Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ame, July 8, 2008

I've been hearing about Ame for a long time and was excited to take Molly there. Since she only eats seafood, the menu was perfect for her and had many exciting dishes we wanted to try. We arrived a few minutes early for our 8:30pm reservation and entered in through the St. Regis hotel and lounge. The lounge is beautiful and I could imagine going back for a cocktail and Ame small plate. We arrived at Ame and were seated right away. The restaurant is L-shaped and we were sat at a great table right at the bend. The decor was earth tones; browns, creams, black, with dark wood and dim lighting. The staff was dressed in suits, no jackets, and were not wearing aprons.

We started with the Kaffir Lime Gimlet ($14) while we browsed the menu, a delicious cocktail made with Hangar One Kaffir Lime Vodka. After looking over the menu, we ordered our first round of appetizers; Sea Bass Suzuki Sashimi ($17.50) and the Tempura Poke ($15.50). I was interested in trying one of the sakes from their extensive list and our waiter suggested several of his favorites. After sampling a couple, we decided on the Watari Bune ($11) (Shiboritate Namazake Genshu Junmaiginjo "55"), an unpasteurized and undiluted sake. The sake was unlike any other sake I've had with notes of juniper, geranium and snap peas. The smoothness and subtle sweetness went perfectly with our first round of appetizers. The Sea Bass Sashimi was served with hijiki seaweed, myoga and a ume plum-soy vinegarette. There were 5 pieces of sashimi laid out on the plate and each bite was absolutely perfect. The fish was clean and fresh and was perfect with the earthiness of the hijiki and the tart-sweetness of the vinegarette. The tempura poke, a signature dish of Ame, was served as a maki roll, with each of the six bites being lightly tempura battered and fried. Each bite was perfectly sweet and salty with a bit of crunch. I could have eaten another round of each of these dishes.

For the next course we ordered the Tempura Squash Blossoms ($16.50) and the Grilled Marinated Octopus ($17.50) special. We split a glass of the Laroche Chablis ($18) for this course which was perfectly buttery to compliment both dishes. The squash blossoms were made with homemade ricotta and served with chanterelle mushrooms, sauteed persilane, tapenade and a garlic oil. We had never had cooked persilane and found it to be a little bit slimy like okra and thought it overpowered the texture of the mushrooms. The tempura was perfectly light and the saltiness of the tapenade complimented the ricotta. An interesting and delicious dish overall. The octopus dish was absolutely perfect and was a pretty large portion. The octopus was thinly sliced and served with sliced fingerling potatoes, enoki-like mushrooms (along with other wild mushrooms) in an herb-lemon butter. The sauce was rich and addictive and I could have eaten more and more of this dish.

For our entree we split the Butter Poached Maine Lobster Tail, Panko Crusted Claws
with Succotash and Fried Fingerling Potatoes ($39). The plate arrived with an entire lobster tail and two panko crusted claws on a bed of succotach. The succotach had various beans; cranberry, canalini, peas and green beans along with sweet corn and sliced cherry tomatoes, served with a bernaise-like sauce. The claw was stringy and the tail was meaty and it all went perfectly with the Henschke Semillon ($11) wine split glass we ordered.

I had read so many positive reviews about the desserts at Ame, so we decided to order the Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta ($10) and split a glass of Sudruit Sauternes ($14). Unfortunately we were disappointed with the dessert. The panna cotta was served with toasted pistachios bits, caramelized figs, an anise cookie and was drizzled with honey. When the dish arrived it smelled like burnt marshmellows. The panna cotta was tangy, but the caramelized figs tasted like burnt wood chips and just subtracted from the tasty qualities of the panna cotta. I like the anise cookie, but Molly thought it was soggy. Luckily the sauternes was absolutely delicious and our waiter ended up comp-ing our dessert.

Our total bill was $230 with tip, a pricey meal that we both agreed was well worth it. I would definitely dine at Ame again for a special occasion or splurge.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Canteen, June 19, 2008.

A friend and I were trying to grab a quick bite before making an 8pm art performance. Canteen is just down the block from his apartment and suggested we go for a quick dinner. I have read about Canteen and wanted to give it a try. The restaurant is converted from an old diner. There are four small booths and six or so seats and the counter. There is one waitress and three cooks in a tiny kitchen behind the counter. It is a small and very neatly run operation with 3 or 4 seatings each night and a limited menu.

We started with an amuse bouche of confit pheasant with apricot marmalade and a warm piece of buttery brioche. Delicious. A great way to start the meal. For appetizers I ordered the butter lettuces with pickled rhubarb, celery and goat cheese with a light vinegarette. I was craving a salad and this was exactly what I wanted; something simple with a twist. I really liked the tartness of the rhubarb with the sweetness of the lettuce and creamy goat cheese. My friend ordered the corned beef style tongue with pickled shallots and persillade. I had never eaten tongue before, but tried it and thought it was good. The pickled shallots were what really made the dish for me, adding a great tangy flavor and texture. For our entree, we shared the poisson served with bitter greens, an orange marmalade and bacon. The quail was perfectly cooked and we were served the whole bird which was perfect to share. The bitterness of the greens was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the orange sauce and the fatty and smokiness of the bacon. A delicious dish. For dessert we shared the lemon fritters. These little delicious morsels were very memorable and potentially addictive. Essentially, they were lemon curd battered and fried, dusted with powered sugar and served with slivers of candied fennel. AMAZING! I want to eat them again and again... and we were trying to figure out how they made them. Did they freeze the lemon curd before battering? However they did it, these fritters are the best dessert I've had out at a restaurant in a long time.

The service was great. Our waitress was relaxed and fun and very helpful. The meal, without drinks, was $60 with tax and tip. I've heard a few mixed reviews of Canteen, but I would definitely go back based on this experience.

Jardeniere, June 16, 2008.

I have wanted to dine at Jardeniere since moving to San Francisco. Our friend Ty's upcoming birthday was the perfect excuse. The four of us arrived for our 7pm reservation and were led upstairs to our plush booth. I was excited to get a booth and to be seated along the perimeter instead of in the center of the dining room.

Who says namedropping never helped anyone? Molly happened to have worked with a waiter at Bay Wolf who now works at Jardeniere. When we got into the restaurant, Molly asked if Fred was working this night. Unfortunately he wasn't, but we still got a couple special treats on his behalf! The first of which was an amuse bouche of seared hamachi with half of a fava bean, daikon sprouts, finely diced cucumber with a lemon oil. A truly perfect bite. At the end of the meal, we were brought a taste of Fred's favorite sparkling Italian dessert, much like a lambrusco.

Since so many things on the menu looked good, we decided to share a couple rounds of appetizers. We started with a cocktail, I ordered the Tippler's Delight, a drink with Navip Slivovitz 8 Year, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Lemon, and St. George Absinthe, $11. It was delicious. We started with a couple items from the lounge menu, the fried olives and the crab sliders. The fried olives with herbs de provence for $8 were delicious. Lightly breaded with herbs and deep fried, they were warm with a crunchy crust and a soft interior. The perfect fancy bar snack. The Dungeness Crab Sliders with mango pickle and meyer Lemon aïoli were absolutely delicious, but a bit steep for two small sandwiches for $20. But the tang of the mango pickly and the aioli were a delicious compliment to the sweetness of the crab and the softness of the roll.

For our next round of appetizers we ordered the fingerling potato salad and the charred octopus. The potato salad was tasty, accompanied with avocado and hard boiled egg. There was nothing wrong with the dish, but it was definitely something I could make at home for less than its $16 price tag. The charred octopus, borlotti beans, cherry tomatoes and purslane, caper lemon vinaigrette for $20 was amazing. The textures were great and the flavor was sensational. After being in Greece and eating fresh octopus, it was great to find this rare ingredient in San Francisco prepared perfectly. For an entree, Kiera and I decided to share the Wagyu ribeye served with maitake and morel mushrooms, english peas, and spinach in a jus. Absolutely delicious. I had never tried Wagyu beef before this and would definitely order it again. It was tender and moist and the earthiness of the mushrooms and the sweetness of the peas were a delicious addition to the plate. For $60 this is definitely the most expensive entree I have ever ordered, but the split portion was very generous. I also ordered a glass of Burgundy that went perfectly with the dish. Ty ordered the Maine Diver Scallops with white corn, summer truffles and bacon nage. Ty seemed to enjoy it and the bite I had was delicious. Who doesn't love a good bacon nage? Molly ordered the Alaskan Halibut with morel mushrooms, new potatoes, english peas and crème fraîche. A generous portion, the fish had a nice crust on the outside and was perfectly moist on the inside.

Overall, we had an amazing meal. The entire meal with drinks was about $375. I would recommend Jardiniere for special occasions or a splurge. We all loved our meal and had no complaints about anything. The food was local, perfectly cooked with some new flavors and combinations I had never tried. The service was also impeccable and the staff was very attentive and helpful.


These are photos from our trip to Europe in April and May of 2008. All photos are copyright

The best epi baguette I have ever had with 4 artisan cheeses from Alain Hess. Beaune, France.

Breakfast at Le Limas. Avignon, France.

Mache greens at Les Halles. Avignon, France.

Cheeses at Les Halles. Avignon, France.

Terrines at Les Halles. Avignon, France.

Lunch on the terrace at Le Limas with a view of the Palais des Papes. Avignon, France.

Fish market at the Vieux Port. Marseille, France.

Greek salad, fried fish and calamari at Akti. Athens, Greece.

The view of the sunset from our table at Akti. Athens, Greece.

Dinner with Victoria at Akti. Athens, Greece.

Easter special: 2 6-packs of Mythos and 10 eggs. Awesome. Parikia, Paros, Greece.

Still life with peppers, cucumber and lemon. Parikia, Paros, Greece.

Breakfast: feta, peppers, yogurt & honey, giant beans and peach juice. Parikia, Paros, Greece.

Octopus drying on a line at a taverna. Aliki, Paros, Greece.

Waterfront cafe. Parikia, Paros, Greece.

Deli and bakery at night. Adamas, Milos, Greece.

Breakfast in bed at Hotel Metropole. Brussels, Belgium.

Beer Planet! Also known as heaven. Brussels, Belgium.

Baguette treats; sweet or savory? Brussels, Belgium.

Beers at A La Morte Subite (a great old beer hall); Ciney and Hapkin. Brussels, Belgium.

Candied flower petals. Brussels, Belgium.

Cafe Metropole, an old school cafe connected with the hotel. Brussels, Belgium.

Beer in our Paris refrigerator that we brought from Brussels. Paris, France.

A callas baguette from the gay bakery in Le Marais and warm St. Marcellin - our favorite cheese! Paris, France.

Goat cheese at a fromagerie. Paris, France.

An appetizer dinner at our apartment. Paris, France.

A lox plate Molly assembled for breakfast. Paris, France.

$5 ice cream after roughing the crowds at the Eiffel Tower. Paris, France.

Beautiful little cakes. Paris, France.

Drinking wine out of baby bottles at the fondue place in Montmartre, Refugees du Fondus. Apparently you don't have to tax wine (or don't get taxed?) if it isn't served out of an actual glass. So, I guess the baby bottles were creative problem solving. Paris, France.

Fondue at Refugees du Fondus. Paris, France.

Revolution chocolates marking the 40th anniversary of the 1968 Paris riots. Paris, France.

Macaroons; these are the best cookies I have ever tasted. Each had a different flavor combination. Paris, France.

An organic cheese vendor at the Sunday Raspail organic market. Paris, France.

Escargot at Le Gai Maison in Le Marais for our last dinner in Paris. Paris, France.

Breakfast that Molly made for our last morning in Paris, all with ingredients we got at farmer's markets. Paris France.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Molly and I returned from a month in Europe and kept track of most of what we ate. Here is the food log we kept....I will post some food photos that Molly took, soon.

Beaune, France. La Part Des Anges.
We went to this wine bar our first night in Beaune. We were really tired after a long day of traveling, but wanted a small snack. Located on Rue d’Alsace, the proprietor at La Part Des Anges was very helpful with his recommendations. We each had 2 glasses of wine and snacked on the complimentary roasted red pepper dip and crostini.

Beaune, France. Maloka Thes & Cafes.

Our first morning in Beaune, we stopped into this coffee shop for a morning coffee. We each ordered a cappuccino and they were amazing. The espresso was sweet, the foam perfect and topped with a dash of cinnamon on top. They were served with delicious twill cookies. The woman who owns the shop was so sweet and spoke Spanish, which made Molly really happy!

Beaune, France. Alain Hess Fromagerie.
This cheese shop along the main square was incredible. It was filled with huge wheels of cheese and tiny pucks of cheese (“truffle sized”, Molly says). There was fresh chevre, fresh burratta and many other cheeses we didn’t recognize. The shelves were lined with mustards, oils, salts and tapenades. In the back there were cured meats and other savory treats. We got 4 different cheeses our first time there, one which turned out being our favorite cheese of the trip, Saint Marcellin.

Beaune, France. Les Trois Epis.
We went to this bakery a couple of times. The first time we got a tarte d’chevre for a late morning snack. It cost 1.70 euros and was damn delicious. It was almost like a quiche, but was very light and seemed like it had more egg whites than yolks. Yum. Later that day, we went back and bought the last remaining epi baguette. It may just be the best baguette we’ve ever had. It was sweet and sticky with a chewy crust. We ate it with all of the cheeses we got from Alain Hess.

Beaune, France. Le Bistrot Bourguignon.

After walking around in the rain for several blocks and stopping at 6 or 7 bistros, we decided that the right one would be the next one we came upon. ---and it was! The décor was the right combination of clutter, low lights and busy-ness and it immediately drew us in. We definitely made the right choice and the food was amazing. It was nouvelle cuisine wit some classics, plus an American jazz bar essence. Everyone seemed like they knew the owners and were VIP, except for us. We started with an asparagus “salad”, which ended up being more of a tart with phillo dough, leeks and cheese. For entrees, Ariel got the beouf bourguignon and Molly had a shrimp salad. Molly’s shrimp salad had mache and grilled succulent prawns. The beouf bourguignon was sweet and rich and served with a delicious scalloped potato dish and garnished with parsley and diced red pepper. We decided to skip dessert, but did get some Prunelle and Framboise eau d’vie to finish off the meal. It was a perfect dining experience.

Beaune, France. Le Bout de Monde (bar).
Ariel had wanted to have a drink at this bar all day and we finally made it after dinner. A cruisey straight bar with couches, we sat at the bar with the goth girl bartender. She seemed to like us, and comp-ed and discounted all of our rounds, 3 or 4 of them, and made a weird and unfamiliar place seem really comfortable. She also brought us a shot, which tasted like some strawberry-vodka concoction that probably contributed to our hangovers.

Beaune, France. Le Marche de Beaune (farmer’s market).
At Les Halles, the covered market, and outside on the street, this market had some of the most beautiful produce we had ever seen. Frisee heads over a foot across, radishes, fresh cheese, bread, olives, etc. Ariel bought a small salami charcuterie made from a local producer. We also bought some candy, cheese and a couple of bottles of wine at Nicolas, which we later realized is a chain wine store that we won’t be revisiting. The candy vendor we found had the strawberry candies that Molly used to eat when she was a kid. She got some even though they had gelatin!

Avignon, France. Rooftop snack at Le Limas.
We made a spread of everything we brought from the market in Beaune. Also, there was a couple at Le Limas who were leaving and they offered us the sauces and spreads that they hadn’t finished. They sauces they left were all local products; green olive tapenade, white wine mustard, tomato confit and anchovy butter. They were all good and great for our rooftop sandwiches.

Avignon, France. Breakfast at Le Limas.
The included breakfast at Le Limas was an amazing spread of yogurts and fruits, baked fruit, breads and cereals, and juices and coffee. There were little baby cups with strawberry jam at the bottom and tangy plain full fat yogurt on top. All topped with crumbled, candied peanuts. There was a baked apple dish like a clafouti or pancake, like a brioche with no flour. Delicious. There were also local fresh baby croissants and toast that were really delicious.

Avignon, France. Les Halles (indoor market).

Open on Sundays, Les Halles is a covered market with over 40 vendors. There were beautiful fish and meat stalls – everything was rich in color and very fresh. Inbetween the bakeries, produce stands and meat vendors were small cafes with old men drinking coffee and beer. The market was amazing, except for the florescent lights that gave Molly a headache-tummyache. Molly photographed and Ariel thought she was taking too long. We bought some tome cheese, which was tangy but firm, a baguette with whole wheat flour and some foraged champignons (mushrooms) in olive oil. Another rooftop meal!

Avignon, France. Café La Scene.

Marion, the proprietor of Le Limas, recommended this place when we asked her about the gay bar down the road (which was closed). She told us to come here and look out for Nicolas, her favorite waiter. She said the cafe was owned by the same person who runs the gay bar. It was torrentially raining as we approached and there was a handful of gay boys in Village People outfits. We drank wine and didn’t wind up eating any dinner besides the tuna spread and crostini that came with our drinks. We had a 12 euro bottle of a dry white wine, but we can’t remember what it was. We had a fantastic time, met Juli and Kevin, then found Nicolas!

Avignon, France. Turkish Kebab Shop.
Next to Les Halles we sat outside and got sandwiches. Molly got a tuna (thon) panini with tomato, mozzarella, and a spicy aioli sauce. Ariel got a massive kebab pita with lettuce, tomato and ketchup. It wasn’t great food, but Ariel was craving protein.

Marseille, France. Moroccan Boulangerie.

The proprietor was a very chatty Moroccan man and wanted to marry an American woman in order to move to the USA. He had a thing for Molly. We ordered a potato croquette that had turmeric, peas and onions and he gave it to Molly for free. He warmed the croquette up in the oven and gave it to us hot and it was delicious.

Marseille, France. Open Market.

On the same street as the boulangerie was an open-air produce market. All of the vendors were North African and were much nicer to us than we anticipated since we’re Americans. The produce was cheap, but kind of worn out looking. We bought some oranges. A half a block up the street we bought bananas from a mean looking man who turned out to be really sweet.

Marseille, France. Le McDonald’s at Vieux Port.
So we are stupid Americans, as it turns out. We were desperate for eggs, after days of bread and jam for breakfast. What we got was dumb, but did include an egg. What was impressive is that they have a tagine burger, a croque “mide”, salad nicoise and chocolate soufflé on the menu!

Marseille, France. Mezzo di Pasta.
Fast food chain pasta place that was full of teenagers on lunch break. We got take out fusilli with arribiata sauce and emental cheese for 4.50 euros. On the menu are 6 pasta choices and 10 different sauces to select from. The sauce was a little bit watery, but it was good for a cheap lunch.

Marseille, France. Salaadin, Moroccan Market and Spice Shop.

This Moroccan shop was around the corner from our hotel. We went in intending to buy some cheese and found burlap sacks of spices, crates of dried fruit and nuts, candied citrus and a lovely proprietor. We wanted to take a photo of the store and he insisted on being in the photograph with us!

Marseille, France. Ferry Café.

We passed this café while we were walking around during the day and decided to come back for a happy hour drink. The space had a cave like interior, but had a lot of modern décor. We ordered 2 Pastis and got an appetizer plate with crostini. The appetizer plate had olives, tapenade and carrot sticks. We should’ve stayed at the Ferry Café and ordered a sandwich and another round. Molly is severely sorry about that meal and have not yet lived it down.

Marseille, France. Le Galion.

This may be the worst meal either of us have ever had. Juli from Avignon told us that all of the food on the port was crap and we didn’t listen. We didn’t listen because we wanted to eat on the port. Why? Because we’re tourists. We really want to try and forget how bad this meal was and just let it rest. Unless you like canned green bean salad for 12 euros, this is not the place for you. The wine was perfect. C’est parfait!

Athens, Greece. Akti.
This taverna was exactly what we were hoping for. We got there early for dinner, around 7pm, and it was sunny and clear. We sat outside right on the water. Victoria ordered fried calamari, fava dip, eggplant dip (melatsana), greek salad, grilled octopus, fried haloumi (saganaki), and fried small fish. We also got 2 small bottles of ouzo. The Greek salad was amazing the tomatoes were bright red and sweet and the green peppers with such intense dark green color that almost looked like poblanos. The eggplant was smoky and the fava was great with a little lemon on top. The little fish were delicious, but were larger than what we thought we ordered. We were told we would be able to just eat them like French fries. They ended up being more like the size of sardines, but were still tasty. We ate the fish heads (for the first time), but couldn’t eat the entire fish as we had thought. At the end of the meal the owner comped us some halva, unlike anything we had ever had, kind of grainy inch tall squares that were lighter that the dense and greasy halva we grew up with.

Athens, Greece. Café Lodos (under the Acropolis).
After walking around the Plaka, we were looking for someplace to have lunch under the Acropolis that wasn’t too touristy. We found this place and sat outside with a great view. We ordered cheese croquettes, Greek salad, baked shrimp in tomato sauce, marinated octopus, eggplant dip. The eggplant dip was really smoky and woody. The croquettes were perfect circles about 1 inch across and were delicious. It tasted like feta and another cheese mixed with minced roasted peppers and herbs (oregano?). The shrimp were delicious and the sauce was perfect for dipping bread into. While eating the shrimp, Molly said: “Oh, there are capers in the shrimp dish. Oh, wait, that’s an eyeball.” We had a couple beers with lunch and then as we were getting ready to pay, the owner sent out 2 big beers for us on the house. And molly broke the ouzo bottle all over her crotch, which sucked.

Parikia, Paros, Greece. Distratos (aka: “flip, flip, crispy).
Ariel used to go here for breakfast all the time when she was in school at the Aegean Center. She nicknamed it “flip, flip, crispy” because they would serve sunnyside up eggs and undercooked bacon. She would describe “flip, flip, crispy” so they would flip the eggs and cook the bacon longer. We all ordered flat omelets that were very greasy, but good and only cost 4 euros. There was beautiful outdoor seating filled with families and feral cats, that was pushed up against another restaurant’s outdoor seating.

Parikia, Paros, Greece. Aligaria.
On Easter Eve, we were walking around with Anne Meade trying to find a good taverna to have dinner at. We had dinner on the earlier side (9:30pm) and were told upon entering this place that we had to be gone before the Church crowd arrives. We agreed and came inside and were surprised to find the woman waitress was from Los Angeles. She, Amy, married the owner and moved to Paros and had a 1 year old daughter who was at a nearby table with her grandmother. As soon as we sat down, Amy brought us a carafe of red wine on the house. A good start. We ordered saganaki, tzadsiki, fried calamari, marinated/grilled mushrooms with lemon, lamb meat balls in tomato sauce, a stuffed pepper and marinated artichoke hearts with lemon and dill. Everything was delicious. The saganaki (fried cheese) was crispy on the outside and salty cheese on the inside, drizzled with lemon its just delicious. The tzadsiki was so good we got a second order. The mushroom caps were juicy and earthy with a hint of grill flavor. The lamb meatballs had great flavor and the tomato sauce had a hint of cumin and a little bit of heat. The artichoke hearts were amazing. Three large artichoke hearts with some of the stem attached, in a light sauce of olive oil, lemon and dill. Molly had a stuffed pepper and said it was delicious. This was a great meal; tons of food and great service. There were three of us eating and the total was just over 30 euros!

Parikia, Paros, Greece. Hibiscus (wood burning oven).
The first night we ate here we were drunk and starving. After arriving on the ferry we went straight from our room to the Church of a Hundred Doors for the rose petal ceremony. Hibiscus was a dream- we had the most amazing pizza and salad. It was 2:45am when we left and there were still families eating! We went back, again, for our last night on Paros. We ordered the summer salad, 4 cheese rigatoni and grilled octopus. The grilled octopus was amazing, finished with olive oil and lemon. Molly thought it tasted like shrimp and chicken combined. The rigatoni dish was tasty, the pasta was aldente and the sauce was rich. The summer salad used to be Ariel’s favorite when she used to come here. It has lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, corn, cheese, onions and cucumbers. All salads are served undressed with oil and vinegar on the side, so you can add to your liking. Everything was delicious and the family who run the restaurant are really nice and make you feel comfortable.

***Notes on Greek coffee:
Traditional Greek coffee is dark and sludgy. Nescafe is more popular with kids, it seems. Frappe is the cold & whipped version… very, very frothy. Every time you order a coffee or frappe, they bring you an ashtray and a glass of water, which Molly loved. When you order an espresso, they bring you a little packaged cookie.

***Notes on our various Greek picnic lunches:
Somehow, they have the most amazing red and green peppers in Greece—both on Paros and Milos. The red peppers are long and narrow like they may be spicy, but they’re just perfectly sweet with the most amazing blood red color all the way through their flesh – like the red poppies! The light green peppers look like anaheims, but they’re just sweet, too. Anyway, we’ve been getting fresh bread & feta & olives & peppers. Also, cans of dolmas, giant beans and an occasional baklava. You can buy giant beans & dolmas 3-can packs at the grocery store for a couple euros. For breakfast- yogurt & honey. Only “total” yogurt, though, the “delta” was gross.

Adamas, Milos, Greece. Marianna’s.

We had a rough (long) ferry ride and arrived in our crappy studio/hotel room that we had rented. We needed a warm welcome and that’s what we got at Marianna’s. The food wasn’t great, but our server was sweet. We ordered the Marianna’s salad, fava & tzatziki. The Marianna’s salad had mizithra & feta, small salted fish, tomatoes & cucumber. The fish were the same ones they use for small fry, we think, but kind of tasted like anchovies. The fava was bland and the tzatziki was garlicky. BUT, then our sweet waiter brought out the milk pie, compliments of the house. This concoction of condensed milk, philo dough, lemon and cinnamon was absolutely delicious!

Adamas, Milos, Greece. Aktaion (Café Pizza).

We came here last night and had ouzo and meze here. The meze of sausage, bread, tomato, cucumber & olives was great and they played the most hilarious gay American music on the radio. We came here in the morning for greasy omelettes and again that night for pizza and salad. They had a large outdoor seating area with seats for at least 50, that was handled (slowly) by one waiter. They always had soccer games projected on a large screen.

Mandrakia, Milos, Greece. Medusa.
Ariel had the hangries and we spotted the only taverna in Mandrakia. We got frappes, a stuffed pepper with spicy soft cheese and a Greek salad with terrific tomatoes. It was May Day and there was a large family on the water barbequing and blowing off fireworks. Medusa had a Belgian beer selection that Ariel had read about on Matt Barrett’s website. We had a great view and ate lunch overlooking the water.

Adamas, Milos, Greece. Artemis Bakery.
We think this was the best spinach pie we had in Greece. We got a cheese one and a spinach one the first day for the beach and then went back the next morning and got 2 spanikopita for breakfast. They were the spiral kind and were so delicious! The outside was slightly crispy and the inside was spinach and cheese.

Athens, Greece. Akti (again).

This time we got the right small fried fish and they were absolutely amazing. I think we agreed they may be our favorite thing we had the entire trip. They were and inch or two long and tasted sweet with a crunch like fries. The calamari was even better this time, lightly battered and super sweet. We also got the eggplant dip, again and a Greek salad. Everything was perfect and delicious.

Brussels, Belgium. Café Metropole.

This café is an institution and is connected with our hotel. Waiters were bowties and vests and the prices reflect the grandeur of the place. After a long travel day, we wanted to go out for drinks, but not stray far. We ended up sitting outside for hours and sampled 6 different beers. It was a great place for people watching and they had great little pretzels to snack on.

Brussels, Belgium. L’express.
Just off the Grand Place, that was full of touristy restaurants, we found this perfect Lebanese place with outdoor seating. Ariel got a meat (lamb) brochette served with really smooth hummus, lots of parsley and a few tomatoes. Molly had a falafel platter with 5 falafel and cabbage and shredded carrots with a tahini sauce. It also had canned corn and came with pita bread. The service was awesome and sweet. The food was terrific and cheap. Perfect falafel that were crunchy but light. Yum. Bad burps, though…

Brussels, Belgium. Hotel Metropole Room Service Breakfast.

Staying at a 5-star hotel, it seemed like room service was the only way to go. Forgoing the 28 euro continental breakfast of coffee, juice and croissants, we opted to order 2 poached eggs on toast and a cheese omlette for 16 euros. Ariel made a last minute decision to get bacon, too. The tray showed up with a full bread basket and fresh butter wrapped in paper. The butter was sweet and Molly thought it tasted like dessert. Molly couldn’t get enough of the butter! She even saved the rest and brought it to Paris with us.

Brussels, Belgium. Waffle Stand.
The really nice Iranian guy gave us a discount on the fresh, sticky, sweet waffle with strawberry jam because we are from California and the weather there is good like in Iran. We expected a crispy waffle and got this gooey, doughy thing with caramelized sugar from the waffle iron. We were so glad we got it, because we almost walked right by.

Paris, France. Le Fournil de Mouffetard.
The bread that changed Molly forever. A crust covered in poppy, sunflower, flax and sesame seeds, but with a sweet and sticky perfect sourdough inside and a few seeds in the interior of the bread. It was hot when we got it and we ate most of it while walking and had to go back and buy another. They cost 1,20 euros.

Paris, France. Home Cooked Meal, 1.
We bought ravioli from a great Italian market/deli at the end of Rue Mouffetard. Ariel also got some incredible charcuterie from the same place a couple days later; speck, coppa and milano salami. Anyway, they had an assortment of fresh ravioli and we got an assortment of olive and arriabiata flavors. Ariel made a simple sauce with a few fresh tomatoes, olive oil and a touch of lemon. We tossed the ravioli in the sauce and topped it with fresh basil and parmesan. Yum.

Paris, France. The Gay Bakery.
Pierre, the building manager for our apartment, recommended this bakery to us. Located on Rue Saint Merrie, just a few blocks from where we were staying, we made it there our first evening in Paris. The “callas” baguette was another life changing bread experience. A baguette that has been twisted, but maintains its long slender shape. Dusted with flour on top, the bread had a chewy crust and was sweet and sticky inside.

Paris, France. 404, Moroccan restaurant.
This place was recommended by 3 or 4 different sources, so we went to Andy Wahloo next door for happy hour cocktails and then went to dinner here after. We heard it was inexpensive, but the prices didn’t seem that way to us. We ended up ordering 2 dishes and a bottle of white wine from Morocco (20 euros). The fish pastilla was delicious and crispy, but inauthentically crispy according to Ariel- like it had been deep fried. It almost had a crab cake flavor. The vegetable tagine that we heard was delicious was not. Pretty bland, with pieces of orange, potato, peas, carrots, green beans and a thin sauce. The best part of the dinner was the plain cous cous, tiny little pieces of it, as fine as sand. The dessert was also uninteresting, but we did see Lucy Liu with a table of gay boys and the waiter had a thing for Molly and gave her passes to a club. The atmosphere and décor here were really lovely, though, and its obvious that a lot of thought and time were put into creating it.

Paris, France. Chartier Restaurant.
This place also came recommended several times but was actually awesome! Set back from the street in a little courtyard in Montmarte, it was a classic bistro food hall kind of atmosphere. We got a carafe of white table wine for 7 euros and escargot to start. The escargot were piping hot and totally delicious, served traditionally with persillade on top and fresh bread. For his entrée, Byron got the steak tartar served with an egg yolk, diced onion, capers and a vinegarette. It was a little bit intense, but he liked it. Molly got a vegetable plate with white beans, spaghetti, marinated mushrooms & potatoes. Despite being worried that ordering a vegetarian plate at a classic French restaurant was a bad idea, Molly liked it. Ariel got a frisee salad with lardoons and it was delicious. Everything was tasty and kind of basic/old school French cuisine.

Paris, France. Refuge des Fondus (the fondue place).
After hanging out at the Sacre Coeur for sunset, Byron wanted to take us to the “weird, clown, fondue place”. Inside were two long tables cramped into one small room. The seats were shoulder to shoulder and those on the outside, against the wall, had to literally climb over the tables to get out. The walk to the bathroom forces you to walk through the kitchen and witness the giant wheels of cheese and gigantic vats of fondue bubbling. There are 4 items on the menu: cheese fondue, oil fondue, white wine and red wine. We ordered cheese fondue for 3 (we tried to order just for 2, but each person has to buy a portion) and a round of white wine. The wine is brought out in baby bottles, which creates an interesting atmosphere. *Just found this: “Paris imposes a tax on wine in this savvy entrepeneur serves the wine in…baby bottles!” Oddly, you can drink wine really fast through a baby bottle. They first bring you an appetizer plate with small piles of cheese, meats, olives, etc., which taste like cubed up lunchables. The fondue comes in a huge bubbling caldron. We wouldn’t say the quality of food was great here, barely good, but the atmosphere is fun and you’re forced to interact with your neighbor. There was a college/foreign vibe.

Paris, France. Home Cooked Dinner, 2.
Almost everything we made came from the market on Place Monge; 3 mystery fish fillets (bass?? – we couldn’t communicate with the fishmonger!), a large bunch of white asparagus, green garlic, leeks, green onions with bulbs attached, bread, cheese. We made a sauce of leeks, green garlic and green onions, which we simmered with olive oil, white wine and lemon and served over the pan seared fish. We roasted the asparagus in the convection oven with a little bit of green garlic, olive oil and white wine. We assembled a salad with organic greens, tomato, carrot and cucumber with a homemade vinegarette. To pan sear the fish, we dipped them in an egg wash and then pressed them in breadcrumbs that Molly made from a stale baguette. We seared them to get a crust on the outside and then finished them in the convection oven. Using these appliances we weren’t used to, we thought we had ruined dinner, but didn’t and everything was amazing!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Jack Falstaff, June 6, 2008

My friend, Peter, and I wanted to go out to dinner for Dine About Town and decided to try Jack Falstaff where neither of us had been. Our reservation was at 7:45pm on a Friday and although the restaurant seemed empty when we arrived on time, we had to wait in their "lounge" for 10 minutes until our table was ready. While we waited we both ordered the basil gimlet, which were delicious. We were seated in a corner and I was overshadowed by a large rubber plant. The decor was drab; browns with dim lighting and very little art or decoration with a backdrop of smooth jazz. It definitely lacked the flair and yuppy atmosphere we were accustom to. After looking at both the regular menu and the Dine About Town menu, we decided to order off the regular menu that had several interesting sounding dishes compared to the dumbed down Dine About Town menu.

Peter selected an Oregon pinot noir. I will add the name when I remember it! We started with the Baby Romaine Hearts "Caesar", a sort of deconstructed Caesar salad. It came on a long rectangular plate with three small piles; grated parmesan with an anchovy on top, small romaine heart pieces with a garlic dressing, and a halved tempura soft boiled egg. I guess the idea was to allow the diner to assemble their own bites to taste, and it was actually quite delicious. For $11 the portions seemed substantial and they split the plates for us. Next we had a cheese plate, $15: Laurel Farms goat cheese stuffed in a squash blossom & pan seared, St. Andre cheese wrapped in philo dough and fried, and some cherries sauteed with a sour cherry sauce. This dish was tasty, but kind of lack luster compared to everything else we ordered. Following the cheese plate, the Pan-Seared Sonoma Free Range Quail which had 3 pieces of quail wrapped around artisan foi gras with an apricot marmalade. This dish was delicious and very well balanced. We thought this richness of the fois gras was perfectly cut by the tart flavors of the apricot marmalade. The portion was substantial for an appetizer and a good value at $14. We noticed there was roasted bone marrow on the sides list and couldn't resist for a mere $6. The same dish at Bar Tartine is at least twice that much. A piece of toast with some marrow was a great segway into dinner. For our entree we ordered the Handmade Egg Fettuccine
Braised Beef Oxtail & English Peas, for $22. This dish was really delicious and we both finished our bowls despite feeling stuffed at this point. The pasta was wider than traditional linguine and had ridged edges. The oxtail was rich and much leaner than I remember oxtail being last time I had it and the peas added a nice sweetness to cut the richness of the dish. For dessert we couldn't resist the homemade yeasty donuts with three sauces; creme englais, raspberry and dulce de leche. This was in indulgent and delicious dessert. We watched other tables eat their donuts to finish their meals and couldn't help ourself.

At first I thought our server was going to be stuffy, but he got much more comfortable with us and ended up being good. The overall service was excellent; water was always refilled, table was cleared promptly, food was spaced out well. The crowd was more problematic; a mix of an older conservative crown and young financial types. It definitely isn't my scene and I probably won't return, but we both really enjoyed the food.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Toad in a Star!

Lately, Molly and I have been really into making "toad in a hole" for breakfast. I know there are many other names for this (egg in a frame?), but you basically cut a whole in a piece of bread and crack an egg into it, fry & flip. We had a fresh loaf of uncut sourdough bread from Acme Bakery. I was feeling creative and remembered that I had a star shaped cookie cutter. I cut two thick pieces of toast (the thicker the better--- these were maybe 3/4") and made a hole using the cookie cutter. Served with a few slices of a perfect avocado and this was a delicious breakfast!