Monday, April 20, 2009

Quick Update: Bar Tartine Revisit

With the quality of its Tartine Bakery heritage and the original chef's pedigree (Cafe Boulud), I was excited to dine at Bar Tartine when it opened a few years ago. After a couple uneven meals, I was left with the impression that it wasn't worth the hype, let alone the long waits.

Things continually change in the restaurant business however, and with new chef Jason Fox taking the helm a while ago I had started hearing more positive reviews from reliable sources and decided to venture once again to this popular Mission restaurant.

I'm glad I went back. While we had a little service hiccup (a misunderstanding on our order which was remedied with a comped entree), the food was great and very consistent. The stand-out was the guinea hen (pictured here), taken off the bone and presented two ways: sauteed with peas and cipollinis, and accompanied by a beggar's purse full of pulled hen. The gnocchi was also very good and was cooked perfectly which is often a risk with this type of pasta.

The setting, as it always has been, is charming with votive candles littered about and there is seating at the kitchen counter as well (will have to add it to my kitchen counter dining list).

All in all, if you haven't been in a while it's worth another visit.

Information about Bar Tartine restaurant on Center'd

Bar Tartine website

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Quick Update: New Brunch Menu at Maverick

A favorite spot for brunch in San Francisco, Maverick Restaurant has an excellent menu that balances both breakfast and lunch fare well, unlike many other options which tend to favor one or the other. Maverick presents appealing items on both sides of the brunch fence that will satisfy either mood, although this sometimes creates a small ordering dilemma (there are worse problems to have).

I visited Maverick for brunch again today and was greeted by a new menu with a number of notable new additions. While I was slightly disappointed their upscale version of a cheese steak no longer made the cut, the replacements were well executed and panned out nicely.

On the breakfast side, the andouille sausage benedict with crawfish jalapeno hollondaise is a great southern take on this breakfast standard, with nice smokiness and well-balanced sauce. The orange flannel hash and tex-mex enchiladas are also new to the menu and look worth a try.

The devil's gulch ranch ham sandwich with gruyere, caramelized onions and dijon will satisfy a lunch hunger, and the blackened catfish po'boy capitalizes on the southern influences exercised at the restaurant.

A recommended solution for splitting the difference between breakfast and lunch is the Maverick brunch sandwich, which remains a menu staple. A little heat from chef Scott Youklis' home-made hot sauce gives this great flavor.

Information about Maverick restaurant on Center'd

Maverick website

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Restaurant Trend: Little Gem Lettuce

It's easy to determine when certain foods are in season or becoming popular ingredients because they start making appearances on multiple restaurant menus. While little gem lettuce seems to be available year-round, it's been a common addition to top-flight San Francisco restaurants over the past year.

Little gem is a cross between romaine (crispy) and butter lettuce (sweet), and has small leafs on the outside and a crisp heart inside. It's usually served cut in half and presented lengthwise, often accompanied by cheese and/or nuts which complement its taste and texture.

Little Gem Salad (Flickr CC: In Praise of Sardines)

Blue Plate's take on little gems includes pink lady apples, spiced pecans and wisconsin buttermilk blue cheese, and is an excellent representation of what a good chef can do with this ingredient. The Mission's Conduit has had a little gem salad on its menu since opening a little more than a year ago; the original was an amazing version with hazelnuts, shaved radish and a light ranch dressing, and the current incarnation is a tasty twist on a caesar salad.

Other notable San Francisco restaurants that have little gem salads on the menu lately include Boulevard, NOPA and Universal Cafe, and across the bay in Berkeley, Chez Panisse.

The Verdict:
I'm usually not a big restaurant salad person, but I haven't met a little gem I haven't liked so I'm a fan.

San Francisco restaurants with little gem salads on Center'd