Archive for the ‘San Francisco’ Category

Elizabeth Falkner’s ORSON (SF)

April 8, 2008

Orson, Pastry Chef Elizabeth Falkner’s new restaurant in San Francisco is not to be missed. The restaurant is enormous with both upstairs and downstairs dining, and her desserts exude the same sultry sexy confidence that she does. Industrial concrete, dark table cloths and chocolate colored chairs make you feel just as sleek as your surroundings. Elizabeth also owns Citizen Cake.

Invisible, created by Elizabeth and her pastry chef Luis.

Black Espresso, Black Sorbet

Downstairs Bar/ Dining Room

Upstairs Dining Room

508 4th Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

all photos © erin gleeson

The Melting Pot

March 31, 2008

I was recently in the SF Bay Area and was very excited about a trip to The Melting Pot in Larkspur with my cousin Shannon. As fondue fanatics, we were fiercely let down.

We went at 6:30 on a Wednesday with 4 people. We were told they were fully booked and they said we’d have to eat at the bar. It was less than desirable to sit at the bar because there weren’t enough burners to keep our fondue melty. We were there for an hour and a half and there were 4 tables open behind us the entire time. Apparently tables were being held for “ladies night”. We only had one guy with us, my dad. Other groups of all ladies who arrived after us waited momentarily at the bar and were then seated.

The bread was dry and the service was bad (except for one very sweet and over worked bartender). I was so enraged at the whole experience that when I left, I told the hostess how I felt (and I usually don’t do that kind of stuff).

That said, the ambience was very cool- it was as if we were inside an old wine cave. Low lights, fun vibe. Our fondue was pretty good- just not hot enough due to the lack of burners. If only the bread hadn’t tasted 3 days old. I’ve only just now realized it’s a chain. Perhaps this explains things a little more. The Dark Choclate fondue wasn’t bad, but the dipping options could have been better, fresher. The fruit and cheesecake tasted like they were from Costco.

Not sure I’ll be back. It’s no Bougeouis Pig.

The Melting Pot
125 E. Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Larkspur, CA
T: 415.461.6358

Umamiventure #8: Puerto Alegre

March 13, 2008

We met up for our special SF Umamiventure on a sunny Saturday at Puerto Alegre (PA) in the Mission. This place has been around since 1970 (!). I was excited for a lunch of CalMex delights, but everyone else was unphased. To them, this was just another lunch, afterall. These people in Cali take their Mexican food seriously, but also for granted. It’s not fair. They’ll never understand what us New Yorkers have to go through for good Mexican (there’s one place on 101st and Amsterdam, but who wants to trek up all the way up to the Upper West Side??? Or the 7 to Jackson Heights? Forget it).

Started with a pitcher of their margaritas that Yelpers won’t shut up about (PA currently has 3.5 stars out of 329 reviews. Jesus). Petey and Stu had already had a pitcher by the time we got there, and were practically wasted. Point being that they were really good margs. Love me a perfectly salt-rimmed glass.

The Meal: on weekends, PA has a brunch menu, but thank god they also serve the regular menu. Ya’ll know how I feel about brunch- NOT a fan.

I think Alice got the combo plate- beef enchilada and chicken tamale, doused in red sauce. Yum

My enchiladas: this was definitely one highlight of my Cali trip. That mole was off the hook.

Andy and Jenny copied each other and both got the chilaquiles (my new favorite word. Say it: chi-lah-kee-less). I actually never had heard of this before, being the ignorant eater that I am (a deep fried burrito is a chimichanga??). So this dish is deep fried corn tortillas cooked in red salsa or mole. It comes with this cream stuff too that is pretty crucial- it’s simple and genius. Andy says that his friend makes this dish better though. Incidentally, I’m reading on Wiki that this is a common cure in Mexico for a hangover.

Stu got the Super Meat Burrito- no frills, they keep it real.

Petey: Huevos divorciados- an egg with red salsa and another with green salsa. Pete was not impressed- he’s from Santa Barbara so his standards are high. BUT, he did say that the salsa was “awesome”. I do believe that the quality of salsa says a lot about a Mexican joint, and coming from Pete, that’s high praise.

James: steak and eggs. He wasn’t into it- but let this be a lesson: BRUNCH MENUS BLOW.

I was super into the kitchy 70s decor. I’m sure little has changed since they opened in 1970.
Isn’t this picture dope? It’s mounted high up on wall behind the bar, and I can only assume that it’s the people who opened Puerto Alegre in 1970. Were you even born yet?

In the end, this place was totally average for these Bay Area folks. To me, my enchiladas were the best thing ever. Has living in NY for 6 years lowered my eating standards?? Something to think about.

When you ask any Californian where they go for their burritos, they will start a drawn-out soliloquy about their spot- everyone’s is different. Expect a heated debate. Love it.

546 Valencia St (between 16th & 17th St)
San Francisco, CA
T: 415.255.8201

Past Umamiventures include:
Pacificana – 02/08
Jackson Diner – 01/08
Sripraphai Restaurant – 11/07
Taste of Jackson Heights – 10/07
Red Hook Ball Fields – 06/07
Ocean Jewel Restaurant – 06/07

California Soul: Osha Thai Noodle Cafe (SF)

March 11, 2008

After driving around for about 30 minutes trying to decide what to eat (pho? Thai? Burmese? Tofu House?) Alice and CJ took me to the original Osha in the Tenderloin, which everyone says is the best out of the other 5 Oshas scattered around the city now. I guess all the other ones are fancy, while this one is pretty gritty. We waited about 30 minutes for a table, at the bar next door (great bar).

You know when I told you in my last post that I tend to over-order? You ain’t seen nothing yet. CJ and Alice are friggin unstoppable– even I needed to put on the brakes at a certain point. CJ’s mantra, “No, we need more, that’s not enough.” Love it.

Yum Woon Sen: silver noodle with pork, shrimp, chili paste and red/green onions. So refreshing and tangy. Ayagwa’s version kicks ass too.

Dish of the Night: Fried fish cake patties seasoned with curry and green beans. All of us agreed that this was our favorite.

Spicy pan fried rice noodles with tomatoes, mushrooms, bamboo, chinese broccoli, bell pepper, onion, basil, chili and chicken.

Osha Noodle Tom Yum: shrimps, ground pork, fishballs, bean sprouts, fish cake, lime juice, and noodles. Now, you know I can eat noodles all day, everyday: ramen, soba, pasta, pho, wonton noodle soup, udon, blah blah. But if I lived in SF, I would go to Osha for this every week, no joke. I know this looks nasty (sorry it’s almost gone), but seriously, this stuff was surprisingly addictive. Noodles in tom yum? I was a skeptic, but now I’m a fan.

Green curry fried rice. Yum.

Spicy string beans with chicken. Too much chicken!!! But this one was supposed to be with shrimp. We ate it anyway.

CJ with our spread. Check it out! Um, this is for three people. We are so ridiculous.

The interior is pretty neat- bright lights, black walls. You feel like you’re in a black box performance space. Lots of loud techno. Here’s Alice. I miss her.

Funny thing about the Bay Area is that people are REALLY into Yelp. It boggles me. When we were trying to figure out where to go for dinner, CJ and Alice had an entire debate based on Yelp reviews. It’s nuts!! These Yelpers have so much influence! One of the Oshas has 3.5 stars out of 5, based on nearly 600 reviews!!! 600!

If I had to rate it, I would give this place 4.5 stars. 1/2 point deducted cause they only use white chicken meat, another 1/2 cause the music was too loud and intense, but a 1/2 point regained for being open until 1am!

Osha Thai Noodle Cafe
696 Geary Street @ Leavenworth and Jones
San Francisco, CA

California Soul: Swan Oyster Depot (SF)

March 10, 2008

They say the sun comes up every morning
And if you listen oh so carefully
The winds that ride on the high time
Whistle in melody
And so the people started to sing
And thats how the surf gave birth untold
To California soul, California Soul
– Ashford & Simpson

You know what the surf all along the west coast gave birth to? Absolutely the best oysters in the world, hands down. No joke- I’ve had oysters in many towns, in many countries, and I’m confident that this is true. There’s something in that Ocean, we’ll call it Pacific Soul–when it brushes up against Washington, Oregon and down to California, it creates these divinely luscious slurpable gems.

As soon as I got into San Francisco, Vanessa swooped me up and we headed towards California and Polk for the Swan Oyster Depot. Jim told me about this place, and I’d been dying to go. This seafood joint has been around since 1912 (!), and opens at 8am, closes at 5:30pm- I’m guessing the odd hours is to cater to local fishermen for before or after their shift.
We got there around 12:30pm and there was already a long line out the door. It was a mixed bag of tourists and regulars- the regulars got special treatment and got to drink in line. I want to be a regular!

There’s a fan above the doorway- bizarre but great.

All of the day’s selection displayed in the window. Gorgeous! Look at all those colors. All the guys behind the counter would run back and forth when making your food.

The Depot literally is just one counter, seating maybe 20 people. No frills here, just a lot of history. Men old and young work behind the counter. They were all super knowledgeable about their seafood.
We waited maybe 30-40 minutes in line. Here’s our guy- I think his name was Jeff??? Shame on me for not remembering- he was seriously the sweetest. He’s been there for at least 20 years, which is awesome (on their postcard, they have a pic of him when he still had hair. Aw). He also had a huge crush on V, which meant he showered us with attention. We like that.

He put our purses behind the counter. Seems to be a ritual of sorts.
Alright, the meal. Er, feast. God we ordered too much… you may have noticed that I always over-order. People get really annoyed at me for doing this, but V is the perfect eating partner cause she eats as much as I do, and is experimental. Neither of us have any shame. That’s my kinda girl.

“Jeff” really helped us construct our feast- we just gave him an idea of what we wanted, he suggested, we complied. No one should know what you should be eating better than the guy behind the counter (that goes for any place in general).

First up, OYSTERS! We got a dozen assorted (Drake’s Bay, Kumamoto, Olympia, Miyagi). In practice, I will only eat west coast oysters- there’s such a wide variety of flavors, sizes and textures just from up and down the coast, that is far superior to east coast oysters. I can’t explain what it is, but I think it’s the Pacific Soul.
Next- 1/2 dozen cherry stone clams. I love these cause they’re chewy, juicy, and for their delightful fleshy colors. V was not a fan though.
We got a bowl of the clam chowder to share- it was literally so runny, we were confused. But seriously, this was one of the best clam chowders I’ve ever had. Basically water and clams, and maybe some butter and milk, but mostly just clam juice. It was surprisingly refreshing and flavorful.

Big bowl of oyster crackers- just dig your hands right in!
V wanted scallops, so scallops “Jeff” gave us. He offered them raw sashimi style, or lightly marinated with olive oil, capers and red onions. We opted for the latter. Here he is squeezing lemon over it.

It was such a nice looking dish- and the mushiness of the scallops were perfect with the crisp of the onions. Flavor explosion!

At this point, we were pretty stuffed- “Jeff” kept checking in with us, every time he came back he thought we would be done for sure. NO WAY. He was really good about pacing our meal. He raised his eyebrows when we told him we wanted to finish with the crab salad. And another beer please! They have Stella on tap!

Seriously best crab salad. Their louis dressing is crack in form of a chunky orange cream sauce. Look at these fat pieces of crab!!! It was unreal.
5 courses, 2 beers, 2 hours later, we finally gave up. We surrendered our gluttony-I was sad that it was over. But we had so much fun! Until poor V started having some issues… FYI- Barney’s and Nordstrom downtown have really nice public bathrooms. Note to self- stop while you’re ahead.

V- SORRY!!!! But don’t ever stop eating with me!!!

Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk St.
(between California St. & Sacramento St.)
San Francisco, CA
T: 415.673.1101

View of the Bay Bridge on a gorgeous February day. The fog lifted for maybe an hour.

San Francisco Sourdough

September 14, 2007

Back from the Bay Area, where I ate pretty well (Sushi Kuni, Scoma’s, MacArthur Park, Dynasty), but here’s what I trekked all the way back to New York with:

How ecstatic was I to find a Boudin Bakery INSIDE the United terminal at SFO? Boudin is the essence of San Francisco– it’s the best damn sourdough in the world! Since 1849! For whatever reason, NY has no good sourdough ANYWHERE. God, I actually can’t even remember the last time I had it… Look at this, it’s beautiful!

Such a hard and crunchy crust, perfectly golden. It’s actually a rather dense, more doughy bread, almost moist, just faintly sour, never overly tangy or anything.

I picked up a few things at the store- hummus, goat cheese, salami, a tomato, clam chowder, and had a feast with my coworkers. Nothing like sharing a loaf of love from San Francisco!