Tag Archives: friendship

Poesia: It’s Like a Poem…in my mouth

9 Sep

True Story: I dream  of homemade pasta daily. It is so much on my brain that I hardly notice it anymore. When my best foodie friend was in town she mentioned it right away asking, “Do you know how many times you have brought up fresh pasta on my visit?” I was in disbelief and shrugged. I had no idea, but fresh pasta, now that sounds delicious. Over the course of her trip we had a series of big meals planned but one night the focus was strictly on drinking and shaking our chonies. This night was the San Francisco version of our Gays & Dolls bar crawl. I was present for the two versions she threw in LA and the West Hollywood version was one of the best nights of my life. My friend, The Minty, has an entire gay posse and with her help I have gained gay boyfriends all my own.

You have no idea what it means to dance until you are on a crowded dance floor surrounded by hot shirtless men and get to go wild to all of your favorite guilty pleasure pop songs. If there was heaven on earth, it would probably be the dance floor of a gay club. This kind of activity requires a full meal in the belly and cocktails consumed pinkies up. On this particular night, we were looking for a restaurant near the Castro where we could fill our tummies with carbs. Minty, who was more aware than I about how much I wanted pasta, suggested we get Italian. A few internet, Yelp, and newspaper searches later we found Poesia, which means poem in Italian. How could two food writers choose a restaurant by any other name? Between the location and the menu we were sold that this would be our restaurant for the night. I called to make a reservation and the man that picked up the phone had a beautiful Italian accent. We walked to the establishment that looks like a house, opened the door, and walked the stairs to the top where the quaint restaurant was before us. We ordered the Tortino Ai Carciofi right away, which was a fried ball of all of my favorite things: artichokes and mozzarella. Anyone that knows me knows that artichokes have my heart and I may have asked for extra bread to continue dipping on.

The other appetizers ordered didn’t reach the ball heights of that artichoke dip but the Insalta Verde with butter lettuce, nectarines, Pecorino Mugellano was a decent summer salad. The mussels weren’t phenomenal but I did find myself dipping the bread into the broth for hours to come. I have now mentioned the bread more than once and that it is because it is homemade in small loaves and it became something that I had zero self-control with.

We were three girls carb loading for a night of drinking and dancing and we were in a restaurant with all homemade pastas. We all stayed on course and ordered pasta dishes. The Minty had the Fileji di Renato with pork ribs, garlic, and tomato sauce. The sauce on this dish was beautifully executed. It is so rare for me to have an interesting tomato sauce and that was the sauce that I am still thinking about. The meat in the dish was secondary to the sauce and the thick handmade pasta.

Thankfully, my second choice of pasta dishes was ordered by our friend at the table. Orecchiette al Forno was a dish that combined some of my favorite ingredients. The delicate small ear shaped pasta was served with artichokes, shitake, provolone and walnuts. It was an interesting combination of ingredients that all worked together.

When it came to entrees, I am happy to report that I believe that my dish was the winner. I ordered the Farfalle Fiorte, which had fresh mozzarella and squash blossoms. The waiter questioned me right after my order asking if I mind that the dish is spicy and fishy. There were red pepper flakes and some anchovy paste. I stuck to my ordering guns, as my second and third choices were already coming to the table. When the dish arrived it was so flavorful and complex. The heat and the fishiness worked together perfectly and I was amazed by all of the squash blossoms I uncovered in the dish. The truth is that homemade pasta, while delicious, isn’t all that interesting. It  is simply flour, water, eggs, and salt but what makes pasta delicious is the toppings. My dish was accessorized beautifully, which is funny because Minty told me long ago that the number one way to attract a gay boyfriend was big and bold accessories. My dish worked it and I fell in love.

I am sure people have very low expectations for “authentic” Italian restaurants in California, let alone in the Castro and yet this place totally delivered. Our waiter had a real Italian accent, the bread was made on site: fresh and warm, and the quality of the olive oil was superb. You feel like you are in someone’s house, the place is quaint and Italian black and white movies are projected on the wall. We ordered a dessert that is not worth mentioning because the chocolate, olive oil, and chili pepper were all kinds of off but I would definitely return here for some fantastic Italian food. The men in the location aren’t bad to look at either. The table of boys next to us were as drool-worthy as the food. And when someone at that table mentioned that he could lose 7lbs in a week everyone in the  tiny restaurant had ears that perked up. The food and the atmosphere was homey and the carb-loading seemed to do wonders for the night of Lemon Drops and dancing to Enrique on the dance floor ahead of us. I still need to visit all of the Italian restaurants in San Francisco that rhyme with my name: Deflina and Farina, but Poesia set the bar very high and I am thrilled to have this place nearby. If you are looking for an Italian love poem in your mouth, then go to Poesia,

Poesia

4072 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94114
Neighborhood: Castro

www.poesiasf.com

The Minty

Castro: Poesia + Gays and Dolls in SF

http://theminty.com/2010/08/23/castro-poesia-gays-dolls-in-sf/

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My Serpentine Tongue says, YUM! SF Food Bloggers Unite

25 Aug

In Los Angeles, I found my dining crew. These were the people that never raised an eyebrow when my plate was photographed from multiple angles prior to being tasted. The same people that would never gasp at my need to have a cocktail, appetizer and dessert with every entree. These dining companions were comprised of food bloggers, Twits that like TwEAT Ups, Yelpers, and all around foodies. Friendships are fantastic but people to share reservations with are just as good. I was told very early on that food bloggers in SF didn’t have the same traditions. Blame it on the minimal PR dinners and the recipe bloggers versus restaurant bloggers in San Francisco. Anyway, the day on Twitter that we organized a food blogger and twEATer dinner was very exciting for me. I think I even marked the occasion with a hashtag saying #incestsurvivor in regards to making the SF food blogging community as close as the LA one. When choosing the restaurant for this very special occasion, I went back to a great LA find: Blackboard Eats. These 30% off codes at the hottest restaurants in town were almost always present at our blogger dinners and I made it an invitee at the SF version. I believe it was the day that I moved to San Francisco that Blackboard Eats San Francisco launched, am I lucky girl or what? We all decided on the restaurant Serpentine because none of us had ever been there and we had a valid BBE code.

I was the first to arrive and I ordered a cocktail, the Whiskey Smash, both excited and nervous to be joined by a table full of foodies. The second guest to arrive was The Dapper Diner, who has become my local #1 dining companion. The third was Tao of Pao who is an awesome food writer, runner, and burger enthusiast. And lastly was Kels Eats who covers Californian cuisine and is a self-described goat butter addict. We had all the pieces of the puzzle and in correct foodie fashion we all got started with a cocktail, appetizer, and entree to share amongst the table.

Well, I was never one to follow rules too correctly so on top of my regular appetizer I also ordered the Assortment of Pickled Vegetables. I am a sucker for anything acidic, remember I am the girl who has the dream of having the most extensive vinegar cellar in my home. The yogurt honey and pepper dip cut the vinegar perfectly and the veggies were nice and cool with that perfect crunch. I was so excited about this dish that I demanded that everyone try the cauliflower or the beet. It is always in these foodie setting where I feel most comfortable. When I say that I have always wanted to take a pickling class I get an understanding nod from across the table, I am not alone in my weirdness.

The other real joy in dining with nothing but foodies at your table is that you get to try it all. Both the Chickpea Battered Calamari and the Serpentine Meat Board were things that I want to try but they weren’t on my short list. With the help of more diners and people with big appetites, I was able to have it all. Some of the highlights on the meat board were the duck prosciutto and the pork pate.

The appetizer that I had my heart set on from the start was the O’Henry Peach & July Red Nectarine Salad with house-cured pancetta, mint, toasted hazelnuts, elderflowers, and champagne vinaigrette. It was the perfect summer salad and I was happiest that this plate was closest to me.

If there is one thing about SF dining it is that, it is all seasonal and local so it is more than common to see the same dishes on many menus. The Dapper Dinner and I were happy to see our new friends Blistered Padron Peppers on the menu. They are currently featured in nearly every restaurant I have entered recently. Each time I have to eyeball them for awhile, gain courage, close my eyes and take a bite and then utter, “That’s not too bad (spicy) at all.”

My final cocktail of the night was the Kentucky Buck and let me just say that their version blows Rickhouse out of the house.

When it came to entrees Dapper Dinner had the Harissa Rubbed Sonoma Goat Shoulder Roulade and the two girls had the Prather Ranch Hamburger. The burger was extremely memorable and for me it was all about the pickled onions and the delicious Acme roll.

For my entree I had the Grilled California White Bass, which was served with corn, almonds and a basil pistou. It was light, fresh, and even minty. Do certain tastes bring up certain people for you? For me, for obvious reasons whenever I eat mint or drink mint tea (which is daily) I always think of The Minty. She is my LA food baller/crawler team captain. This meal was days before her arrival to SF to visit me and it set the tone in reminding me how lovely it is to dine with foodies. I actually just returned from my own visit to LA where I got to dine at the newly opened Test Kitchen LA, which is probably the coolest concept restaurant ever. Chefs get to come in and takeover a space for a night or a few days and do whatever they like. The night that I went with the Minty I was overwhelmed by just how many people I knew in the restaurant. Food bloggers, restaurant owners, bartenders, foodies and more united. The excitement was palpable, the  LA foodie community is tight as hell and we are family. I don’t have this yet in SF but I will make it my Mission Fruition because dining with foodies is just more fun. Serpentine has the motto: Honest Food, Classic Cocktails. For me, that is a perfect formula for bringing people (mainly foodies) together.

Serpentine
2495 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94107
Neighborhoods: Dogpatch
(415) 252-2000

When Surrounded By Hot Gay Men…Grab your Rabbit (Pot Pie)

10 Aug

My first house guest in my SF apartment was my favorite guy from LA, Edward. We both love Hillary Clinton, Will & Grace, Dexter, Sweet Tea Vodka, and Diet Coke. He is pretty much my dream man. We spent the first two nights of his visit in gay bars in the Castro. It was ridiculously fun to be spun around on the dance floor by hunky men while Lady Gaga was blasted. Perhaps I love to be tortured because these nights were heaven for me. My bestie, Edward, left for a few days to spend time with his family and when he returned to SF for one last night he brought his niece that was a day shy of two years old. Clearly this was a trip of torment: hot men that have no interest in touching me beyond the dance floor, the cutest toddler that I couldn’t steal or eat to pieces, and my Edward taunting me by us being back in the same city. After all of this pent up frustration, a girl needs some relief. As a girl in a new city that release normally comes in the way of food. After a day at the zoo, and a cocktail, Edward and I headed to one of his friend’s houses for drinks and dinner. A couple of glasses of wine in, I divulged about about my bad SF dating luck and how I just want a nice Jewish banker. Edward’s friend laughed as clearly he fit that profile, although he was yet another one not on my team. I laughed at my own misfortunate and after we polished off a few bottles of wine we walked to a local restaurant called Mission Beach Cafe.

To be honest I remember very little about the starters we ordered, perhaps that’s because we moved on to bottle #3 when we arrived. I remember the beef had hot peppers and an Asian marinade. I also remember ordering the salad based solely on the fact that there were gold and red beets and artichoke hearts. Although there was a tofu or something in the salad that, for me, threw off the entire dish. Edward got the burger, which I just learned was on the 7×7 10 Best Burgers in the City list. It was massive with Prather Ranch Beef, aged gouda, caramelized onion, and an oven-roasted tomato. Edward, of course, opted for the bacon and avocado addition. While his entree was an enormous, his friend had sadly thin pieces of branzino.

Finally, Carina’s bad luck took a turn. I got the mama bear (not too big and not too small) perfect portion. I also got reunited with one of my favorite foods: rabbit. Edward somehow always manages to bring me good rabbit luck, like the time I got the white mole rabbit from Fig in Santa Monica with him. On this night I ordered the Rabbit Pot Pie, which I was told was a favorite at Mission Beach Cafe. Apparently in the Fall, there are Pot Pie Tuesdays but while we are still in summer this rabbit pot pie will certainly do. As soon as my dish arrived the aroma was oozing from the puff pastry and as soon as I broke it with my fork I was hypnotized. It smelled phenomenal. The carrots were roasted, there were fresh English peas and the rabbit reduction was perfection. Mission Fruition, this is the dish! I do not yet have an adorable tot, or my very own hunky Jewish banker, but I can order delicious food. When you are feeling all pent-up with frustration (sexual or otherwise) head to Mission Beach Cafe where their rabbit pot pie will take care of you…real good.

Frances SF: Pride All Around

8 Aug

Imagine this if you will: You are a little over a week in to living in a brand new city, you’re there on one of the city’s biggest event days, and with dinner plans at the hardest place to get a table in town. That entire situation was me at Frances on the first big day of Pride. I was walking from my new apartment to this restaurant that I knew very little about, except that it had a waiting list that was in the “months” time frame. My walk had me tweeting away as sports cars were blasting Bob Dylan, plums were falling off trees and onto my head, and I began seeing naked men in pink tutus on every block. I was invigorated. Being able to walk less than a mile through a maze of entertainment and energy to a fine dining establishment had me more than excited. The reservation was early and the excitement of Pride was just beginning to brew. If you can see from the main picture the restaurant is nestled just away from the heart of the Castro in subdued colors and minimal signage, but on this night to the right was a man with pink hair and short shorts and black angel wings.

My dining companion had to wrestle the special day parking situation and I was seated. My waiter was adorable as can be and when I said I wanted a cocktail but needed help deciding he recommended I’d get the Strawberry Fizz because today was such a festive day. The drink was refreshing, fruity, and full of champagne…all of my favorite things. The restaurant was modern, minimal, and a perfect juxtaposition to all of the excitement going on this day.

My dining partner The Dapper Diner joined me for dinner a few minutes later and I had been so busy perusing the menu that I knew exactly what we would have. One of the coolest things about Frances is their wine blends. You choose either red or white and  you get it in a glass pitcher, but the best part of all is that you only pay for what you drink, a dollar an ounce.

For me, the most interesting thing on the menu was the Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets served with maple creme fraiche. I loved the concept of this dish but unfortunately they weren’t as light as I would have liked and the dipping sauce was off. Perhaps our batch wasn’t straight out of the oven or something but I wasn’t in awe. However, this dish has such a potential and sounds so promising that I am sure I will always order it, even if I don’t absolutely love it.

The Panisse Frites on the other hand, a dish that I wasn’t that excited about, blew me away. The concept was simple, chickpea fritters that could be dipped like french fries into a Meyer lemon aioli and yet these were addictive little suckers. They were gorgeous to look at and the most awesome consistency, think of the smoothest mashed potatoes known to man.

The Dungeness Crab Salad, was yet another dish where Frances fooled Carina. This was an appetizer that we added to our order at the last minute, neither of us really thought much of the description. It was crab served with cherokee tomatoes, sweet herb vinaigrette, and baby lettuce. This dish was on my top 2 dishes of the night it was well-balanced, light, and perfectly dressed. It is funny because for the most part I thought I have reached the point in my life when I can look at a movie trailer, a dress on a rack, or a dish on a menu and know how it will fit and what I will love. I cannot tell you how exciting it is when I am more than surprised. Melissa Perello, the chef /owner of Frances, takes her dishes to places that can’t be captured by simple menu descriptions and therefore the element of surprise is always there. Perhaps this is why Fifth Floor received a Michelin Star under her leadership.

The White Corn Soup with shrimp, basil, and creme fraiche was all in the presentation. I was sure that this was going to be a favorite, but sadly it was not. It was a beautiful dish but the taste didn’t quite match the elegance of its description.

I am a sucker for pasta and will pretty much always order either mac and cheese or gnocchi on any menu when it is offered. The Ricotta Gnocchi with green garlic, english peas, and morels was denser than I would have liked and again didn’t match up to the perfection that was the crab salad.

For the entrée, I had the Herb Stuffed Guinea Hen, which was served creamy polenta, chanterelles, white corn and an apricot. This site is called Mission Fruition and I love all dishes with fruit components and this was quite good. The sauce was way too salty for me, as I am ultra-sensitive to salt but between the polenta and the apricot I was able to cut most of it. The mixture of light meat and dark wrapped together in crisped skin was perfection.

My dining partner had the Napa Valley Lamb with summer squash, baked ricotta, and braised lamb crespelle.

We finished off the meal with a shot, shot, shot, shot. At Frances they have these Market Shots, which according to them are: “Whatever we find at the market gets juiced, spiced and spiked.” On our night we had a delicious berry shot, which was a perfect end to the meal and got us ready for dessert.

For dessert we had the Bittersweet Chocolate Pot de Creme and the Almond and Semolina Crostata. I am a girl who likes my men like I my desserts: Fruity! So the chocolate belonged to my dining partner and let me tell you that it was as rich and decadent as can be. I wasn’t sure what to get on the dessert menu and nothing was really jumping out at me so I ordered the crostata basically because of the red plum, nectarine, and raspberries. It was also served with the most delicious English thyme ice cream. Once again, the dish that I was look forward to least was the dish that won my heart. The pastry on this dish was to die for, as was the fresh fruit and savory ice cream.

While were having dessert in this quiet tranquil little restaurant nestled in the Castro, all of the sudden we were shaking with the loud sounds of a gang of motorcycles riding by. I asked “Dykes on Bikes?” and within seconds the restaurant agreed and confirmed that it was Dykes on Bikes who just rolled through the streets. I smiled and when we were walking out I tweeted: “Dykes on bikes just rode in front of @FrancesSF. I love San Francisco fine dining.” The next morning, I received a tweet back from the restaurant saying, “We love our neighborhood, too.” This was really the most fantastic restaurant and dining experience. Perhaps it was because of the excitement of Pride or me settling in to my new home but this is my number #1 on San Francisco restaurants. I may have had a more put together meal at Prospect but this was non-corporate and just felt like what you’d imagine a great San Francisco restaurant to be: fresh, local, neighborhoody, and full of great people and great food.  I was happy to learn that my favorite bookstore (Omnivore Books) owner took famed NYT food writer Frank Bruni to Frances when he was in town. I, in turn, will take my favorite foodie friend The Minty there on Friday when she is visiting from Los Angeles. If you want to see real SF Pride, they are serving it up beautifully at Frances SF.

Frances SF
3870 17th St
(between Pond St & Noe St)
San Francisco, CA 94114
Neighborhood: Castro

(415) 621-3870

frances-sf.com

The Dapper Diner

http://twitter.com/thedapperdiner

The Minty

http://twitter.com/theminty

http://theminty.com/

OAKland is A-OK! Bocanova, El Tio Juan and Adesso

4 Aug

My move to San Francisco has really been quite extraordinary and I always seem to sum it up into a single word: Roots. Nope, no mini-series about slavery. This transition in my life is about coming back to my Bay Area roots and about planting my own. The best part of this experience is reconnecting to my old roots and that means family and friends. The picture above is me and my friend Analisa, and it was taken at our Junior High graduation. We have been friends since 4th grade when we were both newcomers to the same school. She has always been someone that I have respected and considered a friend but in high school I very much went my own way. I knew since I was 14 what college I wanted to go to and that I wanted to live in LA, so high school always felt like a holding cell. Analisa and I had been friends via Facebook and Twitter for the last few years but I really had not heard her voice since our high school graduation (4 years after that photo was taken). When I moved to San Francisco, a month ago, I reconnected with this old friend and it has been fantastic. I have learned that she is a Social Media expert and quite the little foodie. We are made in friend heaven. In fact, the first time I saw her she took me to Comstock, which I am dying to return to. We drank cocktails and ate chicken fried rabbit and all was right in the world; we were back to being friends. Analisa lived in San Francisco for a while after college but now she lives and works in Oakland and for me atleast she is Oakland’s greatest advocate.

Two weeks ago, I set forth on my first real Oakland adventure. I had met her there once prior but this was going to be the ultimate tour. Tying to shed myself of my LA ways, I took the bus and BART to Oakland. It was all fairly painless especially since Analisa cued me into the almighty Clipper Card. She picked me up right out of the station and she took me to Bocanova. Well well well I wasn’t expecting this, we walked into an over-designed gorgeous industrial styled restaurant and were asked if we had a reservation. I knew that the NY Times had recently written about them but still I was impressed. We sat at the chef’s counter and I ordered my new signature cocktail: The Last Word. It was excellent, as was our server and the bartender who came up to me saying how much he liked my drink choice. We then went on to Walu “White Tuna” crudo and the bone marrow. The crudo was refreshing and we had to keep it just with papaya on top because I somehow remembered that Analisa had a mango allergy. This is mission fruition and I think I make it pretty clear  that I love fruit components on every dish. The bone marrow was yummy, but when isn’t bone marrow delicious? Although, I was disappointed that they cut it vertically instead of horizontally. I always get the impression that I am eating a push-pop when I eat that way. Also, after Animal’s perfect pairing of bone marrow and chimichurri there really is no better combination for this dish. All other bone marrow dishes have been put to shame.

The service and the atmosphere were so good that I could have stayed at that bar and ordered more and more food, spent a ton of money, and watched the chefs all night but thankfully Analisa saved my wallet and we had more planned for the evening. I remember from our days of class plays that Analisa was a good actress and on this particular night she was going to be in a production of Steel Magnolias. I had seen the movie and was looking forward to but I didn’t realize until Analisa was talking to the waitress that she had the Julie Roberts role. Hold the phone, I was having cocktails and plates with the star of a play that would happen in less than an hour. Not only that but the waitress knew all about the production and said that the host wasn’t there tonight because he had to see the play. I was given strict orders to look for him: the flamboyant guy with blue hair. I was a little bit in celebrity awe and now more excited than ever to see the show. Analisa has a boyfriend who loves taco trucks. After years of living in LA and late night Highland Park taco runs, I share his love. I was still a little hungry from these plates and was shocked when she asked if we wanted to go to the best taco truck before her play. Um, does the Pope where a funny hat? How did this girl know me so well?

In a short amount of time we arrived at the El Tio Juan truck. It’s funny both Analisa and I took four years of Spanish in high school but her spanish trumps mine, so I left the ordering to her. She swore by the chorizo taco and I was up for it, shocked that the star of the play would eat curbside with me. She also asked for a side of the grilled onions. Now these onions weren’t the kind of grilled onions that you get with your bacon wrapped hot dog at 3A, not that there is anything wrong with that. These were cipollini onions that were thrown on the grill skin on and my god they were delicious. This should be a condiment at all taco trucks. Speaking of condiments, on top of our tacos was a variety of pickled vegetables. It was more than the just the pickled carrots and jalepeno, there were radishes and cucumbers and even more onions. The tacos were perfection, with just enough heat. Not enough to make me say, “I need someone to make out with me, my mouth is on fire” I have sadly said that on several occasions but this was also more heat than your average taco truck.

Analisa then drove us to the theater, quickly brushed her teeth, and transformed into a Southern Belle. She did all this while I reminiscing on my tacos and said hello to my new blue haired friend. Right before the play started the director came up to me and said, “Hi Carina, Analisa told me to say hello to you” I told him how excited I was and that this was my first real time in Oakland, He corrected me that this was Alameda. Oh well, close enough. For the next two or so hours I was completely transported to that beauty salon. There was nothing but a handful of women on stage and they all shined brillintly. This play was superior to the movie and while I may be biased, Analisa was more charming than Julia Roberts. I left the play with Analisa and we still had more of Oakland to see.

Our next stop was Adesso and we were joined by my new Bulgarian friend. It was a dark bar with salumi for days (Bay Area lingo), strong cocktails, and this snack buffet on the side that was complimentary. That is my favorite price and I filled up on breads, cheese, and olives. My friend Kristina, the Bulgarian, just got off work and wanted chocolate cake. Analisa and I didn’t complain and we all indulged in a delicious flourless chocolate cake. After fish, bone marrow, chorizo tacos, and chocolate cake others may have stopped but we had the hankering for more meat. We got a sample salumi platter and I was set.

If you don’t all have an Oakland ambassador as fantastic as Analisa then simply follow these exact plans…you will be in heaven. Oakland has high-end food, low-end food, culture, arts, and even hip little late night places offering free salami. Yes, I am currently overwhelmed with how many places in San Francisco there are to try but Oakland is definitely on my radar and I have Analisa to thank for that!

Bocanova

55 Webster St
Oakland, CA 94607
Neighborhood: Jack London Square

(510) 444-1233

www.bocanova.com/

El Tio Juan Truck

40th Ave. and Foothill

Adesso

4395 Piedmont Ave
(between Brandon St & Pleasant Valley Ave)
Oakland, CA 94611
Neighborhoods: North Oakland, Piedmont Ave

(510) 601-0305

www.dopoadesso.com/

Analisa Svehaug

http://analisasvehaug.com/

http://twitter.com/socialarts

Altarena Theater

http://www.altarena.org/

Steel Magnolias playing until August 8th

Omnivore Books on Food: Just Devour It!

28 Jun

I have now lived in San Francisco for a little over a week. I have been on two dates, tried countless new restaurants, and I have already fallen in love. This isn’t a crush this is a full blown love affair. It all began a few days ago when I was driving to meet someone. Side Note: I am trying so hard to lose my LA car tendencies but it is so hard. I just heard the fact the other day that any place in the city is within two blocks of some kind of public transportation, so my driving is unnecessary and has proved to be dangerous. When you are as big of an eater and shopper as I am and in a new city, every drive is a prowling. I turn my head to one side and then to the other and I forget to look at the road. There is a Thai restaurant to my left and a wine bar to my right. I need to remember these names and yelp them later, they are in my hood and that means they are now mine. On this particular day, I drove past a bookstore that looked adorable. While I was being honked at to do my main job of driving, I registered the words “Books on Food.” I imagined the best. I just discovered an entire bookstore based on food writing, cookbooks, and everything else a gourmand would need. I didn’t know a place like this existed and I was pissed that I didn’t think of this sooner. I had places to go but I made a note to thoroughly investigate later. I kept remembering the time when I was in Europe and I tried Magners (Bulmers in Ireland) for the first time. I was in heaven. That drink was something I never could have imagined and yet it combined all of my favorite things. There was a fruit component, there was alcohol, it was nice and vinegary, and I was able to drink it fast unlike beer. It was a drink that was tailor made for me and something that was impossible to find in any LA bar. However, blocks from my house, at the Valley Tavern in Noe Valley along with bars all over San Francisco it is on draft. I thought that was my favorite thing in Noe Valley and then a better suitor  and  combination came along.

After a night at Bourbon & Branch I had my first San Francisco sleepover. Unfortunately, it was not with a man but perhaps even better it was with my best friend d’Auria. After a night of strong cocktail drinking, I was thrilled that I was waking up next to her. We grabbed bagels (that were boiled and not baked) at Holey Bagel and then as I was going to drive her home without the awkward morning-after-nonsense I asked if I could take her somewhere that looked amazing but I wasn’t sure. She was her normal agreeable self and I drove by memory to the site of my near collision. Ceasar Chavez and Church and there I found Omnivore Books on Food. I was relieved. I wasn’t making it up. It really did exist. I still didn’t know what to expect as I only had a relationship with the sign. As we got to the door we first saw the sign with Oscar the Oyster. d’Auria is big on design and aesthetics and is currently helping me redecorate my life: from my new apartment to my new websites. I knew instantly that if she had all the time and money in the world she would make a bookstore that looks exactly like this.

We were two girls in our version of a candy shop. Bourdain was in front of us and Ruth Reichl to the left of us. There were farm fresh eggs at the counter and a converted meat locker. This old restaurant space seemed like a shrine to all that encompasses food. The woman at the counter was my favorite kind of store owner, she is in her element and she loves what she does. She wasn’t pushy at all and I could see her smile when I talked trash on chefs and food writers. Perhaps I felt too at home here, but this is now my neighborhood and this store held everything that I value: food and words. I asked d’Auria if she could make Indian food because she is a woman that is a Jill of All Trades and she said that she wants to but would rather learn from an expert. Later when we talked to the owner she said, “I heard you mention Indian food and we have one book that is fantastic because it is all built off 5 spices and the author walks you through it.” She knew the whole backstory and I was so captivated by the store she told, I bought the book. I told d’Auria that we would be working through it as soon as my kitchen is unpacked and d’Auria helps build me  a cabinet for my appliances and cookbooks in my kitchen. She easily agreed and we spent the whole car ride marking recipe pages. I will let you all know how the Indian cooking goes.

So that is it, this is my love story. I love Omnivore and can’t wait to devour more of it. Like any good love affair, I am getting so excited about being able to introduce this place to my family and friends. The owner gave me great restaurant and book recommendations but, perhaps more importantly, she also gave me a place that I naively feel was made for me. I know this sounds corny (I can even make that punny) but this little place showed me that Noe Valley is my neighborhood and home. Finding this gem was more significant and grounding then my new mailing addresss and apartment keys. Anyway, I will gladly take you here at any point and don’t forget to check out their awesome events. I am most excited about Frank Bruni on July 25th. In it’s perfect omnivorous fashion you can find new, vintage, and signed books throughout the store.

3885A Ceasar Chavez St
San Francisco, CA 94131
Neighborhood: Noe Valley

(415) 282-4712

www.omnivorebooks.com

Contigo Kitchen + Cava: Let a Great SF Meal Be With You

23 Jun

My 4 years of spanish in high school taught me that “contigo” means “with you” and  last Thursday night Contigo was most definitely with me. I had officially moved in to my first SF apartment only hours before my dinner. The moving truck had been returned, my new apartment was stacked full of boxes, and I had my newly appointed best friend Tony with me. He had been more than awesome: He helped me move. He drove the truck from LA. He endured me and my neurotic family and he did it all expecting nothing. The night before there was a very funny encounter with Tony and my family. First, Tony dominated my 9 year old brother at a game called sting pong, which is like ping pong but if you lose you remove your shirt and the winner gets to peg you with the ball. Let’s just say my little brother went to sleep with welt marks. My mom then made a joke that she never would have guessed that Tony would have been a finance major instead of an anthropology student. Tony was now several vodka and cranberries in and responded, “Finance, are you kidding me? I am moving your daughter, who I have never slept with, for free” Anyway, Tony is fantastic and after all he had done I really wanted to buy him a nice meal. We explored my new neighborhood, Noe Valley, until we found THE place. Have no fear, we first grabbed a beer and while it was the final Lakers game the only cheers heard in my neighborhood pub were from Celtics fans. Tony was annoyed and we walked more finding numerous cheese shops and bakeries in my charming stroller lined neighborhood. I read “Cava” and Tony and I determined that this was the place. The front window looked into the open kitchen and a hot chef with tattoos (a sign of any hot chef) was chopping vegetables. The place was so cute with a modern decor and although we didn’t have reservations we were seated right away at the only empty table. We ordered the Jamon Serrano, which was aged for 18 months, and the Patatas Bravas.

We also, of course, had several glasses of Cava. The potatoes were far too salty for my taste but the ham was perfection. Super high quality that literally melted in your mouth. The concept of this place was Spanish and Catalan and the name was chosen to connote “connection, community, collaboration, and convivialit.” As with most San Francisco restaurants this means local, organic, and humane ingredients. However, the restaurant’s mission went far beyond this, there was actual interaction with the other tables. We found out that the table next to us was a newly wed husband and wife from DC and they were visiting the wife’s daughter. Tony and the husband, who both had retirement in common, discussed the game that Tony was checking on his phone. Tony has lived in LA for the last ten years and was saying, “Of course, you are rooting for Boston. The rest of the world hates Los Angeles, but everyone loooves San Francisco. Let me guess, if it was the Dodgers and the Giants in the world series you would choose SF.” The man shrugged and Tony nodded. Tony just turned 31 and is a Boyle Heights resident, a part time professional mover, a member of the Mo-Odds and an anthropology student at East Los Angeles Community College. This man kind of rules at life, he bakes all of his own bread, gardens, and drinks good beer. He enjoys being mildly annoying and interrogated the waitress on the menu that changes daily based on what is available and in peak season. When he asked where Watson Farm was, where the lamb was from, the waitress didn’t skip a beat when she replied Marin. He ordered the roasted spring lamb and I ordered the cod with fava beans. My dish was good, although I wasn’t crazy about the sauce, but Tony’s dish was much better. He deserved the better entree, after all, he did all of the heavy lifting. The lamb was phenomenal and caused the foodgasm of the meal. After he finished the lamb, I went in and dug into the perfectly roasted turnips.

It was the perfect meal in my new city and my new neighborhood. Yes, I live in San Francisco now. And yes, LA has a bad rap when you leave the area but, truth be told, I love LA and I still have some excellent LA gems to write about. While I had to leave behind great people, restaurants, and food to make the transition to the next phase of my life I was so excited to be welcomed by such open arms and to have a restaurant that was “with me.” I dropped off a well-fed Tony at the airport an hour later and was alone for the first time in my new place. I have so much to explore and I couldn’t be more thrilled! Contigo was a perfect introduction and due to their close proximity and daily menu changes, I have feeling that I will be with them for a very long time.

1320 Castro St
(between 24th St & Jersey St)
San Francisco, CA 94114
Neighborhood: Noe Valley

(415) 285-0250