Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Foodie's Weekend

Last week was another long and tiring one at work, culminating in a ten hour whiteboarding session on Friday. After wrapping things up around 7pm, I headed up to San Francisco to spend a nice, relaxing weekend with my sweetie Karen away from the rigors of work. We hadn't set any dinner plans, but since we were both pretty hungry by the time that I got up to the city, we wanted something that would not require a long wait. I had been thinking about chicken wings, so we first tried San Tung, a Chinese restaurant in the Sunset District known for their dry-fried wings, but the mob of people waiting outside sent us looking for an alternate venue. I wasn't stuck on getting wings, so we decided to shift gears. Neither of us had eaten sushi in a while so we drove north toward one of our favorite sushi places, Sushi Bistro. My girlfriend imposed a strict twenty minute wait limit, but luckily we arrived at a lull in the action and found our seats almost immediately.

Once again, we were not disappointed with our choice. We ordered a couple of their speciality maki rolls, the Spicy Crunchy and the M&L Forever. Both of the rolls were very good, especially the Spicy Crunchy, which was served with a flavorful sauce, but they played second fiddle to the nigiri we ordered. We got some unagi (tasty as usual) and an order of butterfish nigiri, which was served with a little pile of chopped scallions that gave the moist fish a refreshing note. My sweetie had wanted to order some baby yellowtail, but they ran out before we got there, so we decided to substitute in some tuna belly. Not satisfied with a single selection, we ordered not one, not two, but three different types: albacore belly, yellowtail belly, and, our favorite, o-toro. All of the three orders of nigiri were great, especially the generously portioned one of o-toro, which just melted away in your month.

After a much-needed night of sleep, we decided to take advantage of the absolutely fantastic weather (70 degrees Fahrenheit in the middle of February!) to take a long walk down from Alamo Square to the Ferry Building Marketplace, which was holding one of its weekly farmers' markets. Coincidentally that morning, our friend Delphine was there helping out with a cooking demo presented by Staffan Terje, the Swedish-born chef/owner of Perbacco, a trendy Italian restaurant that opened in the Financial District last fall. We arrived too late to see the demo of the pan roasted squid appetizer, but Delphine slipped us a small tasting. We caught the tail end of the preparation of the milk braised pork shoulder with cabbage and polenta, and enjoyed a sample of the tasty and tender dish. While waiting for Delphine to finish her work, we wandered around the Ferry Building and checked out some of the farmer's stalls:


Delphine met up with us for lunch at Mijita, Traci Des Jardins' restaurant in the Ferry Building celebrating her grandmother's Mexican heritage. Karen and Delphine munched on some crunchy chicken tacos, while I went for the chorizo con huevos.

Not wanting to waste an opportunity to be outside in such gorgeous weather, Karen suggested that we invite some friends over for a backyard BBQ that evening. Of course, we had zero grillable food items on hand, so after finishing lunch, we headed back to my sweetie's place and grabbed my car to do some grocery shopping. We weren't up for doing anything that required too much preparation (since we didn't have a whole lot of prep time in the first place), so we decided on grilling burgers and sausages, being sure to include some of Wisconsin's greatest contributions to the culinary world, the Cheddarwurst. To round out the menu, we put together a simple fennel and orange salad with a light vinegarette dressing.

Unfortunately, by the time that we got back from the store, cleaned, and prepped, the fog had started to roll inland and the temperature had dropped quickly (as it commonly happens in SF), so I got the ol' Weber Kettle going. Since I didn't have a chimney handy, I opted to use MatchLight instead of Kingsford, so I needed time for all of the igniter to burn off. The coals were ready just as our guests arrived. By that point, it was simply too cool (and foggy) to eat outside, so we grilled up the meat and headed indoors. The food was very yummy - there's nothing like meat that's been grilled over an open fire. We had a great evening camped out around the kitchen table with a great group of friends, enjoying the pomegranate vodka cocktails that were being prepared with great zeal by Liam with supplies brought over by Tesha and Jeremiah. We finished our meal with some Mexican chocolate ice cream that we picked up at Mitchell's earlier in the afternoon.

On Sunday, we started out the day with a hearty breakfast using leftovers from the previous evening: a Cheddarwurst, smoked sausage, and egg scramble served on a toasted hoagie bun - not exactly the healthiest breakfast but sure tasty. It was quite a large breakfast, but we needed a meal to tide us over until dinner because we were heading to Ad Hoc (6476 Washington Street, Yountville, 707-944-2487), Thomas Keller's new "temporary" restaurant that he opened down the street from Bouchon and the world-famous French Laundry in Yountville. Our dinner was to start at the unusual hour of 3:00pm, which was the only opening when my sweetie made the reservation earlier in the week. (We were joking if we should call this meal "dunch" or "linner".)

We were having a lazy day and, since we were in no hurry, we started on our drive to Napa in the early afternoon. We thought that it would be nice to check out a winery before we had dinner. Fortunately, my sweetie remembered that Domaine Chandon is located right next to Yountville so we decided to have a glass of sparkling wine there before dinner. Our friends Jeremiah, Tesha, and Liam were also heading to Napa Valley, so we coordinated our plans and met up for some bubbly.


Even though the weather was a bit cloudier and cooler than the day before, it was still a gorgeous day. We hung out for a while on the patio of Domaine Chandon with our friends, enjoying the sun and the unseasonable weather. As 3pm rolled around, we said goodbye to our friends and made the very short drive to Ad Hoc.


There is only one, prix-fixe menu available on a given day at Ad Hoc. Everyone basically gets the same four course meal: a soup or salad course, the main entree, a cheese course, and a dessert. (I imagine that they must make some sort of accommodation if you have food allergies.) We had the following meal:


Our dinner started with a Basque style potato and leek soup.

The soup, like the entree that followed, was served family style. The soup portions were enormous - there were five bowls of soup in that earthenware container for two people! The soup was very tasty, though a touch oily (from the sausage I suspect). My sweetie did note that it might have been better to have a salad instead of a soup, given how warm it was outside.

Next came the main course: braised duck with dried fruits and nuts, served with pearl barley and spinach.

This was my favorite course. The skin on the duck was crispy, reminiscent of duck confit that I had on Rue Cler in Paris, and the meat was almost fall-off-the-bone tender. The fruit and nuts were a nice match to the savory duck meat. Again, the portion was huge. By the time that we were done with this course, we were getting quite full.

After the entree was cleared away, we were presented with the cheese course.

My sweetie had read on Yelp that one of the things to look for was the cheese and honey plate. We were a little disappointed when our cheese platter came sans miel, but the quince paste went very well with the goat's milk cheese. Both my girlfriend and I are amazed how differently cheeses taste when they are accompanied by different things like dried fruits and honey.

Finally, though we certainly did not need another course, we were served a ginger and date cake with cinnamon whipped cream.

Though I'm not a huge fan of dessert, this cake was great - very moist and not overly sweet. The whipped cream was very good too - the amount of cinnamon was just right.

After gorging ourselves, we took a sunset stroll down Washington Street, walking by some other well-known restaurants such as Redd, Bistro Jeanty, and the other two Keller restaurants in town. It was a fabulous end to a fabulous weekend.

4 comments:

charlotte said...

Hey, I know those people! Now I just need to meet you, Loren ...

Sounds like a dream foodie weekend. A friend of mine makes quince paste similar to what you had at Ad Hoc and delivers it to my home in truckloads, so much do I and my children adore it. We don't even bother with the cheese, just snack on it alone.

Loren said...

Charlotte, I hope that we will get a chance to meet during one of the many trips to the Continent that I expect to take this year.

Tesha said...

The BBQ was hopping, the bubbly was bubbling, what a wonderful weekend!

I've had that quince paste delivered to you in truckloads and I can attest to its fabulousness, especially with cheese.

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