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.


Jacque Attack

Hello beautiful, how are you enjoying this fine Thursday?

We are getting a little bit of rain here and there, which makes me happy because I ordered an umbrella off Amazon a month ago and finally get to put it to good use.

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One sentence back story: Jacq just finished her Organic Chemistry test the day before and I am celebrating spring break, so we decided a hike was in order.

I picked her up a little late and we drove down the street to fuel up with chocolate croissants and juices. (imagine our blood sugar levels like this- __^__)

She found a cool Oakland trail that we both have not tried before and that is where we headed. To be honest, it is REALLY hard to find and we might have spent more time looking for the parking lot than actually doing our hike.

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It also started raining about half-way through, but luckily we had the giant redwood trees acting as a canopy and shielding us from the rain. Our original eight mile hike turned out to be a measly four mile hike. After factoring the uphills and unexpected climate change, I would pretty much call it even. 😉

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The redwoods in the area were second and third generation. From the signs we read while trekking, we learned that most of the giant trees were cut down in the 1800s for the gold rush boom (think lodging and building a city from scratch). We even found remnants of a few grandfather stumps.

PS: This is not one of those stumps, I just thought it was a cool looking tree.

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We refueled afterwards at a new-to-us place in Oakland named Hopscotch. Both of us do not fan out of San Francisco very often, so we felt like we were in a whole new world. A local food critic gave this place a good review, so I obliged with the duck fat chips to accompany my burger.

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Since I was so ravenous, Taylor and I went to go eat a good ol’ Italian dinner a few hours later. We can also rename this post as “girls with no faces”.

They had small and large servings at Aperto. Instead of both us eating proper serving sizes, we ordered three different pastas and rotated every few bites. Our waiter was impressed.

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Oh, also we cannot forget to talk about the meatballs. Clearly today was not my most healthiest days of eats…how I am not three million pounds by now is beyond me.

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In not so blog-worthy moments of my day, I am just working, volunteering and eating unphotographable food.

What is the most exciting thing to happen in your week? I got a really exciting fortune in my cookie the other day, which makes me consider how eventful my week actually is.

Where To Start…

I am going to rename my blog to ‘posts in dash form with food sometimes’. It might have to do with me being a little distracted by the red carpet…or the fact that Beyonce is performing in less than fifteen minutes.

-Home grounded meatballs

I finally used my new meat grinder on Thursday and life has officially changed. Picking two different meats to combine was a bit overwhelming, but I ultimately decided on a half chuck and half brisket mixture. I made the meatballs on Friday and they came out perfect. I hardly had to season them besides salt, pepper and herbs de provence.

You really cannot go wrong with a home made pasta sauce made with Roma tomatoes and white wine either. Thank you, Alton Brown.

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-Dim sum in Chinatown

Abby and I try to see each other as often as possible and we both had a window open on Saturday for lunch. I promised her dim sum for her late birthday present and made it all the way to her side of town, only to remember that it was the Chinese New Year Fair in Chinatown.

Telling you it was crowded is an understatement. I will just show you instead.

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In the midst of the crowds was Chinatown’s own local celebrity. He plays his erhu in the beginning of the movie Pursuit of Happyness (starring Will Smith).

Yes, that is a Santa hat and you better believe he was rockin’ out to Jingle Bells. I did not have the heart to tell him that he was a little too late.

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2014 is the Year Of The Horse. Chinese New Year will probably be explained in my next post, as it falls on the 31st this year. There are so many customs, traditions and celebration involved and I want to share a piece of my culture with you.

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Abs wanted to show off her jellyfish eating skills.

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I wanted to show off all the delicious things we ordered. I love taking my friends to dim sum because they get to try dishes out of their comfort zone. Come to San Francisco and it will be mind blowing, I promise.

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-Weekly cleaning

The kind people at Zabada Clean sent me a few pieces of bathroom cleaning supplies to test out and report back to you. Although household supplies is not a normal topic on my blog, I found these interesting because you do not need to use any of your normal cleaners with them- only water.

Part of living a healthy lifestyle is being responsible for your environment and trying to be sustainable. I drink out of glass water bottles instead of plastic, bring my reusable bags to the grocery store and compost as much as possible. My one vice is cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, I use so many paper towels that is it truly embarrassing. The Zabada cleaning supplies makes it easy for you to wash in their laundry bag and reuse; thus, reducing waste.

From their website:

While the water goes to work on loosening the dirt, Zabada’s ultra-fine and unique thick-pile fibers replace the whole yucky chemical process to achieve an unbeatable result – removing up to 100% of bacteria. Without getting too nerdy, it’s a deep-cleaning mechanical process that shaves off and traps the dirt, grease and bacteria deep in the fiber, and only releases them when the fibers are washed.”

My review is that I am surprised at how well they worked without using any store bought cleaners. I followed the video instructions found on their website, put a little water on one edge and went to work. Shiny clean! However, I cannot speak for heavy duty stains and cleaning jobs since I already do a light cleaning every week and only had surface stains. You can probably get it out with a little elbow grease, though.

They have products for your bathroom, kitchen and living room. It seemed a little pricy when I checked their website but you kind of have to think of the supplies as investment pieces.

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-Acme & taleggio

Nothing like a Acme baguette and taleggio cheese to celebrate the last day of freedom before school starts. I am already dreading waking up tomorrow.

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-Giveaway

Congrats to Amy H. for winning FAOT’s first giveaway! I hope to have another one for you coming soon.

What is your favorite cheese? I want to take a cheese class and expand my knowledge. Get out of my comfort zone, you know?

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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If there is one thing that people are whispering about, it is the roasted chicken for two. This succulent half chicken (feet included) sits on top of a toasted levain spread with ricotta and pine nuts. The marsala sauce was the perfect dipping sauce for the potatoes below.

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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 of 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!