Coffee-Con 2014 is Coming to SF July 26, with Ticket Giveaway!

17 07 2014

Do you love coffee? So many of us do nowadays. SF has been one of many special places for coffee culture incubation over the last many years, and is now hosting its third annual Coffee-Con on July 26, 2014 at Terra Gallery (511 Harrison, at First). Come one, come all — coffee-lovers unite for Coffee-Con 2014!


Experience hands-on training classes (because you thought you knew the best practices of coffee creation…), learn about international varieties of coffee and methods of brewing, and, of course, get your caffeine fix with loads of free samples. There will be speakers, live music, and even giveaways for a variety of coffee-related prizes.

And speaking of giveaways… broccoli and chocolate has been graciously given two pairs of tickets to give away to two lucky readers! Please either leave a comment below or email me directly ( for a pair of free tickets ($20 value) to this fun event!


Haight Ashbury Food Tour — Avital Tours

14 07 2014

Avital Tours is a name I had heard before — but not until she contacted me about a media tour of The Haight had I considered actually joining a tour. But, since I know surprisingly little about the food scene in The Haight, and I wanted to experience one of these famed food tours, I happily accepted.

The tour took place on a bright, sunny day with eight or so other bloggers. Avital herself was there, but another local foodie and food writer, Virginia Miller, was the guide. The tour was three hours long and took us walking in a relatively small area while providing information about a variety of non-food-related historical facts as we made our way to five food and drink establishments.

Avital Tours Haight Ashbury Culinary Map

Avital Tours Haight Ashbury Culinary Map

A fun little map of the Haight provided by Avital is shown above (click to enlarge); the five stops we experienced are described below.


Stop 1: Bacon Bacon

This shop is actually really cool, even though I’m not a meat-eater. We got a bit of info from the owner, who was really laid back and knowledgeable, and tried a taco and a bit of Mexican hot chocolate, both graced with pork products. I had informed Avital beforehand that I don’t eat the piggies, and they seamlessly accommodated me without me having to ask again. Smooth.

hot chocolate

bacon Mexican hot chocolate


piggy taco


veggie taco


Stop 2: Alembic

Finally, I got to go to Alembic. This is always on the top SF lists for craft cocktails, and I just had not made it there yet. They have a small food menu, really intricate cocktails, and they’re expanding (maybe open now?) into the adjacent space to make a bit more room for tables (the bar essentially fills up the whole space right now). The Southern Exposure (a spin on the classic Southside cocktail) was extremely refreshing and expertly made. The tiny pickled quail eggs were my very very favorite (you know how much I love pickled things…) and were as yummy as they were adorable.



southern exposure cocktail


pickled quail eggs




Stop 3: Anda Piroshki at Second Act Marketplace

This space used to be the old Red Vic Movie House, and now is working as a community space housing five retail shops and an event space. One of the five shops is Anda Piroshki, where we were able to watch as these traditional Russian treats are made (and then eat them, of course).

piroshkis being made

piroshkis being made



finished piroshki


[Stop 3 1/2: The Gardens Behind The Alembic/Second Act Marketplace]

In a small space behind these joint buildings, a garden exists that houses a surprising amount of veggies and herbs used in the creation of the food and beverages served in both establishments. This isn’t open to the public, so we felt pretty special getting a sneak peek at this area along with some information from the building’s owner, Betsy. (I believe this stop isn’t on the regular tour, but thought I’d share.)



Stop 4: The Fizzery

Even for The Haight, this place is kooky. Offering hundreds of varieties of small-batch bottled sodas in all flavors and colors, along with enough candy and toffee to make a schoolkid’s head spin, the Fizzery sells a few of its own bottled creations from their facility in The Mission District. They even have a contraption to flash-cool a soda you just bought to be enjoyed on the spot. This place is a trip.





instant cooling machine!

instant soda-cooling machine!


Stop 5: The Ice Cream Bar Soda Fountain

Mimicking a soda-pop shop of yesteryear better than you could possibly imagine (seriously, some real research went into this place), this seemingly simple ice cream shop is really a haven for the funkiest “soda” creations since 1850. Creating their own “tinctures” and “lactarts”, you can not only enjoy a radical sweet treat, but you learn a whole new vocabulary of liquid libations to boot. They also have a wide variety of ice creams (people were even raving about the vegan choices), and they serve lunch as well.




The “soda” we tried (I use quotes because these are nothing like the carbonated canned drinks we’re familiar with) was a creation invented by the leader of our tour: Dill Lactart Soda. It was milky, but bubbly, and dill-y… I drank the whole thing without being able to place where this should go into my mental rolodex of flavors. It was sweet and tart and just really interesting. This particular flavor isn’t on the menu, but the menu items certainly leave enough interesting choices to last for many visits.

dill lactart soda

dill lactart soda

And that was it! If I wrote everything I learned on this tour, I could write for days. The whole thing was really well executed, the length was perfect (if it had gone on much longer, my dogs would have started barking*), and nothing about moving a group of eight or so from place to place was strained or difficult. And, I learned a heck of a lot more about The Haight than I knew before, which is fun even for a local. Not that she needs more endorsements with all her zillions of five-star Yelp reviews, but I’d definitely give a hearty thumbs up to this tour. Thanks Avital!

*That means my feet would have started hurting.


Park Chow: Brunch

6 06 2014

If I were filling out a review of Park Chow on Opentable, I would check the box for “neighborhood gem”. And then I’d feel like that was super cheesy and uncheck it. Then I’d remember that it’s hecka accurate and check it again.


veggie burger

Park Chow is really just kind of your basic diner — old fashioned counter seating, a mounted board on the wall with menu items listed in individual little black clip-in lettering, and a menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads, and other American classics. But the difference is that the food is good. Like, better-than-your-basic-diner good.

And it’s just fun in there. It’s casual, unpretentious, and it’s inevitably crowded with hungry, happy patrons. It feels the way a diner should: comfortable and homey without being low-class or dingy. And last time I was there for brunch, I discovered something I never knew: they have a huge upstairs that’s partially enclosed by shade awnings! It was a beautiful sunny Saturday (an rarity in the Inner Sunset) and we were able to enjoy the outside without baking in direct sun. It was great.



I wish I had taken more pictures, but, as usual, I was focused on the food. I went for the veggie burger* while my man-friend enjoyed a nice brunch scramble. The portions are pretty dang big, and we were ready for a happy nap afterward. Somehow I have to finagle a Thursday visit to experience the smoked salmon hash special… I can dream, can’t I?

*I ordered the veggie burger both to satisfy my craving for said food, and to further research the best veggie burger in the City. This one was good: nice texture, good taste, and the tzaziki sauce was a real win.

Park Chow on Urbanspoon

Mother’s Day Brunch at The Cliff House

21 05 2014

Mom likes a nice view and an elegant atmosphere. Cut to: The Cliff House Restaurant perched nicely atop a (wait for it) cliff on the very western reaches of San Francisco, overlooking the grand old Pacific. The beautifully renovated 1909 facility has been around since 1863, at least in name — two former incarnations succumbed to fire over the years (once even after surviving the 1906 earthquake — doh!).


Happy Mom’s Day Mom!!!

The Sunday Champagne Brunch Buffet is hosted weekly in the Terrace Room of the Cliff House, overlooking views of Ocean Beach and the Pacific herself. They jack the price up for Mom’s Day, but that’s to be expected.

I have to say I was a bit scared that the food wouldn’t be great, and that the selling points were the famous digs and great views rather than the platters in the center of the room. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised. The list of food on offer goes on and on, but I’ll just show you a few pics to ponder. Also, they had a harp player to round out the elegant vibe. Harps rock. And this lady even played us some Stairway. Stairway on harp!! What more could you ask for?


as we approach…


not an unimpressive fruit platter


smoked salmon (drool)


citrus asparagus


foods in warmy trays



hi mom!




it’s not brunch without a benedict.






my first plate (not my last)


And don’t forget the harpist!

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


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:


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.


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

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 display


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


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.


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.



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.



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.


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

Upcoming Event: SF Chocolate Salon

5 03 2014

Chocolate. Just say the word in your head. Chocolate. Aren’t you just a little bit happier now?

I love chocolate. Chances are, so do you. Which is why you might want to make room in your busy schedule for the upcoming 8th annual SF Chocolate Salon at Fort Mason on Saturday March 15, 2014.


Per their website, activities include: chocolate tasting, demonstrations, new product launches and flavor combinations, fair trade & organic offerings, celebrity chef & author talks, wine pairings, Chocolate Art Gallery, games, ongoing interviews by TasteTV’s Chocolate Television program, and book signings. Not to shabbs, if you ask me. And yes, I bolded the words “chocolate tasting”. I felt they needed to be bold.

You can get tickets on their site for $20 (adults, advance purchase) and $10 for kids up to 12. (Children under 6 are free.) The price goes up to $25 for adults who get there early, and $30 if you just wanna rock up whenever you want that day.

And the best part (for me) is that I’ve been invited to be a judge! My name is on their website and everything (under “award judges”). The invite said this of the task: “As a Judge, you simply attend when you want, taste what you want, then afterwards vote on your top picks using our confidential online voting form. You will also be listed on the Salon’s website.” Um, yes please. I like all those things, including the laissez faire judging style and free chocolate.

Yeay chocolate! See you there!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 77 other followers