Craftsman and Wolves, Happy Moose Juice, Xanath, Zen Yai, Smitten, Tosca, State Bird (San Francisco: Day Four)
[For images with captions inline with text, go to http://theoffalo.com/2014/06/craftsma...]
I am in San Francisco this week for WWDC (Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference). I found out a few months ago I'd be able to attend, so of course, I made a list and asked for advice beforehand. Now that I'm here, I plan on posting a report as quickly as possible for each day, to stave off procrastination. [Previously: Day One (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/977596), Day Two (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/977726), and Day Three (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9778...]
My report for "San Francisco: Day Four, Part One" (Wednesday June 4, 2014) is as follows:
WWDC didn't have as many sessions today that I was interested in, so I ended up with a pretty epic day of eating! Starting in the morning, I finally made time to have breakfast in the Mission District at...
Craftsman and Wolves (http://www.craftsman-wolves.com/)
I ordered the one item at Craftsman and Wolves that had the most buzz among my friends, The Rebel Within, along with a slice of Kimchi Cake, and a Buderim Ginger Brew. Leaving the Rebel last, I tried the kimchi cake. I thought it was good, not enough heat for my own personal taste, but definitely had a kick to it. Since the "cake" is really more of a bread, and since the loaf was pre-sliced, it was a bit dry. The ginger brew helped with that, of course. I had heard that Buderim is one of the more spicy ginger beers, and indeed it was, but my personal favorite is still Maine Root's ginger brew.
The moment had arrived to try The Rebel Within. I bisected it with a knife, opened it up like a book on the plate, and as expected, some of the yolk flowed beautifully out of the muffin and onto the plate. I dug in and found the muffin to have a nice crusty exterior and a moist interior. However, I found the flavors to be lacking. Perhaps I was expecting a scotch egg-like experience, but for a baked good with asiago cheese, sausage, green onions, and of course the soft-cooked egg, I was a bit underwhelmed at how un-savory it was (not to be confused with unsavory, since it did not actually taste bad).
While I was waiting in line at Craftsman and Wolves, I noticed the party ahead of me carrying these beautiful glass bottles of bright colorful liquids. I noted the name on the bottle, tracked it down on my iPhone, and proceeded to...
Happy Moose Juice (http://happymoosejuice.com/)
Turns out that well respected Mission restaurant Range is a juicery during the day. Organic fruit and vegetable juices by Happy Moose Juice are available between the hours of 9 AM and 3 PM at Range. I was able to sample a few juices with obligatory cute names, like Chard Knock Life (chard, pear, orange, spinach, lime, ginger) and Beat It (carrot, beet, celery, apple, lemon, ginger), even a non-juice, the Vanilla Moose (almonds, dates, vanilla bean, sea salt, filtered water).
I ultimately decided on a Ginger Shot, 2 ounces of pure ginger juice! The people at Happy Moose Juice are not kidding around with this stuff. No sweetener's been added, nothing to cut the spice, though a less potent Ginger Lemon Shot is also available. This was 100% unadulterated ginger juice, filtered so there was no stringy pulp. It went down very smooth but then the heat creeps up fast. For a ginger nut like myself, this was great. I wouldn't say it was exactly refreshing, but it was eye-opening.
Jen, the juice-tender, was very affable, and we chatted about why I was in town, good food in the area (she brought up Ippuku in Berkeley; I mentioned La Ciccia), and a little about L.A. The spice had not quite subsided from my throat, so I decided to order an actual bottle of juice, the Refresh and So Clean, Clean (watermelon, cucumber, mint). After the Ginger Shot, this was an oasis, but actually I think this juice would be great mixed with a shot of ginger.
In our conversation about food, I mentioned that I had tried Bi-Rite and Mitchell's for ice cream. Jen suggested a place just up the street, called...
Xanath (Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/xanath-ice-cr...)
I couldn't try it just then, as I had to get back to the conference, but later that day after lunch, I went back. Xanath is the retail store for Vanilla Saffron Imports (http://saffron.com/), an importer of, you guessed it, vanilla and saffron. They make their ice cream with lots and lots of scraped vanilla beans. I tried a scoop, which had so much vanilla bean in it, it looked almost like black sesame ice cream. The texture was also a little "sandy" from the beans, but was a small price to pay (really, not a big deal) for just the richest, most fragrant vanilla flavor.
[Reports on the other places mentioned in the title will be coming up in Part Two, and possibly Part Three! May be a little slow on those. After churning these reports out daily, I'm running out of steam...]
Craftsman and Wolves
746 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Happy Moose Juice
842 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
951 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Xanath's Safron ice cream is really delicious. It's a place that doesn't get nearly as much attention as Bi-Rite, Humphrey Slocombe, Smitten, or Mr. and Mrs. Misc., Three Twins, which are considered the top gourmet ice creams in the city (give or take a couple others like the Ice Cream Bar).
I've personally given up on anything at Craftsman and Wolves living up to the hype or even the ideas themselves.
Part Two is Up! Sorry for the wait!
[For images with captions inline with text, go to http://theoffalo.com/2014/06/zen-yai-...]
Continued from above…
For lunch on Wednesday, I decided to head back out to the Tenderloin, since it's a quick round trip. I wanted to try Hải Ký Mì Gia, but I made the cardinal sin of not checking hours, and it turned out to be closed on Wednesdays. Undeterred, I turned to my list and was able to cross off another spot just a half block away.
Zen Yai (http://zenyaithai.net/)
I had only gotten on the Thai Boat... uh, boat recently. It's surprising, even to me, since this noodle soup is thickened with blood and comes with offal, both firmly in my wheelhouse, so to speak. I think it's because the dish isn't usually found outside immigrant enclaves (unlike pho), and I had only started exploring Thai Town in L.A. in the last few years, that I didn't come across it sooner in my life.
Thai boat noodles are not found on Zen Yai's regular menu. Instead, they are on the Specials chalkboard, and only in Thai. Thanks to the Internets, I knew they offered this dish, and in two sizes: a small at an affordable $2.50, and a large at the still affordable $6.95 (if I recall correctly). Of course, I opted for the latter. The bowl came quick, and I dug in. The waiter did not ask how spicy I wanted my order, but it came out with a good level of heat. The broth was dark and sweet, but not too sweet. The pork liver was tender, not overcooked. The pork rinds were a little stale, but I was dunking them in the broth anyway.
The bowl had a few surprises, all good. First, I don't know how they did it, but the slices of pork were incredibly tender. Second, underneath the noodles, which were on the thinner side but held up well, was a layer of morning glory, which I've of course encountered in Thai cuisine, but never in boat noodles. At first I thought it was just filler, but the vegetables worked really well, bringing balance to the dish. I really enjoyed them.
This will probably be controversial, but I liked this bowl of boat noodles better than what I've had at Sapp Coffee Shop and Pa Ord in Thai Town in L.A. The caveat is that, as I've stated, I'm relatively new to boat noodles. I've only had it once at Pa Ord, where I found the broth too sweet. I've had it a few times at Sapp, and they've been great, but Zen Yai's had better meat, and the addition of morning glory really worked for me (maybe I could request they add it at Sapp)! Of course, it's possible that I just happen to hit Zen Yai on one of their better days, but if their boat noodles are normally this good, I do have to say they're my favorite!
After returning to the conference for a bit (I love the Muni; even with a "sickout" I was out and back in a little over an hour), I ventured back out for some dessert. I hit Xanath (see Part One) and decided to follow up with...
I didn't really know what the deal was with Smitten, that they make each serving to-order, so I went up and ask for a sample and was promptly, but politely, shot down. The flavors that they had were Salted Caramel, TCHO 60.5% Chocolate, Classic Vanilla, and a seasonal flavor. Since I couldn't sample, I decided to go with the most exotic flavor, the seasonal Olive Oil with Lavender Shortbread. After a few moments where I thought I was in some mad scientist lab, with things whirring and liquid nitrogen clouds billowing, I was served a perfect scoop of ice cream.
The good news is that the texture of the ice cream was incredible, smoother than silk, and the lavender sea salt shortbread cookies mixed in it were great. The bad news is that I realized I don't like olive oil ice cream. I've had it at Sweet Rose Creamery, and now at Smitten, and neither place skimps on the olive oil in their recipes. Unfortunately, they just taste to me like I'm eating a cold, olive oil-based buttery spread, and the ultra-smooth texture of Smitten's just exacerbated that. Not their fault, but next time I'll go with a different flavor.
Having a few hours to kill before my 9 PM reservation at State Bird Provisions, I decided to augment my offal consumption this trip with a quick snack at...
Tosca Cafe (http://toscacafesf.com/)
You San Franciscans must really love your hearts. Of course, Tony Bennett famously left his here. Unfortunately, others have been eating your restaurants' heart out... of stock! From the tuna hearts at Porcellino and La Ciccia, to Tosca Cafe running out of one of the two dishes I really wanted to try: Chicken Hearts, with asparagus, butter lettuce, and chili agrodolce.
Fortunately, another chicken organ was available, in the form of Chicken Liver Spiedini (skewers), with Marsala, balsamic, and salsa verde. I started off with this dish, and it was quite good, with a nice grilled flavor on the outside, but the inside was still pink and had a creamy texture.
Next, I ordered Moscardini, which is, according to some light Googling, apparently a species of octopus called the musky octopus. The waiter said it was baby octopus, but it was bigger than the baby octopus I had at La Ciccia the night before. Now, I won't compare the two octopus dishes; that wouldn't be fair. The moscardini here is more like a snack, served cold with a tart marinade or dressing. Since it was bigger, it wasn't super tender, but it still hit the spot.
My last snack at Tosca was the headliner, the reason I had wanted to come here in the first place: Fried Pig Tails. I had had them in L.A. at Animal, Spice Table, Tar & Roses, and Night+Market. All of these places are known for their pig tails, but Tosca's could definitely hold its own. The tail was very simply prepared, cut into manageable pieces and deep fried to a golden crisp. The pieces were lightly seasoned with bay leaf powder and star anise, which gave it an Asian flare, at least in my opinion. The bay leaf powder kind of reminded me of matcha powder, and the star anise evoked five-spice powder. I highly recommend this dish!
To be continued in Part Three...
771 Ellis St
San Francisco, CA 94109
432 Octavia St
San Francisco, CA 94102
242 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
Offalo, you are doing insanely well fitting in your conference around the food, which is as it should be :-). And I'm in awe of the speed with which you are posting, pix and all.
My favourite flavour so far at Smitten is the mint, made with actual mint leaves I think. But my heart still belongs to Mr and Mrs Miscellaneous for texture.
Methinks I will be heading to Tosca for pig tails next trip. Looking forward to your thoughts on State Bird!