Friday, November 30, 2007

Dinner at Alaturca

If you haven't tried Turkish food before, it's actually quite tasty and certainly approachable. Roughly speaking it's fairly similar to Greek food but with more heat and spice. The space is comfortable and the high ceilings make it seem larger than it is. There's not much decor but the vibe is still pleasant and welcoming. We were a large group on a Friday evening and we had the entire semi-private upstairs area to ourselves which was really nice. The short wine list has some interesting choices from California, Italy and of course Turkey. I went for one of the cheaper options, Salmon Creek Pinot Grigio, which was just fine and worked with the dishes we enjoyed. For appetizers, we had Eggplant Salad, Piyaz, Ezme and Hummus. The Eggplant Salad is nicely baked eggplant with red and green pepper, onion, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil. The vegetables work nicely together and the lemon juice lightens the dish a bit. Piyaz is white beans, parsley, red and green pepper, onion, lemon juice and olive oil all tossed together. It's tasty and the generous amount of beans makes it fairly hearty as well. The Ezme, crushed and roasted red bell pepper with tomato and onion and spices, is served on grilled pita bread and it works as a simple starter. The Hummus was quite tasty as well, though not as thick as I usually like. The appetizers are all under $5 a pop so it's not a bad idea to sample a bit. We also shared various platters for our entrees. The Doner, or beef sirloin and lamb spiced and roasted and thinly sliced, was tasty and the meat was nice and tender. There's also a Chicken Doner with the same preparation and presentation. We also had a few of the Kebab options which all had the same spice but all were nicely prepared and the meat wasn't overdone. We couldn't resist the Sucuk and Cheese pide, which was really tasty. Not sure about the Chicken and Pineapple combo on a pide, but I'd be curious to try it if I go back. There also are a few soups and salads and a short kid's menu. Alaturca is a cute and laid-back spot that's great for a casual meal, and definitely works for big groups. Hope you have the opportunity to pop by sometime.

869 Geary Street in San Francisco

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pea and Avocado Hummus

Hope everyone had a great Turkey Day and is looking forward to the holiday season getting in full gear. Wanted to pass along an easy and light recipe for a great appetizer. It's a nice way to start out a meal, or even a good snack to have before a big soiree in hopes of not overindulging at the event. Enjoy.

Pea and Avocado Hummus
1 avocado
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
1 small clove of garlic, minced
2 4.9 ounce cans of sweet green peas, drained
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop out the flesh. In a food processor, combine the avocado flesh, lime juice, garlic, peas and salt, and process until smooth. Serve with toasted whole wheat pita bread and vegetable crudites.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tasty Sides for a Fun and Festive Thanksgiving

Hope you have some fun Thanksgiving plans to look forward to. My favorite holiday of the year, I certainly am quite excited about it. Either way, wanted to pass along a couple of my favorite sides dishes. Please enjoy.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta (Italian Bacon)
1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces paper-thin slices pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Partially cook the Brussels sprouts in a large pot of boiling salted water, about 4 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until beginning to crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts to the same skillet and saute until heated through and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Season with kosher salt and pepper, to taste. Add the broth and simmer until the broth reduces just enough to coat the Brussels sprouts, about 3 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

Butternut Squash with Pecans and Gorgonzola Cheese
4.5 pounds butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 stalks fresh thyme or
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup pecans, roasted in a dry pan for 4 minutes on medium heat
1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Halve the squash, leaving the skin on, and scoop out the seeds, then cut into 1-inch cubes; you don't need to be precise just keep the pieces uniformly small. Put into a roasting tin with the oil and strip about 4 stalks thyme of their leaves, sprinkling over the butternut squash. Roast in the oven for about 30 to 45 minutes or until tender. Once out of the oven, remove the squash to a bowl and scatter over the pecans and crumble over the cheese tossing everything together gently. Check the seasoning and add the last couple of stalks of thyme torn into small sprigs to decorate.

Cranberry and Goat Cheese Side
2 cans of jellied cranberry sauce
1 8 ounce log of good goat cheese
Chopped walnuts, roasted
1 teaspoon of good olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
Arugula for garnish
This dish really couldn't be simpler, but the flavor combination really works well. Arrange the arugula on a long serving dish. Sprinkle with olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Slice the the cranberry jelly in each can into 10 slices. It can be easier to start from the middle and slice your way toward the sides. Arrange on a long serving dish. Slice the log of goat cheese into thick but uniform slices, and put one piece of cheese in between each cranberry slice. Toast the almonds in a dry skillet for a few minutes on medium heat, until you can smell their aroma. Roughly chop the almonds and sprinkle over the dish. Enjoy.

Krupp Brothers Estate Wines at the California Wine Merchant

California Wine Merchant on Chestnut Street in San Francisco is a really cute wine shop that has a nice wine bar and a small offering of cheeses and breads to go along with the wines you taste, and they do tastings from time to time as well. Yesterday on offer were wines from Krupp Brothers Estate. The owner of the winery was on hand along with one of his operatives. Both really nice folks. The wines range in price from $54.95 to $109.95 a bottle, not generally in my price range, but they were definitely well-crafted and unique. We started with a Veraison 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was a fairly big wine with a bit of pepper that lingered on the palate after a sip. The Krupp Brothers 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stagecoach Vineyard was almost European big red wine in style, with alcohol being the main aftertaste. The Doctor, a blend of four grapes including mostly Tempranillo and Malbec, was slightly off in my opinion. Not fruity enough, but an interesting flavor combination for sure. We then tasted the Veraison 2004 Synchrony, Stagecoach Vineyard. Certainly more well-balanced than the previous selection, I enjoyed this wine but wasn't sure what food I would pair it with or if it would work on its own generally speaking. The last two selections were my favorites. A Black Bart 2004 Syrah, Stagecoach Vineyard, and a Joshua 2004 Syrah, Stagecoach Vineyard. The latter I thought was really special, but both exhibited nice fruit and good structure. At $15, the Monday tastings are a great way to sample wines you may not otherwise, and perhaps find a hidden treasure. Enjoy.

California Wine Merchant
2113 Chestnut Street in San Francisco

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Turkey Day Wine Tasting at William Cross

Last night at its regularly Wednesday wine tasting William Cross Wine Merchants had on offering their annual collection of Wines to Go with Thanksgiving. The tasting is quite popular so it was standing room only when we arrived. No matter though. We were handed a plate with white and dark meat turkey and some cranberry sauce along with our glasses and we were off and running. The first wine, a 2005 Domaine Stirn Tokay Pinot Gris Cuvee Prestige was absolutely delicious. Fruit-forward and slightly sweet and velvety on the palate. I had it with a bit of white meat turkey and it worked nicely, but I think it's range is fairly wide as far as lighter dishes go. This wine was my as well as my friend's favorite of the evening, though all of the selections were good. We then had a 2006 Bucklin Porter Vineyard Gewurztraminer from Sonoma. It was a sweet wine but not syrupy sweet at all but had a fairly light consistency and finish. It actually tasted really good with the dark turkey meat. The last of the white offerings was a 2005 Guillemot-Michel Quintaine Macon-Villages, which is a Chardonnay aged only in stainless steel. I enjoyed the wine since it wasn't oaked at all, and think it's a nice variety to try if you enjoy lighter-style Chardonnays. The first of the reds was a 2005 Michel Rey Julienas Tres Vielle Vigne. It was ripe with fruit and really tasty. A nice match with turkey for sure. The second red was a 2005 Carter Vineyards Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon. Ahhh, gorgeous. Fruit-forward and rich in color and well-balanced as most Pinots are. A perfect wine for the Turkey Day table for sure. We finished with a 2005 Culler "Casaeda" Syrah from the Sonoma Coast. It had a bit of spice to it and I enjoyed it and would recommend drinking it with heavier items on the holiday table. A really nice way to get excited about the best holiday of the year for sure.

William Cross Wine Merchants
2253 Polk Street in San Francisco

Friday, November 9, 2007

Foodie Films

Wanted to pass along a link to a really great list of food films. Some of my favorites are Mostly Martha, Babette's Feast, Big Night and Eat Drink Man Woman. If you haven't seen it, the recent Ratatouille is really cute and fun too. I am inspired by the list and excited there are quite a few I need to add to my "Want to See" list. Enjoy.

Happy Hour at Nook Cafe

Nook Cafe is a really cozy spot at the corner of Hyde Street and Jackson on Russian Hill where you can relax with a cup of coffee, enjoy a good glass of wine or have a casual and healthy meal. Happy hour is from 5 to 7p.m. on Monday through Friday, and features $3 house wines by the glass. The space is small but with high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides of the spot, so it doesn't feel cramped at all. There's also free wi-fi until 6p.m. on weekdays which is a nice bonus. During the day it's easily a spot you can just hang out at while reading or perhaps getting some work done. At night it's somewhat romantic even and a great venue for having a nice glass of wine or two and a bite. The menu is a fusion of Mediterranean and Californian flavors and concentrates on items that are healthy (low fat, bran, natural ingredients, organic, vegan…), flavorful and imaginative. I almost always love hummus, and their version is thick and tasty and is served with olive tapenade, cucumber, tomatoes and warm pita bread. Nook also offers several delicious salads, my favorite of which is the Spinach Salad with apples, caramelized walnuts and Gorgonzola in a raspberry walnut dressing. You can add chicken to any of the salads for only $2 so it makes for an inexpensive light meal as well. There are also a few sandwiches on the menu, all of which feature great ingredient combinations. Selections include a Honey Baked Ham Sandwich with Fontina cheese and sage on whole wheat baguette, a Turkey Sandwich with melted Brie and cranberry sauce on baguette; and a Chicken Sandwich with hummus, red onions and mixed Lebanese herbs on Ciabatta bread. Breakfast items include egg sandwiches, bagels with various toppings and spreads and pastries. It's a really adorable neighborhood spot to spend a little while in, and one with inexpensive and tasty food and drink.

Nook Cafe
1500 Hyde Street in San Francisco

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

London Wine Bar

I think quite a few folks probably walk or drive by the London Wine Bar on Sansome and Sacramento downtown, but for whatever reason don't usually choose to pop in and give it a try. It's conveniently located and is a fairly immediate transport away from downtown of sorts when you enter. It bills itself as America's oldest wine bar, and offers over 1300 selections. The ambiance is "old school" with rustic furniture, dark wood tabletops and bar, old pictures and paintings and just an overall feeling of comfort and warmth. The service generally isn't quite attentive, so you may have to be a bit proactive in your ordering, but the staff is quite nice. The wine list has a nice range and is fairly well-priced as well. I have been several times recently and have tried the Deinhard Riesling, which is off dry and floral with a clean and smooth finish. Other selections I have tasted include a Baystone Syrah from Dry Creek, which is fairly big yet fruit-forward, and a Di Bruno Sangiovese which is well-balanced and velvety on the palate. During the evening complimentary cheddar and jack cheese cubes as well as crackers are offered. The food menu is short but the items, such as cheese and meat plates, salads, crostini and smoked salmon, work well with wine. It's a nice retreat in the middle of downtown, and perfect for an after-work glass of wine to linger over.

London Wine Bar
415 Sansome Street in San Francisco

Friday, November 2, 2007

Cav Wine Bar

It's great that there are so many great wine bars in and around San Francisco. I have only been back in town for a few weeks now but it has been fun learning about all of the new spots and of course taking time to check them out as well. I recently had the pleasure of going to Cav Wine Bar on Market Street just down from Zuni Cafe. The space is a bit dark with dim lighting, dark walls and flooring and dark gray metal bar and tabletops. The color scheme is black, grey and red. The decor is quite minimal and the overall vibe is hip and modern. The bar area spans the left side of the front portion of the space with tables to the right and in the back area as well. Around 6ish it isn't too crowded so that's a nice time to arrive and get seats if you can. I decided to try the Chateau Ksara Gewurztraminer from Lebanon. It was floral and honeysuckle on the nose, and sweet but not too sweet as far as taste goes. The texture was velvety and the color slightly golden. I really enjoyed it so I stayed with that throughout the evening. My friend started with the Sylvaner "Flood Family Vineyard" Riesling from Santa Barbara County and then went on to Weingut Juris "Selection" Pinot Noir from Austria. Both got good reviews. The food at Cav Wine Bar is elegantly presented and, not surprisingly, all goes quite well with wine. There is a nice selection of cheese as well as a few bites, small plates, large plates and desserts. We were snacking at had the Sweet Potato Fries, which arrive in a cone-shaped container and are absolutely delicious. The fries are fairly thick-cut and are perfectly salted with kosher salt flakes. They are crisp yet still fairly light, and yes you are eating fries but sweet potatoes actually have a lot great nutrients as well as fiber, so why not indulge a bit? We also had a selection of three cow's milk cheese, all of which were delicious. The servers are knowledgeable and friendly and always seem to be around when your glass turns empty. Cav Wine Bar is a great place to unwind with great wine and food after work, or to pop into to enjoy some wine after a meal.

Cav Wine Bar
1666 Market Street in San Francisco