Toque of San Francisco Spring 2009
Dining on the Embarcadero has definitely been enhanced with the addition of arguably one the Best Steakhouses in San Francisco. The Epic Roasthouse which has been open for just over a year now has great steaks and offers even more! Restaurateur Pat Kuleto, Chef Jan Birnbaum and Managing Partner Pete Sittnick have assembled a winning team in this fabulous location which was built for more than $10 million. We were warmly greeted as we entered and were seated by the windows with views of the San Francisco Bay, Bay Bridge, Treasure Island and the East Bay Hills. Our view also included being able to look back into this stylish restaurant as well as watch the world go by on the Embarcadero. We loved being able to see the designer dogs, joggers, bicyclists, skaters, strollers and some lovers who needed to get a room!
As we settled in, we were impressed by how well designed and open the restaurant was with both booths and tables spread out and how comfortable our chairs were. Our waiter was soon at our table offering us still or sparkling water. We opted for Seltzer in the squirt bottles which reminded us of the 1930’s. He then told us about the three types of Salts which were on each table .The Himalayan Pink , French Salgree Grey and Volcanic Hawaiian Black were all great on the steaks. Our well paced, enjoyable meal began with an excellent starter, the Beef Tartare which came with traditional garnishes parsley, aioli, capers and red onion. It was fantastic and if we had only had this excellent starter, we knew we would definitely be coming back. The other starter that we loved was Jan B’s warm Wood Oven Roasted Chili Squid Salad with white beans, olives and tomato confit.
Next it was time for the Main Courses. Our favorite entrée which will stack up at the top of any steak in The City was the Petit 8 oz Filet of Beef. This Filet Mignon is dry aged for 28 days and was prepared perfectly Rare Plus as ordered and was the best we had in quite some time. It was tender, juicy, a WOW of a steak. The JB Cut 10 oz Epic Prime Rib was also delicious and healthy. We also enjoyed the sides especially the Sautéed Spinach which was delicious.
Wines were paired with each course and we particularly enjoyed the Joseph Phelps Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Just when you thought that things could not get better it was time for Dessert. You must have the Beignets with Bicerin Café au Lait which was just magnificent. a true New Orleans sensation. Espresso served in cups that caress your hand was the perfect finish to a memorable dining experience. The Epic Roasthouse is beyond your typical Steakhouse. The cuisine is traditional, back to basics but with modern interpretations that allow the fabulous flavors to come through and be enjoyed. We were told that the exceptional ingredients came from local ranchers and farmers. The décor is upscale, the view is spectacular and the service was excellent. As we watched the sunset and the East Bay Hills light up from our perfect table by the window, all we could think of was how very civilized our dining experience was. We look forward to coming in soon for dinner or their current Lunch Special which is a rib eye, tenderloin and New York Strip ½ lb Epic Burger with a Beer and Brownie Combo for $20.00.
Just when you thought there were enough great restaurants in Yountville along comes Chef Michael Chiarello who is the Emmy Winning TV Host of Easy Entertaining on the Food Network and his fabulous Napa Style Italian Cuisine. Bottega Ristorante was an instant success which we discovered when we were unable to get seated on our first visit without a reservation. Undaunted, a few weeks later we did make a reservation for a late lunch and are glad we did. The wine country décor with brick walls, beamed ceiling and an open exhibition kitchen is fresh and inviting. We were seated along the wall at a comfortable table with a view of both the kitchen and the main dining room. Our dining experience soon began with Schramsburg Sparkling Wine which was served by their knowledgeable General Manager Joel Hoachuck. He continued to pair wines with each course and told us that the wines which are primarily from local and small production wineries are chosen by their beauty by committee.
We started with excellent Antipasti which was called Green- Egg and Ham. This olive oil poached Delta asparagus with crispy soft-boiled egg, prosciutto bits and Cambozola crema was unique and delicious. Next, we had the Wood Grilled Octopus with olive oil braised potatoes, pickled red onion and salsa verde. Another starter that you must have is the deliciously light and fabulous Burrata which is a creamy filled fresh Mozzarella with artichoke two ways, lemon braised and crispy. It was time for our Pasta course and we could not have ordered two more delicious choices. The Ricotta Gnocchi, salsa di pomodoro Della Nonna , pecorino was so light and sweet. It is homemade daily by the chef each morning rolled on their marble table. The Wild Nettles, Swiss chard & ricotta Tortelli, sage browned butter and pine gremolata was deliciously nutty and al dente.
The Secondi were also incredible entrees. We loved the Smoked and Braised Natural Short Ribs with preserved lemon spinach and smoky jus. They were so tender yet crispy. The Wild Alaskan Halibut in Cartoccio with grilled and braised artichokes, Kalamata olives, tomato puree with capers and sweet onions was light and flaky. Both had perfect presentation and taste.
Our favorite Dessert was the Vanilla Panna Cotta with Cabernet Caviar. It was over the top delicious. A close second that you must order when you get your Entrée because it takes twenty minutes was the Chocolate- Almond Molton Chocolate Cake with hazelnut crème anglaise and caramelized hazelnut. It was not too rich and had great chocolate flavor. As we lingered and enjoyed our wine we couldn’t help but think about the wonderful cuisine and excellent time we had. Chef Michael Chiarello with Chef DeCuisine Nick Ritchie has truly created a special restaurant that features bold Southern Italian flavors with Napa flair.
Bottega Ristorante Napa Valley
Amador County located in the Sierra Foothills is a great place for a weekend get-a-way since it is only a two hour ride from San Francisco. Known as the Gold Country, this historic area has tours of old gold mines from the 49er days, sweet towns for antiquing, picturesque rolling hills, wineries and upscale dining. We stayed overnight at The Foxes Inn of Sutter Creek www.foxesinn.com which was lovely, comfortable and served a fabulous breakfast. Our room, The Honeymoon Suite, overlooked the beautiful front garden with everything in bloom, which we enjoyed from our private porch. We asked our host where to dine and her recommendation was Taste in nearby Plymouth for sophisticated dining in the Gold Country. Restaurateur Tracey Berkner and her husband Executive Chef Mark Berkner have a passion for food,feature fresh, seasonal local ingredients and offer a memorable dining experience. The décor is very inviting with red interior, pendant lighting, hardwood floors and nicely spaced tables where you can choose to visit or not.
We began our dining experience with their locally baked fabulous hot bread with walnuts which was crispy and chewy. It was so good that the next day we went to Andrae’s Bakery in Amador City to buy a few loafs to take home. Our first courses were Small Tastes. The Grilled Wild Mexican Prawns made with mizuna, soy ginger vinaigrette, winter fruits, cilantro salsa Verde was a lovely presentation and had an excellent spicy seasoning. We also enjoyed the Mushroom Cigars made with fresh herbs and goat cheese wrapped in phyllo with crimini, shitake and oyster mushrooms. Our favorite starter was the Seared Sonoma Foie Gras with Sake glazed pineapple, pink peppercorn cracker and blueberry ginger reduction. We both had the Sonoma Artisan Crispy Duck Confit Large Taste Entrée with Fennel dusted fingerling potato, goat cheese timbale, dried cherry compote made with port. It was so tender with the consistency of carnitas that we knew we would definitely order it again and again. Local wines from Amador County were paired with each course which added to our excellent experience. We particularly enjoyed the 2007 Amador County Sauvignon Blanc and the 2005 Tomei Barbera.
Our waiter told us that Amador County law requires that you to at least look at the dessert menu and we succumbed to one Sweet Taste which was a delicious House made Vanilla California style Cheesecake with hazelnut graham cracker crumble and blueberry sorbet. We had a great dining experience and can see why Taste was recently voted Top 50 by Open Table www.opentable.com. Look for their second restaurant which will be a Gastro Pub in nearby Volcano to open later this year!
Open for about a year now Waterbar is a welcome fun addition to the San Francisco dining scene. It is right on the Embarcadero with great Bay views and features fabulous fresh seafood. Restaurateur Pat Kuleto and Executive Chef Mark Franz created this wonderful restaurant with its modern playful décor including huge fish tanks in the dining room and casual outdoor patio dining. Both indoor and outdoor dining allows you to enjoy watching the world go by including sailboats, joggers, walkers, skaters and incredible Bay Bridge views. We chose a table by the windows overlooking the Bay where we could also see back into the restaurant and enjoy watching the chefs prepare our meals in the exhibition kitchen. We ordered sparkling water and received suggestions from our knowledgeable server. Baked Oysters were our first course. We enjoyed both the Smoked baked oysters with bacon and spinach as well as the fabulous Truffled Leek baked oysters which were a WOW! Next we had another fabulous starter the Local Sardines with grilled roasted tomato sauce, green garlic, mint and toasted levain. These were the best sardines we had experienced and the presentation was perfect. The Sea Scallop Cerviche which came with sweet potato, smoked salt and paprika oil was light and refreshing. We also loved the Mediterranean Octopus Carpaccio with Meyer lemon and crispy baby artichokes. The soups are called Lovin Spoonfuls for a good reason. You must have the Maine Lobster Bisque which consists of large chunks of poached lobster, Meyer lemon, Chantilly and tarragon. The presentation was superb and the fact that it was served tableside with uniquely shaped soup spoons made it just heavenly.
The Entrée that we really loved was the Maine Skatewing which was seared with potato gnocchi, wild ramps, and morel consommé. It had great flavors and texture. You must also try the sides as both the Savoy Spinach with citrus gremolata and the French Fries with parmesan and black pepper were tasty. Waterbar has an extensive wine list and their Sommelier Jennifer Knowles paired wines for us with each course which made our dinner even more enjoyable. We particularly enjoyed some of her unique choices including the 2002 Mosel Riesling and the 2008 Innocent Bystander Moscato Rose. Espressos and dessert arrived as the sun was setting and the evening lights began shimmering on the bay. We lingered and enjoyed the Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta with fresh strawberries and gingersnaps which was excellent. Waterbar is a Winner. The cuisine was innovative and excellent and they take pride in using sustainable seafood and local ingredients. They also have a knowledgeable, friendly, sweet staff who gave us great service and recommendations on both food and wines. San Francisco locals are encouraged to dine more often as there is a Down-The Line Prix Fixe Menu which including Wines from $20 per bottle.
Union Street in Cow Hollow dining just got better with the addition of Nettie’s Crab Shack which is an Old School Fish House. You can’t miss it as there is a 60 Foot Palm Tree in front. The Executive Chef Brian Leitner honed his skills at Chez Panisse.
We started out with drinks which included a New England tradition. The Cape Codder made with cranberry juice and Grey Goose vodka reminded us of fun times on the Cape in Provincetown, Massachusetts. To start you must try the fresh, just shucked Raw Oysters which come with a tasty light minuette sauce. Next we had a near perfect New England clam chowder, with smoked bacon. It was lighter than most and we loved the taste and consistency. Another fabulous starter that was surprisingly was not too rich was the piping hot Crab & Artichoke gratin with cheese toasts. The steamed mussels with fatted calf chorizo and herbs were very plump and tender. We really enjoyed our salad as well which was a Baby lettuces salad with excellent banyuls vinaigrette dressing with cracked pepper.
The Main Attraction is their Crab Feed which includes a Steamed Whole Dungeness Crab with drawn butter, lil artichokes, boiled potatoes and skillet cornbread. We got our bibs, extra napkins and our tools to crack the crab and we enjoyed the challenge of this full contact meal. The 2007 Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc paired perfectly with the Crab Feed. Espressos, pudding with warm cookies and Pineapple Upside down cake was the perfect finish to this meal.
Nettie’s Crab Shack with its New England Country Décor, festive outdoor seating, great food and a fun and friendly atmosphere is a great choice for fresh crab, seafood and excellent drinks.
Nettie’s Crab Shack
We always appreciate being invited to dinners where Chefs try out new dishes on us and welcome our feedback before they put them on the menu. McCormick & Kuleto’sExecutive Chef Liz Ozanich’s Halibut Dinner was one such recent occasion. The First Course was their Halibut Gravalax with potato galette, American Black Caviar, herb salad, and crème fraiche. It was paired with Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noir. The Second Course were Halibut “Fries” that were Katafi wrapped with tarragon aioli.
This was a particularly innovative presentation with light shredded phyllo. It was paired with a 2008 Nobilio Sauvignon Blanc. The Third Course was Porcini Dusted Halibut Cheeks with Braised Iacopi Farms Gigante beans and white truffle oil. It was paired with 2006 Cambria Pinot Noir. The Fourth Course, our favorite overall, was the Halibut Confit with Picholine Olive Relish, Tomato Concassee and County Line Farms white radicchio. It was just perfectly prepared spicy and flaked. It Paired with 2005 Kenwood Zinfandel. Dessert and Coffee included Ghirardelli Chocolate Ganache Tart with pecan crust and candied orange zest. We look forward to coming back soon to McCormick & Kuleto’s with friends and out of town relatives to enjoy the great view and some of these new delicious halibut dishes.
McCormick & Kuleto’s Seafood Restaurant
Affordable dining is in and there is a perfect restaurant in The City on Geary Boulevard at Parker where you can enjoy the best Vietnamese Noodle Soups called Pho. These soups served in custom made Green Jade bowls with matching hooked spoons originated in the 1880’s when the French colonized Vietnam and brought their braising and simmering techniques. Chef/Owner Khai Duong who is also the Executive Chef at Ana Mandara and graduated first in his class from the Le Cordon Bleu Academie De Paris creates the Pho and other dishes from family recipes. The décor features a 1960’s era Pho Street Cart adorned with colorful depictions of Vietnamese mythology, bird cages and scenes of Vietnam on the walls. We ordered a number of starters which we enjoyed. The spicy and tasty Goi Cuon was a Fresh Roll with Shrimp and Pork which came with an excellent peanut sauce. Next we enjoyed the Cha Gio Tom Thit which is a Vietnamese Crispy Roll with pork & shrimp. The Goi Ca Cuon salmon cerviche roll was another good choice with its hot sauce.
The main attraction is the traditional Pho which is the Vietnamese national soup. We loved the Pho Bo Tai made with rare steak and has a fabulous broth. It comes with condiments including sauces, basil cilantro, red chilies and sweet onions. We opted to add them to the Pho but some prefer to eat them on the side. The Pho is simmered for ten hours and made with Masami Kobe style Wagu beef bones with all natural beef or organic free range fresh chicken meat and alkalinized water, fresh herbs, bean sprouts and fresh made noodles and no MSG. A great entrée is the Ca Kho To which is a traditional caramelized cast iron fish dish. It just melts in your mouth. The wine list is basic but features good choices to pair with the cuisine. We enjoyed the 2006 Domaines Schlumberger Alsace Riesling and the 2008 Whitehaven, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
A Pot of black tea and the Che Chuoi Chien dessert which is Fried Baby Banana with Tapioca sauce was the perfect finish to a great meal at this traditional Vietnamese noodle house where we will definitely come back to.
Pot de Pho
We recently attended a fun gourmet outdoor street fair called the “Taste of Yountville” There were Gourmet tastes from 15 restaurants and 20 local wineries as well as live music. The annual event celebrates Yountville’s place as a top epicurean center which currently boasts 6 Michelin Stars including 3 for the French Laundry and 1 each for Bouchon, Bistro Jeanty, and Redd. Don’t be surprised when even more stars are added next year with the recent addition of Michael Chiarello’s Bottega.
Taste of Yountville
Upcoming Culinary events that you must attend include San Francisco ’s Dine About Town in June www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com/taste/dineabouttown and The Taste of Petaluma in September www. tasteofpetaluma.org
Until we eat again…………
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