Craftsman and Wolves, Happy Moose Juice, Xanath, Zen Yai, Smitten, Tosca, State Bird (San Francisco: Day Four)
- TheOffalo Jun 5, 2014 01:37 AM
[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!
Continued from above...
[For images with captions inline with text, go to http://theoffalo.com/2014/06/state-bi...]
After an epic day of eating (see above), I only had one place left on my itinerary for Day Four, but it was probably the most anticipated of the entire week. It's notoriously difficult to get into, but I managed to get a reservation at 9 PM for...
State Bird Provisions (http://statebirdsf.com/)
I arrived a little early, since I was at the mercy of the Muni schedule and did not want to arrive late. As I waited to be seated, I saw many people come in and ask about walk-in availability, only to be turned away. To her credit, the hostess was extremely gracious. Eventually I was seated at the bar, next to a fellow solo diner, and a fellow WWDC attendee! We exchanged pleasantries, ordered our drinks, and had the process for procuring food explained to us by our very helpful waitress.
Nutshell: It's like dim sum but not with Chinese food, unless one of the items happened to be a Chinese (or Chinese-inspired) dish.
To drink I had the house-made Muddled Shiso-Yuzu soda. It was not too sweet, and, as I'm sure you can imagine if you're familiar with the ingredients, quite refreshing. It was essentially the Japanese version of a (virgin) mojito, with the shiso standing in for mint, and the yuzu standing in for lime.
http://instagram.com/p/o3pg7VA-gt/ (House-Made Muddled Shiso-Yuzu Soda)
The carts and trays started coming, dishes were accepted and declined, descriptions of ingredients flew through the air, and I could hardly catch up, but I will try to describe what I had to the best of my ability.
* Sourdough, Sauerkraut, Pecorino, Ricotta Pancakes: Apparently SBP is known for these. They are made-to-order, not passsed, and come $9 for a half dozen, but they can do a one-third order, two pancakes, for $3 for solo diners (and probably anyone else who requests them). They were savory, acidic, and cheesy. Even though they did not include any potato (as far as I could tell), they kind of reminded me of a cross between latkes (potato pancakes), complete with a sour-cream-y taste, and johnnycakes and/or corn fritters.
http://instagram.com/p/o3p7brg-hV/ (Sourdough, Sauerkraut, Pecorino, Ricotta Pancakes)
* King Salmon Tartare with Fermented Turnips: The waiter mentioned many more ingredients than what's in the dishes name, and I can't remember them all now, but they including cucumber, quinoa, and shichimi togarashi (a Japanese spice mix that often has ground chili peppers, sesame seeds, nori, and more). This dish was very good. I could tell that the salmon was fresh, and all the ingredients really worked well together.
http://instagram.com/p/o3qeLvA-iX/ (King Salmon Tartare with Fermented Turnips)
* Raw Kusshi Oysters, Spicy Kohlrabi Kraut, Sesame: These were wonderful. The oysters themselves were very clean and plump, and the toppings had a bit of tartness and heat without overpowering the delicate bivalve.
http://instagram.com/p/o3sVMNA-lo/ (Raw Kusshi Oysters, Spicy Kohlrabi Kraut, Sesame)
* Duck Liver Mousse, Almond Biscuits: This was probably my favorite, or at least in the top 3, of all the dishes I had. We can't have foie gras in California anymore, but we can still have duck liver, and the mousse made with it was heady and unctuous. The biscuits had a little bit of corn bread consistency and was just sweet enough to compliment the savory-sweetness of the liver.
http://instagram.com/p/o3stTVg-mN/ (Duck Liver Mousse, Almond Biscuits)
* Guinea Hen Dumpling with Aromatic Broth: It's too bad the dish only had one dumpling, as it was very good, but not sure what the guinea hen did for it. It could have been made with chicken, or, in fitting with the theme, the state bird, quail, and I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference. The broth was I believe made with dashi (stock made with seaweed and dried bonito flakes) and was delightful. I downed the leftover soup after eating the dumpling.
http://instagram.com/p/o3tqmmg-n6/ (Guinea Hen Dumpling with Aromatic Broth)
* Stone-Ground Oat-Crusted Sweetbreads, Fava, Ramps: Another made-to-order item, I got this because: offal. Unfortunately, I've come to the realization that I am not a sweetbreads person, at least not when it's prepared like popcorn chicken, breaded and fried. I had them at Animal in L.A. with a similar preparation, and I just don't get enough of the subtle taste of the sweetbreads themselves, since the breading is too overwhelming. The fava beans were great, as were the ramps, but those were a bit hard to cut up in the bowl to eat.
http://instagram.com/p/o3uXrYg-pK/ (Stone-Ground Oat-Crusted Sweetbreads, Fava, Ramps)
* Guanciale Chawanmushi: This delicate Japanese steamed egg custard was also one of my favorite. It was as good a chawanmushi as any I've had at a Japanese restaurant, albeit with decidedly non-traditional ingredients. It was like a little cup of breakfast: bacon and eggs!
http://instagram.com/p/o3vGzuA-qf/ (Guanciale Chawanmushi)
* California State Bird, With Provisions: I felt I had to try SBP's eponymous dish, so I got a half order. The meat was juicy, and the batter was light and crisp, but since the bird’s relatively small, the bird-to-batter didn’t quite feel balanced to me. The provisions, stewed onions, were very good too.
http://instagram.com/p/o3vsWhA-rU/ (California State Bird, With Provisions (Half))
* Beef Tongue, Vinegar Potato, Ramps: The tongue was prepared with pastrami spices and sliced thin. The vinegar potato may have just been fried and smashed, but like the pancakes above, they tasted a little like latkes to me too. Aside from the above two ingredients, the menu only states ramps, but the bed of green purée tasted like it had something more than just alliums in it, like peas. This was another favorite of mine!
http://instagram.com/p/o3wUwtA-sH/ (Beef Tongue, Vinegar Potato, Ramps)
* Lemon Verbena Chocolate Crunch 'Ice Cream' Sandwich, Aprium, Coconut: Having polished off quite a bit of food, I was finally ready to finish up my meal. I love that SPB allows people to get half portions of most of their desserts, so I opted for this one. The reason 'ice cream' is in quotes is because it is not traditional ice cream, but frozen sabayon, a French-by-way-of-Italian custard. So a concrete then! Whatever one calls it, it was delicious! The chocolate sauce on the bottom tasted to me like it had a umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums) flavor, but perhaps it was my imagination.
http://instagram.com/p/o3xeZYA-tq/ (Lemon Verbena Chocolate Crunch 'Ice Cream' Sandwich, Aprium, Coconut [Half Order] & 'World Peace' Peanut Muscovado Milk)
* 'World Peace' Peanut Muscovado Milk: Along with the ice cream sandwich, I also got a shot of peanut milk, poured into a shot glass that had a little muscovado sugar syrup in it. The reason 'World Peace' is in quotes is because if everyone drank a shot of this, that's what we would get. I wouldn't go that far, but it was very good, like a really refined version of the mi jiang I grew up drinking in Taiwan the first half dozen years of my life.
State Bird Provisions ended up being my "splurge" dinner for the trip, and even then the cost really wasn't too bad. For the quantity and quality of food I ate, it was just over $100 including tax and tip. The service was fantastic! Sitting at the bar, I could order dishes directly with the chefs, which was a novelty. The chefs were really fun to talk to throughout the evening. We chatted about family meals, the ones they prepare for staff, and about The Progress, the new family-style restaurant the owners of SBP are opening a few doors down, which should hopefully open by the end of the year.
The only downside to SBP is the difficulty in getting a reservation. If you wanted to be sure to get in on a certain date but couldn't get a reservation for when you wanted, doing a walk-in by lining up around 4 PM and having your entire party present by the time they open at 5:30 PM will be your best bet. If you don't make it in right then, they will give you an approximate time to come back, but they will call you first. Again, if and when that time comes, make sure you have your entire party, or they will not seat you. It really is worth going to!
State Bird Provisions
1529 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
It's definitely in the top ten of my favorite meals of all time, probably in my top five, but I have to think about it.
Put it this way, I almost went into my CH profile to add it to my "My top 5 favorite restaurants" list, but with only one meal under my belt there, I didn't want to kick out the other favorite restaurants listed, which I actually *frequent* on a regular basis (except Tar & Roses--I've only been there 3 times).
I don't know about comparing it to L.A. I think Tar & Roses may come close (speaking of T&R), but it's really not the same. I can't articulate what it is about it. Each of the individual dishes can probably have come from many other L.A. restaurants, T&R, FIG, Animal, etc., and obviously the dim sum model is nothing new, but it's that combination that I guess does make it kinda unique.
Whoa...ringing endorsement! I am going to show up as early as possible on Sunday to try and get in there. I am almost looking more forward to it than dinner at Commis.
Out of curiosity, what did you meal there end up costing you? (Not that it's a deterrent, I'm just wondering because it's hard to tell from the menu what it approximately costs per person to eat there).
To be clear, I don't think $100/person is midrange or necessarily the average for diners at SBP. On the one hand, I didn't have any alcohol, which may inflate costs, on the other hand I was solo AND I was trying to sample as much as I could, so I did gorge myself a bit. If I was dining with a friend, I could see my cost drop by a third. If I lived in SF, I'd probably average half what I spent per meal, if I could get in often enough to have it be my regular spot.
Interestingly, Shunji popped into my head as I was writing it. It's definitely a $100+ and most likely a $140+ per person place for destination dining, but I eat there as a regular for half or even a third the cost, and it's not because I'm getting any kind of discount, but it's because I can be more targeted and focused in my ordering.
I saw the baguettes on a recent visit, they looked amazing. Are they sour dough? (On more then one occasion, I bought baguettes in the bay area, and it turns out it was a sour dough baguette).
I work around 10 minutes away, so my colleagues and I often walk that direction for a break. I like the chocolate croissant stack and the lemon espresso snail.
Exactly. The people who really like C&W are the people who don't like really rich pastries and sweets and who prefer a more Asian style. With its large Asian population and the relatively high proportion of Asian foodies, I think that style gets a lot of positive reviews in San Francisco.
I personally think the whole point of pastries is to be rich: the more butter and chocolate the better, but I understand that tastes differ.
All that said, I loved the salted caramel brownie at C&W.
Shrinkrap, While "caramel sandwich" is a much more accurate description, they're still billing it as a brownie. I'm very familiar with the item, and it's more of a sliced chocolate bread, with the cocoa infusion being on the subtle side.
I think their previous project, Tell Tale Preserve was more satisfying.