The Heirloom Cafe (2500 Folsom, SF)
The Heirloom Cafe gets a very positive review from Nicholas Lander in this weekend's Financial Times.
I moved to San Francisco at the beginning of 2013, and normally I wouldn't post here with such a limited scope of experience, but I am excited to share how much we enjoy Heirloom Cafe. Since moving here we've dined at a number of well-regarded places, and HC has stood out as a favorite. Our experiences there have been marked with great ingredients, great cooking, great wines, and warm hospitality.
(For the sake of context, other restaurants where I've had repeated super experiences with both food and hospitality include Outerlands, State Bird Provisions, and Piccino.)
We attended a special Ceritas Wine retrospective dinner here last night (normally closed on Sunday).
All the food on each course was impeccably prepared, flavorful and beautifully presented.
If you have ever sampled Ceritas wines, they are fresh and vibrant. The philosophy of owner winemaker John Raytek is to pick early when ripe, not overripe and keep alcohols on the lower side. It was a pleasure talking to John and wife Phoebe about wine and their journey into winemaking.
Here is what we had:
Fennel. fava beans, walnuts feta.
2011 Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay
Wild salmon, English peas, cauliflower puree, meyer lemon.
2009 Porter-Bass Vineyard Chardonnay
2008 Porter-Bass Vineyard Chardonnay
2007 Porter-Bass Vineyard Chardonnay
Housemade fettucini, chanterelle mushrooms, mint, pecorino
2011 "Costalina" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Duck Breast and confit, cherries, corn spoon bread
2010 Escarpa Vineyard Pinot Noir
2009 Escarpa Vineyard Pinot Noir
2008 Escarpa Vineyard Pinot Noir
Dessert was an almond torte with fresh stone fruit and creme fraiche.
Owner Matt Straus was a super host getting around to each table making sure all was going well.
Based on the quality of food and service last night, we will be sure to get back to Heirloom Cafe soon.
Went here tonight for the first time. it seemed no one here has really talked about the food.
we shared the butternut squash soup with pumpkin oil and pumpernickel croutons - wonderful. rich, creamy, and the pumpkin oil gave a nice little bite to the soup. we also split a beet salad with pickled fennel, almond butter, and feta. it was good and fresh, and tasted better as individual components rather than taking bites of everything at once (at which point the flavors kind of cancelled each other out). my friend, a vegetarian, had a couscous dish with dates, sweet potato, yogurt, cilantro, and i'm not sure what else - Moroccan flavors, very comforting, but not very exciting. I was torn between the crispy gnocchi with shaved truffle and a sunny-side-up egg, and the off-the-menu Epoisses burger (cheese inside the burger) with an onion marmalade, which sounded divine. i went with the gnocchi because the server told me the burger was almost always available. the gnocchi were good, very cheesy, but maybe a bit too crispy for me. the truffle shavings were a disappointment, because, although there was a generous amount of them, they had only a slight truffle aroma but no truffle flavor to speak of. i've learned that this is typical of certain truffles, but for me it's not worth having them. the egg was perfect for the dish, making a lovely sauce for the gnocchi. we also split what may have been my favorite dish of the night - braised kale with a carrot hummus. salty, garlicky, wonderfully flavored and perfectly cooked kale, with a sweetish-gingery puree of carrot. my dish went up quite a few notches by adding the kale to it.
upon request they brought us some bread, but no butter, and i can't remember where the bread was from, but it was good. somewhere on Divis, i believe. I'm recently spoiled by the dark sourdough at Tartine, though, so i'm a little picky about breads at the moment.
the wine selection is quite impressive, as little as i know about wine. i first had a glass of the Clochet Sancerre - pretty typical for Sancerre, to me. my second glass - the Puffeny Savagnin, from the Jura region - was new to me, and a standout. it had a sherry-like flavor that went really well with the food. i was happy they also serve wine by the half-glass, as i had to have just a little bit more. i took a look at the full wine book selection - all by the bottle only - and was surprised that there were a few available for fairly reasonable prices. my friend isn't much of a drinker so we didn't order a bottle, but i would venture into the older bottles if i had others with me who would enjoy them.
the place itself is great - warm and welcoming, with bar/kitchen-watching seating, a long, family-style shared table, and small tables ringing the edges of the restaurant. the chef de cuisine had a birthday and the whole restaurant sang happy bday to him, and his little 4 year old adorable-as-hell daughter helped serve dishes to customers. very charming, with a rustic/elegant air to it, and still a family, locals place feel to it.
Overall, very good, though i'd say not stellar. I mentioned to the server that even though i live 3 blocks away this was my first time there, though my BF and i have passed by it many times and said, "we should go there". i told her that the restaurant doesn't seem to be highly touted - not that it's not spoken well of, but there doesn't seem to be any "buzz" around it. She agreed, and said, "we kind of like it like that" - and i can see that; it seems that they have quite a regulars following. comfort food in an elegant yet homey setting.
i'm definitely going back for that burger. oh, and the 3-course prix fixe, with its wine pairings included (i THINK) in the $65 price tag, will also draw me back. (by the way, their online menu is not up-to-date.)
Went last night again, for the secret burger. My BF had the pre-fix, which is a great deal - $65 for 3 courses, and a wine pairing of three full pours.
we started out with castelvetrano olives and marcona almonds for the table. the prix fix consisted of: little Gem lettuces, sieved eggs, radishes, pickled shallots, fresh English peas, in a very light Green Goddess-type dressing; seared bavette, chanterelle & potato hash, with romesco; and a bittersweet chocolate ice cream cake, cherries, creme fraiche. the pairings were perfect - a Qupe Marsanne, a barbera and nebbiolo blend from Piemonte - Canavese Rosso - and a slightly effervescent Brachetto Birbet - another Piedmontese wine.
I had a burrata, asparagus, and shallot vinaigrette over toasted levain starter salad, and the epoisse burger with pickled carrots. I had a taste of all the BF's wines, my own glass of Sancerre, and a half pour of the Marsanne, which was my favorite. I'm so happy they do half-pours.
His salad was truly the star of the night - super fresh, crunchy, and perfectly dressed. My salad was very good too - full of contrasting textures. the shallot dressing was slightly sweet.
his bavette entree was good but not stellar. a very homey, comforting dish, the steak was cooked perfectly - very tender. the dish lacked salt, but had a really nice smokiness from the romesco.
my burger was a bit of a disappointment. the texture was spongy - you can see it in the picture. the epoisse was mixed into the meat, which perhaps caused the sponginess. while the meat was nicely medium rare and well-flavored, with the epoisse flavor clearly shining through, i would have preferred a piece of the cheese to be imbedded into the meat, so that it would have oozed out. the english muffin bun was wonderful - light and squishy. i also would have loved some salty, crispy thin fries instead of the pickled carrots, but the carrots were very good. all-in-all, i would not order the burger again.
the BF's dessert was good but not new territory. however, again, the wine pairing was perfect - the slight bitterness of the chocolate offset by the sweetness of the wine, the creaminess of the ice cream and the creme fraiche contrasting with the bubbles.
i had a gooey goat cheese for dessert, can't remember if it was domestic or foreign, with slightly sweet toasted bread - a perfect ending for me.
it seems, again, that this restaurant shines the most in its sides as opposed to the mains. and i'm happy to go back and try more starters and sides, and enjoy the thoughtful wines. adding to our overall enjoyment of the evening, we had a nice conversation with owner Matt Stout about being a sommelier, and having or not having a "wine palate".
i love having this place in my neighborhood.