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S.F. trip, so far (sort of long)

I wanted to write an update while I have a minute, because I'm usually terrible about doing write-ups, especially when I've gotten advice from locals and owe thank yous. So far we've had both our S.F. lunches and two of our three S.F. dinners.

Dinner Sunday night was at Delfina. Liked the vibe a lot. We shared 4 dishes - 1) fresh stretched mozzarella with caponata, friarelli peppers, zucchini Napoletana; 2) fresh-cured anchovies with a little cucumber/radish salad; 3) rosemary tagliatelle and duck sugo; local halibut baked in a fig leaf with sweet corn and tarragon-caper butter. Loved loved loved the halibut - wow! Fabulous texture, almost creamy, with a wonderful sauce which to me had some Thai curry overtones. The dish I liked the least was the pasta - it was a bit less saucy than I would have liked although to the chef's credit the rosemary in the tagliatelle was very understated - rosemary can really overpower a dish and I was actually hesitant to order this dish but the server was recommending it highly. The accompaniements to the mozzarella were really great, probably the best caponata I've ever had. We didn't have dessert but we did have the cheese tasting of 5 cheeses with accompaniments, all very nice.

Of course we made a beeline for the Ferry Building on Monday and lunch was at The Slanted Door followed by a couple of chocolates from Recchuiti (sp?). Our Vietnamese food experiences have pretty much been limited to pho and bun, so while I don't know how "authentic" The Slanted Door is, I do know it was different that what we regularly eat at our local pho place in L.A. Liked the space a lot. Had vegetarian spring rolls, crispy skinny egg noodles with seafood (husband's choice, I don't love that kind of noodle, but sometimes he gets to choose what we eat), black cod with mushrooms (actually these really big white mushrooms that I can't remember the name of), and sweet corn with chanterelles. The dishes, with the exception of the spring rolls, were all a bit sweeter and/or oiler than I would like, but still we enjoyed them. The corn dish was downright sweet and tasted like the corn had been tossed in caramel...ultimately, too sugary for me, but interesting.

Dinner Monday night was Aziza. I had hoped to do the tasting menu but sadly I wasn't feeling very well, not well at all in fact. We ended up splitting 3 dishes - 1) goat cheese with a tomato-citrus sauce/relish and za'tar toasts; basteeya (wow wow wow!); couscous Aziza. Loved everything, seriously bummed that I couldn't taste more, we will definitely return to Aziza on our next trip up here. The couscous was incredibly addictive, loved the spicy merguez with it, the stewed lamb, the veggies - even the zucchini was superb and that's saying a lot! For dessert we had Santa Rosa plum sorbet which had a really creamy texture, almost like ice-cream but the server checked and no, it didn't have any dairy. We liked our cocktails too - husband had the one with tequila and amaretto, I had the one with gin and ginger. Our server was incredibly friendly and, more importantly, extremely knowledgeable. And the host was super nice - I actually messed up our reservation - had booked 7:30 on OT and somehow thought it was 8:00 even though they'd call to confirm - I was so spaced out from not feeling well. Everything was handled with aplomb when we arrived at 8:00.

Lunch today - of course we went back to the Ferry Building. We cruised the farm stands outside, took lots of photos and sampled some great fruit, and then went inside and got a small sourdough from Acme, a couple of cheeses from Cowgirl, some sopressata and coppa from the place with the great meat counter (name escapes me). Everything was fabulous. Dessert was from Miette - I had a chocolate pot de creme and I got to keep the little glass jar it came in! Husband had a mini Scharffen Berger cake, kind of half-domed with a thick ganache on it.

We're off to meet some frieds at Zuni tonight and I'm so excited. I think we'll stop tomorrow morning at Tartine on our way out of town, heading to the culinary wasteland of South Lake Tahoe.

So thanks all you S.F. hounds for the great advice. You have a wonderful eating city.

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  1. I'm proud we made such a good impression. (Note the proprietary "we" as though I'd actually cooked the meals and molded the Recchiuti chocolates... don't tell anyone I said this but we're just a teensy bit provincial.) And there's lots more for when you come back.

      1. If you like the slanted door, I recomend, for my tastes, and pocket depth, Bodega Bistro on Larkin and Eddy its in little Siagon and probably the best papaya salad I've ever had, it has vietnamese "beef jerky" in it. Also ask the chef if he will make his famouse salt & pepper shrimp, they still have the shell on but I recomend eating it becouse it's a great tecture.

        3 Replies
        1. re: gettinfat

          > probably the best papaya salad I've ever had, it has
          > vietnamese "beef jerky" in it

          Is it a very thinly sliced dried beef? I'd love to try that again, I think I last had it about 8 years ago in Seattle. If you happen to get the Vietnamese name for it, I'll carry it in my wallet. ;-)

            1. re: Jefferson

              I'm not sure, it comes on the salad in small diced pieces. with a sweet and spicy sauce. yuuuuuum!

          1. Skip Tartine its long lines, for nothing, a bunch of pretentiose hipsters serving shite. I recomend a place named somthing boulangerie (sp?)its on/near the corner of Fillmore and Post, they have great coffee to.

            3 Replies
            1. re: gettinfat

              THANK YOU for posting an honest opinion of this over-rated (yes, they believe their own press) place. I've lived down the block since they opened and after trying it several times, can not belive they are still packed. Just goes to show that good PR makes up for bad food (NOT!).

              The place you mentioned in the Filmore is part of the Bay Bread Group (baybread.com). They have the boulangerie on Pine, then several restaurants throughout the city. Excellent every time AND they don't burn their pasteries like the other place you mentioned.

              Keep going, there's lots of good stuff out there.

              1. re: foggy

                You know what? I really hate overhyped places. And the long lines here are ridiculous. But you know what else? It is worth it. I've never had anything here that wasn't just great. I don't even like croissants and I find theirs just heavenly. And don't even get me started on the bread pudding. So, I guess opinions vary. Then again,I don't find the staff here to be pretentious. Maybe a little precious, but it's part of their charm.

                1. re: fistalee

                  The lines are annoying but the food at Tartine is really good.

                  The stuff at the Bay Bread bakeries is really good, too.

            2. And the only thing "GREAT" about Zuni cafe is their publicist.

              26 Replies
              1. re: gettinfat

                Wow, could not disagree with you more on Zuni.

                1. re: gettinfat

                  you obviously haven't tried their caramel pot de creme.

                  1. re: gettinfat

                    strongly disagree. i doubt publicity alone could keep a place packed and happening every night on market st. of course its one of my favorite spots in the city so i guess im biased.

                    1. re: Lord Griffin

                      We haven't had a Zuni flame-war for a while. Maybe we're due.

                      Anyway, put me down on the side of the people who think it's overhyped.

                      1. re: Lord Griffin

                        How would you like to explain the garbage they serve at Luna Park.

                        1. re: gettinfat

                          That can't be explained. But I am confused: how did Luna park enter into this?

                          1. re: chaddict

                            Becouse they obviously have a great publicist, I allways eat at a restaurant three times before I decide if its good or bad, and all three times it was poo, but it was packed, and there were people waiting for a table. And Lord Griffin doesnt seem to think that a publcist could keep a restaurant packed.

                            1. re: chaddict

                              Some restaurants are popular more for the scene and/or bar than the food.

                            2. re: gettinfat

                              Luna Park serves some nice stuff at Brunch. I think the daytime staff is much more relaxed and interested in doing a good job, while the night time staff is just interested in pushing out dishes and drinks for tips.

                              We still go for brunch once in a while because it's rarely full, but never again for dinner.

                              1. re: gettinfat

                                Finally. gettinfat, you're right on with Zuni and Luna Park. I'd also like to nominate Medicine EatStation to the list.

                                1. re: hungryhedonist

                                  Again, confused. You list Medicine EatStation as *underrated* in your profile. Yet you are nominating it now as overrated?

                                  1. re: gettinfat

                                    >How would you like to explain the garbage they serve at Luna Park.

                                    It distracts the conversation from the bad service.

                                2. re: gettinfat

                                  zuni has been open since 1979- highly doubtful that they have a publicist these days

                                  1. re: gettinfat

                                    "And the only thing "GREAT" about Zuni cafe is their publicist."

                                    Zuni's "publicist" is word of mouth from people who love their food.

                                    What exactly have you eaten there that you didn't like?

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      I'm not saying it's bad, all i'm saying it's not "GREAT", My idea of "GREAT" is inventive and cutting edge. Zuni is classic and simple, that doesnt mean i don't like it, it's just not "GREAT".

                                      1. re: gettinfat

                                        My idea of great is rustic and simple: Zuni, Chez Panisse, Oliveto, country restaurants in France and Italy. That has nothing to do with publicity.

                                        Inventive and cutting edge, eh. Fire the saucier and hire a forager.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          My idea of GREAT could be either inventive & cutting edge AND/OR rustic with quality ingredients. Put in the wrong hands, either of these styles can end up being lackluster or both of them can result in great food.

                                          I ate a perfectly in season avocado for lunch and there is absolutely no denying it was simply GREAT, even though I didn't do anything more fancy than slight seasoning.

                                          The lamb I had at Winterland blew me away, it was so great, but waiting for it to arrive on the table was so tedious I almost died of boredom. I am glad I can enjoy a caramel pot de creme at Zuni. It's my favourite dessert, so of course, I happen to think is is great, even though it is not groundbreaking, it always gives me pleasure.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Sous vide is the one modern innovation I can think of that's probably going to become part of the classic repertory.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Worth noting that while the Winterland lamb dish was prepared sous vide, it had a Bellwether suckling lamb pedigree, which contributed to its blowing-away-ness.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                I'm not in the zuni 'best ceasar/burger' camp but in my late experience (last few months) their pizza at lunch midweek is as good or better than any similar style pizza I've had here- excellent crust and perfectly baked, sauced, seasoned, etc.

                                            2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              You can't have been able to avoid the many, many recent complaints about Zuni. I went with a group a few months ago and the service was abominable and the food mediocre.

                                              1. re: Atomica

                                                And you also can't ignore the fact, conversely, that many people happily return to Zuni over and over again.

                                                1. re: Sixy

                                                  Yes, I am one of those people who thinks about going every time I'm in the city, and everyone whom I've sent there has been very happy. I have such a hard time imagining "abominable" service at Zuni since each time I've been, the service has been nothing but professional and gracious. I just get the feeling that service is so "tight" there that those servers are conditioned to be at least decent and responsive.

                                                  Well, I had to finally weigh in on the Zuni debate, and at this point, I'm most looking forward to Debbie W.'s reaction. The pressure's on...

                                                2. re: Atomica

                                                  Nothing new about complaints. I just haven't managed to encounter any of the problems myself in 20+ years eating there. Food's reliably great, service is always professional.

                                            3. Winterland "GREAT", Zuni Cafe good. Just a point of reference in my culinary world.

                                              4 Replies
                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  Maybe Chef Morales should talk to Judy Rodgers publicist!

                                                  1. re: gettinfat

                                                    Maybe you should come to the Winterland Chowdown on Aug 26, still some openings. If interested, contact me OFF BOARD at sfchaddictATgmail.com.


                                                    1. re: gettinfat

                                                      Maybe he should have kissed whatever part of Michael Bauer's anatomy was required! The combination of the location and Bauer's pan really hurt.

                                                2. I always recommend Swan Oyster Depot to out-of-towners. Great fresh seafood, an old-school atmosphere, fun neighborhood. It's on Polk between California and Sacramento. Visit the vibrator museum at Good Vibrations while you're there!

                                                  1. I join the chorus of praise for Swan. I used to endure the lunchtime lines too until I learned that they're open in the morning. True, I'm not really ready for a pint of Anchor Steam at 9:30 AM, but a bowl of chowder or a dozen oysters--or both--makes a grand breakfast, and no waiting.

                                                    1. Debbie W. -- what did YOU think of Zuni? Obviously we locals have strong opinions on the place, and hijacked your post to prove it! :>) Your fresh opinion might not end the debate, but would be a welcome addition to it.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: djh

                                                        Sorry to have taken so long to give my feedback on Zuni, but we were busy playing pai gow poker in Tahoe! Now we're fishing in Mammoth so I have a bit more time and my husband finally decided to turn on the laptop.

                                                        We had our Zuni dinner with good friends who live in Sunnyvale, and we don't get to see them that often, so it was mostly about the company. I definitely paid less attention to the food than usual. That said, in summary we liked Zuni a lot but we didn't fall in love with it. We would definitely give it another try.

                                                        The service was great, absolutely no complaints there, top notch without being over the top.

                                                        I enjoyed my cocktail (gin, cucumber) rather a lot. Would love to have the recipe for it. Husband and I shared the Caesar, our friends also shared a Caesar and had the squash blossoms as well. I thought the Caesar was just fine - it didn't blow me away but it was a good, classic version.

                                                        Husband and I shared the chicken. Ok, I've read so much about this chicken. How often has it been discussed over on Home Cooking! My friend has made this chicken and he raved over it. The presentation was really nice. The dark meat was excellent - so juicy, with skin so crispy that I actually ate the skin and usually I don't. However, the white meat was both a tad dry and too salty! Is it sacrilege to say this? (I don't usually hang out on this board so I don't know how many times this has been debated, but I'd wager a lot!) I know it's salted. But it tasted too salty. Not as salty as, say, Costco roast chicken, but it was definitely noticeable and too intense for my taste. The bread salad was addictive. Loved that component.

                                                        One of our friends had the risotto which she ate about half of but I think she liked it. She doesn't eat meat or poultry and the server's description of the halibut cheek special was even too much for her (the "cheek" part), so that's that. Her husband had the pork. That's all I can say because I didn't pay attention to it, sorry.

                                                        For desserts, my husband and I had buckwheat crepes with Black Mission figs and anise ice cream. Really excellent, especially the ice cream. Friends had peach tart with one of the heirloom varieties of peaches but I forget which.

                                                        We took lots of time over dinner, all the staff were wonderful. At the end I asked to take some pictures of the kitchen and this was kindly allowed, in fact encouraged, and I chatted briefly with one of the cooks. So I came away with a nice friendly feeling.

                                                        That's it for my impressions of Zuni.

                                                        As to Tartine, we did stop there the next morning to pick up pastries and coffee for the drive to Tahoe. I got a morning bun and my husband got the pain au chocolat. We also picked up a few meringues to snack on later - almond and cacao nib. Well, all the pastries were really great. I adored the morning bun, and it's a good thing I don't live in S.F. because I would eat way too many of these. Husband loved the pain au chocolat, we both loved the meringues. The line wasn't too terrible but we got there after 10:00 a.m.

                                                        I guess that's it for our S.F. eating. Thanks again for all the recommendations. I'll definitely be recommending Aziza to my brother and sister in law, who live in San Leandro, in the event they can get a babysitter and have a date night in the city.

                                                        1. re: Debbie W

                                                          Excellent! Thanks for weighing in on your Zuni experience in the midst of your trip! The buckwheat crepes w/ figs and anise ice cream got me excited...Would love to find that on the menu when I'm there next.

                                                          I don't remember hearing lots of complaints of oversalting the chicken; however, it seems like some people just find it "eh" or undercooked looking (pink at bone). They def. lean toward the salty side though, and I've only shared the chicken in a large group so only had a small piece.

                                                          Glad to hear that you felt treated well there. You describe exactly what I've experienced and have come to expect from Zuni. Appreciate not being rushed there...

                                                          Enjoy the rest of your trip!

                                                          1. re: Carb Lover

                                                            That anise ice cream was really fabulous. I would have been happy with a couple scoops of that. I haven't been over to Home Cooking very much recently so I'm not sure if you're doing a lot of ice cream right now, but I'd bet with your ice cream skills you could do something like this. It was totally smooth. Don't know if they used anise seeds to infuse it, or how they achieved a strong yet not overpowering anise flavor, but it definitely was strained through a fine mesh before it was frozen. I didn't detect any liquor flavor. The figs were simply cut up, I don't recall whether or not they were roasted. The crepes were very thin and lacy. But the ice cream definitely made the dish!

                                                          2. re: Debbie W

                                                            Yes, Tartine's morning buns are strangely addictive. Is it the faint orange aroma? The lavish quantity of egg in the dough? They remind me of the currant danish I used to get at the long-gone Sutter's Bakery on Greenwich Avenue in Manhattan; I suggested to Tartine's owner that she try a version with currants, and one unforgettable day she actually did, but I guess they didn't catch on because I've never seen them since. The buns are great anyway.

                                                            1. re: Debbie W

                                                              Zuni presalts its chicken, so the salt is absorbed by the meat. Consequently the inside is not unsalted like you probably are used to.