Four Corners of Italy

I find that people who do not blog cannot phantom how time consuming it really is. Although I have been down to one post a week these past few months (and I am so not happy with that), it is still nice to enlist help from some of my friends. Taylor is one of my guest stars on this blog (along with Abs and a few other pretty ladies) and I wanted to treat her to lunch to thank her for all of her dedicated help behind-the-scenes. I drag her to restaurants with me on a bi-weekly basis, sometimes make her proofread the night before when my brain stops functioning and she will walk around the Embarcadero all day with me to ensure that I complete my deadlines for side projects without complaining once. She is mostly open to trying new foods and provides valuable opinions about the dishes we try out.

So to celebrate our first day of summer school and as a thank you, I took her to Barbacco for lunch in the Financial District. We do not venture to that area a lot because parking is overwhelming and it is so far from the Mission. It was a nice change to see everyone in their business suits instead of rolled up hipster jeans.

I have heard so many good things about Barbacco and their fancier sister restaurant Perbacco, which is only two doors down. The restaurant is narrow but stretches really far into the back and you could not help but notice the abundance of communal tables; everything seemed very casual and comfortable. The place was jammed even on a mid-day Monday but luckily we got a great seat at the bar.

We started finalizing our dining options while sipping on fresh-made strawberry mint limonatas ($3).

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Before we get started, I wanted to just briefly mention that this lunch reminded me of my time in Denver. Crusty bread made an appearance in almost every dish.

Our first of the first courses was two unique bruschettes ($3/each). These thick crostinis are Acme brand and were so crunchy and perfect. One of our bruschetta was assembled with roasted peaches + prosciutto di parma and the other with asparagus, meyer lemon, capers and red onion. I loved that we did not have to stick to one flavor combination and we were allowed to branch out and get different kinds. Next time I am coming for the chicken liver pate and lardo with onion.

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What might be the hidden gem of salamis is ‘Nduja ($6). I have only seen it at one other restaurant and it is SO underrated. It is a spicy, spreadable smoked Calabrian salami that does not look too appealing at first. However, be prepared to have your life changed once you take your first bite. It is pretty salty on it’s own but fares well when eaten with the crusty bread. The smokiness of the salami added a complex flavor that we thoroughly enjoyed. Taylor was a little apprehensive at first but she instantly changed her mind and declared it her new favorite.

Half way through, our friendly waiter asked us what we thought it was made out of. I hesitantly answered pork because it seemed like a trick question. He laughed and said it was made out of liver and kidneys specifically and he always waits until his diners had a chance to taste it before sharing his fun fact. This is why you cannot knock things before you try them!

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The restaurant was filled with light and good vibes. We usually do not eat at the bar so it was a nice change of experience.

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This is our new favorite waiter, Vicenzo. It is pronounced with a hard C because duh, Italian. Whatever photography skills (see dark picture above) he lacks is made up with his charismatic personality.

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Taylor and I shared two entrees for our main course. The first being orecchiette ($13) with cavolo nero, fennel sausage and pecorino cheese. In other words, it is basically a fancy kale pesto pasta. Surprisingly, it is hard to find good pasta in the city but this one was very fresh, vibrant and had an amazing texture. There were little criss crosses on the back of the orrechiette.

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The next entree was Barbacco’s famous polpette ($13). If I had to describe these in one word, it would be “wow”. These Sicilian meat balls were ground and rolled with pine nuts and raisins. They were accompanied by braised chard and a spicy tomato sugo. At this point, I was stuffed to the brim but had to eat at least half of a meatball. Let’s just say that they were the perfect after school snack.

I am not a fan of rock hard meatballs and these were the complete opposite. The insides were airy and had large chunks of garlic (and other ingredients) rolled in. The synergy of flavors were balanced out by the crusty bread but still left an explosion of spice.

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And to complete our meal was an olive oil panna cotta with marinated peaches and a brown sugar crumble. This is the second time I had an olive oil dessert and it was a lot better than the first. The taste of the olive oil was subtle and paired well with the texture of the sugar crumbles. I love that they used seasonal peaches because they are so sweet right now! Seriously, I buy maybe 10 at the Farmer’s Market each week and I have not had a sour one yet.

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This is one of those few meals where every single dish knocks your socks off. I cannot wait to come back! Now I am in a pasta mood. Abby, SPQR next week?

How many hours a week would you say you spend on your blog?

Favorite type of pasta? Mine is bucatini.


Arepas Para Mi

I originally wrote about The Palace when I tried their “baller on a budget” tasting menu. Um, five courses for $50? Sign me up.

A few weeks ago, I heard through the grapevines that they were opening for brunch and I wanted to check it out. I am a fan of Chef Manny and was interested in what he was going to bring to the table.

You should already know that I had to bring my tasting team with me.

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I gave away what we ate in the above picture, but the first dish to come out was an eggs benedict with pork (I cannot remember which cut for the life of me) and arugula. No brunch is complete without a runny yolk somewhere in the mix.

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See? How magical does that yolk look? The best part of eating runny eggs is cutting into the albumen and having the yolk flow all over your plate like hot lava.

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The menu leaned very Argentinian and their focus are arepas. We ordered two, one steak with avocado and the other one chicken. I never had an arepa before so I could not compare it to anything but I thought they had good flavor. It hurts me to say but I think it could have been executed a little better.

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I read somewhere that they were offering steak tartare but did not see it on the menu. Katerina, the wife of Chef Manny, took care of our table and I asked her if they would be offering it soon. I was so happy when she informed our table that the chef might be able to accommodate my request.

Chances are that it is going to be a good day when I get tartare before noon.

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The Palace has an open kitchen and I love watching the talent behind the counter. Here is a picture of the owner/chef Manny and a member of his support staff.

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Us girls spent the rest of the day BBQing and I could not help but show off my godson. I really do not care about dogs at all (especially little dogs) but he is just so sassy.

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How do you feel about runny yolks? Could not live without them.

Have you been barbecuing lately? I would normally answer no because my hair smells like meat after but we actually have been taking advantage of the grill in the backyard lately.

All Vegetarian With My Vegetarian

Whoever said the coldest winter they experienced was a summer spent in San Francisco clearly has not lived in a decade ruled by global warming. Of course I am typing this as the city is lovingly blanketed by fog, but I promise that the last few weeks has been crazy-hot shorts weather.

(ps. Mark Twain was proven to not be the man behind the quote)

Now that summer is among us, I have been scrambling to get everything done before I begin my summer semester. A few things on my to-do list includes trying new foods (what else is new) and completing projects minutes before the deadline. I managed to check off both tasks in one day when I went to go visit Jacque sometime last week.

We promised each other lunch since I have not seen her since her mom was in town. I was in the middle of doing research on vegetarian friendly restaurants for said project and she recommended this all vegetarian restaurant that sits on the harbor of Fort Mason.

To be honest, the person we really need to thank is Jacq’s husband since she volunteered their wedding gift card to Greens Restaurant for our impromptu dining escapade. I said no about four times and made her text him to make sure it was okay.

A cool snippet behind Greens is that they were opened in 1979 as part of the San Francisco Zen Center. Their menu is all vegetarian, all local and all delicious.

I was really excited that there was a boat/building as part of our window scenery.

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As always, we shared everything family style and started with two appetizers. The first one to come out was vegetarian pupusas ($12) filled with squash blossoms, spring onions, serrano chilies and cilantro. It’s served with a side of avocado, salsa and pickled vegetables.

These were so different from the greasy, meat and cheese filled Salvadorian pupusas I get from Santaneca. Instead, they were light and was complimented well by the avocado. I am not the biggest pickled veggie fan so I saved those for Jacq.

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The next dish to roll out was fresh spring rolls ($11) w/ carrots, jicama, daikon, cabbage and jalapeños. These were served with a side of peanut sauce and a mushroom/radish salad.

It’s a good thing that I don’t care for pickled veggies and she hates mushrooms.

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As an ode to her African honeymoon, we shared the North African sampler ($17.5) that included a medley of different bites. Some things included were a basmati rice + lentil salad, beet salad w/ harissa vinaigrette, roasted carrots + fennel and hummus w/ dukkah + pita bread.

The flavors were spot on but I am a fan of warm foods and everything was a little bit less than room temperature.

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My favorite out of everything was this summer squash and pesto pizza ($17). It was topped with grilled red onions, lemon, asiago, gran padano and pepper flakes.

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Since her husband is allergic to chocolate and nuts, we indulged in this flour less chocolate cake ($?) with ice cream. It is hard to not be impressed with chocolate cake but the texture was perfect.

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Some how some way we ended up unintentionally matching! Only difference was her shirt had a cool floral pocket and my pants leaned more green.

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I am excited for this weekend, I might go to a drive-in theater! We will see how everything pans out.

Plans for this weekend?

Dine On Time Launch

Two posts in one week? Who am I, superwoman? 😉

I am so excited to announce the launch of the Dine On Time app!Straits In-App.jpg

I felt bad for being so hush-hush in my last post where I worked with Chef Julian Yeo to create a dish for Westfield’s new app. Now that the event is over and the app is available to the public, I can finally share all the good news with you!

To start at the beginning, the exclusive dish we created is available on the brand-new Westfield Dine on Time app or on the Westfield Food website for scheduled pick-up/delivery to make it easy and convenient for you! I had a chance to play with the app and I love how sleek and user friendly it is.

(p.s. this is where I consider myself lucky to live in San Francisco because we get to try out all the cool things before other cities do!)

This past Wednesday, I joined fellow Westfield Food Tastemakers Under The Dome at Westfield SF to sample all the dishes and enjoy the company of other food lovers, thanks to the people I met I came across the best ample meal coupon for meal replacements, specially now that I need to lose some pounds.

Our event was a success! There was over 150+ people in attendance and we could not have had it at a better place. I remember when Westfield had their opening day when I was in high school and now I had the pleasure of working with them.

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Somewhere between all the warm bodies and the sound of thirty different conversations was a presentation of the Tastemaker’s exclusive dishes. I was able to try almost all of them and am so impressed with everyones creativity! My Glazed Indonesian Chili Prawns are in-between the ‘Nduja pizza and Lamb Shu Mai.

(please read everyone’s blogs to get their perspective on everything!)

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For a little incentive for you to downtowners to try my dish, all of the bloggers agreed to have their proceeds donated to the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. I volunteer there once a month and can vouch that they are an amazing organization. Whoever gets the most orders will have their name on the check, so everyone- go get your prawns on from Straits!

I also have 10% off Dine on Time code to share with you: TRYDOT.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to follow this Dine on Time journey and to the Westfield Labs team who pulled this whole thing off. They did such a great job and all the people that work there are so friendly and helpful. I see big things in their future.

An even bigger thank you to my readers who came to the event to meet me! It is so nice to put some faces behind names. 🙂

All pictures (except the last one) are from Westfield Labs.