Whew. We crammed so much into our short trip to California, it took me almost a whole week to recover and even THINK about blogging. Obviously, The French Laundry will get a post of its very own (and that one may take a while), but while you patiently wait, here are my thoughts on a couple of local places we visited in San Francisco proper.
After our flights landed (at about 10 PM), we were definitely ready for cocktails and snacks. Enter Absinthe, a cool little brasserie in Hayes Valley whose executive chef is Jamie, from this most recent “Top Chef” season. We were too late for full dinner service, but they have a fairly extensive bar menu and a VERY impressive selection of spirits. I opted for the Croque Monsieur (with an added egg, of course), with black forest ham, gruyere, and Dijon mustard. Served with a large green salad, it was a LOT of food for $12.50, and it definitely hit the spot. Jason had the house-made hot dog with Guiness mustard, chili ketchup, sauerkraut, and yogurt-dill potato chips. The hot dog was tasty, but the chips were really the star of the plate–crispy and full of flavor. The fries were just okay, but the cocktails were all really interesting and tasty. Service was attentive and friendly. Our experience was somewhat marred by our fatigue and the incredibly loud and annoying middle-aged women cackling at the bar, but I still left with a positive impression of the place.
Toward the back end of our trip, we had lunch at Monk’s Kettle, a cute little joint in the Mission with a great beer selection and an interesting take on bar food. We had wanted to visit on a Friday night, but we were told that it was WAY too small for four people to get in (without waiting for a long time) during busy times. After walking right by it a few times (the signage is not terribly obvious), we entered and were greeted by a warm atmosphere and a friendly bartender. It IS really tiny, with a maximum occupancy of no more than 50 or so, but it was lunchtime on a weekday and we practically had the place to ourselves. We started off by sharing a soft pretzel, served with house-made beer cheese sauce (drooooool) and stone ground mustard; it was a chewy, salty, perfect start to the afternoon. Jason opted for the grilled chicken sandwich with house-cured pepper bacon, herb aioli, and brie. It was HUGE, but it was so tasty, it disappeared in no time flat. I chose the lamb burger, which came with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and a cucumber tzatziki sauce. YUM. The meat must have had some cinammon in the seasoning mix, as it had a sweet-salty-spicy taste that really wowed me. The fries that came with both sandwiches were excellent–crunchy, hot, tender, and well-salted. We really enjoyed our experience, and we had a great time talking to the bartender about the various beer offerings. No wonder this place gets so crowded on the weekends!
On our way back to the airport after a lovely trip, we had to stop for some tacos and burritos in the Mission. Every San Franciscan has his or her preferred Mexican joint, and I find that folks are pretty loyal to their favorites. My sister and her boyfriend swear by Taqueria Cancun. The first time I went, I really didn’t enjoy my burrito–I asked for a lot of modifications (my fault), and most of them got screwed up (their fault). This time, I opted for marinated pork “super” tacos, served on corn tortillas and topped with salsa, sour cream, fresh avocado, and cilantro. Much better! The meat was tender, the salsa was spicy, and the balance of flavors was spot-on. I don’t usually love corn tortillas, but these were obviously homemade and delicious. What I found was that, unlike a burrito (which can get stuffed in such a way as to segregate ingredients), the taco allowed me to taste every component in each bite. I enjoyed it mucho.
Frighteningly, this represents only a fraction of the food consumed while we were away. Stay tuned for more…