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September 18-23 , 2006
I noticed that they were serving little pizzas with a choice of several toppings at the Vicolo company stand during the Ferry Building Farmer's Market. These are preassembled, organic, cornmeal-based pizzas that use natural ingredients and no preservatives. The people who work there are very nice and are interested in producing a high quality product. The 5” goat cheese pizza ($5.95):
... with roasted peppers and herbs wasn’t my thing. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad or anything. I must have a corn intolerance (as far as pizza goes) but I could see how there would be those who would differ.
The surefire way to get the best chow is to eat what the insiders eat. Taylor from the Fatted Calf is often seen with a plate of huevos, tortilla chips and beans from the Primavera stand. How could we ignore this tacit testimonial?
Chubby got the Chilaquiles ($9.00):
This plate of lightly cooked scrambled organic eggs, refried beans, ripe avocado, crema and cojita cheese over tortilla crisps dunked in salsa was fantastic. Crunchy, creamy and delectable. Chubby said that it’s the best of the breakfasts he’s had at the market to date.
They had two different kinds of beef brochettes from Prather Ranch and Marin Sun Farms. It was time for a Pepsi challenge.
A herbaceous marinade complemented these meat chunks well. While raw, the Prather had a redder appearance and more regular marbling. After they were cooked and rested, we dug into both flavorful umami skewers. Although we thought both were delish, the Prather chunks had a balance of flavor that tipped the cow scales in their favor.
I poached some Marin Sun Farms eggs ($6.00 per dozen) to sauce asparagus:
...and rolled some herbs ($1.00 per bunch) into noodles:
... (made with those same eggs.)
A good day at the Market.
Later in the day, I was horrified to discover that Christmas:
... has officially begun. What is up with this?!
San Francisco Ferry Building
About once every decade I go to CJ’s Chinese Restaurant. It was warm enough to sit outside on their back patio and down a beer while waiting for the impossibly slow progression of dishes to emerge from the kitchen.
The most impressive thing about the potstickers ($6.75):
... was the paper ornament jammed into the middle dumpling. They had the requisite browed bits, but were bland and generic.
The wor wonton soup eventually arrived ($6.75):
... with the cut corner of containing wonton wrappers that weren’t actually wrapping anything. They were just floating around loose. I guess that saves a step in the kitchen, but the whole point of this soup is that it contains meaty Chinese ravioli. Very strange.
The Moo shu shrimp ($11.50):
... was accompanied by apologies for its tardy appearance. The plum sauce with scallions enhanced the bamboo shoot, cabbage, and egg mixture in this sea‘ritto. It was okay, but nothing to Moo about.
By the time our (nothing special) broccoli with oyster sauce ($8.25) and rice arrived, we asked for it to be boxed up for the road.
I felt bad for our waiter. He was bringing
the order as it came up, but there were multiple phone orders that
gummed up the works and all of his tables were waiting on their chow
for extended periods of time. I guess I’ll check out the changes
in another ten years.
C J Chinese Cuisine
Paper or Plastic?
I like the idea of paper straws a lot. They have that unprocessed, Amish-y closer to nature feel that their plastic counterpart lacks. In their candy form, they contain a sugar powder that is a sort of Sony-my-first-cocaine pixie dust experience. But when it comes down to sipping, they suck.
I arrived early for my lunch meeting so I ordered some iced tea at the Zuni café bar. Recalling past straw experiences there, I requested a plastic straw. Sadly, this wasn’t an option. I support the concept of wanting to stand by your aesthetic, but if that’s the case they shouldn’t offer chemical effluent additions for beverages. I know, I know, people would riot without their little yellow, blue and pink packets of toxins masquerading as sugar and the straws don’t seem to bother anyone in their quaint, nostalgic way. But these devices are a throwback. Their sentimental value does not trump my desire to have my delicious beverage reach my parched tongue.
The way that they slowly collapse and spring leaks, squirting small surges of liquid on the table (like it’s the fountain attraction at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas) does not please me. They are also wasteful. Sure, they biodegrade faster than their plastic cousins (they start to biodegrade the moment they are used) but the number of them that our table of three plowed through over lunch was non-trivial (they refresh beverages with two new straws with each refill.)
Straws may seem unnecessary, but when you have a clump of ice lurking at the bottom of your glass and all the cubes are conspiring to loosen simultaneously to create a tidal wave of tea, you don’t need a reminder that they are not a luxury item.
It’s difficult to shed a comforting concept in favor of a soulless, plastic, extruded item, but when it comes to this matter, I drew the short straw.
Most of the restaurants near San Quentin have two strikes against them. There is a Thai establishment that has no malicious intent, but most of the line up is suspect.
The Bay Café:
... isn’t that cheesy KRON 4 show, it’s a sandwich and coffee place down the road from the Marin Rod and Gun Club (BTW, why can you put a gun club next to the prison yet not allow posters near a polling sight?) This breakfast and lunch place is in a handy location if you are on your way to the FedEx office (to ship your rods or guns…or clubs)
What this small, stealthy eatery lacks in signage and curb appeal it makes up for with personable service. One of the owners made sure to greet all of the customers and guide them through the simple menu of sandwiches, soups and salads.
I got the grilled “Roast Beef Parmesan” ($6.45):
... which looked and tasted like it had sliced mozzarella instead of Parmesan. The ciabatta roll was crisped in the panini maker until the faux-mesan was melty and the (ever so slightly grisly) beef was heated though. The red pepper relish added a good acidity. I would have liked it even more with a handful of rocket, but that’s just being picky.
I ordered a large Philz coffee ($3.00) which they grind and brew to order. It’s fancier than my preference (with spices and a mint leaf) but I’m sure they won’t mind if I ask for a no frills version next time.
Don’t expect this simple sandwich shop to use heirloom tomatoes or organic meats, but do expect friendly and accommodating service. I plan to return to try their house made muffins and scones when I’m in the area in the a.m. They are only open on weekdays and if you are in a hurry it’s not a bad idea to phone in your order (since the hot sandwiches take about ten minutes when it’s not very busy.)
The Bay Café
We got to catch up with our pal A at CAV over some wine and snacks tonight.
The yellow brainy looking cauliflower ($7.00):
... was dotted with capers and draped with Orca sized golden raisins. It was mildly seasoned and would have been even better amped up with some hot pepper, (but it was still good.)
Tempura battered okra ($8.00):
... were deep fried to achieve a delicate crisp armor to this booger of the vegetable world. The harissa aioli reinforced the oily aspect of the dish but they were fine without adornment (although a touch greasy.)
Haricot verts ($7.00):
... were served in a brown butter vinaigrette with toasted, slivered almonds. These were simple and good.
The medical benefits of the lentil cake ($7.00):
... aren’t high enough to keep me from scratching my head about this dense, beany, hokey puck. The vegetable slaw couldn’t lighten up this preparation - reminiscent of those that I made in my backyard in my infancy (but to be fair, CAV’s probably still tasted better than mine.)
The best dish was the ahi ($11.00 for small):
... which was seared and fanned out with garbanzo patties on a bed of tasty stewed eggplant. The sprinkling of crispy chickpeas seemed redundant in this nicely executed dish.
The cheeses can be purchased in various configurations. We got the three cheese plate ($16.00):
... with the Manchego, Brunet and San Simeon. Upon further reflection, I would have subbed out the Manchego with a blue cheese, but it was still a great cheese plate laden with figs, dates, walnuts, almonds, apple slices, honey and dried apricots.
The people who work here are accommodating and know their stuff.
This is a great setting to chat with a friend while munching
on small plates and washing it down with some interesting wines.
CAV wine bar and kitchen
Boulettes Larder in the San Francisco Ferry Building has all sorts of items with which to stock your larder or your pie hole (if you are into immediate gratification.) You can grab a meal or head straight for the sweets. BL subscribes to the extended pinkie school of desserts, but if you look beyond their girlie nature, there are some winners among them.
I got some Hello Kitty sized cookies (.75¢ each):
The salted peanut cookie was a chewy, nutty, sodiumy winner. I was less fond of the soft textured, chocolate chip (my personal preference runs toward the crisp ccc) and the chocolate dipped macaroon (which could have profited from larger coconut bits for more dimension.) The chocolate brownie cookie delivered the goods. I liked this rich and dangerous combo which was appropriately sized to avoid instantaneous cardiac arrest.
The carefully constructed tartlettes ($3.75 each):
... both had crumbly, buttery, freshly filled shells. The kaffir lime meringue had a passion fruit curd that verged on cloyingly sweet, but the pink pearl apple had the perfect tartness against the artfully placed candied hazelnuts and blueberries. Delish.
From today’s bunrab email, Roger writes:
I want to say I love reading your blog as my wife and I are new in town. Your new find menu feature put you over the top as it is easy to check your site to find what we might be looking to eat that night.
Great idea and keep the good reviews coming.
I’m glad you are finding the new feature handy. Thanks for the encouragement.
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