An Adventure in the City

…and a swell Mexican restaurant rediscovered.

Our spirits were high as we boarded the 45 Muni bus bound for the Metreon and a San Francisco Film Society 7pm screening of “The Kids are Alright” opening in theaters in about a week.

Creeping through Chinatown on Stockton Street, we were jarred by an announcement, “Sutter Street is the last stop for this bus,” said the woman driver in a loud and clear voice. “When we get to the bus stop at the end of the Stockton Tunnel, get off, go around the corner on Sutter and get on a shuttle bus; the shuttle will complete a detour route to the Caltrain station.”

yerba buena lane

There was a buzz among the passengers. President Obama is in town for a fundraiser for Senator Boxer… he’s staying at the Marriott on Fourth Street between Market and Mission and we just happen to be going to the Metreon, on Fourth and Mission. Our bus crept along and into the Stockton tunnel taking 20 minutes to get through the tunnel. I made use of the time, reading the salacious account of Tiger Woods’ mistresses in the current Vanity Fair. Sorry, but the scope of his obsession is beyond the pale; and kind of sad.

When we got off at Sutter it was 6:40. We decided to walk the five blocks, past Union Square and by the Marriott, where the SFPD were out in force in front of the hotel.

At about five-‘til-seven, we joined the end of a long line on the third floor of the Metreon. A couple minutes later, a woman from SFFS, about 30 people ahead of us said, “the theater is nearly full, anyone in line beyond this column has little chance to get in.”

Carol turned to me and said, “We’ll just go to dinner.” As the front of the line moved forward and our end began to disperse, I walked up to Ben, the SFFS Membership Director and said, “What’s up? I got an email this morning that said there were still a few seats available.”

He apologized, “The group we’re sharing the theater with brought many more people than expected. I’m really sorry.” Continue reading

A Fine Pork Chop

…revisited for lunch

The Globe Restaurant on Pacific at Battery is open late, frequented by off-duty cooks, so they say, and folks like us, hungry after a movie at the Embarcadero.


The room is a nice size with high ceilings; entry and bar at one end, partially open kitchen at the other. Feels good to be in this place bustling with diners. It was quite noisy until the group of nine near us were fed, happy and gone. It was quite dark, as well, so my pictures are pretty grainy – I won’t use a flash in such a place.


We started, sharing a lil gem salad from Mariquita Farm. Just right.


My pork chop with cabbage and potatoes was so good and I was so hungry, that I forgot to take its picture – even though artfully presented. Well, you’ll have to imagine what’s in my tummy. But this is about that pork chop revisited. No way I could eat all of it, so I took most of that part at the top – including the bone – home.

Next day at lunch I decided to recreate that dinner as best I could. I peeled and cut up a red potato – this variety happens to have red flesh, as well, a colorful paring with the cabbage – and set it to cooking slowly in duck fat. Duck fat and cabbage are long time lovers… I trust the potato can love a little, as well.


I chopped half of a small Savoy cabbage to add to the skillet at just the right time.


Remains of the Globe pork chop, were diced and added to the skillet, along with a bit of white wine, salt, pepper and tarragon. After thoroughly warming and bubbling for a few minutes, lunch slid nicely onto my dish.


Not exactly the atmosphere of the Globe, but the flavors and textures are there for a fine treat. Yum.

Barndiva re-revisited

Yeah, again.


Anytime we find ourselves in the vicinity of Healdsburg, we must pay a visit, and Barndiva has yet to disappoint.

Not that there aren’t other excellent restaurants in Healdsburg, there are dozens of them, spanning every price range, but ever since we discovered Barndiva, we’ve been drawn back. They recently started publishing an email newsletter, “Wednesday’s at the Barn.” I mentioned it to the host, described it as… delicious. He said, “Thanks, my mother writes it.”

The first paragraph of this week’s letter sums up her feeling:

“For someone who’s pretty much obsessed with taste ~ the food and drink varieties ~ _ironically that’s not the taste I’m asked about all the time. More than any single dish people have enjoyed in the restaurant, or single object they’ve purchased in the shop, it’s been the overall aesthetic of Barndiva and The Studio ~ the way everything is put together in both buildings ~ that has generated the greatest force field of interest over the years.”

I must say, I have similar feelings, though I make no contribution, other than showing up from time to time. Just being in and around the place is a treat; the food is a bonus. Even the parking lot is beautiful.

In any case, here is last Sunday’s brunch:

amuse bouche: coffeecake, butter, berries

amuse bouche: coffeecake, butter, berries

Carol’s duck confit hash with poached eggs, hollandaise sauce

Carol’s duck confit hash with poached eggs, hollandaise sauce

Sarah’s omelet with brie, vegetables

Sarah’s omelet with brie, vegetables

My sliders

My sliders

The “chips” were amazing; crispy edges and creamy centers, the buns tender and warm, without being mushy. Yum.

These are but three of the seven or eight dishes on the brunch menu; others, ordered by our neighbors were equally well presented and no doubt as tasty. Next time, I’ll do my best not to write about Barndiva.

Barndiva Revisited


Oh yes, and maybe for the enth time. We happened upon it in April of 2006, having read about it in a New York Times story on Healdsburg Restaurants by Frank J. Prial. I wrote about it then, and again in April of this year when we made our semi-annualish trip to Simi Winery to pick up our wine “shipments.”

I belong to five wine clubs — a self imposed limit — Simi, Cline, Bonny Doon, Navarro and Mahoney. I’ve been in many others over the years, but settled on these because I consistently like their wines. The good part; they send bottles of their choice periodically at substantial discounts. The discounts also apply for re-order. The bad part; they send bottles of their choice periodically. I choose to pick up the wines at Cline, a short trip, I save the shipping cost and use it as an excuse to stock up on their California Zinfandel and Syrah; tremendous values, with the discount. Simi, on the other hand, makes an excuse to go to Healdsburg — and Barndiva — a couple times a year.

The last weekend in May, Simi had their garden cafe open to members for their Wine and Pizza Forage.

Here’s my journal entry for that trip:
Saturday afternoon, we went to Simi for their members only Wine and Pizza Forage. Turns out they have a lovely; lower patio off of their party room. For $25 we got pizzas of our choice made in their brick oven, and all the wine we dare drink. They were pouring Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1993, 1999, 2001, a 2000 Reserve Zinfandel and a 2005 Reserve Chardonnay. They had a few bottles of each left, priced at $100 — $70 for us on this day only. Great wine, but… great wine is even better when its free. Continue reading

La Fornaretta Fresh Clams over Linguine

My wife and I have been traveling the San Francisco – Reno route the past few months to help son Brian find and move into a new house. We were tired of “the usual” stop at Ikeda in Auburn, not to mention their long lines and limited menu (cheeboigie or cheeboigie?). A friend suggested stopping in Newcastle for Newcastle Produce and La Fornaretta, an Italian place (“the best pizza,” she said).

Our first Newcastle stop was in the late afternoon and La Fornaretta was closed, so we had a sandwich and salads at Newcastle Produce. Excellent, and what an interesting shop with lots of good and local products.

Last week we arrived in Newcastle on the stroke of noon and were the first seated at La Fornaretta. As he took us to our table, the ebullient Italian owner raved about his fresh seafood and especially the fresh clams over linguine. How could I resist?

September 09

The dish was magnificent and so simple I figured I could recreate it at home. Continue reading

Reno – Memorial Day Weekend 2009

Where FOOD experiences become food EXPERIENCES.

Son Brian is being reassigned by the USDA from the Montpellier, France Lab to their lab in Reno NV. Carol and I traveled to Reno as advance scouts, as it were.

Lunch Saturday, May 23
The trip on California I-80 was one we had taken a few times – enroute to Lake Tahoe – including the stop for lunch at Ikeda in Auburn, the burger joint where everybody stops on their way to Tahoe. Traveling on to Reno was a new experience.

biggest little city...

biggest little city...

We arrived in Reno about 2:30 and got lost trying to find Peppermill, but broke off our search to meet with Brian’s realtor. Turns out we could see Peppermill from his office.

When we stepped into the Peppermill Resort and Casino, we were overwhelmed by the sprawling casino, not to mention the line at check-in, but there were six clerks on duty, so the line moved pretty fast. The only reason we were at the Peppermill was that C had mentioned it, and it was the same price as the Holiday Inn Express. Where to stay? That was a no-brainer.

Our room was in the Montego Bay Wing, a squat three-story motel type building off in back of the two hotel towers. It had only 14 rooms per floor.


To get there, we walked a series of long, but not oppressive corridors, past the Spa, outdoors and across a small parking lot. I liked that. While the walk was pretty long, we didn’t have to pack into an elevator and our wing was very quiet. I only saw one or two other people there.

Saturday Dinner
We had been told by Reno habitués that of the 11 restaurants Peppermill offers, the fish restaurant was a good choice, so we pulled out our trusty map of the hotel/casino and managed to find Oceana. How could we miss it?… Remember the Big Bopper song, “house o’ blue lights?”

oceana Continue reading

Food in Wine Country

Healdsburg is a bit of a trip from San Francisco, but we needed
to go to Simi Winery to pick up our Wine Club shipment. You know how the wine clubs work… you join, they ship two or three bottles of wine to you each quarter and in exchange, a you get a big discount – 25 to 30% – on any wine purchased. At Simi, I had signed up for pick-up only; that saves on shipping and makes a good excuse to go to the wine country from time to time.

Of course, by the time we got to Healdsburg, we were ready for lunch. Barndiva is a restaurant that Carol and I had visited a number of times and always enjoyed. We sat outside in the garden and delighted, still, in the spring day as we ordered Tempura Beer Battered Shrimp to start.

Barndiva garden

Barndiva garden

After bringing wine, the waiter returned with a plate of unexpected goodies: “We’re out of shrimp, so the chef whipped up a little something in its stead – Tempura Beer Battered Cod with a celeriac remoulade for dipping, and Tempura Beer Battered goat cheese with honey for dipping.”

Oh my… I’m glad they were out of shrimp. The cod was light and moist in a tender batter, the remoulade lending a nice tangy complement. The cheese ball dipped in honey exploded in my mouth with warm creamy sweet and salty goodness. Yum. Continue reading

A Movable Feast

A Movable Feast
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Luce at the InterContinental San Francisco


The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) presented the first installment of the First Annual Movable Feast: Twelve Chefs Celebrate Six Farmers in a Series of Seasonal Suppers. Occurring once a month, the Series is intended to honor the relationships within the chef community and between chefs and farmers all while bringing attention to CUESA’s mission.
Chefs: Dominique Crenn of Luce and Chris Kronner formerly of Slow Club and Serpentine.
Featured Farmer: Louis Iacopi of Iacopi Farm, Half Moon Bay.

About 50 folks gathered for a true feast in the elegant and spacious Luce, where the curved glass windows looked out on the active corner of Howard and Fifth Streets. My wife and I were seated at a banquette on the inside wall. There were no speeches or ceremony, just good food and wine. Those present knew why they had come. Between courses, CUESA Executive Director Dave Stockdale circulated among the guests and introduced farmer Louis Iacopi. The chefs, Dominique and Chris, circulated throughout the evening to answer questions and check on our reaction to the dishes. Wines were paired with each course and served with an explanation of the selection.

The menu was served in courses on large white plates. The portions for each course were small, but by the end of the evening, our bellies were full and our senses heightened.

The menu is presented below, with my comments in italic. I took no food-porn pictures because I thought it inappropriate for the occasion – also, I forgot my camera.

It was a most agreeable and enjoyable evening, and we look forward to others in the series.


Early Spring Vegetable Garden
A mélange of flavors and textures including a very thin crisp slice of raw carrot, a cooked white carrot, half of a baby turnip, slice of beet with mustard seeds and grainy mustard, and dehydrated basil nestled with a dollop of pureed potato.
Graziano Fontana, Muller Thurgau, Sudtirol, Alto Adige, Italy 2005

Baby Octopus / Cauliflower / Potatoes Fondant
The octopus, served warm, was extremely tender and tasty – I’m guessing it was marinated in a vinegary, briny solution and briefly cooked. The cauliflower was shaved longitudinally through the floweret, served cold and very crisp. Julienne strips of fennel were presented cooked and lightly dressed. The potatoes were balls the size of a large marble. I’m guessing that “fondant” means they were pureed, gelatin or agar agar added, cast into balls and re-cooked. They were very white and served on dry basil and a dollop of mayo. The potatoes themselves were rather bland, but with the basil/mayo were quite tasty.
Iron Horse, Chardonnay, Green Valley, Sonoma, California 2006

Mint English peas / Spring onion /

Slow Roasted Spring Sonoma Lamb
About 12 peas presented in an open pod with a sauce of pureed peas and mint. An eight-inch stalk of grilled spring onion with a crunchy interior complimented two-rib portion of roasted medium rare Frenched lamb chops, suitable for gnawing. Yum
La Spinetta Ca da Pian, Barbera d’Asti, Piedmont, Italy 2004

Gigante Beans Cassoulet
Amazing flavor! Giant butter beans, an Iacopi favorite of mine, served with a rich sauce and topped with a thick scrumptious slice of tender pork belly. Chef Crenn told me that the sauce was a reduction of some of the beans, pureed, with wine and the bean juices.
Marquis-Phillips S2, Cabernet Sauvignon, McClaren Vale, Australia 2004

Evolution of Strawberries
Raw, cooked, candied, sorbet, dried, gelato, and foam strawberries were arranged around the plate, each displaying its own color, texture and temperature.
Vinoptima, Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, Gisborne, New Zealand 2002

1300 on Fillmore

A Birthday Treat


Carol was being very mysterious about my birthday. She kept saying she would take me out, but she said she wouldn’t say where. Then, “The place I wanted to take you closed, but I have another place in mind, but I won’t say where.”

Okay by me… as long as I know I won’t have to cook.

When she got home from work, she said, “I couldn’t get a reservation, but maybe we should just go anyway.”

“It’s your party,” I said. Clearly, she couldn’t wait to surprise me.

“Well… let’s go,” she said, “I’ll drive. It’s someplace we’ve never been before.”

“So we’re driving,” I said, “That rules out about 20 places.”

As she crossed Van Ness, I said, “I smell Fillmore Street.” She grunted. She turned left on Fillmore. Where haven’t we been on Fillmore, I wondered. She drove on. “Hmmm, maybe Yoshi’s?” I said. She said no, but when we got to Yoshi’s, she said to look for parking. A space opened up on the other side of the street. She made a quick left into it, a three-point turn and parked… a very city-like maneuver. In the near corner of the glass Yoshi’s building, we could see a restaurant looking place. No sign, but a big wooden door welcomed us. We went in. Continue reading

Eats on the Cheese Road


Québec, Ontario, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois on the way to the grand Festival of Cheese in Chicago. Much of the trip was in quest of eating miles and the food was what was there when the driving stopped, although we hoped for the best. The best (aside from the festival itself); we were able to choose — St. Elmo’s in Indianapolis, Aja Steak House in Chicago, and my sister’s home cookin’. The worst; we just had to eat something: Wendy’s in Logan, Ohio. We just stumbled onto the Palace Grill in Chicago’s North Loop — by far the best value. The yawning middle of quality included novel destinations — Hooters, Harry Caray’s — and restaurants on an agenda in Lancaster (see also Ohio Eats).

In mid-June, Eric, cheesemaker at Monroe Cheese Studio, and number one son, emailed to say he was driving the Maine Cheese Guild‘s entries to the American Cheese Festival in Chicago at the end of July. He wondered if I wanted to come and help drive. I’m a sucker for a road trip and had nothing pressing on my plate, so I said, “Why not?” The fact that my wife Carol hates road trips and I hadn’t been on one since ought-four made the decision easy.


It turned out that the best way to make a connection was for me to fly from San Francisco to Montreal where Eric would pick me up and we’d be off across southern Canada to points west. Come with me for a plethora of food experiences, warts and all.
Wednesday Breakfast
Air Canada Flyover, USA
Air Canada is nice. I was able to pre-purchase my meal with my ticket. Of three choices offered, I chose an ‘Egg macmuffin’ sort of thing that came with a generous bag — not packet — of cashews. Am I giving ratings in this treatise? I think not.


Wednesday Dinner
Bud’s Place Brockville, Ontario
We checked into a Day’s Inn (free wi-fi was the clincher) and went to dinner down the road toward the St. Lawrence River at Bud’s Place. We walked into a big, dark barn of a place with a big center bar, occupied by only a few people. It did not look promising, but the bartender suggested the roof terrace where we enjoyed the service of Katy, our smiling, enthusiastic waitress, and a decent view of rooftops falling away toward the river. The menu was straight from Fred’s Frozen Foods (I know, my brother used to work for Fred’s), but nicely prepared and cheerfully served by the wonderful Katy. I had the Cajun Catfish and Eric, the Steak Sandwich.
Continue reading