Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sucka Duckin

Also known as ducking the suckers, for all you readers in the Sucka-free City. Which is changing, rapidly.

I really love the restaurant that this dish comes from, a million things have been written about it already but I also feel compelled to add my two cents. I mean, it has to be amazing, right? An entire neighborhood was renamed after it. The Western Addition/Alamo Square/Panhandle neighborhoods now bear the name of a restaurant that takes up one street corner.

Truth be told NOPA is pretty great. Their list of wines by the glass leaves a lot to be desired, but it's nothing any one of their cocktails can't compensate for.  

Onward with the food. Nopa's menu is focused on seasonal items, from local farms. Their focus allows them to directly support sustainable food raising practices, and the local food economy. It also means they have to change their menu everyday, because when food is raised right, creating a consistent supply to meet high-volume demand is a challenge. That's right folks standardized demand is what's killing us, but with a little creativity restauranteurs can eliminate that demand for the same thing every time.  You may not be able to order this exact dish when you visit, but fear not, there are many wonderful dishes you can order at this restaurant.

Today they are serving duck-liver mousse with pickled onions, chopped boiled egg and a caper relish. I must point out that this is not foie. Foie gras is a french delicacy, made from goose and sometimes duck liver that is specially fattened by force-feeding the animal. This food is so controversial, that San Francisco banned it's sale. Critics say the feeding techniques used to fatten the liver, border animal torture. Selling it in SF carries a hefty fine, hence the need for me to distinguish that I was not served foie at Nopa; this is just regular ol' run of the mill liver from happy ducks who are not force fed to my knowledge.

Anyhow this treatment of the organ is just as delicious. On it's own, liver is mineral-forward, mushy-- like play-doh that falls apart when you bite into it-- and kind of disgusting. However, spread atop thick cut toast, with a little EVOO drizzled over it, it's quite good.  The housemade pickled onions brighten an otherwise vitamin-flavored food, with a pop of acidity that masks the vitamin after-taste and adds complexity by heightening the dishes meaty flavors. The capers bring salt and the chopped egg serves as a base for all of it come together. The toast gives the dish a more favorable texture that liver would not have otherwise. All in all it's delicious and if you catch it on the menu you should order it. Otherwise there's always that double-cut pork chop. 560 Divisadero St. at Hayes, (415) 864-8643. $$

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Green Light for Gator

Alligators, so fierce in the water, but not so feisty in a deep fryer. Which is where it comes from as far as any folk from the city by the bay are concerned. Eating a plate full of it sitting at the oyster bar in Hayes Valley's Boxing Room, we are struck by its crispy exterior, flaky interior and can't help but exclaim "tastes like chicken!" Seriously battered, the alligator is chopped into bite-sized pieces, dredged in well-seasoned flour, deep fried and placed atop a lemony creole-rémoulade. Yum.

Named after the part in the Standard Shirts shirt-making factory it once was, Boxing Room--in true San Francisco style--pays homage to the history of the building before it became a restaurant. The newest venture from the same people who gave us Absinthe, Boxing Room does French-Creole cuisine, California style. Read: fresh, seasonal produce, local oysters, and California brews to boot. A welcome addition to a city that seriously lacks good soul food. Probably because there aren't many black people in the city, but that's a topic for another post.

Slightly new-aged the menu does not leave out any old favorites: hush puppies, gumbo, dirty rice, Po' boy and boiled peanuts bring authentic New Orleans flair to the Golden Gate. And hats off to executive chef Justin Simoneaux, for tinkering very little with dishes that aren't broken and require no fancy fixing. The alligator and everything else was delicious. 399 Grove St. at Gough, (415) 430-6590. $$

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Food Police

By Dan Dailey for Wandervogel Diary

On August 3, Rawsome Foods, a Los Angeles area private raw foods buying club, was raided by an armed SWAT-style combined-force team of agents from the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

The “crime” the authorities were acting upon was “conspiracy” related to the sale of unpasteurized raw milk products—specifically raw goats’ milk and cheese.

NaturalNews reported that the raid was conducted like a “terrorist operation,” where the agents immediately went after Rawesome’s cash and then began vandalizing and destroying the store’s entire inventory. Feds not only seized cash and raw milk supplies (most of which was dumped down sink and sewer drains) but also mangos and other fresh organic produce. The raid, said the report, was “an act of economic terrorism” against a legitimate, ethical business selling wholesome, healthful products to a group of happy and satisfied members.

On the same day, Healthy Family Farms, a sustainable, pasture-based farming operation in Santa Paula CA, was also raided by SWAT teams. Healthy Family Farms is Rawsome Foods’ supplier of the goat milk. “We raise all our livestock on pasture,” said a spokesperson for the farm. “We raise all of our animals from birth. We do not feed any of our animals soy, choosing instead to feed animals as they are designed to be fed. This results in healthy, sturdy animals needing no hormones, antibiotics, or other artificial ‘enhancements.’ We harvest our animals humanely by hand before they are delivered to the farmers’ markets. We never freeze our products.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Snake Eyes

By Teddie Honey
Let me begin by saying that I’m a man who appreciates a good drink. And I don’t mean that in some sort of classy distinguished gentleman’s way, I mean that in a throw down, drag out, bare fisted, liquor binge kind of way.

The kind of way that involves pounding high gravity malt liquor, and sucking wine out of a plastic bag.

I’m a strict believer in throw and go (or puke and rally to some) and frankly if I didn’t have to be sober at work--I’m a substance abuse counselor--I would never blow anything below a 0.10.
So you can imagine how often I find myself trying to piece together previous 
night's events trying to map out the reason and location of my current state.

On this particular evening I found myself topless and covered in who knows how many people's sweat. With a beer bottle sticking out of the back of my pants surrounded by booty shaking women in hot pants while a transsexual screamed through a PA something related to sucking and blowing. And as the puzzle pieces of my evening started to fall into place like a dinner plate shattering in reverse. I smiled to myself, ‘Snake wine.’

It’s first recorded use took place in China around the year 771. Snake wine was originally made for it’s medicinal value, the belief that the essence of the snake would leak into the sake, or grain alcohol, and make the drinker healthier and more virile, sometimes even believed to cure aliments such as baldness.  Due to the traditional use of the endangered cobra snake, it is now illegal to transport snake wine to the US. So you can imagine my excitement when a friend of mine slowly produced two bottles from his kitchen cabinet while an evil grin slid across his face.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bird on a Fire

Most people recognize Vietnamese cuisine for it's fresh ingredients, amazing sandwiches and a bay area favorite that rapidly spread to other parts of California, phở.

Phở is just one of the reasons I am grateful to live in a city with such a large Vietnamese population. Spring rolls are but another, and iced coffee. Honestly I could go on all day. Suffice it to say I really enjoy Vietnamese food.

I found a new reason to thank the food gods today, it's called quail. On a recent trip to a local Vietnamese restaurant I favor, I am persuaded to try something new by a new friend. I never thought of eating quail as if it were chicken but leave it to Vietnamese talent to create a dish of something most people would never consider eating.

Jasmine Garden near the Church Street Muni station serves a honey roasted quail, which is flambeed at the table and then cut into pieces with meat scissors for easier consumption. It's a tiny bird, with tiny bones but those are my only real complaints. You'll be picking bones out of your mouth for sure, but eating quail is nowhere near as laborious as eating say, crab or any crustaceans with an exoskeleton. Don't skimp on the white pepper sauce that comes with. It give this little bird a tang and an extra layer of flavor that really sets this dish a flame. Not too sweet, nor too meaty the quail is slightly gamier, but otherwise tastes like chicken.

P.S. If you haven't tried phở, you're missing out big time. And, it's pronounced fuh. As in phở-cking amazing. 708 14th St (415) 861-2682. $

Friday, March 4, 2011

Holy Smokes

Every now and then you come across a cocktail you just have to try. We found this one at Lafitte, a Califonia style eatery with bit of French technique thrown in. We'll call it Ameri-french. The food is definitely noteworthy and bring a serious appetite because the portions are huge, but we'd really like to focus on the cocktail for dis or del because it's much less often that we run into drinks that are interesting and weird.

On the bar menu at this watefront resto is, drum roll please, The Mohawk. This drink is bad ass in a glass. Made with Russell's six year rye, sweet vermouth and bitters it is essentially a manhattan. But don't call it a manhattan. It's secret ingredients, tobacco leaf infused simple syrup and star anise, make The Mohawk a unique drink in a class all its own.
Just the right amount of smoky and sweet this drink should be garnished with a piece of nicorette chewing gum. At first sip it tastes just like a manhattan but when you swallow you can feel the tobacco linger in the middle of your pallete. Oddly enough when you get to the bottom of this drink you'll not only feel an alcohol buzz but also a bit of a tobacco buzz, like you just smoked a cigarette. For all you cigarette smokers out there, The Mohawk is the multi-tasking drunk's wet dream. Surgeon general says tobacco's addictive. That's the impression we get at the bottom this glass. The Mohawk only left us jonesing for more of that liquid nicotine. 500 The Embarcadero (415) 986-4806

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Octopuses, Octopi or Octopodes?

When you learn a good friend is about to move out of the state the natural reaction is to spend as much time together as possible. That is how it's been for my dear friend Angela Nunes and I. In one week she is moving to Philadelphia to accept a position with BHLDN, a new line of bridal garb from the folks at Anthropologie.

We lunched together when she was in town, after some pretty standard San Francisco moments. After a parking debacle, being complimented/hollered at by a group of young men standing on the street and traversing a maze of crackheads while being careful not to step in any human refuse around 6th street and Mission, we decided on 54 Mint, an Italian restaurant in the alley behind the old mint building.

I  forget there are some pretty amazing establishments in this little square. 54 Mint holds it down for the Italians in this part of town. Despite its close proximity to Union Square, the Westfield Center and some of the most touristy parts of our town, it's alley location keeps it out of view from most people who don't pay attention to detail, much less their surroundings, and makes it feel a little more SF for me. After all some of our best restaurants are in alleys.

We order the Carpaccio di polipo (octopus carpaccio) which comes dressed in a citrus olive oil, dusted with some red powdery substance, my guess is paprika since there is no real spice in it and a little shaved fennel and celery salad. The carpaccio was delicious, not a decision I associate with feelings of regret. The octopus was fresh--thanks seasonal menu-- the citrus flavor in the olive oil perfectly complimented the cephalopod without overwhelming it and the dish was beautiful when it arrived at the bar, where we always prefer to sit. Coincidentally, our bartender was also not very hard to look at. His charm and hospitable manner only reaffirm my love for European men, and make me want to go to Italy. 16 Mint Plaza (415) 543-5100.