Sunday, March 24, 2013

French Birthday Dinner! Alphabet Dining, Letter B - Bistro Central Parc

bistro central parc san francisco
Me & my dad at delish French Bistro! Escargot, Duck, Halibut, Chocolate Lava Cake

Bistro Central Parc


     I love my parents. My dad took me out for the best fancy birthday dinner! We went to the Bistro Central Parc, a darling upscale French Bistro in NoPa. Since neither of us had been to the Bistro before, and it started with the letter B, it qualifies to fill in for the Alphabet Dining, Letter B restaurant I missed earlier in the year- what a coincidence! :)
     Stepping into Bistro Central Parc, a wash of comfort and elegance flows over you. The dorations are subtle and classy, with small white lights and a long white cloth lining the ceiling, and illuminated table setting displays bookending the long restaurant.

bistro central parc san francisco
    Darling illuminated display behind our table

bistro central parc san francisco
Ceiling Display

     The owner (French himself), greeted us at the door and showed us to our table. 

bistro central parc san francisco
Escargots and Me!

     Being that we were dining at a French Bistro, we naturally started off our meal with some classic Hors D'oeuvres. I ordered a plate of mouth-watering Escargots Bourguignon. If you've never had escargots, I highly recommend them. They are prepared in such a way that you forget you are eating snails. They are not slimey or too chewy. At the Bistro, they are seasoned with plenty of garlic and parsley butter, that leaves you wanting 3 more plates! The perfect amount of butter was used - not enough to make them greasy, and combined with the garlic to create an unexpected burst of flavor! 
     And did I mention how cute the plate itself is? With little beds to perfectly fit each escargot, and tiny three-pronged forks to manage them. So fun!


bistro central parc san francisco
Wild Mushroom Risotto with Truffle Oil

     For his Hor D'oeuvre, my dad ordered the Wild Mushroom Risotto with Truffle Oil. I'm not even a big fan of mushrooms, but this dish was delicious as well. Like an alternate universe, at Bistro Central Parc, I apparently like mushrooms!

bistro central parc san francisco
Dad & I and our delish entrees! Halibut and Duck

     After a little time to digest our hors d'oeuvres, our main entrees arrived. We thought the appetizers were amazing, but they were nothing compared to our main courses!
     
bistro central parc san francisco
Poisson Du Jour : Halibut

     My dad ordered the Poisson Du Jour, which was Halibut. The presentation of the plate was very balanced and obviously well thought-out. The light, tender fish sat atop a solid, framing base of dark mushrooms and a bed of onions. To offset the yellow color of the Halibut and it's sauce was a sprinkling of healthy green spouts. Aside from the great juxtaposition of colors was the combination of various textures - the tough mushrooms complimenting the fresh fish and the flighty sprouts. It was a pleasure to look at and a healthy choice of ingredients! The only drawback was the surplus of onions in the dish - so many that he couldn't even finish them all. There were at least two kinds, scallions (green onions), shallots, and maybe some white onions as well. They were a nice texture change from the tender halibut, but he probably could have done with less onions.

bistro central parc san francisco
Magret de Canard : Breast of Duck

     For my entree, I ordered the Magret de Canard, or breast of duck. Like the Poisson Du Jour, it came topped with fresh sprouts, and was also sitting on a bed of spinach and potatoes. I'm going to go out on a limb and say this was the best entree I can remember having! Yes, In my entire life! 
     I've had duck before, and I always enjoy the flavor, but it's usually prepared entirely too greasy, chewy, and generally unhealthily. In contrast, the duck at Bistro Central Parc was anything but greasy, and had a great tender texture. It had all the great taste with none of the drawbacks I was so used to with duck. It was so tender 
    The kicker in the meal was the sauce. It was dark and surprisingly had a sweet flavor to it. The kind of flavor that leaves you so pleasantly surprised you actually involuntarily stop for a moment to process it. And then you obviously continue to dip every bite of your meal into it! I was sopping it up with my potatoes and even my spinach. But it was made for the duck, and the duck was it's culinary soul mate. The sweet sauce combined with the perfect flavor and texture of the Magret de Canard was enough to recommend this restaurant to anyone and everyone I meet. 
     I was so full from the meal that I couldn't finish the last couple pieces of duck, but my dad was happy to help me finish them!

bistro central parc san francisco
Chocolate Lava Cake & Bday Candle!

     Somehow the Bistro got wind of the fact it was my birthday, and they go all-out for celebrations! At the end of our meal, they dimmed the lights of the entire restaurant, came out with a mini birthday cake (and an extremely straight candle!), and had the restaurant and patrons sing Happy Birthday for me. It was so cute!
     The cake itself was delicious!! It was a chocolate lava cake, which means that when you slice into it a delicious pool of chocolate lava sauce pours out. This chocolate sauce was warm (fitting for lava) and sweet without the overpowering richness that sometimes comes along with chocolate cake. To offset the warm chocolate lava, the cake was topped with a scoop of cool vanilla ice cream and a caramelized saucer of caramel and nuts. To top it all off, a darling mint leaf was positioned atop the vanilla scoop. Fun fact: A bit of mint is good at the end of a meal, as it aids in digestion! As full as we were at this point, we managed to finish this sweet and delicious end to our great meal. 

bistro central parc san francisco
Chocolate Lava BDay Cake, a closer view

bistro central parc san francisco
Cup Cake

      To top off everything, at this point the owner himself came over to our table, said "Happy Birthday," and handed me a paper bag. Upon opening the bag, I discovered my very own Bistro Central Parc mug! It even had "San Francisco" printed on it. It was a perfect end to a perfect meal. 
     If you haven't guessed by now, my father & I had a great experience at Bistro Central Parc. We ate amazing food, had accommodating service from the owner and staff (including taking many pictures for/of us!), and got to dine in the elegant ambiance of the restaurant itself. I still can't believe the owner was so thoughtful as to bring me a birthday present. Talk about going above and beyond.
     I would absolutely recommend the Bistro to anyone looking for a venue for a special occasion! My only suggestion would be to book a reservation ahead of time, and perhaps plan a ride home ahead of time as well, since this is what showed up on my screen when we tried to phone a taxi :)

bistro central parc san francisco

     Note: Bistro Central Parc is not really located at the border of the North & South Atlantic Oceans.

        
Bistro Central Parc on Urbanspoon
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Horseback Riding + Eggs Benedict

Pumpkin Raisin Bread, Eggs, Sausage, Potatoes, Corned Beef Eggs Benedict, Burger on Dutch Crunch
Pumpkin Raisin Bread, Eggs-Sausage-Potatoes, Corned Beef Benedict, Burger on Dutch

     
     What did you do yesterday? I turned 25! This past weekend was full of ridiculously fun birthday shenanigans. I really wanted to get out of the city and do something different for my initiation into the Quarter Century Club. So, Saturday morning I took a bunch of my city friends up north to the country town of Olema, to do some good old fashioned horseback riding!



Me & my horse, Hank at Five Brooks Stables
Five Brooks Stables

Horses on the trail
That's me + Hank in the middle, with Becca + Danny to the left and Rayna + Snip on the right.

     As you can see, some of our horses - mainly Hank and Danny - kept stopping on the side of the road to nosh on grass. I wondered how strange and tempting it must be for them to be walking and essentially exercising on a trail that was lined on both sides by their food! It would be like us hiking on a path lined with sandwiches, sushi, and french toast. Strange. I didn't blame them for stopping so often.

Horses on the trail

Group Photo








Country Hunger


     By the end of our gorgeous and relaxing trail ride, we had worked up quite an appetite. We headed back to the city and got lunch at Judy's Cafe in the Marina.

Egg's Benedict Special - with Corned Beef, potatoes, fresh fruit and a pumpkin raisin muffin loaf
Egg's Benedict Special - with Corned Beef, potatoes, fresh fruit and a pumpkin raisin muffin loaf

     It was at this very lunch that I ate my first Eggs Benedict, and I can safely say that it will not be my last. For St. Patty's Day, they had a benedict special with Corned Beef. Being a proud Irish lass, I of course opted for this special (3 more in our party ordered the benedict as well)! The benedict consisted of an English muffin base, corned beef in the middle, and topped with two poached eggs. The eggs were great - not too runny, and topped with a delicious sauce. The corned beef was delicious and full of flavor, as was the generous side of seasoned potatoes. The fruit was fresh and welcomed in such a hearty meal, and the pumpkin raisin bread made for a great dessert - sweet but healthy. I loved that in each bite I was getting quality corned beef, eggs, and an English muffin. Very tasty and filling!

Potato Egg Cheese Special
Everything.

     Michelle ordered the Potato Special which had a little of everything in it - potatoes, mushrooms, onion, jack & cheddar cheese, etc. It was really good, but so hearty that eating about a quarter of your plate will fill you up.

Sunny side up eggs, potatoes, sausages
Sunny eggs, potatoes, sausages

     Chanda ordered the classic 2 eggs, 2 sausages, and potatoes. Perhaps the most impressive order of the day was Chester, with his burger: 

Salsa Burger on Dutch Crunch + Fruit
Salsa Burger on Dutch Crunch + Fruit

      Chester's burger came on dutch crunch bread (aka the best), and was topped with melted jack and cheddar cheese, salsa, and sour cream. Luckily there was a generous serving of fruit as well. YUM.


Overall Experience


     I have only good things to say about the food at Judy's Cafe. The portions are large and the quality is there.
     However, the service we experienced was lacking a bit. They are cash-only, yet pretty expensive. You would think if they are saving money on cc transaction fees they could charge a little less than they do. Moreover, we were given a 6-person table for our party of 7. We had to pull tables together and apart ourselves to make up for this. At the end of the meal, I asked for a couple of our plates to be wrapped up to-go. Our waiter stared at me blankly for a second before saying, "What? You mean boxes?" Sure. I mean boxes. Even then, only one box was brought to us, so a member of our party had to get up and track down more of these elusive boxes. It wasn't the worst, but it wasn't the best. I can only recommend it for the food based on my experience.
     Luckily I was in good company and we were all very hungry when we got to Judy's, so our goal of filling our stomachs with great food was met. 


As always, 
Thanks for reading & Happy eating!


Judy's Cafe on Urbanspoon                                      The Chicken Chick
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Friday, March 15, 2013

Yolo at Lolo

Lolo - The Mission

Corn on the Cob, Tuna Tacon, and Lamb Sliders
Corn on the Cob, Tuna Tacon, and Lamb Sliders

     After an especially busy day at work, I was so excited to meet up with a friend in the Mission to prance around and get dinner at Lolo's. We weren't sure what to expect as neither of us had been to - or even heard of the restaurant before. But it had great reviews on Yelp, so naturally that's where we headed! 



     When we arrived, we were both pretty much floored. Every inch of Lolo's seemed to be decorated brightly and creatively. 


Cutest cushions!

The Colorful Agave Bar

     So we were obviously having fun just looking around before we even ordered! I absolutely love when a restaurant's atmosphere makes me feel like I'm on vacation, and this is a great example. Lolo's was the visual equivalent of Disneyland. At this point the food could have been mediocre and we probably would have still been happy with our restaurant choice.
     

The Food

     Lolo's is a tapas restaurant, which means you order 3 or 4 small meals and split everything. Before I show you the joys of what we ordered, here is the complimentary bread and sauce that came out as an appetizer:

Bread and garlic cheese

     Nothing about Lolo's was ordinary. Not even the appetizer. Straying from the typical bread and butter, we were given a delicious assortment of sourdough bread and garlic cheese. It tasted kind of like nacho cheese with a kick, and it was super addicting.

Guacamole, cotija cheese, and blue corn chips

     The first thing we ordered was the classic guac & chips, with a twist. The guacamole was topped with cotija cheese and a mystery red aioli of some kind. To save you the google search, cotija cheese is a hard cow's milk cheese that originated in Mexico. The guacamole ingredients were all fresh and light, and it was refreshing to have a new take on the classic guac! Yes, the blue corn chips came wrapped in a page of a magazine. Some people may question how sanitary this is, but my friend and I didn't mind. We were distracted by the decorations and delicious food.

Corn on the Cob, topped with cheese and a side of lemon

     Looking back on it, I'm not sure the ingredients in this one were worth the price of the plate. It's not that it wasn't tasty, because it was, but it was just an ear of corn, boiled in a pot of water and with some cheese drizzled over it. That said, I've never had corn on the cob with cheese before, and it really was good. Messy, but good.


Tuna Tacon 

    The Tuna Tacon was our third plate. We received seared albacore tuna, shellfish aioli, and avocado on flour tortillas, with roasted tomatillo sauce on the side. After taste testing the sauce to make sure it wasn't too spicy (it wasn't spicy at all, but sweet and delicious), I poured it on the tuna, rolled it up, and took a bite. 
     It was at this point that I remember declaring the Tuna Tacon was the most delicious thing I've ever tried. It really did not taste like tuna, or fish of any kind. It was sweet and colorful and we could've honestly eaten ten more.

Lamb Sliders & Jalapeno Peppers

     Our fourth and final plate arrived - the Lamb Sliders. They came on brioche buns, with jalapeno peppers skewered into them for a splash of green show. The lamb was drizzled with yet another delicious sauce, which turned out to be porcini mushroom sauce. Mental note, check!
     I already am a huge fan of sliders, but I had never tried lamb sliders before this night. And they were just perfect! The sweet sauce was messy but so delicious and addicting that you didn't even care. The table next to us, after seeing the slider's display and hearing us raving, leaned over and asked about our meal. It was that good. 

Overall Experience


Adorable.

     Perhaps best of all, our bill came in this little leather boot! Almost too cute to handle. And shout out to Ashley's perfect french manicure! 
     Our overall experience at Lolo's - from the decorations, to the great service, and especially the food, was so overwhelmingly positive that I'm determined to go back and eventually try everything on their menu! I would recommend Lolo's to anyone, whether they are an SF native looking for a new dining spot, or a tourist wanting to get a real feel of the city. 



As always,
Thanks for reading & Happy eating!

Loló on Urbanspoon
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Alphabet Dining Letter E : Eiji

Eiji - Castro

Sushi ceviche, Cinnamon Mochi,  Oboro Tofu condiments, Chirashi

     Continuing our ABC Dining tradition, my friends and I headed to Eiji Sushi in the Castro for our letter "E." As their banner proudly displays outside, Eiji specializes in two things - sushi, and tofu. It is a very tiny, almost hole-in-the wall sushi joint. I hesitate to label it as hole-in-the-wall because when you enter, it is very clean and quaint. It is simply on the small side. This, coupled with their popularity means that yes, you definitely need a reservation if you're planning to dine here on the weekends. Luckily, we made one and got to enjoy Eiji for the first time!

Appetizers 

Oboro Tofu condiments - shredded bonito, green onion, daikon, sesame seeds, seaweed, ginger

     As I mentioned, Eiji specializes in two things - sushi and tofu. To start, we split two tofu appetizers. The first was Oboro Tofu, a soft tofu which came with the colorful palette of condiments you see above. "Oboro" in Japanese means hazy or misty, so it's fitting that the meal needed some condiments to give our taste buds something sharp to focus on. Clockwise from the green onions we have : spicy daikon, toasted sesame seeds, seaweed, shredded bonito (katsuobushi), and some very pungent ginger in the middle! We were also given some gluten-free soy sauce to splash in with our tofu. 

The darling bowl our Oboro Tofu came in

Cute turtle shell ladle

     We were told to ladle out a scoop per person, try two to three condiments at a time, and get another scoop to try different condiment combinations. It became a fun puzzle game to find your favorite oboro toppings. My personal preference turned out to be the ginger and the toasted sesame seeds. Against the plain soft tofu, the ginger gave a great kick of flavor. The sesame seeds contributed their interesting texture.

Oboro Tofu

     I didn't get a great shot of the oboro, as it isn't very photogenic, but I wanted to at least give you an idea of the texture and color of it. So there it is! It came out lukewarm for those of you curious about the temperature. Because the next tofu we got was PIPING hot!

Ankake Tofu
  
     Our second appetizer was Ankake Tofu, which came out steaming and was too hot to eat for a minute after we got it. Ankake is actually based off of the oboro tofu, only instead of served plain & with condiments, it is steamed, then topped with a soy-dashi sauce. This was good but the condiment tray just makes the Oboro Tofu plate more fun.

Main Courses

From top - Salmon Skin Roll, Dragon Roll, Ceviche Roll

From top - Salmon Skin Roll, Dragon Roll, Ceviche Roll

          Becca and I split the top two rolls, the Salmon Skin Roll and the classic Dragon Roll. Chanda got the Ceviche Roll, which I think we were all jealous of when it arrived because the tomatoes make it look so pretty!
     The Dragon Roll is usually my go-to sushi, because I am the world's BIGGEST unagi (eel) fan, followed only by my love for the second dragon ingredient - avocado. Eiji's Dragon Roll did not disappoint. They were generous with their portions of both avocado and unagi. 
     I wanted to try something new as well, so we went with the Salmon Skin Roll. I figured you can't go wrong with salmon. I wouldn't say I didn't like it, but it just didn't have the flavor I prefer in sushi. Perhaps it wasn't fair to compare it with the delicious Dragon Roll, but the only thing I took from the Salmon Skin Roll was the crunch of the carrots in it. I couldn't taste the salmon and as I ate each piece I thought about the next unagi-filled piece I would scoop up soon after.


     Above you can see a close-up of the carrots the Salmon Skin Roll.

Chirashi - Rice topped with various sashimi, egg, and roe

     Alex N. and Rayna each got a Chirashi bowl, which was rice topped with various sashimi (raw fish), roe (fish eggs), and egg, with some lemon and wasabi for good measure. Depending on how hungry you are, you may want to order a rice bowl like this, since it seemed to fill them up more than those of us who got sushi.

Dessert

Kyoto-Style Cinnamon Mochi Ice Cream (Green Tea & Vanilla), with Red Bean Paste design

     My favorite was the dessert, for obvious reasons. I split the above Kyoto-style cinnamon mochi ice cream. This was one of the most delicious things I've ever had! The mochi on the left is filled with green tea ice cream, and on the right we have vanilla. The whole plate is designed with generous amounts of red bean paste. The mochi is very soft and chewy, with enough cinnamon to be flavorful but not overpowering. The cold green tea and vanilla ice cream in the middle was a delicious bonus! I wish I did not split this. I wish I bought ten of my own! 
     Note: Eiji's knows how good their desserts are, and will not let you buy ten of your own. There is a one-per-customer rule. I think this is a genius ploy to get people to come back if nothing more than to get another dessert. And the one you see above isn't even the one they're best known for!
     By the time we ordered dessert, about 8:45-9pm on a Sunday, they were already sold out of their special mochi strawberry. Let me rephrase. I'm afraid you think I mean strawberry-flavored mochi, and I do not. I mean they literally wrap a large, fresh, ACTUAL delicious strawberry with mochi, and you cut it down the middle into slices and eat it that way. I will keep going back earlier and earlier until I get one of these magical strawberries!

Mochi close-up, with vanilla ice cream inside
     
Yam Cake and Vanilla Ice Cream     

     Chanda and Alex N. split the Yam Cake and vanilla ice cream dessert. It was noticeably smaller than the Kyoto Mochi but it was pretty good. I thought the Yam Cake resembled red bean paste, both in taste and texture. Kind of like a mix between jello and pudding. 
     Overall, I would recommend Eiji, but not for the sushi specifically. Their sushi is good, but nothing special. What sets Eiji apart from other sushi joints, including the large neon one across the street, is it's attention to Tofu and Dessert plates. They are truly unique and a different, exciting dining experience! We picked a great letter "E"!


As always,
Thanks for reading & Happy eating!

Eiji on Urbanspoon
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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunny Sunday Lunch: Kate's Kitchen

Kate's Kitchen - Lower Haight

Texas Fries and Farmer's Breakfast
Texas Fries & Farmer's Breakfast


     In the city, sunny days are rare to say the least. And sunny weekend days?? Those are the rarest of treasured gems. Today was one of those gems. At a steaming 65 degrees, the streets are bustling with people in t-shirts and tank tops, sitting at outdoor cafes and soaking up the sun. Lovely.
     I made plans to meet my friend Alex N. for lunch at Kate's Kitchen, an adorable quaint restaurant in the Lower Haight renowned for it's breakfast, which is served all day. We've been to Kate's plenty of times and have never been disappointed. Today was no different.

The Meal


1 OJ, 2 scrambled eggs, 2 bacon, an english muffin, and home fries
1 OJ, 2 scrambled eggs, 2 bacon, an english muffin, and home fries

     I ordered an OJ and the Farmer's Breakfast, which consisted of 2 scrambled eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, an english muffin, and home fries. I immediately put ketchup on my home fries, syrup on my bacon, and freshly-made berry jam on my english muffin. 
     It was a quality meal. The eggs were fluffy, the bacon was not burnt, and the home fries had just the right amount of added spices and flavoring. Not overpowering, but not plain either. The house berry jam was delicious on my english muffin as well, and it's great that they make it in house. It filled me up and will probably last me until dinner!

Home fries topped with cheese, bacon, salsa, and an over-easy egg with a dollop of sour cream
Home fries topped with cheese, bacon, salsa, and an over-easy egg with a dollop of sour cream

     Alex ordered the Texas Fries, which aren't on the online menu but are an interesting choice if you want to stray from the traditional breakfast options. Texas Fries consisted of home fries, topped with cheddar cheese, salsa, bacon, and an egg, over-easy. If that weren't enough for you, they also add a dollup of sour cream as well. 

Service

     Like all great brunch spots in the city, Kate's will always have a bit of a wait on the weekends. And as many brunch spots in the city, it is well worth the wait.
     Once inside, the service was prompt and in my opinion had great timing. We did not feel rushed but we also didn't have to try to flag down our waitress to ask for more condiments or our check. They were readily available but not hovering, which is perfect.
     Kate's has great service, great atmosphere, and great food. If you have not yet been for a quality breakfast, I highly recommend it! 



As always,
Thanks for reading & Happy eating!



Kate's Kitchen on Urbanspoon
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