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.

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

Recipes from Craftsman and Wolves: Apple Gruyere Scone, Cocoa Carrot Cake with Cocoa Crumble


Several recipes from my favorite bakery, Craftsman and Wolves in San Francisco, have been published on-line.  These include a previous iteration of the cocoa carrot muffins, in cake form, and a sweet-savory apple gruyere scone.  Both are delicious and definitely worth doing.  I am hoping for the pear-yuzu croissant, the Rebel Within, and Valrhona chocolate chip cookie recipes to someday be published.  Note to Chef William Werner: cookbook, please!

Cocoa carrot cake recipe here

Apple gruyere scone recipe here

Other William Werner recipes on-line:

– Thai scones and Chocolate coffee eclair on the Starchefs site here.

– several recipes on Food and Wine, including chocolate peanut butter shortbread sandwich cookies recipe  here.

– update December 2014: C&W made it to the cover of the annual Bon Appetit Christmas issue with five recipes for Christmas sweets!  Link here.  And, the Valrhona Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe was finally published in 7×7 magazine here!

Craftsman and Wolves, part IX


Pear and yuzu croissant

Pear and yuzu croissant

Okay, I am not sure exactly how many times I have been to this bakery, but it’s a lot (see here and here).  They put up three new items on their Tumblr/Instagram feed last week – the morning bun, gingersnap quince cube cake, and, yes, I will drive up to San Francisco to try the Thanksgiving dinner pop-tart.  The best item I tried this was actually the pear and yuzu croissant.  A buttery, flaky croissant filled with roasted pear and bits of yuzu citrus, adorned with a candied almond sculpture.  Brilliant and delicious.

Craftsman and Wolves Autumn 2013


Apple & coconut tart — vanilla, rye palet

Apple & coconut tart — vanilla, rye palet

What I love about Craftsman and Wolves is their constantly evolving, seasonal menu.  Some things never go off the menu (Thai scone, Rebel Within) while other new creations pop up and then are gone (come back, banana cube cake!).  William Werner’s team comes up with really creative pastries that are a compelling reason to come back again and again and again… Some recent updates:

root vegetable croissant made with harissa butter

special Halloween cube cake: pumpkin, cocoa nib, praline

chocolate choquette — dark chocolate, passion fruit cream, shaved black sesame

tarragon and almond cake — grapefruit confiture, sable

apple & coconut tart — vanilla, rye palet

Link to Craftsman and Wolves website here.

Link to previous post on Craftsman and Wolves here.

Restaurant Review: AQ (San Francisco, CA)


I really liked AQ, a fine dining restaurant in San Francisco run by Chef Mark Liberman that changes its menu as well as its decor each season.  The tasting menu is delicious, highlights local and seasonal ingredients, exhibits the chefs’ technical expertise (without being only about technique), and is not unreasonably priced (relative to other restaurants in San Francisco).  One outstanding dish among many was the rainbow trout, seared on one side to make the skin crispy while keeping the fillet perfectly cooked.  It was served with a smoked trout cream, potatoes, and a swiss chard “jam” with pickled swiss chard ribs.  Well-balanced and delicious. The braised root vegetable was really transformed by braising in red wine.  It is paired with a cassoulet of boar confit, beans, and a sweet prune jam.  The desserts are unique and creative, including a sorbet that tasted of pure apple and a dessert that straddled the line between sweet and savory, with thyme, olive oil, and olives.  One disappointment was the truffle supplement.  Three slices of shaved truffle that did not add much flavor or aroma to an otherwise great dish of black walnuts, wheat berries, and oats in an aromatic mushroom broth.  Service was very professional, and they even kindly sent out a complimentary chocolate birthday cake.  Chef Liberman was expediting at the pass in front of an open kitchen and brought over and explained several of the dishes and answered questions.  Overall an excellent meal in an elegant setting with outstanding service.  Definitely recommended.

On a side note, over the past several years, many menus are being written in a style where a dish is not described in terms of preparation but simply as a list of ingredients.  This style puts the focus on the ingredients and de-emphasizes technique, but often leaves the diner puzzled about what they are actually going to get when the food arrives.  I kind of want to know what I am going to get, but on the other hand some people like being surprised.

Link to AQ web site here.

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