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Oct 16, 2012 12:36 AM

Great Monday lunch? Chocolate?

I'm a pastry chef heading down in two weeks for a little treat after my hell that is Seattle Restaurant Week (started yesterday, shoot me now). I lived in Berkeley several years years ago but am out of touch with what is good these days.

I'm thinking SPQR for Monday dinner and Zuni Cafe for Tuesday lunch, but am looking for a nice lunch on Monday, ideally somewhere between the SFMOMA (always a must) and the Embarcadero (lodging). Cost is not an issue, looking for deliciousness of any kind, the more unusual or innovative the better.

Also, are there any local artisan chocolatiers worth checking out, besides Recchiutti? Or star patissiers? I'll have to stop at Tartine; do they have a rival? And can anyone report on the TCHO tour? We have Theo, so I doubt I would learn anything new, but could be fun if there are enough free samples :)


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  1. One great new bean to bar chocolatier is You can find their bars at Fog City News, which is In the area between SFMOMA and Embarcadero. Charles Chocolates is re-opening soon, in the Mission, also (I think they shouldn't have left Emeryville for SF Center in the first place...). LaCocina's booth in the Ferry Building has some interesting local chocolates, too. For newest bakeries, check out Craftsmen and Wolves or Yirgit Purga's spot at Macy's. For a nice lunch on Monday, how about (not new, per se, but always evolving) Boulette's Larder?

    2 Replies
    1. re: foodeye

      Thanks for the chocolate suggestions, and the ferry building is always good for a snack. I just found out about Yigit's place from Food Arts. i loved him on TC:JD, will definitely stop by.

      1. re: babette feasts

        You're welcome! And, here's a brand new place that may be, um, interesting...with chocolates from Florida:

    2. You'd have to trek out to the Richmond neighborhood for dinner, but the most amazing pastry chef we've encountered in the Bay Area is Melissa Chou, working with owner-chef Mourad Lahlou. My spouse thought the desserts at a recent dinner "all sounded weird", but when we ordered three of them to share, he admitted they were all fabulous.

      None of the three of us like meringue (in fact spouse can't stand the stuff), but they were a crucial ingredient in all three desserts and each time the meringue was amazing and wonderful. Ms. Chou is a genius in the kitchen, and I don't use that word lightly.

      If you ever have the time, go out to Alegio Chocolates in Walnut Square/Berkeley and get the full tour (actually a slide presentation/talk; you have to make a reservation) and full tasting (about 1 hr total). The first taste of 100% heirloom cacao, no sugar, vanilla or lecithin, will floor you with its intensity and terroir. I adore Recchiuti, but Alegio's tasting was an educational experience no foodie should ever miss!

      1. Barbacco, Perbacco, La Mar, Wexler's

        8 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          If she's going to SPQR for dinner, then she probably doesn't want Italian for lunch. She really stumped me with "unusual or innovative" -- most restaurants in that area are catering to an office/business lunch crowd.

          Anyone been to Salt House since Vernon Morales took over?

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Maybe skip SPQR in favor of something more unusual or innovative, such as St. Vincent.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Can you recommend one open Monday night?

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                No love for SPQR? My chef de cuisine was raving about it after a few visits last summer, and I appreciated that their menu stumped me a few times, which is hard to do Chef was also raving about Aziza, which I have heard great things about for a long time, but I wonder if it is the sort of place that is more designed for groups and sharing over solo diners?

                Ruth is right, I don't want to go too Italian. Machka looks like a possibility, or I may just snack my way around the ferry building. I'd consider Burma Super Star but that is a little far for lunch. Are there still the couple of restaurants with stinky tofu? What were they called?

                1. re: babette feasts

                  Except for the spreads (which are good, but not exciting), the dishes at Aziza aren't particularly designed to be shared. If you're interested in the tasting menu, you might call and ask if they'll do it for a party of one.

                  SPQR gets a lot of love. It's just that within the parameters you gave us, it would be easier to do Italian for lunch and something else for dinner. However, if you like Burmese food, rather than trek out to Burma Superstar you could check out Burmese Kitchen. http://www.burmesekitchensanfrancisco...

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    I see. I may have to reconsider, the desserts do look better at Aziza. Maybe I should just do both! Wexler's looks great for lunch, Burmese may have to wait.


                  2. re: babette feasts

                    If you're interested in Frenchified Italian food, then SPQR or Quince might please you.

                    Acquerello's great. No bar dining, but I'm sure they would make a solo diner comfortable.

            2. I like eating lunch at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants.
              I cherry-pick cheese, bread, meats, olives, whatever from the shops and sit at the north side of the bar so I can watch the Ferry Plaza hubbub. The wine selections are very good, the music selection can be exemplary. It's very cool that the the wine shop lets you bring your own food. Highly recommended.

              1 Reply
              1. re: steve h.

                >It's very cool that the the wine shop lets you bring your own food.<

                For sure. That's one of my must-do places for visitors.

              2. the TCHO tour is nothing like the far better Theo Chocolate tour and not worth it at all. Basically we just watched a video of how they used market research to come up with the best names and how they are the only organic chocolate place straight from the bean chocolate factory (which of course isn't true) and how being in tech made them excellent chocolatier which they aren't since they don't make confections only bar chocolate. There very few samples, just very small piece passed around so you can taste the "differences" in the dark chocolate they have. The girl doing the "tour" didn't seem to know anything about chocolate but lots about how they picked their packaging.

                As for Pastry shops Tout Sweet and Craftsmen and Wolves are good but expensive. I second LaCocina's booth.

                there is Poco Dolce chocolates in the dogpatch where you can visit their kitchen and shop.

                5 Replies
                1. re: tjinsf

                  tj, thanks for your review of the TCHO tour - it sounds like it needs improvement.

                  They did just start doing some confections, which I am looking forward to trying. There's a write up here:

                  1. re: foodeye

                    Yes, thanks I will skip it. The Theo tour IS good, and they give lots of samples. All visitors to Seattle should go. I had actually got a bunch of TCHO because I was excited about the organic thing, but I ended up not really liking it. I'm only in town for about 30 hours, can't waste time on mediocre.

                    1. re: foodeye

                      I find it really funny they are doing confections because they went on a big spiel at a the chocolate show and on the tour that they would never add flavours or nuts to their chocolates since it would ruin the perfection of the chocolate. of course now I have to go try them. damn my sweet tooth.

                    2. re: tjinsf

                      I have stopped at their shop on my walk down to FPFM, three times now, hoping for a better experience. You are lucky; at least you got to do the "tour". I was the only customer in the building and couldn't even get the folks behind the counter to ring up the purchases I wanted to make (as I stood in front of the register with the packages in my hand), or get their attention so I could order a beverage. They were much too interested in discussing the the party they went to the night before or what their friends had posted on Facebook. The products went back on the shelves and I walked out. My money will be spent elsewhere.