Thanks to all who chimed in on my enquiry thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/899354
As usual, a long ramble, so I'll post it in a few chunks with pictures.
We arrived at SFO on time and grabbed a cab to Lers Ros. With only two of us, we kept it sane by ordering the #6 Nuer Tod or dried beef, the #26 Yum Pla Duk Foo and the #62A Kra Prow Moo Krob ALC, spicy, along with an order of jasmine rice and a Thai iced tea. All delicious as usual with the standouts being the dipping sauces and of course my favourite the catfish salad. All salads should be deep fried : -). Great first meal for $40 plus tip though we did have to wait for a table to open up despite having an 8:15 reservation.
We caught the T Muni out along Third to Piccino. Excellent coffee -- Sightglass roasts a Piccino espresso blend for them -- and a solid biscotto in this tiny place but alas they were jackhammering in the street just outside and the staff were cranking the volume on the tunes to try and drown it out so we didn't linger. Made our way over to Plow for their much-vaunted lemon-ricotta pancakes for brunch. Even on a weekday there was a bit of a wait.
It's a bit squeezy inside but quite convivial and we thoroughly enjoyed our plates, though there was too much food for two. I really didn't need to order the nine-grain English muffin either but I was curious and it was pretty good. J had The Plow ($15) and I went with the soft scramble ($16.50) which ostensibly had nettles in it. There was something green but I'm guessing spinach or the like. Tasty anyway and the eggs were nicely executed. I enjoyed the crispy potatoes a lot, and the SO was pleased with the house-made pork patty, especially as the server first told us they were out.
The star here is definitely those pancakes, however. They don't look fantastic, appearing burnt, but they are lemony light and ethereal as another Hound put it previously. They are also just sweet enough to eat plain which I did as I am not a fan of maple syrup (how unCanadian of me, I know). The lure of Mr and Mrs Miscellaneous was strong -- we shared a junior scoop ($2.75) of this ice cream. So far it is my favourite of the many recommended on this board. I tried brown butter (great flavour but a granular texture) and candied violet and limoncello but settled on sweet cream. This one is just the sweet ice-cream custard with no flavours added. I've only seen it on a menu in one other place in Toronto and was delighted to find it again. What a lovely storefront as well. This shop is going on my must try list (as I did again just over a day later!).
After a City Guides tour of Nob Hill and seeing the terracotta warriors, we snagged a cab over to Harrow for happy hour. Plates of crunchy Marcona almonds, plump castelvetrano olives and blistered shishito peppers ($3 each) soon surrounded my lovely glass of vermentino ($6) and the SO's pint of Almanac's Honey Saison ($4.60). One of the owners, Jane, was present and remembered us from our last visit. Harrow is my idea of a perfect happy hour spot. I wish they were open for HH all week instead of just Wed-Fri 5 to 6:30.
We wandered up the hill to Cotogna for a 7:30 reservation which I'd scored just by asking when they called to confirm our original 8:30 time a few days before. We decided to share a few small plates and a pasta which was perfect and quite filling. The spinach sformato hit the spot for me but the SO found it too salty ($12). An octopus appetizer ($16) was perfectly cooked and well balanced. They seem to really know their way around octopods here. Then the gnocchi, ah the gnocchi ($17). Even the SO was transported, and he is a notorious disser of things gnocchi, mostly on textural grounds. These ones were little clouds of semolina, really melt in the mouth, but also substantial, somehow.
The one disappointment was the side of cauliflower ($7) which sounded wonderful on the menu but came out a bit scorched and inundated with very sweet currants. Not inedible but definitely off. I wonder if the chef tasted them at all. I'm glad to have had dinner at Cotogna after our two previous lunches but it has told me that I prefer to dine there during the day. The room lends itself to the daytime, and it is a bit quieter as well. Also need to make sure we come with another Hound as we have in the past so as to snag the primo three-top on the end. The tables along the window are otherwise awfully close together, allowing us a wee bit too much insight into the conversations going on either side of us :-).
Friday morning's goal was Flour and Co, just a six-block walk from the hotel. This shop would be a fine place to sit for a spell (but no wifi, alas) as they have a reasonable number of tables. I snagged a slice of egg pie (kinda like that they don't call it quiche) and a breakfast sando to go. Wish I'd noticed the savoury oatmeal on the menu before I ordered... next time! We moseyed another block or so to Contraband to get the SO's cappuccino fix (we eschewed the Stumptown on offer at F&C in favour of a local roast). Unfortunately he also ordered a very meh cinnamon rolly thingy before I could intercede -- I'm officially giving up on the baked goods from Contraband after half a dozen tries. The Flour and Co. offerings were both worthy, however.
Next stop was SFMOMA for a farewell visit before they close up shop for renovations. Nothing like modern art to stimulate one's appetite for corned beef. The Sentinel came through with an even bigger sandwich than I remembered -- we split one and it was plenty. They'd changed the bread to a lovely focaccia since last time. The only quibble was the cabbage which though plentiful and crunchy was rather bland. The beef was spot on, just salty and lean enough.
After a visit to the De Young to see The Girl With a Pearl Earring, we headed back to Aardvark Books, stopping in at La Fajita for a fish taco (I'd read they were worthy but not on CH). Less said the better. Also stopped at The Lookout for a draft (Speakeasy Prohibition, very nice and a beautiful colour) and a couple of pulled pork tacos which were quite decent, enjoyed alongside a local denizen with the most beautiful candyfloss pink beehive.
That evening was La Ciccia with a local Hound and her SO. It had been a couple of years since we were in but Lorella was so welcoming. The room was full but not squeezy. Service was impeccable as usual. No photos as they ask not on the menu.
We shared the spicy tomato octopus stew and the prosciutto di Parma for appetizers. The broth in the stew was addictive and not a drop was left, and of course the prosciutto was like butter. Next up was a duo of starches, rather famous here, the spaghetti with bottarga and the fregola with shaved tuna heart and sea urchin. Both were topnotch, with a slight edge to the spaghetti for me. I couldn't detect the uni in the fregola but that may have just been my jaded palate. We all agreed that sharing was a good way to try these rich dishes.
For mains we split the lamb and the prawns, which again came with the most amazing sauce, this time with capers and Swiss chard. The lamb was a tad disappointing as it was a little plain without any sauce. The sauces at La Ciccia really sing. We also enjoyed a very nice Sardinian white, one of the vermentinos I believe, that the server picked for us. We ordered just the right amount of food for once -- on past visits I have required a palanquin to move from my seat.
Our DCs kindly catered to my mildly insane urge to check out Creations Dessert House and ferried us all over to Geary and 16th. The room was busy but we were seated immediately and soon realized that our table was the oldest by several decades and also the only one with non-Asians. The servers were incredibly forthcoming, perhaps thinking we had wandered in by accident and wanting us to have a nice time. We enjoyed the house lychee tea so much that I murmured something about seeing if it was for sale and voila, my friend had secured a tub of it for me! I open it daily to sniff and remember our visit.
My target dish for the night was mango mochi with mango ice cream and fresh mangos, recommended by Calgary CH missfoodie, and it did not disappoint. One of us got a very cool layered beverage with "snow" and various other tasties in it, and her SO tried the mango pudding with fresh fruit which was the weakest of the three. The SO enjoyed a milk tea. I was surprised by the lack of sweetness in the three desserts, though I suppose I shouldn't have been.
Photos from left to right: nuer tod and catfish salad at Lers Ros, Piccino storefront plus capp and biscotto, Plow counter and two dishes, shisito peppers at Harrow, octopus at Cotogna
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