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Day 2 San Francisco Reviews - Thorough Bread, Knead, St. Francis Fountain, Mozzeria, Chile Pies, Saison

Having recently spent 5 1/2 days in San Francisco I'll be updating my feedback as it is written. All told 31 dining spots were visited in that time. Full text reviews will be posted here with photos available on the blog as there are simply too many to upload to Chowhound. Cheers.

Part 1 here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/979891

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  1. Thorough Bread & Pastry - http://endoedibles.com/?p=19990

    Long ignored due to my infatuation with Knead, b. patisserie, and Craftsman & Wolves it was with an early morning eleven mile run already under my belt that I finally made my way to Castro-favorite Thorough Bread & Pastry and although dismissive hipster service marred my experience at the counter I’d be lying if pronounced the pastry as anything less than impressive – only an overly-sweet frangipane-croissant disappointing in the least while the remaining half dozen selections shined. Certainly more classic in approach than the aforementioned trio and not nearly as storied as Tartine it was just after 7:15am that I arrived at the Church Street storefront and with obvious sighs plus an eye-roll accompanying requests for separate plates and warm bread pudding it was to the back patio that I retired to indulge, the buttery bread pudding an decadent first bite as laminated pastry proved an admirable scaffold for rich custard and pockets of melting dark chocolate. Underwhelmed by the croissant it was onward to two crisp cookies that my tasting progressed and with a soft scone well-endowed with butter plus blueberries quick to follow the best was yet to come – a salty caramel strew sticky bun crowned with toasty chopped pecans followed by reference standard spice cake chock full of carrots and lightly sweetened by layers cream cheese frosting that would make all but the most picky Southern Grandma swoon.

    1. Knead Patisserie - http://endoedibles.com/?p=20016

      With destination dining at Quince and Saison decorating my first two days in San Francisco it was to no less excitement that I once again entered the doors of Local Mission Eatery on Friday morning and making a bee-line to the back my smile was quickly met by a familiar face, the talented Shauna Des Voignes setting out a fresh batch of her signature pomme d’amour amidst a collection of pastries all so familiar from my previous four visits. Rarely one to revisit a restaurant unless truly enthralled and even less frequently ordering the same item twice it was after a bit of small talk (ie me gushing with praise) that my order was settled and taking my items to the front while The Ramones played overhead Knead’s song remained the same, the still-jiggling puff of crème brulee devoured first and soon followed by my fifth butter pecan croissant – its hundreds of shattering layers overlying buttery caverns still the best laminated pastry to ever grace my palate. Tempted as always by the s’mores jar, cookies, and scones it was instead to a new confection that I turned in order to complete my trio and with paper-thin pastry just as delicate as those before it the “cream croissant” left me reeling; the lightly sweetened whipped cream piped into a golden butter croissant bursting forth both literally and figuratively with textures and flavors similar but superior to Boston’s fabled Lobster Tail…a strong contender along with many of the offerings at b.patisserie for second best laminated pastry I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter on this side of the Atlantic.

      10 Replies
      1. re: uhockey

        " Rarely one to revisit a restaurant unless truly enthralled and even less frequently ordering the same item twice "

        Really? I have favorite dishes at favorite places. Can't imagine closing myself off like that. Even Frank Bruni didn't do that.

        1. re: c oliver

          Hardly seems closed off - if anything the opposite, trying new things.

          1. re: uhockey

            But if you're always "trying new things," you miss revisiting the tried and true and very, very good.

            1. re: c oliver

              I think some balance between both lines of thinking is healthy. I know I've had a lot of fluke great first time experiences with a dish, never to be repeated. I also know I'm prone to ordering the same dish because it worked out, and never really experiencing a full range of a menu.

              1. re: sugartoof

                Agreed. We have a favorite local place and we attempt to eat an old fave and then new things.

          2. re: c oliver

            Hedonism is the most common motive for being a foodie, but it's not the only one.

              1. re: BacoMan

                I think some people are into food more for cultural or aesthetic reasons, and approach a meal the way I would a painting.

                Michael Bauer, for example. It's rare that I read one of his reviews and think, sounds delicious, I have to go eat that right now! the way I do with more hedonistic writers such as Jonathan Gold.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I don't get the difference I guess. I'd say I am into food for the same reason I am into painting, but both seem like forms of hedonism to me (i.e. you're hoping to maximize your pleasure in both instances).

                  Maybe you meant to distinguish between intellectual and visceral pleasures?

                  1. re: BacoMan

                    Something like that. Appetite vs. curiosity.

        2. St. Francis Fountain - http://endoedibles.com/?p=20032

          Exiting east out of Knead and waltzing down 24th Street towards Dynamo Donuts it was with long-held interest that I once again passed by St. Francis Fountain and with daily selections less than inspiring from the small storefront at 2760 I finally decided to quell my curiosity, a short walk back just one block landing me at a two-top in the 1918 soda fountain. Kitschy in décor with toys and trading cards from my youth available for purchase in a glass case while booths and tables sat tightly spaced juxtaposing the Formica bar it would be mere moments before I was greeted by the diner’s lone server and confirming hopes of an ‘all-day’ menu my order quickly took shape, a duo of childhood favorites readied at the counter along with French Toast arriving less than ten minutes later. Eschewing coffee in favor of things far sweeter it was in the classic Dreamsicle that my indulgence began and with Mitchell’s vanilla ice cream beneath a hefty scoop of orange sherbet plus just enough liquid to make the concoction sippable through a straw memories of meals at Friendly’s as a youngster came flooding back, a warm wedge of brownie delivered simultaneously equally worthy of reminiscence in its sheer simplicity – a lack of ‘artisan’ details oddly satisfying given the setting. Already all smiles as patrons aged five to seventy-five slowly began to trickle through the doors it was with my drink still half-full but the brownie long gone that my two slices of griddled sourdough next arrived and buried beneath a mountain of granola, fresh fruit, and tangy yogurt there was only one thing to do – a $1 supplement of pure maple syrup quickly flooding the plate adding an exclamation point to my ‘delight.’

          1. Mozzeria - http://endoedibles.com/?p=20048

            Located in The Mission and boasting VPN certification despite several pies one would never see in Naples it was with high expectations that I approached Russ and Melody Stein’s Mozzeria, the small shop having received plenty of attention for its all-deaf staff but according to many not nearly enough for the quality of its product. Largely trattoria in concept featuring an array of pizzas plus a few small plates during counterside lunch with additional pastas and secondi appearing for table-service dinners it can rightfully be assumed that anyone importing a two-ton Stefano Ferrera oven is serious about their craft and with a minimalist décor of red, black, and wood as local arts decorate the walls the diners attention is squarely focused on the plate…or at least it should be after watching Russ expertly stretch, dress, and fire the rounds of ‘00’ dough. Burning around 850F on a combination of pecan and oak a pizza at Mozzeria begins with a smoky char to the pliable crust and featuring light saucing amidst pools of bubbly buffala mozzarella the Margherita DOP was a reliable classic while the crispy duck skin and supple flesh topping a crust flecked with sesame seeds that followed was simply stunning – a touch of hoisin and scallions served alongside added to outperform many more ‘authentic’ attempts throughout the United States.

            1 Reply
            1. re: uhockey

              I think Mozzerria is way underrated on these boards. Excellent and authentic Napolitan pizza.

            2. Chile Pies (Sweet & Savory) - http://endoedibles.com/?p=20065

              With desserts a no-go during lunch at Mozzeria I was left with the enviable decision of whether to return to Craftsman & Wolves or to try something new and as much as the former was sure to wow it was to pie that I turned, the beguiling flavors of Chile Pies having caught my eye earlier in the day as I walked south from Thorough Bread to Knead. Unbeknownst to me one of three ‘Chile’ spaces from Chef Trevor Logan the subtitled ‘Sweet & Savory’ is a decidedly tight space and with a menu spanning from burritos, stews, and salads to a single cake alongside several pies it was in the clerk that I placed my trust; the restaurant’s signature take on apple pie an obvious recommendation while her second pick was precisely what I’d have selected had I not ventured to ask. Opting for the first slice warmed and served a la mode with the other taken to go it was with some skepticism that I approached the green chile apple slice and although appreciably fruit forward there was no mistaking the fiery finish, a bit of balance provided by the creamy chill of Three Twins organic vanilla but not something I’d opt for again given my limited appreciation for such spice. At this point taking to the streets in order to attend the opening lectures of my conference it would be some four hours later before I indulged in my second slice and although cut far smaller than the Apple in order to accommodate the carry-out container the results were far more befitting my palate as hefty notes of cinnamon mingled with toasted peanuts, rich chocolate, and just a touch of chili powder atop a golden butter crust plenty flaky enough to make a proper mess of the Moscone Center table.

              1. Saison - http://endoedibles.com/?p=20077

                Landing atop my list of best meals for 2013 a third visit to Saison was a given during my most recent trip to San Francisco and although I’d have never imagined the circumstances when I booked the reservation nearly three months prior I’m relatively certain the Friday the 13th visit will linger as one of the most memorable nights in my life – a nearly four hour experience of superlative food, beverage, and service unfolding while the Los Angeles Kings captured their second Stanley Cup. Admittedly known to Chef Skenes as well as Maitre D’ Matthew Mako and welcomed at the door like an old friend it was to the restaurant’s longer Discovery Menu that I was treated and with 20+ courses comprised of a cornucopia of exotic ingredients manipulated only as much as necessary to maximize both flavor and texture not a single bite would prove less than ambitious and, perhaps more importantly, delicious. Undeniably a tasting menu rooted in logical progression yet at the same time often hinting at things to come or flavors just passed it would be nearly impossible to single out a dish as the meal’s strongest and as such focusing on one ‘segment’ that exemplified everything from sourcing to technique one would be best served to witness the urchin, abalone, surf clam, and sea cucumber quartet – each plate a stirring tribute to its ingredients but the succession a veritable work of art with brine, bitter, smoke, and sweet all delivered in harmony with texture moving deftly from crunchy to creamy and back. As much an event as a meal I’ve said before that Saison is the best restaurant in the country and although other factors may indeed be tinting my most recent experience I am just as comfortable now suggesting that both the food and the service better than ever, a proclamation leaving me to wonder just how much better it can get…and eager to return and find out.

                8 Replies
                1. re: uhockey

                  As for how much better it can get: I am going to return when he starts combining more perfectly executed ingredients with each other. For example, instead of a dish focusing on one item such as abalone, the dish contains 2 or 3 items that complement each other. The chef is still young and there's plenty more potential regardless of how great his food already is.

                  1. re: felice

                    Indeed, it seems to me as an outsider, just reading about Saison's meals, that they sound incredibly boring.

                    Couldn't you just source the same odd things and eat them and get the same experience?...

                    1. re: BacoMan

                      ...No, it is the subtlety that makes them shine. There is a lot of seasoning, prep-work, and time spent reducing sauces and such to nuance the food. It is very much "Japanese" in nature, imo - so if you find omakase boring, then perhaps...

                      1. re: uhockey

                        I've never judged a dish on the prep work.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Even unknowingly? People praise Achatz's black truffle explosion ravioli far more then a simple carrot pulled out the dirt. I doubt the average customer thinks twice about the prep evolved in its making. They like it, or not.

                      2. re: BacoMan

                        My meal at the old place reminded me of omakase at a great sushi bar. Do you find that boring?

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/817820

                        Skenes summed up his style succinctly: "I've gone out to many excellent places where you feel like shit after the meal. I don't want guests to feel that way."

                        http://eater.com/archives/2012/04/18/...

                        1. re: BacoMan

                          I agree that roughly half of the courses reminded me of omakase, and Saison's "version" is better than almost everyone else's, as it should be at the price Saison is charging. The one place that I felt was clearly superior to Saison in terms of the omakase style courses is Urasawa in LA.

                    2. uhockey, where did you go? Was looking forward to reading your thoughts on Kin Khao...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: TheOffalo

                        I went to London, actually. I have all the reviews written save for one, just haven't had a chance to put them in the blog or here on CH. This week, I hope.