Towse: views from the hill

January 31, 2005

[FOOD] Ponzu

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 11:37 pm


401 Taylor Street (at O’Farrell)

San Francisco, California 94102

Tel: (415) 775-7979

Fax: (415) 351-7656

Breakfast: M-Su

Lunch: available for private functions and business meetings.

Dinner: Su-Sa

Our Saturday night exercise in Dine About Town eatery took us to Ponzu, the small pan-Asian restaurant next to the Serrano Hotel, a boutique hotel near Union Square. (That location is a reason, perhaps, why Ponzu is open for breakfast.)

The executive chef, Michelle Mah, was until recently the sous chef at the Grand Café, just up the block (and where we ate last Sunday).

Our server was excellent, even though the staff seemed a bit overstretched. The bar is oh-so-glam, as is the dining room.

A table of four late-twenty-early-thirty-somethings — a couple and two guy friends — across the not-so-very-wide room from us got rowdier as the night went on. Between nibbles and food, the two guys had, at my count, and who knew what they had before we arrived or after we left, four sake bombs a piece.

Recipe for sake bomb: Balance a glass of sake on your chopsticks over a full glass of beer. Bang on the table (1-2-3-SAKE BOMB!) until the sake glass drops into the beer, then chug the beer, racing to beat the other party.

Hm. Yes, the crowd was younger and hipper than we ever were, but unlike Café Claude on Saturday night, we weren’t the only people over forty in the joint.

We checked out the menu and opted for the Dine About Town special.

We shared two salads. The Vietnamese Prawn Salad (with mango slaw, peanuts, chile–lime vinaigrette) had a substantial bit of finely shredded purple cabbage — not my favorite — in the slaw. We were given two quarters of fresh lime to squeeze over (and then drop into our water glasses). The prawns had been sliced in half, so you were more likely to get a bit of prawn in each mouthful. I’m not a huge cabbage person, but this salad was excellent. There was enough chile in the vinaigrette to leave your lips buzzing when you were through.

The Hosui Asian pear and watercress salad included radicchio, celery, fennel, and white soy-ginger vinaigrette. Both salads were substantial and flavorful. Definitely re-orderable.

We both ordered the Vietnamese pork tenderloin with palm sugar caramel sauce and chile braised asian greens (bok choy, I think) as our main course. The other choice on DAT was a vegetarian option. The pork was delicious: four to five slices. The chile, again, added a substantial zip to the dish. The combination of the caramel-chile-greens and the pork was brilliant.

For dessert, his nibs ordered the trio of fresh fruit sorbets: pineapple, pear, mango (I thought as I tasted them). I had the Cognac chocolate truffle torte with coconut-caramel mousselline. The torte was served in slices, like rectangular wedges of brownies. Macadamia nuts in the torte. The mousseline was very light and helped cut the intensity of the chocolate. A thin wedge of carmelized brittle with added coconut (it tasted like) completed the dish. Delicious, and I didn’t have to share.

Dine About Town deal price plus a bottle of pinot noir and tax totalled about $100. Above and beyond that was the tip.

The walk over took about fifty minutes. The walk (uphill!) back took more. We sat out on the deck and watched the lights on the Bay and sipped Cognac and talked about life until it was time for bed.

[FOOD] Café Claude

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 11:00 pm

Café Claude

7 Claude Lane

San Francisco, California 94108

phone 415.392.3515

fax 415.392.2226

We’d been meaning to get to Café Claude for quite a while, but it isn’t open on Sundays and when we thought about it on Saturday and his nibs called for a reservation, we’d be told it was far too late …

Last Friday, however, his nibs decided we’d have a final mad three-evening (SA-SU-MO) dash to try out restaurants with the January-only Dine About Town deals.

His decision was triggered by an article I sent him — an article Patty Unterman wrote about her Dine About Town experience at Rubicon. (Tonight we’ll be dining at Rubicon — surprise, surprise — as our grande 31 January finale to Dine About Town.)

Café Claude is tucked away on Claude Lane, a tiny alley off Bush Street, between Grant and Kearny. Food is French. Service is relaxed … to say the least. Our server came over to hand off the menus. When we asked her what the Dine About Town special entailed, she gestured toward a chalkboard propped up in the corner. “You have your choice of … Oh, wait. I think we’re out of that. Let me go check. I’ll get back to you.”

She disappeared for about ten minutes.

In the meanwhile we decided we didn’t want the Dine About Town special anyway. Dessert was some chocolate concoction and his nibs doesn’t do chocolate. He also wasn’t feeling like pork and when the server came back, the pork dish was the special on that night.

Instead we both ordered crispy sweetbreads with pea shoots, coarse mustard and fig compote. I ordered the hangar steak with beurre rouge, exotic mushroom and spinach gratin and crispy potatoes. His nibs ordered a chicken dish.

The sweetbreads were crispy fried and consisted of just four tiny bite-sized portions. The portions were small enough that the coating, tasty though it was, overwhelmed any taste of sweetbreads there might’ve been. The pea shoots were an interesting sprout. The coarse mustard and fig flavor were a tasty combination with the sweetbreads and pea shoots. I stashed the flavor combination suggestion away for another time we cook sweetbreads at home to try in lieu of our usual port|madeira, mushrooms and sour cream.

My hangar steak was cooked perfectly, medium rare. The beurre rouge was tasty. The “crispy potatoes” were finely, finely slivered potatoes, crispy, stacked on top of a small gratin dish filled with a mixture of mushrooms, spinach and gruyere cheese. The gratin and crispy potatoes were heavenly with the steak.

His nibs’ chicken breast was sautéed (probably in olive oil) with a bit of garlic and served with a slightly sweet coarse ground mustard sauce. The chicken came with very small roasted potatoes and a veg, bitter greens, perhaps? The sauce was very tasty.

I had an eau de vie, Poire Williams, for dessert while his nibs had a crème brulee. Well, actually, we shared the crème brulee. I had a couple bites to check whether the dessert lived up to the rest of the meal. It did.

The poire williams was a substantial pour and as pear-y as can be. The crème brulee was tasty, which was a good thing, because it was the only thing on the dessert menu his nibs could handle. Everything else was chocolate of some sort or another.

We decided that the walk down (about forty minutes) and back (a bit more than forty minutes … uphill) had been worth it.

We’ll go there again. Both main dishes were excellent. We’ll know to try something other than the sweetbreads for an appetizer next time. We got out of there, including a bottle of pinot noir with dinner, for about $100 including tax but not tip.

January 29, 2005

Friday Blog Pick (so shoot me … it’s Saturday)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:14 pm

Pariah S. Burke has an interesting site (I am Pariah), a personal blog, stuff to read, and things to do.

Burke is also the maintainer and purveyor of the Memes List: “You’ll never run short of blog material again!”

I came across his site because I was looking for a photo meme for Saturday. Didn’t find one, but I did set this site away for a future mosey.

January 28, 2005

Photo Friday challenge: Youth

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 11:09 pm

School children singing.

Bellavista, Galapagos, EC.

Photo Friday challenge: Youth Posted by Hello

January 27, 2005

Theme Thursday: COLD

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 4:52 pm

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

Lijiang, Yunnan, CHINA

Theme Thursday current theme: COLD (Frozen, Frosty, Refrigerated, Wintry, Icicle, Ice Cubes, Common Cold, Lacking Warmth, Unfeeling,… ) Posted by Hello

January 26, 2005

Lensday challenge: Kinetic

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 10:43 pm

The cables at the Cable Car Museum (corner of Mason and Washington Streets, San Francisco).

Stop on by the museum and watch the cables that drive the City’s four cable car lines. The beam above the winding wheels labels which wheel is running the cable for which line. Want to know more? Hie thee over here or, better yet, hie thee to the Cable Car Museum.

Lensday challenge: Kinetic – 1. Of, relating to, or produced by motion. 2. Relating to or exhibiting kinesis. Posted by Hello

January 25, 2005

Kathleen Davey’s Progress

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:44 pm

It’s been a year. A very long year. Some anniversaries are dates you don’t want to celebrate, to remember. This anniversary is one of those.

There’s a link to a letter Mike wrote on Kathleen’s page. He read it to her yesterday, on the one year anniversary.

I check Kathleen’s page almost every day and stop each time to think good thoughts for Mike and his family.

Reading Mike’s letter to Kathleen today and listening to the music he chose, I cried.


You can say that there is some unknowable reason why bad things happen to good people, that there is some good that will come of all this, that we are never given burdens we cannot bear. The community has gathered ’round in support. The family has managed amazing things. Mike and Bean and their girls have made us all more aware of the importance of family and friends and this moment in time.

Fine. We’ve all learned the lessons, and learned them all again and again.

Now, all this unbeliever wants is a miracle.

Photo Tuesday’s theme: Portrait

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 5:56 pm

Miss Pip is plotting something.

Photo Tuesday‘s theme: Portrait Posted by Hello

Wine on the hoof or Have I mentioned Picasa2?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 3:31 am

Wine on the hoof.

Piemonte, ITALY Sep2002

I am having such a good time fiddling with old photos using Picasa2. I have always (conscientious person that I am) kept the photo originals in a separate file before I Photoshop’d or otherwise manipulated the image.

I still do.

But Photoshop is Photoshop and Picasa is a much simpler tool when you don’t want to get into the bits and the multiple layers and all. Try the “I’m feeling lucky” click, or throw in some fill light for a dark photo. This tool is amazing, no lie. The image above had a simple “sharpen” effect added to it, f’rex.

So, as I’m tooling through the images I happen to have on my hard drive, and considering scanning in images of days long past, I just have to say … I am having so gol durn much fun — not just fiddling with images (lighten! sharpen! fiddle the color! feel lucky!) but reminiscing about days of yore.

The photos on the blog, btw, for the entries labeled “departure” and “shadow” are from an annual weekend we spend at Bixby Creek … those images are from 2002. Coinkadinkly, one half of the host couple was showing a family member what a blog was by using this blog and dropped me a note about the serendipity of showing off blogs by choosing mine and there were pictures! from the annual Bixby Creek weekend!

Some day (some day), I will have photos available online from all those Bixby Creek weekends, dating back to something like 1987. Picasa will help me do so.

Better than slide shows of yesteryear!

Posted by Hello

Flickr photos

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 1:05 am

After seeing The Pirate‘s implementation, I decided to add my own Flickr “badge” (as they term it) to this blog. Check out the photos to starboard.

Being as my Flickr oeuvre is now all of twelve pictures, I’ll need to add some more to keep from boring myself and the masses who read this blog when Flickr randomly chooses five out of those twelve to display.

The Pirate, btw, has a photo of Laughing Sal in his Flickr oeuvre.

I never much cared for her moniker.

Update: Well, fiddle. If Flickr is down for maintenance (which it is as I write this), there’ll be no photos in the Flickr area.

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