Wednesday night we drove into the Bay Area. We stopped in Sunnyvale to meet my brother for dinner at a Japanese small plates restaurant called Saizo. We ordered a bunch of small plates, including miso-cured duck (wonderful strong duck-y flavor!), bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms, a beef stew, fried sardines, and deep-fried chiles stuffed with cheese. I'm envious of my brother living so close to such a cool restaurant. After dinner, we drove up to SF.
Thursday morning we went out to XOX truffles and because I was indecisive, ended up getting about half a tub of them. This may establish me as a complete philistine, but I didn't love them. The caramel and the peanut butter were pretty tasty, but I didn't like the bitter and somewhat gritty nature of the chocolate used in the truffles.
Thursday afternoon we met boyfriend's friend J. for lunch. She chose Yank Sing, and I was quite pleased with our lunch. I particularly liked some sort of eggplant dish, and a shrimp dumpling with a powerful wallop of sesame. The rest of the items we ate are sort of a vague blur, though I do remember having and liking the sticky rice as well.
Later in the afternoon, we visited Max's Opera Cafe for a nod to nostalgia. About ten years ago, I used to love their bittersweet hot fudge sundaes. I had to see if it was as good as I remembered, or if my tastes have changed. Boyfriend got black and white cheesecake, which I did not try. I pretty much inhaled the sundae, and decided 1) it's pretty good, and 2) my tastes have changed, because the fudge sauce was not nearly as chocolate-y as I remember.
For dinner, we went to Ti Couz with boyfriend's friend Z. We had a pretty good meat and cheese plate (I'm a bit spoiled about these things), and a smoked salmon crepe and mushroom crepe. I thought the mushroom was a bit more balanced in flavor than the salmon. We got a banana, caramel, and ice cream dessert crepe, and I think the dessert crepe was better than the savory, or better matched to its ingredients.
On Friday, I met my parents (up for the weekend) and brother in Sunnyvale. We stopped at a Korean Barbecue place called Palace BBQ Buffet. This was a grill-your-own place, and had lots of different meats to grill. I have to confess, I don't understand the appeal of grill-your-own meats. I've been to places where the kitchen does it perfectly, and I don't see how I can improve on those results. That said, the short ribs were pretty tasty.
(Boyfriend, meanwhile, was sneakily visiting Fog City News and buying me some wonderful exotic chocolate bars, like Vosges Black Pearl Bar with ginger, wasabi, and black sesame seeds, a dark chocolate blood orange bar, and a dark chocolate cinnamon bar. This was good because as it turned out, I didn't have a chance to get there on my own.)
For dinner, my mom wanted seafood and brother wanted a place that he knew how to get to and I needed to be in SF, so that led us to an oyster and seafood place in the Castro district called Anchor. I had crab cocktail (pretty good crabmeat) and some of my brother's crabcakes, which were incredibly good--basically just pieces of crab barely held together, with a nice dilly sauce to dip them in. Boyfriend had seafood pasta that he enjoyed. I can't remember it now.
On Saturday, my parents, brother and I hit the Ferry Building Market. We were lucky enough to run into Rancho Gordo's stand almost immediately, and he patiently waited while I dithered over which ones to select. We poked around the rest of the market, and got a grilled pork sandwich at one of the stands. Pretty bland. We walked through the building itself; I contemplated getting a Ciao Bella gelato but the line was pretty bad. We hit Recchiuti's; I only bought a few because we'd already bought tons of chocolate. Once I tried the Recchiuti's, I wished I'd bought a lot more of it and a lot less of the XOX. The grapefruit tarragon, which sounded like it could be awful, was actually well balanced with the chocolate. Cardamom was also wonderful. Oddly enough, I didn't like their burnt caramel, the signature chocolate, nearly as well as those two.
For dinner, my parents, brother and I went to Aziza. I'd been looking forward to this dinner, but unfortunately something really upsetting, which had nothing to do with the restaurant, happened before/during part of the dinner. I was fairly distracted until the entrees arrived, so I wasn't paying quite as much attention to the food as I might otherwise. For my appetizer, I had merguez. This was fairly spicy and tender (I had dried up, chewy sausage.) My parents wanted bstilla so we ordered one. Pretty good as bstilla goes, though I'm not a fan of highly sweetened savory dishes. For the entree, I had the lamb stew with eggplant, my mother got the lamb brochettes, and my father the lamb shank to complete the lamb entree trifecta. My brother got the rabbit. My stew was tasty and pretty addictive when you added the house-made harissa. For desserts, I got an apple tart with a bit of harissa, brother got chocolate pot de creme, and my mom got the best of the bunch: huckleberry sorbet with chevre. The combination of flavors was amazing.
We flew back early Sunday morning. Thanks to all who offered advice. I'm sorry I couldn't take all of it, but there was such a limited time and so many people/schedules to work around. I still have my notes, and of course, I'm plotting my next trip.