Monday, June 21, 2010

Best Tamale in San Francisco

Taquerias in the Mission are like religious institutions. People prescribe to one or two favorites and tend to follow them dogmatically. And they can be awfully fervent in their belief that their place is the best.

Consider this a revelation, then. The best tamale in the Mission is tucked into a corner place you probably haven't heard of, and it comes in a little plastic basket swathed in . . . plantain leaves.

Bet you didn't see that coming. It's not the standard corn husk cover, and the change in wrapping gives this delicious masa morsel a trademark woody/smokey/herbal flavor profile that is delicious. At the very least, it's a new twist on the familiar, and it works extremely well. Order the chicken mole filling.

The spot, you ask? Taqueria La Oaxaquena, on the corner of Mission and Clarion Alley. And while you're there, order the interesting pupusas (goat cheese and sundried tomato is my favorite) and hot chocolate, too.

La Oaxaquena
2128 Mission Street
San Francisco

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Move Over Cupcakes: Macarons Are Here!

I'm tired of paying $5 for cupcakes. I know they've been the trendy dessert of the day for years, and all the cool kids do it. New York is lined with drive up trucks vending sugary sweet cupcakes, and they've been infiltrating SF too. Kara's, Sibby's, Citizen Cake, we all have our favorites.

But for the foreward-looking foodies out there, I've found the new dessert frontier: macarons. They're bite size, the flavors can be delicately delicious (if done right), and they're adorable. And if you look around carefully enough, you can find some amazing macarons in SF.

What are they? French confections made out of egg whites, almond flour and lots of sugar. They can come in amazing flavors, ranging from nuts (pistachio is my favorite), fruits, flowers and the more exotic (truffle, anyone?).

So where in SF can you get your macaron on? The most common spot would be La Boulange, which has them almost every day in pretty pastel colors. If you're looking for a more artisanal location, check out Paulette in Hayes Valley (see below). The vibrant colors make these bite-size confections look like edible toys - but the flavors are strong and super sweet. Maybe even a touch too sweet. . .

My hands-down favorites are the macarons from Christopher David in Bernal Heights (see top). They are delicious. The textures are perfect - the shells are airy and chewy. And the flavors are creative, with combinations like strawberry lavender, or individual stand-outs like meyer lemon and butterscotch.

They'll set you back about $2 a bite, but it's totally worth it. The only challenge with these confections may be finding them. If you don't want to schlep out to Bernal Heights for them, check out the next SF Underground Farmers Market, where Christopher David makes regular appearances. . .

Christopher David Macaron
833 Cortland
San Francisco, CA 94109
Neighborhood: Bernal Heights

437 A Hayes St
San Francisco, CA 94102