I’ve Gone to GoPago; Meatballs for All!

26 Jul

I am very happy to announce that I am now working with the awesome team at GoPago. This free mobile app combines all of my favorite things: reading menus, restaurants, shopping, customizing, ordering, purchasing, technology, efficiency, community and my smartphone. The community aspect is of the utmost importance to me so please be sure to follow us on Twitter @go_pago, on Facebook and on the app to keep the community expanding and to let me know what you think!

Speaking of expanding, the amount of restaurants offering our services is ever-growing but I wanted to highlight a few dishes at some of our restaurants because I am currently meat and chickpea ball obsessed. I have already written quite extensively about my love for the Meatball Gigante at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Although, if you can’t order one of the 25 made daily, the regular size are equally delicious and a more manageable ball.

For my vegetarian friends, GoPago has three Sunrise Deli locations where you can try one of the best falafels in the city. The Super Falafel with eggplant and potato included in the pita pocket or lavash wrap is the way to go.

For those looking to combine the best of both worlds and marry the most awesome things together, like GoPago does, I have an awesome Frankenstein-esque ordering  kind of solution. You must try the dish I recently wrote about that combines Italian with Middle Eastern. The Safeehat Falafel at Jannah, which is basically a pizza with a falafel crust and the most delicious toppings: pesto, eggplant, roasted red bell pepper, green and red onions, shitake mushrooms, tomato, feta, and goat cheese.

I want to offer you $10 in credit to try some of the restaurants out, since I am so excited about my new role, the company, the app, and these food selections. Simply download the app and enter my special promo code “Meatball” to try one of these awesome dishes, all under $10, for the next 48hrs. Come over to the new way of ordering/paying quickly and let’s have a ball!

There’s more than Una kind of Pizza in San Francisco

16 May

San Francisco is home to far more than una pizza, it is home too many unusual pizzas. Yes, if you want classic, I have already been quite clear that Tony’s Pizza Neoplatana is my guy/joint, but the other options are quite worldly.

There is Una Pizza, where you can rest assured that only one guy is making your pizza and that he knows what he is doing. Although you can’t be so relaxed that you will get a pie. They only serve until the dough is gone. I was once there so early for pizza security that I had to wander in a fabric store to buy time before I got the special once-a-year Christmas pizza. The festive pizza was adorned with escarole, olives, pine nuts and raisins.

I’ve never really dieted, so I am used to zero boundaries when I want to eat. Hell, there is even a big “Indulge” sign looming over my kitchen. However, there was one week when I was a vegan. Yes, it was right after Oprah and her staff all went vegan for a week. Scoff away! I used my week to indulge in all the special vegan splurges: vegan cupcakes and even a very special vegan Indian pizza. Zante is home to some pretty delicious Indian pizza and the vegan one is no exception.  The pizza with spinach, cauliflower, ginger, garlic, green onions and cilantro was one of the most flavorful pizzas of my life and made my week as a vegan totally painless.

However, behold, I have a new favorite worldly pizza that hardly anyone knows about. It is a Middle Eastern pizza at Jannah called Safeehat Falafel with a falafel crust. The garbanzo crust topped with pesto, eggplant, roasted red bell pepper, green and red onions, shitake mushrooms, tomato, feta and goat cheese is really out of this world. It takes the pie for the best, most unusual, pizza in San Francisco.

Israeli Cuisine: It’s Real and It’s Spectacular

1 Apr

I have a dumb habit of the second that I bite into a pupusa saying, “I am getting in touch with my brown side.” My dad is no longer alive but he was a Salvadorean revolutionary and refugee and I feel very disconnected with that side of me. Sure I can so-so speak spanish, but it is the second that I bite into the food that I get in touch with that culture.

Being Jewish is quite different. That I get and I know. I can’t speak Hebrew, but I have my own special relationship with that side of me. Obviously I am a food-centric person, but there is no specific food where I say, “I am getting in touch with my Jewish side.” Pastrami, brisket, and a kosher pickle do it for me, but that feels New York. My Jewish grandma was an amazing cook and we spent a great deal of time in her kitchen, but that cuisine was very worldly. I fondly remember her stuffed cabbage rolls (my favorite “Jewish” food), but we just as often made chinese food, dumplings, curries, spaghetti and BBQ together. I know that a lot of the Jewish culture and holidays take place over meals and yet when I went on a Culinary Trip to Israel in February, I really had no idea what that meant. Sure, I know middle eastern food, but nothing that was “Israeli” specific.

It turns out that much like being Jewish, which has no clear and cut definition: a religion, a race, an ethnicity, a culture; Israeli food is also all over the map. It sounds so cliche but it is an absolute melting pot, not just with the bordering countries, but with the entire word.

Right outside the shuk in Jerusalem, we visited one of the first neighborhoods that was built out of the city walls and there was this great legend that we heard. These neighborhoods often had a central stove outside and each family would have their own special meals cooking and when the sons would fetch the pots sometimes they’d mix them up. The Ashkenazis would get the Iraqis’ food and think it was too spicy and vice versa and the Iraqis would think their food was too bland. Then over time the families would request that their sons would grab the wrong pot on purpose. Thus, the cuisines do meld together and there is room at the table for each place the wandering Jews wandered to make its way back into Israeli cuisine.

During my visit I did hear a great talk by Janna Gur, the Queen of Israeli Cuisine, and learned that some things are strictly Israeli. For instances, Israelis are the only people in the world that eat salad for breakfast, they invented the cherry tomato, and date syrup called “silan” is more popular than honey and sugar.

However, the real joy about Israeli cuisine is that everything comes together: schnitzel in a pita is the epitome of that. Another example I saw was at Shuk HaNamal (The Port Market), where the slow food movement is very much embraced. We got a demonstration from a chef that showed how an Israeli would make a panzanella salad: a variety of the freshest tomatoes, za’atar thrown on and strained yogurt.

I have never been to Yemen but this Yemenite flatbread that was all of over the country was a personal favorite. This four cheese and mushroom dish I got in the Kabbalah town of Tzfat was delicious.

In Tel Aviv, I dined with friends at a very cool Georgian restaurant called Nanuchka. There was a picture near the stairwell of a man with his very large member showing, after much questioning, I learned that all of its glory belonged to the DJ at the restaurant/louge. However, nothing compared to the warm chickpeas in the hummus at Abu Hassan in Jaffa. The picture of the DJ didn’t ruin all other men for me, but one bite of this warm hummus ruined me forever with the refrigerated packaged stuff.

Another great thing I put in my mouth was a Persian Jewish dish called Gondi, which reminded me of matzo ball soup mating my all time favorite, meatballs. As soon as I took a spoonful of this ball and broth, I grabbed my ipad to tweet this very import message: Gondi > Gandhi.

During my ten days in Israel the highlight was picking carrots in, of all places a tomato farm in the desert, Shvil Hasalat. Later that same busy day, my carrot relationship became even deeper as I found myself cutting pounds and pounds of carrots with the dullest of knives at Nahal Brigade for a vegetable soup my group and I cooked up for more than 350 soldiers.

While at the farm, I heard that carrots were initially from Afghanistan and that they were white. When they were imported to Holland, orange was an important color to the country so they only grew orange carrots and that’s how they became known as orange. I have no idea if that story is true but I like the metaphor for Israeli cuisine and I love that I got to pull out some O.G. carrots from soil in the Middle East. Jews have spent generations living all over the world, taking in cuisine influences and now they get to bring it all together in their own country, which is beautifully delicious!

Frankaroni: a 4505 Meats Treat

30 Oct


Do your dream of hot dog slices, great fried balls of macaroni and cheese, and can’t stop humming the Rice-A-Roni jingle? Well, we have got the teenage wet dream treat for you.

If you are lucky on Thursday or Saturday and the super cool clique at the 4505 Meats food stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market feels like blessing you with “Frankaroni” written on their specials board, you can get to sit and eat at the proverbial cool lunch table.

They take the same 4505 housemade uncured hot dog that you know and, if you’ve met, already love, and slice up in macaroni and cheese gooeyness that is then fried to sweet golden perfection. It has crunch on the outside, soft richness on the inside and meat slices that you are hoping will be present in every bite.

The whole convenient combination of heart-attack fuel and summation of your dreams comes in a holdable square that you can eat with no utensils getting in your way. We hate to sound like an after-school special, but it’s time to get selective about the wieners getting into your hot pocket!

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Hey Tony, That’s A Good Meatball…

17 Oct

Meatballs are my absolute favorite! They are the lasagna to my Garfield and if anyone ever wanted me to give them singing lessons (trust me, they don’t) I would be like Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer and let cute little old ladies pay me in meatballs. One ball per hand and a special squeeze for good luck is all I need to make me happy.

 

There is an Italian, with East Coast/Jewish influences, gourmet-to-go spot near my house called Pasta Gina, I just call it Dammmmn, Gina that serves up some delicious balls and is my regular go to joint. But when we are talking sit down restaurant and a serious meatball no one makes a bigger, better ball than Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. I am not much of pizza person, I get bored after a slice or two, but Tony’s is the hands down best and the people behind the World Pizza Cup in Naples agree with me. I am a huge fan of the New Yorker pizza with natural casing pepperoni and fennel sausage as well as mozzarella and ricotta, but if that is not enough meat and cheese for you…then you must, I repeat, must order a Meatball Gigante with Sea Salted Burrata ($13). The meatball is absolutely enormous with burrata on top. It is such a major meatball that it definitely wouldn’t fall off the table with a sneeze, unless maybe it was done by a giant.

I get a bit baffled about how something so large can be so evenly and perfectly cooked but I don’t worry much as I am too busy sticking my knife and fork into this monstrosity. It is the size of a softball or a grapefruit and each piece of the ball gets re-dunked in the sauce for extra coating and then forked with fresh burrata and ribbons of basil. This dish is truly a victory and is a great starter for those who won’t or can’t be satisfied with just pizza alone. The meatball gigante also comes in more fun options like wild mushroom, pancetta, and robiola or with a farm egg and calabrese but for me I like the cheese, please.

Grappa Galore at Bar 888

15 Sep

There are 3 things you should know about me: I like grapes, 8 is my favorite number and I like hard alcohol. Pull the slot machine of luck and we have a winner at Bar 888. A few weeks ago, I got a message on Twitter from the InterContinental Hotel asking me to follow them so they can DM me an invite. It sounded mysterious, so I followed and they hit up my DM box with a grappa tasting invite. Done! I like the word grappa and I knew involved grapes and alcohol. I remember it listed as an ingredient in a few cocktails that I had and I knew it alone was very strong. But that is where my knowledge stopped. I will save you all a Wikipedia visit by saying that grappa is made from distilling the pulp, seeds, skins, and stems from grapes. In other words, the waste product from winemaking.

I arrived at the hotel lounge and was escorted to Luce where the grappa bottles were hand selected from the Bar 888 bar to try. The rest of the evening went something like this: a welcome grappa cocktail, two grappas made from muscat grapes that tasted very different, some light bite food consuming, another grappa cocktail, and more straight grappa samplings. The Luigi Francoli muscato grappa was one of my favorites of the evening. It was floral and easily as complex as wine as each one poured gave off a completely different aroma and taste.

Some were aged for a long time and almost bourbon like, others were more like a high quality vodka that had been flavored. Normally, I would have thought Tagliatella to be a pasta, but it was a flavored grappa by Nardini with a fruity and bitter taste that the sommelier explained was a bit like Fernet Light. Ugh please, I have lived in SF for more than a year, I don’t even ginger back anymore; I go straight…and hard.

I spent a good amount of time really delving into the grappa menu that is endless. First there are more than 10 grappa cocktails and there is a list of bottles that simply never ends. I asked the som if this was the biggest grappa list in San Francisco, he nodded and then said, “Probably the biggest west of the Rockies.” It’s pretty incredible. I am now at that point in my life when I can see an item on a menu or a dress in a store and without tasting it or trying it on I can be right about 90% of the time that it will be a Cinderella fit for my body/palate and that I will love it. I read the word chamomile on the grappa menu and I knew I just had to have it. I am a sucker for tea infusions it accounts for all of my favorite desserts, macarons, and ice creams so it may as well work for my grappa. I begged to try it and I was right, it was my dream spirit. Smooth like honey and tasting of honey. One sip and I was transported to my childhood, picking the yellow buds of chamomile off the field. Squashing it on my fingers and putting my nose as deeply into it as possible to pull out the tea scent that I knew. My cups of tea that I would make around this single digit age would have so much honey and sugar at the bottom that the first few sips were watery torture while I waited for the thick sweet stuff that could hardly make its way down the cup. Yeah, this bottle of Marolo Grappa & Camomile was pretty incredible.

I recommend you save the grappa cocktail drama for your mama, and head to Bar 888 for some serious straight up grappa tasting.

Psychedelic Pickled Quail Eggs at Alembic

9 Sep

Trippy eggs, man!


​For those of us unfortunate enough to miss the Haight in its heyday, we feel nostalgia we can’t explain every time we’re in the neighborhood. In the swinging ’60s, we were nothing more than an egg in our mother’s ovary waiting to meet our father’s sperm. We’re glad they made love, not war.

A recent trip to the Alembic reconnected us with that special time. While we were cocktail drinking after a full brunch, we wanted a bit more eggy stuff so we ordered the Pickled Quail Eggs ($2).

Out from the bar rose a plate with four pink pickled quail eggs. They had been pickled in beet juice and were now doing an artful dance with the oil on the plate. Jesse from Alembic had worked hard to get just the right look. His eggy masterpiece is truly psychedelic.

The look is only half of the enjoyment; the taste is the other. Each of those trippy eggs can be consumed in one hit. The salt adds some crunch and texture.

These babies are such a good companion to getting pickled that upon finishing this plate we threw down another $2 or four more. Pop these groovy eggs and you will be transported to a different time in the Haight.

Original published on http://sfweekly.com/Original Post

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