Sunday, January 31, 2010

Best Brunch in SF? Mission Beach Cafe . . .

I'm taking nominations for the best brunch spot in San Francisco. I know, it's a contentious question. But there are two criteria for nominations that make the task harder than you think:
1. If the wait is 2 hours plus on the weekend, don't even bother
2. Tell me about something new. None of the same Foreign Cinema, Mama's, Dottie's, etc.

I have one place in mind. It's fairly new on the SF brunch scene, and a welcome addition: Mission Beach Cafe. The spot is cozy and unassuming, tucked into a residential street corner in the upper Mission. The simple decor serves as a nice canvas for the food, which is spectacular. Prices are also reasonable here - you can get a (giant) mimosa and a delicious dish for $20-25. And the services is welcoming and warm, with bits of hipster mixed in.

Did I mention the MBC mimosas? These ain't your normal orange fizzes. They offer an entire mimosa menu, with exotic options like tangerine lime, pomegranate, orange cranberry and more. The juice is fresh and delicious, the alcohol graciously poured, and the size is GIGANTIC. You may have trouble walking out of the restaurant straight. . .

But the highlight here is undoubtedly the brunch food. Everything we had was delicious. The menu at MBC is full of heartwarming, hearty food that retains a touch of class. Truffles with home fries, french toast with lavender, sliders of ahi tuna and caviar. You can see for yourself on the menu.

I had the eggs benedict with wild mushrooms and spinach. The standard hollandaise was substituted with a better, lighter sauce made with bravo farms white cheddar. The english muffin was freshly made. And a Saturday special: the kitchen kindly topped the dish with a hearty shaving of truffle. It was delicious - light and fluffy eggs, earthy spinach that was perfectly (and barely) cooked, and a sauce that was divine. Refined and deeply satisfying, I'd take this upscale benedict dish over the usually clumsy and heavy original any weekend.

By the way, I should mention that MBC has an amazing menu all week round. In fact, you may see their Pot Pie Tuesday featured on here sometime soon. . .

Mission Beach Cafe
198 Guerrero Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Try Tilth

I've eaten at Tilth three times in the last 6 months. And I don't even live in this city. It's that good.

It's also one of only two totally organic restaurants in the country. And by that I mean it's the second restaurant in the country that has been certified by Oregon Tilth (a major organic research and education center). The food is exquisite and earthy - a New American that tastes wild, fresh and warm all at once.

Chef Maria Hines has put together an impressive kitchen, with constantly changing seasonal product that comes from the best local vendors. You'll eat things here you've probably never had anywhere else. Like halibut cheek. I had it off the menu back in June and was surprised that such an ugly fish could produce something so lovely. Buttery and tender, the unusual cut was moistly cooked sous-vide and balanced nicely with the light sauce and potatoes served on the side.

You'll also get some seriously earthy dishes. I had a carrot risotto in December that sang of an organic vegetable garden, incredibly sweet and tangy. And a spot prawn dish (these critters were flown in from Alaska's Sylver Fishing Co.) that had oceanic, sweet and umami going on at the same time; you could practically taste the cold Pacific they came from.

The front of house at Tilth is pretty special too and makes for a wonderful experience. The restaurant is a cozy converted house in a calming green. And each time I've eaten there, the servers have been friendly and welcoming, and extremely knowledgable. I love servers who can make educated recommendations, hinting at the taste experience each dish holds rather than restating the obvious.

Next time you're in Seattle, check out Tilth.

1411 North 45th Street
Seattle, Washington

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

One Bite Stand: check it out!

A friend of mine is undertaking a most daring culinary adventure. She's committed to trying one new food item for every day in 2010 - 365 new things!

Follow Claudia's quest, and help her along with some strange (preferably delicious) suggestions on her site, One Bite Stand.

Some highlights of her list so far:
- Pimms (but Claudia, you have to do it with lemonade, strawberries and on an Oxford punt in the springtime!)
- Tofutti ice cream sandwiches (surprisingly palatable...)
- Quinoa (thank you, Peru)
- Fun dip (nostalgia for my childhood)