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.

Monday, September 2, 2013

the sweet side of switzerland ...

There is nothing as rich and decadent as Swiss chocolates and pastries. Here's a sampling of what we enjoyed during a recent two week jaunt through magical Switzerland. Enjoy!

Chocolates on Swiss Air on Flight to Geneva
Patisserie at the Suisse Majestic in Montreux
Patisserie at the Suisse Majestic in Montreux
Grapes from Lavaux Vineyards, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Blackberries in the Farmer's Market in Lausanne
Raspberries in the Farmer's Market in Lausanne
Chocolate & Coconut Ice Cream at Movenpick in Montreux
Swiss National Day Pastries in Geneva
Chocolates at the Cailler Factory 
Chocolates at the Cailler Factory
Fruit Pastries at Eichenberger Confiserie in Bern
Matcha Tea Ice Cream at Fugu Nydegg in Bern
Eichenberger Confiserie in Bern
Luxemburgerli Macaroons at Confiserie Sprungli in Zurich
Fresh Bread at the Zurich Farmer's Market
Hazelnut Chocolate Bark at Laderach Confiseur in Interlaken
Truffles at Confiserie Sprungli in Zurich

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Michelin starred SPQR in Pacific Heights

SPQR has been on our restaurant list for years, but for one reason or another we hadn't dined there. It's premise is simple - farm to table fresh Northern Italian cuisine with one of SF's best wine menus. The menu changes daily based on the availability of locally sourced ingredients. This restaurant shot fame under Nate Appleman, who also oversaw A16 in the Marina. After his departure in 2009, Matthew Accarrino took the helm and elevated the restaurant to Michelin star level. From our perspective, very well deserved. One of the top restaurant we've been to in the city. 

The restaurant is located on Upper Fillmore amongst the stylish boutiques, contemporary furniture showrooms, and trendy restaurants. As you would expect, reservations are hard to come by, so plan ahead. We decided on a Sunday lunch over Labor Day weekend. The interior is warm and inviting, with rustic dark floor, cherry dining tables, and an open plan kitchen / wine bar. The menu had several vegetarian options after a few suggestions from the wait staff, we decided to share an antipasti and have separate entrees. After a few minutes, the dishes started coming out. 

Biscuits with apricot & wild fennel preserves and fresh butter - This was complementary and given to every table, probably because it was Sunday brunch time. The biscuits were warm and fresh out of the oven. Slight sweet with a hint of salt, the biscuits were crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. The homemade preserves had chucks of apricot with a dusting of fennel. It didn't take us long to finish these off. As a first tasting, we were instantly impressed. 

Sweet carrot and lentil salad, medjool date and vadouvan curry crema - The plating was amazing, each component was meticulously placed around the Heath ceramic plate. Because of the plating, we didn' t know whether to combine all the component or leave them separate. We decided on the latter, which allowed us to vary the taste in each bite. The textures and flavors are hard to describe, which you would not expect from an Italian restaurant. It had more of a Mediterranean influence and wonderful balance - there was the earthiness from glazed carrots, crunchiness from a chickpea fritter, spiciness from the curry crema, and natural sweetness from the medjool date paste. Every bite was different and left us wanting more. For those curious, vadouvan is a derivative of an Indian spice blend.  

Creste di galli, rapini pesto, leek, fingerling potato and ricotta salata - A fresh rooster's crown hollow pasta prepared with a light rapini (broccoli rabe) pesto and shaved ricotta. The dish was light yet flavorful; and i really enjoyed the pesto - not overpowering, nor olive oily. The ricotta salata had the consistency of fresh mozzarella, but more airy. the potatoes were a nice touch and were probably the only heavy component.  Similar to the salad, this dish had strong earthy qualities from the leeks, rapini, and potatoes. The portion size was perfect as well. Overall, we both agreed, that this was a well thought out dish and fine balance and finesse. Case in point, without the ricotta salata, Sheila felt that the dish lacked salt. However with all the components together, the dish was in complete harmony. 

Tuscan kale francobolli, goat cheese, green onion and poppy seed - A thin ravioli stuffed with tuscan kale served bits of fresh goat cheese, lightly sauteed green onions, poppy seeds. The pasta was not overfilled with kale nor was it thick, so you could taste the slight bitterness of the kale. The sauce was a very light butter and as the goat cheese melted it formed a creamy sauce. The poppy seeds seemed a bit unnecessary, but at times added a slight crunch. Sheila felt this was a hearty dish without being overly filing and was pleasantly surprised at how much she enjoyed the fresh goat cheese on warm pasta. It was great sunday lunch entree. 

Tiramisu, espresso coffee, mascarpone and cocoa - Served in a glass tumbler with multiple layers of mascarpone, lady fingers, and cocoa, topped with warm espresso. This was probably the richest dish we had during the meal. The flavors were bold - strong espresso shot, sweet creamy mascarpone, slightly bitter dark cocoa, and moist yet crunchy lady fingers. This was not your typical tiramisu, almost had a deconstruction quality to it; and as well spooned each layer the depth of flavors came alive. We thoroughly enjoyed it, even with food coma setting in. 

All in all, SPQR is worthy of its acclaim and Michelin star. A wonderful treat in SF if you can get a table, and if not try the lunch. Farm to table and locally sourced ingredients have come to be expected at SF restaurants. We will most certainly come back to this modern Northern Italian restaurant to try a few more dishes from this ever changing menu. Bravo with a rating of 8.5 out of 10.