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.


Avocado Cream Sauce

My hands have suffered enough today. It is so cold right now that if I do not keep typing, my fingers will fall off. I was so babied by the sun SF has been receiving and forgot how much of a pain in the butt the fog is.

I mean come on, this is kind of ridiculous.

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When I picked up a house-made pasta at the Farmer’s Market on Sunday, the lady suggested I make an avocado sauce to compliment the parsley flavors. I never heard of using avocado as a base for pasta sauce, but she told me the gist of how to prepare it and sent me home a little confused.

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Avocado Cream Sauce

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Serves: 2

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Hass Avocado
  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Parsley
  • 1 Tbs Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 Lemon Juice
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • Paprika, Salt and Pepper, to taste

**Note: I know it’s a strawberry yogurt container but I was too lazy to go to the store and just used a tbs of the plain side.

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1. Boil your favorite pasta in a medium pot. Make sure to watch the time so it is al dente.

(I happened to have a perfect one from the Farmer’s Market but any pasta will do!)

2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor except the olive oil. When it is starts becoming more creamy and liquid, add in the olive oil.

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3. Serve with fresh grated cheese and your favorite type of protein or veggies!

This was an awesome change from regular pasta sauce, but it is really rich so I suggest not eating it plain. It also does not reheat well, so eat it fresh and share with your lover or favorite person in the whole world. 🙂

What better to cure yourself from the cold then a nice big bowl of soup?

Almost every Japanese restaurant in San Francisco is closed on Monday. This made it so hard to find a place to eat, let alone after 8:00pm. Fortunately, Ramen Underground was open all the way to 10:30pm.

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Who is in to petition Japanese restaurants to provide complimentary edamame at the beginning of every meal like bread and butter? It is one of my favorite parts of the meal. I could probably eat three bowls and go home happy.

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Have you heard of HABANERO ramen? When I saw it on the menu I knew I had to try it. I love spicy food so much and this was a nice treat instead of the traditional miso or soy sauce broth.

I am sure my cousins in Japan are shaking their heads at me for insulting their cultural cuisine and Americanizing it.

PS: I love the Painter T from J. Crew, I have one in almost in every color.

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Doesn’t it look fantastic? I added kakuni (pork belly) and a soft boiled egg. I can not vouch for anything besides the habanero special, but it was amazing and I will be coming back soon to enjoy it again. The only thing is I wish the yolks were more runny, although I know that is a personal preference.

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Good night, Japantown.

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How are you with spicy? The spicier the better for me.

Taglia Il Pane

Remember when I mentioned last time that all I wanted to do was curl up with a good book? Well, I did just that and it felt amazing. I was in bed by 8:30pm on Friday night and got five chapters done before passing out. I should probably update the sidebar because I finished A Moveable Feast back in January.

Back when I use to go to Toma at a minimum of 3x/week, there was frequently a huge line next door at Ristorante Parma. I was a little confused, mainly because the menu seemed simple enough and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. However, I would always overhear patrons raving about how good the food was when they were leaving this cozy establishment.

A few friends of mine and I had original plans to eat at a Japanese tapas restaurant over in the Sunset. Reservations were hard to get, so we ended up walking around the Marina to find a place that was 1. delicious and 2. no longer than an hour wait. Our requirements seem fair enough, but rest assured, eating out on a Saturday in San Francisco can be a total pain in the butt.

The owner of Parma is a total bad ass.

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He was standing outside of the restaurant with his glass of wine and a gaggle of women. There was no list to put our names down outside, it kind of seemed like he was the Sphinx of the place and only banter and a nice smile will get you in. After going back and forth for a little bit, he told us it would be roughly an hour.

Eating at 6:30p slowly ended up being eating at 8:30p because we were having so much fun at Jacq’s house looking over wedding booth pictures. We were getting hungrier by the minute and ended up putting our names inside. To kill time, we went around Chestnut St., did a little restaurant window-shopping and came back only to find that it was our turn. Did he come out and say, “your table is ready”? No. He looked at us through the window, winked and nudged his head for us to come in. Wahoo!

I apparently can not sit still for pictures.

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The best part of the meal was the bread dipping sauce. You would think that this would be the simplest thing to over look, but they did something that most restaurants do not do. They added garlic! Olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Just one simple ingredient and it turned our table to a bunch of savages. Some of us could not wait our turn and it was a free-for-all. (AKA me).

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While we were waiting for our table, we saw that they had a low corkage fee. Jacque’s husband went to the store to pick up two bottles of wine for us to imbibe with dinner.

I like their inspected sign. Such an honest and straight-to-the-point statement.

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Bailey’s boyfriend and I shared the Affettati di Salumi. He asked me last minute right before the waiter left and it was such a clutch decision. There was salami (genoa, maybe?), mortadella and two types of prosciutto.

I was surprised at how fast we finished it, but I remember that eating cured meats is one of the finest pleasure in life and smiled to myself.

Yes, they might be high in saturated fat & salt content, but I do not feel guilty because you just have to pick and choose your battles.

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Parma’s decor made me feel like I was right in Rome. From their grand collection of vino, to the arches in the mirrors and all the way to the plastic track lights up above.

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The entrees served at this restaurant are all no frills, authentic and plain Italian comfort food. I ordered the Penne Romanoff, with sautéed sausage and mushrooms in a tomato vodka sauce.

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All of us had a bite of this Molten Lava Cake except Michael. He is allergic to nuts and chocolate, poor guy.

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I am trying to milk as many Farmer Market posts as I can before they get boring to read every Monday.

Persimmons are one of my favorite fall fruit, the Chinese eat it a lot and I never knew they were popular outside of Chinese households until a few years ago when my American friend was eating it for lunch. She looked at me like I was crazy when I asked her how she knew about them.

Excuse the tired eyes, I passed on a cup of Joe before leaving the house.

PS: I love the lady next to me, she looks like she is getting low while picking the ripest persimmon out of the bunch.

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I am dying to remake my Brussels sprouts recipe, they are too good to be true. On the agenda this week is chicken and bok choy, possible turkey stuffed bell peppers and more grapes than I can personally consume.

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Farmer’s Market Sunday is not complete without Chipotle. Taylor, I like this thing we have going on.

Chipotle is one of those places where I have to get the same thing every time or it does not feel right.

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And finally, when is the last time you have seen these bad boys?! I was at Walgreens on Friday when this bright orange bag caught my eye. I totally forgot about them!

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Any nostalgic snacks from your childhood? Do you have to order the same thing every time you go to a particular restaurant?

I Love Home

I’m back, I’m back on U.S. soil! I actually got in last Tuesday, but really wanted to take a week off blogging because I was starting to feel like it was a unpaid job instead of writing as hobby. I’m happy to say that I’m feeling refreshed!

As much as I loved traveling, it feels good to sleep in your own bed, y’know? I’m finally getting back to the swing of things and and jet lag is a problem of last week. I still owe you a Japan recap, but will tell you all about it next Monday. I feel like blogging about food I actually made and San Francisco (I missed you, baby).

One of my favorite things about being back is eating all the different types of food I missed. Trust me, I could eat Chinese food for the rest of my life, but sometimes you just really want a good Italian pizza or a good ol’ fashioned all American bacon cheese burger (which we will get into later). Those are things that you can not find in Asia.

Shortly after I got back, we celebrated Eduardo’s birthday with tacos and bowling. They already had a few beers by the time we got there, if you can’t tell from the expression on his face. 🙂

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The restaurant was close to pitch black, I’m surprised my camera picked up so much light. It felt a little weird to cheat on Toma, but it was nice to try a new restaurant.

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We ate at Tortilla Heights and I had a fried avocado taco and habanero shrimp taco. I must admit that I never had fried avocado before and it was pretty interesting!

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Let’s segway into this amazing view. Ah, it never gets old.

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I was never the best bowler. In fact, when I was around 14, I ended up getting the ball into the next lane. I can’t even begin to explain how I let that happen. Talk about embarrassing…

I figured I would let enough years pass before I would try again.

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Let’s just say that none of us are actually that good, which made me feel a lot better. Abby surprised me with how well she played! Every time she made a strike or a spare, her boyfriend would be by the jukebox missing the celebration, it was pretty funny. You had to be there.

However, I think the real news is MY TWO STRIKES in the last round?! I went from gutter ball to gutter ball and killed it at the end! The whole gang was just as surprised as I was.

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Another thing I missed very much was fresh veggies. China had a lot of veggies (cooked) and Japan surprisingly had almost none. I really wanted a huge salad when I came back, so I schlepped to the Farmer’s Market and picked up a little bit of produce and a huge bundle of swiss chard that isn’t pictured.

The basil looks just like leaves with an addition of a nice smell to come home to. 🙂

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I probably should of went to the Farmer’s Market before I went to Trader Joe’s, I could of saved a lot of money.

Now look how green this salad was. It tasted so fresh and delicious.

I actually promised myself I had to eat an avocado 24 hours after I got off the plane.

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On Thursday, I went to visit one of my good friends that moved down to San Jose for school. I haven’t seen her in over a month, so it seemed mandatory that she was one of the first people I went to see. 🙂

We ate at The Counter, which is a burger chain that everyone has been telling me I have to try. Luckily, it didn’t take much convincing to get her to come eat burgers with me!

All these menu options gave me a little bit of anxiety. I felt like I was taking a test, ha.

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First came out the fries,

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then this beast of a burger! I couldn’t image eating a patty that weighed a pound.

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I stayed in San Jose for a few hours and met her roommates before heading home. The next day, I really wanted to eat at home so I whipped up a pasta dish.

Prosciutto stuffed pasta, sautéed swiss chard & mushrooms with a butter garlic sauce. I had enough left over for the next day, which made me a really happy camper.

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Finally, to round our week out, we went to SOMA street food to get a nice selection of our local food trucks.

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Definitely got my burger fix in.

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Well, I hope all this food made up for my lack of posting! I really miss you guys and will visit everyone’s blogs tomorrow. 🙂

Coming up this week is Chimichurri sauce and a little sit down talk about running (which is long over due)

Until next time!

What food reminds you of home? If you ate at The Counter, what would be your perfect burger?