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.


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?

Extra Thin Please

Happy belated Memorial Day! I took the day off (from basically doing nothing) and spent the day eating frozen yogurt and barbecuing in our back yard.

I want to introduce you to a new-ish roommate of mine who moved in the Lisbon House sometime in the past few months. We cannot really pronounce his first name well so I lovingly nicknamed him Leo. Well, the boys actually call him Ders because he looks like an European version of Anders from Workaholics. He is here in San Francisco for six months to complete an internship at the Dutch embassy.

Although he has eaten an uncountable amount of pizza in Italy, I wanted to take him to a new-to-me corner spot pizzeria in Glen Park.

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We started our meal off with a traditional pre-pizza salad. Gialina offered a delicious avocado salad ($9) with blood orange (+ vinaigrette) and barley. I loved the acidic flavors from the blood orange with the creamy avocado.

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I could not help but take this picture that was directly in my vision the entire meal. This old-school couple probably has such a interesting back story to tell and I will just have to be left wondering. The old guy is looking like, “what the hell am I doing with this hat on my head”.

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The three of us shared two of Gialina’s signature classics. All of their pizzas are extra thin crust and instantly won the key to my heart. Less of the pan means more room for toppings. In this case, the ‘Atomica’ ($16) includes mushrooms, chilies, red onions & mozzarella. The boys demanded we added meat and I compromised with them by asking for slices of pancetta.

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The other one we shared was the Portobello ($16) w/ caramelized onion, fontina, preserved lemon & arugula. Again, we had to add a meat so I thought that sausage would make a good pairing. I could not decide which one I liked more; the first one had a really good spice but its hard to say no to arugula on pizza.

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Nothing really beats a well-made pizza and I have to thank Gialina for being open during my time of hunger. I hope you guys had a great weekend!

Thin crust or thick crust? I do not know if I can go on with my day without knowing your choice.

Westfield Food Tastemakers

Can I get one of you to do an impromptu drumroll? Last month, I was selected as one of the Westfield Food Tastemakers. Chef Julian Yeo of Straits and I teamed up to create an exclusive dish that will be featured in a new Westfield food experience.

In my last post, I mentioned a cool story between Straits and my family. A long time ago (although my mom would probably chime in and say it has not been that long), Straits’ first location was a small local corner Singaporean restaurant in the Richmond district. My mom was one of their first employees and I heard through the grapevines that she was lively and entertained her lunch patrons so well that they just kept coming back.

Well, one of those customers happened to be my dad! He would go to the post office to pick up mail and then head across the street for the most authentic Singaporean food in the city.

My dad must have been quite the charismatic gentleman because whatever tricks he had up his sleeve worked. They ended up dating and was lucky enough to have me bless them with my presence a few years later.

To think that I would not even be a human if it was not for Straits makes me feel like I should be a poster child for their company.

Back to the point- when I found out about this opportunity I knew that Straits and I had to work together. Chef Julian is the son of the owner (my mom’s old boss) and I am so humble for this experience.

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There is still a little mystery to this event because I cannot reveal our amazing entree until next week, but I am so impressed with it.

There are other bloggers that are also Westfield Tastemakers, such as:

Andi @ Misadventures With Andi who is working with M.Y. China

Mika @ Food Fashionista who is working with Lark Creek Steak

Melissa @ Savvy In San Francisco who is working with Cupola

Anita @ Dessert First who is working with CocoaBella

Brenda @ Bites and Bourbon who is working with Sorabol

We threw out ideas about what kind of dishes would be great for this event. Here is Chef Julian explaining what ingredients compliment each other in Southeastern cooking.

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He impressed all of us with the wok + fire combo.

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My failed attempts were responsible for a few laughs. A few months ago, I flipped an egg over in a little skillet for the first time by sheer luck. Apparently it was not my day with the commercial-sized wok. The chef said it takes a bit of wrist work and finesse.

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A few more coaching steps and I managed to get it down.

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I also did my part and helped chop the green onions.
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And to be completely honest, his knife skills are a lot more fast and efficient then mine!

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If any of my San Francisco readers are interested, I am giving away two tickets to the VIP launch event at the Westfield San Francisco Center downtown. Just leave a comment or e-mail me!