A couple weekends ago we took a few jaunts around Sonoma county, with a pit stop in the Castro. As far as I’m aware, all incriminating photos of being a total fag-hag in da clubz have been eradicated and what’s left is a nice collection of the eats we enjoyed. Aren’t we lucky for such an advanced filtering system nowadays.
Because I wrote ten Elfster posts yesterday, because the lighting in the restaurants were horrible, and because Groupon just told me I wasn’t the best candidate to work for them even though I submitted a kick-ass application, I’m consolidating three meals in one post today.
First up was the Italian joint called Poesia. G used her impressive trip planning skills to choose and reserve all these restaurants, by the way. Anyway, Poesia was a classy but casual place that was situated above a fortune teller or a porn shop (too many to keep track) in the Castro, which seemed to only employ Europeans. At least, our waiter had an accent and they all dressed with a certain je-ne-sais-quoi.
best bread of the weekend
This was the first of many bread baskets, but my absolute favorite. It reminded me of the no-knead homemade bread I try to make once in a while, with an impossibly soft and warm center and chewy, oilve-oily crust. Half the pieces had olives studded in them, and for an olive overdose you could dip it in the fruity plate of oil nearby. I wish they’d had some balsamic, but truth be told I ate most of the bread plain because it was that good.
without parm, this soup was surprisingly vegan
It was, as usual, a cold foggy evening in San Francisco. I went with a chunky tomato soup (~8) that had pieces of bread. (Thank God, more bread) cooked into the soup, almost like they were dumplings. Instead of cream, the bowl was almost drowned in olive oil, which was like my dream come true. No tomato soup is too acidic for me, so it was probably one of the best bowls I’ve had, but probably not for the faint-of-palette.
When pressed for vegetarian options, I seem to get beet salad a lot lately.
S and I shared a beet salad with greens on endive. I know beets are supposedly delicious with goat cheese, but I can’t really stand the stuff. (More on this later.)(Edit: actually, I didn’t get a photo, but I subbed parmesean for goat cheese at the CIA.) S likes it so I figured I’d eat around it, but it was actually more of a sauce mixed into the beets. Luckily this was one of the mildest goat cheeses I’ve ever tasted, so I rolled with it. Sweet beets can never go wrong. One of my favorite restaurant standbys.
Ambiance (If I’m in the Castro, I’m happy.)
The real CIA.
On another day, we kicked off a Napa trip with lunch at the Culinary Institute of America. We got there a bit early, which gave us free time to browse their museum of wine-openers and extensive gift shop (where they sold a “Bean Slicer”, which G proceeded to kill me with).
We peeked into their fancy lecture halls, which look just like the ones in school, but with a huge kitchen and presentation area in the front!
At lunch, where all the employees seemed to be students, we had another never-ending bread basket.
The butter stole my heart.
I preserved the chicken though, because I was too busy discovering one of the most delicious foods known to man.
Fried green tomatoes, chow chow(?) and burrata with chives.
For once, a cheese I don’t hate! I’d heard of burrata before, but didn’t expect anything because it’s just a milder mozzarella, whipped with cream. However. Goodness, it was the most creamy, soft, texturally strange food I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating (with lots of bread). It looked and felt like a poached egg white, but it also sort of broke apart like Gak. (Remember Gak?). I know it’s the grossest comparison ever, but trust me that sweet, creamy cheese Gak is the best invention ever. It’s nothing like brie, which I can’t really stand. The “chow chow” provided a nice crunch and some mystique to lunch, as we read the menu and wondered what the heck it meant before being served.
Oh yeah, and the whole reason we got this dish was because E (a fellow veg) and I had never tried fried green tomatoes. These were what I expected, which wasn’t much. Deep frying always sounds appealing but the super sour tomatoes had the common problem of falling away from the batter, which was the actual tasty part. With this, I also had a salad that was so unremarkable, I forgot to take a good photo of it. The meal consisted mainly of me stuffing my face with bread and burrata, trying to wave the waitress down for more bread, and stealing everyone else’s bread. But other people ate nice-looking dishes.
A comforting meat loaf sandwich was the day's "Green Plate Special".
Spaghetti with scallop meatballs.
The CIA was entertaining but the food was pretty expensive, and had very few vegetarian options and zero vegan. I asked if they were open to making substitutions or changes for vegans, and it seemed pretty difficult to do so, unless you’re just taking off the cheese or something. They did say they were developing a full vegan entree though…Overall, not the best place to eat adventurously because everything is pretty strict in order to best teach the student workers.
But I thank it for introducing me to burrata.
Okay, we’re close to the end! That evening, after stopping by various Napa food landmarks such as Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and The French Laundry, we ended at Mustards Grill, made famous by Bobby Flay who said it cooked his favorite pork chop. This menu looked promising and it took me forever to decide which dish to get, unlike at the CIA.
Who needs a basket when you have perfect French bread?
This bread was nothing like Poesia’s but so tasty in its own right. I can’t stop looking at this photo.
The waiter accidentally dropped our plate of fries and half of them flew across the table, one into my drink. He brought us more fries later. I kind of love when these things happen.
E and I were in the mood for more fried goods so we got a plate, with watercress dipping sauce. These fries didn’t meet my standards, though. Rather mealy inside (I don’t care if you’re not Belgian. Twice-fry! Always twice-fry!), under-seasoned, and soft. I was jonesing for ketchup but the service was less than attentive. The place looks casual but the people and the vibe is kind of uppity. The decor and cramped space felt like a Marie Callendar’s but the prices did not reflect.
However, I did relish watching the middle-aged Cantonese couple to our left eat plate after plate of food like their lives depended on it. They had at least two apps, three entrees, dessert, and coffee between the two of them. Gloriously gross.
Tamales are one of my new favorite foods. I had a kick-ass vegan one two days earlier, which I kick my ass for not documenting.
Everyone agreed that my tamales (10.50) were delicious. Two pillows of sweet corn and mushrooms drenched with butter and topped with avocado-tomatillo salsa, pepitas, and greens looked small, but definitely started getting to me towards the end. It’s meant to be an appetizer so I’d split this with someone in the future. E’s mushroom burger, which I’d debated getting, was fantastic, if not also too rich to enjoy in mass quantities.
I think everyone else was still eating as I scraped my husks clean like a plebian.