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foodzings: November 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Percy Street Barbecue

Y'all know I'm not known for going to brand new restaurants right away. I like others to experience them early on while they're still working out the kinks, so I can enjoy them later, once they've got their act together. But in an effort to enjoy a nice Christopher Columbus outing, we dared visit Percy Street Barbecue during their first week of business. I was intrigued by this place due to the central texas style bbq that they promise. I went to grad school in Austin, so I ate my fair share of bbq while I was there. I don't claim to be an expert on bbq, or let alone food, but I do have plenty of experience in this field. And the bbq options in philly aren't all that great. There certainly aren't texas style bbq places around here. So I was hooked. Plus, I had watched this video of their trip to bbq mecca and I was optimistic that they would really be able to pull this off.
The space is pretty gorgeous and big. The menu is simple, and you can even see it written on these giant chalkboards by the kitchen. But this is a nice restaurant. Unlike the genuine bbq joints in texas, you won't see brown paper strewn across tables. But you will get rolls of paper towels to use as napkins. So it's a mix of modern design aesthetic and down home grubbing.
Bottles of water in vinegar bottles are set on each table and you can even get 1/2 gallons or gallons of beer. These come in big brown glass jugs. It's a lot of beer people, a lot. Please be warned. Meats are sold by the 1/2 lb and sides come small or large.
The waitress recommended that for each person, 1/2 lb of meat and two small sides should suffice. We got large mashed potatoes, large german potato salad, two large mac and cheeses, small green beans, and small collard greens. Ok, so the number one gripe with this place is the paltry portions of the side dishes. Mac and cheese only comes in large, and this large is perhaps an elf's definition of large. These are way too small, and the mac and cheese is way too good to be served this small. Please, this needs to be fixed.

The mashed potatoes seemed whipped, but were not completely smooth, so you know it was made from genuine potatoes. I liked them. The large portion was a genuine large portion. The potato salad was good too, but the large wasn't quite large. The green beans were good, and the small portion seemed right. The collard greens were ok, and like the green beans, its small portion sizing seemed spot on. The collard greens could have been cooked down more and probably should be cut up into smaller pieces. It was a bit hard to maneuver the big hunks of green.
Ok, onto the meats! We got everything but the sausage. Everything comes out in a tray and is served with white bread, pickles, and sliced raw onion. The accompaniments are pure central texas through and through, so I was impressed. There were 10 people in our party. We got 8 slices of bread. I'm pretty good at math but that simply does not add up. Are we supposed to cut this bread into pieces and share? Each person should get at least two pieces of bread(or more) on their own. This is how it should be done. There should be no sharing of bread. It's white bread. I think you guys can swing it!

The ribs were ok. As you can see they are pretty big, but ribs are ribs. These are not baby back ribs where the meat falls of the bone. These require work, and it was just a bit too much work for me. But they tasted fine. Now the pork belly on the other hand, the pork belly was AMAZING. Yes, so amazing that I capitalized it all. This pork belly was some of the best bbq I've ever had in my life, but also some of the best food I've ever had in my life. No joke. I could eat this day and night, despite what my arteries may have to say about it. This is the best thing on the menu here. Heed my word. Forget everything else, it's all about the pork belly here!
The brisket was ok. There are three options - moist, lean, and extra lean. We opted for the lean, but even the lean had a bit thick hunk of fat on top. The brisket was good, but it was too charred on the outside. The char is definitely not adding to the flavor. My favorite bbq in general is brisket (or at least it was until I had the pork belly here!) and whenever I've had it in texas, it never had char on the outside. It's supposed to have a nice red ring around the edges due to the smoke, but there should be no char.

Everyone was disappointed with the chicken. R wanted the chicken to taste like oven roasted chicken or rotisserie chicken. She also felt the chicken was dry. No one else thought the chicken was dry. In fact, we found it quite moist and juicy, but it was bland. It was so, so, so boring and bland. It had absolutely no flavor at all. We told the manager none of us liked the chicken and he was shocked. He said the chicken was his favorite thing on the menu. Egads. If plain, flavorless, bland chicken is your thing, then go for the chicken here. If not, then avoid it at all costs. But if you do get it, be sure to bring some kind of sauce for it.< src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_EdJfiQywcUo/SwwLLyR9_FI/AAAAAAAAI0Y/oq0JPYaRoDs/s400/percycake.jpg" style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: auto; margin-bottom: 10px; margin-left: auto; display: block; text-align: center; cursor: pointer; width: 400px; height: 354px; " alt="" id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5407709549668727890" border="0">No one wanted any dessert, except for R. She wanted the chocolate layer cake. Man, was this thing disappointing. We thought the chicken couldn't be topped, but this sure beat it. This cake was dry, dry like the freakin Sahara, and it tasted like yellow cake mix from the grocery store. And not even Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker, I'm thinking generic no-frills yellow cake mix. We passed this around and after everyone took a bite, everyone had to drink. Cakes should be moist. What a cake fail!
But we did end the evening on a high note. We didn't order the pecan pie, but it showed up. I think it helped that we spent a whole crapload of money in their first week in business and that we gave them some honest constructive feedback. This pie was awesome! It wasn't freakishly sweet like some pecan pies I've had before, this was just sweet enough. I wholeheartedly recommend this pie.

So the service needs some work. The amount of time it took for our drinks to come out was not really acceptable. We were just sitting there wondering where our drinks were, for a very long time. This desperately needs to be improved. But the food came out pretty quick, so we were impressed with that. And the servers are nice and friendly. So basically, there were definitely hits and misses with the food here. The pork belly and the brisket are hits, as are the sides, and the pecan pie, but the portions of the sides, the chicken, and the chocolate layer cake are severe misses. But would I eat here again? Hell yeah, as I've been dreaming about the pork belly ever since!

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Elevation Burger Lunch

Stopped by Elevation Burger for a quick lunch the other day. I challenged P to get the 10 patty elevation burger, but he declined. Yes, you heard me, you can get a burger here with 10 hamburger patties. Then the manager proceeded to tell us that some college kids had been having burger eating challenges, and that the current record was 18. This came about because NBC's Aditi Roy had done a story on Elevation Burger and had eaten 8 herself. Whoa.
I'm a rational human being, so I just got a cheeseburger, and only one. I did get extra caramelized onions, because the regular portion is just too small, and these onions are just too good! So ask for extra, and they will oblige! They serve a good burger here. I'm a fan of it. I skipped the fries because I didn't like them the last time (they're made with olive oil and kind of limp and lame) but I did get a coffee shake. Good shake!

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Project Runway Finale Party

As a bookend to the project runway premiere, E held a fitting project runway finale party. She once again cooked everything, and made it seem effortless. Homemade breadsticks using phyllo dough and cheese. Obviously, the before! Even though the veggie tray came with a thing of dip, E made her own. It didn't quite turn out like the photo in the cookbook (it should have been green!) but it was still good. But it did taste a bit strange. It was hard to pinpoint what it was, but it was a bit odd. The beautiful veggie tray, crackers, and the breadsticks. The breadsticks had some problems in that they stuck to the pans. So they ended up being breadstick bits and not whole breadsticks. They still tasted fine. The main entree was mac and cheese, made with corkscrew macaroni and genuine cheese! This shot was obviously before the cheese sauce was poured in and the whole thing was baked. The mac and cheese turned out amazingly well. It was cheesy but mild, piping hot, and with a nice breadcrumb topping. The other main entree was asian chicken wings. And the girl didn't even buy pre-cut chicken wings at the store, she actually bought whole chicken wings and cut them into the wing bites! Nuts I tell you, nuts! These were fried up after being coated in a corn starch mix and then drenched in an asian marinade. These puppies were delish! E throws good parties! And she even gives away door prizes! Can't wait for the next season!

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Latest Yakitori Boy

Before heading out to a cabaret show, R and I stopped by Chinatown to grab some vittles. I hadn't been to yakitori boy in awhile, so that's where we ended up. R went with sushi and I went with non-sushi The rolls at yakitory boy have fewer pieces than at other restaurants, but that's ok, because the price tags tend to be smaller as well. Here are two philly rolls. And a couple sets of tuna and salmon nigiri. Even though it was actually fairly warm out, I still wanted noodle soup. So I went with the tempura soba. This is a fairly small sized bowl, but it's a decent portion for the price. One big piece of tempura shrimp and firm soba noodles. I like their udon broth here. I also got the tatsuta age, which is a deep fried marinated chicken dish. These were super duper hot! As in temperature hot. This chicken is awesome. And I totally dug the dipping sauce that came with it. I would put it on everything if I knew how to make it or if I could buy it! The food here comes out as it's made. There's no waiting for everything to be ready or appetizers showing up first. It just comes out when it's been made and ready. My chicken didn't come out until we were pretty much both done with everything. Which is bad timing, but that's part of their concept. And all the dishes are delivered by different people as well. Service is ok. Nothing bad, nothing great, somewhat inconsistent. But it's not fancy dining so it doesn't really matter to me. I did order a side of rice though and I had to ask for it again before they brought it out.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tiffin Coming To Wynnewood

While running errands today, I saw that Tiffin was setting up shop in the old Wynnewood Pharmacy location. This is just doors down, if not next door, to Elevation Burger. Man, Wynnewood is getting lucky! I've been looking for a good indian takeout place since I stopped patronizing Khajuraho due to their horrific customer service (have not been there for nearly 4 years!). So for suburbanites like me, what an exciting opening to look forward to! Whoohoo!

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Emmy's Spaghetti Shack

For my last dinner in SF and for dinner with A and E, we wanted something different and interesting. J had told J about this spaghetti shack place that had amazing spaghetti with amazing meatballs. We were all intrigued. So we headed over to Emmy's Spaghetti Shack in Bernal Heights to try some of this illustrious spaghetti. I read that there would be a wait, but I was optimistic. First problem was trying to find a parking spot. That took awhile. When we finally got there, there weren't other people waiting. We thought we'd get to eat right away! Wrong! There was actually a huge table ahead of us, so we had to wait. We walked around a bit looking for other alternatives, then just decided to have some drinks at the bar. Eventually, we were seated.
Some complimentary bread while we looked over this simple menu. Although they do have a few other options, we were here for the spaghetti and meatballs.
A and E ordered the grilled polenta with sauteed mushrooms and mascarpone drizzled with truffle honey. Yum. I love me some polenta! J had never had polenta before. Or he didn't know if he had ever had polenta before. He officially likes polenta now!
J and I ordered the arugula, pear, and crispy speck salad with blue cheese crostini and caramelized shallots. We didn't know what crispy speck was. It's bacon! This salad was practically perfect, as long as you avoided the blue cheese. :-)
Ok, so the spaghetti! We all got the spaghetti with meatballs. You get three ginormous meatballs. The sauce is a bit on the spicy side, which surprised all of us. One would think Emmy's would want the diner to control the level of spiciness, but instead, Emmy's just makes the sauce spicy. I like spice so I didn't mind it. J would have preferred it to not be spicy, but he liked it anyway. These meatballs were quite good, but they were not the typical meatballs you would have expected in spaghetti. Normally, italian meatballs tend to be more juicy and made with egg and breadcrumbs and things like that. The thing that was unexpected about these were that when you would take a hunk off of the meatball, the whole thing would sort start falling apart. And you would see the ground meat marks in the meatball. As if it was just a plain wad of meat that was formed into a ball, instead of it having been combined with spices and breadcrumbs and egg and mixed well before being formed into a ball. It was just strange, but still tasty.

So the service... oh the service. Where do I start? Ok, so our server was nice, but he was a terrible waiter. He made two huge mistakes. First, he took our drink orders and completely forgot about it. We waited and waited and waited. And then we had to ask him about it. Then it dawned on him that he'd completely forgotten about it. Oops number one. Then next, he completely forgot to put in E's spaghetti order. So J and I had our plate, A had her plate, but E was spaghetti-less. And we were all starving so we started eating, while he had nothing to eat. And again, our waiter was totally clueless that he had forgotten about it. So then awhile later he came over, apologized, and said he would take care of E's drink.
Remember, the drink that was part of all the drinks that he'd forgotten about? ~Sigh~ Eventually, E's spaghetti came out. This was after the rest of us were pretty much done our meals. We'll definitely remember this meal. Not necessarily for the food, but for the awful waiter!

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Ramblas Tapas Brunch

Once again, we woke up super late. And I pretty much missed the festival goodbye brunch. But we still had to eat, so we headed out for brunch again. We thought about trying again for Boogaloos, but didn't want to trek all the way over there again, just to be disappointed. So we roamed a little bit closer and ended up at Ramblas, which is a tapas place. J had been here before for dinner and had liked it, so we thought why not? We were slightly concerned because we were the only people there. And it was about noon. We thought maybe this was a terrible idea. Luckily, after we showed up, more people started coming in. So perhaps this is a late brunch type of place.
J's Croque Senior - grilled jamon and manchego on country bread topped with two fried eggs with a spicy bechamel. It said it came with hash browns but when it showed up, it clearly came with fries. Quite misleading indeed.
So J actually mentioned this to the waiter, and he brought out some of this really cool potato hash for him. It came with an aioli that looks ok to the eye, but is secretly extremely spicy. It is apparently made with the potent ghost pepper, and damn, you can taste it! Despite the extreme spicyness, the aioli was beyond good.
I wasn't sure what I wanted so I asked the waiter for recommendations. One of his recommendations was what I picked, the Eggs Charles V - poached eggs on english muffin with some greens, jamón serrano, all piled on top of some potato hash, sitting in a pool of pimenton hollandaise. Whoa, was this recommendation on point. I love, love, loved this! Service was good. While we were apprehensive at first due to the dearth of customers in this place, we were both pleasantly surprised. Skip the lines at other over hyped spots and try the brunch here. It ain't pancakes or hash browns, but it's delicious and affordable!

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Outstanding In The Field Feast - Foodbuzz Fest Dinner

The big event of the blogger fest (well, at least for me) was the dinner on saturday night. It was run by Outstanding in the Field. In their own words, "Outstanding in the Field is a mobile restaurant without walls. Our seasonal farm dinner events are organized as a celebration of place and honor the farmer and other producers of a region." Their dinners are typically held outdoors on farms, but being in SF, our event was held at a very unique location, the Greenleaf Produce Warehouse.
The table setups for their events are art installations in themselves. To accommodate all these crazy food bloggers, dozens of tables were lined up throughout the warehouse space. They used some of the warehouse's typical inhabitants as decoration.
Chef Dennis Lee of Namu designed the multi-course menu with wine pairings from Randall Grahm of Boony Doon. He was actually in the hospital this evening, so it was his team that created this fabulous dinner in a make-shift kitchen.
While we mingled, we were treated to appetizers of ahi tonnato on pain de mie with kochukaru (korean hot pepper flakes) and parsley. Despite the korean ingredients, this was decidedly not korean tasting... but still great!
They had shrimp chips laid out in baskets at every table. Seeing as how the chef was korean, this made some sense to me. But it amused me a bit, as this isn't exactly highbrow stuff. I could eat bags of these in one sitting, and well, I often do!
While still on the starter front, we got to munch on various pickled treats... broccoli, greens, kimchi, and yellow beans, amongst others. The kimchi was the only korean tasting part about these veggies. Everything was extremely... well... pickled! I love pickled anything, so I was a big fan of these veggies.
Next up was the only dish where we got our own servings. Everything else was family style. This is a mushroom dashi soup with a variety of fresh mushrooms. Now you know how I dislike mushrooms most of the time, but I tell you what, I ate all these up. This was simply delightful.
Onto the next dish! Udon noodles topped with calamari, cucumber, yellow tomato, and fancy greens in a browned butter ponzu reduction. I really thought this would taste korean-ish. And once again, nope! But this was another winning dish. I love cold noodle salads.
Next up was our only fish dish. Looks like salmon, but it was sea trout baked with dashi kombu, fried garlic, and japanese curry powder. All the flavors were quite mild. This was a deliciously simply prepared fish.
Up next was the mushroom risotto. This menu was heavy on the mushrooms! Made with fancy koshihikari rice, this was topped with crispy maitake mushrooms. Again, I enjoyed these mushrooms! As well as the creamy risotto. Let's be honest, I like pretty much anything made with rice!
You won't believe what I ate next! Brussel sprouts! These little beauties were roasted with ponzu fried garlic, guanciale, and bonito flakes. These muscles from brussels had soaked up the flavors and were beyond delicious. Shockingly enough, I'd say these were some of my favorite bites of the entire evening.
The final big dish was soy braised beef cheeks and oxtails with baby carrots and fingerling potatoes. As it was infused with OB Beer (korean) and doenjang (fermented soybean paste, korean style), I also expected this dish to taste a bit on the korean side. And again, not at all! But it was delicious nonetheless and super tender.
Dessert was a koshihikari rice pudding with cookie crumbles topped with Warren pear. It wasn't the most exciting rice pudding, but the cookie crumbles and the pear were amazing. In fact, the man who raised these pears was at the dinner. It doesn't get much cooler than that!

Kudos to Foodbuzz for letting us experience a dinner this amazing and special. It truly was a meal to remember for the rest of my life. And now that I know what the heck Outstanding In The Field is, I'll be sure to catch one of their regular farm dinners! You should too!

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Craig's Place Brunch

After getting up super late on saturday and it being too late for me to make it to the tastings that I'd signed up for, we just decided to take it easy and grab some brunch. We were told to go to Boogaloos... so we trekked over there... and then came upon a list of about 20 names. So we kept on walking. After agonizing hunger set in, we ended up all the way back at Craig's. Which was so unfortunately near where we started. We should have just gone there first!
The breakfast burrito with hash browns (please excuse the particularly terrible photography in this post!). This was take 2. J h ad asked for no sour cream, and it almost seemed like they put extra sour cream in there. So they had to try and again and this time, they indeed left it out. Oh, and it was good!
I was totally hankering for pancakes so I got two pancakes, a coupla eggs, hash browns, and apple sausage. The sausage looks a little sickly, but damn, it was tasty! The pancakes were tasty as well. Basically, this was the breakfast I was really looking for. We were both quite satisfied. And we didn't have to wait one minute to be seated.

Craig's Place
598 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA
(415) 355-9191

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

FoodBuzz Fest Street Food Fare

The kind people at FoodBuzz (--> I am a featured publisher!) held the inaugural FoodBuzz Food Blogger Festival in san francisco this year. That was my other reason for going out there for this trip. On the first night, they had a street food fare at the Ferry Building. Street food... Ferry Building... put them together and it's like a dream! There were tons of local vendors who let us grub on their fine grub. It was a nice variety as well, and everyone was super friendly. Even though we only ate little plates, I was beyond stuffed by the end of it. And yes, all this food was prepared on the site!
What's a trip to sf without tacos? Beef, of course!
The food above is not only completely vegan, but also completely raw. Scary sounding, I know, but surprisingly tasty. The cheesecake was good, even though there was a slightly funny this isn't real cheese taste. I still liked it!
The star of the evening... the porchetta sandwich from roli roti. What is it? Pork belly rolled into pork loin with crispy skin rotisseried the crack up, with fresh herbs, onion marmalade, and curly cress stuffed in between bread. Oh. My. Word. Yes, it is that delicious.
Delicious thin crust pizzas. Yes, the oven was there!
Freshly shucked oysters from Hog Island Oyster!
Mini meat pies! These ones were steak & gruyere. This was my second favorite of the evening!
Adorable little mini cupcakes of various flavors from Mission Minis. So cute and so tasty! You can even find these at whole foods in the sf area! Schmancy!
Freshly fried chicharrones. Ok, obviously, this wasn't an event for the health conscious.
Ok, here's one thing that was slightly healthy... vegetables! I had the beet salad which I loved. You heard it here people, I love beets! I love street food. I especially love it when it's within one confined area so I don't have to walk far between gourd stuffings.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Vietnamese In The Mission

J had been hankering for pho and we finally got a chance to have dinner in san francisco, proper. We went to Sunflower Vietnamese Restaurant the Mission, which is a unique restaurant, in that it has to entrances on two different streets. For whatever reason, we waked the extra 50 yards and went through the Valencia entrance, which was the one further away. It's your standard vietnamese place, with pho, rice plates, noodles, and stir fry dishes.
J got his pho hankering hankered. A nice big bowl. Excellent broth!
While I would have typically gone for a vermicelli bowl or a rice plate, I went buck wild and got a crepe instead. I love these things, but I order them rarely. I'm not sure why. It's a big ass crepe made of rice flour and coconut milk filled with sprouts, shrimp, and chicken. I think it's typically pork instead of chicken, but this one just happened to be chicken. Which I ended up preferring. Of the crepes that I've had in my day, this one was excellent, but the crepe itself was a bit thick and too well cooked. So it ended up being a bit too crunchy. Typically the are crunchy, but they're really thin, which this one wasn't, so the cruchiness doesn't become an issue. But in this case, with a thick and crunchy crepe, it was just a bit different. Still good though, don't get me wrong.
The plate of fixins that come with the crepe. You can make yourself little red leaf lettuce wraps by putting in hunks of crepe and then putting on nuoc mam and hunks of pickled daikon and carrots and cucumber. Delicious! The food took surprisingly long to come out (I mean for a vietnamese restaurant), but it was well worth the wait. The service was just fine and our waiter happened to be fabulously flamboyant! People must like it here, as it was packed on a weekday and there were people waiting.

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