Down on the farm

Posted by Anita on 05.31.10 11:05 PM

(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*

Last month, our friend Morgan Weber — who runs Revival Meats in Houston — came to town to talk shop with his Bay Area cohorts. He visited a who’s-who list of our local charcuterie shops and sustainable butchers, hitting up Fatted Calf, Boccalone, Bi-Rite Market, Prather Ranch, and a number of other carnivore havens. I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but I think it’s safe to say that one of the highlights of his trip was the Saturday afternoon spent at Hudson Ranch, a trip Morgan generously invited us to share.

Ranch manager Scott Boggs escorted us around Hudson’s spread, showing us both their hog and poultry sites, as well as their CSA vegetable farm. Hudson is primary known as a winery — their wines are cult favorites — but Scott came on board 2007 specifically to manage the edibles at Hudson Ranch. A veteran of The French Laundry’s garden operation as well as its kitchen, Scott brings true farm-to-table experience to the ranch; he understands what chefs want and need to see coming through the kitchen door.

We started our tour near the ranch offices, just off the main Carneros Highway. Our first stop — as Morgan was in town specifically to see them — was a pen full of dalmatian-spotted piglets, a litter born from an Old Spots sow mated to a boar of wilder heritage. Anyone with lingering doubts about how ethical meat can be would have been happy to see what we saw: A spacious, shaded pen with lots of room for piglets to play and plenty of room for their mama to move around (though she kept her snout in the trough during our whole visit), plus a view across to a beautiful lake and rolling hills beyond.

Down the road a piece, we got to peek in on a gaggle of chicks: babies in their boxes, and adolescents in their indoor roosts. By now, some of these birds are out on pasture, scratching away and fattening up for Chez Panisse and other local tables. A little further away, we trekked down a winding dirt road to check in on the CSA fields, where the first corn and tomato seedlings were already reaching for the sun.

We’re lucky that we were already eating lots of Hudson Ranch-raised food, even before we had any idea who they were. Hudson Ranch supplies Fatted Calf with some of their pork and poultry. (They also sell chickens and game hens to many restaurants you’d recognize.) The pig from Cameron’s birthday pig-roast last year was a Hudson, as were two of our last three Thanksgiving turkeys. Hudson also makes an award-winning olive oil, and they stock the produce shop at the Oxbow Public Market in Napa, in addition to supplying their CSA members’ weekly produce boxes.

One of my new year’s resolutions for 2010 was to eat more food grown by people we know. It wasn’t just born from a desire to eat more local food — we’re pretty much doing that all the time, now — but out of the realization that the closer we are to the source of our meals, the more satisfying they are for us. Even before last year, when we had the pleasure of picking our own tomatoes at Mariquita Farm, we were well acquainted with Julia, our Thursday night “casual CSA” farmer. And of course we had the privilege of helping Alexis and Eric after their devastating fire at Soul Food Farm, where our CSA chickens and eggs start out. We’ve toured Marin Sun Farms with Dave Evans, and seen where much of our beef, chicken, and pastured eggs come from.

Every time we open a quart jar of tomatoes, I’m reminded of the drive we took down to Watsonville and the morning we spent picking the very ripest Beefsteaks. When we enjoy a perfect omelette, a crisp roast chicken, or a plate of freshly dug new potatoes, we take a certain pride in knowing where it the ingredients came from, and in doing right by the food and the farmers who grew it. It may seem corny, but when we take a particularly delicious bite of food, we often thank the farmers, the ones who bring our daily feasts. I’m glad we can add Scott and his beautiful ranch to our roster of farmers we know.

Hudson Ranch
5398 Carneros Highway
Napa, California 94559
(by appointment only)
707-255-1455
http://www.hudsonia.com/hudson-ranch.html
@HudsonRanch on Twitter

—–

FTC disclaimers:
Morgan and Stacey Weber are friends of many years; Revival Meats is an editing client.
Hudson Ranch sent us a bottle of olive oil earlier this year as part of a media promotion.

farms & farmers, Napa & Sonoma
3 Comments »

 

Welcome, neighbors!

Posted by Anita on 04.24.10 9:06 PM

(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*The newest addition to the ever-growing list of Bernal Heights culinary resources can be found at 331 Cortland, both the name and the address of a conglomeration of food-centric stalls in a single storefront. After longer-than-expected delays for construction and permitting — apparently, nobody in city hall knew quite how to handle a multi-unit setup under one roof — the six marketplace vendors held a soft opening today for their Bernal neighbors.

We stopped in around 3pm and found a good-sized crowd full of happy folks getting their afternoon snack on. Bernal Cutlery features Japanese whetstone knife sharpening, plus a beautiful assortment of knives both culinary and otherwise. El Porteño, a familiar vendor at many local farmers markets, carries their full line of sweet and savory Argentinian empanadas. Paulie’s Pickling sells pickles, of course, as well as a rotating selection of sandwiches and deli salads.

On the other side of the shop, Wholesome Bakery features vegan and low-glycemic treats and breads. ICHI Lucky Cat Deli, the new home of ICHI’s itinerant sushi-makers, offers nigiri, maki, and sashimi, as well as some specialty snacks (katsu-sando sliders, oh my!). In the front window, Della Terra Organics sells a pretty assortment of fresh produce from local farms.  Each of the vendors will set their own hours, but the marketplace as a whole plans to be open 7am to 7pm every day.

It’s a plethora of options, and a welcome addition to the area. The new marketplace joins the small but quite comprehensive Good Life Grocery, the much-lauded Avedano’s Meats down the block, and newcomer Sandbox Bakery at the other end of the Cortland shopping district. You can stroll a few blocks and pick up pretty much everything you need for a picnic in Holly Park, or a home-made dinner. Surprising as it seems, once-sleepy Bernal could actually become food-lover’s shopping destination.

(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*(c)2010 AEC *All Rights Reserved*

The Marketplace at 331 Cortland
331 Cortland Avenue (x Bennington)
San Francisco, CA 94110
@331Cortland on Twitter

ICHI Lucky Cat Deli

http://ichisushi.com

415-822-4024
@ICHIsushi on Twitter

El Porteño Empanadas
http://www.elportenosf.com
415-357-3621
@ElPorteno on Twitter

Paulie’s Pickling
http://www.pauliespickling.com
415-285-0800
@PauliesPickling on Twitter

Wholesome Bakery
http://www.wholesomebakery.com
415-343-5414
@wholesomebakery on Twitter

Bernal Cutlery
http://www.bernalcutlery.com
415-902-6531
@BernalCutlery on Twitter

Della Terra Organics
http://www.dtoproduce.com

Bernal, locavore, shopping
2 Comments »

 

A cruel reality

Posted by Anita on 05.12.09 5:34 PM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*Bill Andronico
Andronico’s Markets Inc.
1109 Washington Avenue
Albany, CA 94706

Dear Mr. Andronico:

I have been a long-time shopper at your Irving Street store in San Francisco. Although I no longer purchase meat at the supermarket — preferring to buy my meat and eggs directly from farmers who make a point of their humane and ethical practices — I have always been very impressed by the knowledge and skill of your butchers in the past. Which is why I am stunned to read about your ill-informed, reactive policy regarding foie gras sales.

I don’t generally eat foie gras myself — I don’t care for its richness, nor its cost — but from rather extensive reading on the subject, I think it’s quite plausible that the “cruelty” of its production is overrated. On the other hand, I fully believe that standard, everyday conditions for commercial hens, pigs, cows, and other factory-farmed animals are grossly inhumane by any realistic measure.

If you and your company truly cared about animal welfare, you would stop selling battery-hen eggs and feedlot pork. Intensive factory farming is far more cruel — and thousands of times more pervasive — than the process of “force feeding” geese and ducks.

I suggest you do some additional homework about the realities of what goes into the meat, eggs, and dairy you sell before zeroing in on such an easy knee-jerk target. (The movie Food, Inc., which opens next month, might be a good starting point.) Otherwise, you run the risk of looking like a publicity-hungry hypocrite.

Bay Area, meat, shopping
9 Comments »

 

Book Club, volume 2

Posted by Anita on 04.22.09 4:00 PM

Food & Wine Cocktails 2009For the food-obsessed, there are a lot of exciting things that pop up in the spring. The first tender favas, skinny spears of asparagus, and fruit-tree blossoms that promise a sweet summer ahead. But in our circle of friends, there’s been another anticipation afoot: The long wait for the new edition of Food & Wine’s Cocktails annual.

You may recall our “Book Club” making visits to Range, Forbidden Island, and Bar Drake last year; in fact, our crew managed to hit every San Francisco bar listed in the 2008 edition, sampling a few gems amid a stunning number of failures. (Not to mention the many AWOL contenders; I wish we had a dollar for every time we heard “Oh, that? Nobody liked it, so we took it off the menu.” Sigh.)

When I crossed paths with the book’s compiler, Jim Meehan, at his NY speakeasy PDT, I gave him a fair bit of good-natured grief for our trouble. He allowed that the fleeting nature of drink recipes could be a bit of a problem, but assured me that big changes were in store for 2009, and seemed confident we would like the new direction he’d taken.

It’s still the same book — digest sized, with a clean and colorful layout. But in the biggest change from previous years, where chapters were organized by base spirit, this year’s book focuses on themed chapters: aperitifs, Latin drinks, seasonal drinks, frozen drinks, pitcher drinks, after-dinner drinks, classics, mixologists’ drinks, and mocktails. Each section has a patron bartender, who is briefly profiled and provides all the recipes. Bar celebrities like Jamie Boudreau, Julie Reiner, and (the book’s co-editor) Joaquin Simo take their turns, as do lesser-known mixmasters such as Jeff Grdinich.

The mixologists’ section is like a miniature version of previous editions of the book, a compilation of 18 drinks from top bartenders across the country. Although it’s hard to tell without actually mixing them, the drink recipes from San Francisco shakers — Absinthe’s Jonny Raglin, Neyah White of Nopa, and Jacques Bezuidenhout of Bar Drake — look great on paper. But better still, they come from bartenders who we know understand what works, not just in a highly controlled test-kitchen environment, but in everyday drink-slinging bars. It’s no surprise that some of the cocktails we liked best from last year’s Book Club came from these gentlemen; I can’t wait to give their recipes a test drive.

As before, there’s a directory of top bars listed in the back. This time, the list is explicitly titled “Top 100 Bars”, though they are not necessarily correlated to the included recipes. Frustratingly, other than hat-tips to chapter hosts, there’s no cross-reference to each establishment’s recipes by page number, a detail from past editions I will definitely miss. Cantina’s blurb, for example, mentions Duggan McDonnell by name, offering that “Many of his creations are featured in the Pitcher Drinks chapter (p. 94).” But Absinthe’s listing neither mentions Jonny Raglin, nor directs readers to his recipe on page 135, opting instead for a quizzical mention of Top Cheftestant Jamie Lauren.

As far as the local bars in the Top 100, there’s only a couple of quibbles. Everyone I’ve asked is surprised by the omission of Oakland’s lovely Flora, and it’s odd that Bar Drake didn’t make the cut this year when Jacques’ recipe did. Bix, however, is a total head-scratcher. Despite reviving the classic-cocktail genre a full decade before almost anyone else in town, this stalwart has long been eclipsed in both technical merit and outright hospitality.

The visuals, always a strength of this series, continue to impress. In addition to ace prop styling and eye-popping photography found in previous editions, this year’s version includes more infographics, which should help users navigate now that the book is not organized by spirit type. Graphics show ease of construction and base spirit, in addition to the glassware icon of the past editions. The front matter is perhaps a bit basic for experienced bar aficionados, although there is some good stuff about ice, must-have spirits, and best brands taste-test winners.

Do you need Food & Wine Cocktails ’09 in your bar library? Probably not. But at $10, it’s less than the price of a drink at nearly any of the places it trumpets, and it’s bound to be a fun souvenir of the way we’re drinking in the late aughts.

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*

Bay Area bars/restaurants in the Top 100
There are 13 of them this year, which — for those of you keeping score at home — is more than any other city except NYC (home to 14). Mixologists mentioned by name in their establishment’s blurb are shown in brackets.

- Absinthe
- Alembic
- Beretta [Thad Vogler]
- Bix
- Bourbon & Branch
- Cantina [Duggan McDonnell]
- Clock Bar
- Elixir [H Ehrmann]
- Forbidden Island
- Heaven’s Dog [Erik Adkins]
- Nopa [Neyah White]
- Range
- Slanted Door

San Francisco cocktail recipes in the Mixologists’ Drinks chapter:
- Jonny Raglin, Absinthe
Villa Flores: jalapeno, tequila, egg white, grapefruit, agave, orange-flower water, Sichuan pepper garnish

- Neyah White, Nopa
Cherry Samba: cachaca, cherry Heering, Islay Scotch, lemon, simple, egg white

- Jacques Bezuidenhout, Bar Drake
Black Friar’s Pint: gin, cardamom-cinnamon Guinness, sherry, bitters, agave, egg white, cinnamon garnish

San Francisco recipes for Party Food:
- Warm Marinated Olives, Seasons Bar & Lounge
- Queso Fundido, Tres Agaves
- Polpette in Spicy Tomato Sauce, Beretta

And one San Francisco chapter host: Duggan McDonnell of Cantina

bar culture, Bay Area, books & media, drinks, restaurants
6 Comments »

 

Visitamos Contigo

Posted by Anita and Cameron on 03.03.09 7:44 PM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*

Meeting a friend you’ve only known online can be a nervous affair. Will you get along? Will they be cool in person? What if they have a funny voice and a big nose? When the moment comes and they turn out to be even more fabulous than you’d hoped, the elation feels like a glassful of Champagne… or cava in this case.

Elation was definitely the order of the evening Saturday night when we finally met Contigo, the new Spanish restaurant from our friend, Chef Brett Emerson. If you’re a fan of his blog, In Praise of Sardines, you’re probably familiar with the saga of Contigo’s opening, from the thrill of Brett’s snagging of a rare new-restaurant permit in Noe Valley, through the agony of multiple construction delays. I don’t know how Brett feels, but after tasting his food at a friends-and-family dinner before Contigo’s formal opening, I think all the drama was all worth it.

The space is beautiful, simultaneously contemporary and cozy. It’s not large, but it feels expansive thanks to five distinct dining zones — chef’s counter, lower dining room, cava bar, upper dining room, and a heated, covered outdoor patio surrounded by herb gardens.

Contigo’s ingredients are locally sourced, but not slavishly so — there’s jamón from Spain (and Iowa), alongside meat and vegetables from the usual assortment of local farms. And the food on the plate is every bit the equal of its gorgeous environment. We had a devil of a time deciding what to order; everything sounded appealing. Like an Iberian version of our favorite SPQR, Contigo offers an assortment of small pica-pica plates ($8 each, or $21 for three). Venerable tapas like crisp patatas bravas and marinated sardines take their place alongside an assortment of salads with Spanish twists. In the latter category, we loved the remojon: salt cod, oranges, and olives atop white radicchio.

We tried a couple of larger platillos as well. The juidones a la segovia were a dreamy assortment of delectable pork parts (belly, ears, yum!) atop creamy butter beans. The chorizo-y txistorra burger was fabulous, but be ready to share it with a friend; it’s too good to miss, but a little too rich to eat as an entree.

We weren’t sure how we managed to save room for dessert, but we were happy we did. We made short work of the not-too-sweet almond cake, filled with a dollop of pastry cream and a schmear of olallieberry preserves, a sweet nod to the restaurant’s history.

Contigo opens tonight, and there’s sure to be a line; reservations are accepted only for parties of 6 or more. But there’s a stand-up drink rail along the entryway, where you can enjoy a glass of cava and a nibble or two while watching the cooks work their magic in the beautiful open kitchen.

Contigo Kitchen + Cava
1320 Castro Street (x 24th Street)
San Francisco, CA 94114
415.285.0250

Noe Valley, other blogs, restaurants
9 Comments »

 

Hangin’ at the Hangar

Posted by Anita on 11.22.08 9:53 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

We finally got ourselves over to Alameda this afternoon to visit the Hangar One / St. George Spirits distillery. We’ve always managed to be out of town during their annual open house parties, but this year was different. For a $30 ticket, we got the chance to sip pretty much everything they make (though we limited ourselves to things we hadn’t already tried), including the seasonal Spiced Pear vodka. The best part, though, was getting up close with their gorgeous copper stills, one of my favorite photo subjects.

For an additional $10, we also got to sample the new Agua Azul, a 100% agave spirit that can’t technically be called tequila because it’s not made in Mexico. We loved all three expressions — rich cristal, smoky reposado, and mellow-but-not-boring añejo — but balked when we saw the $60, $80, and $120 price tags. (We’ll probably change our minds right as they sell out, just as we did with the Absinthe Verte last year… oh well.)

In addition to all the sippable samples, admission included copious top-notch munchies: June Taylor preserves, Boccalone salumi, El Huarache Loco antojitos, La Cocina sweets, and Recchiuti chocolates. We were impressed at the short lines for both the samples and the loos (thanks to a set of porta-potties ’round back of the distilling equipment), and plentiful water stations all throughout the warehouse. A DJ spun tunes, employees answered questions, and a shuttle swung by every hour to drop guests off at BART.

Sound like fun? Sign up for the newsletter to find out about next year’s open house and other special events throughout the year.

Hangar One / St. George Spirits
2601 Monarch Street
Alameda, CA 94501
510.769.1601

drinks, East Bay, locavore
3 Comments »

 

Mission: Edible

Posted by Anita on 11.19.08 11:31 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**What do you do when one of your favorite foodies comes to town, and specifically mentions wanting to stroll through The Mission? Why, you plan an itinerary that takes you past some of the neighborhood’s favorite places to buy delicious treats!

After shopping our way through the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market together, we left Laura to explore on her own for a few hours. (We hit Rainbow Grocery for a few staples, then headed home to put our perishables in the fridge.) We met up at high noon at 16th Street BART. Seeing as how it had been ages since we stuffed ourselves with Mexican breakfast at Primavera, we decided a traditional San Francisco burrito was in order. We stopped at Taqueria El Castillito — an old favorite, but definitely not local, sustainable, or organic in any way — and fortified ourselves with burritos and a torta, and a few bottles of Mexican cane-sugar sodas.

Back out into the bright sunshine — it’s always sunny in The Mission, but Saturday was unseasonably hot — we trekked down Mission to 18th. Trying to keep to the shady side of the street, we pointed out the retaurant row that is 18th and Guerrero (Farina, Tartine Bakery, Delfina, and Pizzeria Delfina) but did not stop to join the monster queues. We’d really just planned to peek into Bi-Rite Creamery, but the short line — full of surprisingly happy ‘No on 8‘ protesters — and list of fabulous flavors tempted us. We couldn’t let Laura leave San Francisco without a taste of the famous Salted Caramel ice cream, could we? (Cameron also sampled the malted vanilla with peanut brittle, just to make sure we’d covered all the bases.)

Across the street, Bi-Rite Market was sampling their Thanksgiving offerings from a catering station on the sidewalk. We smelled the heavenly aromas, but couldn’t even consider a nibble. We pressed inside the store along with everyone else in the entire neightborhood, taking a peek at all the fabulous local produce and the justifiably famous deli case. (I still don’t understand how Sean and DPaul lived around the corner for years without weighing 300 pounds. I’d never cook!)

Backtracking to Valencia Street, we strolled past Range — where we’d enjoyed a fabulous dinner the previous night — and popped into Lucca, one of the last remaining vestiges of the Mission’s Italian heritage. We browsed the aisles, admiring the terrific assortment of goodies, then headed back out into the street. I think I always knew that Lucca makes their ravioli on the premises, even noted the minuscule factory visible through the picture window along Valencia, but I’d never timed it right to see the process in action until this week. We stood with our noses pressed to the glass for what must have been half an hour, watching as a pair of flour-dusted pasta makers heaved giant wads of dough through an industrial sheeter, then picked them up like so much dirty laundry and magically unfolded them along a table the size of most San Francisco living rooms. (I could descibe the whole process, but Laura’s slideshow does a much better job.)

We picked up the pace and continued down Valencia to 23rd, then down Mission to 24th. After a quick stroll through the Mexican produce stalls and flower shops, we stopped into Philz to let Cameron caffeinate himself with a fine Turkish-style fiter-drip blend, while Laura and I rested our eyes and feet in the cool, dim surroundings.

Our last stop took us to a rendezvous with some of our fellow bloggers at Mission Pie. We were nearly stuffed, but somehow made room to share a slice of double-crust apple pie and another of pear-raspberry galette. When Jen arrived, she showed us the error of our ways, generously offering nibbles of the godly walnut pie (with a gooey center like pecan pie); I now understand why people drive across town to buy a slice. We sat at a big table together in the now-waning afternoon sun, marveling at all the shop’s gorgeous, quirky details — a map of the farms that sell their produce to the pie-makers, a collection of antique egg scales, and some of the coolest light fixtures in the city — chatting about everything from Yves St. Laurent to antique tractors to …well, food, of course.

If we’d only had an extra stomach, we could have kept walking all day.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Taqueria El Castillito
2092 Mission Street (x17th)
San Francisco, CA 94110
415.621.3428

Bi-Rite Creamery
3692 18th Street (x Dolores)
San Francisco, CA 94110
415.626.5600

Bi-Rite Market
3639 18th Street (x Dolores/Guerrero)
San Francisco CA 94110
415.241.9760

Lucca Ravioli Company
1100 Valencia Street (x 22nd)
San Francisco, CA 94110
415.647.5581

Philz Coffee
3101 24th Street (x Folsom)
San Francisco, CA 94110
415.875.9370

Mission Pie
2901 Mission Street (x 25th)
San Francisco, CA 94110
415.282.4PIE

coffee & tea, dessert, Italian, Mexican, other blogs, The Mission
7 Comments »

 

Urban adventures

Posted by Anita on 11.15.08 11:46 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Oh, what fun we’re having with Laura, eating our way around the Ferry Plaza and The Mission from sunrise to sunset, then cooking up a storm for the first night of the Dark Days challenge. The three of us (with the dogs, naturally) sat up gabbing until almost midnight, telling stories and talking about… food, duh!

I promise a thorough recap later, but for now you can check out my Flickr set — plus Laura’s Flickr set and post on (not so) Urban Hennery — for a quick peek at our day.

Dark Days challenge, farmers markets, other blogs, shopping, The Mission
3 Comments »

 

Meeting Eloise

Posted by Anita on 11.11.08 1:19 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**When a chef friend tells you that every dish she tasted at a new restaurant ran from “extraordinary to just great”, you take note. When a second foodie friend exclaims that this same place offered “one of the most enjoyably pleasurable meals I have had in some time”, you start to get excited. And when a big-paper critic fawns that this restaurant “has a soul, evident from head to tail,” you move that place to the top of your must-try list. Restaurant Eloise, the new-ish Sebastopol venture of Ginevra Iverson and Eric Korsh — former sous-chefs at NYC’s much-lauded Prune — clearly has a diverse and well-subscribed fan club.

With this much positive buzz, we were surprised to have our pick of tables, even for a same-day Saturday-night reservation. When we arrived, the dining room was nearly empty, but it glowed with the light of candles on each table, and we were warmly welcomed by the host and our waiters. I knew the setting would be pretty without being precious; Shuna’s gorgeous photos told its story so well. We were charmed by Eloise’s simplicity: Whitewashed walls adorned with mismatched gilt-framed mirrors and botanical prints, and a tiny bud-vase on each table filled with flowering herbs.

As we got settled, we were presented an amuse on a pretty toile-print plate: Crostini topped with a frothy mousse of a “trifecta” (said the waiter) of poultry livers, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chives. I’m not terribly fond of liver, but if it tasted like this all the time, that would change.

Every starter on the menu was appealing; I settled on an order of fresh local spot prawns, a special offering. Cameron opted for the marrow bones, a dish he can never turn down. A trio of large prawns arrived, roasted and simply dressed with lemon and oil; one of the three was bursting with coral. Though perfectly fresh and firm-textured, the prawns were a little bland, and I wished I’d followed my initial urge to try the truffled mushroom toast instead.

The marrow bones were generous and tasty, although the quizzical and utterly awkward use of an upended teaspoon handle as serving implement caused some ill-disguised grumbling from the other side of the table. An accompanying St John-style parsley salad was a tad unorthodox — the kitchen flagrantly disregards Fergus Henderson’s dictum regarding the sparing use of capers, but the end result was delicious.

Unfortunately, we didn’t enjoy our main dishes nearly as well. The much-raved-about ricotta-and-chard gnocchi were as decadent as promised, swimming in a pool of sage brown butter. But they were so monotonously rich that I could barely manage more than three or four bites.

Cameron’s veal chop was a good news/bad news story. The accompanying creamed spinach and sorrel was a delicious riff on the steakhouse classic, but the billed “crispy potato” turned out to be a ho-hum hash-brown. The chop itself — ordered medium-rare — came out with a glorious crust but a nearly raw center. Sent back to the kitchen, it returned a little closer to rare, still not as ordered, and messily propped back on the same plate with its now-cold sides. Maybe this quick fix would be OK at a neighborhood joint, but for a $32 entree at a white-tablecloth destination restaurant, it seemed ungracious.

And even though we’d specifically saved room, there was nothing on the dessert list to tempt us. The sweets seemed dropped onto the menu from a great height, with little thought to seasonality or diversity. After 7 days, I can only remember one of them: a baba au rhum.

All in all, Eloise seems like a place with promise, but a little unpolished… especially for a place where you can spend $13 for starters and $30 for mains without batting an eye. It’s likely that the missteps we experienced were an anomaly, given the heaps of praise we’ve heard from others. And the service was lovely enough that we left feeling hopeful, rather than disgruntled. We hope Eloise finds her groove soon.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Restaurant Eloise
2295 Gravenstein Highway South
Sebastopol, CA 95472
707.823-6300

Napa & Sonoma, restaurants
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Saying no to Slow

Posted by Anita on 08.29.08 11:48 AM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Our weekly shopping haul; One Local Summer, Week 13

—–

Unless you’ve been in a self-imposed media blackout, you may have heard about the party that Alice, Carlo, and friends are throwing here in Our Fair City. And you’d probably guess that a pair of diehard food dorks like us would be camped out in line, waiting for the chance to storm the gates first thing in the morning, wandering through the Victory Garden as we sample a continent’s worth of canapes in the dappled summer sun.

But the fact is, we live a Slow Food Nation life all the time. We spend practically every weekend grazing around the City and around the Bay Area. We live in a community where our oddball food choices have become fairly mainstream. We hang out with a crowd of thoughtful food-worshippers who can carry on a spirited debate about how to balance being a locavore with being a (small-c) chowhound.

We’re truly blessed to make our home here in the epicenter of the local, organic, sustainable food movement. San Francisco’s a city where it’s hardly a challenge at all to eat well and eat ethically… so much so that I get fairly bent out of shape when circumstances or travel force me to do otherwise.

So, no — No “Foodstock” for us. Happily, we have a lot to do this weekend:

- Buying our weekly groceries from the people who grow/make them
We do this every week at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, but just to make it interesting — and to bypass the frenzy of out-of-town foodies descending there this weekend — we’re heading across the bay to the Berkeley Farmers Market. We’ll see some of our usual vendors there, but I’m looking forward to exploring new stalls and new ingredients.

- Putting up food to preserve the harvest
Later in the day, we’ll pick up 100 pounds of San Marzano tomatoes at Mariquita Farm’s “guerilla veggie” drop-off. Later in the weekend, we’ll be hauling out the pressure canners and turning them into puree, marinara sauce, and whole canned tomatoes to feed us through the winter

- Supporting restaurants that support local farms
Mariquita’s making their drop at Piccino, so we’ll have a chance to experience their brunch for the first time. The fact that Sher and Wayne — like so many other San Francisco restaurateurs — procure so much of their raw ingredients from the same farmers and artisans that we buy from makes me inexplicably giddy.

- Exploring the food traditions of our neighbors
Saturday night, we’re heading out to a family-run ethnic restaurant with a group of food-obsessed friends. Later in the weekend — if we get our canning done — we’ll visit a Thai food festival put on by the local Buddhist temple at Golden Gate Park. Neither of these experiences are Slow, in the sense of using exclusively sustainable/local/organic ingredients, but supporting ethnic foodways is an essential part of being a citizen of our city and the world.

- Celebrating the bounty of our region
On Monday, we’re having some friends over for a little nosh. We’ll eat some pâté and peaches, sharp cheese and homemade plum chutney. We’ll drink local bubbly, sip homemade pear brandy, maybe even shake up a cocktail using artisanal spirits. Later there’ll be farmers-market pasta tossed with some of the marinara sauce we made earlier, maybe baguette slices spread with pesto. A pie, perhaps… made with a local-flour-and-butter crust (learned from a friend who also happens to be a local treasure) and filled with yet more amazing farmers market finds.

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One Local Summer 2008Am I conflicted about opting out of the Slow festivities? Absolutely. I’m already drooling over the Slow on the Go and Taste Pavilion tidbits showing up in friends’ Flickr streams. By all accounts, the Friday events have been beautiful, interesting, and delicious. I hope that they keep it up, because the people who’ve traveled here from all over the world deserve it. And so do the farmers, food-makers, and volunteers who are going all-out to make a fabulous impression.

But on the other hand, I know we’ll make the perfect slow celebration, in all the ways that matter most to us, just as the folks visiting our city and our local producers will have theirs. Either way, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Labor Day than by honoring the backbreaking effort — both physical and political — that our farmers and artisans spend to put quality food on our tables.

Bay Area, farmers markets, locavore, One Local Summer
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