Bakery paradise

If in New York I had Momofuku Milkbar, in San Francisco I have  Tartine Bakery. I kept reading about Tartine and hearing people talk about it, always with an almost crazed look in their eye. Like “Oh you haven’t been to Tartine?? Oh!  Well, you. Haven’t. LIIIIIIVED.”

Ok, maybe not that dramatic. But that’s how I’m going to react from now on when I speak to people who haven’t been there. I finally got around to checking it out last weekend and well, it was fantastic. It was beyond fantastic. It was the stuff dreams are made of. My dreams anyway.

Cream tarts, big and small

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Sundae on a sunny Sunday

Sam's sundae from Bi-Rite Creamery

This weekend it was actually warm in San Francisco. Like leave-the-scarf-at-home, get-down-to-just-one-layer and wear-your-sandals-without-fear-of-your-toes-going-numb type warm.

This of course, means nothing to most of you. The whole handful of you who read this blog have probably been dealing with hot weather all summer (or if you’re in Florida… practically year round) and are now welcoming fall with open arms, but in San Francisco, at least since I got here during the first week of August (August!!), it’s been downright chilly. Not in the 70’s like I had thought it would be, but in the low 60’s and then 50’s at night. Now, I’m not complaining. If you know me well, you know I hate the heat. I could just as easily do away with summer and never miss it, but it’s been strange being cold during summer.

This weekend though, for maybe only the second time in the last almost two months, it was hot. Which made me think one thing: ice cream. Continue reading

In the words of Homer, “Mmmmm, donuts…”

Gibraltar at Dynamo Donut

Oh that all days could start like this, what happy days they would be. At least for me. Seriously, coffee and donuts. That’s all. Long distance boyfriends, lunatic parents, never-ending bills, the impending doom of apartment hunting in New York (again. Alone.)— it would all sort itself out with some strong coffee and a fat, sugary donut (or two).

Ok, so maybe not, but it couldn’t hurt, right? This weekend I was on a failing mission to buy a dress for a big wedding shin-dig I’m going to in a few weeks when I decided to abort that mission and head for a better one: the mission, as in my new favorite San Francisco neighborhood. I had read about a donut place there and thought some baked goods and caffeine would be just the thing I needed.

And I was right. I showed up in the late afternoon, just a couple of hours before Dynamo Donuts closed, but I was still able to snag a delicious spiced chocolate donut and a gibraltar to give me the second wind I needed to keep trying on dresses the rest of the afternoon.

Spiced chocolate donut

The donut was perfect: a soft, dark chocolate ring of moist, donut perfection covered in a sparkly layer of cinnamon, sugar and chipotle powder. I’ve been a fan of the chocolate-chili combo ever since I first tried it in Italy (although I think the idea originally came from the Aztecs, not the Italians) so I knew I would like this. Upon the first bite or so, the donut had a deep chocolatey flavor, with the granulated texture of the cinnamon and sugar playing against the softness of the cake. But then, almost not until after I swallowed the first couple of bites, I noticed a subtle, spicy warmth in my mouth, the slight kick of the chili. It was nice and not so spicy that it made my tongue tingle uncomfortably.

The coffee, which I admittedly was drawn to because of the foreign name, Gibraltar, was in the end just two shots of espresso topped with steamed milk and foam. Think of it as the shorter, stronger cousin of the cappuccino. I’ll be honest and say it wasn’t the best coffee I’d ever had but it definitely wasn’t bad. Maybe I was so smitten with my donut, that I couldn’t really focus on anything else.

When I finished both, I had enough sugar and caffeine in me to give me the second wind I needed to continue dress shopping, and although I was ultimately unsuccessful that day, I wasn’t even in a bad mood about it. A little donut and coffee goes a long way.

Letter to a new friend

Dear pupusa,

Where have you been all my life? Why had we never met before a week ago? No really, why? I grew up in Miami and come from a Central American country… just like you!  I’ve lived the majority of my life surrounded by all things Hispanic, how did we not cross paths earlier?

Pork and cheese pupusa

I’d heard of you before, sure. I mean who could forget a name like that, pupusa. (I’m sorry. Sometimes I’m immature and still laugh at poo poo jokes. You understand.) Yet I don’t remember seeing you anywhere until I ran into you in the Mission, listed there on that giant menu at Taqueria Los Coyotes. I wasn’t sure what to get and I wasn’t even sure that Los Coyotes would be any good. I just walked in randomly because I was hungry and in the neighborhood. But then I saw you and I thought why not try something new?

I wasn’t sure what you would look like to be totally honest, pupusa. Your name made me think you would be round or tube shaped (again, sorry, it must be the thought of poo poo) but then when you arrived you were something else. You were round and flat, like a tortilla. But when the nice lady who took my order asked me what I wanted you filled with, I chose pork and cheese, so I knew there was more to you than just tortilla. I cut a piece off and tossed you in my mouth. Pupusa, you were awesome! Soft on the outside, with a salty, cornmealy taste that went perfectly with the cheese and pork filling inside. You were simple and not overpowering and I really liked that about you. I should have asked for several of you instead of just one.

Carnitas taco

After you, I had a carnitas taco. I’ve had tacos before but never like that one. They just make you all different out here, don’t they? Your fellow menu companion, the taco, was really good, though totally different from you. A soft, white corn tortilla topped with a colorful heap of delicious, juicy pork meat, chopped cilantro, diced onion and a smokey chili sauce with no goopy cheese, globs of sour cream or watery tomatoes. You guys are great!

And then, as if you hadn’t both already done enough, you brought free chips with a whole assortment of salsas, peppers and hot sauces. Free! Now there’s a name you don’t hear often where I’m from. In New York, where I normally live, I meet a lot of Expensives and Overpriceds but not many Frees.  It was a nice change.

Well, pupusa my friend, I plan on seeing a lot of you in the future, especially while I’m still here in California. I hope your east coast counterparts are as delicious as you are, because I’ll really miss you when I leave. Let’s make the most of the time we have left together in San Francisco!

Love,

Angie

When you need it to be cheap and greasy

I would love to hear the scientific explanation behind greasy food being so richly satisfying when you’ve been drinking. That’s a lie, actually. I don’t really want to know the science behind it because science isn’t really my thing. I rather just skip to the good stuff: the greasy food.

Recently, during a night out with friends, someone suggested getting something to eat after our first drink and before several more that were to come after it.

Mango chicken at Yamo: cheap, greasy and obscenely filling. Everything I look for in my drunk munchies.

“Well, what do you guys want to eat?” asked one person I was with.

“Something greasy,” was the fast and firm answer from someone else.

This night could’ve been any night, in that when is that not the answer?  I mean the above dialogue happened between two people I was with but really, I’ve had that same dialogue internally with myself. Sometimes when I’m sober, I actually want a salad, or some fruit, or a bowl of oatmeal. But after a few drinks? I want greasy pizza, street meat and Mc Donald’s.

On this most recent occasion, a friend had a better idea, (thankfully sparing us all from the golden arches).  In response to the request for greasy, we found ourselves at Yamo, a tiny, almost literal hole-in-the-wall Burmese lunch counter in the Mission.

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Just when you thought pork belly couldn’t get better…

Little nuggets of deliciousness

It doesn’t get more diabolically delicious than fat little chunks of juicy pork belly, battered and deep fried and topped off with Maker’s Mark infused maple syrup. I mean really. Really! Did you process that? Pork belly donuts, people. Pork belly freakin’ donuts. It’s almost wrong how gluttonously awesome I think this is. Almost.

These tender mouthfuls of pork belly, moist and fluffy in their little coats of batter and syrup, were courtesy of  The Sycamore, a funky, laid-back bar in the Mission (where thanks to food like this I now regret not living in). To sell these at a place that focuses on alcohol is just pure evil genius. I’d have a hard time turning these down sober, but put so much as one drink in me and chances are I’m gonna be wolfing these down by the dozen.

Lucky for them they come in orders of six and I was splitting them with two other people. But next time, pork belly donuts? I don’t think you’ll be so lucky.

And finally, a burrito

Starting off the weekend with a burrito and a beer

In California, or more specifically as it relates to my story, in San Francisco, there’s a lot of talk of amazing Mexican food.  The word best gets used pretty frequently. The best burrito, the best taqueria, the best this, the best that.

So naturally, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. After consulting a few food blogs and other websites, some SF locals, and my handy dandy Lonely Planet guidebook, the name I kept getting was La Taqueria. Other places popped up here and there but none with the same frequency or hardcore following as La Taqueria.

“Best Mexican in the Mission!”

“Their burritos are incredible!”

“Ohmygod my favorite!”

When a friend from New York came into town for the weekend and suggested burritos, La Taqueria was an obvious choice since she’d also heard it was a must on the San Francisco food circuit. Continue reading