Out With The Old

Karma is a bitch, I learned that lesson. In my past entries (and in person), I have bragged about the ah-mazing weather San Francisco has been having. Sunny days and no fog, which is extremely rare for this time of the year.

Our governor called a drought emergency and it is affecting our agriculture and food prices might go up. That is one small thing on a big list including water rationing and a lot of farmer’s jobs being affected. Yikes.

To play a small part in my local economy, I joined two of my friends for dinner at Tosca Cafe. (humor me)

Located in the historical North Beach district, it is just down the street from San Francisco’s own mini flatiron style building. I tried to get a great picture of this unique beauty, but it was overshadowed by our much larger and pointier Transamerica Building.

PS: The Caesar Salad was created in this green flatiron back when the ground level restaurant was called ‘Caesars’. You are welcome, rest of the world.

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The history of Tosca Cafe is unlike no other and I wanted to share with you the significance of dining/having a drink here.

It originally opened before the Prohibition era, then they closed the restaurant down and kept the bar open during the 60s. After going through highs and an extremely long low, the owner was going to evict the owners last year until (the) Sean Penn stepped in and had his New York restauranteur friend, along with Michelin starred Chef April Bloomfield, take over and revamp this historic piece of San Francisco.

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The interior is quintessential old-school San Francisco; it is iconic enough for the new owners to spend $1.5 million in renovation to ensure that the restaurant looked almost exactly the same. I can only imagine the likes of The Rat Pack hanging out here when touring in this little city by the bay.

Nice change from the hipster or industrial feel that is slowly making its way through every redesign.

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Two of San Francisco’s famous food bloggers Ben and Sandy asked me to tag along to one of their monthly dining escapades and I was thrilled to check off one restaurant on my ever-growing list.

Chef Bloomfield is known for her use of the whole animal, so it was no surprise that we start off with the crispy pig tails. These were the perfect opener and what little meat that was under the crispy skin was fantastic.

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My second time eating crab was a success with this in-season Dungeness crab salad. Although I only had a bite, I was not icked out with any seafood flavors and the dressing was delightful.

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My favorite part of the dining experience was being able to sit in front of the open kitchen and see the chef work her magic. The only thing that looked modern about this place was the stainless steel appliances and it felt like a warm fireplace in the center of a cozy and bustling restaurant.

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Although it is the worst lit picture, the winner of the night was the house made bucatini pasta with tomato, guanciale and chili. Sandy told me that there was a tiny hole in the middle of the pasta that gave the texture a bit of hollowness. If I could get my pasta to come out this al dente every time, I would never have to go out and eat again.

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Every restaurant has their off the menu specials and the next dish is one of them. These meatballs were made of beef, pork and guanciale and what surprised me was the kick at the end of every bite. It goes without saying that the sauce was the star, with ingredients such as marjoram and chilies.

PS: I broke out my meat grinder for the first time today, woohoo! It was a success. I used a chuck and brisket combination to make burgers tonight and saved half for meatballs tomorrow. Hopefully they will come out at least in the ballpark of Tosca’s, I know I have a lot to compete with.

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I do not understand how the staff was able to get the potatoes so crispy, yet have the inside so creamy. Perhaps I need to start cooking in pork fat, because these were a delight. I am sure the rosemary and garlic did a big part in the flavor as well.

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The penultimate picture is a vegetable dish, a cauliflower gratin baked with fingerling potatoes, taleggio and parsley breadcrumbs. I thought it was a bit too heavy but that did not stop me from having seconds.

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I always like getting a desert to leave a sweet taste in my mouth, so when Sandy suggested we try the buttermilk gelatin, I obliged.

It was a flavor I was not accustomed to: sweet with a tangy backsplash. I enjoyed my two bites, although I could not find myself buying a whole carton of this gelati.

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This sign fits right in with Broadway, our mini red-light district, right around the corner. IMG_8847.jpg

I start school on Monday, where has time gone? Somebody must have sped up the days in this past month because I am not ready to kick into crazy/obsessed/can’t sleep at night student mode.

Two things I would like to implement for the next four months:

– A strict study schedule to get all As again. (biochemistry, I am eyeing you and I am going to kick your ass)

– Only eating out on the weekends like a normal human being.

– Perhaps a 2x/week blogging schedule. M/Th, one restaurant and one recipe. What do you think?

Also, the FAOT birthday giveaway ends tomorrow night. Make sure to enter for a $50 gift card to a grocery store/restaurant of your choice!

Light Of My Life

Today is a good day. Why? Because for the next two days, you do not have to worry about anything. No deadlines, no waiting for the clock to hit five, no driving home during rush hour. The only thing you have to worry about is where are you going to eat on Saturday night and what are you going to order.

I think I’m restaurant’d out and will cook at home this weekend for the first time this half of the year. I am overdue for a Farmer’s Market and Chipotle Sunday morning.

It is funny how l was talking about Marlowe in my last post and my latest dining experience so happened to be it’s sister restaurant.

Abby, the fire of my loins, took me out for a spectacular birthday dinner on Wednesday. We have a collective list of restaurants we want to try in San Francisco and Park Tavern happens to be one of them.

Located in the beautiful North Beach district, it is an upscale American Tavern that offers a satisfying menu of seasonal, market-driven seafood and meat dishes for every palate.

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We ended up just dropping the car off at valet because North Beach is the worst for parking, I did not even want to deal with it.

I love the ambiance of Park Tavern, it was nicer than your average restaurant but still felt comfortable and not too stiff.

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Everyone there was so pleasant and made us feel right at home. The waiter was charming and kept asking us if we wanted pictures of x, y or z. We might of took him up on a few offers. 🙂

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I stole this picture from Abby’s Instagram. I asked her if she would be mad if I ordered a Shirley Temple. When a eight year old orders one, nobody bats an eye. When a grown up (like myself, giggle giggle) orders one, the whole world goes crazy. Luckily, Abs was extremely accepting of my love for grenadine.

Go big or go home, right guys?

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I do not even know where to start with the food, we ordered almost everything on the menu. Both of us were huge fans of Marlowe, so I know we were in for a real treat.

First up is the Park Tavern fries. What is that on the sides, you ask? Oh, just a nice dollop of truffle and a soft boiled egg topped with caviar. Yes, this might be the most fanciest fries I ever had in my life. Fancy and delicious. My technique was dipping the fry in the egg/caviar and topping it off with truffle. It was unbelievable and I had a dream about it that same night. I wish I was kidding.

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Abs never had gnocchi (I know, what), so it was a must. Another pan-seared gnocchi dish in my corner, I am a lucky girl. This parisienne gnocchi was seared with wild mushrooms, farmstead blue and petit thyme.

I still can not believe how incredible this was.

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Park Tavern is known for their Brussels sprout chips, which I did not realize was a thing. Kale chips are so 2010, these are the new baked greens and I am excited to try to make these at home.

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She switched from her Caipirinha to a Chardonnay (or Sauvignon, who knows or cares) and I went from my very alcohol (ha) Shirley Temple to a nice Riesling. It is my favorite and the only wine I do not get tired of.

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The most amusing part of our night (besides us googly eyeing each other) was the table next to ours. Seated were two posh middle aged couples that we made small talk with and ended up being best friends by the end of the night. One of the women loved my camera and asked to take pictures of us. She just bought her first DSLR and caught the photography bug.

I obliged.

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I ordered the “Poulet Noir” to share and holy presentation. They said it would be revealed as a whole chicken but this was another level. This was served with black truffle, butter braised baby spinach and roasted peewee potatoes.

The spinach was phenomenal with the subtle taste of the truffle.

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Abby chose the caramelized sea scallops w/ yellow curried carrot puree, sunchoke barigoule, breakfast radish & chrysanthemum greens. For being someone who is not a fan of seafood, I had one whole scallop and Abs was so proud of me. I have to admit that it was great.

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What is a birthday without creme brûlée? This unique custard was made with local TCHO chocolate, chili, lemon zest and sea salt. A rich, chocolate biscotti was served on the side. I wish I did not eat this so fast because our waiter surprised us and brought out a complimentary carrot cake with cream cheese frosting as a birthday treat.

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I am surprised I was able to get out of my chair after. If you count, that is seven different dishes I consumed in two hours. I could not have done it without Abby sharing with me. I have to say thank you again, Abby, for the fantastic dinner. Love you to the moon and back. 🙂

We wrapped up our meal around 9:30p and had some fun with the valet guys and a stranger before heading home.

And that, my friends, concludes my five-day-after-birthday dinner meal with the ever-so-special Abs.

Do you ever still order Shirley Temples? Try to make me feel better, please.

Which dish would you be most excited to try?

Chimichurri Sauce

Oh, chimichurri, how I love thee. The first time I had chimichurri was at a Peruvian restaurant. There were different sauces all around me and I dipped my steak into each and every one, not expecting to ignite a passion that can only be described with my tongue. (That actually sounds a little raunchy).

The acidic taste of the red wine vinegar meshed so well with the parsley and garlic. Let’s not even get started on the olive oil; I would be happy to just dip my bread in olive oil for the rest of my life and hire someone to roll me around town.

The second time I had chimichurri, I knew what I was in for. Game, set, match. I put it on everything edible in an arm’s length.

Now, that was a few years ago and my obsession with chimichurri fizzled down to just a memory until Chi took me to Lolinda right before I left for China. I knew it was going to be one of the first recipes I posted when I came back. My friend T made it ~a year ago, so I asked her for a favor and she sent me along my merry way with a recipe in hand.

What is chimichurri? It’s an Argentinian sauce used for grilled meats, however, I think it works fabulously with grilled veggies! Hell, I will even dip tortilla chips into the bowl.

Chimichurri Sauce

Prep Time: 10 Minutes (+ letting it sit in the fridge overnight)

Serving Size: 5-7

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups of Parsley Leaves, packed
  • 4-5 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Cup EVOO
  • 1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 4 Tsp Oregano
  • 1 Tsp Red Chili Flakes
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper, to taste

***A food processor isn’t mandatory, you can chop everything by hand!

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1. Put everything in the food processor (more dense items on the bottom) except the olive oil.

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2. Chop everything until the pieces are really fine. You will have to open it every now and then and mix things around to ensure everything is getting ground down.

3. Pour in the olive oil around ~1/4 cup at a time, mixing every time you reopen the lid.

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4. The key is to be able to put it in the fridge for AT LEAST four hours. In order for this to taste like an aphrodisiac, you must let the flavors blend.

(The consistency is a lot thicker then the picture looks, you have to mix it. All the herbs and solids fell to the bottom).

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I enjoyed mine with grilled chicken and red bell peppers. The house smelled amazing after!

I also have some sad news to share. I use to go to a sausage shop all the time with my dad when I was younger, Rosamunde. I went there again yesterday, but it wasn’t the same. Yes, the food was delicious but everything felt smaller (or maybe I got bigger).

This Rosamunde is on Mission St., right around the block from Cha Cha Cha’s and Foreign Cinema. The tree cock blocked on my blogging photo though, tear.

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My vegetarian bloggers would also love this place, even though it’s a sausage grill. They had awesome vegan options that I didn’t expect!

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I ended up going with the Provence, it only made sense because Herbs de Provence is one of my favorite herb seasonings. I go through a whole jar monthly.

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Have you had a vegan hot dog (I’m kind of curious to wonder how they taste)? Also, gold star for finding out how many times I said chimichurri in this blog post?

Herb Chicken Crockpot

I’m watching the kids for ~10 hours a day this whole week because they’re off until summer school starts next week. To fill in holes between play dates and exploring activities, we spend our time:

Eating at Toma.

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Cheese quesadillas and Horchata for the kids, Chile Colorado burrito for me.

Picking out cupcakes at Susiecakes

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My kid’s family and their good friends invited another nanny friend and I to accompany them for dinner. We ate at a nice Pakistani restaurant, Aslam’s Rasoi, on Valencia St. Asif, the son of the owner, was so great with the kids. He brought them to the back to help make Naan (proper noun?) for the table and for their Three Door Commercial Display Cooler, a great one by the away.

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It was actually really cool to see the process of making the bread! They stick them to the sides of the clay ovens.

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The finished product, courtesy of a four and five year old.

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The food was amazing. The moms ordered everything for us, family style. I was preoccupied with the kids, so I only managed to take a picture of the tandoori chicken

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and my plate, which consisted of Saag Paneer (spinach and farmer’s cheese) and Chana Masala (garbanzo beans). My plate might look a little empty, but rest assured, I had seconds and thirds. 🙂

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Since I’m away from the house for such long periods of time, I knew that I was going to have to bring out the old crockpot to help me make dinner. With that, I’ll leave you with this week’s recipe. Easy, flavorful and most importantly, on my side with time.

Herb Chicken Crockpot

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 6 Hours

Serves: 2-3 (five drumsticks)

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Ingredients:

  • 5 Chicken Drumsticks
  • Bag of Tri-Colored Potatoes, whole
  • 10 Crimini Mushrooms, whole
  • 4 Carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion, sliced thick
  • Seasoning of choice (herbs de provence, oregano, thyme, parsley, cumin)
  • 1/3 Cup White Wine
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Big ziploc bag

1. Pour olive oil in a ziplock bag and a heaping of all the herbs you would like (I used herbs de provence, oregano, thyme, parsley, cumin) with the chicken drumsticks inside. Zip the bag and mix until all the chicken are evenly distributed with herbs. (Forgot to take a picture).

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2. Wash the potatoes and mushrooms, chop the carrots to around 1 inch and slice the onions roughly. Layer the crockpot with potatoes first, then carrots, mushrooms and onion. The ingredients are pre-vacuum sealed. If you are thinking why to vacuum seal then read these vacuum sealing tips.

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3. Transfer the chicken into a cooking pan and cook only until all sides are browned for 3-4 minutes. Salt and pepper generously.

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4. Put the browned chicken on top of the bed of vegetables in the crockpot. Place sliced garlic on top. Pour 1/3 cup of white wine, or water. Put the crockpot on low for six hours.

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5. Discuss philosophy with a stranger, run errands or go window-shopping. Come back, and enjoy your herb crusted chicken! Serve on a bed of sautéed spinach and garlic if you’re feeling fancy.

***Please remember that the crockpot works off steam, so it really dilute any flavor that’s in there. Kick up the herbs, salt and pepper for a really delicious taste. If things are coming a little bland at the end, a little salt and pepper or extra herbs really help out (especially with the vegetables).

What’s your favorite crock-pot recipe (please link)? Moms, what creative activities do your kids enjoy doing?