Sunday, December 23, 2012
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Paul Qui fame skyrocketed with winning Top Chef Texas last year. He was the Executive Chef of elevated hot-spot Uchiko in Austin, which serves is some of the most amazing food we’ve ever had. The hype is real.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Saturday, September 15, 2012
In an already crowded restaurant scene, Farina Pizza opened it's doors at the corner of Valencia & 18th. Yes, this puts is within walking distance of five other venerable spots - Pizzeria Delfina, Beretta, Arnell's, Little Star, and Mozzeria. So what differentiates Farina from the others - the Italian imports, literally - from the ingredients and countertops, to the gas oven and chefs. Farina prides itself on replicating the authentic neapolitan experience, which is rare in a era when SF restaurant have touted the concept of farm to table, organic, and sustainable.
One recent Tuesday evening, Sheila and I decided to spontaneously visit this beautifully designed spot of clean white subway tiles, carrera marble counters, harvest wood tables, stainless steel fixtures, and artisan glass. We arrived around 6:30pm and had the option of sitting at a communal table or the bar. We decided on the bar which overlooks the pizza prep station and oven. Good thing we got there early, because within 30 mins the place was packed and there was a pretty long wait list. Needless to say, they don't take reservations.
The menu combines several fresh salads, pizzas, and pastas - made in the traditional Italian style with imported produce. We went straight for the pizza with each of us ordering our own (margherita and ortolana)
The margherita pizza (San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, romano cheese, olive oil, basil) was served piping hot from the gas oven as it should be; we actually watched the entire preparation from our seats. The crust was slighted charred and not too salty. It had a great chewy factor (glutenous) which we've found to be a hallmark of neapolitan pies. The fior di latte mozzarella was silky smooth and wonderfully delicious. Sheila found the pizza to also have a nice cheese to tomato ratio. She would rate the magherita as better than Zero Zero and equally on par with Keste and Co in NYC. However, she prefers Delfina's crust. Although there something to be said about Farina's ambience and overall experience.
Ortolana pizza (fior di latte mozzarella, eggplant, mushrooms, and bell peppers) - Similar to the magherita this crust was chewy. I thought it lacked a bit of seasoning, but nevertheless had a good balance of char and gluten. The eggplants, mushrooms, and bell pepper had been roasted with olive oil, but yet retained their earthy flavors. I agree with Sheila's assessment of the fior di latte mozzarella, one of the best I've ever had. The only thing missing for me was some sauce, after a while the pizza started to dry out. Overall good balanced flavors, but I'll try a different pie next time.
All in all, cool new hot spot in the Mission. This gives us another traditional neapolitan pizza place to add to our list. And at $15 per pie, the price point is on par with the others listed above. If you want the closest thing to classic Italian pizza, go to Farina. It's worth checking out.
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Tucked away behind the FiDi and adjacent to North Beach, historic Jackson Square is a quaint neighborhood with it's collection of late 1800/early 1900 brick buildings now home to art galleries, interior design studios, and specialty furniture shops. So you wouldn't expect a restaurant the quality of Cotogna (sister to Quince) around here, especially in such close proximity to North Beach. But trust us, Cotogna is the real deal. It's rustic Italian gem with a organic sustainable menu that changes daily and a lively, yet inviting venue.
As is typically the case, we shared an appetizer, had our own mains, and then shared a dessert. First up was Cotogna's homemade bread (available upon request). Focaccia drizzled with olive oil, red chili flakes, sea salt, fennel, and dried oregano - served on a dark wood slab. A wonderfully earthy thin loaf that was light and airy; the addition of chili and fennel, gave it a faint kick which went really well with our cocktail drinks.
Then came our purslane, cucumber, cherry tomato, and feta salad. I know I alway say this, but SF restaurants always get their hands on the freshest, ripe fruits and veggie around. Purslane, although considered a weed in the US, is a leafy micro-green typically served in Southern Europe on salads. Never had it before, but really enjoyed the texture and taste. The cherry tomatoes and cucumbers were extremely juicy and crispy, respectively. I'm typically not a fan of feta because it can overpower a dish. However, this salad was very well balanced due to the tartness from the balsamtic vinaigrette dressing.
Next I had the eggplant tortelloni with smoked ricotta and basil pesto. Seven delicately placed stuffed pastas came on a large Heath ceramic bowl with a layer of genovese basil on the bottom and smoked ricotta nibbles on top. To my pleasant surprise, the pureed and lightly seasoned eggplant did not consume the entire entire. They were a bit sweet, but that was balanced well by the salty basil pesto. The smokiness of the ricotta really came through in an unexpected way; providing another layer of beautiful earthy flavors. Even Sheila, who doesn't eat eggplant, really enjoyed the complex flavors of this simply prepared dish. I would order this again and again, but with a daily changing menu this may be my only chance.
Sheila went for the genovese basil, fior di latta mozzarella, and sun gold tomatoes pizza. Head scratcher, right? I'm the one who always orders pizza, but this afternoon the ingredients were speaking to her. Needless to say, this was a great choice. The beautifully charred crust, amazingly fresh tomatoes and red onions, and smooth/rich mozzarella made this a winning dish. Not overly cheesy, you taste the juiciness of the tomatoes, earthiness of the basil, and sweetness of the red onions with ever bite. Yes we eat a lot of pizza, but this one was different. Why, you ask? It's all about the chewy inside crust and bubbly outer crust, which is a sign of great gluten development. And because of this the taste remained awesome even after the pizza got cold on our table; something that I can't say for Delfina or Gialina. Actually the pizza reminded us of Keste's in New York!
Last up was the cheesecake with hazelnuts and blueberries. Another delicately prepared dish with a crumbled butter cookie based, light and airy ricotta cheese, and whole & macerated blueberries. In a word - decadent. It was not overly sweet, in fact the blueberries added a hint of tartness to this dish. The crumble crust kept things from getting too dense. And the roasted hazelnuts (whole and chopped) scattered around the cheesecake added to the depth of flavors. I really nice way to end our meal.
Cotogna is a destination restaurant I recommend going to. The exquisitely prepared dishes capitalize on the array of fresh, organic, and sustainable ingredients available in the SF Bay Area. They do rustic Italian right!
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Saturday, April 28, 2012
The menu is a mix of small plates (salads, cheeses, meats), a few pastas, and several pizzas. The wait staff was extremely friendly and helped to recommend a few dishes for us veggies using sign language. We ended up selecting a Rainbow Beet Salad, Japanese Pumpkin Ravioli, Ortolana Pizza, and Lemon Curd Cheesecake.
You feel joy dining at Mozzeria because of the sense of humanity. The food is cooked from the heart as if you were sitting in the owners' home. And therein lies story, the Stein's are cooking for their family (the patrons), but the food needs to be refined for the masses. That's not to say that it wasn't good food, I just think Sheila and I have been spoiled by living in SF where there are dozens of great gourmet pizzerias.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Monday, February 20, 2012
Le P’tit Laurant is a French bistro located in the heart of Glen Park village, a neighborhood we know well for those who have visited us. As vegetarians, we tend to pass on French cuisine because there’s typically nothing to eat of substance;Le P’tit Laurant is a wonderful exception though, that we’ve had the pleasure to eat at.
Upon entering, you feel transported to Parisian bistro, with old antiquities, tin plaques, old vine decanters, fleur de lys silverware, and Pastis/Ricard bottles. All of the wait staff are French, which always makes for an enjoyable experience ordering food. Tip, this place gets very busy so it’s well worth it to make reservations a couple of weeks in advance. They also have a three-course tasting menu from Sunday through Thursday, for $25 per person, which is a great bargain!
We made early dinner reservations on Sunday evening and were promptly seated at a corner table, which was great for people watching inside and outside the restaurant. The waitress even came by to explain every vegetarian option they had available that night, a nice touch. With 15 minutes of us arriving the place was completely packed, but the noise level was fine and we could easily continue our conversation.
We decided to order separate appetizer and share an entrée and dessert. Sheila opted for Crottin de Chavignol chaud et salade (warm bread with a pat of melted cheese served over mixed green salad). I started with Napoleon de Betterave et mozzarella, vinaigrette au balsamique (fresh mozzarella and red beet napolean with balsamic dressing). For our entrée it was the L’assiette végétarienne du Chef, on this night stuffed zucchini with fresh tomato sauce, carrots, sweet potatoes, and onions. And for dessert was had the Profiteroles glace vanille sauce chocolat (profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce).
Crottin de Chavignol: A very balanced and satisfying salad to start the evening. The dressing for the greens was a slightly sweet, which complemented the somewhat earthy flavor of the cheese. The greens themselves were perfectly fresh, what you certainly come to expect from SF restaurants. Placing the pat of cheese on the piece of toast was a great idea that preventing wilted greens. This also allowed Sheila to control the consistence of each bite. Definitely would order this again, perhaps even as a main.
Napoleon de Betterave: A beet and mozzarella pairing may seem odd, but this dish completely worked. I was swayed by the waitress’ recommendation. The presentation alone gets my vote with layers of beets, greens, mozzarella stacked 3 inches high, drizzled with balsamic dressing. Each bite brought out another layer of flavors. First the bold red beets came through, followed by the mild yet mature mozzarella (almost tasted smoked), then the fresh greens and balsamic cleaned my palate. Individually each component wouldn’t have been exciting, but together this dish hit the right notes. I would also order this again.
Stuffed Zucchini with Fresh Tomato Sauce: In a word it was DELICIOUS. When you first looked at it, the dish looked like a simple stew. But one bite unlocked an explosion of flavors consisting of carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, onions, and tomatoes, and cream. The veggies were tender yet maintain a nice bit. The tomato cream sauce was the perfect dipping stew for our warm table baguette. We could have eaten that only all night and would have been perfectly happy. The hollowed zucchinis that sat in the center of our stew were filled with a sprinkling of cheese, zucchinis, red peppers, and carrots. The zucchini itself was firm and provide a nice textural change and crunch to the tender veggies of the stew. The severing portion was definitely enough to share amongst two people.
Profiteroles: The waitress advised that Le P’tit Laurant was known for this dessert. There were three roles and each came with a petite scope of vanilla ice cream. The entire plate was then covered with warm semi-sweet chocolate sauce. The first few bites were fantastic, the crunch of the profiteroles, the cool sweetness from the ice cream, and the warmth from the sauce. However, the profiteroles themselves became soggy quickly due to the amount sauce. This was certainly a dish where the sum of the parts tasted much better than each individual component. It bordered on being too sweet primarily because of the sauce. Of course having a sweet tooth meant that I literally wiped the bowl clean. I think next time we’ll opt for the cheesecake or pain perdu. But we’ll let you be the judge.
Our bill came to around $60, which included a ½ carafe of red wine. I thought this was very reasonable price for a satisfying meal; note that the entrée itself was $17. All in all, Sheila and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal and will be going back once the seasonal menu changes again. I would recommend Le P’tit Laurant wholeheartedly, not just because it’s in Glen Park, but because it really does embody what a bistro is all about – taking simple ingredients and elevating them into a noteworthy dish, served in a cozy neighborhood atmosphere, with charming wait service.