My best friend visited for the long weekend and we ate. A lot. Mostly we wanted casual, friendly places with great food and an atmosphere that lent itself to chatting so we could catch up. Below is a list of the places we ate, with our comments.
3. Pizzeria Delfina
5. Round Pond Winery
6. Ad Hoc
8. Miette Confiserie
For lunch we met at Canteen, which was a reasonable walk from the Union Square BART station. We both ordered the sole and shrimp dish—I can’t remember how the dish was described on the menu, but I imagined that it would be a piece of sole with shrimp dumplings on the side. Instead the chopped sole and shrimp were formed into quenelles and set atop a pool of butter and white wine. It was delicious and quite rich. The fish dishes are stellar at Canteen, especially the sole.
We walked to Jubili, a Pinkberry imitation, from the movie theatre on Fillmore. Because what goes better with a Joy Division biopic than frozen yogurt with Cap’n Crunch. My friend had plain yogurt with Fruity Pebbles and pomegranate; I had plain yogurt with Cap’n Crunch and strawberries. The yogurt is quite tangy and smooth, much better than at the new shop on Octavia and Union.
For dinner we wanted something easy and casual, so we stopped into Pizzeria Delfina, which is in my neighborhood. We split a special appetizer--I can't remember the name, but the server described it as a take on a 'hot pocket'--they mixed scraps of meat and cheese, pressed it into the center of pizza dough, fried it, and served it on a plate with a bit of pizza sauce. It was delicious, as was the salsiccia pizza, with bits of sausage spiced with fennel.
For breakfast we hit Brenda's in the Tenderloin, which I had visited and liked before. I had the vegetable omelette with corn maque choux, a side of grits and a biscuit. My friend had scrambled eggs, bacon and grits. We both loved the buttery, smooth grits. I liked the house made strawberry-mango jam with my warm biscuit. Unfortunately, we arrived behind a big table that overwhelmed the restaurant's service, which seems like it's still in the ironing out stage of a new business.
The next day we drove up to Napa and visited Round Pond Winery, which was recommended by marialorraine in posts I read. They offer three tours a day; you must call to book in advance, though we were able to book about an hour before visiting. Since moving to San Francisco, I've probably visited about 15 wineries (mostly in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma) and this was by far the best experience. The grounds were gorgeous, the wine was great, and our wine educator (a former sommelier) was phenomenal. We were the only people visiting during our time slot, so we were able to ask lots of questions and get a very personalized, informative tour. After walking the grounds, we sat out on a heated deck and sampled a vertical flight of cabernet sauvignon (2002-2004) along with hors d'oeuvres prepared from locally raised and grown meat and produce (photos attached). The 2002 had a bit of a musky tone to me; I loved the rich, jammy 2003 and 2004. This estate also prepares olive oils and offers olive tours; those you have to book 48 hours in advance.
We had dinner reservations at Ad Hoc in Yountville. Though it wasn't fried chicken night (sigh!), we had a wonderful experience. The four course prix fixe included a green salad with slices of duck leg and duck confit, braised beef short ribs, Durrus farmhouse cheese, and an apple crisp. My feelings were mixed when I saw the menu--my friend is not an adventurous eater and previous reports on sous-vide entrees made me a bit anxious for her enjoyment. On the other hand, the posted menu like it might be too plain for my tastes. All of my worrying was for naught--the meal was fantastic.
Generally I avoid mixed green salads, which seem omnipresent and omniboring. The AH version reminded me that they can be wonderful. The leafy greens, dressed in a light garlic vinaigrette, tasted as if they had been picked only hours before, and their pure flavor had never suffered the insult of a sealed plastic bag. The salad included pickled onions and roasted red peppers, both of which set nicely against the fatty duck.
My friend declared the braised ribs the best meat she had ever eaten. They may have been perfect, meaty, deeply fatty and juicy. I think the server said they were cooked for 48 hours, and served with carrots, potatoes and parsnips.
The cheese course was a hunk of washed-rind raw milk Durrus, which was semi-soft, with a meaty, pungent flavor. This was served on a board with honey and sliced persimmon. Finally, we enjoyed an apple crisp, which tasted like the apples were mixed varieties—some were firmer, some almost pulp.
Overall, I loved the little touches--the persimmon slices served with the cheese and honey had been compressed with a vacuum sealer; the honey was warm. The vanilla ice cream had been prepared in house. Service was friendly and welcoming.
The atmosphere was also great for catching up--unlike restaurants in San Francisco, we were not sitting on top of the next table, and the room was not rock concert loud. Everything is family style, and we liked the casual, warm feeling of passing the serving bowls across the table. I will definitely return.
On Saturday, we were in Hayes Valley and stopped in at Arlequin. On a sunnier day I love the back patio; on a gray and drizzly day we liked the view of shoppers scurrying down Hayes Street. We split a goat cheese salad, which was just ok, and a grilled cheese with prosciutto and pear. I was impressed that they offered two types of grilled cheese (the other had mixed cheeses, ours had just cheddar). On a rainy day, a grilled cheese is my idea of heaven, and this one was quite good, with very crispy, buttery wheat bread that had been pressed in a panini maker.
Finally, we walked by Miette Confiserie and decided to stop in. I do not like Miette baked goods and didn’t expect to like the shop. However, the friendly shop clerks and nice array of candy won me over. Our clerk gave us lots of samples and encouraged us to try white grapefruit and pink grapefruit gummies, which were great. We also bought individually wrapped caramels, one with liquor and one with sea salt, that I think are handmade in the Bay Area. Both were wondeful, though I preferred the sea salt.
Pictures are of the two Jubili small yogurt cups, the hors d'oeuvres at Round Pond, and a blurry shot of the best meat ever at Ad Hoc.