Towse: views from the hill

September 5, 2012

Tasty Txoko on Broadway

Filed under: food,restaurants,San Francisco — Towse @ 4:20 pm

It was the last Saturday in July and I’d had lunch with my pals in MWA-NorCal at Villa d’Este on Ocean. The M-OceanView/45/39 connection brought me home in time to meet up with his nibs before we headed down to La Mar for before-dinner pisco sours (in honor of Peruvian Independence Day) and a beef empanada snack. We stopped off at Palio on our way home to say farewell and “Have fun!” to retiring chef/owner Dan Scherotter, who is moving on to interesting times.

We turned up Kearny toward North Beach as we walked home on a Saturday night. Dinner decision time:  Original Joe’s? The House? Park Tavern? But wait! Broadway! Kearny! Txoko! at Kearny and Broadway. Perfect. And what a delicious meal I had: crispy pork headcheese, glazed beef cheek with crispy sweetbreads, Shishito peppers with sea salt. Tasty. Perfect. The mains were staged on a medley of tasty peppers and vegetables blended with sauces, more. Bringing the Basque back to North Beach.

The food at Txoko’s is amazing. The wine list has an interesting selection of Spanish wines. The service was low key and on the money. What a perfect evening.

I was talking up Txoko’s to a friend of ours recently and he said, “But it’s on [gasp] Broadway.”

Well, yes. It is. In the former Enrico’s space. Hello? Did people not go to Enrico’s because it was on [gasp] Broadway? Two-star Michelin Coi is across the street and down a block and a half.

*sigh* Oh, what a sorry rep the Broadway strip has, but it was always thus.

Txoko’s has the food and ambiance (see the Jeremy Fish mural on the back wall) to be a magnet for local foodies. I wish I could convince more people (neighbors especially, who just have to walk down the hill) to get down there and see what I mean.

October 21, 2010

Café des Amis

Filed under: restaurants — Tags: , — Towse @ 1:06 pm

Had a meeting in PacHeights this past Tuesday evening. The meeting was over by 8:30p. We headed a few blocks down to Union and west to see what sort of place Café des Amis was. The restaurant, which opened last July, is a French brasserie at Buchanan and Union, in the old Prego Italian space.

Having no reservations, and the restaurant being partly-packed with a disparate group of people that included “investors,” those who talk to investors, suits, what might’ve been bean counters, and people with their shirttails out (all the same group, I might add) we had to wait all of five minutes or so for one of the parties who was not a part of the motley crew to vacate a table.

(I’d hate to think what the total dinner cost for the motley crew was. They were at different tables/booths on different levels and there were plenty of them, eating and imbibing. … Definitely not a south-of-Market startup crowd. …)

The food was delish. The wine was reasonably priced with bottle costs ranging from the twenties up to over two hundred, if that’s the way you roll. We chose a French wine from Languedoc. The bread was chewy and tasty, a bit sour with a proper crust. Served with sweet butter.

We split a special, a plate of pasta with uni cream sauce and sizable chunks of fresh uni. The light was dim. The uni was the same color as the sauce and, hence, the same color as the pasta. Every once in a bit, you’d bite into what you thought would be pasta and oooooh. myyyyy. uni. If you aren’t a huge uni fan, this dish would not be for you. For those of us who are, heaven.

The lighting was dim, did I mention? Our attentive and charming waiter had a handy-dandy mini light to lend us so we could read the menu easily while we were deciding on our order. Thank heavens for people who realize that clients who are too old to ever be mistaken for hipsters can’t see well in dim light.

The plat du jour (it being Tuesday) was crispy frog legs. We opted instead for some menu items. His nibs had Blanquette de Veau — slow-cooked veal breast, crispy sweetbreads, carrots and maitakes. Reasonable. Not something I’d wow for. The veal was tasty, but I like my sweetbreads in larger portions and not crispy-fried, which interferes with the taste and experience for me. For the kind of sweetbreads I like, check out the non-crispy sweetbreads (when they’re on the menu) at Isa on Steiner and/or the lemon-caper sweetbreads at Sam’s Grill (Bush and Belden Place).

I had Hanger Steak Frites with béarnaise and a watercress salad. The frites arrived accompanied by small bins of catsup and aioli. The aioli was rich and garlicky, luscious. I used it for both the steak and the frites. I used the béarnaise for both as well. The steak came cooked medium rare, as ordered, and divvied into ~2″ square chunks. Tasty. Perfectly cooked, and so much of it, I had the restaurant bag up the last few pieces for me to have with breakfast on Wednesday.

For dessert we shared a house-specialty: 24-layer crêpe cake with sliced figs and orange chamomile syrup. The crêpes are stacked and separated by a rich whipped vanilla cream sauce. I should be able to make something similar at home. Should I try? or should I just go back to Café des Amis whenever I get the yen? Maybe better to visit whenever I’d hanker for this rich dessert rather than learn how to make it.

Happy evening. Good food. Definitely repeatable. Staff was great, attentive. Our whole-hearted stamp of approval on the restaurant. May it flourish (but not so much that we can’t pop in unexpectedly on a Tuesday night and get a table promptly). Plus the walk over and back came to four miles total — not enough to burn off even the dessert, but every little bit helps.

May 11, 2010

Tuesday in San Francisco.

Filed under: life,restaurants — Tags: — Towse @ 11:07 pm

Went to the rosé tasting at Butterfly (P33) . Very crowded. Young hip crowd. Deejay. They didn’t ask for the ID they’d told me I had to bring. :-(

Too crowded for my sensibilities. (I was tempted to ask Rob Lam if I could hide out in his kitchen and have his nibs ferry me tastes of rosé.)

Tasty, but. …

We split early and went down to …P5 for a no-reservation dinner at Lafitte, which opened in April.

They sat us at the counter where we could watch the action in the kitchen. Fun.

We shared an appetizer charcroute plate. (Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. Try it if Russell has it on his menu again.)

His nibs had roasted lamb sirloin (medium rare) because the house had sold out of scallops. I had seared Iberico pork belly and sweetbreads. (Tasty!)

For dessert, we shared an English pea panna cotta (amazing!).

We walked back home and up 223 (who’s counting) steps and then down the path to home sweet home.

Tuesday in San Francisco. …

February 18, 2010

Delicious winemaker dinner at Acquerello Restaurant

Filed under: life,photographs,restaurants,travel — Tags: , — Towse @ 4:19 am

Delicious winemaker dinner at Acquerello Restaurant last night. The winemaker brought wines that the chef wanted to pair with her food. It was all =really= delish.

Before we went, his nibs said, Piemonte wines. I think we’ve been to the village this wine is supposed to come from. He named it. I checked. I rummaged through old digital photos we’d taken on a trip in September 2002. And, yes, we had indeed walked through the village of Serralunga d’Alba.

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We’d poked through the square and climbed up into the castle that dominates the surrounds.

We’d walked through Gaja vineyards in the morning and watched them harvesting, before we walked up to the village

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but I’m pretty sure we hadn’t walked through Ettore Germano, which is a ways from the village and on the other side of the village from Gaja.

Tasty wines last night. He had a sparkling to start and a gem of an un-oaked Chardonnay before he dove into Barolos and such.

Plus Sergio Germano was a very charming man with loads to talk about truffles and wine and winemaking. Entertaining evening all around. We need to visit Acquerello more often than we do. Suzette Gresham-Tognetti makes such amazing food.

December 15, 2009

Truffle-palooza last Saturday night

Filed under: life,restaurants — Tags: — Towse @ 1:19 am

Last Saturday was the last but one dinner for the Dissident Chef. He’s putting his pirate ship into drydock so he can focus on the new restaurant that’s a-building at Pier 5.

The Theme was truffles … the fungi not the chocolate. Saturday night’s menu was the long-form (we got home waaay after midnight) while Sunday’s (the final final final dinner for at least a year) was a shortened version to allow folks to get to work on Monday.

Eight courses, followed by three desserts. Every course, including the desserts, had truffles either in or on or over.

(White truffle ice cream …. mmmmmm)

Photos (and menu) from Saturday’s Truffle-palooza

SubCulture Dining Finally Waves Goodbye

November 29, 2009

Sliding toward the end of the year …

Filed under: life,restaurants — Towse @ 12:37 am

Sliding into the end of the year.

Halloween’s been and gone. The clocks rolled back an hour. Day of the Dead. Guy Fawkes. Siblings’ November shared-birthday, although the older sibling of the two skipped the family gathering and Thanksgiving to go off gallivanting in France and Italy. In another week December comes and with it Dad’s (RIP) and Dan’s shared bday, my sister-in-law’s bday, my oldest brother’s (RIP) bday, his nibs’ bday that he shares with my uncle. Christmas. And then, around the corner, is the New Year, awaiting discovery.

And the sound of hoofbeats creeping up behind. …

Instead of Black Friday, yesterday, his nibs and I met up at the California Academy of Sciences, where he had two shifts of docent duty, and went to the Moss Room for dinner. The Moss Room isn’t, anymore. The living wall of mosses never gained traction and has been replaced by a living wall of ferns and other such flora.

Will they rename the restaurant the Fern Room? I doubt it.

We shared a delicious turnip soup with cream, a splash of this and a bit of pork belly. We shared a Lon and Bailey Farms Pork Belly with spiced pumpkin puree, sweet onions, pheasant egg, balsamic — eggs and bacon by any other name. He had opah. I had guinea fowl on a pool of green curry, greens, fingerling potatoes. We shared a side of gratin cauliflower.

So what’s on the table tonight? Leftover Thanksgiving fixings, courtesy of my talented brother (brined turkey, mashed, two kinds of dressing, corn casserole) and courtesy of my talented son-in-law with able assist from our son (salad, rolls), and my contributions (sweet potato casserole, cranberry relish, pumpkin pie).

And then the November holidays will be gone and we’ll be skidding into December and what?

Where has this year gone? Anything accomplished? Happier now than last year this time? Who is gone? Who has arrived? Books read? Words written?

Flowers planted and picked and enjoyed, then tossed into the compost bin.

The days grow short when you reach the end of November.

Time to make plans.

Time to re-commit to and internalize the final panel of Calvin and Hobbes.

October 19, 2009

Contigo and more

Filed under: life,restaurants — Tags: — Towse @ 5:11 am

Public transit to Eureka Valley for the annual (always a different neighborhood) San Francisco Victorian Home tour.

Then walked up and over to Noe Valley and hung out (in bookstores and a bar, ‘natch) until Contigo (1320 Castro Street — between 24th St & Jersey St) opened for dinner.

Dee-lish dinner.

Walked down to Church and took the J to the Montgomery Station and popped above ground to take the 30 to Washington Square Park. Walked home.

I’ll write about all in more detail … later.

May 12, 2009

A not-so-typical Sunday

Filed under: food,life,restaurants — Towse @ 11:11 pm

The traditional brunch scheduled for last Sunday was re-scheduled, so we found ourselves with an unexpected free day on the calendar.

After checking the clock several times to make sure we timed it right, we used our Ukraine-specific calling card to call the younger younger guy, who’d requested a Mother’s Day call. Later, I talked with the older younger guy. Happy Mother’s Day to me.

A bit after lunch, we headed down the hill to the Ferry Building for bread at Acme. After scoring our sour bâtard, his nibs took me out for a delish Mother’s Day brunch at Butterfly on the waterfront. I watched the Bay: he watched the family dynamics of the Mother’s Day celebrants in the restaurant.

Our meal started with a small platter of four amuse-bouches for each of us: a Bloody Mary oyster shooter, salmon and strawberry salad roll, tuna poke tartar, and — my favorite — Rob Lam’s outstanding meatball of Kobe beef wrapped around a bit of foie gras and then cooked until the outside is crispy. (We’d had these meatballs at a wine tasting event at Butterfly a while back … memorable. Hot. Crispy. Rich. Ymmmm.)

The amuse-bouches were followed by a choice of first courses. From four or so we chose two different items — a rich, creamy shrimp bisque in puff pastry with white truffle oil, minced chives =and= spicy green papaya and mango salad with Vietnamese carmelized shrimp. We swopped halfway through.

Next, we had a choice of main courses — again, four or so … we both chose the Eggs Benedict three ways: traditional, w/ crab, and w/ wild mushroom. And, finally, a dessert plate from the chef. (We boxed up the non-melting portions for later consumption.)

On our way home (after opting to head straight up the stairs rather than go roundabout with the 39bus up to Coit Tower and walk down), we stopped off at a neighbor-on-the-steps’ everything-must-go sale. She’s headed off to Fiji with the Peace Corps and off-loading as much as possible.

We were so thoroughly full that even the walk down to the Ferry Building for bread (0.9mi), over to Butterfly for brunch (1mi), and back up the hill (0.5mi), didn’t wear off enough calories. We both went to bed later Sunday night without our supper (and without having a single regret that we’d missed a meal).

A lovely day it was. … extended by the package that arrived from our PCV (sent from Berkeley) this morning.


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March 2, 2009

in praise of sardines: Zagat on Contigo

Filed under: restaurants,San Francisco — Towse @ 5:03 am

in praise of sardines: Zagat on Contigo

Best of luck to Brett and Contigo (now scheduled to open … momentarily) but since when does Zagat feature restaurants that aren’t even open yet?

One Yelp review gave Contigo one star because …

i have never gone here. i probably wont. not for any reason except that i dont live close, work nights and hate shameless promotion. the food is probably great; the atmosphere, transcendent. i would probably fall in love with cava and ask her to run away with me. but…. they have six reviews from people who have never eaten here, and in my quest for justice and equality i must say…bullshit. you didnt love it. YOU DIDNT EVEN EAT THERE BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT OPEN YET.


I’ll wait until the restaurant actually opens before I stop by and see whether it’s worth returning to.

Yelp reviewers might take a hint.

February 28, 2009

Web design tip for businesses, especially restaurants

Filed under: design,restaurants,San Francisco,webstuff — Towse @ 10:36 pm

Having a city name on the home page is a good idea.

Having the restaurant address is even better.

Chez Papa Resto‘s Web page doesn’t cough up the address unless you drill down to the “Contact” page.

Address: 4 Mint Plaza San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: (415) 546 4134
Fax: (415) 546 4128

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