Sunday, July 26, 2009

Automatically refreshing

(I got tired of the SkyMall catalog shtick.)

On recommendation from Guy Fieri (a.k.a. "Guido"), we decided to check out Taylor's Automatic Refresher. For those not familiar with Guido's oeuvre, he's the Guy from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (a.k.a. "Triple-D"). A cheeseball, most certainly, but we like him and his show (more on that below), and he hasn't steered us wrong yet (in addition to Taylor's, we recently went to Byways Cafe in Portland, also featured on the show, also awesome).

Anyway, so Taylor's. They have three locations -- one in St. Helena, one in Napa, and one in San Francisco. Triple-D featured the Napa location, but we hit the one in SF, which is in the Ferry Building (which we recommend in general as a cool place to spend an hour or two -- they've got a bunch of shops including Cowgirl Creamery and Scharffen Berger, plus the Slanted Door, which is a great restaurant with a great bar). Our meal (pictured above) included the ahi burger, which is basically what got us in the door, and which turned out to be really super awesome. We had actually already tried making it with some friends about a month ago based on the recipe in Guido's book (Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) and it was really delicious -- our grill-master did an excellent job and the ginger-wasabi mayo and asian slaw, courtesy of the Admiral, really made it. The version in the restaurant was just as good; OK, better. Plus we got some super-garlicky garlic fries with it, which definitely enhanced the experience, and a nice bottle of wine. The Admiral ordered the bleu cheese burger but accidentally got the cheeseburger (as he pointed out, more differentiation among the names of the menu items couldn't hurt), which was tasty too. It certainly wasn't cheap for a meal of burgers and fries, but oh my, it was yummy.

Back to Guido. There's a lot of hate out there on the internet for some reason (try googling "Guy Fieri" with "douchebag" and you'll see what I mean). And, you know, I can see how some people might find him annoying, although I also suspect people are jealous of how awesome his job is. But anyway, not liking him is fine (even though I don't really see how anyone can dispute the fact that it's cool how his show highlights independent local hangout spots that generally have moderate to low prices and often are into making all their food from scratch using organic and/or local ingredients), and certainly making snarky comments about a public figure is not something I disapprove of. What really grinds my gears, however, is the way that so many of people's negative remarks about him make reference to his being fat -- just try googling "Guy Fieri" with "fat". I have to admit that maybe his being a chunky fellow is part of why I like him -- granted, it's probably easier and more common for a fat man to get his own TV show than a fat woman, but still, not that many fat people have TV shows. So I give him props for making it in spite of being fat (actually I don't think he's all that fat -- but he's definitely fat for TV). Am I a hypocrite if I like the guy more because he's fat but I think it's bad if people like him less because he's fat? Well, no, I don't think so. Maybe I would be if there was someone I disliked because they were thin, but I'm pretty sure I'm not that way. And furthermore, it's probably pretty uncommon for someone to have to overcome anti-thin prejudice in order to make it on TV (I don't deny that anti-thin prejudice exists, but I'm thinking it's not much of a problem in Hollywood).

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Fish & Farm Carrot Cake Cocktail.

So we met up with a buddy at Fish & Farm in San Francisco, a nifty gastropub that I highly recommend. They're doing some very cool stuff with good ingredients that are local, organic, etc. Another interesting thing about them is that the prices on the menu are "all-inclusive" -- so no taxes or tips to worry about (and sales tax in SF ain't cheap -- 9.5%!). This means that what look like moderately expensive prices are actually quite reasonable for what you get.

I started with a carrot cake cocktail (pictured above). Sound disgusting? Well, it was actually quite tasty. According to the menu, the ingredients are: roasted carrot vodka (?!?), cake spice brandy, cream, brown sugar, and brandy-plumped raisins (mine only had one, which sat cutely in the bottom of the glass waiting for me to finish the drink and eat it up). It really does taste like carrot cake, too, which is a personal favorite of mine -- more on that in a future post.

The food was awesome too. Among the three of us, we tried fish and chips, a super-tasty burger, and fried chicken. All were excellent.

I should also mention that in addition to the carrot cake cocktail, Fish & Farm offers a bacon cocktail (yes, a bacon cocktail) called the Bacon-Drop. Of course the Admiral couldn't resist ordering it. I tried it, flexitarian that I am, and actually I rather liked it. He kinda hated it, himself. De gustibus non est disputandum, I suppose.

Any SF cocktail fans out there recognize the glassware?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Cheeseboard Pizza.

Cheeseboard Pizza is this awesome pizza place in Berkeley that's part of the Cheeseboard Collective, a co-op that has a truly amazing selection of cheeses. They are really nice in there and will let you taste any number of cheeses and give you recommendations until you find the cheese you want. Anyway, the pizza place is truly outstanding and one of my favorite things in the bay area. Basically every day they make one kind of pizza, always vegetarian, no sauce, a good amount of garlic and oil, and usually with creative ingredients and some kind of fancy cheese. The day we went they had the above pictured pizza on offer (fyi, in case it just looks like a pile of pizza, the deal is that they give you a free half slice with every half pie, so we got two free half slices with our whole pie, which is what you see sitting on top). It had mozzarella, garlic, some kind of yummy mushrooms, and was topped with spinach and parmesan cheese and a little lemon. The spinach seemed like it would be a little weird but had a nice effect. This is my absolute favorite pizza anywhere.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Gordo Burrito.

There are few better things in life than a burrito from Gordo. I can't believe we were in the Bay Area for 3 days before we actually got around to having one.

Check out the photo. (FYI, I had to nibble off the top of the burrito very carefully to get that cross-section -- so don't say I never did anything for you!) Do you see the melted cheese? That, my friends, is the key to an excellent burrito. In every other city where I've had a burrito, you get little cold pieces of shredded cheese that don't really melt, and therefore they don't get fully integrated into your burrito experience. But at Gordo, they have this steam thingy. They take the tortilla and put a slice or two of cheese on it, and then they lay it onto this round thing and pull down another round thing on top of it, and some steam comes out, and then when they pull out the tortilla, the cheese is all melted and the tortilla itself is floppy and kind of sticky. Then they put in the rest of the ingredients -- the way I order my Super Bean and Cheese, I get pinto beans, rice, fresh salsa, guacamole, and sour cream (incidentally, the guac's not bad, especially for how cheap it is -- though of course it's no Gloriously Garlicky Guacamole) and roll it up. You can also get meat and/or hot sauce, and you can get other kinds of beans. Regardless of how you order it, your cheese mingles beautifully with the other contents of the burrito, and since the tortilla gets kind of sticky, that means that it wraps up well into a tight (but fat!) burrito. I can usually eat mine very neatly without dropping anything out of it. There's no drippage, nothing wet coming out of the burrito at all. And did I mention how cheap this place is? We're talking super cheap.

Another thing to point out about Gordo is how awesome the name is (it means "fat", for those who don't know, and I believe it can also be used as a noun to mean "fat person" or "fat thing", though I'm no scholar of Spanish). So that makes it a good way to kick off my Bay Area food blogging. More soon!

Friday, July 03, 2009

We'll be sure to wear flowers in our hair

So we're getting ready to head to the Bay Area for about a month, and I'm very excited. It's for an academic thing, which I am looking forward to, but I have to confess that I am a little more excited about seeing our friends and (more relevant to the blog) eating wonderful food. I don't want to turn this into a food blog, but I've decided I'm going to take pictures of our culinary adventures for the month and share the highlights with you all. I envision a mixture of our old favorites (burritos from Gordo, cannoli from Cafe Trieste) and stuff from places we haven't tried yet, especially in San Francisco proper (since I never felt I explored the city sufficiently when we lived in the area).

Don't you worry, though: after the trip is over, soon enough I'm sure I'll get back to complaining about the state of the world and how stupid and mean people are.