Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Jeremy Iggers bids adieu

Jeremy Iggers, food critic for my hometown newspaper, the Star Tribune, and fellow college alumnus, writes his final restaurant column today.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Stop at the Depot

Today, Karen and I enjoyed an extended weekend as we took our first days off from work in quite a few months, going back to our vacation to Hawaii. We decided to take advantage of the off-day by paying a lunch visit to Swan Oyster Depot (1517 Polk Street; 415-673-1101), the venerable San Francisco dining establishment located in Polk Gulch.

We have been talking about going there for quite a while, as we are both fans of oysters and seafood in general. However, they are only open until 5:30pm on weekdays. During the weekends, they are closed on Sundays and usually have a line out the door and down the block all day Saturday. Fortunately for us, with the cold and rainy weather today, the line was very short. While we waited outside the door for the noontime crowd to empty out, we admired today's assortment of seafood through the front window.

While we stood in line, we saw a number of people coming by to pick up some fresh seafood to go, choosing from a wide assortment of fish and shellfish that included lobster, Dungeness crab, smoked salmon, clams, scallops, shrimp, and mussels. Of course, there was a variety of oysters as well.

After a short wait, a few spots opened up in the twenty some-odd stool counter that constitutes the dining area of the restaurant. We saddled up to the worn white marble-topped bar, which looks like it dates back to the restaurant's opening in 1912. Unfortunately, the bar stools felt like they were just as old. After a quick perusal of the large menu hanging on the wall behind the counter, we decided to start with an assortment of raw oysters. Since they had seven different types of oysters in today, we decided to order two of each. Within a few minutes, we were presented with an ice-lined tray of freshly shucked oysters:

The bar was filled with all of the accoutrements that we would need for our dining experience: lemon wedges, Tabasco sauce, oyster crackers, and grated horseradish that we could use to spice up the cocktail sauce that our server handed to us in a shrimp cocktail glass.

The oysters were wonderful. Our server listed off the types of oysters to us, which we promptly forgot, though I seem to recall some of them were Blue Points, miyaki, and Kumamotos. Though the oysters varied in taste, all of them were fresh and full of briny flavor (which is a good thing!). After polishing off the oysters, we both ordered a bowl of the clam chowder. Karen also ordered a seafood cocktail and I opted for the combination louie salad.

The chowder came steaming hot in large bowls. The consistency was a bit thinner that what I'm used to in a clam chowder, but it was flavorful and a nice soup for the cool and rainy weather today. Karen's seafood cocktail varied from the more common shrimp version by including Olympia oysters and lump crabmeat, all smothered under a generous amount of cocktail sauce. My salad was made from a huge portion of bay shrimp, prawns, and lump crabmeat heaped on top of a bed of iceberg lettuce layered with louie sauce. The seafood in the cocktail and in the salad was fresh and very tasty. Both the salad and cocktail were quite good and filled us up. Nevertheless, we decided to finish off the meal with a "dessert" of our favorite oyster from the raw bar, the Blue Point.

The food at Swan Oyster was very good, especially the freshly shucked oysters. The next time that I go back (and I definitely hope that there will be a next time), I might end up just ordering raw oysters. The service was quite fast and the people very friendly. During our lunch, we were helped at one time or another by every person working behind the bar. It was a nice dining experience and one that I hope to repeat soon.

Now, if they would only do something about those bar stools...

The Newest Health Food

Pizza! Read about the health benefits of America's favorite fast food.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Karen's Herb-Roasted Chicken

Tonight, my sweetie gave me a night off from cooking by taking over the kitchen and making her herb-roasted chicken. Adapted from an NPR recipe, her chicken dish involves taking a whole roaster, stuffing a compound butter underneath the skin, and roasting it on a bed of potatoes. Earlier in the day, we picked up a Rocky Jr. chicken from the local Whole Foods Market (on sale for nearly half-off!). We were actually looking for a 3 lbs bird and were surprised that we couldn't find anything smaller than the 5 lbs one that we picked up.

After washing out the chicken and patting it dry, Karen loosened the skin and stuffed an herb butter made with fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme between the skin and the meat. She reserved some of the butter to rub over the skin of the chicken and stuffed a cut lemon into the cavity. We put the chicken breast-side down into a roasting pan on top of a bed of halved new potatoes and threw it into a 475º F oven. We roasted the chicken for an hour, dropping the temperature 25 degrees every 15-20 minutes and flipping the chicken over partway through the process. Our patience was rewarded:

To accompany the chicken and potatoes, we chopped up some red chard and sauteed the greens with garlic and red pepper flakes. The results - some good eats!

Coming to the Bay Area... Tyler Florence

My sweetie pointed out an article about Tyler Florence's upcoming move to the Bay Area. A national pitchman for Applebee's and the host of several shows on the Food Network, Florence is in discussions with the Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group about managing one of the company's many restaurants in the Bay Area. The list of local Kimpton restaurants include Fifth Floor, Kuleto's Trattoria (where I dined last Friday), Ponzu, Scala's Bistro, and Grand Cafe, the latter two both lacking an executive chef at this moment. According to the article, Florence also has potential opportunities at some of the major hotels in the area that are revamping their restaurants, including the Hilton, Marriott, and the Westin.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Travelocity's Top 10 Destinations for Foodies in 2007

Travelocity recently listed its top 10 favorite destinations for food lovers in 2007. The cities on the list are (in alphabetical order):

  • Barcelona, Spain

  • Boulder, Colorado

  • Charlestown, South Carolina

  • Las Vegas, Nevada

  • London, England

  • Montreal, Quebec

  • New Orleans, Louisiana

  • New York City, New York

  • Rome, Italy

  • San Francisco, California
I've had the good fortune to live in two of the destinations on the list and can attest to the wonderful food scenes in both cities. In addition to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I currently reside, I spent a number of years in Boulder trying to become a mathematician. Regarding these two cities, Travelocity says:

It's no secret that Boulder is about as eco-friendly and earthy as it gets, but what may come as a surprise is how the recent addition of urban dwellers has led to a more sophisticated and trend-setting approach to organic dining. Take The Kitchen Cafe for example, which offers an eclectic menu with superior organic ingredients, but moreover, is completely green-they even compost all of the kitchen scraps and use wind power. On top of this green approach, Boulderites have access to some of the country's finest boutique ingredients, such as hormone-free Colorado lamb, local cheeses, and even organic microbrews.

San Francisco:
Alice Waters is credited with changing the way Americans eat, and now her local, seasonal approach to cuisine is now an integral part of San Francisco's venerable restaurant scene. With Wine Country vintages at hand, Bodega Bay oysters on the half-shell, and Northern California's bounty, visitors are able to try ingredients they wouldn't have access to at home. As if that weren't enough, the City by the Bay is a hotbed for artisanal products, such as Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam cheese, McEvoy Ranch olive oil, and Scharfenberger chocolates, all of which can be found at the foodie mecca known as the Ferry Building.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Staying Sharp

A couple of weekends ago, I took my two favorite kitchen knives (an 8" Wüsthof Classic Cook's Knife and a 6.5" Kershaw Shun Classic Santoku) for a long-overdue sharpening. On the recommendation of several people on the Good Eats Message Board, I brought my blades to Perfect Edge Cutlery in San Mateo, located about halfway between San Francisco and San Jose.

The store is well-known in some Bay Area culinary circles as the place to go for knife sharpening. I had to drop off the knives and pick them up later in the week, as they only do the sharpening work in the morning before the store opens. When I came back to pick up the knives a few days later, I took the opportunity to test drive a few of the many blades they have in their vast inventory. The salesman to whom I spoke was very knowledgeable (at the very least, he knew that my German and Japanese knives have different sharpening requirements, which is more than I can say about the folks at the high-end culinary shops that also provide sharpening services), friendly, and helpful. Overall, I was very pleased with the shopping experience and the job that they did reshaping and sharpening the knives.

Of course, the proof of their workmanship came across when I used the newly sharpened blades to take apart a pineapple. Both of the knives cut through the tough outer skin of the fruit like a hot knife through butter. The Shun felt especially good - it was like getting my hands on a brand new knife. I'll definitely go back to Perfect Edge for my future knife sharpening needs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

And the winner is...

...a Bay Area chef! The nominees for the 2007 James Beard Foundation Awards were announced earlier this week. All five nominees for Best Chef of the Year in the Pacific Region, which encompasses California and Hawaii, are from the Bay Area. Four of the chefs, Traci Des Jardins of Jardiniere, Roland Passot of La Folie, Craig Stoll of Delfina, and Michael Tusk of Quince are from San Francisco. The fifth nominee is Douglas Keane of Cyrus, which is located in Healdsburg, which is just a pleasant afternoon drive north of the City in Sonoma County.

Also, Nate Appleman of A16 was nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year. Nancy Oakes' Boulevard is up for Restaurant of the Year and Thomas Keller of The French Laundry (and Per Se, Bouchon, and Ad Hoc) is a finalist for the Outstanding Restaurateur award.

My sweetie and I have had the good fortune to be able to visit many of the restaurants listed above (Quince, Cyrus, Delfina, A16, Boulevard, Bouchon, and Ad Hoc) and look forward to visiting some of the others in the future. The San Francisco Bay Area is undoubtedly one of the most fantastic locations in the world for foodies like us.

Monday, March 19, 2007

For those of your with some cash to burn...

Introducing... the Caviar Pizza. Perhaps I should order one for delivery, using my Gold Vish "Le Million" cell phone, of course. I imagine that it would pair nicely with a Martini on the Rock. I just want to have something simple, like pizza, after that dinner the other night in Bangkok.

Finally! Another post!

Wow, has it been nearly a month since my last post? Where has the time gone??? As you might suspect, work has gotten in the way of blogging once again, but the good news is that the project on which I have been working since my very first post is coming to a conclusion. I just need to tie up some loose ends and package up my work and it'll be done. Hopefully.

As it has been my habit, I spent another week in Europe, courtesy of my employer. Work kept me holed up either at the office or in the hotel for a majority of my stay, so I was not able to enjoy the German cuisine in Heidelberg. However, I was able to escape one evening for a fine home-cooked meal at the home of Thomas and Charlotte. Despite being overwhelmingly busy themselves, Charlotte and Thomas hosted a wonderful evening for me and my colleagues and gave us a chance to decompress after a long and very tiring week. I shall hopefully get an opportunity to return the favor soon.

Oh, I might have to take back what I said earlier about airline food. The dinners in the cattle section on my flights were basically inedible. Perhaps our friends at United could just stick to two breakfast services. The breakfast croissants were not only edible, they were in fact quite tasty - for airline food that is.