Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oh Wine Bar My Wine Bar!

No clue why I ran with a Dead Poet's Society theme tonight - but I'm just gonna go with it.

Today was my first day of work at a new job. Formerly I was commuting far far away every day, away from my lovely town of SF and all of the culinary delights it has to offer. Today I stopped the commute and started a new job just a 20 minute train ride from my house.

After work, to celebrate, my friend L. and I stopped at one of my absolute favorite wine bars in SF - The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant. Patch's mom mentioned the ferry building in her email - it is truly the foodie highlight of this amazing city. Some day I will devote an entire post to the ferry building, and its amazing farmers market, and the oyster bar, and the store full of mushrooms, and cowgirl creamery.....some day. Today we focus on the wine bar at the Wine Merchant.

The wine bar always has a flight, and goodness knows I LOVE a flight. Tonight they were sauvignon blancs, and I wasn't in the mood for that, so I passed. But I have had a lovely rose flight there before, and I have to admit that my friend L. and I have been known to order a taste of one of every red on the menu. The menu isn't THAT big....but. Its a lot of wine, lets leave it at that. The Ferry Plaza wine bar has a great selection of really interesting stuff. Tonight we had a glass of french rose champagne that was to die for - very slightly sweet, a little dry, and the nicest little bubbles I've ever seen. We moved on to a glass of Spanish red, and I really need to take better notes when i'm out drinking wine. I have no idea what this was, but the servers here are really nice and knowledgeable and can help you find something you will be sure to like. Plus they sell all of the wines in the shop behind the bar. The shop is great with a terrific variety of stuff.

Finally, I love this wine bar because it takes full advantage of the many delicious food options in the building, and serves them as nibbles with the wine. Tonight L. and I shared a big hunk of gruyere from cowgirl creamery, a twisted loaf of french bread from ACME, and some amazing heirloom tomato and garlic olive tapenade. That plus two glasses of wine is a perfect dinner for me.

This is not a rating review - but this is a fabulous wine bar. If you are in town I recommend you go there for a delicious taste of San Francisco. I don't think I ever feel quite as "at home" anywhere as I do at this little place. Now that I am working so close to it, I have a feeling I'm going to be there a lot........

drink up!


Patch's Mom Takes SF By Storm!

The apple does not fall far from the tree, and I was reminded of this when my mom went to San Francisco this past long weekend for dad's business conference. She didn't have to attend the seminars and such, so she and some of the other ladies in attendance decided to go Emilia-and-Patch style and eat their way through the city.

Mom had rave reviews about the places she ate and sent Emilia the following excited email after she returned to the East Coast (slightly edited for privacy) which I share because my mom has impeccable taste in food and as I have learned growing up, her reviews and recommendations are as flawless as her criticisms at sub-par food or service are merciless:

From: Patch's Mom
To: Emilia
CC: Patch
Subject: Restaurants

Hello Emilia,
That ferry building is amazing. I was telling Patch about breakfast at the communal table at Boulettes Larder and how I walked around the market on Saturday and bought the most amazing "almond square" at the Heidelberg Bakery stand. Petite Lulu also has very good goat cheese and spinach croissants that they will heat up for you. I shared one with my friend. I went to Sausalito and ate at Sushi Ran which is next door to the movie theater in town, away from the tourist crowd. That was a great find.
In San Francisco, I ate at Colibri, a mexican restaurant on Geary I think and the food was very good and interesting, not mentioning their amazing range of top shelf margaritas. I also had a great lunch at Cafe de la Presse right near the doors to China Town. I had a tarte flambee which was a lavash bread with smoked salmon and horseradish cream on top. Yummie and just the right size. The Chimay beer on tap reminded me of Belgium.
We also had dinner at Bacar and it was good but too hyped up. I think that I would have liked to try Jack Falstaff instead. We had a very nice dinner at Fringale where the head waiter/manager, Andre is a French Canadian guy. The food was delicious.
-Patch's Mom

This weekend I am headed up to SF where Emilia and I have exciting things planned, including a glorious ocean-view hike, the legendary Middle East Feast at G.M.'s house, and a trip to Bourbon & Branch, an old fashioned speakeasy where you need a password to get in. And of course, a BBQ which we are throwing for many friends at Em's house, and will undoubtedly include Emilia's fabulous BBQ fixings. I can't wait!


Friday, September 7, 2007

Diet Hansen's - It's Diet, But Try It!

I am an anti-diet soda (and anti-diet any food, really) person, so I avoid Diet Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, WHATEVER like the plague. All those weird chemicals, especially aspartame, scare me. More scary is the appetite-stimulation effect which I believe comes from aspartame, from my personal experience only. I'm sure science will confirm soon. I think there are some articles out there that back up the idea that this could be true. Anyway, all I know is that when I used to drink diet stuff, I was always thinking about eating and constantly craving snacks, and once I stopped a few years ago I had a lot more control.

Also, diet soda tastes gross, no matter what you tell yourself. There is nothing like the real thing. I feel the same way about low-fat or no-fat stuff. I'd much rather have a real piece of cheese or a real little dollop of sour cream than fake stuff.

However, one "diet" product I do like is Diet Hansen's soda. It uses Splenda, which while not nearly as tasty as sugar, doesn't give me that same drinking-liquid-metal feeling as aspartame. And the flavors are lovely. I usually stock up on the Black Cherry, Tangerine Lime, Ginger Ale, and Creamy Root Beer.

For photos, go to: www.hansens.com

The Black Cherry is very sweet but with lots of good cherry flavor (plus that overly fake sugary taste, but what can you do.) It's a really nice mixer. I have used a splash of it in my pomegranate martinis to great success. (That's vodka, pomegranate juice, a sugar rim, and a splash of the Hansen's.)

The Creamy Root Beer is actually the most normal tasting of them all. It doesn't have the bite of real root beer (though all of these sodas have a distinct sharpness to them because of the way they're carbonated) but the root beer flavor is right on with plenty of vanilla.

Tangerine Lime is basically a poor man's Sprite. Still, it's tart and yummy.

My absolute favorite though, is the Ginger Ale. Not only because I'm obsessed with gingerale, but because it is a particularly piquant one. Must be the ingredients they use to flavor it, and I quote: "African ginger, Mexican limes, Californian Lemons and Madascan Vanilla". Damn, that's like the United Nations of gingerale flavor! It is a bit lemony, but it works, and allows me to drink gingerale without having that teeth-going-soft-from-sugar feeling.

There are also Grapefruit, Kiwi Strawberry and Peach flavors. I bet the Peach has a lot of cocktail potential, too. Comment if you've tried 'em. Keep up the great work, Hansen's! (PS: I get mine at Trader Joe's but I have also seen it at Albertson's.)


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Mamacita - un estomago muy feliz.

Yes, my stomach IS feliz after a truly delicious dinner at Mamacita. Two of my friends from Minnesota are in town, and they both love Mexican food, so I decided to take them to a high-end Mexican restaurant in the loud and fun marina district of SF. I have been to Mamacita a few times before, but overall this was my best experience!

The restaurant itself is in a cozy spot on Chestnut. It is a small but warm place, with Moroccan-esque lanterns and photos of Mexico everywhere. The one down-side to the layout of the place is that the bar is right in the middle of the restaurant. Sometimes when you are eating, especially on weekends, it feels like you are eating while a bunch of people drink around you.

Luckily the food and drinks are good enough to make up for the strange layout......

We started with some truly delicious margaritas. Limey and salty, we had a frosty pitcher (on the rocks of course!). This wet our taste buds for the oh-so-delicious meal that was to come.

Our first appetizer was fresh, creamy guacamole. This is one of the best guacamoles I have ever had - and that includes my own, which I think is pretty damn good. Mamacita uses the creamiest, most butter-like avocados. they are smooth but with the right amount of chunks, and a mild garlic flavor. I prefer mine with a little more heat but the flavors in this guac are first rate. It is served with perfect, fresh chips, and a smaller container of salsa. The salsa made the most of the great summer tomatoes - really delicious and fresh tasting. We had to ask for more chips to mop up that yummy stuff!

Our second appetizer was the best thing we had all night. Mamacita's chilaquiles are BY FAR the best I have ever had. More fresh tortilla chips are tossed with chipotle crema, roasted shredded chicken, gypsy pepper rajas and queso fresco. Here was the heat!!! The chips become soggy but still a bit crisp under the extremely tasty creamy sauce. These things were ridiculously good. I could eat these for dinner every night of the week - they were THAT good. If you go here, get these. You will not regret it!

For our entree we split two dishes - the carnitas tacos with grilled corn, salsa verde, crema latina (I think they made this up, but its just crema, which is basically watery sour cream), avocado, and questo cotija. These were good, very good. However I thought the meat itself could have had more flavor and fat. I have had the carne asada tacos here and the meat was VERY flavorful, I would get those next time. But the toppings on the carnitas tacos were great and all in all the taste was really good.

The second dish we split was my second favorite of the night - chicken enchiladas with guajillo chile sauce, crema, cheese, and more of that delicious guac. These were hot hot hot. The sauce was delicious, the chicken tender, the cheese melty and tasty, and the enchiladas were good-sized. Really freaking good. I am looking forward to trying the beef enchiladas next time I am there.

The last thing we had is something I always get here - a side dish of sweet yellow corn sauteed with red mole. Tonight there were fresh tomatoes in the dish as well. It was really good - the corn is never overcooked, and always has a nice crunch to it. The mole sauce is sweet. It is really tasty and every time I eat this I think, I should try making this because I could eat it every day.

I know I have an extreme love for Mexican food, but honestly this is one of the few restaurants of any cuisine where I want to order absolutely everything on the menu. I have tried the fish tacos and ceviche on other trips and they were also great. All of the salads and appetizers look fabulous. It is always hard for me to decide what to get here, so I love the family-style sharing aspect of the restaurant. I could eat everything on this menu. Nothing looks bad to me.

Some things to remember about Mamacita - make a reservation! They keep some tables open for walk-ins but the wait is LONG and the restaurant is small and it is not worth it. Call ahead. Also I would avoid going here on the weekends if you can, because it is literally the loudest restaurant I have ever been in. It is hard to hear yourself think in here on a Wednesday - on a Friday or Saturday it is nearly unbearable. Another thing to remember is that this place, while family style, is ideal for groups of two or in multiples of three. All of their entrees are served in threes - three tacos, three enchiladas, etc. If you have four people you end up cutting things up into little pieces which is annoying. Or you end up having to order way too much food. Maybe this is a marketing tactic - I don't know. But for two or three people, or even five or six where you can get away with ordering more food, it works out ok.

I really love this restaurant. I think the food is excellent. I know I need to try Maya and Mexico-DF to compare the other high-end Mexican options in SF, but for now, for Mexican food made with the highest quality of ingredients, Mamacita takes the.....pastel. Or the torta. Lo que sea!

Food - (4)Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Experience - (3.5)Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Overall - (3.75)Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

For an explanation of our ratings system, CLICK HERE!

For yelp reviews of Mamacita, CLICK HERE!

Now I am going to bed with a food coma.....the only thing that puts me to sleep more than a giant meal at mamacita is a giant meal at mamacita followed up by cupcakes from citizen cake!

adios mis amigos!


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Lack of Posts from your Hosts

Hello all. Em and I have been quite busy in the last couple of days, so we have not had a chance to post. For this we apologize. Rest assured that we are still eating (not wasting away yet!) and delighting in things that will soon make their way onto these virtual pages. Emilia has many excellent forthcoming reviews on delectable restaurants in the Bay Area, and I am planning a super not secret dinner party extraordinaire with my Bittman-chosen dishes. (First step is finding out which of my friends like squid. So far, so good!)

Thinking of you,