Katie and I have returned from the West Coast, afraid to look at our credit card bills, and I already miss the place. I love San Francisco. I LOVE San Francisco. I love everything about that tiny, high cost of living, bay area. Things that would annoy me anywhere else excite me there. Examples, you ask?
Chicago – Busy streets and intersections can get me swearing like a sailor in less time than it take to shrug off a street beggar.
San Francisco – No need to hurry man! We get there when we get there. Let’s just enjoy the weather.
Chicago – Damn homeless always beggin’ for money. They KNOW I don’t have any.
San Francisco – I’m still not giving them money, but they CRAZY out there. We ran into a guy who had an intricate story written on over a dozen pieces of 18×24 cardboard. He was “blind” to envelopes, change, and anything other than 1 or 5 dollar bills. Never speak to him. Only give him money when he is panhandling. That’s fucking dedication to a cause!
I don’t know if Katie was enamored with the place as I am. She told me she was weirded out by the lack of hustle and bustle on the downtown streets. She believes that there needs to be hustle and/or bustle in downtown metropolises. I disagree, but can understand her point. I’ll just have to drug her and move her out there before she wakes up.
But, you can read more about the actual trip in the upcoming days on my regular journal. You’re here to learn about the delicious, occasionally divine, and always interesting dishes we dined on for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There were also occasionally second breakfasts and third desserts. But we’ll talk about that later.
The Stinking Rose
Our original plan was to get over to Universal Cafe as soon as we hopped off the BART, but that wasn’t in the cards. Instead we went to the backup plan, and walked over to The Stinking Rose. On the border of Chinatown and North Beach, The Stinking Rose sits on Columbus Avenue amid a selection of other restaurants, cafes, and gelaterias. For those who don’t know, The Stinking Rose is a garlic-themed restaurant. All garlic. All the time. Their slogan — We Season Our Garlic With Food.
This place should be the mecca of garlic lovers. Every dish was steeped in some form of odorous amore. And it was GOOD garlic. It’s not the kind of garlic you see jarred in the grocery store. The taste was sharp yet subtle where it needed to be. But there was no mistaking the fact that garlic was somehow in the dish. Even the buns, heated over a small votive candle were dusted with garlic.
We skipped appetizers and headed straight to our main course. Katie chose the Neon Ravioli with Garlic basil Alfredo sauce, while I had the Gnocchetti with Garlic gorgonzola, asparagus and toasted pine nuts. The ravioli was served al dente, the cheese inside perfectly heated. The Alfredo sauce was garlic personified. The only downside was the largish amount of basil that was thrown on top of the dish. It was like a tiny basil forest died to serve Katie’s needs. The gnocchetti were bite-sized bits of potato pasta goodness. So much so that I nearly bought the cookbook on sale just for that recipe. You can always tell when Katie and I are enjoying our meal because we seldom talk to each other. There’s only the occasional grunt of hunger being sated. We become cavemen, I’ll admit. Cavemen who know a good meal when we taste it.
Dessert? Dessert was the Gilroy’s Famous Garlic Ice Cream. Katie wanted nothing to do with it. But, I am the Super Dave Osborne of occasionally stupid ideas, and just had to try something that involved garlic AND ice cream. Covered in a caramel mole sauce, it was actually just the right amount of spice to go along with the vanilla bean. Of course, our tongues could have been dead to the garlic at this point, but we’ll just assume it was a subtle blend of garlic and mole, and not that The Stinking Rose raped our tongues.
So far? Mike – 1 / Katie – 1. We started out on the right foot.
Known more for their desserts than their dinners (at least in my circles), we decided to just have a full meal at Citizen Cake. We wouldn’t have time to eat dinner somewhere else, go there for dessert, and then head off to the show we were seeing that night. Dinner, unfortunately was a bit hit and miss for us.
We started with appetizers, a sunchoke puree soup for me, and a cheese plate for Katie. The winning dish was easily the cheese plate, although the sunchoke puree had a nice light feel to it. Barely seasoned, it was a decent starter to a meal, but nothing spectacular. The best part of it was the incredibly cool dish it was presented in.
Oh, and a sunchoke? According to WiseGeek…
A sunchoke is an underground vegetable like a cross between a rutabaga, potato, sunflower seed, and water chestnut. Also called a Jerusalem artichoke, it is not like an artichoke bloom, nor does it grow in Jerusalem. It’s one of the few native tubers of North America. A sunchoke, related to the sunflower, makes a delicious addition to salad, salsa, marinade, and soup.
The main dish, and the only vegetarian dish on the menu was a ratatouille using squash instead of the traditional eggplant, and covered with a green chile stuffed with goat cheese. It was like a modern take on the chile relleno. We thought the two dishes would have tasted better independently of each other, because we felt the tastes clashes a bit. Eaten individually however, they tasted fresh and delicious. I preferred the pepper over the ratatouille, and Katie the opposite, so it worked out.
Our biggest problem with the menu at Citizen Cake though was the freakin’ menu. Occasionally the witty cuteness of the menu made it impossible to tell what you were actually ordering. Aside from figs being in the course, what could you tell me about “my minds playing trick on my figs in space.”
My dessert was mostly the same way. I knew it somehow involved Concord grapes, but other than that, I was at the mercy of a handlebar mustachioed waiter. Luckily, it turned out that I was choosing a parfait of concord grape jelee and a peanut buttermilk mousse topped with homemade cracker jack. Katie went with the rose petal creme brulee. I loved my dessert, but I am a sucker for the reinvention of classic ideas. And what could be more classic than a peanut butter and jelly with some cracker jack? I loved the various textures, including what tasted almost like tapioca balls in the jelee. I was so enamored with it, I told our server that she had to tell the chef to never take this off the menu. Katie was less enthused with the creme brulee. She mentioned the sugar had been over-burned, leaving the final dish not as delicious as some other creme brulees she’s had.
The end of day one? Mike – 2 (saved by the dessert) / Katie – 1.