I just wanted to thank those of you who helped me plan the two group dinners I helped host in SF this past weekend. Both worked out well.
But before I do, I also wanted to report that I had lunch Thursday before the meeting started at Scala (or is it Scala's) at the Sir Francis Drake, where we were staying. I had an excellent squash soup (Susan, are you paying attention?) and a beet salad. Very good, but with wine and coffee it turned out to be a little pricey for lunch. Oh well...
Our group dinner Thursday was at 500 Jackson. We ate in the wine cellar downstairs. Service was excellent. We started with a couple of seafood platters from the cold bar: two types of oysters (Hog Island and another Tomales Bay type) and shrimp. The oysters were excellent. Shrimp was also very fresh. Also enjoyed two plates of the fried calamari to share. Excellent: some of the most tender calamari I've ever had.
For a main course I had the Louisiana-style BarBQue shrimp: not Pascale Manale's, but tasty. It came with an excellent dirty rice. The planked salmon (listed on the menu as being wild) was excellent. My friend let me have the spinach that came with her's; winning her my friendship for life. Wonderful spinach, cooked until just tender, not soggy, garlicky. yum!
I can't comment on the wines; I guess I drank too much and forget what I was drinking. Someone else chose them. I will say that everyone was very pleased with the restaurant and the service. A good place to remember for a group meal that won't break the bank. About my only complaint is that the key lime pie, although appropriately tart, comes with merangue. I spooned it off and ate on.....
Friday night we ate at Cafe 52, in Beldon Place. They have a nice "semi-private" room upstairs, which became a private room for our group of 17. (A lot of customers were choosing to eat outside; it was the nicest night in a couple of weeks....). This was a recommendation from this board; I had never eaten there. It turned out to be a good choice: an easy walk from Union Square, nice atmosphere, great service considering what a large group we were. Reasonably priced, especially considering the size of the portions. The website describes it as "Mediterranean" and I guess it is; although I think my friend described it better as "fusion Mediterranean." They have several salads, all of which could feed two, for six dollars. I ordered hummus and the stuffed grape leaves, thinking one wasn't enough (especially since they are "small plates" at less than 6 dollars each) and two of us couldn't finish them. The most expensive item on the menu is the rack of lamb, at around $24 for a huge (6 to 8 rib) portion. YUM!!! Its marinated in pomegranite juice, with some combination of spices that gives it a nice kick. I'll be back for more of that lamb.
Anyway, that room upstairs is a great choice for a group that wants a nice meal in a nice, celebretory atmosphere that won't break the bank. Our host was so pleased with the (low) bill that he treated us all to drinks (and cover charge!) at the Starlight room afterwards!
And, again, as someone mentioned, the wine list at Cafe 52 is somewhat limited. Again, I guess I wasn't paying much attention to the wine. That rack of lamb is spicy enough that a good beer would have been fine.