Comstock Saloon

16 04 2014

Comstock Saloon is a nice bar and restaurant on Columbus that’s kinda got a classy, old-timey feel to it. As in, it’s gussied up like an old fashioned saloon but with new, nice, and artistic fixtures. Dark wood bar, tables, and booths; dim chandeliers and lamps; bartenders who wear vests… you get the idea. Fine, I guess it’s kinda a hipster thing, but it’s cool and classy and fun and I like it. (Per their website, the historic space was a saloon dating back to 1907 — points for authenticity!)

pot pie

Mushroom Pot Pie from Comstock — $17

bar

Comstock bar

Being a saloon (complete with fancy SF cocktails), I never really thought about it as a dinner place. Indeed, I was wrong. They have a small menu, but it’s really creative and very tasty. I went recently and was pretty excited about it. And they have a mushroom pot pie that’s made to order! Seriously, as good as it is unusual. Love.

Other dishes I tried:

pickles

Pickle Plate from Comstock — $5

I’ve never had pickled grapes, and I’m not entirely sure I liked them, but the rest of the pickled things were good, and I’ll at least give them an A for effort.

salad

Little Gem Salad from Comstock — $9

Little gem salad with garlic anchovy dressing was simple but solid.

artichoke dip

Crab and Artichoke Dip from Comstock — $14 (appears to be seasonal)

I mean, what can I say. Crab and artichoke dip? Is it possible to go wrong? So good. Also, appears to be seasonal as it’s not on the menu on their website at the moment.

pot pie

And of course, the finale was the pot pie. Not to even mention that I still want to try so many other things on their small menu… squash fritters! Bucket of shrimp! Monterey Bay sardines! Marinated olives! Maybe I’ll even muster up the courage and go for the oysters…

Also, free lunch Fridays with purchase of two adult beverages? Intriguing…

Comstock Saloon on Urbanspoon





Awesome Website: Mouth.com

5 04 2014

I WANT THIS:

pickles every month

Yes, this is a pickle of the month club. And I want it almost as badly as I want it to cost less. They offer 3-, 6-, 9-, or 12-month subscriptions that calc out to $57 per month for delicious, gourmet, handmade pickles to be delivered to your house. That, imho, is outrageously expensive, but I guess they’re just that delicious, gourmet, and handmade. Oddly, the price per month does not decrease as you increase your subscription length – no bulk discount on pickles? Sad face.

I can’t keep a sad face for long. So many pickles! And not just that, look at the other stuff they have! Chocolate club! Gifts under $50 (making them far more affordable and far more likely to be purchased by my cheap ass)! Cookie club!! Other things!!!

mouth.com gifts

I haven’t actually ordered anything from Mouth, so I can’t personally attest to the quality or anything else about the experience beyond the website. But the website is selling it, right? I love the way everything is displayed, I love the fonts (yes, I’m part font geek), and I love the feel of the whole site. They are totally catering to food-snobby little me, and it’s totally working.

mouth.com gifts for special occasions

If I’m ever feeling wild and decide to buy a (not cheap) gift for someone (I don’t do gifts anymore — a topic for another day), I now know where to go.

P.S. This is not a sponsored post, and mouth.com has no idea that I know about them. My friend passed me the link (knowing of my love of pickles) and I couldn’t help but share. If you’ve tried the site, please let me know!!





Restaurant News: Win This Restaurant

2 04 2014

Ever win a contest? How about a restaurant? Me neither. But someone will do both when the owners of Pace Food + Drink in Santa Barbara give away their restaurant to their favorite entrant on June 1, 2014. I thought this was a strange choice for what to do with a successful restaurant you no longer want to own, but it certainly is intriguing.

pace food + drink

pace food + drink in santa barbara

tuna tartare

some food from the current menu… yum

What do you need to do to enter? First, put up 500 big ones — that’s right, the entry fee is $500 just to submit your info. A steep price, perhaps, but the grand prize has a value quite a bit higher:

The winner will receive:

  • A fully operational, 50 seat restaurant with an open kitchen and a beer and wine license
  • The lease paid for up the first 12 months (a value of $83,000)
  • $20,000 in working capital to help cover expenses for the first 12 months (at the current owners’ discretion)
  • 120 hours of mentoring, if requested, from the current owner/chef  Jeff Snyder, who has over 35 years of experience in the industry
inside the restaurant

inside pace

Not a bad deal, really. To enter, individuals or groups are to submit a 3-minute (max) video and a one-page essay describing how/why they are the right fit for the restaurant. From the submissions, the current owners and a panel of local restaurateurs-made-judges will narrow the lot down to ten finalists. From there, five entrants will each take the reigns at the restaurant for one night (respectively), and then a winner will be chosen.

snyder family

the snyder family: giving away their restaurant in santa barbara, california

Is this all fodder for the next big reality show? Will there be so many entries paying $500 each that they’ll make up for the money they would have gotten from simply selling the place? Are these people billionaires just doing this for fun? I’m not entirely sure. But I bet there are more than a few people out there pretty excited about the prospect of winning their very own restaurant in Central California…





Event Recap: SF Chocolate Salon 2014

30 03 2014

I was kindly invited to this year’s Chocolate Salon held at Fort Mason. It consisted of dozens of vendors, each with their own table displaying their goods and with samples for patrons to try. Since I was invited as a judge, I was requested to vote on my favorite vendors after the event. All the winners are listed on their website — click the blue circular award in the right margin (why no link, guys?).

chocolate

chocolate display

florentines

I generally had a good time. I was in good company (my chocolate-loving friend Mala accompanied me), the event was free for us, and it was a beautiful day. I did have a few qualms with the arrangement and execution of the event itself, which I will turn into suggestions for the event organizers below. But first, let’s talk about the best chocolate (in my opinion, at least).

As I did not review the myriad of award categories before the event (one of my qualms, see below), I was more thinking general 1st, 2nd, 3rd place overall as I was judging the entries. So, in my mind, I came up with these favorites:

1st Place and very very very best: Smitten Artisan Truffles. They had four dishes filled with truffle filling, and the owner herself would scoop a tiny spoonful of the truffle for you to try. She was sweet and bubbly and generous with her samples. The flavors were amazing, though I believe they were a bit different than they sell on their website (which you should totally check out because the online ordering is rad).

smitten artisan truffles

smitten artisan truffles at sf chocolate salon 2014

The cacao caramel vanilla bean was amazing, and the one infused with raspberry vodka was also so good (and I’m not often a fruit and chocolate person). Mala loved the one infused with bourbon… and I even bought an adorable package of four for my man friend to enjoy later. Just really really really good. Love.

2nd Place: Cowboy Toffee Company. Great packaging, great flavor options, and very very yummy. They had a s’mores flavor – need I say more?

cowboy toffee company

cowboy toffee company at sf chocolate salon 2014

cowboy toffee company

cowboy toffee company at sf chocolate salon 2014

3rd Place: Toffee Talk. Now, I’m not traditionally a huge fan of toffee. It’s always rock hard and makes me feel like my teeth are going to break off. So I generally stick with caramels. But, both Toffee Talk and the Cowboy (above) were a softer toffee. Still crunchy, but not jaw-jarringly so. And the flavor was amazing. Toffee: you’re back on my list.

toffee talk

toffee talk at sf chocolate salon 2014

Runner Up: Scharffen Berger Chocolate. Ever since my man friend surprised me with a bar of their semi-sweet chocolate, I’ve been digging it. They’re not doing anything extreme, there’s no crazy flavors or textures — it’s just good chocolate. Me likey.

scharffen berger

scharffen berger at sf chocolate salon 2014

So, those were my favs. I basically scattered those four names (and a few others) all over the scoring survey they sent me. And most of them won some prize, so good job, chocolate makers.

sf chocolate salon 2014

sf chocolate salon 2014

Now, on to my suggestions on how to improve this event:

  1.  Better vendor-to-space ratio. This event was held in a huge open warehouse and the number of vendor tables was highly disproportionate to the size of the space. I’ve been to other events here that filled out the space much better and it makes the event seem a lot more legit.
  2. Savory vendors*. I love chocolate. I can eat it for a long time. But you know what I want after a while of eating nothing but chocolate? Some bread. Or pretzels. Or french fries. Or pretty much anything else. They had a couple other types of vendors (beef jerky and kettle corn come to mind), but I think they could have stood to add more to change things up for my weary palate.
  3. WATER. Good lord. It was like a desert island of chocolate in there. Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink, and all that. They had these nice hand wash stations scattered around the space, but no water (not even for sale)! I was parched, and it was unnecessary.
  4. Check in procedure. Check in consisted of me giving my name to a woman at a table, and her putting a bracelet on my wrist. No map of the event, no list of vendors, no printout of the intense survey I would take afterwards to complete my judge duties. Any or all of these would have been extremely helpful. They should take some lessons from La Cocina event planners.

 

claire's squares

Otherwise, the presentation of each individual vendor table was generally excellent (great packaging, cool logos, nice marketing materials), and the quality of the samples was very high. I think with minimal changes by the event planners, the Chocolate Salon could be easily raised to the next level.

*The vendors themselves need not be savory, nor would I know how to evaluate that distinction, but they should offer savory foods.





Il Casaro – New Restaurant

23 03 2014

When I first saw Il Casaro as I was walking by a week ago, the menu was posted as a “soft opening menu”. It looked intriguing, so (with difficulty remembering where exactly it was) I returned yesterday. They are now fully open, and I think they’re off to a good start.

Marinara Pizza - $12

Marinara Pizza – $12

The owners of Il Casaro are not new to the area; they’ve owned nearby Vicoletto for some time. Which, oddly, I’ve never been to. Perusing their menu, I would now really like to try their pappardelle with fresh crab meat, among other things. More new restaurants, yeay!

What I liked about Il Casaro, aside from the food being good, was the relatively casual atmosphere and price point, along with the simple yet totally satisfying menu choices. They (currently) offer a couple salads, a few appetizers and sides, two panuzzi (a type of Italian sandwich made with pizza dough), a variety of mozzarella cheeses and meat plates, and pizzas. They have a massive wood-burning oven (with chopped wood stacked along one wall to verify authenticity), and bar seating that surrounds the cooking area (with said oven). There are also a dozen or more tables around the perimeter of the high-ceilinged, open space.

Asparagi - $9

Asparagi – $9

Insalata - $9.50

Insalata – $9.50

While there is no shortage of Italian restaurants in North Beach, I find that many of them are upscale with a price point of around $20-30 per plate. It’s really nice to find a place that offers a nice atmosphere, good menu, yummy food, and can easily keep a meal for two under $50.

I made the considerable mistake of ordering the only pizza that doesn’t have cheese on it… a fact that was plainly displayed on their menu but I neglected to notice due to my apparently mistaken belief that all pizzas should have cheese on them. It was still a good pizza, but I definitely longed for all the pizzas that I saw being made behind the counter with beautiful mozzarella cheese on them.

Imported Burrata - $9.75

Imported Burrata – $9.75

Which brings up another point: the “Mozzarella Bar” part of the menu. All I can say to this is YES. They offer four types of mozzarella (buffala, fior di latte, imported burrata, and smoked mozzarella) that come with toasted bread and a small arugula salad ($7-$10 per order). I can’t wait to go back just to try more of these (and get a pizza with cheese on it…). We tried the imported burrata (obvious first choice) and it was amazing, as expected.

Everything else was simple but delicious, and, aside from the pizza coming out first (I would have preferred the salad), was smoothly executed. I look forward to returning.

Il Casaro on Urbanspoon





Boogaloos

16 03 2014

Sometimes brunch in SF seems like some sort of Black Friday marathon event. By the size of the lines at some places, you’d think they were giving away gold-encrusted Eggs Benedict for free. The key to these situations? Have a strategy.

IMAG1032

As far as I’ve seen, there are two effective strategies: 1) go hellza early, or 2) come prepared to wait hellza long. Strategy number two can consist of going elsewhere nearby for a coffee or bloody Mary, which generally helps ease the pain. Note: if you have a third strategy, do share.

Boogaloos is a restaurant in the Mission where you will need to enact one of these two strategies. Our approach last month began as the former, but ended as the latter (we dawdled). No bigs.

Their juke-box themed menu is described as “Pan-Caribbean/American Diner” on their website, and has a crazy variety of options to make your decision rather difficult. Eggs. Chorizo. Omelettes. Pancakes. Biscuits and gravy. Quesadillas, fajitas, salads, sandwiches, and sides of pretty much anything on the menu. It’s nuts. It’s hard to even pick a category, but even when you’ve decided “eggs”, you’re still choosing from over a dozen delicious-sounding dishes. It’s a bit overwhelming.

Usually I don’t have quite as many choices as a meat eater, which sometimes makes life easier, but they offer almost everything on the menu with a veggie option. It’s amazing. I had to start simple and try the Boogaloo Classic: “two eggs, homefries, and a bog ol’ biscuit smothered in even more famous veggie herb-cream gravy, green onion” ($9.25). Veggie gravy?!! It was so good. Behold:

boogaloo classic

boogaloo classic

One of my favorite ladies had Soyrizo-n-Eggs: “two eggs scram with ‘Soy-rizo’, served with black beans, salsa, sour cream, green onion, corn tortillas” ($9.25). Soy-rizo is a soy-based version of chorizo, and it was pretty dang good in those eggs.

soyrizo-n-eggs

soyrizo-n-eggs

My other favorite lady had The Basic: two eggs, famous homefries (or fresh fruit) with choice of bread ($7.75). And, she chose the option to “Temple those spuds!” which consists of slathering them in jack cheese, salsa, sour cream, and green onion (+$2.50). It was like nachos camping out on your breakfast.

the basic

the basic with “templed” spuds

Everything was really good and the veggie gravy was my total favorite (I’m so glad I ordered it). Such a rare treat! Also, this happened while we were there… I hope you can see the physical contact between this child’s tongue and the glass door. Ga-ross.

child

child

Regardless, I’d highly recommend going. Just wash your hands after you open the door. ;)

Boogaloos on Urbanspoon





54 Mint

8 03 2014

54 Mint is tucked away behind the old San Francisco Mint off 5th Street just south of Market (indeed, in SOMA). It’s a cute space with rustic-chic decor, and a large-ish downstairs (basement) seating area for overflow seating and (I assume) large parties. They’ve got an extensive wine list, a fancy Italian menu, and, most importantly, it is possible to get a reservation.

IMG_3695

I went here a few weeks ago with Mom and Sister, and, though I enjoyed everything quite a bit, the menu wasn’t great for Mom. She has a few dietary restrictions that I try to accommodate in my restaurant choices, but I didn’t do a great job in this case. She doesn’t eat pasta and doesn’t like “weird” (i.e. non-standard) meat dishes. The mains at 54 Mint include a half-dozen house-made pastas (yum!), and lamb shank, oxtail, sea bass, and skirt steak. These things were too exotic for Mommy-dearest. Oops, my bad.

skirt steak

bistecca (grass-fed skirt steak, crispy potato, salsa verde) $26

amatriciana (bucatini, smoked pancetta, tomato, onion, pecorino Romano) $17

amatriciana (bucatini, smoked pancetta, tomato, onion, pecorino Romano) $17

But, we enjoyed the night anyway. It was a Tuesday, so it wasn’t terribly crowded. I can see how it might get quite loud in there if it were more crowded, however; the stark finishes really bounce the sound around.

tonnarelli cacio e pepe (home-made tonnarelli, black pepper, olive oil,  pecorino Romano cheese) $17

tonnarelli cacio e pepe (home-made tonnarelli, black pepper, olive oil, pecorino Romano cheese) $17

Our waitress was courteous, the wine was good, and I thoroughly enjoyed their version of classic Italian cacio e pepe. Mom did end up enjoying the skirt steak quite a bit, though I don’t think she loved the flourless chocolate cake as much as I did. What can I say, Mom’s a tough critic. Fortunately (for me), I’m less so. I’d definitely go back. Homemade pasta… mmm…

flourless Valrhona chocolate & bourbon cake, huckleberry, whipped cream $7

flourless Valrhona chocolate & bourbon cake, huckleberry, whipped cream $7

54 Mint SF on Urbanspoon








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