CHOW Tour
Two CHOW editors on a caloric extravaganza exploring innovation, novelty, and deliciousness. RSS
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Friday, July 9th, 2010

What’s Innovative About San Francisco?

We arrived in LA yesterday afternoon, where we’ll embark on the next phase of CHOW Tour: Innovation. But before we get too caught up in it all, what was the takeaway from San Francisco? After playing tourist in our home city for a week, visiting and in some cases revisiting the city’s most groundbreaking food businesses, what were our overall impressions of what characterizes SF’s version of innovation? (more…)

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Doing the Ramen Twist

Doing the Ramen Twist

Is foie gras ramen too over the top to actually be good? That was the pressing question upon stopping by the Yatai Ramen Twist pop-up restaurant at Breadbar on West Third Street in LA. It was our first stop in Los Angeles after our flight, so we walked from our hotel, which got us a few weird looks from motorists along the way (the stereotypes! they’re true!). (more…)

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Where We Ate in San Francisco


View CHOW Tour: Innovation – San Francisco in a larger map (more…)

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Cave-Man Cooking, but Chic

Cave-Man Cooking, but Chic

When we spoke to chef Josh Skenes on the phone about his restaurant Saison, he told us that ultimately, the “thing everyone wants when they come to a restaurant is to be wrapped in a warm blanket.” We thought he was speaking metaphorically. When we arrived at Saison, every chair was draped with a soft cozy blanket. Skenes means business. (more…)

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Grocery Store as Tourist Destination

Grocery Store as Tourist Destination

Cutesy, perfect, so crowded that shopping there is like a contact sport, Bi-Rite would be easy to loathe if it weren’t so great. A retro-50s looking grocery store in San Francisco’s Mission District, Bi-Rite is the brain child of Sam Mogannam: a former downtown chef, who had the idea of putting a serious kitchen inside his father’s old grocery store to create restaurant-quality prepared foods for the deli counter. The results were ambitious and good: on any given day, you’ll find delicious versions of things like chicken meatballs, fava-parmesan dip, bbq ribs, and lamb stew, as well as homemade charcuterie, house-smoked salmon sliced to order, and their own bacon. (more…)

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

The People’s Farm

The People’s Farm

The Free Farm on Gough Street in San Francisco is a radical idea. The gist: an empty lot in a sorta sketchy part of town that is being cultivated by volunteers who give all the food away for free to the community, both on site and on Saturdays in the Mission at a Free Farm stand. (more…)

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Earthworks on a Plate

Earthworks on a Plate

Daniel Patterson is one of the most respected chefs in San Francisco, a leader in the latest fine dining trend in which vegetables take center stage. His restaurant, COI, located incongruously in the red-light district of North Beach surrounded by strip clubs, is a temple of Asian-y calm, with grass paper wall coverings; a gray, brown, and green color scheme; and furry Wookiee-like pillows strewn on the banquettes. (more…)

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Bad Robot, No Coffee for You

Bad Robot, No Coffee for You

Coffeehouses in San Francisco used to be bohemian, grimy places where you read the Bay Guardian and there were really bad oil paintings on the walls. That all changed in 2005, when Ritual Coffee Roasters opened on Valencia Street. Ritual roasted its own beans and put out amazing espresso and drip coffee—for high prices. But soon, Ritual was colonized by a robotic race of laptop users. Any time of day, every seat was taken by somebody typing away, Facebooking, trolling Craigslist. (more…)

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Punk-Rock Fanciness at the Alembic

Punk-Rock Fanciness at the Alembic

I’m going to start with a bold statement: the Alembic is one of my very favorite places to eat and drink at in San Francisco. (more…)

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Pork Belly Croque and Good Vibes

Pork Belly Croque and Good Vibes

In San Francisco’s Bernal Heights you can walk down Cortland Avenue, the main drag, and kinda trick yourself into thinking you are walking Main Street in a small town. Despite the neighborhoody, family vibe, it still feels a little bohemian, like maybe the dude going by pushing a stroller has a Burning Man art car parked in his garage. (more…)

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Moroccan Food Without Kitsch

Moroccan Food Without Kitsch

San Francisco restaurant Aziza has incredible food, a Michelin star, an Iron Chef–winning chef, and a gorgeous, sexy interior. And yet, after eating there and raving about it to friends and co-workers, the response was generally, “Oh I’ve been meaning to get there. So you really liked it?” Maybe because it’s out in the fog-obscured, bad-parking-cursed Richmond District, or maybe because it’s continuously represented as a “Moroccan restaurant,” which for many people conjures up images of syrupy-sweet bastila and belly dancing. The truth is, Aziza is as far from the kitschy Americanized version of Moroccan food as you can get. In fact, though Chef Mourad Lahlou was born and raised in Marrakesh, his native cuisine is more of an inspiration for one of the most creative menus around. (more…)

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

The Mission Burrito, Dissected

The Mission Burrito, Dissected

Not to be too gross, but if you dissected the stomachs of San Francisco’s population at any time, roughly a third would have the remnants of a Mission burrito inside of them. Cheap, filling, salty, and satisfying, the city’s staple is like bagels outside New York: Other cities try to imitate Mission burritos, but they never quite taste right. Roxanne and I are not going to write about sourdough bread, the martini, cioppino, Irish coffee, or all the other things that were supposedly, with varying degrees of truth, invented in San Francisco. But a dip into Mission burrito territory seems necessary when discussing innovation. (more…)

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Chinese Burrito = Chinito

Chinese Burrito = Chinito

Monday was the opening of Mission Chinese Food, the latest bizarre yet tasty concept from laconic young San Francisco chef Anthony Myint. A favorite among the food blogger set, Myint leaped onto the scene a few years ago when he started a gourmet taco truck called Mission Street Food. After ditching the truck, Mission Street Food moved inside a divey Chinese restaurant on Mission Street, where it morphed into an experimental fancy street food–inspired pop-up restaurant that donated part of its proceeds to a local food bank. Another pop-up called Mission Burger followed, operating out of an Asian market a few doors down. Now Mission Street Food and Mission Burger have bit the dust and Myint is in the process of opening a stand-alone restaurant next door to Lung Shan. Now operating out of Lung Shan: Mission Chinese Food. Yes, that’s right, a Chinese restaurant inside a pre-existing still existing Chinese restaurant. (more…)

Monday, July 5th, 2010

A Multiculti B Star Brunch

A Multiculti B Star Brunch

The back patio at San Francisco’s B Star is a little bare bones, and it still feels a little hidden and undiscovered. The fact that the staff doesn’t usually mention that they have a patio when they seat people just adds to the feeling of discovery, once you know. It’s a nice place to be if it’s actually sunny in the Richmond District. (more…)

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Politically Correct Mexican Food

Politically Correct Mexican Food

Being a vegetarian, or God forbid, a vegan, and a lover of Mexican food can really suck. In San Francisco you’ll be hard-pressed to find a taqueria where you can dine without your hair and clothing becoming saturated with aromatic meat grease from sizzling carne asada. And though a lot of places say they don’t use lard in their refried beans, can you really trust them? (more…)

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Guts, Fame, and Exciting Tripe

Guts, Fame, and Exciting Tripe

While Lessley was off investigating vegan Mexican food in the Mission, I was on the polar opposite journey, going to Chris Cosentino’s manly meat temple Incanto. Now, it would be easy to get all cynical and dismissive about the restaurant since the chef (and Food Network star) was in the dining room signing autographs and taking photos with some fans while I was eating, but why get all petty when the food can speak for itself, and it’s saying loud and clear: AWESOME. (more…)

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Salami & Aperitivi Heaven

Salami & Aperitivi Heaven

Salami, salumi, charcuterie, cured meats—call it what you will, you will find a shocking amount of it at Adesso, a wine bar and small-plates restaurant in Oakland, California. While most restaurants that cure their own have, at most, five to six types of charcuterie on their menu, Adesso always has at least 35. Let us repeat: 35. (more…)

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Confirmed Fans of Phan’s Breakfast

Confirmed Fans of Phan’s Breakfast

The storefront of Charles Phan’s Out the Door on Bush Street is barely marked, with only an easy-to-miss “OTD” on the door. Someone we were meeting up with for breakfast parked right across the street from it and didn’t see it. But it was worth braving the Botoxed streets of Pacific Heights to locate—there aren’t a lot of places around that you can get a warm, soft brioche filled with coconut and dripping with caramel, hot Vietnamese coffee, chicken porridge, and semolina pancakes with cherry compote under one roof. The fact that it was served in a pleasant, sunny space with tons of natural light and a Zen vibe (lots of wood, stone, metal, very elemental in general) was a plus. (more…)

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Drinking, Naturally, at Terroir

Drinking, Naturally, at Terroir

Terroir Natural Wine Merchant & Bar is filling a unique niche: supporting small wineries (mostly French and Italian) that produce wines “naturally.” The way Terroir defines natural, says co-owner Dagan Ministero, is wine that is organic or biodynamic, and fermented naturally with native yeasts that are found on the grapes or in the cellars. Ministero says that the biology of a place is just as relevant to the idea of terroir as rain or the soil. (more…)

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

French Symbiosis in SOMA

French Symbiosis in SOMA

A vol-au-vent filled with shrimp cooked perfectly and sauced in a rich, creamy curry is not something that screams out food truck fare. Neither does foie gras torchon, or anything involving a truffle emulsion. But the Spencer on the Go! truck does it, and does it well, serving upscale French food in a parking lot by Oil Can Henry’s, an oil change business at Folsom Street and Seventh. (more…)

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

This Is What a Snuggie Tastes Like

This Is What a Snuggie Tastes Like

What the hell is going on here? It’s a wine bar, and everybody’s drinking out of Mason jars. A sign says “Order at the counter,” but when you sit down, several different servers wander by, asking if you’d like to order. No origins or varietals are listed on the wine list, but rather descriptions like: “Softer than a Snuggie.” Polanski’s Knife in the Water is being projected on the wall, but generic ’90s alterna-rock is blasting from the speakers.

Don’t overanalyze it. It’s called Heart, not head. (more…)