Tag Archives: high end

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.

Fleur de Lys: The Black Feast

6 Jan


White Parties a la Puff Daddy are so 2000 and late. The new trend is Diddy and Black Feasts. Fleur de Lys is home of the other chef Keller, Hubert, and is notorious as one of the classiest joints in San Francisco; even if one of the housewives spit out foie in her napkin, sacrilegious!

Anyway, on January 21st, Fleur de Lys will be home to a Black Feast of epic proportions known as, Le Regal Noir. You get dressed up in black velvet and black diamonds and enter the private dining room for 5-courses of “Black”: think black truffles, black cod, and everything else black and decadent. The drinks poured during the special night are as impressive as any Hamptons party:

  • Krug Champagne
  • Black Bottle Cabernet wine with dinner (valued at $1,000 per bottle)
  • Pouring of Angel’s Share International’s The Black Mirror, a 47-year-old single malt scotch whiskey from Scotland (valued at $375,000 a cask)
  • Exclusive, not available to the public, specially created black, hand-rolled Payne-Mason cigar for each guest ($120 value)

The price tag isn’t cheap but it is well worth it and it includes tax, tip, valet, and a ton of other perks and specials that are available for this night only.

Head over to Gilt City and make your ticket purchase and feel free to buy one for me while you are at it!

http://www.giltcity.com/san-francisco/fleurdelys

Here’s to making 2011 as luxurious, black, and wonderful as possible!

 

Benu: Where the Whole Menu Will Blow Your Mind

22 Sep

If there is one thing I stand for, it is curves. I love them on my body, on my plate, and in my words. I am currently enrolled in an Art of Languaging writing class where we try and look at words in different ways, whether it be the sounds or lines. Looking at the word Benu to me is the epitome of curvaceous. The b and  e are a bubbly opening and then you have the up and down, yin and yang, open wave form of n and u. I am not a design person, so excuse me for explaining this clumsily, but as I walked down the steps from the host to the carpeted dining room and I looked up, I somehow saw the word “benu” in the design. The ceiling had the “nu” hilly form. It is a rare thing when the aesethic style perfectly matches the name and idea of the establishment. White, minimal, clean, and bosomy.

The design of this place was rather overwhelming. I kept trying to remember the last time I saw plush carpet in a restaurant and how nice and luxurious it was. Only one painting adorned the wall in the dining room and it was far away from me. I was convinced that I had the best seat in the place. The silverware design with the fork with five tines and knife on a handcrafted smooth wood rest was as elegant as can be. My favorite musician, Regina Spektor, was playing throughout the restaurant and the mood was set. My eyes and my my ears were stimulated and I was waiting for my mouth to get in on the action.

When the hard deciscion of the day is whether to get the tasting or a la carte menu, you have what I like to call Princess Problems…life ain’t bad. My dining partner already had the tasting menu and it was the description of the duck entree that swayed me to the a al carte side. Have no fear, we still each ordered a dish from each menu section. The first thing to come to the table is the Buckwheat Lavash, seasonsed with nori and seasame, which are stood upright in a slotted box, similar to that of Dexter’s blood files. Next, is the amuse bouche, pictured above, it is a dashi broth with a tomato water sphere and summer blossoms. It was a lovely pop to the proverbial cherry (tomato) of the meal.

Under the small appetizer section I chose the apple, bacon, celery branch, walnut, mimolette, mustard, beer. Once again, the hilly form was showcased and I was really excited by the textures and tastes. The apple was peeled and perfectly sweet, the bacon was thin and crispy as can be, and the beer was a foam. This was a playground for the palate and I was going from the cheese swing to a dip in the mustard pool. Everything in this dish was fun and whimsical. My dining partner ordered a much more grown-up appetizer, the monkfish liver torchon, almond, endive, cherry. It was creamy, decadent and silky. The pairing, with the cherry and bread on the side, showed me that this is the foie gras of the sea.

The following menu section was pasta, and I chose wisely with the risotto, sea urchin, corn, lovage, black truffle. The dish came lid on and as soon as the server removed it the aroma of truffle filled the air. Uni is one of those foods that literally changed my life. I own the domain Looney Uni dot com and everything about it is the sexiest food ever. It reminds me of a tongue that just perfectly melts itself in your mouth. It is like velvet. I have heard it described in much more sexual terms but this is the ingredient that does it for me. This combination of the creamy risotto, sweet corn, fragrant black truffle, and fresh uni worked beautifully. This is quite possibly the most perfect dish I have ever had. My dining partner had this dish on his first visit and although he said he wants three of these dishes he ordered the rigatoni, sea cucumber, oxtail, wood ear mushrooms, star anise, red wine, butter in effort to try something new. It was rich and earthy but it couldn’t hold a candle to the risotto.

On to the fish and shellfish portion, I ordered the big fin squid, pork belly, turnip, cucumber, mizuna, preserved plum. The squid was thick, but not rubbery, and it worked well with the plum sauce. The pork belly was fatty and crispy, as it should be. My companion had the more interesting dish, the shrimp boudin, snapping turtle, vegetable matignon, burnett. The boudin had plump chunks of shrimp and the snapping turtle in the broth was rich and flavorful.

As I mentioned, it was the description of the duck that brought me over to to the a la carte side. Duck, artichokes, chanterelles, coriander, lemon, olive oil are all of my favorite ingredients, so clearly this was my dish. This dish did not disappoint in any way. It was a beautiful duck breast and then duck mousse under the crispy skin. The artichoke puree and the hearts themselves added this creaminess to the plate that complemented the duck very nicely. Part of the reason I love artichokes so much is because of the aftertaste, that herbal aftertaste that reminds me so much of green tea. This crisp flavor along with the lemon and coriander left the most delightful taste in my mouth and mind. My dining partner, thankfully, preferred his own dish more, which was dry-aged, “pré salé” lamb rack, garlic sausage, cauliflower, date, pine nuts, ginger. I liked this dish a lot, especially with the lamb dipped in the cauliflower puree but I preferred my tailor made dish. It is always nice when the orderer prefers their own dish.

When it came to dessert we ordered the soft chocolate ganache, feuille de brick, banana ice cream, Bourbon caramel, ginger and the blackberries, douglas fir meringue, candy cap sablé, natural cream. Both desserts were interesting, but that candied ginger several different ways and the banana ice cream were the stars of the dessert show.

At the end of the meal, you receive a lovely treat along with your bill and seasonal magnet, you get a box of chocolate. Forrest Gump is correct, life is like a box of chocolates and at Benu you can be assured that life is pretty damn good and delicious. There was not a bad dish in the meal and everything was meticulously made, presented, and served. Clearly Chef Corey Lee’s time at French Laundry was well-served, as nothing about Benu seems like it comes from a restaurant that is only six weeks old. This is a well-designed and executed restaurant and if there were any kinks that still need to be work out I, as a diner, did not see them. Sommelier Yoon Ha was on point with every single wine he paired for us, and a meal here without consulting with this guy is just plain silly. My favorite pairing of the night was the late harvest riesling for the monkfish and uni risotto from C.H. Berres.

This entire meal was a Mission Fruition accomplished. I left the restaurant, full, satisfied, and with all of my senses on overload. When you walk back on to the street from the serene courtyard you can spot a window into the kitchen. It didn’t occur to me until now, but there are no windows in the dining room. You are completely removed and truly get to embark on a culinary journey. It was until I downloaded the picture did I spot the Chef, Corey Lee, in my kitchen picture. Holla! This guy and his masterpiece of a restaurant are well on their way to earn Michelin Stars all their own. Bravo Benu!

Benu

22 Hawthorne Ln
(at Howard St)
San Francisco, CA 94105
Neighborhood: SOMA

(415) 685-4860

www.benusf.com

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

Prospect SF: My Last Word

20 Jul

Finding your signature cocktail may be equivalent to finding your stride and for the last month mine has been off. I have moved to a new city and left a project and a mindset behind. Perhaps it is the sluggishness of summer or my own letting go that has halted me on the updating of Mission Fruition. Don’t worry folks, I have been having foodgasms left and right around this fine city but I have been lacking on the discipline of sitting down and writing about them…I also blame this on the tropical vacation I was on last week. Anyway, my new dining partner that has walked me through these food adventures is no other than The Dapper Diner. We share a mutual hatred of hugs, a love of fine food, and he impresses me every meal with his bow tie and food/cocktail knowledge. Our most recent fantastic foodie experience happened at Prospect. I would say that it’s the long-awaited new restaurant of the Boulevard restaurant team, but the first time I heard about it was when I was asked to go with Double D (Dapper Diner). Beforehand, on a cocktail outing, we had discussed signature cocktails and while I agreed that I needed one I wasn’t sure which one to go with. I am a whiskey girl with a hankering for citrus, so perhaps a whiskey sour. The Dapper Diner took that up a few notches with a cocktail suggestion that I had never heard of: The Last Word. I would like to say that he suggested this because he knows of my love of words but alas I think it is the character flaw known as stubbornness. Regardless I was intrigued and he told me it should be my cocktail but with rye substituted for the traditional gin base. A cocktail with a cool name, a special request, and prohibition era. Cherry-Cherry-Cherry we have a winner and I had a new signature cocktail. Here is the classic Last Word:

  • 3/4 ounce gin
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce green Chartreuse
  • 3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur

When I arrived at Prospect on a Friday night, DD had already cased the bar and assured me that Chartreuse was there and tonight was the night I would try out my special drink. The waiter was so very official and took notes on my special drink order and substitution. My cocktail arrived with no problem and it was love at first sip. Carina got her signature cocktail and got her proverbial groove back. The menu at this hip, modern, and packed restaurant was exciting and I wanted to order it all. My ever shrinking wallet decided that we should limit ourselves to three appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts. That may not seem like cutting back but DD and I have hit the town harder ordering entire menus, and then there was the dinner at Frances (coming soon to Mission Fruition). With “restraint” we began the meal with Buffalo Carpaccio, Yellowtail Crudo, and Black Cod.

All of our appetizers came from a series of suggestions. The buffalo carpaccio was something of my own suggestion. I had the most amazing venison carpaccio once that was such a brilliant red that I checked with the waiter that this meat was also as red as can be. The waiter assured us that it was stop light red. I don’t know what color has to do with anything, but for me on this night it was of the utmost importance. The carpaccio was served with fried oysters, aioli, and basil. The carpaccio was perfect “melt in your mouth” meat and the oysters added this delicious salty and smoky quality.

The Yellowtail Crudo was another melt in your mouth dish. The dish ordering recommendation came to the DD from a well-known SF chef’s wife. Clearly that woman knows how to marry and how to order. The dish was phenomenal. White miso, pickled cucumbers, and more topped the thin piece of yellowtail and a perfectly salted seaweed cracker accompanied it.

The appetizer that was the real show stopper was the Black Cod, which was served in a curry sauce with a shiso shrimp fritter and shitakes. The flavors were all perfectly layered and I kept wanting more and more to have the lingering taste of  lemon grass. A big thanks to Kels Eats for declaring to us on Twitter that this is a must have dish. It truly was.

The appetizers were all so appealing that I wasn’t all that into any of the entrees. They didn’t look bad but let’s just say that it would be a shame to go to this restaurant and not indulge in at least a few of their appetizers. For the main course I finally decided on the Halibut and DD had the Pork Cheeks.

I was pleasantly surprised by my halibut, which was served with carrots, pistachios, cioppolinis, and basil butter. It was a nice light dish and the fish was so perfectly cooked and moist that it lead DD convinced that they sous-vide it. It was another just perfectly balanced dish. I am always the first to complain that every dish is too salty, thankfully, this was not. The only strong salty component I got was from the pistachios, which added an unusual richness to the dish.

The pork cheeks with grains, fennel, kumquats, garlic and radishes may have been the richer counterpart to my light entree but it still was not that heavy. The fennel was the perfect touch and after seeing it grown wildly all over my neighborhood I have been waiting to see it pop in dishes. After all, everything about San Francisco points to local. The two entrees may not have been quite as imaginative as the appetizers but they were both solid dishes that showcased the quality of ingredients beautifully.

For dessert we had the Caramel Popcorn and the Peach Pie with Muscovado ice cream  and brown butter crumble bourbon. The popcorn was a gourmet fiddle faddle of sorts with Cacao Nibs and Salt. The dessert was fine but more of a snack when you can’t quite indulge in a real dessert. I indulged and the peach pie was delicious. Fresh peaches, good pastry, and the perfect end to a delightful meal.

I can’t say that Prospect was totally my kind of restaurant. It didn’t have the character or neighborhoody feel that say somewhere like Frances had but everything about the meal completely hit and exceeded the mark. Service was on point, all of the dishes were delicious, and I got served my first new signature cocktail. I have yet to go to Boulevard but it is clear to me that these people know exactly what they are doing. They know how to create the dining experience for all of your senses and I am sure it doesn’t hurt to be that close to the Ferry Building. I have zero complaints. Anticipation met and exceeded expectation. My last word on Prospect is “Mission: Fruition.” Okay, I know that is two words but I have to start branding.

Prospect
300 Spear St
(between Folsom St & Harrison St)
San Francisco, CA 94105
Neighborhood: SOMA

(415) 247-7770

www.prospectsf.com

FIG: A Restaurant Worthy of A Date

11 Jun

I love corny, I love food (especially fruit), and I love pick-up lines. One of my favorites is: “Want a raisin? How about a date?” When I went to FIG the jokes and lines in my head ran rampant. FIG is a hotel restaurant, which I know bothers some people but for me it is such a bonus. As much as I love restaurants, I love hotels more. My college application essay was entitled, “Why I deserve to be like Merv” after my idol, Merv Griffin, and the first business plan I ever wrote was for a hotel called Hotel Fruition. I told you fruition was my favorite word. Anyway, this particular night several weeks ago was exactly what I needed. I was with good friends and I got served fantastic food, exactly what the doctor had ordered. Edward, Minty and I were joined by Jackie who reps FIG for a dinner on the patio facing the pool. The Fairmont Hotel is gorgeous and as much as it is historic and classic looking it is still hip and you can do yoga classes down the hall. All in all, a perfect Santa Monica establishment. My favorite point in any relationship is when the other person gets to know my palate. Selfish? Perhaps, but for me that is the most important thing anyone can know about another person. When Matthew Lehman, the Director of Food and Beverage of FIG, came by our table and told us the specials as soon as he said “rabbit” the table went wild. Minty and Edward pointed to me and said, “We know what you are ordering.” I have had a bit of an affair with rabbit (note: not “the rabbit”) and it is now my must have on any menu. I thank Mark Peel and Campanile for making me fall in love with this  bushy tailed critter on a plate all over again. I shouldn’t say that, it tastes like chicken…only way better. Anyway, my entree was decided for me early on so the rest of the meal was a breeze.

Not long after being seated we received a beautiful cherry salad from the chef, Ray Garcia. Tis the cherry season and after going cherry crazy all week, I was happy to have some more in a lighter fashion. Instead of popping them like peanuts all week while watching tv like I was doing at my house. This dish was elegant and light and perfectly highlighted what was in peak season, the main concept behind FIG. We were served a very nice Pinot Noir, called Bonhan-Dillon, with an even cuter story regarding pictures of the cat that was bit by a snake drawn by the wine maker’s daughter. It didn’t stop there, our table also indulged in cocktails. This Blueberry & Thyme one that Minty ordered was my favorite.

Under the Snacks and Starters sections of the menu we had the Buffalo Mozzeralla with Hand-Mashed Pesto, which I loved even though my sweet thoughtful Edward warned me that it may be too salty for my liking. He knows that I am salt sensitive and I know that he thinks that pesto is a dish made from the gods. We also had the Blistered “Little Gem” Romaine Hearts, which was like a deconstructed caeser salad with white anchovies.

Just like all good Jewish girls, I then had a delicious special of Sweet Prawns and the famous Bacon Wrapped Bacon. The shrimp was sweet, succulent, and plump and my favorite of the starters. Eating in this way, where the Chef gives you only what is in peak season really provides you, the eater, with the best quality of ingredients.  I know that this blasphemy for any foodie to say but I don’t love bacon. I like it in its thicker pork belly form but bacon alone just doesn’t do it for me. This bacon wrapped bacon was a whole different story, it was a nice thick piece of pork belly and then the thin crispy bacon surrounded it.  it was a nice change to both and it is funny how the same ingredient can still complement one another.

Manchego with Olives and Almonds was the last of our snacks, it was good but all cheese at FIG is, I will get in to that a bit later. Let me just say the second coming may be FIG’s very own personal “Cheesus.”

For my entree I had the special of the day, which was Rabbit in a White Mole Sauce. This is not a typical dish here at FIG but it should be. Apparently, on this particular day, Chef Ray Garcia was at the Farmer’s Market and saw that they had rabbit and decided then and there to buy it and make a meal around it. I, of course, have heard of white chocolate but never have I heard of a white mole sauce. It was sweet but not too sweet. The rabbit was still the main focus of the dish but it had the most perfect accents. I, like Grace Adler, love raisins in everything and this dish had them and the golden variety. There was a nice chard underneath that cut some of the sweetness, and all around this was a perfect dish. Edward said that he can’t remember the last time he tried such a good entree, and quite frankly neither can I. Mission Fruition completed, this was a foodgasm-tastic dish.

Jackie had the Red Beet Risotto, which was the most beautiful and healthiest of all of the dishes. There simply isn’t enough colorful dishes and this one filled the quota. The beautiful reds and purples of the beets dyed itself onto the rice. Underneath the risotto was creme fraiche and on top of it was mixed greens and golden beets. If beets are nature’s candy, which I believe them to be, then this dish was nature’s art and symphony. It was as pretty as it was fresh, tasty, and healthy.

Edward had the Twelve Ounce New York Strip, which was not quite as exciting as the other dishes but I do remember that I stole quite a bit of his fries. It was one of those nights where we all sampled off of our neighbors plates. Minty had bunnies as a kid, like the story goes two bunnies lead to many, and so she has an aversion to eating rabbit. I completely understand but normally Minty and I will be torn among the same dishes on the menu, so she is a good friend to have around the dining table. If the special of all specials wasn’t offered then I would have easily ordered the plate she had Short Rib and Pancetta Meatloaf. I love meatloaf and this was unlike any other I have ever had. With the specials excluded, this is the dish that is a must have at FIG.

The desserts were another place where we went crazy. Each person ordered one and then we also got a cheese plate. We had the Citrus Panna Cotta, Chocolate Pot Au Creme, Nutella and Chocolate Tart, and Peach Sorbet. I can’t even pick a favorite, they were all so fantastic. Alright, gun to my head, the Nutella Tart with candied hazelnuts and marshmallow cream. I am normally a fruity dessert girl but this dish was really fantastic. I couldn’t eat more than a couple of bites, but when it comes to dessert that is all that you need.

I mentioned “Cheesus” earlier but he really is a mystical presence at FIG. When we first saw him at the restaurant, I made a comment that he reminded me of a mad scientist. He is crazy but about the most sacred of things, cheese. He greeted the tables with such authority and when we ordered the cheese plate for dessert we knew we needed his guidance. Funny enough, as I am typing this “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West  just came on my iTunes shuffle so here is my homage: “I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers. The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that’s the way I need Cheesus” I have no idea what kind of cheese we got, nor do I remember the order he recommended we eat it, but I do now that I trusted him and he didn’t lead me astray.

Final verdict, yes, FIG is a hundred percent worthy of making a date for. You will have delicious fresh seasonal food, be told interesting stories about wine, have a cheese savior come to your rescue, and maybe even get to the next level with your friends. This was the night that Edward and I took our relationship to the next level, he got to know my palate. Swoon!

Some more reading:

Minty’s recap on this dinner

The Delicious also just wrote about FIG

I also sampled their new Hot Dogs by the pool at TOTNLA, the Taco Dog is OMG good!