Every time I go to San Francisco, it enforces my feeling that the folks who say downtown Los Angeles is happening are a misguided lot. Riding across the Bay Bridge heading to the city -day or night - I'm in high spirits knowing a good time awaits.
When I was there for a week a short while ago, the sun dropped in and stayed. hovering in around 80 degrees. Yes, that's right. I'm talking about April in San Francisco This is a feeling.
I was fortunate to dine with a group of elite Special Courses eaters; Lindsay and Michael Tusk, Nancy Oakes, Lissa Doumani, Hiro Sone, Jonathan Waxman and Nancy L. Silverton.
Here were the eating highlights
HIGH COTTON KITCHEN - Cochon de Lait Po'Boy
Haight Ashbury reminds me of Times Square in that it is one of those once great; America neighborhoods scrubbed with so much disinfectant that the pit bulls don't even want to growl there anymore. .And like Times Square, where in the '70s and '80s Mickey Mouse would have been violently mugged, the Haight is place I regret was cleaned up.
Still, there is a good bookstore here called the Booksmith and there was this pulled pork sandwich at the High Cotton Kitchen that alone makes the old hippie capital worth a visit.
I owe this dining excursion to one Marica Gagliardi (www.tablehopper.com) whose brief description of HIgh Cottons $9 pork sandwich ("juicy, dripping, mustardy") enticed us. There's no alcohol served, but you can take the food to the bar next door.
The owner is Lousiana native Terrell Brunet is on to something good in the Second Act Marketplace, 7 days, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.. 1727 Haight St San Francisco, CA 94117 (415) 668-3994 highcottonkitchen.com
COTOGNA - Everything
I probably wouldn't go to San Francisco and not go to Cotogna, the charming street urchin to the aristocratic Quince next door. Cotogna always satisfies. The food, the welcome , the vibe, it's what I want in a restaurant. Last week when we showed up without a reservation, waited at the elegant bar at Quince until a seat at the Cotogna counter opened. Chef/owner Michael Tusk is one of the best in the country and seems to put as much effort into the food at Cotngna as he does Quince, which has two Michelin stars.
His wife, ex-Berkeley radical Lindsay Tusk, has mellowed though the years, transforming herself into one of America's ultimate restauranteurs. She's a living testament to turning one's life around.
The highlight was a lamb shank. How's that for a description of the food. Just get the shank if its available.
TROU NORMAND - Pork Chop
From the Bar Agricole folks, this new place is at 140 New Montgomery Street in 26-story 1925 ARt Deco masterpiece originally called the Pacific Telephone Building. That alone almost makes Trou Normand worth a visit. But, the pork chop here, $26, sears the deal.
We went here, had some charcuterie -the highlight being the "butcher's pate" - and then our waitress starts going on about the pork chop like it's the best thing to hit town since Orlando Cepeda. I'm thinking how could it be like the "Baby Bull' and it's only $26?
Lissa and Hiro, they rushing off to dinner with some other folks, but you know they ordered this chop. Man, I 'm glad they did. Chopper comes and, damn, if server lady wasn't right. Lissa starts in raving about how flavorful the 1 1/2" border of white fat is. I agree. Hiro is raving about the flavor pork chop meat, I agree. Nancy is quiet, steadily eating the meat and the fat. I agree..http://trounormandsf.com/
WOLVES AND CRAFTSMAN - Muffin
I've never been to this MIssion bakery, but on Saturdays they have a stand outside the front of the Ferry Building during the farmer's market, To give you an idea about this Bakery. their website has a quote by Pablo Picasso, "The chief enemy of creativity is 'good' sense."
They also have a muffin called "The Rebel Within" that will be nominated for muffin of the year. This muffin-stuffed with a, get this, hard-boiled egg, flecked with green onion, asiago cheese and chorizo. It's good. So good that lawyers for Egg McMuffin, Inc. have filed a federal lawsuit demanding that "The Rebel Within" classify itself as anything other than a muffin.
A homie of The Rebel Within told Krikorian Writes "Those fake McMuffin individuals need to back off before they get crumbled.".
Craftsman and Wolves shop is 746 Valencia Street (at 18th Street) Their stand is at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market Sat 8 a.m. - 2 p.m. http://www.craftsman-wolves.com/menu
* Regarding 18th Street and Valencia, Lissa and Hiro, who own Terra in St. Helena and Ame in SF, are opening a new sort of French bistro this summer right war that corner. For Bay Area diners, that is some good news.
BOULETTE'S LARDER -Bread Pudding
Like the controversial Rebel Within muffin at Crftsman and Wolves, the Bread Pudding, with strawberries and rhubarb, is going through some rigamaroll trying to being classified as French Toast. If this classification comes through this custardy dish will surely rate among the best French Toast I've had (excluding my mom's).
While I was eating this, Nancy Silverton was eating some scrambled eggs and she's so moved by them she takes a photo. While this is normal behavior for many people, like, for example, Verona Masongsong (noted sword fighter slash Pizzeria Mozza server) who would that a picture of a lone Frito, for Nancy to take a food photo, well, damn, she really must like it. She even suggested a Twitter line for the dish, something along the lines of "Boulette's Larder could teach the world how to scramble eggs."
To top it all off - and speaking of changing the world, or, at least, trying to - there's a stop-and-gaze-and-ponder-the-state-of-the-planet statue of your boy Mohandas K. Ghandi about 15 feet away with a quote about him by Albert Einstein, by "Generations to come, it may be, will scace believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth."
Scrambled eggs, illegal French toast. Gandhi and Al, that's a way to start the day. http://www.bouletteslarder.com/
TARTINE BAKERY - Sesame Loaf
I already wrote about this loaf of bread that received the coveted "Five Nods" from Nancy. Here it is again : http://krikorianwrites.com/blog/2014/4/8/nancy-silverton-awards-coveted-5-nods-to-tartine-sesame-loaf
COQUETA - Eggs with Shrimp and Crispy Potato - Like Tartine, I wrote about this place we relish, but here it is again http://krikorianwrites.com/blog/2014/4/7/bzxz20kpvvz6lmex3xt0uz67jsfx15
That story is more about my extraordinary view. "Yeah, I had a view."
TOSCA CAFE - Vegetables
Among the more forgotten people in America are the vegetarian alcoholics.But, listen up you drunkard. blurry-eyed, stumbling lot who disdain roasted pigs and lambs, yet foolishly insert the word "celery" during raucous sing-a-longs to "If I Only Had a Heart." April Bloomfield has not forsaken you.
Dear April, best known as the chef of the Spotted Pig, Breslin and John Dory Oyster Bar in New York, and set to open in Los Angeles, has taken over at the venerated Tosca Cafe in San Francisco's North Beach. There's plenty of meaty fare here, but when Nancy and I went recently, we ordered almost all vegetable dishes.
Here's what we had; roasted carrots with tops, hazelnut pesto, something called "mead' vinegar, thyme, ($8); roasted treviso, ($7); broccoli de cicco with red wine vinegar and crispy garlic ($8). Something else, too. Forgot. All were very good. Even the forgotten one.
(The one non-veg dish was a egg tonnato ($7), which will likely be nominated for the highly competitive category of "deviled egg dish of the month". This was on a puddle of tuna sauce and topped with a anchovy and capers.)
For the drunk who has some cash, there's five bourbon's from the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery; 10-year ($18), 12-year ($35), 15-year (50), 20-year ($75), and 23-year ( $125). My favorite is "The Granddaddy" a special "80-year-old" version, my own concoction where I order the five bar offerings. pour them in a water glass with one ice cube and sip, as CW Sughure would say, "the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."
* That stolen quote is from the opening line is James Crumley's "The Last Good Kiss", one of the most revered in crime fiction.
“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.”