This week's tablehopper: indian summer vacation.
Sweets from Knead Patisserie (including the evil pomme d’amour).
What an epic week. This weather is making people frisky, and definitely more relaxed. And dare I say nicer? Last night, at Jacques Pépin’s 75th birthday party upstairs at Waterbar, guests got to take advantage of both outdoor terraces—let’s just say the view of the water and the Bay Bridge is even prettier on a warm evening. I’ve been riding my bike all over town—and it feels like everyone else is, too. I’ve also been staying out way too late this week—it’s like I’m on summer break, well, until my alarm goes off in the morning.
We deserve warm weather more often, can I petition for it? (Oh wait, we’re too busy fighting over the Blue Bottle Coffee cart in Dolores Park. Ahem.) I’m also trying to ignore the RAIN in the forecast for Sunday—going to the Treasure Island Music Festival in a raincoat is not what I had in mind for the weekend. Lame.
Okay, I have a ton of writing to do today—time to flip on the afterburners so I can get out there and play this evening. Operative word: alfresco.
New Restaurant Reviews (I'm looking for somewhere new to eat)
Local Mission Eatery
I heart lunch. One spot that has me wanting to make up excuses to have a lunch meeting is LOCAL MISSION EATERY over on 24th Street in the Mission. First-time restaurant owner Yaron Milgrom has partnered with chef Jake Des Voignes for this friendly neighborhood venture. I was a fan of Des Voignes’s cooking when he was at Fifth Floor, so it’s nice to see a talented chef go out on his own and do his thing.
And let me tell you, he makes some hella tasty sandwiches, which are composed like total chef sandwiches. Example: a corned beef brisket with red onion marmalade, marinated cucumbers, and a decadent touch from a Pt. Reyes blue fondue—it came with a potato salad on the side that tasted like my mom’s (i.e. fresh, tangy, and good). I once had a juicy roast pork sandwich with housemade cherry catsup—what a great condiment. And if you’re an egg fan, their seasonal egg open-face sandwiches also rock—especially when the perfectly runny yolk spills over asparagus spears or a medley of mushrooms. Meow. And here’s the big decadent bonus: they come on a thick slice of brioche made by Knead Patisserie.
About that patisserie… Des Voignes’s wife, Shauna (RN74, ubuntu, Fifth Floor), is behind that buttery madness. She runs a pastry counter in the back of the restaurant, serving coffee and sweet treats—insane treats, some of the best in the city. One bite of the pomme d’amour and you’ll see. It’s like a French crème brûlée version of an egg custard tart. Just try not to make a noise upon your first bite. Cookies, fantastic. Honkin’ eclairs. Wicked croissants. All kinds of sugary and buttery things to make you horny and want to go home and crawl back into bed with your honey.
Whew, okay, so back to the restaurant… I like the space’s natural-artsy look, with reclaimed wood, cheerful blue tile, and cool plants hanging on the wall at the entrance. You can sit at the counter overlooking the kitchen, some tables in the front, or the communal table in the middle of the room. There’s a nice vibe during the day (note: there’s also weekend brunch). Thing is, during dinner service, the room is so lit up that it feels really casual, especially with the music cranking. It’s a spot where I’d swing by for some bites and wine with pals, or a low-key “I don’t want to cook” night, but not for a special date.
The concept, true to its Local name, is all about using fresh and well-sourced ingredients from California, with some being grown by the restaurant on Shauna’s family’s Lodi farm. The menu features a lot of seasonal produce, beautifully presented in the Farm & Market salad ($8/$14) with beets, melon, avocado, and arugula. Although the poor beets in the salad were a bit overdone. Sorry about that, beets.
In the bites section of the dinner menu ($4 each/three for $10), you can get items like lavender almonds (brill), Padrón peppers over a bed of romesco and feta, and the impeccable chicken liver mousse capped with a green apple gelée—you can see Des Voignes’s French culinary background come out in this dish. And in this one: the pâté en croûte ($11/$19). How often do you see this dish on menus? Almost never. So get it. (How nice to be able to use the wife’s brioche scraps to wrap that puppy up.)
Everything comes in two sizes, so whether you’re game for sharing, or dining solo, you can scale your own meal. The rock cod was a standout main dish ($12/$22), cooked perfectly, and so savory with charred early girl tomatoes, plus a hit of fennel and saffron. Some other dishes show some creativity with ingredients, like the raisins, walnuts, nepitella, and aged Gouda in the purple cauliflower cazuela ($7/$12), but did it all come together? Not quite seamlessly. Desserts can also be a bit experimental, like the peanut butter gelée ($8), but it didn’t really speak to me. Maybe I needed to erase my mind of the knowledge that there was a pomme d’amour lurking in the back.
The wine list, put together by Terroir Wine Merchant, is on the natural tip—I immediately gravitated to the food-friendly Occhipinti 2006 frappato ($57), even better after a quick and light chilling. There are well-priced wines by the glass, and some excellent beers as well.
They’re doing some cool things here, from the lending library of cookbooks, to ongoing “labs“/classes (like an upcoming one about puff pastry with Shauna). I like all the thought they’ve put into making this place a unique part of the neighborhood—it’s the kind of spot you want to support, even if you have to cross town to get there.
Local Mission Eatery - 3111 24th St. San Francisco - 415-655-3422
Book Reviews (another place for your nose)
The Sunset Cookbook: by Pete Mulvihill
Don’t forget: the book mentioned below is available at 20% off for tablehopper readers for two weeks following this mention at Green Apple Books—simply use the code “tablehopper” at checkout (either at the store or online) for your discount (if ordering online, just write “tablehopper” in the order comment field—when they process the order, you’ll get your discount).
The Sunset Cookbook: Fresh, Flavorful Recipes for the Way You Cook Today Sunset Books, Margo True
It’s the time of year when publishers produce their biggest and best cookbooks, hoping to capture a big slice of the gift-giving pie. So it’s tough to feature just one, but I can’t possibly live in “the West” and not review The Sunset Cookbook.
First off, the heft: over 800 pages, 1,000 recipes, scads of photos. It weighs five pounds. Seriously.
But it’s not just a generic, everything-and-a-roast-chicken cookbook. The best descriptors of the food herein are: fresh, creative, simple, and healthy(ish).
Sunset’s test kitchen is the real deal: precise and creative. In producing an eye-and-mouth-watering monthly magazine for, oh, 110 years, Sunset has long focused on accuracy and quality in their recipes. (Sidebar: my wife used to work there. She’d get emails like this in the middle of the day: “Stop by the test kitchen: we’re pairing nine wines with the Salsa Verde Braised Pork and need more opinions.” It crushed me with jealousy when she’d forward those to me, tauntingly. But I digress.)
Sunset recipes, whether solicited from professional chefs, submitted by readers, or created in the Sunset kitchen, are tested ruthlessly. For example, when Sunset first got its own laying hens, they still bought store-bought eggs for their recipes, as hyper-fresh eggs work differently, especially in baking (ever tried to peel a truly fresh hard-boiled egg? It’s a pain).
As for the food, there’s a Western flavor throughout: Mexican spices, lots of seafood, Asian influences. Even the classics get a Western spin: you won’t find plain old pot roast, you’ll find Slow-Cooker Merlot Pot Roast. Lasagna becomes Whole-wheat Lasagna with Butternut Squash and Kale. And pasta, the workhorse of the pantry, is reborn as Penne with Walnuts, Caramelized Onions, and Ricotta Salata or Spicy Minty Eggplant Fusilli.
The book also includes brief introductions to each recipe, so you know where it came from; informative sidebars (like Dungeness 101); wine pairings; high-altitude adjustments for our highland friends; nutritional information; variations for the creative home cook; make-ahead advice where appropriate to save time; etc.
It’s a great generalist cookbook—it will go very nicely with The Gourmet Cookbook—for the home cook looking to jazz things up a bit. But what really makes it great is the way it is infused with that golden, wine sipping, dinner on the patio feel. Just flipping through it makes you feel like you’re living the good life.
Bon appétit, and thanks for reading!