Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pumpkin Pancakes

In advance of Halloween, though I would pass along a tasty and fun recipe for pumpkin pancakes. Hope you enjoy.
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup melted butter
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a mixing bowl. Mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg yolks and butter in another bowl. Using a hand-held electric mixer or a wooden spoon, beat the mixture until well-blended. Add the milk-pumpkin mixture to the flour-sugar mixture and, using a wooden spoon, mix just enough to moisten all ingredients. (Overmixing at this point will create pancakes with a rubbery texture.) Using clean beaters and bowl, beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry, then fold them into the batter. Spoon the batter onto a buttered or oiled hot griddle. Fry the pancakes until the tops look dry and small bubbles appear on the surface. Turn the pancakes and fry until second side is golden-brown. Serve with hot maple syrup. Yields approx. 30 four-inch pancakes.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Interesting Article on McCain and Obama and Food Policy

Thought I would post a link to this interesting article regarding McCain and Obama and their views on food policy and how each could shape the industry in the coming years. Enjoy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Snacks at Bocadillos

I had dinner at Bocadillos earlier this year and really enjoyed it, so on one of the gorgeous sunny days last week I popped by during the afternoon just for a snack and a glass of wine. The menu is naturally a bit more limited than at dinner and I was slightly disappointed their amazing $2 deviled eggs with shrimp were not on the menu, but nonetheless had a couple of other nice bites. You can choose any two bocadillos for $9 which is a nice deal. Options include Serrano ham with tomato rub, fried chicken with spicy cole slaw, a hot ahi tuna melt, a lam burger, BBQ pulled pork and a BLT with Eden Farms bacon. I wasn't super hungry so opted for a really tasty salad with charred corn, jicama, piquillos and fried poblanos. The combination works really well together and was accented by a light ranch-like dressing which was really tasty. There are also daily tapas and soup specials as well as vegetable sides and cheese and cold cuts on the menu. It's a really cute place to pop into and the charming ambiance and friendly service add to the experience. Enjoy.

710 Montgomery Street in San Francisco

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lorena's Mom's Flan

My friend Lorena who is doing an amazing job keeping my DC blog, DC Gastronome, posted this recently and the recipe is fantastic. Hope you give it a go. Cheers.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Farenheit.
5 whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can of condensed milk (nestle la lechera, if available)
1 can evaporated milk (carnation, if available)
For caramel:Half a cup of sugar
Combine all ingredients for flan using a blender or a whisk (I always use the blender). In a cast-iron skillet, caramelize sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon (shortcut: break some brittle into pieces (pecan works great) and stick it in the mold) pour caramel into the bottom of the flan mold (if using a single one) or ramekins. Put the mold or ramekins in a metal mold or Pirex half-filled with water and bake for aprox. 1 hour.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

SNOB Continues Its Wednesday Wine Tastings

Last night SNOB Wine Bar continued its Wednesday wine tasting series with a flight of German whites. Right up my alley as I prefer whites to reds, generally speaking, and enjoy a bit of sweetness, but not too much, in some whites. On offer were three wines. The first was Schloss Saarstein Riesling 2006. The wine featured rich flavors and a bit of minerality and a smooth, slightly sweet finish. Very tasty. The second selection was a P.J. Valckenberg Kabinett 2006 which exuded rich fruit flavors such as apricot as well as a tropical aroma all finished with a bit of crisp acidity. Definitely my favorite of the evening. The last selection was a Leth Steinagrund 2007. The wine was more dry than the other two and had a citrus finish on the palate. A nice way to end the tasting. The tasting is $10 and includes a flight of the selected wines and cheese, crackers and grapes. Hope you stop by to enjoy.

SNOB Wine Bar
1327 Polk Street

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wine Tastings at SNOB Wine Bar on Polk

SNOB (Sonoma Napa Or Beyond) Wine Bar on Polk Street is a really cozy wine bar which has a nice and well-priced wine list, as well as a dim and romantic vibe and very friendly servers. They have started a series of wine tastings, usually held on Wednesday evenings from 7 to 9pm, and they are a lot of fun. For $10 you get three fairly generous pours out of a list of five or six options, all along the same theme, as well as crackers, cheese and grapes. The last tasting featured French wines, including a Fleur Haut Gaussens Bourdeaux Suprieur, a Marc Kreydenweiss Andlau Riesling, a Bouvet Signature Brut, a Montlouis Sur Loire, a Vin D'Alsace Pinot Blanc. I had the Riesling which was light and fruity and only slightly sweet, quite delicious, and two pours of the Pinot Blanc which was dry and floral and quite pleasant. It's a good deal, a fun spot and the crowd is usually good, so I hope you pop by to enjoy. The next tasting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 20.

SNOB Wine Bar
1327 Polk Street in San Francisco

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Slow Food Festival

You probably heave already heard of the Slow Food Movement, and this year we are so lucky to be in the Bay Area as the group is putting on the annual Slow Food Nation Festival here in San Francisco. There will be two full days of slow food booths, tastings and jazz and other music in Fort Mason, as well as numerous dinners over Labor Day weekend as well as the surrounding weekdays and other events as well. For more information please visit
Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ti Couz

It's hard to realize that Ti Couz has been in business for 15 years already. The consistency of the quality of fare is quite good, and the charming ambiance of the venue only adds to the experience. Ti Couz has satisfied many a palette for those 15 years with unfaltering flavor and textures and a menu I can't imagine that anyone wouldn't find something to enjoy from. Menu options include various salads, including a Veggie Salad of broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, tomato slices and corn on a bed of Spinach and four kinds of lettuce, all lightly blanched so the freshness comes to the surface where it's lightly tossed in their excellent house Vinaigrette dressing. There are also a couple of seafood dishes, including an excellent shrimp cocktail and raw oysters with mignonette, as well as french onion soup and a soup of the day. The main attraction though is the crepes, and they offer both savory and sweet varieties and you can order one of the specials or assemble your own from a nice list of ingredients. Favorites of mine include the Champignon, or a mushroom crepe with a gorgeous and rich mushroom sauce, the Saumon Fume, or salmon crepe with finely-sliced scallions and creme fraiche, or as a make your own a crepe with ham, eggs and cheese which is especially tasty for brunch. On the sweet side, who can resist a crepe with banana and Nutella - delicious! There is a well-appointed and affordable wine list, and on warm days and evenings there are several tables outside. Hope you stop in sometime soon for a relaxing and tasty meal. Enjoy.

Ti Couz
3108 Valencia Street in San Francisco

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dinner at Ramblas Tapas

Ramblas Tapas is a cheery and casual tapas spot in the Mission that you can usually count on for a tasty, fun and inexpensive meal. A few of us recently enjoyed dinner there. We sampled several items including the Spanish Tortilla with potatoes and onions, salsa verde and aioli. The Tortilla is served in fairly large wedges which actually makes for a nice texture in your mouth and certainly an attractive presentation as well. We also had a refreshing Spanish "Wedge Salad" Little Gem lettuce, creamy Spanish blue, apple and radish chips. The dressing was especially rich and creamy and the textures of the other elements all worked nicely together. The Herb Crusted Grilled Chicken Spanish chorizo with citrus salsa verde was salty and tasty, and the Price Edward Island mussels Spanish sherry-cream and grilled garlic toast are always a winner. Ramblas offers happy hour from 5 to 7pm on weekdays whereby you get a free drink, so it's a great time to stop by. Hope you enjoy.

Ramblas Tapas
557 Valencia Street in San Francisco

Friday, May 30, 2008

Happy Hour at Azie

Azie is a charming Asian-fusion sort of restaurant which is located next to and is the sister restaurant to Restaurant LuLu. If you haven't been, I recommend going for happy hour which is offered on weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m. If you will be a larger group contact the restaurant and they may extend the hours to include the duration of the evening. The specials include $3 well-drinks and bottled and tap beer, $5 specialty cocktails and $5 appetizers. The wine list is well-chosen and not expensive so you can easily do a glass or bottle or two without breaking the bank. The happy hour food choices are a bit limited but are inspired. Choices vary but can include breaded and fried tofu served with mixed Asian vegetables in a ginger-soy sauce, chicken wings with a sweet hoisin-based sauce, and pot stickers. The full menu is also available at the bar. The venue is two-stories which lends an airy vibe and the decor is minimal but appealing with lots of grey fixtures and bright colored seat cushions and artwork. I hope you pop in to check it out and enjoy.

826 Folsom Street in San Francisco

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Puerto Alegre

Puerto Alegre in the Mission has a fun and casual vibe with bright colors and always a good crowd. The margaritas are great but make sure you just order regular margaritas - the only choices listed on the menu are the much more expensive, top-shelf varieties. I can't taste the difference anyhow. The chips and thick and super crunchy, and I really enjoy the red salsa with big chunks of tomato and a good amount of cilantro. The tostada salad is fairly large and comes with tons of shredded chicken. The soft chicken taco with grilled or shredded chicken and side salad makes a gorgeous lighter meal. Lots of tasty fried items too of course. Perfect for brunch too with a nice egg menu as an addition, and also great for groups. Enjoy.

Puerto Alegre
546 Valencia Street in San Francisco

Happy Hour at Palio

Palio has a great happy hour on weekdays from 4 until 7pm. If you buy 2 or more alcoholic beverages, you can enjoy unlimited and quite tasty free pizza. The pizza options are -
Pizza Margherita alla Regina di Savoia
Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Oregano and Basil
Pizza d'Asti
Fontina Valle d'Aosta, Shaved Asparagus and Thyme (no Sauce)
Pizza Siciliana
Berkshire Pork Fennel Sausage, Fire Roasted Peppers, Smoked Mozzarella, and Tomato Sauce
Pizza Capricciosa
Artichoke Hearts, Capers, Prosciutto Cotto, Olives, Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella

The atmosphere is great for a date or happy hour and the service was better than anticipated. Drinks are not discounted at happy hour however but with free food, it's not a bad deal for sure. Enjoy.

Palio d'Asti
640 Sacramento Street in San Francisco

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cheap Wine Night at Maverick

Maverick, self-described as an American Eatery and Bar, is a charming, neighborhoody spot in the Mission which has various regular events, including Junk Food and Wine Pairings, as well as Cheap Wine Nights on Mondays. The already reasonable wine list is offered at a 40 percent discount, making some of the selections downright cheap. The space is small but simple, elegant and comfortable. The brick walls and clean lines work well with the muted colors of the tables and chairs and lend a somewhat airy vibe but still one that you want to be in. The food menu is fairly limited but certainly covers all of the bases. There are around 8 each of appetizers and entrees and a few desserts on offer. We dined last night on gorgeous mussels cooked in a white wine sauce with tasty and rich pancetta and served with several creamy dollops of a smoky aioli which was gorgeous with the luscious bivalves. We also shared a side of asparagus which was well-seasoned and served with a nice amount of butter but not too much. The stalks were delightfully crisp and were of a green color that you can only get with very fresh product. We also had the Southern Fried Chicken which is rich, crispy and utterly decadent. It's buttermilk-soaked Mary’s free range chicken served with bacony collard greens, Nora Mill “Georgia Ice Cream” grits, and brown chicken gravy which was obviously started from the luscious chicken drippings. We shared two bottles of white wine, a Grüner Veltliner Der Pallerhof Österreich from Austria followed by a Pinot Gris Claudia Springs from Anderson Valley. At $34 and $30 pre-discount they were both certainly a deal. The Gruner was nice and refreshing but a bit floral for our taste. We thoroughly enjoyed the Pinot. The staff is knowledgeable and courteous and definitely can enhance your dining experience in a positive way. All in all a great way to start off the week, and one that hopefully fits in with the budget as well. Enjoy.

3316 17th Street near Mission in SF

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

$1 Oyster Happy Hours

If you are a fan of happy hour and enjoy raw oysters, this post is for you. We are lucky to live in the Bay Area for all sorts of reasons, and certainly among them are the various $1 oyster happy hours we can enjoy. Cheers.

Cafe Maritime
One dozen oysters for $13 from 5:30 to 7p.m. Monday through Friday
2417 Lombard Street

$1 oysters from 5 to 7p.m. Tuesday through Friday
500 Florida Street

$1 oysters on Fridays from 4:30 to 6p.m.
448 Brannan Street

$1 oyster shooters from 4 to 7p.m. Monday through Friday
Embarcadero and Bay Streets

Eastside West Restaurant & Raw Bar
$1 oysters from 5 to 7p.m. Monday through Friday
3154 Fillmore Street

$1 oysters from 5:30 to 7p.m. Monday through Thursday
901 Cole Street

Hog Island Oyster Company
$1 oysters from 5 to 7p.m. Monday and Thursday
1 Ferry Plaza (in the Ferry Building)

Hyde Street Seafood House and Raw Bar
$1 oysters nightly from 5 to 7p.m.
1509 Hyde Street

O'Reilly's Holy Grail
$1 oysters from 4:30 to 7p.m. Monday through Friday
1233 Polk Street

$1 oysters from 5 to 7p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
2029 Market Street

Yabbies Coastal Kitchen
$1 oysters from 6 to 7p.m. Sunday through Wednesday
2237 Polk Street

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tasty Spring Dishes

Spring is such a lovely time of year, ahhh. Certainly for many reasons, not the least of which is the bounty of food items that come into season. Hope you take time out to enjoy these simple and tasty dishes that for me are perfect this time of year.

Scrambled Eggs with Mushrooms, Chives and Fleur de Sel
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup finely chopped mushrooms
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fleur de sel or other finishing salt (kosher salt is fine), to taste
Melt butter in a medium skillet. Sauté the mushrooms for 3 minutes, then add the chives and cook for another minute, until fragrant. Add eggs and black pepper. Cook the eggs over very low heat, stirring constantly, until cooked to the desired doneness. Add fleur de sel and scramble for just a few more seconds. Serve hot.

Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Prepare a big bowl of fresh tasty vegetables, cut into strips or chunks. Good choices are peppers, cauliflower, artichokes, celery, carrots, etc. Put olive oil in a small bowl and add salt and pepper to taste. Dip the vegetables into the oil and enjoy. You can also have other condiment options available - various types of mustards work well and balsamic vinegar is a nice touch. Pairs wonderfully with a crisp, dry white wine.

Chicken Breasts with Zucchini
4 chicken breasts, weighing a pound in total
10 ounces zucchini, sliced into very thin rounds
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons butter
1 sage leaf
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of thyme
Small bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley, minced
Kosher salt
White pepper
An ounce of shredded Swiss or Fontina cheese
Heat the oil in a pot, and sauté the garlic and parsley for a minute or two. Before the garlic begins to brown add the zucchini. Cook for a few minutes more, then sprinkle a half cup of cool water over the pot, add a pinch of thyme, and salt to taste. Turn down the heat to as low as possible, cover, and cook the zucchini until they are done and the water has evaporated. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While it is warming up, lightly pound the chicken breasts and flour them, giving them a good shake to remove excess flour. Pick a pot large enough for the chicken breasts to lie flat that can go both on the stove and into the oven, and melt the butter with the leaf of sage. As soon as it begins to crackle add the chicken breasts and cook them until they begin to brown, turning them once or twice. Sprinkle them with the white wine, crumble the salt over them, and season them with pepper. When the liquid is reduced by two thirds, remove the pot from the fire. Scoop the zucchini over the chicken breasts, dust everything with the cheese, cover the pot, and slip it into the oven for about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken breasts to a heated serving dish, spoon the pan drippings over them, and serve.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Dinner at Sodini's in North Beach

There are certainly quite a few options for Italian dining in North Beach, and Sodini's on Green Street is a perfect choice if you want a tasty dinner featuring huge portions of food and authentic and fresh ingredients, as well as a cozy, dimly-lit ambiance with red and white checkered tablecloths, lots of candles, huge bottles of vinegar and wine for decoration, and Sinatra or Sinatra-esque tunes in the background. The menu features abotu 10 antipasti including gooey and delicious cheese bread and steamers (you can choose clams or mussels) cooked in a white wine broth and served with garlic bread, as well as lots of varieties of pastas with various sauces, meat entrees including a gorgeous Pepper Steak and Chicken Alla Sodini (grilled chicken topped with ham, mozzarella and cream sauce served with linguine alla casa), and lots of pizza options. The wine list is fairly short but certainly covers all the bases. I had a Sauvignon Blanc from Napa which was crisp and tasty. Others had the same as well as a delicious and velvety Valpolicella. We started with the Bruscetta, which is six large and nicely toasted pieces of bread covered with heaping portions of diced tomatoes mixed with garlic, basil and olive oil. The garlic flavor was quite strong but everyone enjoyed the start to the meal. Per usual, I had the Chicken Caesar Salad for my entree. It's probably enough for 2 to 3 hungry folks. Heaps of crisp romaine lettuce are topped with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese and large, moist chunks of grilled chicken breast. The dressing is delicious and I enjoy that there are anchovies in the dressing as it adds that distinct rich and nutty flavor without having the filets directly in the dish. Others had the special of the day, which was Grilled Prawns with Linguini in a pesto sauce, and Tortellini Con Pesto, or beef-filled tortellini in a creamy basil and garlic sauce. The rich, verdant green in the sauces was appealing and the flavors were all delicious. There wasn't much beef in the tortellini but the creamy cheese inside was flavorful and even a bit piquant. All in all a casual and enjoyable meal in a true North Beach institution.


510 Green Street in San Francisco

Thursday, March 27, 2008

$1 Oyster Happy Hour

Hog Island in the Ferry Building is a bright and cheerful space on the water side of the building with a somewhat simple but delicious menu. Offerings includes several salads, a gorgeous grilled cheese sandwich made with Cow Girl Creamery's Mezzo Secco, a cave-aged Gruyere as well as Fromage Blanc, a few varieties of baked oysters and of course the lovely selection of raw oysters. Perhaps the best time to go is for happy hour which occurs on Mondays and Thursdays between 5 and 7p.m. and whereby a select variety of oysters are offered for $1 each. Each time I have been lately the variety is Sweetwaters, which are wonderfully small and purely briny - almost no creaminess at all. The oysters really impart that special breath of the sea. Also on special and to go with the oysters is beer on tap for $3.50. I usually pair the bivalves with Honig Sauvignon Blanc which is one of the bottles on the wine list under $30. The crispness of the wine balances perfectly with the smooth and succulent oysters. The venue gets fairly crowded for happy hour but you can put your name down on the sign in sheet and hang out at a spot nearby and the waitstaff will come and find you. The happy hour is really something to look forward to on a Monday, and is a great way to start out your Thursday evening as well. Hope you stop by and enjoy.

Hog Island

One Ferry Building, 11A in San Francisco

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tapas at Bocadillos

Bocadillos, Gerald Hirigoyen's casual and warm tapas spot between the Financial District and North Beach, is a great spot to pop into and relax and unwind while enjoying a nice glass of wine and a few small plates. The menu is a nice range of bites to more hearty dishes and ranges from delicious fried Fish Sticks to Oxtail "Tempranillo" to Warm Octopus with confit potatoes and piquillos. Several of us stopped by before going to a play in the Financial District and really enjoyed the meal and the ambiance. The space is small with a bar area toward the rear and sturdy, wood tables sprinkled throughout. The vibe is rustic yet inviting and the warm-colored walls and dim lighting add to the mood nicely. The wine list is interesting and well-suited for the food. I had a nice dry white wine from the Rías Bajas which is in the region of Galicia. The nose was nicely floral and on the palate the wine was crisp and refreshing. For food, we started with Seared Ahi Tuna with a citrus salad and avocado relish. The tuna was perfectly rare and the citrus notes really complemented the briny fish. We also had 18 month Serrano Ham, Patatas Bravas with a creamy and delicious romesco sauce, a Mixed Fields Greens Salad with sherry vinaigrette, and Chilled Prawns with "Huevos Diablo," guindillas and pimenton. I particularly enjoyed the prawns atop the deviled eggs which had a gorgeous, smooth and slightly spicy flavor. At $2.50 each they are a steal. The Patatas Bravas were crisp and delicious as well and instead of the usual cubed shape the potatoes were cut into substantial slices which worked well in the dish. One item we didn't get but that I can't wait to try is the Fried Brussel Sprouts with serrano ham and pears. Brussel sprouts are so wonderful when cooked properly and I think it's great they have appeared on many menus in the area. There is also a choice of around 8 sweet dishes which include Warm Chocolate Cake with banana ice cream, Kefir Yogurt with huckleberry compote, and Macaroons 'Luzien' with pistachio ice cream. If you haven't had a chance to try Bocadillos yet I hope you make an occasion to stop by and enjoy the warm ambiance and tasty treats.

710 Montgomery Street in San Francisco

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Brunch at Luna Park

On a recent sunny and warm Sunday a nice set of folks and I dined at Luna Park for brunch. We arrived somewhat on the early side for brunch and the place was already buzzing with folks in the mood for some tasty food and drink. The ambiance at Luna Park is casual, comfortable lively with bright red table- and bartops, exposed brick walls adorned with funky prints and paintings, lively light fixtures and a peek into the kitchen in the back of the space. This day the doors and windows in the front of the restaurant were open and the lovely day was able to be at least partially enjoyed even while inside. We settled in and everyone was immediately happy with the menu as it ranges from breakfast staples to more lunchy items as well as fun dishes such as goat cheese fondue. Brunch drinks are fairly pricey at $8 a pop but most folks had at least one mimosa or similar drink. The orange juice was ok but definitely was not freshly squeezed. I had the Cobb Salad which is a hearty mix of mixed greens, chopped tomatoes, chunks of chicken breast seasoned with rosemary, sliced avocado, tasty crumbles of bacon and chopped hard-boiled egg. The dressing is mildly creamy and tasty with a velvety texture and rich flavor reminiscent of the avocado in the dish and is well-seasoned with salt and pepper. Others opted for dishes including the French Toast, Monte Cristo, Salmon Hash, Nicoise Salad, Chilaquiles and Steak and Eggs. Everything was delicious. The French Toast was especially decadent and came with winter berry compote and mascarpone cream. It was likely a small dinner later that day for those who indulged in that menu item. I have had the Nicoise Salad many times for dinner at Luna Park and the dish is the same for brunch and certainly still quite a nice meal. The salad features mixed greens topped with rare seared tuna slices, potato, fresh green beans, tomato, olives and chopped hard-boiled eggs all lightly dressed with a vinaigrette dressing. The Chilaquiles were a big hit as well. The dish includes fried tortillas with spinach, tomato, beans, avocado and eggs. The eggs were well cooked and the flavors combined well. All in all a successful start to a lovely Sunday for sure.

Luna Park
694 Valencia Street in San Francisco

Monday, March 3, 2008

Late Night Eats in North Beach

North Beach is most certainly a great neighborhood for a host of reasons, including the large number of fun and interesting venues to spend time in and explore. So, it's not uncommon to find yourself in the neighborhood at a later hour and not having eaten dinner yet. There are numerous options as far as late-night dining goes, and a tasty one, if you don't mind sometimes large crowds and loud music in the background, is Mojito Cafe. The venue is located in the heart of North Beach on Grant Avenue. It's a fairly small space with a long bar and a space for music and dancing. The ambiance is definitely that of a bar versus a restaurant, and the wall behind the bar features some funky and certainly different art and other items to capture attention in case your eyes wander a bit. The menu is just what it should be - a nice range of types of items, all of which are satisfying and fairly easy to eat - and it's served nightly until 1 a.m. Options include a Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad, a selection of Sliders, a hearty plate of Nachos, and Chicken Two Ways. Everything is made to order so you can customize as best suits. The Chicken Two Ways features tender and moist chunks of dark-meat chicken, three large and nicely spiced chicken legs and celery sticks all served with a rick, creamy ranch dip. It's a nice burst of protein for sure. The nachos come with the usual fixings and feature large and quite crisp tortilla chips which add the perfect textural contrast to the various dips and toppings. In particular, the guacamole that is included is seasoned well and thick and creamy. You can dine at the bar or at one of the few small tables that adorn the borders of the restaurant.

Mojito Cafe
1337 Grant Street in San Francisco

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dinner at Pasta Pomodoro

Pasta Pomodoro is one of those chains I actually really enjoy going to. After a recent happy hour in the Presidio some folks decided to check out the location in Laurel Village. It was quite crowded but they were able to accommodate about 14 or so of us. The comfortable ambiance allowed us to settle in almost immediately, despite the high noise level and bustling servers around us. The menu features food from Rome, and the wine list is especially appealing as it is well-priced and features wine by the carafe in a Quartino, Mezzo or Litro. I chose a Quartino of Borgo Pinot Grigio from the Friuli region. It had nice balance and was fruity on the nose and fresh on the palate. The group ordered much of the menu thanks for the number of folks in our party. To start we sampled the Bruschetta, grilled bread with roma tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil; Cozze, which is a wonderful bowl of delicious steamed mussels with white wine, herbs, garlic and butter, Gamberi, shrimp roasted in a cast iron tegame with tomato, garlic, chili and garlic bread, and Polpettine, tasty and hearty meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce served with garlic bread. Everyone enjoyed all of the dishes, especially the mussels. For my entree I enjoyed Insalata di Pollo, a mixed green salad with grilled chicken breast, Gorgonzola, carrots, tomatoes and balsamic dressing. There was a ton of Gorgonzola on the salad which I loved, and the chicken was moist and tender. Quite a tasty and healthy dish too. Other favorites included Verdure, pasta with roasted Brussels sprouts (yeah!), eggplant, asparagus, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes and broccoli tossed with olive oil and garlic and spicy pomodoro sauce; Tortellini with cream sauce and pancetta; Gemelli with smoked and grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms in a cream sauce; and Parmigiana chicken with tomatoes, basil and asiago. Generally speaking the pasta in the pasta dishes was cooked nicely al-dente and the sauces were quite flavorful. I convinced folks to share a few sides - Cavolini and Spinaci. The Cavolini was gorgeous and I am so thankful to restaurants who put Brussels sprouts on the menu as they have a reputation for being mushy and flavorless yet in fact, when cooked properly, they are gorgeous. Pasta Pomodoro's take was lovely and featured the sprouts with onions, garlic, brown butter and sage. All in all quite a nice and hearty meal and certainly one you can easily enjoy wine with and which won't break the bank.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bring Your Own Wine to Caffe DeLucchi

Caffe DeLucchi, a really cute cafe in North Beach, has a great winter special going on now whereby on each Tuesday and Wednesday, you can bring in a bottle of wine and the corkage fee is waived. A nice group of us decided to enjoy the restaurant's tasty fare along with a nice selection of wines and we had a wonderful time. The only caveat is that each person who wants to take advantage of the no corkage fee deal must order an entree, but the prices are fairly sweet so it's really worth it regardless. Plus, if you add chicken to any of their salads, that counts as an entree. The group delved right into the wine, which ranged from dry Rieslings, lush Pinot Noirs to big Zins, and sampled a variety of the cafe's food offerings. A few favorites were the Carpaccio, thinly sliced beef with arugula, capers, diced red onion, shaved parmigiano reggiano cheese and extra virgin olive oil; Cozze e Vongole, or steamed black mussels and manila clams in a white wine, garlic and herb sauce with toasted crostini; Insalata Spinaci, which is warm spinach and bacon with balsamic glazed onions, diced roma tomatoes, goat's cheese and candied pecans; Prosciutto e Formaggi, a gorgeous plate of thinly sliced prosciutto di parma served with italian cheeses, seasonal fruit and toasted walnuts; Gnocchi Piemontese, or soft potato pillows served with gorgonzola cream sauce or with wild mushrooms and marsala cream sauce; Costolette di Maiale, or seared marinated pork chop with balsamic poached pears, white bean confit and an arugula and feta garnish; and Snapper con Granchio, or pan sauteed pacific snapper filet topped with a crab, artichoke, sundried tomato, basil and white wine butter sauce. servered with risotto of the day and sauteed vegetables. The staff was quite hospitable and the vibe was comfortable and relaxed, especially after some vino. I hope you pop in and take advantage of this great deal. Enjoy.

Caffe DeLucchi
500 Columbus Avenue in San Francisco

Monday, February 4, 2008

Iron Wine America at William Cross Wine Merchants

A bit late in posting on this item but William Cross Wine Merchants in Russian Hill is continuing its series of Iron Wine America tastings this year. They are themed based on the Iron Chef America series on the Food Network, and if last week's tasting is any indication, should be a whole lot of fun. The shop does a tasting each Wednesday starting at 6pm, and last week's tasting featured Oregon Pinot Noirs against Burgundy reds, also made from pinot noir grapes. I enjoyed all six selections, but generally preferred the offerings from Oregon. The 2006 Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir was my favorite - velvety and rich yet well-balanced and fruity as well. The other selections from Oregon, a 2006 Lange Pinot Noir and a 2005 Rex Hill Reserve Pinot were both nice as well. The selections from Burgundy were a 2005 Domaine Germaine Saint-Romain, a 2006 Dubois Savigny-Les Beaune Les Picotins, and a 2005 Nicholas Rossignol Cuvee L'Hertiere. Generally the European wines were stronger on the nose and tasted more of alcohol than the selections from Oregon, though I did enjoy the Domaine Germaine Saint-Romain quite a bit. The next Iron Wine America tasting should be within the next couple of months, so stay tuned. Cheers.

William Cross Wine Merchants
2253 Polk Street in San Francisco

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Baladie's Hummus

Baladie Gourmet Cafe on Kearny near Pine is a cheap and delicious spot for a Mediterranean meal or snack, and the hummus is absolutely to die for. Thick and creamy, it really is stellar. The Dip Platter is a gorgeous meal and offers hummus, baba ghanouj, two falafel, olives and pita wedges. Among many other items, also worthwhile are the Iron Bowl, lentil soup over rice with chicken, fresh spinach and sauteed onions; the Feta Pita Pocket, Chicken Gyro with amazing tzaziki sauce, Spinach Salad and the Fatoush salad. The portions are huge and the food is authentic and tasty. There are a few tables in the venue but it's more of a grab-and-go type of spot.

Baladie Gourmet Cafe
337 Kearny Street in San Francisco

Monday, January 14, 2008

Happy Hour at Mexico DF

I am quite a fan of happy hour generally speaking, but happy hours that offer up inexpensive drinks as well as free food? Something to be sought out and enjoyed for sure. Mexico DF is a charming spot just South of Market that has just such a happy hour on weekdays from 4 to 6pm. The bar area is somewhat small and can easily get crowded, but it adds to the hip and fun vibe for the most part. Decor is minimal but attractive - exposed brick walls, hues of golden wood abound, dim lighting via interesting and funky fixtures, and black and white electronic paintings featuring Mexican people, scenes and other landscapes that change over time.
Drink specials include house sparking, red and white wines as well as margaritas for $5. On offer last week as far as food goes was a neat trio of fried cubes of cheese, slices jicama with olive oil and cilantro flakes and spiced roasted peanuts. The cheese had a texture similar to feta but the flavor was a bit milder. The broader menu is appealing too if you decide to make an evening at the restaurant. Hope you can escape from work at a decent hour one day soon and enjoy happy hour at Mexico DF.

Mexico DF
139 Steuart Street in San Francisco

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Healthy and Hearty Black Bean Chili

If the chilly and gray weather has you in the mood for a warm bowl of delicious and healthy chili, this recipe is for you. It's simple and tasty and perfect for warming up body and soul. Enjoy.

Black Bean Chili
For the seasoning mix -
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons of oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons of cumin
For the chili -
1 pound lean ground turkey (lean ground beef is good too)
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes with no salt added
1 28 ounce can of tomato sauce
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, cored and seeded, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 16 ounce can of corn, drained
2 16 ounce cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
Fresh parsley for garnish
Mix seasonings together. In a large pot, spray a bit of cooking spray and add meat. Saute until browned. Add seasoning mix and all of the other ingredients except the corn and black beans. Simmer for 2 hours. Add beans and corn during last 20 minutes of cooking. To serve, garnish with fresh parsley and add shredded sharp cheddar or jack cheese if desired. Enjoy with a nice glass of red wine.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

SF Dine About Town

To help ease into the new year, why not take advantage of San Francisco's Dine About Town, whereby you can enjoy gourmet, 3-course meals at some of SF's best restaurants. The deal goes from January 15 through 30, and it's $21.95 for lunch and $31.95 for dinner, excluding tax, tip and beverages. For the list of participating restaurants please visit
These events aren't necessarily the best option for me since I already dine out fairly often and don't really eat dessert, but it is a great opportunity to try new places for sure. Notable participating restaurants include A16, bacar, Baraca, Cassis, Destino, Fringale, One Market, RNM, and The Public.

Tasty and Hearty Frittata

Hope 2008 is off to a great start for you. I recently went to a friend's place for a little soiree she was hostessing, and I had a nice bottle of wine to share but also wanted to bring something that's fairly transportable and also generally appealing and great for snacking on. I decided to bring a delicious assortment of frittatas. This is a recipe for one of my favorites. Enjoy.

Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Frittata
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
3 small potatoes, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup cauliflower, chopped
1/4 cup zucchini, sliced thinly
3/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
6 slices of Prosciutto, roasted
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 fresh basil leaves, sliced in a chiffonade (pile the leaves on top of each other and roll up and slice)
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Roast the slices of prosciutto on a baking sheet for 3 to 4 minutes or until the edges crisp and brown a bit. Let cool and slice into strips about 3/4-inch wide.
In a medium bowl whisk the eggs with a small pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside. In an 8 1/2-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat add the olive oil, shallot, and another pinch of salt. Saute, stirring constantly, until the onion starts to brown, 5 - 7 minutes. Add the potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini and prosciutto, cover, and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Slide everything out of the skillet onto a plate and set aside.
Turn down the heat a bit. Using the same skillet, add the eggs and cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes or until the eggs are just set and there isn't a lot of liquid running around the pan. To the eggs add the potato onion mixture over the top.
Place the skillet in the oven and bake for about 9 minutes, or until well set and puffy. Add a crumble of goat cheese and the basil across the top of the frittata in the final 2 minutes of baking. Remove from oven (be careful the handle is hot), cut into wedges and serve and enjoy. Great with a side salad and a glass of wine. Good for any meal as well.