Thursday, February 26, 2015

HARD KNOX CAFE...EATING SOUTHERN WHENEVER I WANT TO

Southern food (soul food or whatever you'd like to call it) was the fad of the moment a few years ago with an array of restaurants in the Bay Area doing it to one degree or another with varying measures of success. Back in 1999 though, it became the goal of one Tony Hua to open a place that served up delicious homestyle soul food. He realized that dream with the opening of Hard Knox Cafe in what at the time was a little known SF hood called Dogpatch. These days, Dogpatch is happening with UCSF, tech start-ups, new condo construction, Third Street Rail and the future home of the Golden State Warriors at 16th and Third St. But the restaurant was a success long before that and even spawned an location out in the Richmond District. I've been going for many years to eat there and considered it one of my hidden out of the way faves. Sadly, particularly when there is a baseball game, the place can be mobbed. Still, during the week it's relatively easy to get in or get take out. I figured I might as well review the place for those few folks who don't already know what they may be missing.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS TO CONSUME AND SOME JUNK FOOD JUNKIE

Sometimes the corner market can yield surprises, especially if you've got the munchies. I wandered into one recently to get a soda and saw this bag of delight sitting on the shelf. I remembered that Lay's did another one of their fan created flavor contests and they had paired it down to 4 flavors for folks to vote on. Evidently, the winning flavor was wasabi ginger--which makes me gag a little bit--but there still seem to be some of this other one floating around. I would have thought this had a better chance of winning since it has the hallmarks of comfort food. Still, I was interested to try some and plopped my money down and ran home with my bag. I gripped the edges of the bag tightly and slowly pulled it apart. The immediate aroma from the bag nearly attacked my senses with a smell that bordered somewhere between fake bacon dog treat and vomit. It was strong, like a mushroom cloud invading the apartment. I kept the bag at arms length and debated should I really even try one. Ha, who am I kidding, yes I'm gonna try. I take a chip out of the bag while simultaneously holding my nose and pop it into my mouth. The instant flavor I get is salty, then I'm hit with notes of some cheesiness and more salt, but not really any bacon. I felt like a I was in that "Golden Girls" episode where Rose makes that foul smelling crispies dessert and the girls all sit around the table eating it while holding their noses. Yeah, just like that. The chips just taste like salty cheesy potato chips and beyond the stink I can see why they didn't win. I'm still wondering how they thought they could infuse the mac part into it as none of it really brings back memories of bacon, mac or cheese. I didn't even finish the bag and neither did the SO. Normally he can eat anything, but not these. Kind of tells you how bad they smelled and how ordinary they tasted. Well, while they didn't bring up any childhood comfort food memories I did get that "Golden Girls" flash so I will take "comfort" in that, but I definitely wouldn't recommend these--unless you are out of Beggin' Strips for the dog.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

BARTLETT HALL IN UNION SQUARE....LUNCHING WITH HIPSTER MILLENIALS

Union Square is a hotbed of tourist activity and a place many of us locals usually try to avoid unless entertaining out of town guests. I don't usually look for places to eat in the area. I know they are there but images of over priced tourist traps dance through my mind when I think about it. It's an area I've been to a lot, though my knowledge food establishments around it is limited. I have noticed over the last few months there have been a number of places that have opened in the area to some modicum of fanfare and I've kept them on my radar of--if I happen to be in the area--to give them a try. Recently the SO and I had a friend visiting who was staying downtown so what better time to eat someplace new. One spot I'd seen was Bartlett Hall. It was one of those places where the booze menu seemed to be as important as the food menu so what better time to try it than lunch! Yeah, I don't necessarily drink and I'm all about the food, so that's what I'm going for.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

SOUL GROOVE IN THE TENDERLOIN.....GETTING MY CARBS ON

The Tenderloin is a sketchy neighborhood in downtown San Francisco. That's not a knock, it just is what it is, and anyone who has lived here a long time will tell you the same. It's one of the last 'hoods to experience the makeover process that is going around in the rest of the city. Make no mistake, it is currently happening, it is just taking a little longer. Eventually it will become a little less interesting than it's current state. Till then, if you want to enjoy some of it's "charms" best to hit it up now before all is gone. Some of the interesting things found there are of the food variety--and you can definitely come across all flavors. Most are unique hole in the wall places serving up decent, not too pricey fare for the lunch goers who work near City Hall and Civic Center area. One such place I stumbled across one day while looking for Saigon Sandwich was Soul Groove. A small spot that's gotten a rep for serving up chicken and waffle sandwiches. Of course, they had me at waffle, and I finally had a week day off to get back there and give them a try.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

APPLE FRITTER EDITION OF YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS

Walk into most any corner donut shop in this town and you'll find the bestests, worstest "donut" of all time. Yes, I mean the apple fritter. Me and the fritter go way back and I have a real love/hate relationship with it. The love--it's deep fried dough with apple bits, cinnamon, occasionally some brown sugar covered in a sugared glaze. And since it is also the size of a baby's head it is a sugar crash come in waiting. I've been eating these for nearly 20 years. There was a time (meaning younger) when I seemed to have one practically every other day. But you know, the body doesn't process these things as well the older we get so these days I will break done and get one if I'm in the mood for a pound of sugar and fried dough. Of course the hate is the calorie count from even just a small bite--it is carb overload. Also, depending on where you get one there are varying degrees of doneness. I like mine a nice golden brown, but sometimes I see ones that are nearly black along the edges and more mahogany than golden. Usually that means it was cooked too long and will taste like burnt sugar or the oil in their fryers hasn't been changed in awhile and god only knows what it is gonna taste like. Sometimes ones you get will be done on the outside but still a little doughy on the inside. Some folks like this, me, not so much. I do like them cooked all the way through. I also wish some places would put more apple in them. Many times I'll come across a clump here and there, but even distribution seems to be elusive. The one seen above and below was mostly all the things I like in a good one, though a little doughy and the apples clumped in the middle a bit. Still, it was a sugar rush and I gluttonly ate the whole thing. You'd think that much greasy dough would upset the stomach but not mine. Though I do throw that out there as something to be aware of for folks--grease, dough, sugar--it's all here. This is not for lightweight dessert eaters, it is for the hardy--like me--so first timers need to be careful. I would like to add that the big surprise for me is how popular they are in this city that can seem a bit health conscious. I guess I can just chalk it up to transplanted folks like me or drunks and pot--yeah, it's probably the drunks and pot. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

TAQUERIA LOS COYOTES...WOULD IT STILL BE GOOD IF I WASN'T REALLY, REALLY, REALLY HUNGRY?

Taquerias in the Mission, they are a like Starbucks in the rest of the city--there's one on every corner. But how do you tell one from the other. Some are crowded, some are empty, some look large, clean and spacious and some look like you could get food poisoning, mugged or stabbed just by walking in the door. Most times though you just have to take a chance as some of the best places to eat are quite literally a hole in the wall, especially where the Mission is concerned. On this particular Sunday night me and the SO are in the hood to catch a show at the Victoria and are really hungry. Enough so that we don't want to walk to far to find someplace to eat. Thus by default, we end up a block up 16th Street from the theater at Taqueria Los Coyotes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

JOLE IN CALISTOGA...OH GOODY, THEY ARE INTRODUCING A NEW MENU TONIGHT

On our wine country jaunt over the holidays we were able to try many different wines and several different restaurants in the area. I previously reviewed several of the places we went though not all of them. There was one restaurant we dined at that has gotten some good press since it opened. It's one of those farm to table places run by a husband and wife team--he's chef she's pastry chef. I was mildly intrigued to try the place based on reviews I'd come across. It's called JoLe and it's on the main drag of downtown Calistoga. We had reservation for New Year's Eve of all times. It's in the ground floor of a hotel and is a smallish place with two topper tables and a small bar. We took our seats and as the hostess handed us our menus we were informed they were presenting brand new menu this evening. Oh joy, I thought, untested dishes. Thus it has taken me sometime to digest what I thought about what we had while taking into consideration our guinea pig status. But hey, that's what eating out is about sometimes, being adventurous and trying something new.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS TO CONSUME...PLUS SUGAR DESSERT SADNESS

My tour of Neighbor Bakehouse continues with what I'm gonna call one of their light bites--a sugared brioche. This was almost like a puff of sugared air. Light puffed dough sprinkled liberally with sugar. As dessert pastries go, this is very light, like a puff of air. Almost too light, particularly for me. Liked it? Yeah, but after I ate it, it was gone from both my senses. I vaguely remember sugared bread and then not much else. As opposed to the sugar bun thing I had from last week, this one didn't leave much of an impression. I usually like some heft to my desserts and this did not have that. If you are looking for a light bite then this is your bet, if you want something a little more substantial, you'll need to get another item. Though getting something else at this point may become a challenge for you as it has for me. Word seems to have gotten out about this place and on my last 3 visits there has been a line of some substance and well, I don't do lines. Not to mention that when I peaked in the window, most of their offerings were already gone. One day they were totally out of all sweet treats. The lady said they will have some more in 8 minutes or so, which was not worth the wait for me since I was already in a hurry to get to work. I guess popularity is breeding some discontent for me. I'm happy they are doing well, but bummed that, unless I get lucky one day, I won't be able to stop here anymore since I don't usually have time to wait in a long line and then find out they are out of what I'm looking to get. For those of us who live/work in the hood we can be happy for Bakehouse but sad it's no longer easy for us to just pop in for something. That seems to be the case with anything really good in SF no matter where it is located. People find out and come in droves and those of us who were first on the scene get sort of shut out. I can only hope the frenzy dies down a bit and they can reach of balance of shorter lines and product availability. Till then I'll continue my dessert quest in other ways. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

FOOD TRUCK QUICK BITE: SEOUL OF TAIPEI...I'M GUESSING IT'S FUSION?

Holiday weekends are odd--Saturdays feel like Friday, Sundays seem amiss and Mondays feel like Sunday. That was the case a few weeks ago when me and the SO were out and about and starting to feel the need for food. We hit upon jaunting by SOMA StrEatFood Park to see what was going on. Turns out, not a lot. There were maybe five trucks operating and at first it seemed a little weird then I was like, oh yeah, it's a Monday night, not the weekend. Since the choices were few and I'd been to most of them already, me and the SO actually were able to agree on trying a new we hadn't seen called Seoul of Taipei, I think it was the fries covered in stuff that caught both our attentions on the menu.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

OUTERLANDS....ALL THE WAY OUT TO OCEAN BEACH FOR A MEAL?

San Francisco is a city of only 49 or so square miles, though when you are thinking of going out for a bite to eat, you have a tendency to stick relatively close to home because driving and parking in this town suck and riding MUNI most anywhere really sucks. Every now and then however, me and the SO manage to pull it all together and make actual reservations to try a place that's gotten raves and is quite literally on the other side of the city from where we live. In this instance I mean Outerlands. While many folks know this as a go to brunch spot for the Sunset set, they have recently expanded the restaurant and are doing the full on dinner service. So on a recent Sunday night we made our 30 minute way across town to give them a try.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS TO CONSUME..LOADED WITH SUGAR AND BUTTER

Neighbor Bakehouse just opened up a store front recently in the Dogpatch neighborhood and of course I was all over that. The seem to run out of things so depending on when you get there the choices could be more or less. On my recent foray they were starting to run low but I managed to zero in on what would normally be called a kouign amain, though when I said that, the girl behind the counter would call it that directly, she said it was more a variation on it and different from that other famous one you can get here in town. At $3.50 a pop my first thought was it's a little on the pricey side but once I got it, I completely changed my mind. It's a very heavy, dense, fried-like pastry bun full of caramelized sugar. It kind of reminded me of those apple fritter things you find at Happy Donuts and for me, that's a good thing. You can peel off flaky bits that are sweet, buttery and yummy to the tongue. While there is a possibility it was next to or baked with something that had rosemary in it, I was almost sure I could taste hints of that in the dough. Again, for me, not really a bad thing. It was very light and and seemed to compliment the sweetness of the bun. Who knows? Maybe my taste buds were just imagining it, either way, I did like the small notes of whatever it was. The only small thing was some of the sugar had hardened so much around parts of the bottom that it was a little too sticky, crunchy and hard to chew. Other than that I really liked this sweet bun and it could become one of my favorite go to desserts whenever I'm in the Dogpatch hood. Though seems like I'd have to go early to make sure I get one and sometimes laziness can prevent that. But if I'm near and I can then I will. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

DOUGHBIES COOKIES ON DEMAND...BECAUSE I WANT THEM NOW! NOW! NOW!

Cookies on demand, delivered to my door within 20 minutes because I want them right now? Seems kind of like a joke and a little preposterous, but that is exactly what Doughbies sets out to be for the I want it now generation. Yes, just like Veruca Salt. Seemed like an odd thing to be as a start-up, in addition to a limited selection and a strange business model. Being the consummate cookie fiend I am I was totally game to give them a try and see if my cookie dreams would come true.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS TO CONSUME...AND MORE VEGAN DESSERTS!

I continued my tour of Peeples vegan pastry choices by going all in on the biggest thing I saw--this sweet potato bun/roll thing ($3.25). It was quite heavy. When I got it home I sliced it open (see below) and you can almost tell how dense it is. On my first bite I tried to get half bun half iced topping to get the full on effect. My initial reaction, it was a little dry. Beyond that it was sweet, the texture was okay and not "different" like last weeks donut. I took another bite, yep, still a little dry, though I can just taste the sweet potato. I do think that flavor needed to be kicked up some. The icing on top was also supposed to be sweet potato but really just tasted like plain powdered sugar icing. Eh, I didn't hate but did feel like something was missing. That's when I had the brilliant idea to heat it up just a touch in the microwave. A little 30 second blip and voila- it did taste a little better warm, still dry and still feeling like it was missing something. Of course me next reaction just pointed up the total Southern in as, yes, I reached for the butter. You are right, suddenly that little smear makes it no longer vegan, but it also brought an extra flavor and life to the bun that it was sorely missing. Without it, the bun is okay and cooking a little less could help the dryness, but really even just the smallest bit of butter took this to another level. Enough so that I would actually get it again, heat it up, spread on the butter love and enjoy away. Vegan diss? No, more my personal taste profile than to being totally opposed to anything vegan. I did try the vegan thing for a full year in college (isn't that when we all try new things?) but ultimately I did miss, not meat, but butter and cheese. Final thought--sweet potato bun/roll thing is worth a try to see what you think--butter not included. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

BUSTER'S SOUTHERN BARBECUE IN CALISTOGA...THEY'VE GOT YOU SMOKED

When you are wine tasting (drinking heavily) in Napa, it's always good to stay fed in order to have something to soak up all that sweet alcohol. Of course, if you are going to be paying for tastings, you don't necessarily want to be be dropping a wad for food at every meal. It's best to find some affordable place that has some decent food and will fill you up heartily so you can get back onto the wine trail. In searching out places to eat I'm always drawn to barbecued meats and if I see smoke coming from a grill I'm gonna wanna stop and try. Such was the case with Buster's Southern Barbecue in Calistoga.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ARCHETYPE IN ST HELENA...MAYBE I JUST NEEDED MORE WINE

Napa Valley, these days it's where tourists go when they want to experience "wine country". For those of us who've lived in SF awhile, you find yourself expanding to other areas with wineries and vineyards like Sonoma, Paso Robles and even Livermore (I know but look it up). Recently, the SO and I decided to get away for a few days and go old-school kitschy tourists and see what was up in Napa/St. Helena/Calistoga these and maybe hit up some populist wineries like Beringer and Sutter Home (ooo...pink zinfandel!). Besides some silly winery fun and drink it was also an opportunity to try some new eating places, though sadly no French Laundry as they are currently closed for a remodel, oh well. That still left plenty of other places to try, the first of which was a sort of revamped place. It was originally called French Blue, but new management has rechristened it Archetype and revamped the menu. They've had 8 months to work out the kinks so seemed like a good time to go.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS TO CONSUME

Vegan, it conjures up so many images where food is concerned, sometimes not in a good way. Particularly for me where desserts are concerned. I want my eggs, butter and what not to make things all yummy, tasty, creamy, whatever. There are a few places in town that cater to all things vegan and several do dessert foods, though I usually just roll the eyes and think if I'm gonna eat sweets I'm gonna go all in. One such place that has a location in the Ferry Building is Peeples Donuts. I've walked by it on numerous occasions but just kept on going. I couldn't bring myself to try them. Then one day I find myself in Rainbow Grocery (don't ask) and see they have a selection of things from Peeples. I shrug and think WTF, why not get some and try it. At $2.25 a pop (kind of expensive for a donut to me) I survey the goods and try to get the biggest one they have (that doesn't have coconut on it) and zero in on what appears to be a lemon poppy seed as the labeling at the store was a bit off. It feels pretty heavy and dense and the bright yellow you see in the pic is exactly the day-glow color it was to the eye. I cut it open (see below) and it is a very dense, cakey donut. The lemon poppy seed flavor is only found in the icing on top, which immediately comes off when you bite into it. The lemon flavor is tangy but not very lemony, almost tastes fake, and the poppy seeds add nothing at all as they are too few to make a difference. As for the the donut itself, it had a nice crunchy outside, but the inside borders slightly on the dry side. Plus for some reason, when I first bit into it, the first flavor that came to my taste buds minds was cornbread. Can't tell you why, but that is the flavor profile I got. Not unpleasant mind you, just unexpected in a donut. Texture wise it was denser than an old fashioned, which is about as dense a donut as you'll find. It wasn't terrible, just a bit off. It was more like I was eating a biscuit as opposed to a donut and I would need a touch of a mind re-set to enjoy it. Maybe if the flavors had been infused through the thing I might feel differently, as is, not sure this would be something I'd get again since for the cost it didn't knock my dessert socks off. Alas, I was undaunted though as I did get another of Peeples treats to try and I'll review it in next weeks food news. 



Thursday, January 8, 2015

THE MELT IS SERVING BURGERS NOW BECAUSE......

The Melt came on the scene in a bright flash. Founded by a techie who made a lot of cash by selling his company, they set out to be The Chipotle of grilled cheese sandwiches. You know, because that is what the people were clamoring for, right? Well, here we are a few years on, and most of the locations have "temporarily" closed while they reconfigure their menu, operations, brand, whatever, and relaunch touting both their previous grilled cheese and now their addition of burgers to the menu. While many of the restaurants are not up and running yet, the original spot, which I visited way back when, has reopened with the burger menu available. So, of course, I found time to stop by and see if there was any fuss to be made of yet another burger joint in San Francisco.

Monday, January 5, 2015

TAP (415) BRINGS HIGH END BEER JOINT TO THE MALL

I'm still in that mall mode to start the new year. This time I'm hanging out at The Westfield. Well, not really hanging out, more like me and the SO just saw a movie, we are hungry, it's raining outside and we don't want to go far to get some grub. Yeah, we are lazy like that. Instead of heading down to the basement to eat I vaguely remember that some new places opened up on the top level of the place right under the dome. Of the new joints there, I wasn't in a Chinese food mood so instead we hit up this place called Tap (415).

Monday, December 29, 2014

ANDA PIROSHKI.....RUSSIAN HOTPOCKETS IN THE HAIGHT'S SECOND ACT MARKETPLACE

The rise of the food scene in San Francisco has led many folks to try and get their foothold into its ever burgeoning popularity. Along with the wealth of options around town, purveyors and property owners have gotten creative in finding new ways to offer a variety of up and coming chefs and cooks to the populists appetite. One new way to serve up different foods is what I'll call a re-invention of the food court. They've come out of the shadows of malls and are stand alone entities on their own. Places like Cortland Marketplace, The Hall, the soon to open Market Hall and Second Act Marketplace to name a few. It was on a recent trip to Amoeba Music in the Haight that I stumbled across Second Act, a tiny space with a handful of food stalls.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

YOUR WEEKLY DIGESTION OF FOOD NEWS TO CONSUME....HOLIDAY EDITION


Yikes! The holidays are a busy time, particularly when you work retail like I do. Thus my chance to sit down and do the food blog run slim and I don't get to post as often as I would normally like. Thus, right before Christmas rolls in, I'm rolling out this expanded food news edition along with a mini-review to tide things over until the madness subsides and I can get my act and schedule regular again. So, last time I went by Starbucks and got Xmas cookies so why not give Peet's equal opportunity for tempting me with some holiday fare. As I wandered into this particular Peet's I did see some Christmas cookies but they were the standard sugar cookie with colored crystal sprinkles on them, not iced frosting, and I just wasn't feeling them. Then what to my wandering eye should appear but this lovely gingerbread loaf with cream cheese icing and candied ginger pieces. With my taste buds alight I plopped down my $2.35 and asked for the piece that looked like the biggest. With greedy delight I grabbed my slice and settled in for a bite of my treat. 

It's a hefty, hearty piece that falls well within my value range for the money. One bite in and you taste the moistness of this filling bread. There is a lovely snap of ginger through out, though I could stand just a tad more to really kick it up. The cream cheese is tasty, not too sweet smear across the top and for me any addition of cream cheese frosting is most definitely a plus. Sadly, loafs are not like cake so the frosting is just across the top and adds a nice touch, but in my fantasy it is smeared like butter across a piece of toast. I think I'd have to make my own for that, oh well. I liked the addition of candied ginger on top even though weirdly I'm not the biggest fan of it. Yeah, I know, I like gingerbread and things with ginger in it but something about eating straight up ginger can be harsh and bitter even when candied. Still it wasn't over the top and just a few bits. For the most part this is a good piece of gingerbread loaf that will fill the void when you get that craving for a holiday treat. It also helps that there are a number of Peet's around the Bay Area, not as many as Starbucks, but still enough you could find one to pop into and pick up a slice. It's a soft, moist piece of spiced cake with enough cream cheese frosting to make it interesting. It is a holiday seasonal thing for them so if you are interested you'll need to get by before it is gone and then it will be back to citrus loaf and banana bread. All well and good, but they are no gingerbread! Happy Holidays all!