Saturday, September 4, 2010

San Francisco Bay Area: Part 1

FINALLY! SAN FRANCISCO:




I know I told you I went to San Francisco, and you have been patiently awaiting a new post with baited breath, wondering why I haven't gotten down to the business of sharing all of the fun on Good for the Palate! In case you aren't following me on Twitter, or Facebook (go ahead and do it now), I'll let you in on a little secret... my mac died on my last day in San Francisco. So very, incredibly, sad. But, I have a new one now, and I am back in business.

I was able to write about my first night in SF and then IT happened: the hard drive and memory on my 5yr old MacBook Pro finally failed.


I wasted 1/2 of my last day discovering this, and ended up depressed and disconnected in the SFO airport with a little ($5!) yellow legal pad, scribbling about my trip. I guess the computer was bound to fail, that's why I finally purchased a new 1T external hard drive two weeks ago. There was a voice in the back of my head saying "beeeee careful." Glad I had a recent backup.

My trip to San Francisco didn't start out so well. I had a flight delay on my connection with Midwest.

The reason I booked my trip with some unknown airline was because: 

a) I wanted to take my life in my hands
b) It was $230 round trip and therefore, just as pricy as going to Nashville, TN, meaning highly affordable for a trip to the West Coast
c) I was hoping to never get to San Francisco
d) Midwest Airlines claims to serve plane-made chocolate chip cookies on every flight


Clearly, you can guess I was hoping for the warm gooeyness of chocolatey cookies but alas, I missed out. I did however get a cold cookie so I guess it wasn't the end of the world. My lunch was the cold chocolate chip cookie and tasty bag of trail mix, YAY!, complete with heaping amounts of MSG, Yummm. 


I was in fact hedging my bets that I would arrive at SFO just in time to be whisked off to a farmers market to enjoy some fresh farmers cheeses and maybe some fresh produce, but my dreams were dashed to bits upon the rocks. Seal Rocks to be specific.


After about 48hrs of no sleep I was too tired to figure out a good place for lunch in a hurry, so my friend who picked me up decided to take me to Louis a restaurant overlooking the famous shoreside area called Seal Rocks



Seal Rocks is known for a beautiful view and its population of "Steller's sea lions". Didn't see any seals but the view was pretty stellar (I SWEAR there was no pun intended here, I didn't even know the sea lions were called Steller's until I started adding links to this post, but I couldn't rob you of that fabulous pun). At least it was, until some chick at the table next to us closed the blinds... Seriously people, don't come to restaurants known for their views if you don't want to see them! 






View some chick robbed me of!




Still, I had a decent BLT and fried egg sandwhich. Not to shabby for a wakeup meal. The restaurant is basically a super 70's looking diner so I loved the decor. It has been family owned since 1937. 






Louis Restaurant




The area also overlooks the ruins of the 19th century Sutro Baths






Sutro Baths


The building to the right is the Cliff House, if I had panned slightly left you would see Louis'.


Kind of interesting, check out the wiki article for more info. They used to be a super fancy bath house, built in 1896 for the upperclass to swim "on" the ocean, minus the sand.  It burnt down in 1966 and looks like ancient roman ruins now. Made for some nice photos.


Yeah, I liked this sign.

















Around 4:30pm we wiped the sand from between our toes and got back into the car to go find my rental car, and dinner. 



We actually planned to eat light in San Jose because I thought I had to be back there to pick up my rental car. Turns out that Hertz failed to get enough cars to supply thier patrons, and also failed to make any effort to contact them, so we drove an hour back into San Jose, from SF, just to turn around and head back into the city for dinner. It was a nice way to work up an appetite. Plus I ended up with a super sweet upgrade.


My Jetta for the Week. Schmexilicious.


The dinner the night I arrived was truly something special. My friend picked out this restaurant on Yelp!, called Bar Crudo. I have to say I was impressed. For starters, I loved the art on the wall, the ambience, and the logo. Good first impressions = Bonus Points. (I have no photos but go to their site or go eat there)


The experience at Bar Crudo was generally awesome. I loved that they have little wooden fold out wall tables across from the bar, so you have a place to rest your drink when the bar stools are full. We waited there for our table as I drooled over the menu.

One of my food goals was to try dungeness crab (I had never had it before) so my friend picked Bar Crudo for their offering of half or whole chilled dungeness crab. The restaurant features a seafood bar in addition to a nice sized menu of appetizers, entrees, etc. We were pleasantly surprised by the beer menu, broken down by style, to help you select a good beer, for your palate, and your dinner. The wine list impressed me as well because it included a tip about drinking reds with seafood*(see the Vino Viti Vici at the bottom of the post for a little wine rant). 



We both opted for beer. I had chosen the Foret Dupont Belgian Saison, but somehow I missed out on the last one (it ended up at the table in front of me later on in the evening. I'm still annoyed by this. I'll have to try to find it some other way). I ended up with the Urthel Tripel Hibernus Quentum (which I like because it keeps reminding me of James Tiberius Kirk, which in turn reminds me of this super rediculous Star Trek Cologne my friend bough her dad recently, called Tiberius). The Urthel was a nice choice with the meal because its slight sweetness complemented the sweetness of the seafood, and conterbalanced the spice in my chowder. It's a medium bodied beer so it didn't overpower the light flavors of the seafood. My friend got a Ichtegem's Gran Cru Flanders Red Ale from Brouwerij Strubbe, also Belgian. Not an amazing beer with the meal, in my opinion, but he has his own personal preferences. Then again, I'm not the biggest fan of sour Ales. It wasn't too overpowering, and was an okay pair with most of our dishes, except the chowder... bad combo. The whole cream, spice and sour just didn't work. However, I always say that if you are in the mood for something you will enjoy it with your meal no matter what. Maybe that is heresy for food pairings, but get over it. 






I was frustrated about the beer ending up at the other table, and my waitress was unsure of some details about the beers that I was hoping she would have known. However she made up for this by being very nice, and helpful, and also by giving me so GREAT shopping recommendations, seriously, nearly forgiven for everything but the Foret.

Ok, back to the actual meal. We began with half a dungeness crab, :) It was tasty. Cooked perfectly, not majorly different in flavor from MD crab, but firmer in texture, granted it was chilled and MD crabs are usually warm. They served it simply with clarified butter and a really nice cocktail sauce that I just ate forkfuls of, after the crab, so as not to disturb the flavor of the crab.










Dungeness Crab at Bar Crudo
Then we ordered a lobster, burrata, and heirloom tomato salad with a Banyuls vinagrette. Obviously I ordered this because of the seasonality of the items, and the daring combination of foods. Seafood and dairy, at least in the italian handbook, are a no go. They are too rich and can often mask each others' flavors. However, I am willing to grant a suspension of disbelief once in a while and try the combo. As we are all aware, I can never say no to Burrata, and I also love banyuls and have never seen it as an ingredient on a menu. This salad was really incredible. Well balanced and fresh flavors, lots of textures to keep my tongue and teeth interested. Truly a dish that was good for the whole palate. The burrata was so creamy I had to request a spoon, the lobster was soft and yet toothsome, and the tomatoes had just come to the peak of ripe perfection. I loved this dish. I was all the more impressed by it when we arrived at Chez Panisse and were served nearly the same dish, I'll tell you more about it in a later post. Let's just say, I'm not sure I could choose a favorite between the two.


Lobster and Burrata Salad


I have said for years that I don't know when I will get married, what I will wear, who it will be, or where it will happen, but I do know what I will serve. The menu has always included a lobster bisque. Now I know that Bar Crudo will have to make it, or at least their Seafood Chowder. This chowder was phenomenal. The price was a steal for all the goodies in the cup. Huge chunks of crab and fish, and perfectly cooked calamari. The creamy chowder base had a slightly herbal freshness and a surprising amount of spice that really was a perfect balance. My Tripel had the enough backbone of acidity and balance of sweetness to contrast the creamy, spicy base. I cannot imagine a better soup.



The BEST Seafood Chowder, EVER


To finish off the meal, of course, I ordered a cheese plate! I am not sure what two of the cheeses were (I'll find out and post later, but I know I only recognized one of them, and I am always happy to find new cheeses. All of the condiments were nice too. They choose three cheeses, a cow, a goat, and a sheep. The sheep was a ewe's blue, which I have had in the past and I do enjoy. It is a pretty innocuous blue and it pairs nicely with any wildflower honey and fruit. The goat and cow were also very tasty. It was a nice end to an incredibly delicious first "meal" in SF.

I would love to return to Bar Crudo again in the future. I think its the perfect place for happy hour, or a place to grab a meal before heading out for an evening on the town.



Gorgeous views, great food, calm demeanor. Yeah, I could get used to the CA lifestyle.





*Vino, Viti, Vici (I wined, I saw, I conquered. Well that's sort of what that means)


For all of you who are unaware, red wine can be ok with seafood. It's not really the ideal pairing with seafood, but warm seafood with spices and things can handle a red. If you really don't like white, be sure to drink low tannin reds, that are light in body. In the past high levels of tannin in red wine were usually unescapable because of how red wine was vinified, and because some grapes just have particularly high levels of tannins. The tannins are released from the grape skins, which are pressed and allowed to sit along with grape juice when red wine is made (when rose is made, the skins are removed after a shorter period, leaving a little tannin and a little color behind, whites are not pressed with skins). As wine ages tannins soften. These days, technology, and good old-fashioned knowledge have made it possible to create young wines with low tannins. We are able to press the skins to release some color and flavor and tannin, but not too much. Controlling the temperature of fermentation and lots of other stuff also contribute to the lower tannins but I'm not going any further on this today. Anyway, these tannins are the culprit for the bad rap red wines gets with white meat and seafood since they react with the idoine in seafood and make everything taste metallic. It's pretty nasty and it ruins the flavor of the wine and the fish or seafood. To solve this problem, people drank white wine with seafood, and still try to stick to that.