As we near the close of 2013 and the beginning of a new year, brimming with endless potential (and hopefully amazing nomz!), I'd like to share with you my BESTAURANTS - the best restaurants and eateries I've encountered this past year.
Most of the Bestaurant contenders will be located in San Francisco. A few may be scattered across the U.S.; discoveries I made during my cross-country road trip! Don't be confused if you see a number from Boston in particular, since I recently made the move out to the East Coast :)
We start with my picks for the 8 Best Salads of 2013. From octopus to persimmons, these salads really cannot be beat!
8. A Wedding Salad | Carmel Valley
In August we were guests at a ridiculously adorable wedding in Carmel Valley. The food was almost as gorgeous as the scenery and the darling bride & groom. I said "I do" to the beautiful and delicious salad you see above, which consisted of a foundation of various tomatoes, sprinkled with mozzarella cubes and encircled with a great balsamic. Read more about this California Fairy Tale here.
7. Buckhorn Grill | Westfield Shopping Center
Buckhorn Grill incorporates the best ingredients for the modern omnivore- Certified Angus Beef Tri Tip, fresh fruits and leafy greens.
Maybe I was a little biased due to my shopping hunger, but my order from Buckhorn was something to write home about. My dish of choice was the Spring Mix Fruit and Nut Salad, which consisted of spring mix greens, locally-grown fruit and sweet walnuts, tossed with honey-lime dressing. Naturally, I opted to add the tri tip on top. It was the perfect blend of healthy, light greens, fruit and nuts, with a hearty and substantial tri tip steak. SO fresh and rejuvenating! If you are visiting SF's downtown area or just out for some shopping, I would highly recommend Buckhorn Grill to refuel after your cardio. Read more about why shopping is my cardio.
6. Ricky Bobby | New American | Lower Haight
I love when restaurants give you unexpected combinations of ingredients! Ricky Bobby in the Lower Haight offers an off-the-charts Duck Salad, complete with delicious fresh strawberries and crunchy crumbled pistachios. The dish healthy, yet hearty. The strawberries gave it an added sweet kick, and somehow the duck and lettuce complemented each other nicely. So good. Read more about our Ricky Bobby bonanza here.
5. Kokkari Estatorio | Greek | FiDi
Did you know that traditionally, Greek salads do not have any leafy greens? Instead, they are filled with a healthy combination of tomato, bell peppers, cucumber, onion, oregano, olives, and blocks of feta. Kokkari Esatorio's Horiatiki, or Classic Greek Salad, was crisp, fresh, and colorful! Discover more Greek cuisine at Kokkari.
4. Zero Zero | Italian | Soma
I loved the presentation of this salad from Zero Zero; A mountain of arugula, topped with a snow powdering of fennel, Asian pears, DuChilly Hazelnuts, goat cheese vinaigrette, and a light dusting of Korean Chili. I know what you're thinking, and no it was not spicy. The salad was very refreshing, from the green arugula to the sweet Asian pears. The hazelnuts were a great addition, as was the shaved fennel. Want more scoop on Zero Zero? Get it here.
3. The Vestry | New American | The Mission
The Vestry knows their salads. Case in point: their Chicory Salad, which comes complete with persimmon, pomegranate, and candied walnuts. I absolutely love when salads come with walnuts. They add a great crunch and earthy quality, not to mention their health value - they are packed with omega-3s! The pomegranates were fresh and delicious, which is tricky to do, so it was a special treat.
These Marinated Olives, which came in a darling white china set, were perfect for a warm SF afternoon. They offered olives of all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. My favorite were the larger light green variety, although the dark green olives were a new interesting flavor - sharper, perhaps? Read more on the Vestry at the Chapel here.
2. Plaj | Scandinavian Cuisine | Hayes Valley
Who would think to put Rye Crumbs on a salad? Apparently Scandinavian-Californians would. And they would be right about it, because Nick and I agreed this was one of the best salads we've ever had. It wasn't just the Rye either, which was diced so finely we don't really understand how they even did it. The Aquavit Vinaigrette on the Organic Frilly Red Mustard Greens was perfection - just enough vinegar to offset the mustard greens, but not enough to make you pucker. Neither Nick nor myself are big on cheese, but let me tell you we were enjoying the Gioia Burrata by the forkful. It had a soft consistency and incredibly mellow taste. The Heirloom Tomatoes were big, chunky and sweet to offset the vinegar and add some texture to the burrata.
From the pillowy Gioia, to the leafy greens, topped with minutely-diced rye, to the soft crunch of the Heirlooms, the texture in this salad was almost distracting to the conversation. That's how unique and interesting it was. Follow our Scandinavian adventures at Plaj here!
1. Frances | New American | Castro
With its innovative menu, it's no wonder Frances earned itself a Michelin Star and the #1 spot on my top salads list! This Octopus Salad was entirely unique from anything I've had before: with octopus, grilled potatoes and celery. I've had octopus before, and I've had salads and (believe it or not) potatoes before, but never have I had them in combination. The juxtaposition of flavors, textures, and even colors was delightfully interesting.
I ordered the Salad of Spring Greens as my appetizer, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Another first for me, I adored the combination of soft greens with the crispy, fried shallots! The English Peas themselves were fresh and full of flavor (almost sweet), and the farm egg was perfect - nice and runny as soon as you cut into it. Read more on the unique menu at Frances.
Hope you enjoyed these salads - I know I did. Can't wait to see what amazing salads 2014 has in store. Stay tuned!
Check out Bestauarants: Brunch Edition here!