September 2010

tacolicious

Nope, I’m not trying to be cute by titling my post tacolicious … the restaurant is actually called Tacolicious. Although a bit put off by such a silly name, I decide to take the plunge anyway and order tres tacos from the Tacolicious stand at the Thursday Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building. I ordered one carnitas taco, one braised beef short rib taco and one bean and summer squash taco. $9 seemed a bit steep for three tacos, but I was eating at the Ferry Building after all.

Despite the sizable crowd, my order was ready within minutes, I sprinkled a little mild green salsa on my tacos and grabbed a seat in the beautiful sunshine. So nice to be out of the office and eating tacos! Gorgeous weather aside, my tacos were tasty and the portions generous. Each corn tortilla was bursting with filling then topped with a little chopped onion and cilantro. The pork carnitas were quite good, almost as good as the carnitas my favorite taquería in Sacramento, and definitely the best of the three options. The braised short ribs were also tasty. They had the dark, meaty, beefy taste that I love about short ribs and the acidity of the salsa complemented them well. (Bias confession: I love braised meats almost as much as I love pork, and honestly can’t believe I was ever a vegetarian. Thank you Katie Norton, Jordan Seliger and Argentina for steering me right!) The vegetarian taco with beans, summer squash and salsa was also very good. Well-seasoned, substantial, and I enjoyed it as a break from the meats. Finally, the salsas … I tried the mild green salsa and the medium roasted red salsa. Both were good, but I favored the balance of green salsa. They complemented my tacos nicely. My only want … chips for dipping and a Jarritos Mandarina soda!

Conclusion: I’m very picky about my mexican food, I know it pretty well, and I’ll be back.

-Emily

just too cute

Now, those pear tomatoes are too cute! They remind me of stacking dolls. Jordan thought they looked like penguins. Yep. Cute.

This salad celebrates the end of summer with fresh tomatoes, quickly blanched green beans and a tarragon, shallot and white wine dressing.

Conclusions: Jordan and I both liked the tarragon quite a bit.  It’s not an herb we use often and it added a surprisingly satisfying anise flavor. Tomatoes and green beans are two of my absolute favorite ingredients and so I was pretty sold on this salad. It made a great accompaniment to the cous cous with sauteed mushrooms and pan-seared cod we also enjoyed, but were too beige to post a picture of.

-Emily

breakfast for dinner

I love breakfast for dinner (french toast, waffles, pancakes, all those sweet, syrupy delights). Jordan, sadly, does not have the same fervor for breakfast for dinner as I do. This dish was our compromise.

A poached egg with broiled asparagus, crispy bits of pancetta and skillet hash browns.

Conclusions: Poaching eggs is not like riding a bike – it doesn’t just come right back. And, breakfast for dinner is the best! My devotion continues and Jordan said he considering coming over to the dark side. French Toast Fridays, anyone?

-Emily

paella, per se

Let’s start this off by saying, I’m a lucky girl. Why am I a lucky girl? Because my wonderful boyfriend makes me yummy dinners while I sit at the table after work and putz around on the internet. Why else am I a lucky girl? Because that same boyfriend rides his bike down to purchase quality (and reasonably priced!) seafood at Sun Fat Seafood (23rd and Mission) even though its 9 million degrees out in San Francisco today. And one more reason …

… He is incredibly dashing in the kitchen.

Let’s get down to business …

Brown some PORK! chorizo*. Take out the chorizo, but leave that delicious fat in the pan. Toss in some diced onions and garlic. Let those brown a bit. Add broth (Jordan did 3 cups of vegetable stock and 1 cup of clam juice).

*Chicken chorizo was available, but we just don’t see the point in that.

Add saffron. Ours was a gift from our neighbor and came all the way from Dubai! It adds a nice floral taste, and added bonus, the broth will turn a lovely yellow-orange color.

Bring it all to a boil and add Calasparra rice. Use 1 parts rice to 4 parts liquid. We thought “That’s crazy!” but it really is quite absorbent.

Let it simmer for 20 – 30 minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed and it has a creamy consistency. Then toss in some veggies (we did peas and red piquillo peppers), the sausages and …

the seafood! Jordan’s catch of the day included shrimp and scallops, which he quickly sauteed in some butter before adding to the rice. He wanted to get a nice sear on the scallops, but he’s a bit out of practice. I think this means more scallops in my future!

And the final dish …

Served with lemon and parsley.

Conclusions: Jordan was looking for a paella shortcut and looks like he found one. It still took a while to execute, but not much was lost in the way of flavor. Tasty and satisfying!

But the best part of the meal (according to Jordan at least) was not his paella, but …

this romesco sauce from Bi-Rite Market (18th between Guerrero and Dolores). It was good, but I’m partial to his paella.

-Emily

two bistros. two stories.

Here’s the deal.  This is why I wanted to start a blog.  Online restaurant reviews are hit and miss; it’s as simple as that.  This review of two restaurants, Moussy’s and Nob Hill Grille, is a prime example of what can happen when you trust the common online restaurant review databases.  Both have similar ratings; both are in a similar price range, have interesting sounding menus, feature small plates, and have a small, but tasteful wine list.  The similarities end there.

I’ll start with the bad news first.  Moussy’s is located in Lower Nob Hill on Bush Street between Larkin and Polk.  Emily and I decided to give this place a try on Saturday night because (I swear this is the last time I’ll say this) of its positive reviews on google, yelp, etc.  We looked at the menu online and it seemed promising.  Upon entering the cavernous dining room we were greeted promptly and seated at a table off the bar.  The atmosphere was dark and intimate, but cozy at the same time.  Definitely a place I could see myself in for a couple of hours enjoying some wine and relaxing.  We sat down and looked over the paper menu and decided on a couple appetizers to start.  The grilled oysters sounded nice, unfortunately they had just run out so we settled on the charcuterie plate.  This is where things went downhill.  The waiter took our order for the charcuterie and left.  About ten minutes later we received a plate with four slices each of salumi, hot coppa and prosciutto, as well as a bit of grain mustard and some dried figs that tasted like they had been reconstituted in balsamic vinegar and honey.  There was nothing terrible about the dish, but for $13 it was definitely lackluster.  There was one star on that plate: the prosciutto.  It was very interesting in that it had the usual porky goodness of your typical cured ham, but it was much spicier than most prosciutto.  After taking our plate, the waiter continued to watch the Giants game before coming back to see if we wanted anything else.  Unfortunately we did, and proceeded to order the grilled cheese, pomme frites, and the angus burger.  First came out the fries with a spicy aioli ($6).  The flavors were all there; a nice amount of seasoning on the fries and a good heat to the aioli.  Unfortunately the chef had made an egregious error: some of the fries (and by some, I mean about 1/3) were STALE!  Then Emily’s grilled cheese ($9) came.  It smelled of melted butter and cheese; two of our favorite things, but it fell completely flat; it had absolutely no flavor.  There was one upside to the evening, and that was my burger.  I chose the aged gruyere and grain mustard aioli.  The angus beef was very nicely seasoned and the brioche bun was soft and absorbed all the delicious juices.  The gruyere and aioli did little other than add a creaminess.  At $12 it was a tasty hamburger, if not the best value.  Overall, the service was slow, the food was pretty bad, and most of the interesting items shown on their menu online were missing from the actual menu.  On the upside, I liked the burger a lot and the atmosphere was nice, but the thought of stale french fries will keep me away for a long time.

On a more positive note, Emily’s mom came into the city on Sunday and wanted to grab a bite close to our house; we decided to walk up to  Nob Hill Grille at Pine and Hyde.  Let me get some business out of the way first.  Emily and I went to Nob Hill Grille on a whim a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it.  One reason we went to Moussy’s was to do a little comparison, and going back to Nob Hill Grille was just a little bonus so I could give a fair opinion on both restaurants.  We went in around 6pm for an early dinner and the tiny dining room was mostly empty.  The decor is simple with a few black and white photos of San Francisco on the walls.  It is a comfortable and inviting atmosphere; more classic than lush or trendy.  We sat down and received water immediately, which was filled constantly by the attentive waitstaff.  The three of us shared a number of small plates and we each had a glass of wine.  Rich, one of the guys who runs the show, knew off the top of his head that they were out of the syrah I had selected and steered me toward the “Rubystone” ventenna blend, from Monterey ($10).  Not the most balanced wine, but it was mild and paired well with all the dishes.  Rich broke our meal of six small plates into two courses of three plates each.  First we had the beet salad with warm goat cheese ($6), magic mac ($6), and the braised pork belly ($9).  The salad was nice and classic, but nothing extraordinary.  The magic mac (macaroni and cheese with house-cured bacon) was terrific: seasoned well, creamy and cheesy with a very nice brown crust on top.  The pork belly is one of my favorite dishes that I’ve had recently.  It is slow cooked to tender perfection and then is seared to order making the top super crispy.  Thinking about it gives me a slight chill.  It’s served over garlic mashed potatoes with wild molasses and stone fruit tapenade.  This dish shows a lot of skill because these are some very bold flavors, but they are so balanced they complement each other beautifully.  Another reason for me to praise this dish is the nature of the ingredients; obviously, by the name of our blog, we love pork, but when it comes to putting sweet fruit stuff in with it, Emily and I agree this is generally not right.  The chef at Nob Hill Grille makes this dish so well that even with our fruity-phobia, we embraced the dish and loved it as if it were our own.  Moving on.  Next up we had the braised beef sliders ($9), special pasta ($?), and sautéed french beans ($4) to make us feel a bit better about all the bacon.  Starting with the beans, they are very good.  Simple salt pepper and a little chile and maybe a squeeze of lemon.  The pasta was orecchiette with bacon rapini and white wine butter sauce.  The bacon was delicious, of course, and the sauce was mellow and blended nicely with the other flavors, but the pasta and the rapini were both a bit overcooked.  The braised beef sliders were nice but not spectacular.  I’m personally not a big fan of braised beef, but I can recognize when it’s done well and when it’s not.  The beef here was done very nicely and the slaw was a refreshing match to the rich meatiness.  Only one flaw really sticks out in my mind, and that is the choice of bun for the sliders; they were very hard and the meat slid off almost immediately.  It was a decent dish, but I would much rather have twice as much pork belly.

I’ll leave it at that.  Pork (especially when it’s cured and from the belly) makes me like a restaurant!  Seriously though, this is my first time writing a formal restaurant review and I hope my insights help someone make the right choice when finding a small bistro-style eatery in Lower Nob Hill.

-Jordan

baking therapy: yellow cake with chocolate ganache.

Today, the baking regime began … yellow cake with chocolate ganache.

The background: While I was in school, I cooked and baked as a way to escape everyday stress. And, it worked!  Now I have a moderately stressful job (like most everyone) and I’ve turned to my old standby with new determination.

The plan: Bake something new each and every week as form of delicious and rewarding therapy.

The hope: Bake -> be less stressed -> become a better baker -> bake some more -> become a happier person.

Today’s cake recipe was from Rose Levy Beranbaum author of The Cake Bible.

For the cake …
6 large egg yolks (this is what makes it yellow!)
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature and cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch x 1 1/2 inch cake pans, line bottoms with parchment paper, then grease again. Set aside.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the egg yolks, 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk, and vanilla extract.

In the bowl of your electric mixer combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds or until blended.  Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup (180 ml) milk.  Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure.  Scrape the sides of the bowl.  Gradually add the egg mixture, in 3 additions, beating about 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the egg mixture.

Divide the batter and pour into the prepared pans, smoothing the surface.  Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in center.

Place the cakes on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes.  Then invert the cakes onto a greased rack.  To prevent splitting, reinvert cakes so that tops are right side up.  Cool completely before frosting.

For the chocolate ganache …

Heat a 1/2 pint of cream and 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat.

Pour hot cream over 10 oz of yummy semisweet chocolate (we like Guittard). Let that sit for about 5 minutes then whisk into submission (or until its smooth). Pour over the first layer of your cooled cake, spread, stack on layer two, pour again.

Supposedly, this ganaching process is easy, but I managed to get chocolate all over my kitchen counter, three dish towels, a poorly placed bag of pirates booty and multiple utensils. If you decide to ganache, clear yourself some space or if you don’t have much space (like us), prepare for some clean-up afterward.

And what you’ve all been waiting for …  the verdict …

 

 

Good. Satisfying. But a bit dry (maybe because I forgot about it in the oven while googling greyhound puppies) and definitely lacking ganache between the layers (I got nervous while ganaching the first cake. It was my first time after all).

Yes, that is a standard-sized dinner plate.

Overall, a lovely weekend baking adventure, stress level low, and we still have a monstrosity of a cake left to devour.

-Emily

hello world

We love San Francisco, but it has one small problem: there isn’t an awesome food blog around.  Of course there are some great resources out there (especially when looking for inspirational recipes or ingredients to use at home) but when searching for a decent restaurant, common restaurant review sites aren’t up to snuff.  We’ve had some awesome meals in the city but we have also been led astray by ‘credible reviews.’  This occurred last night when we decided to dine at Moussy’s due to the positive feedback it had received on the internet.  Basically, we were disappointed, but more on that later.

The reason for this blog is simple: those reviews aren’t helping us, so there must be others out there who are in the same situation as us; we just want to help.  We’ve had better success going into a place on pure chance than we have after doing some extensive research.

I’ll lay it out for you.  We like good, simple food that’s done right.  It can be cheap or expensive as long as the value is there.  In the review portion of our blog, we will try to find some of the less obvious places and give you a clear and comprehensive assessment of the food, service, etc.  It probably won’t come  down to the standard newspaper review style ($$$ for price, bells for noise, etc.) but these aspects will be considered when a final verdict is given.  Our philosophy when judging a restaurant is simple: will we be back?  We feel this takes all aspects into account and weighs them in a way that matters to us.

Going out isn’t all we do though.  We both love to cook and Emily is working on this baking project that I’m sure she would love to explain later.  We may even post things that we find interesting that aren’t food related.

To sum it up, we love food and want to share this with everyone.  Hopefully we can help some people out along the way and make some friends!

-Jordan