Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A quick San Francisco post

I found myself recently in San Francisco for two meals with very little time for planning. The first was breakfast, and the spot chosen by my host, my old friend was Brenda's French Soul Food at 652 Polk Street in the Tenderloin. It was jammed for breakfast, even on a Friday morning. We started with a "flight" of four beignets: Chocolate (molten ghiardelli chocolate center), Apple and cinnamon, plain, and crawfish with cheddar and scallion. After half of each one, I was full. Each one was perfectly crisp on the outside, and perfectly balanced and delicious on the inside. Even the plain one had a deliciously airy center.

Of course, the meal did not end there. I had to continue with an andouille and cheddar omelette with mushroom, potato hash and a fresh, enormous southern biscuit with butter and homemade jam. I practically needed to be rolled out by the end of the meal, but man! What a delicious meal.

Not surprisingly, i didn't feel the need to eat again until dinner, where I found myself downtown, alone and with time to kill until my redeye home. A quick ipad Zagat search (the wonders of modern technology) confirmed the hunch I had walking by Tadich Grill on California street and peering in the window. It claims to be California's oldest restaurant with the strapline: "the original cold day restaurant 1849." I have no idea what that means, but The place oozes character and tradition. The long cavernous room is largely occupied by a huge rectangular bar - one of my favorite ways to eat solo. There are some tables nestled into cubilcle-like nooks built into the left wall. Also, the seven or eight seats at the bar facing the front window are reserved for those drinking only.

At the eating portion of the bar, old world waiters with eastern european accents, white coats, and a familiar surliness greet you and offer suggestions as requested. Cold beer is plentiful. I started with the suggested dungeness crab cake which was not over fried, With a healthy amount of meat to filler. It appeared to have roe in it. Two sauces, one tomato based (like a thousand island) the other akin to a tartar sauce. While it was tasty, it was not particularly notable. That was in stark contrast to the main course, the Cioppino.

They apparently are famous for it, and it's easy to see why. A huge bowl of pungent vinegary broth accented with tarragon and loaded with fresh seafood, garlic bread perfectly saturated with oil and garlic right amount of crunch. The scallops in particular, which are notoriously easy to overcook, were firm and plentiful. It was nothing short of superb. There was an upsell side of steamed asparagus that was average and should be missed. I'd get the Cioppino and a salad if I did it over again. And I undoubtedly will.

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