Neighbor Bakehouse (San Francisco)


Neighbor Bakehouse is a bakery in the up-and-coming Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco that makes a variety of delicious sweet and savory pastries.  Neighbor excels at pastries with laminated dough, making a wonderfully flaky croissant.  They also have delicious pastries filled with passionfruit creme and chocolate.  Other standouts include the ginger pull-apart and the pistachio croissant.  I was a little disappointed in their country loaf, but otherwise everything is of really good quality.  There is usually street parking available along 3rd Street.  Inside is mostly occupied by the baking area, with a small area for people to choose their goods.  There are picnic tables with benches outside where one can enjoy the treats, but it sometimes gets chilly in this area.  Overall, Neighbor is not just a neighborhood place, but a worthy destination bakery.

 

Tartine Manufactory


Tartine Bakery is one of the best bakeries in San Francisco and for years has operated out of a small, crowded store in the Mission.  Now they have opened a much larger, beautiful new space called Tartine Manufactory about 12 blocks east from the original Tartine.  Manufactory combines a bakery, restaurant, coffee shop, and a soon-to-open ice cream counter.  Compared to the original Tartine, Manufactory has expanded breakfast and lunch options, as well as different pastries and breads.  Tartine bread really is special.  Bread at the old Tartine was available once a day after 430 PM, and now at Tartine Manufactory it is baked three times per day.  When I went on a Friday morning, they told me the first bread availability was 1030 AM, and chef-owner Chad Robertson himself was manning the enormous oven, a centerpiece of the new space.  Tartine Manufactory is in a building that also has a Blue Bottle Coffee and also houses the Heath Ceramics factory and store.  The Heath Ceramics store showcases some of beautiful (and expensive) dinnerware, tile and curated home goods.  This is a really amazing space and a definite new SF culinary landmark.

Link to Tartine Manufactory here.

Restaurant Review: AL’s Place


Chef Aaron London’s AL’s Place is a vegetable-focused restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District that was named Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant in 2015 and has also received one Michelin star.  The menu is divided into snacks (they call them “snackles” on the menu), cold and hot dishes, and meat add-ons, that are all meant to be shared.  One can order a la carte or choose the chef’s tasting menu for $60 (2016) that includes 4 snacks, 3 cold dishes, 2 hot dishes, and 1 dessert.  One can see that a lot of care was put into the conception and execution of each dish, even the “snacks” where I had some amazing figs.  There is a ton of layered flavor, and with the focus on vegetables, meat is really not missed or probably necessary if one orders the 10-course tasting menu.  I went in August, when a tomato and green bean salad showcased these vegetables at their peak flavor.  The style I might describe as new American but there are Southeast Asian (a delicious stone fruit and fish curry) and Latin American (salsa) influences.  Dessert was a very satisfying warm brownie with a gooey caramel-peanut filling, topped with ice cream.  Located in a quieter part of the Mission, the atmosphere is very casual and relaxed.  Highly recommended.

Link to AL’s Place here.

Breakfast in LA: Sqirl, Huckleberry, Eggslut, The Larder


LA has a number of great breakfast spots.  My favorite is Sqirl, run by Chef Jennifer Koslow.  At Sqirl they serve unique grain bowls that are savory, brightly acidic, herbaceous, and deliciously well-balanced.  I really liked their signature dish, the sorrel pesto rice, which comes with tangy goat cheese, pickled radishes and a runny egg.  Another delicious grain bowl is their crispy rice with herbs (add an egg and sausage).  Here in the Bay Area we have $4 toast, and at Sqirl they make an incredible avocado toast with creme fraiche and pickled carrots, and a brioche toast with homemade jam and ricotta.  They also make some specials, salads and sandwiches for lunch, and baked goods (cakes, cookies).  As in LA, one must drive there (on Virgil near Silver Lake), and I have always been able to find neighborhood parking.  There is seating both inside and out, and usually a line (get there early). Several of Chef Koslow’s recipes have been published in a feature in Bon Appetit, and a cookbook will be published Fall 2016.

Another of my favorites is HuckleberryI have been baking regularly from Chef Zoe Nathan’s beautiful cookbook before I tried the actual restaurant, which is a bright and cheerful place in Santa Monica.  They have a display case with all of their delicious baked goods, and one can also order breakfast dishes, salads, and sandwiches.

Eggslut is located in the bustling downtown LA food hall Grand Central Market.  They make egg sandwiches and their signature coddled egg on top of potatoes that is poached in a small glass jar.  Delicious.

I am a big fan of Chef Suzanne Goin and her collection of restaurants in LA.  The Larder, in Hollywood, serves up delicious breakfast fare and baked goods in a casual atmosphere.

 

 

 

 

Bakery Review: b. patisserie (San Francisco, CA)


I had a perfect bite of pastry at b. patisserie recently.  I went to the shop looking forward to getting one of their kouign amman, for which they are justly famous.  I arrived at 5:15 on a Saturday afternoon, and there was a line around the counter.  I scanned the pastries on display at the counter; after a typically busy day there were only a few pastries left, including one lone kouign amman.  Please, no one take it, I thought to myself  Of course, one of the customers ahead of me snagged it, and my heart sunk in disappointment.  Then, disappointment turned to excitement as the person behind the counter announced that more will be coming in six minutes.  Six minutes, and I can taste one fresh out of the oven?  Yes please!  A freshly baked kouign amman from b. patisserie is incredible.  The crisp flaky richness of the outer layers, slightly underdone interior, and warm sweet syrup in the center were at their peak deliciousness.  Don’t get me wrong, a room temperature kouign amman baked that day is still pretty good, but one that is just a few minutes out of the oven?  Perfect.

The store is located on California at Divisidero.  The chef, Belinda Leong, trained with Pierre Herme in Paris and can usually be seen working in the open bakery.  I watched one of the chefs encase an enormous block of butter into some dough, and then use a machine with a conveyor belt to pass the laminated dough through a roller to make perfect layers.  I need one of those!  So much easier than rolling the dough out by hand with a rolling pin!

Restaurant Review: 4505 Burgers and BBQ


4505 Burgers and BBQ 3-Meat Platter

4505 Burgers and BBQ 3-Meat Platter

4505 Burgers and BBQ opened recently along the Divisadero corridor in San Francisco and has quickly become a popular destination.  4505 Meats was established by Ryan and Cesalee Farr as an outgrowth of their interest in whole animal butchery.  They started teaching butchery classes and selling chicharrones.  Now 4505 Meats is establishing itself as a mini-empire in San Francisco, with a butcher store in the Mission selling meats and prepared foods and stands at the Ferry Market Terminal and various local food events like the Eat Real Fest in Oakland, where they sell magnificent sandwiches like “The Fat Bastard.”  I had made a pilgrimage last year to Austin, TX to visit Texas barbecue legends like Frankin Barbecue and John Mueller Meat Co., so I was excited to see how local meat experts 4505 stacked up.

The barbecue menu at 4505 Burgers and BBQ is traditional, with brisket, pulled pork, chicken, homemade sausage (hot or mild), and pork ribs.  I tried a 3-meat sampler platter with their brisket, pulled pork, and hot sausage.  The pulled pork was excellent, moist, and flavorful.  The sausage had snap and a good amount of heat.  The brisket was a lean cut and was very good with a slightly peppery bark.  The brisket did not quite reach the luscious heights of Franklin Barbecue, but was still very well done.  The “sweet and thick” barbecue sauce was really good.

The sides were definitely well thought-out and elevated.  I had the Frankaroni, deep-fried mac and cheese and 4505 hot dogs – delicious.  Well done creamy, mild cole slaw.  Excellent pickles and pickled onions to cut the richness of the meat.  Pillowy soft Parker rolls, slightly toasted and basted with butter.  This is a great barbecue platter!

On another visit, I had the smoked rib plate and thought the smoky flavor and barbecue char on the ribs was simply outstanding.  I have come back for the smoked rib plate, which is my favorite item on the menu.  I also tried the posole, a Mexican stew of meat and hominy garnished with cabbage, cilantro, radish, and lime that is is one of the more unusual options for a BBQ side dish.  This was also outstanding; there was so much flavor in this posole since they use all of the bits and pieces from the various barbecue meats.

On the sandwich side of the menu, they offer what they modestly call the “Best Damn Cheeseburger.”  It’s a very good burger, with melted cheese, lettuce, and onion, on a nicely toasted seeded bun.  Bacon and egg can be added on as extras.  They cure their own bacon, and I am pretty sure they also grind the meat for their burgers.  I had a side of spicy fries topped with chimchurri and lemon parsley aioli, which were good.  Hamburgers are offered at their late night window until 11pm on the weekends (there are several bars as well as The Independent concert venue in the neighborhood).

There is an extensive selection of beers on tap as well as non-alcoholic drinks.  The building is dominated by the open kitchen, which includes the barbecue smoker.  There are about six counter seats available inside, and a fenced off area with picnic tables outside.  Many people eat there, but a lot of people get their orders to go, “Pig in or Pig out” as the sign outside says.  4505 Burgers and BBQ is located on Divisadero in the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco, a block away from The Mill.  Go to both places for a double whammy of great food.  Highly recommended.

4505 Burgers and BBQ, 705 Divisadero, San Francisco

Link to 4505 Meats site here, and 4505 Burgers and BBQ site here.

4505 Burgers & BBQ on Urbanspoon

 

Bakery Review: The Mill (San Francisco, CA)


The Mill toast with apricot jam

The Mill toast with apricot jam

As usual, I am many months late following up on trends, but I finally tried the toast at The Mill in San Francisco.  The Mill is Josey Baker’s bakery where he sells his signature breads and baked goods in a joint venture with Four Barrel Coffee.  They make exceptional bread, using whole grain flour that they grind in-house and naturally leaven with wild yeast.  Their bread is served at some of San Francisco’s best restaurants, like State Bird Provisions and Frances.  The toast became famous among various food sites last year as “$4 Toast” or “Hipster Toast” (see write-up in Bon Appetit for example.)

The toast is made from thick slices of one of Josey Baker’s breads, like the country loaf.  It is spread with a generous amount of salted butter and and various toppings, like their own apricot jam and version of nutella.  I thought it was excellent, satisfying comfort food with elevated artisanal ingredients, justifying the hype and the notoriety.  I also sampled their seeded country loaf, which had a great crust, soft interior, and complex, slightly tangy, nutty flavor.  Their chocolate chip cookie was excellent as well, made with 100% stone ground whole grain flour and a generous amount of high-quality chocolate.  The Josey Baker Bread Cookbook is definitely on my list to get.

The Mill has an open, warm interior filled with light from the skylights above.  There is a long communal table as well as smaller tables and a parklet outside.  There is an open kitchen area where the tattooed baristas, bakers, and cooks work, making the toast along with homemade nutella or jam.  The Mill is located in a great neighborhood along the Divisadero corridor in San Francisco, with neighbors including Bi-rite grocery, Bar Crudo, and 4505 Burgers and BBQ.

The Mill, 736 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA

Link to The Mill website here.

Link to Josey Baker Bread Cookbook here.

The Mill on Urbanspoon

Paris Pastry Walking Tour


Paris Pastry Map

The 6th and 7th arrondissements are home to some of Paris’ finest patisseries.  I recently visited several and have mapped out a suggested route that hits many of them.  One can start with Sadaharu Aoki, who is a master of blending Japanese ingredients with classical French technique.  He has several locations in Paris.  I visited his counter in the Galeries Lafayette food emporium, but his flagship store is in the 6th.  His Millefeuille was amazing – layers of flaky pastry and vanilla pastry cream topped with a thin layer of crunchy caramel.  He also has interesting macaron flavors like yuzu and matcha.  From there, walk to Pierre Herme at 72 rue Bonaparte.  Pierre Herme also has several locations in Paris, but most only sell macarons and chocolates.  The location in the 6th is the only one that sells his pastries, including my all-time favorite, the Ispahan, with rose macaron, lychee, and raspberry.  The Ispahan croissant is also amazing.  The macarons are my favorite as well, especially the chocolate-passionfruit.  They are expensive – a box of 7 in a nice gift box is 18e.  Walk up rue Bonaparte to Laduree.  Laduree is also famous for its macarons, and this location has a tea salon where you can sit and enjoy some pastries.

From Laduree, go to Hugo et Victor on Boulevard Raspail.  I cannot believe I missed it on this trip, but I have read great things about Hugo et Victor.  Then make your way over to rue du Bac, where there is one block that has three incredible shops.  La Patisserie des Reves (the pastry shop of dreams), the jewel-like Des Gateux et du Pain, and opening later in 2014, Jacques Genin.  Jacques Genin’s flagship store is near the Republique metro stop in the 3rd arrondissement.  Jacques Genin makes amazingly creamy caramels in a lot of different flavors.  I like the original and nut variations, and less so the fruity ones, except for the mango-passionfruit which was quite delicious.  They sell for 110e per kg!  A 100 gm bag will get you one of each of flavor.  There is also a Mosaique sampler bag filled with various chocolates, pates du fruits, and caramels, which makes a nice gift for 17e.  The Jacques Genin store in the 3rd has a tea salon, where one can order pastries.  I am hoping that the store in the 7th will have a tea salon as well.  Des Gateux et du Pain might be my new favorite patisserie.  Stunningly beautiful pastries and breads.  Their croissant was perfect.  The pistachio St. Honore was delicious.  La Patisserie des Reves is really unique, with more playful interpretations of the classics – look at their St. Honore, for example.  A branch of Dalloyau is also nearby.

Finally, walk up rue du Bac to Eric Kayser to sit down and have coffee and your accumulated loot from all the other shops, or some of Eric Kayser’s excellent eclairs or a delicious baguette cereale (seeded baguette) and buy some mini financiers (chocolate, almond, and pistachio) to take home (10.50e for 300 gm).  And…since you’re walking a lot and calories don’t count when you’re on vacation, enjoy!

Thanks to Paris Patisseries Blog for a lot of recommendations!

Edit: I think you could do the route backwards as well (starting at Eric Kayser), just as long as you end up at a place that has sit-down coffee service like Laduree or Eric Kayser.

 

Food options in Whistler, BC, Canada


Whistler Village

Whistler Village

Whistler is a great ski resort area in British Colombia, Canada, just two hours from Vancouver.  However, there are limited budget food options.  Here are some places I tried.

Purebread – a good pop-up bakery near Whistler Village Marketplace.  They have a wide selection of breads and pastries.  The apple blondie bar was OK, and the caramelized banana brownie was very good.  The best was the Crack bar, Purebread’s excellent version of Momofuku Milk Bar’s Crack Pie.

Zog’s Dogs – an outdoor hot dog and poutine stand at the base of Whistler Mountain.  Decent, not sure if the gravy on the poutine was home-made or pre-packaged.  Outdoor seating and cash only.

Peaked Pies – Australian meat pies.  Flaky pastry stuffed with various fillings.  The “peaked” version is topped with mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and gravy.

Harajuku Izakaya – bar, restaurant, take-out, and mini Japanese food mart, a block away from the Whistler Conference Center.  Decent, reasonably-priced Japanese food.  I had the udon, which was good, and the chicken karaage, which could have been crispier.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory – a wide selection of candied apples, chocolates, and other sweets

There are some higher end places in Whistler, which I didn’t try.  My advice – ski in Whistler, eat in Vancouver!

Travel tips: Greyhound is an inexpensive way to get to Whistler; much less than some of the other bus services.  Buses depart from Pacific Central Station in Vancouver.  On the return trip, there is a stop downtown at the Fairmont Hotel, which is close to many other downtown hotels.  There is no luggage storage at Pacific Central Station.  A Greyhound agent referred me to the Ivanhoe hostel, a block away from the station, which has left luggage service for $5.  They don’t give out luggage receipts, which I was a little apprehensive about, but I got my luggage back!

Finding great food in Vancouver, part 2


Stanley Park, Vancouver

Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park, Vancouver

Reading through the Vancouver Chowhound message boards (search “itinerary”) led to a recommendation for Kingyo Izakaya. I had their bento box, a great value lunch at $16 with so many different components all beautifully presented. The tamago had shrimp and a delicious sauce. The tuna was excellent. Kingyo only makes ten bento boxes per day, but they can be reserved ahead of time by calling. The salted caramel tiramisu was really good. Kingyo is located on Denman St in the West End, near the entrance to Stanley Park. Tourist tip: Kingyo was a great place to go for lunch before a ~9 km bike ride along the sea wall of beautiful Stanley Park, where one can get amazing views of downtown Vancouver, the harbor, mountains, and Lion’s Gate Bridge.

I had fond memories of poutine ever since a trip to Canada as a kid. A search for “Vancouver poutine” led to many of the good reviews of Fritz European Fry House on Yelp. Poutine originated in Quebec and is traditionally French fries smothered in meat gravy and topped with squeaky cheese curds – a combination that will leave your stomach sated and your arteries clogged. Key components are fries prepared to order and a delicious gravy, both of which Fritz did really well. I liked the addition of Montreal smoked meat, which is similar to pastrami. Fritz is a bit more conveniently located on Davie St, south of the Granville entertainment district, than the Eater recommended La Belle Patate.

Yelp also led to breakfast at the Yolk’s food cart, which was solid. I had a duck confit sandwich with poached egg, spinach, and marmalade on a toasted English muffin. The truffle-lemon hash brown skewers were very good. I must say that trying to eat a hot breakfast from a food truck next to the Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station on a cold, overcast morning in March in Vancouver is not ideal. Yolk’s has a sit-down establishment as well, but it is a bit further out from downtown Vancouver.

Yelp also led to Japadog, the curiously popular food cart with a stand-alone restaurant on Robson Street. I really like fusion (Momofuku, Mission Chinese), but here it seemed a little forced.   Japadog makes hot dogs with Japanese toppings, which sounded interesting and was something I had never had before. One of their popular items is the Terimayo, a hot dog with teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, and strips of nori. After one bite I realized I had made a mistake. Nori and hot dogs do not go together.

Overall, I really liked Vancouver and know that I had just a taste of what the city has to offer food-wise. Having done the research for Vancouver, my experience is that it takes some work to sift through all the noise and deciding which sources to trust. At the end of the day, a consensus usually emerges that leads to great food travel experiences and memories. So take my outsider’s experiences and recommendations with a grain of salt and happy eating!

Kingyo Izakaya – website here

Fritz European Fry House – website here

Yolk’s – website here

Japadog – website here

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