Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Monkfish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Chicken liver is pretty standard in the States. Kids hate it, parents make them eat it because it’s rumored to be good for the body. Monkfish liver, however is largely unknown to most people, unless you’re an avid sushi eater, which makes it exotic and makes me want to try it. Dining at Tokyo Go Go’s sushi bar, we are treated to this Japanese delicacy. It is sliced and placed atop a bed of julienned cucumbers, drizzled with Yuzu ponzu sauce and sprinkled with scallions. To get in the Japanese spirit I, of course, have a few sakes before putting this in my mouth.  It is happy hour after all. The aromas are pungent, though not necessarily bad. I try to anticipate what is coming but am completely off. Ankimo, it’s proper name, is not chewy nor gamey. It is mushy but tastes just like eating a fish, the flavor is superb, and the sauce complements the flavors of the liver very well. The sushi chef is laughing in my face as he notices my confused/kind of disgusted but not really look. The texture is hard to pin down, but best described as creamy, mushy, fishy. The mouthfeel of this dish is all wrong. Which is a shame because the flavor is umami, the fifth flavor that can only be described as part salt part sweet. Next time I will be sure to incorporate cucumber into each bite for a better texture experience. Overall Ankimo, disgusting. The only thing holy about this fish’s liver is the words that are sure to escape your lips shortly after swallowing, “Holy crap, wtf?” 3174 16th St. (415)864-2288

Forking With Food Injustice

Driving down Oak street for the ten millionth time this week I finally notice the Hayes Valley Farm. I couldn’t be sure that it was actually a farm because the city block it’s on is probably one of the most high traffic areas in the city–on the block formed by Oak and Fell between Octavia and Laguna, and not in the burbs but low and behold it is indeed a farm. I am not sure if produce can even survive in an area inundated with car emissions and grown in soil where a freeway once stood but we shall see.
What a great idea. Recently there’s been a lot of talk about living a green life. Shopping locally and eating seasonally is great for the environment as well as the body, which explains the recent explosion of farmers markets and why they’re so damn trendy. But bringing fresh produce to the inner city also makes it affordable and accessible to low-income residents who may not have a car or may otherwise have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Besides eating green, another issue in the food community not discussed enough isfood injustice. The term food injustice refers to a scenario that is familiar to many low-income city dwellers. Imagine that you and your family are on a limited income, money is really tight. The nearest grocery store is 2 miles from your house. But you don’t have a car and can’t afford zipcar, so you depend on Muni or Bart. To get to your house, let’s say in Bayview, to the nearest grocery store with fruits and veggies that aren’t minutes away from molding , you have to get on the T-line and transfer to the 22 to get to Safeway on 16th and Portrero since the Whole Foods on 18th is slightly out of your price range.
On the way to Safeway you notice there are plenty of options for food that is already prepared, much cheaper than a grocery bill and you don’t have to lug heavy paper bags back home on Muni hoping they don’t break. McDonalds–there are three in the 94107, serves burgers for a dollar; so you can get five of them for $5 dollars or make the trek to Safeway and get 5 ounces of organic salad greens. The choice is obvious when the budget is small and there are multiple mouths to feed. Health takes second place.
*This is a disgusting reality for many people who live in cities all across the nation.
Hopefully, the Hayes Valley Farm is the first up in starting a nationwide trend. City farms can bring food costs down by cutting out the middle man (supermarkets), make fresh foods accessible and if they have a farmers market bring some equality to a town with an uppity farmers market scene.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Shucking Good Time

Oysters bring to mind different memories for different people. Some good, putting lead in your pencil (wink); others not so much, food-borne illness or mercury poisoning. Rumors aside, oysters are typically served on beds of crushed ice all over the country. They have been part of American cuisine for a long time. Today they are considered a bourgeois food, usually served with dainty forks and champagne if they occasion calls for it, but they weren't always considered so. In fact, 19th century oyster bars were considered seedy places; hangout spots for society's bottom feeders. Widely available and dirt cheap, a stew was invented with oysters, since stews are what most poor people ate in those days. The broth masked the flavor of days-old food and easily softened weeks-old hardened bread.

Nowadays, were fortunate enough to be able to afford more than just stew, but not as happy about the price point of the modern oyster. Even at dollar oyster happy hours-- there are quite a few in the city -- a dozen will cost $12.00 before tax and tip and let's be real one dozen is never enough.

Absinthe Brasserie and Bar doesn't host dollar oysters any time of day, but they do have an impressive oyster selection given they are not a raw bar. We go for the Kumamoto's. They're harvested locally in Point Reyes and you know how we San Franciscans just love supporting local businesses. They're moderately sized, slippery on the tongue and delicate on the palate. I've been told not to eat oysters on Sundays because they're not fresh, but you wouldn't know it from tasting these. Biting into one, I notice it still has its crispness and the flavor is superb, complemented by a drizzle of mignonette. Some oyster rumors are true. These mouthwatering mollusks always give me a figurative hard-on, that can only appeased by more. 398 Hayes St. (415)551-1590

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Foot in Mouth

Taking a trip to Millbrae for dim sum might seem excessive. But, when you’re on El Camino, scarfing down excellent chinese cuisine, the BART ride suddenly seems worth it all. Known for having strange things on the menu The Kitchen has drawn us in with their braised chicken feet. The portions here are hearty, but we are eating dim sum so we order some other things, like duck tongue and chinese style tripe, but we’ll save those for some other post. The chicken feet are braised in a claypot with some sort of dark soy sauce. The talons are pulled out but where the foot has been cut off you can still see the bone which makes them funny to look at. Beneath the chicken skin, complete with little bumps that look like goosebumps, there is a lot of cartilage and soft bones which make the feet a lot of work to eat. The best strategy? Hold the part where the leg used to be and pull a toe off first. Grossed out yet? Suck the skin and meat off the bones and spit out the bones and cartilage. Next eat the padded foot area. Though delicious, do not order these on a date. Saying "Eeny meeny miny moe, grab and suck a chicken toe" is not sexy. (650) 692-9688, 279 El Camino Real

No Fear of Deer

When I was a young girl Bambi was my least favorite Disney film. Not because I don’t like deer, but I just couldn’t get past the opening scene where the mommy deer is shot to death. Now, twenty years later, something that once looked like Bambi is on my plate at Suppenkuche, the Hayes Valley German resto and beer destination. Thinking that someone shot this deer, like the hunters did to Bambi’s mom so I could eat it makes me a little bit sad, but my sadness is quickly over shadowed. Overshadowed by excitement to finally try some deer meat. Properly called venison, people eat deer meat in all sorts of ways. Venison sausages, and jerky are two other ways to serve it, but tonight on the Suppenkuche menu it’s venison medallions. Served with sauerkraut, of course, a red wine plum sauce and herbed spaetzle, german for little flour dumplings, think gnocchi, the venison medallions are delicious. Well they’re really just alright, but this blog isn’t called Disgusting or alright. The meat is very lean, but still tender. Flavor-wise initially tastes like a very very lean steak the game hits hard towards those last chews though. The red wine plum sauce that comes with is nice to distract your palette from that game-y taste, but a bit sweet for my savory taste. I prefer the sauerkraut’s acidity with the meat, it just makes everything on the tongue pop. And the spaetzle is bomb dot com. Near and deer to my heart. 525 Laguna St., 415.252.9289

Monday, February 22, 2010

Welcome Back Trotter

Hidden amongst the alleys of North Beach 15 Romolo is hands down the neighborhood’s least chaotic bar. Its obscure alley location, and modest sign- unique given its close proximity to the mega wattage that defines Broadway St., make Romolo easy to miss. Most prefer its mellow atmosphere to the police monitored, stripper-filled streets of North Beach. But, if you’re looking for a relatively mellow night out, that may or may not end in arrest and/or getting pimp smacked, (depends on how long you stand on Broadway at 2 am) you now know where to go, just don’t tell anyone. Duck into the narrow alleyway, and just below the Basque Hotel you’ll find this simple bar. Its decor is vaguely reminiscent of a speakeasy, but the cocktail and food menus are completely post-modern. Chef Jake Kwan’s menu emphasizes fresh, local ingredients and is becoming what some might call adventurous. Its newest addition, crispy pork trotters are made from pig feet meat. Blanched and braised the meat is the minced and formed into a log. Made to order, like everything else on the menu Kwan slices two patties from the ol’ log, and pan fries these little piggies to crispy, golden brown perfection. The pickled vegetable garnish, made of carrots, celery, radish and red cabbage provide some much needed acid and fiber to this high fat, and likely fatal dish. Just try and ignore the chest pains after eating two plates of these. Survey says DELICIOUS. (415) 398-1359, 15 Romolo Pl.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Heart De-livers

It makes perfect sense that a wine bar named Heart serves liver. You might need an extra hanging around the newly-opened Mission District wine bar. This minimally decorated, but charming bar features bottles to boot, food done by Dogpatch geniuses, (and probably millionaires by now) Kitchenette and communal tables. The decor consists of whatever art is currently being showcased, and a wall of strategically placed wine bottles that lead the eye into the bar to a counter with a cash register where you order before sitting down. We order the Chopped Liver, chopped beef liver in chicken liver mousse served with schmaltz toasts and a tasty little egg salad made with parsley, olive oil and shallots. What arrives is a nicely plated loaf of what looks like påté, covered in aforementioned egg salsa. I also order a glass of the 2008 Muscato D’Asti, that is best described as a riesling soda. Fresh and fruity, it is listed as a desert wine but bartender Robbie, suggested it and if I know one thing its trust the man with a wine key. So the liver is palatable, virtually no “organ meat” taste. The crispy toast counters the mush that is all liver dishes. If kids grew up eating this well-spiced dish, liver and onions might not have such a bad rap. But, order it to share. I do not recommend trying to eat this plate alone, it is very rich. And, FYI, Heart serves their wine in mason jars. Stemware is available, but if you ask you’re totally “that guy” and no one likes him. <3