Considering that Adam took over 130 pictures of London restaurants we ate at, it was only natural that we start chronicling our thoughts and opinions about the food we eat. We've totally become accidental foodies. It all started out when Sheila started calling Adam "the human trash compactor"; since he eats almost anything. But somewhere along the way we started having discussions about food and seeking out culinary adventures when on travel. We bring a unique perspective to this arena as we're both vegetarians (no meat, poultry, or fish). I suspect we will both have varying opinions on the food, and hope to not only have a record for posterity, but provide some fun, useful if not amateur insight.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Burgers at Barney's...

...and I don't mean with Barney Stinson from HIMUM, but rather the burger chain with circa six locations spread across Nor Cal. There's an outpost in Noe Valley amongst the plethora of other gourmet options along 24th St. The Noe Valley shop recently went through a remodel, there are updated finishes, bright pastel colors on the walls, quirky artwork vegetables, and an open kitchen. Kinda reminded me of the Hill Valley Dinner from Back to the Future 2! The servers were attentive but not over bearing which you'd expected in Noe.

The great thing about Barney's is that all their burgers can be made with either garden or tofu patties. With names like North Beach, Milano, Carribean, Teriyaki, etc; the options are pretty endless. Even their fries have options - spicy curly, sweet potato, skinny, cheesy, etc. Each burger is around $8.50 to $10.00 with the sides ranging from $2.50 to $6.00. It's a reasonable price considering the amount of food served.

Our last visit was on a cold rainy Wednesday night when comfort food was in order. Sheila opted for the Chipotle Burger - jack cheese topped with spicy chipotle sauce, red onion, tomato, lettuce and pickles. I went for the Sunshine Burger - cheddar cheese, red onions, sprouts, avocado, tomato, and thousand island dressing. We split a single other of the spicy curly fries with ranch dressing.

The fries came out first, piping hot with a slight kick of spicies. They were cooked through, unlike what tends to happen at In-n-Out with they're rushing behind the counter. The single order was plenty for us and can't imagine a larger size - it was tough to resist the urge to fill up on just the fries!

The burgers came out about 10 mins later and were served open face. The toppings are piled high, so if not in the mood for a heaping of sprouts or avocado, order them on the side like I did. Sheila's Chipotle Burger was equally appetizing. However, she had to take off a good layer of the spicy chipotle sauce in order to eat it. To my pleasant surprise the Sunshine Burger came out on whole wheat sandwich bread. Their homemade garden patty tasted fresh full of oats, barley, carrots, peppers, and brown rice. We often feel that garden burgers can become overly dry when cooked too long, which these were not. The accompaniments of lettuce, tomato, onions, avocados were to Barney's finest and fresh motto. They were certainly large burgers, which meant it took us while to finish.

Overall, we come to appreciate Barney's as our comfort food joint because of it's (1) proximity to our flat, (2) selection of veggie burger options, and (3) relaxed casual vibe. Perhaps you will to.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

gialina, our neighborhood pizza joint

When Sheila and I moved to Glen Park, our friends, neighbors, and even realtor, commented about how great the local pizza joint, Gialina, was. Soon enough we started reading the accolades from GQ Magazine, Sunset Magazine, The SF Chronicle, and Check Please Bay Area. Needless to say the foodies are right on, Gialina is fantastic and is turning Glen Park into a food destination!

It's been 18 months and we've physically eaten there twice and ordered taken at least 6 times. That's partly because the restaurant is quite small with only 30 seats and wait can be upwards of 45 mins. However it's very much a warm cozy interior with open kitchen, small tables, and large scale family photos on the bright red walls. The menu is straightforward with several starter salads, a dozen pizzas, and a few desserts. The chef and owner, Sharon Ardiana, prides herself on using fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients. Some pizzas like the (1) Atomica and (2) Margherita are always on the menu. The others like the (3) Pesto w/ chard, olives, & ricotta and (4) Zucca w/ ricotta, sage, & brown butter are based on what produce is available.

We've tried all four of the above, but I'll be focusing on (1) and (2). Although Gialina does not have wood burning ovens, it's able to produce some of the best tasting crust - puffy on the edges, slightly blackened with a chewy taste remaining. As San Francisco Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer notes the secret to this amazing crust is because (a) the yeast to flour ratio is low; (b) the dough is wetter than most, and (c) allowed to proof overnight. Whatever the secret, i can't get enough. The Atomica is out of this world good. It's topped with tomato sauce, red onions, chillies, mushroom and mozzarella. It has a kick to it with the chillies but not overpowered by heaps of mozzarella (just a few shavings). Sheila orders without mushrooms and I with - works either way. As for the Margherita, the dough comments definitely apply. The tomato sauce tastes extremely fresh, as does the mozzarella slices. With SF gourmet pizza restaurants all known for their Magherita, it's tough to differentiate Gialina from Delfina, Zero Zero, or Una Pizza Napoletana; which is praise indeed!

For dessert, we've had the Tiramisu and Chocolate Pistachio Cake. The Tiramisu is quite good. Sheila's way to gauge is whether it's too "rummy", which Gialina's one is not. We've ordered it to go on several occasions. The ladyfingers are moist with the right level of coffee and rum infusion; the mascapone cheese not overly sweet; and the cocoa powder gives a good bitterness. However the Chocolate Pistachio Cake, which we ordered once, was a bit dry and the pistachios overpowered any true chocolate flavor. In a pinch if the cake was all they had, I would rather head into Canyon Market across the street for their selection of great dessert.

Few things to keep in mind. The key to enjoying Gialina pizzas is to have it piping hot! We've noticed that once the pizza cools off, the flavors become subdued. There are also some inconsistencies in crust, especially between types of pizza. This is probably because of the high volume of orders that come through the cramped kitchen. The pizzas are around $15 each, which is expensive when compared to the competition. Lastly the wait can be long, but Glen Park has several quaint shops to keep you occupied.

Make the trek to Glen Park, not cuz we live there, but to taste amazing pizza. You won't second guess any of the praise lauded on this local eatery. Mangia tutti!