you can get whole crab at several other venues in and around SF. Nevertheless, Thanh Long's roasted crab coated in fresh cracked black pepper and other "secret" Vietnamese spices and sluiced in generous amounts of warm melted better is still my first pick when it comes to this comely crustacean.

... along with a hefty helping of the ever-so-garlicky garlic noodles—we're pretty sure it's got both fresh and powdered cloves kicking up the heat in there.

Washed down with copious amounts of wine and beer, our Thanh Long crabs were everything we'd hoped for and more.

Yay crab!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tyler's Ultimate Lasagna

It's been a blustery, wet and cold past few days (OK, weeks) here in SF. Exactly the kind of weather that calls for something heartwarming and belly-busting like this ultimate lasagna bolognese recipe, created by comfort food king himself, Tyler Florence. (Have you seen how fat he's become since coming out West?)

Anyway, I've made this baked pasta twice before and backed off on the amount of meat Tyler asks for—4 pounds?! Whoa, Nellie. I think 2.5 will do just fine—and the creation still hits the jackpot in terms of rich, creamy, fatty taste sensation and satisfaction.

Rather than puree the holy trinity of onion, celery and carrot, I cut 'em up into a fine dice. What can I say—I find chopping veg therapeutic; it's part of the fun in cooking (though I've got to admit my hand-me-down Cuisinart was busted. That said, I like a little texture in my sauce). I also doubled the amount of basil and Italian parsley than the recipe includes. And I browned the meat and veg separately (though using the same Dutch oven), to make sure to build good flavor in both.

After layering the casseroles (and frankly, I don't know how Tyler does all of the prep, cooking and assembling all within an hour and a half—maybe he's got sous chefs to help him out; I certainly don't!), I threw 'em in a 350-degree oven for one hour, et voilà! Massive amounts of what's become my fave lasagna recipe. I served hefty helpings along with a peppery arugula, cherry tomato and shaved Parmesan salad to four eager friends. Despite their big appetites and doggie bags sent home with a few, I had plenty left over to freeze for future "fast-food" dinners. Yay!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In Season: Shellfish

Aquatic Culture's Chef John Myers gave a demo on shellfish this past weekend at CUESA, and my, did his preso knock our socks off. Look at the size of the Pacific oysters (pictured just above) in the cornucopia of frutti di mare that also came studded with the more standard-sized kusshis, miyagis, kumamotos, crawfish and more.

mmm ... crawdads

the ginormo, 10-plus-year-old, barnacle-encrusted Pacific oyster ...

... shucked. No, you can't slurp these suckers down in one go. What you can do, said chef Myers, is grill 'em over a medium heat, then cut 'em up before serving. Hmmm, think I'll stick to their smaller brethen instead.

Salty Pig Parts by Fra'Mani

Fra'Mani salumi are absolutely fabulous. The fragrant black truffle (my fave), piccante (hard, dry chorizo seasoned with pimenton de la Vera), soppressata (moister and flavored with clove) ... they all add that extra something special to any party platter.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Perfect Snack: Fried Pig Skins

"Bacon is the new black," writes Ryan Farr on his 4505 Meats website. Hmmm ... as far as I'm concerned, neither bacon nor any other pig product has ever been passé. All I can say is that, as soon as his chicharrones—airy puffs of deep-fried pig skins, seasoned with sea salt, cane sugar and chiles—came out of the zip-locked bag, I was all over 'em. And a good thing too, as chicharrones start to go stale as soon as they come up for air. Fried pig skins are the perfect accompaniment for any alcoholic beverage.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hot Peppers at Skool

I've been to Japanese-inspired, seafood-centric Skool twice now in the past 2 weeks and shared the plate of blistered shisito peppers, crowned in dried bonito flakes. Love them peppers—for their sharp, slightly bittersweet flavor and crunchy-firm texture, but damn if this season's bounty isn't full of a lot more stingers than usual.

"What, isn't it one out of 10 that's hot?" said one pal when we ordered a plate of these peppers at Sebo a month or so ago. "Yep," I agreed. "That sounds about right." Turned out it was more like 4 in 10 that were packin' some serious heat.

The same thing happened at Greens a few weeks back—lots more hot peppers, with a few set-your-mouth-on-fire grenades. In fact, our server at Skool confirmed what I'd already figured out: This year's shisitos are spicier than normal.

So, you'd think I'd learn my lesson and just stay away. Nah. Them peppers are just too tasty to pass up.