Hot doughnuts? No.

Posted by Anita on 09.29.06 11:01 AM

top pot doughnuts (c)2006 AECAmong Seattleites, Top Pot doughnuts have acquired something of a cult status. When the Seattle Rep coffee bar began offering them a few years ago, for example, they so vastly understimated demand that their entire supply sold out nearly an hour before the curtain went up, leaving not a crumb for late arrivals… much less intermission.

Now we love us some doughnuts, but it took us ages before we managed to get our mitts on a Top Pot. We’d walk by their Belltown location after dinner or a movie, and shake our fists at the darkened storefront — who closes a doughnut shop at 7pm?? (Luckily, the original Capitol Hill shop keeps slightly more-sane hours.)

Ironically enough, it was breakfast time when we finally succeeded in scoring one of these babies. And what an assortment met our hungry eyes: Crullers of all colors, maple bars, sprinkled cake, sugar-glazed…. mmmm. Dense and intense, they’re like the anti-Krispy Kreme: not hot, not fluffy, not angelic in the least. Served alongside custom-roasted coffee, you’ve got yourself a breakfast worth hunting down.

Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts
609 Summit Avenue East
Seattle, WA 98102
206.323.7841

breakfast, coffee & tea, Seattle
Comments Off

 

DOTW: Last Word

Posted by Anita on 09.29.06 9:47 AM

last word + murray (c)2006 AECAbout a year into our Great Northwest Experiement, we were both desperately homesick for all of our friends in San Francisco… and utterly sick of trying out restaurants that “everyone” said were great, but that were either nothing special or unspeakably terrible. I think it was Cameron who first started posting on Chowhound’s Northwest forum, looking for better food; I soon joined him, posting reviews of places we tried and hated (usually) or loved (occasionally).

One fine day, a CH poster called MsRamsey sent me an email and told me to check out eGullet. Once we landed on eG, we found a fantabulous crew of like-minded souls — people who knew where to find the really good stuff and weren’t satisfied until they found even more of it. We became great friends with many of these folks over the course of the next couple of years; they became our primary social circle. (The ultimate irony is, of course, we miss the Seattle crew now at least as much as the people we left behind in San Francisco.)

Not long after, three of our foodie friends invited me our for “drinks with the girls” at Zig Zag Cafe, a bar I’d never even heard of, much less visited. Little did I know that I was in for a life-changing experience. I met a man named Murray Stenson that night — a man who would become a friend and a mentor. He made me a drink that night that opened my eyes to the wonders of cocktails beyond plebian Gin & Tonics and Whiskey Sours.

This, ladies and gents, was that drink. It remains a favorite of mine — and retains its place on the Zig Zag menu — to this day.

Last Word
1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz. green Chartreuse
1/2 oz. lime juice

Shake with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass.

bar culture, Drink of the Week, drinks, food boards, recipes, Seattle
2 Comments »

 

Cafe of my heart

Posted by Anita on 09.28.06 12:49 PM

cafe lago (c)2006 AECThe last few times we’ve come back to Seattle, we’ve filled our schedules with favorites, but somehow managed to leave Cafe Lago out of the mix — a crying shame, given how much we love the place, and what a huge place it occupied in our culinary life when we lived nearby. (Full disclosure: We’ve become friends with the chef-owners, Carla and Jordi… but we were fans first and foremost.)

As we took our seat near the pizza oven, we glanced at the menu full of all our old favorites: antipasti, handmade pastas, salsiccia pizza, grilled sirloin with shoestring fries… sigh. I’m sure it was a combination of exhaustion and sentiment, but I actually caught myself tearing up a little.

We sat back with a couple of cocktails, and — after a brief flirtation with trying something new — ordered what can only be described as “the usual”: Caesar salad and pizza for Cameron, bleu cheese salad and fettucine with meatballs for me. Sure, there were some changes, but all for the better. “My” salad now includes a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, which helps cut the salty-creaminess of the bleu cheese dressing. And the special pizza — topped with marinara sauce, fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil — served as a nice riff on the menu’s usual Margherita.

We marveled again at how continues to Lago neatly bridge the gap between neighborhood eatery and fine dining. One of the two tables behind ours was occupied by a couple in jeans and T-shirts, another by an elegantly attired pair who might have been headed to the theatre. Service, as always, was perfect: Attentive without smothering, helpful and gracious. We headed back to our hotel content and just a touch homesick, happy to have spent the evening with an old friend.

Cafe Lago
2305 E. 24th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98112
206.329.8005

Italian, restaurants, Seattle
Comments Off

 

Catching the Fevre

Posted by Anita on 09.28.06 12:10 PM

fevre cheesesteak (c)2006 AECWe found our friend Carla sitting on a park bench outside Madison Valley’s third — and newest — French eatery, Saint Germain. She told us the manager said he should have a table for us in about 30 minutes — a perfect chance to see what was new in our old ‘hood.

We strolled up Madison, checking out the mommy brigade at Essential, browsing window displays in all the same old shops, strolling around the back past the pocket park, and stopping to admire the vintage-modern design of one of the bungalows on Arthur Place.

As our half-hour ended, we ambled back to le St. G and inquired about the table, noticing that none of the occupants of the bistro’s (admittedly few) tables looked like they had any intention of leaving. The manager sniffed at Carla with a brusque “I have no idea when I can seat you” before blazing past us to fawn on someone else. Oh…kay.

“Cheesesteaks?” said Cameron, as we walked back out to the sidewalk. “Oh, yeah!” we replied, and piled into our rented PT Cruiser.

As we pulled up into a Doris Day parking spot out front of The Fev, Carla confessed from the back seat that she’d never had a cheesesteak. What!? Oh, well… now we know why we had such merde luck — this is obviously fate.

We ordered cheesesteaks, beers and crinkle fries, and sat at the counter watching the cooks dish up food to other customers. We caught up on local gossip as the TV blared images of Terrell Owens issuing a series of bizarre suicide denials… and all was right with the world. Who needs francais when you’ve got the Fevre?

Philadelphia Fevre
2332 E. Madison Street
Seattle, WA 98112
206.323.1000

lunch, restaurants, Seattle
Comments Off

 

Good to be home

Posted by Anita on 09.28.06 11:30 AM

violet martini (c)2006 AECBoth of us made it home safely to San Francisco from our various wanderings last week. Words can’t describe how lovely it was to sleep in our bed and cuddle with the dogs.

But, in this case, “home” has an alternate meaning. This week, we’re making a pass through Seattle — our second hometown — en route to a wedding near Portland. As is our custom, we headed straight from the rental-car lot to the Zig Zag Cafe to visit our friend Murray. And as soon as we walked in the door and drank in the pink-tinged light, felt the coziness of the low ceiling envelop us, and caught a smile from behind the bar, I felt my stress level drop a dozen notches. It’s such a cliche… but it’s true: Zig Zag feels like home.

We’d brought Murray a fresh bottle of Carpano Antica, so of course he started us off with little tastes, both of the “king of vermouths” (as it’s known, probably only by its PR agent and people who read their fluff) as well as the two other hard-to-find ingredients that the Zig Zag boys are using to make one hell of a top-shelf Manhattan: Rittenhouse bonded rye, and a new German aromatic bitters called Bitter Truth. The Antica is a lovely sipping vermouth all on its own, with a complexity that makes you understand why folks went to the trouble of resurrecting it. It’s also got a stunning packaging, with a wine-bottle-shaped profile and a gorgeous duotone label. The Bitter Truth bitters lay on the cloves and other sweet spices with a heavy hand — just the way I like it. Cameron couldn’t resist trying the complete cocktail after tasting the components.

Before I had a chance to think much about my thirst-quenching needs, Murray brought out another bottle with a similarly gorgeous label, this time a Japanese creme violette called Hermes Violet — a gift from an admirer in Tokyo, ooh la la. I’d read about violet-flavored liqueuers in cocktail books — Creme Yvette and similar brands were the original third flavor in the Aviation — but for the most part they’re incredibly difficult to find. I’d never even seen a bottle, much less tasted it.

Unsurprisingly, the sweet-syrupy deep-purple-hued concoction tastes just like old-fashoned violet gum or pastilles. Murray made me a “sample” of a martini he’s been serving: Boodles gin and the Hermes Violet, with a lemon twist… oh my. Faintly lavender colored and absolutely subtle at first, it became sweeter and less floral — but no less interesting — as it warmed. This is my kind of cocktail…

bar culture, drinks, Seattle, travel
Comments Off

 

A little help

Posted by Cameron on 09.24.06 9:08 AM

PeguIt’s Wednesday, the last night of NYC Without Reservations, and I’m completely ashamed at how relieved I am. Between the time zone difference, a full day in a strange office with heavy deadlines, a couple of late-night social commitments, and the dedication of my free evenings to foodie jaunts, I’m completely exhausted. Cue soundtrack of The World’s Smallest Violin playing, “My Heart Pumps Purple Piss For You.”

Nevertheless, duty calls. I’ve been strategizing an assault on tonight’s destination for months. When we lived in Seattle, Anita and I were introduced to the most amazing bar in the world: The Zig Zag Café, where Murray, Ben, and Kacy mix drinks with the same care and creativity that goes into a great meal at a fine restaurant. Seduced by the art of the cocktail, we’re constantly on the lookout for more of the same, although the Zig Zag sets a very high standard.

So tonight I step off the subway at Bleecker and aim down West Houston street. I keep a sharp eye out, and it’s a good thing: there’s no sign overhead, only a glowing logo etched into an otherwise unremarkable smoked glass and aluminum door. Just as I get close enough to make out a vestibule and a man inside, he pulls the door open to welcome me to the Pegu Club.

A short staircase transports me to a tastefully lit place for cocktails. I drift across the main room, drawn by the bar glowing at the far end. About halfway there, the hostess intercepts me. I ask for a seat at the bar, but it’s full. I can sit at one of the knee-high tables lining the banquette on either side of the room. I am vaguely—no, make that seriously—disappointed. A great bar is like a sushi restaurant: the experience depends on being close to the action.

The hostess must see my face drooping like a Warner Bros. cartoon. Before I can get a word out, she chirps earnestly, “I’ll sit with you!” She’s obviously joking, but the oddness of the offer and her bright, matter-of-fact delivery make me laugh as I take a banquette seat.

I decide to start with the namesake drink, the Pegu cocktail. But seconds after I place my order, the hostess re-appears. “Come with me,” she says. I follow, and she tells me that I am to stand just…here. “These folks are getting ready to go,” she murmurs. “I told you that I’d take care of you. Now, you hover.” I make like a hummingbird and, sure enough, two people on the near end of the bar pack up and split. I slide into one of the seats that they leave empty, and it’s showtime.

The bartender nods a welcome. Later in the evening, I‘ll learn that his name is Phil. In the meantime, I watch him work, smoothly swiveling between drinks and chatting with the group on my right: two men and one woman. I wonder if I need to re-order when my Pegu cocktail appears, made by another bartender who appears to be dedicated to mixing for the rest of the room. The cocktail is served in a coupe glass—a bowl-shaped receptacle that you see champagne served out of in old movies.

I sample the drink and am surprised that the complicated ingredient list winds up tasting like a slightly bitter Cosmo. The coupe glass doesn’t help—it funnels the drink right down the center of my mouth instead of allowing it to spread out across my tongue.

I’m definitely having trouble hitting stride tonight. Phil the bartender is working hard and focusing on the people that he knows. When he needs ice for the shaker, he holds the bar’s large ice cubes in his hand and cracks them by hitting them with a bar spoon. At one point he pulls down a few of the bar’s trademark tinctures for a curious couple. I trade a couple of sentences with a man sitting next to me, but he pulls up stakes and heads out, so I focus on my drink and on watching the room.

I’m feeling a little lost when the hostess swoops in with a big smile, happy that she was able to deliver on a promise. “Who’s your new best friend?” she asks, laughing a little. “You are,” I agree, and thank her for the seat at the bar. Her name is Stephanie and over the course of the next half-hour, we chat while she cares for the room. She takes the train into Manhattan. She knits and has a friend in Westchester buy her special yarn for half what it costs in the city. She calls Westchester “upstate New York” the way that Californians call Colorado “back East.” She’s a talented hostess—the awkwardness drains away, and I begin to feel comfortable in the space.

I’m ready for my next cocktail and ask Phil to recommend something with bourbon. “Boozy?” he asks, “And will rye work?” Fine. He starts mixing and I start wondering: Rye, chartreuse, maraschino, lemon juice. One sip and I feel like I’ve dipped my tongue in a packet of saccharine. It’s intensely, unpleasantly sweet.

Phil and I are each equally taken aback at the other’s reaction. “Sweet?” he asks, amazed. “I’ve never had anyone react that way to that drink.”

“Yep,” I confirm, “Way too sweet.” And I’m thinking: you mix two sweet cordials with citrus and an inherently sweet liquor and you’ve never had anyone tell you that it was sweet?

Phil thinks for a minute and proposes a Corpse Reviver #2. Never had it, but I’m game. He produces a small, chilled glass that looks a bit like a cropped martini or a cordial glass. It catches the attention of the regulars. Apparently when this bit of hardware comes out—Phil calls it a “Nick and Nora” glass—the man is not messing around. The Corpse Reviver #2 is tasty and it packs a wallop. It is definitely not sweet.

While Battle Cocktail has been raging, I’ve fallen into conversation with one of the men in the threesome to my right. While they work on Sazeracs, I learn that they’re out for his brother’s birthday. I mention San Francisco and Seattle, and everyone knows the Zig Zag. We talk shop. I argue educational priorities with his girlfriend. The night spins away.

Except…Phil and I never really get on the same page. My next drink is another citrus-laden number that’s kinda one-dimensional. I ask for a Vesper to clear my palate, and it’s my last of the night. Of all the cocktails, the Vesper is the only one that really works in the coupe glass. For a moment, I feel like James Bond in Monaco.

It isn’t until I’m paying the tab that I realize that at some point Stephanie vanished, having established the correct vibe. I track her down on the way out and thank her for making me feel welcome. At a great bar, what comes in the glass is only part of the magic.

bar culture, drinks, NYC, travel
3 Comments »

 

Have mercy

Posted by Cameron on 09.23.06 10:05 AM

TavernIt’s Tuesday evening of NYC Without Reservations, and I’ve suffered a setback: I’m at the wrong damn address.

I was aiming for Veritas, but I’m at 42 East 20th Street, and there’s no sign of…oh wait, there it is. It does my ego no good that I’ve already paced around for five minutes and called information before I see the Veritas sign on the other side of the street. It’s only about 900 feet tall with white lettering on a black background. Good thing I wasn’t trying to chew gum while I was walking, or I’d have ended up in traction.

Setback number two. Perhaps if Scott Bryan was a regular reader of Married…With Dinner, he would have held a space at the bar in case I showed up.

Back on the street, I see an expanse of glass glowing warmly across the way. Now I understand. Fate directed me to my dining destination, but I was too stubborn to listen. I submit to the tides of the universe and accept 42 East 20th as my destiny. Veritas be damned. I’m going to eat at Gramercy Tavern.

When I breeze into the tavern’s front room and see the packed bar, my confidence wavers for just a moment. But sure enough, there’s one open spot down at the end by the waiter station. To seal the deal, it’s under a canopy of leaf-covered branches springing from a bucket. After my encounter with the aggressive plants at Babbo, I’m beginning to feel a bit like Stanley thrashing his way through the jungle underbrush in search of Dr. Livingstone. I could wait for another space to open up. Instead, I take it as a sign and pull up a stool.

A cheerful bartender hands me a menu loaded with historically styled ways to get wasted. Old-school cocktails are what all the cool kids are drinking, I guess. I haven’t seen this many smashes, fizzes, and the like since I was at Bourbon & Branch. I choose a Gin-Ginger Tonic, and discover that my booze sense has lead me astray. The drink itself tastes okay, but it’s delivered in a foofy, long-stemmed glass packed full of crushed ice. Gads, man. What’s next? A paper umbrella and a slice of pineapple? Even if the presentation is historically accurate—which I doubt, but I’m a drunken scholar, not a drink scholar—you have to draw the line somewhere. At the very least, put a picture of a pansy or something next to the menu listing to warn the unsuspecting patron. I hope that this isn’t a trend.

I tuck the glass into the crook of my arm and drink quickly, trying to keep a low profile. Quick visual review: Bald guy with earrings and a soul patch in a pressed shirt sitting under a tree’s worth of foliage, furtively sipping a sweet drink out of a pimp glass. I’m absolutely positive that this not what my father had in mind when they said, “It’s a boy!”

Rattled, I scan the menu for something to prop up my fragile masculinity. I find a filet mignon with balsamic onions and pureed potatoes. For the opening course I abandon my principles and order a salad. Nothing else sounds appealing and I need the roughage after last night’s adventures in guts and butter. Nevertheless, I have to get a grip on myself. Maybe I should down shots of whiskey between courses. I resolve to order everything in a very deep voice.

The salad turns out to be a pleasant surprise. I never used to pay much attention to over- or under-dressed greens, but it’s something that Anita always notices, and now I do too. My house salad is skillfully dressed, and if the lettuce mix is pedestrian, it’s also tender. A light touch of fresh dill makes the dish sparkle. The filet arrives, I tear in, and I’m smiling wryly by the end of my first mouthful. It’s a nice bit of meat and properly cooked, but after wallowing in beautiful tri-tips and dripping, marbled cuts of rib-eye from Prather, I’m spoiled. The potato puree on the other hand, is so good that I’d slurp it off the plate without the benefit of knife and fork if necessary. The little pile of thinly-sliced balsamic onions atop the filet is divine.

The crowd at the Tavern is ecumenical. A pride of tan, power-suited men at the opposite end of the bar call out to friends and wave silvery martinis. A tableful of parents and young children behind me gives way to two women in informal knit tops working their way through dinner and a bottle of champagne. Two seats down the bar, an elegantly featured young woman orders a cheese plate and a glass of wine and then lingers over it for the duration of my stay, scribbling notes. I can’t catch what she’s writing, but it’s something about food. One of the floor captains spots her and the two embrace happily. She’s been recently promoted to host at (I miss the name), and is having trouble finding her rhythm, especially handling VIPs when they make difficult reservation requests. The man sitting between us orders fish and a glass of white wine. He calls the bar staff by name, banters with the woman expediting drinks for the waiters, and then chats up the newly promoted hostess. They talk about food and eventually the French Laundry, but not Per Se, as far as I can hear.

I finish with a cheese course and a discovery. I’m again seduced by a robiola, accompanied by a soft, amazingly nutty blue, and a powdery, parmigiano-esque cheddar from Vermont. The discovery comes with the wine. Doesn’t it always? Carrying the wine from the main course over into the cheese course has always felt natural, but it’s usually a red and I’m rarely happy with the combination. This happened at Babbo last night, so I try a different route and am rewarded. I ask for something white and sweet-ish, and the bartender recommends a gewurtztraiminer that I think tastes of apples. He seems unconvinced, but he’s happy enough that he found something I like. The taste of apples and cheese makes me think of autumn, but the greenery over my head and the warmth of the evening as I leave still say summer. Maybe we have a few days left.

bar culture, NYC, restaurants, travel
2 Comments »

 

Babbo bar exam

Posted by Cameron on 09.20.06 3:31 PM

clownIt’s Monday evening, the first night of NYC without reservations. I stroll purposefully down to Washington Square Park and step through the door at Babbo at around seven. The bar and front tables are full and there’s just one couple sipping wine by the door. A quick chat with the host and the next open spot at the bar has my name on it. I try to find an inconspicuous spot to stand and end up by the doorway, dodging the overzealous greenery stashed at head level. Sly and the Family Stone penetrates the air. While I wait, a man walks in dressed as if the Ralph Lauren Polo box arrives in the mail every three months. “Oh,” he mutters. “Looks kinda crowded,” and darts back out, the way you do when you go somewhere all the time and you’d just as soon just grab a hot dog down the street as wait a half hour for dinner. I hate him. He is evil and probably unkind to animals. I am instantly, passionately jealous.

Salvation. My seat is available. Immediately I am confronted with the extensive wine list, but I am hopelessly uncultured and ignorant of Italian wine, and the only name I recognize is Bastianich. Grasping at straws, I point at a likely white and ask the bartender for a description. Among other things he says, “Minerally,” which when used in reference to white wine is akin to saying, “Al-a-kazaam!” to my taste buds.

It is probably due to a deficiency of character that the more exclusive the restaurant, the more powerfully I am drawn to any offbeat meats that appear on the menu. So, like Vincent Vega at Jackrabbit Slim’s, I run my finger down the menu muttering, “Offal, offal, offal,” until I score. It doesn’t take long; Signor Batali is known for his fondness for barnyard variety. I order warm tripe “alla parmigiana” to start, followed by beef cheek ravioli in crushed squab liver sauce.

When the tripe arrives, I am relieved that I didn’t go for three courses (the lamb’s brains pasta was bleating my name). It is an heroic portion of innards and I tuck in with abandon. The tripe is mildly but not aggressively funky, and the red sauce is smooth and sweet, shot through with occasional sage leaves and chunks of soft, thoroughly cooked carrot. The texture of the tripe reminds me of hand-shaven dan-dan noodles. The wine works with the dish, keeping everything light and bright.

I ask for another wine recommendation to accompany my beef cheek ravioli, and the bartender pulls down a bottle that he says was opened for a reserve tasting. Montevertine 2001. Again, I am uninformed and foolish, but it tastes great. It’s a chianti grape, but there’s none of the lurid, screaming cherry attack late in the palate. How civilized. Not cheap, but very civilized. The beef cheek ravioli are very slightly disappointing. The filling is delicious, as is the sauce, but the pasta itself is not quite right. It’s faintly tough, although I’m particularly sensitive to pasta that’s a little too al dente.

As I eat and drink, the wine retains some mystery. There’s something missing that I can’t put my finger on. The absence isn’t unpleasant, but it’s noticeable. Finally I figure out that I’m not getting the boozy punch that my feeble palate must now be accustomed to after years of drinking huge, alcoholic, New World wines. I mention the difference to the bartender and he nods. Of course.

Eating at the bar of a fine restaurant is a little bit like watching a concert from the first row. You can enjoy the show like everyone else, but you also get glimpses of the artists (and sometimes their supporting cast) at work. You get to share some of the tiny, unacknowledged dramas that pepper every live performance. My bartender asks one of the waiters if the customer wants to taste a particular bourbon. “Oh no,” sighs the waiter. “He wants me to taste it for him and tell him if he’ll like it.”

Somewhere between the tripe and the ravioli the room starts getting more crowded. By the time I’m halfway through the ravioli the place is packed. Behind me, an expensively-dressed foursome in their fifties loudly complains about the delay in outer borough accents so thick that I have to smile. Where is Dr. Higgins when you need him?

Over my shoulder, a man asks for a glass of cabernet and a glass of pinot noir. “We don’t have anything made from either of those grapes,” says the bartender, “But we have wines that taste similar.” The man takes a wine list and begins a debate with his female companion that’s obviously going nowhere useful. The bartender listens for less than a minute, then pulls down a bottle of wine and pours tastes for the couple. They’re happy with his choice and settle in to wait for their table. The bartender sets up a glass in front of me and pours another taste. “This is what I would have recommended if you hadn’t gone for the Montevertine,” he says. A few minutes later, he shows up with another bottle and another glass: “You’ll see that this one is more alcoholic. It’s made from grapes grown high up on Mount Etna.” Truly, I am still foolish and uncultured, but I am now also master of universes both known and unknown. I belong here. I shall borrow a corkscrew and carve my name on the bar and that will serve as a marker until a brass plaque can be ordered.

Another couple presses in on my right and the man asks me about the wines in front of me. I tell him what I know and we commiserate over our lack of Italian wine-fu. “When we were in Italy,” he says, “The best wine was whatever was being made locally.” I nod understandingly, as if I’ve been there. Italy. Of course. The man continues, musing regretfully about the Italian wines that they’ve drunk here in the States that haven’t been up to snuff. “I mean, they’re good and all,” he allows, “But are they worth $250 a bottle?” Again, I nod. Indeed. What can one do? Excuse me, I think that’s my Ferrari the valet is bringing around. Ciao.

The cheese course is wonderful: robiola, Coach Farms Finest, and taleggio latte crudo. There’s no way that I can manage dessert. I’m pretty sure that my feet don’t touch the sidewalk all the way back to the hotel.

bar culture, Italian, NYC, restaurants, travel, wine & bubbly
8 Comments »

 

NYC without reservations

Posted by Cameron on 09.20.06 3:03 PM

Sir!You’ve always wondered, and I’m here to tell you that yes, filing stories from remote locations is every bit as sexy as it sounds. One of my fondest memories of my days as a computer journalist is writing a column while sitting in a Paris café and then e-mailing it to my editor from the local cyber. Yep, just so long as there’s good food, strong drink, zero chance of bodily harm, and I don’t have to work too hard, I’m your effete traveling correspondent.

I suppose that there could be bodily harm in New York City, but you really have to go looking for it, especially in the Murray Hill/Gramercy Park area of Manhattan. Dangerous pigeons, I’d imagine. Strollers from hell. Aggressive art. I finally talked the company I work for into flying me back east for a week so that I could do little things like meet the man who I report to, not to mention the rest of the editorial team. Details.

But the truly important consequence of this trip is that I get to spend five nights in NYC, eating my little brains out. Fun, no? Lots of advance time with maps and Web sites and telephone calls, right? Perhaps for the ordinary traveler. The desperate truth is that despite my deep and highly valued organizational skills within the modern office milieu, I’m horrible at planning personal outings, trips, events, engagements, sideshows, meetings, and gatherings. True to form, three days before I had to leave, I had made zero reservations. “My god,” I thought. “This show is going to suck.”

Note to self: hire producer on return to SF.

So. Lemons to lemonade moment. The theme for this adventure is now New York Without Reservations. I’m not going to eat anywhere that I can’t just walk into and sit down. And I’m going to nice places, dammit. Virtue, thy name is necessity.

NYC, travel
Comments Off

 

Crepes replace crap

Posted by Anita on 09.19.06 5:47 PM

crepevine fillmore (c)2006 AECWords cannot begin to describe how much we loathed Leticia’s, the former quasi-Mexican occupant of the space at Fillmore and Clay — although my Yelp review certainly took a stab at it. But even adjusting for positive bias, we’re happy to say that this space’s newest incarnation as the latest outpost of the Crepevine mini-chain seems to be a much better fit.

But let’s start at the beginning: We were making the weekly pilgrimage to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, when we got seriously derailed by a malfunctioning ticket-printing machine at our favorite parking garage. We circled the area looking for another place to park that wouldn’t extract blood for 2 hours of parking, and came up empty. Sensing the ticking clock of our dinner guests’ impending arrival at 5pm, we pulled the ripcord and decided to do our marketing, and our breakfasting, at a more mainstream establishment.

We pitched around a few restaurant-near-good-grocery combos, and came up with Mollie Stone’s on California (a terrible choice, as it turns out… but that’s another post), surrounded by a wealth of breakfast options. Remembering that a new Crepevine had taken over the old Leticia’s space made the decision even easier: We knew we could get in, and get fed, with a minimum of fuss.

Even though nobody in the kitchen had the common sense to remove fresh spinach from their offerings, we still enjoyed our breakfasts — a benedict-like Costa del Sol for me, and a Petaluma scramble for the Bald Guy. The menu at the PacHeights location is much the same as at other Crepevines, with the thoughtful addition of a full bar for those of us needing a wee hair of the dog with brunch. And the decor’s a little less grungy than, say, that of its sibling out on Irving (where we used to eat a lot, way back in the day).

Now, I don’t want to overstate the case — the food is nothing more than workmanlike and certainly not worth a drive across town. On the other hand, we both agreed that if there were a Crepevine near us, we’d probably eat there a lot more than we’d care to admit. With omelettes, sandwiches, pasta, burgers, and the original “salads bigger than your head”, Crepevine does a creditable job filling the “I dunno, honey, where do you want to eat?” niche. Affordable, clean, fast, and reasonably tasty… what more can a hungry couple on the run ask for?

Crepevine
2301 Fillmore Street
San Francisco CA 94115
415-922-0102

breakfast, restaurants
1 Comment »