Acquerello

Back in the day when my parents were young and hip and lived in Nob Hill, they came to Acquerello quite often. Since those days, Acquerello has steadily improved in food quality and reputation – and has become one of the best fine dining restaurants in San Francisco. (Comparable to Gary Danko, but by no means equatable.)

The restaurant is quite formal. Jacket is requried, and they refer to themselves as a “special occasion restaurant.” I was worried about taking photos inside, but was assured that it would only be a problem if I was distracting other diners. Given that the table next to us was a large, loud table yelling in Cantonese, I had no problem pulling out my camera for a few quick snaps.

Three complimentary starters:IMG_3622IMG_3626IMG_3627

 

 

IMG_3634Ahi tuna crudo, grapes, pickled Santa Rosa plums, rosemary, black olive, and tonnato sauceIMG_3633Frog Hollow peaches with burrata, rhubarb, black sesame, and basil

IMG_3630Snake River Farms beef tartare, onion soubise, white celery, and Balsamic pearl onionsIMG_3641Cuttlefish ‘tagliatelle’ with capers, chili flakes, lobster,and agrettiIMG_3639Smoked potato gnocchi with prosciutto, confited summer truffle, chive,and ParmesanIMG_3638Acquerello risotto with Brentwood corn, Tiger prawns, pancetta,and Calabrian chiliIMG_3648Grimaud Farms air chilled duck breast, beets, black pepper crumb, hibiscus and blackberriesIMG_3643Maine lobster tail with smoked butter, Brentwood corn custard, confit tomato,and tarragonIMG_3654Bourbon-caramel semifreddo, Amaretti crust, chocolate, and caramel sauceIMG_3656Complimentary desserts to finish off our meal.IMG_3657And a box of biscotti to take home. The biscotti were beyond delicious – quite different and wetter in texture than those I am used to (like my dad’s famous biscotti).

Overall, Acquerello was a fine dining experience. Every dish we had incorporated new flavors and was prepared to perfection. Surprisingly, I found the complimentary dishes to be more exciting and well-prepared than some of the dishes ordered from the menu. Contrary to some previous reports on Acquerello, we also found our dessert to be delightful. We were hesitant to order any dessert, given how full we were, but we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of pastry.

Acquerello was an experience I would do over again no question, as long as I am not the one paying.

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Nopa

Nopa is one of those restaurants whose name feels like it is constantly being thrown around in San Francisco. Even if you’ve never been or don’t even know what style cuisine they serve, if you live in San Francisco, chances are you have at least heard the name.

When my mom told me we had reservations during the one week I was back for Thanksgiving, I immediately got even more excited to return home. As I churned through the final weeks and days of school before Thanksgiving break, Nopa began to represent to me everything and everything food-related that I missed about San Francisco and home. With all of these ideas and expectations running through my mind, I am surprised that Nopa managed to meet my expectations. The dinner was tasty, though the dishes ranged from those phenomenally great to those that were just good. The ambiance and design of the restaurant alone, however, I think are worth a visit and the price of the meal.

A note – one thing I kind of loved about Nopa were the more quirky dishes on their menu, though they may not be everyone’s cup of tea. A young couple sitting next to us  did not love the dishes that we lovingly devoured . While everyone may not agree, having complex dishes that involve peculiar ingredients like duck gizzard feels distinctly San Francisco to me, and I loved it.

Josh @ Nopa, perusing the scene

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Grass fed Hamburger – probably, almost definitely the juiciest burger I have ever tasted. (Sorry, Dad, your freshly-ground burgers are almost as good.)

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Piggy platter – trotter terrine, smoked ternderloin and liver mousse.

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Avocado salad, pickled beets, clementine, almonds, and sesame seeds.

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Fried Sardines with Romesco.

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Grilled Bread, Duck Gizzard Confit, carrot hummus, pickled jalapeño and persimmon.

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Flatbread of spicy fennel sausage, butternut squash, olives and crescenza.

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Country Pork chop, potatoes, brussel sprouts, mustard and grapes. The pork chop was divinely moist (extraordinarily) and my dad is to this day still speculating as to how they created it.

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Seared duck breast, sauerkraut, carrots, golden raisins and wild arugula.

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Morrocan vegetable tagine, toasted almonds, lemon yogurt.

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I ran a 5k the next morning. If that is what I have to do to stay alive and eat meals like this every day, consider it a done deal.

Best Value Meal Swipe: Suvir Saran at Yale

I’ve discovered there is some value in checking my e-mail in college. Free shirts, free cookies, free concerts, and sometimes – an essentially free meal by a Michelin-star chef. When I saw the e-mail from Yale Dining about a “Celebrity Cooking Demo,” I immediately signed up. Supposedly, the sign-up sheet was filled within a matter of minutes.

For my $12 dollar meal swipe, I received a four-course meal on linen tablecloths served by waiters in white – a stark contrast to the usual buffet-style dinners served in the dining hall. Most of all, I enjoyed sitting down for a meal (it lasted over two hours) during a hectic week of midterms. Meals here often feel, and are, rushed. It was nice to take time talk with friends and strangers alike over good food.

When I arrived at the table, I was immediately thrust a basket of warm pita and urged to try the various dips set up. They were delicious. My favorite was the baba ganoush, or as Suvir Saran described it, his “eggplant salsa.” The red salsa on the left also had a great kick to it (and no, it tasted nothing like Mexican salsa). The hummus was nice, but did not come close to the superior texture and taste of the Armenian hummus I enjoy in San Francisco.

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Suvir Saran spoke for quite a while on the dishes we were being served and his interest in producing healthy, sustainable food. Unfortunately, once the dishes were served (as Saran was speaking), the focus was on eating food and not listening to him.

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Shrimp in Curry with Corn. The curry was positively delicious.

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The next few dishes were served family style.  Please excuse the less than ideal photography (a result of the lighting and my distance from certain dishes on the table). They were less satisfying after the fabulous shrimp, but more satisfying than a typical dining hall meal.

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The dessert was definitely the least satisfying dish as the flavors were bland and the texture grainy and foreign. It was a kind of Indian pudding with raisins. I don’t think the Commons dining hall staff knew what they were serving.

ImageThanks Suvir for the best dining hall meal I’ve had yet!

SPQR: The Last Supper

It’s been exactly a month since I’ve relocated from the West to the East Coast. A month since I’ve tasted any food from San Francisco. A month of college food. But it hasn’t been a bad month at all, just a busy month – hence the lack of any activity on this blog.

I do miss my city by the bay, its weather, and its food. So on the anniversary of my relocation, I am nostalgically looking back on my last meal in San Francisco.

My last dining experience in San Francisco was bittersweet (literally). My parents took me out to SPQR the night before my 6 AM flight and we ate our hearts content. SPQR was fabulous. The portions are small, and the prices – well, not small. SPQR highlights seafood caught by one local fisherman. The dishes depend on the supply, which means they are often atypical to what you may find in any other restaurant. The restaurant is beautiful design-wise. The skylights above add a nice glow to the restaurant and make for great photography. Although the restaurant and their prices may seem a bit pretentious, there is something incredibly charming about SPQR, where the quarters are so tight that you can watch the chef chat with customers as he prepares food from your seat. I want nothing more to have a seat at the bar – saved for neighborhood regulars, friends of the chef, and people in the biz (the restaurant and food business, that is).

And finally, here’s what we ate:

“fritto misto’, pesce, eggplant, squash, squid and its ink with smoked chilli

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chicken liver mousse, peach fennel marmellata and balsamic gelatina

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complements of the chef…

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octopus, opal basil, panissa, green chickpea, cucumber and american ham

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monkeyfaced eel, smoked plum, horseradish crisp, plankton – too many different ingredients on one board, so little time.

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lobster tortelli, nantes carrot, lobster brodo and garden herb

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“pyramidi al fungi”, chanterelle mushroom fonduta, espresso rubbed cheese and summer truffle – not my favorite dish, it was far less complex or interesting than the other dishes.

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guinea hen cappelletti, sundried tomato, burrata, cavalo nero and red wine

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smoked fettucini, sea urchin, smoked bacon and soft quail egg – this was by far the best dish. It was amazing. A new twist on what could have been a simple carbonera. All of the ingredients fit the right flavors but added more – a hint of exoticism, a creamier texture, etc.

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And DESSERT! At this point, I can’t remember exactly what we had. But don’t they look great?!?

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For those of you still blessed with living in or near San Francisco, I suggest you get to work on securing a seat at the bar at SPQR.

SPQR
1911 Fillmore St.

San Francisco, CA 94115

(415)771-7779

Outside Lands: Festival for the Foodie

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To assume that Outside Lands is simply a music concert would be a grave mistake. Don’t get me wrong – listening to the performances is the main attraction, but Outside Lands has plenty to offer to the other senses.

The smell of the weekend? The nice wafting smell of weed that comes in intense waves but doesn’t fully depart until you leave Golden Gate Park.

The sights of the weekend? The people of course – while you can find your fair share of expected San Francisco hippies and yuppies, Outside Lands attracts everything from entire families to eccentrics in costume to shrieking teenage girls.

And the food – oh, the food.

Outside Lands collects a wonderful variety of good food from all around San Francisco on one plot of land. Think Off The Grid, but you’ve got food trucks and fancy restaurants and street carts and a whole lot of other food vendors.

On Saturday, the Grizzly Bear front man called out into the crowd: “You guys have the bougiest food stands of any music festival I’ve ever seen.” Bougie. And proud. And delicious.

As my friend Maddie commented:Image

There were two main planning struggles for me this past weekend: 1) how to see all the bands I wanted to see (sometimes sacrifices are necessary because of simultaneous scheduling), and 2) how to eat all the food I wanted to eat (no excuses, the stomach expands). The only excuse that stands in terms of food is the pricing – the prices (although it’s not unexpected, it still surprises me) are a bit outrageous for all of the food and drinks at Outside Lands.

And so, I shall commence with the records of what I consumed.

Charles’ Chocolates Gourmet S’more. Yes, please. A definite crowd favorite.

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American Grilled Cheese Kitchen Grilled Cheese with a whole lot of bacon:IMG_2015

I had a bite of the Breakfast Grilled Cheese as well (with fried egg and bacon). Also delicious.

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This photograph does not do it justice, but the Artichoke & Ricotta Sandwich from Luella was wonderfully simplistic.

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I can guarantee you that these Tater Tots from Q were better than Napoleon Dynamite’s. I get it now though, I did not realize how scarily addicting tater tots are. Another crowd favorite.

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Wild mushroom grits from 1300 on Fillmore:IMG_1977

Gilroy Garlic Mac N Cheese. The SECOND best mac n cheese at OSL.

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The BEST Mac and Cheese at Outside Lands. The Crispy Mac and Cheese from Andalu. Whoever thought of frying mac and cheese was genius. The Mac and Cheese from Andalu almost had a grilled cheese texture to it (the outside breading of the mac and cheese was substantial). Perfectly crispy on the outside, perfectly soft and cheesy on the inside. The Spicy Tomato Vinaigrette was also key.

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To add on to the wonderfully healthy food I had at Outside Lands, I also had a huge slice of sausage pizza from Spicy Pie. I was starving, and it was gone in a few minutes.

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Last but not least, the beef and pork arepas from Pica Pica. Although my sister was excited to try Pica Pica’s arepas, I had no clue what they were. They were a delightful surprise and the best dish I had at Outside Lands.

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Until next year, Outside Lands.

Tastings in Tulum

I spent the last week in Tulum, or rather, Akumal, a small town 15 minutes North of Tulum (South of Playa del Carmen and Cancun) in Mexico. The attraction, of course, wasn’t the food, but rather the scene, the surf, and the sights. The food was simply an added bonus.

Here are some samples of what we ate:

Starting the morning off right with an açai smoothie with granola from Turtle Bay Café in Akumal:

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Tacos and Mixed Seafood Ceviche from Los Aguachiles in Tulum:

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I actually preferred El Cammello Jr., which is just down the block from Los Aguachiles in Tulum. The restaurant was less tourist-y, the servings were larger, and the seafood seemed fresher. Unfortunately, I have no photos – contrary to popular belief, I don’t take photos of everything I eat. This time around, I regret this fact.

Dinner at La Cueva del Pescador in Akumal (this is my recommendation for dinner in Akumal):

Octopus cooked Veracruz style. The octopus was more tender than any other octopus I have tasted, and the flavors were simple and fresh. This was the best dish.

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Mixed seafood – fresh, and simply seasoned and grilled:

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A refreshing Jamaica (Hibiscus) Agua Fresca:

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The scene at La Buena Vida in Akumal, where we sat on swings to enjoy Happy Hour:

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One of the local Mayan dishes, Cochinita Pibil, slow-roasted pork colored with a sauce made red by annatto seed:

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Homemade Flan. Perfecto.

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And finally, CHURROS. For those who know me, you may also know that I have been obsessed with churros since I was a small child. Everywhere I go, churros seem to call out to me. These were by far the best churros I have ever had. Surprisingly (to me, at least), they were from the local supermarket, the Soriana in Playa del Carmen. The churros are freshly made and laid out for customers to douse in cinnamon-sugar themselves. Thin, and perfectly crunchy on the outside. Pure heaven.

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Adios, Tulum. It’s been real.

The Corner Store Chillin’

The Corner Store has mixed reviews in my family.

I had been wanting to go to The Corner Store since the place opened on the corner of Geary & Masonic. I passed by it every day on my way to school, and its red circular sign was an everyday reminder that I had yet to go. Finally, I went one day with my sister and a friend.

First of all, I loved the ambiance at The Corner Store. It’s hip – definitely the hippest place that has occupied its location, but when we went there late on a Friday night there was an eclectic mix of hipsters, young people and couples, and older friends and families. Everybody was conversing, loud, and laughing.

The flavors at The Corner Store are definitely more reserved and subtle. They may not be the most mind-blowingly complex flavors you will ever try, but they do go together nicely and make an enjoyable meal.

I enjoyed The Corner Store. Every dish we had was quite good, and I had no complaints. I would definitely return again. My sister, on the other hand, enjoyed our dishes, but was less excited about the place. Later, when I proposed going back to The Corner Store for a different meal (a while later, mind you), she opposed my suggestion.

We both agree, however, that we want to go back to try The Corner Store’s brunch.

The Spring Salad:

The Corner Store Spring Salad

The White Corn Soup – there was not a drop left in the bowl.

The Corner Store White Corn Soup

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Lamb Shoulder Pasta – also quite good, I loved the texture of the Garganelli, though I must say the watery portion left at the bottom was unappealing.

The Corner Store Lamb Shoulder Pasta

The Scottish Salmon with manila clams, gulf shrimp, baby artichoke, and spring onion:

The Corner Store Scottish Salmon

The special of the day – which I believe was a panko-encrusted poached egg on a bed of asparagus:

The Corner Store Panko Poached Egg with Asparagus

A balsamic strawberry dessert:

The Corner Store Strawberry Balsamic Dessert

The butterscotch pudding – delicious:

The Corner Store Butterscotch Pudding

The Corner Store

5 Masonic Ave.

San Francisco, CA 94118

(415) 359-1800

Paris Eats: Chez Paul

I love Paris. Paris in my mind is synonymous with high quality, quality that definitely applies when it comes to food. Whether I’m tasting a macaroon from Ladurée or cheese from a local stand, everything is almost guaranteed to be good. In my mind, there is food in Paris that is good, and food that is spectacular.

We went to Chez Paul with Parisian friends off of a recommendation. The food was all perfectly seasoned and fresh food, while remaining traditionally French. I love a good steak tartare, and the tartare Chez Paul was one of the best I’ve ever had. The food was spectacular.

The handwritten menu:

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Located on an adorable rue:

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A Boudin:Image

Salade Lyonnais: Dandelion greens, lardon, tomato, and a poached eggImage

The steak tartare:ImageChez Paul

13 Rue de Charonne  75011 Paris, France

+33 1 47 00 34 57

London Eats: Ottolenghi

Yotam Ottolenghi is one of the hottest cookbook authors right now. His cookbooks are extremely popular in the Lowe household. My mother received three different copies of Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook for Christmas. Since then, she has made most of the dishes in both Jerusalem and Plenty. (Thanks, Mom, for feeding us well.) So it was only natural that visiting Ottolenghi was a must while we were in London. Although the trek up to Islington was challenging, we finally made it and it was so worth it. The space and the store’s goods were incredible – as was the food.

The baked goods featured in the store front were beautiful and incredibly colorful. They were also very fresh. We watched as the baker continued to emerge from downstairs with new baked goods.

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Most of the Ottolenghi stores are known as “delis.” Here is the prepared food displayed for take away:

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We sat down to eat. We first got the selection of breads which were all delightful, especially the cornbread with sun-dried tomato in it.

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The free range chicken (spiced with orange, grain mustard, garlic, honey and sage) with sides of char-grilled broccoli and mixed green beans. Everything had incredible spice to it. My one problem was that because they simply serve you the prepared food, it was all cold (I’m not a fan of cold food). I got over it.

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More desserts.IMG_7471  Our selection for dessert was the passion fruit tart with meringue. It was to die for.IMG_7478

London Eats: Borough Market

London’s Borough Market sits on the south end of the London Bridge at Southwark Street & Borough High Street. We headed there one day in search of good food, as always. What we discovered was one of the best markets, if not the best food market, I have ever been to. Selling a mix of produce and prepared foods, Borough Market has a delightful range of food to munch on and buy to make munchies of. The selection reminded me a lot of San Francisco’s own Ferry Building Farmers Market, but the space (in a large, open but covered space) reminded me of a cleaner, more-gourmet version of Barcelona’s La Boqueria.

Wandering around, checking out the scene:

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By the time we left the market, we were overwhelmingly full. Our stomachs were filled with some of the most delicious food items London has to offer.

The chorizo sandwich at Brindisa was recommended by goop, and I would recommend it to anyone traveling through the market. The sandwich itself was delightfully simple and oh-so delicious. It simply consisted of perfectly toasted ciabatta, chorizo, piquillo peppers, and greens. Mmmmmm…

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Next we tried the scallops with bacon (on a bed of bean sprouts, yes) from Shell Seekers, which we’re fresh and therefore tasty, but definitely not mind-blowing.

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We also tried the pork belly sandwich from Roast. Though pork belly has been declared as oh-so passé by now in the food world (at least in my San Franciscan mind), I can never resist a well-prepared and accompanied piece of pork belly. This pork belly was paired with chewy, flavor-filled crackling and Bramley apple sauce. The crackling was a delightful surprise, and it’s flavor and texture went deliciously with the soft, moist pork belly in the sandwich. After a while, however, most of the crackling was stuck in my teeth. Still, this pork belly sandwich, with its perfect balance of salé and sucre, ranks among my top favorite sandwiches ever.

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Some of the food items we didn’t get to try (though we were recommended them and wanted to, our stomachs simply wouldn’t let us) included the duck confit sandwich from Le Marché du Quartier and handmade pasta from La Tua Pasta. We’ll have to return to London and the Borough Market to try those. Any excuse to return to paradise, aka the Borough Market.

-M

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