It has been ages since we last presented a dishes of the week segment. Amidst the travels around the U.S. and Europe, here are some recent highlights from San Francisco. This being the week before Labor Day, how about some good ol’ Texas barbeque too from the capital of bbq in the Lone Star State, Lockhart, Texas.
Farallon: Pan Roasted Halibut with Lobster Brodo, Blue Lake Beans, and Heirloom Tomato Raviolis
Amidst the aquatic splendor of Pat Kuleto’s oceanic kingdom of a restaurant design, Mark Franz crafts some of San Francisco’s most memorable seafood combinations. Too often halibut is overcooked and lobster broths barely taste of lobster. Here the, halibut is spot on moist, the lobster broth transports you to a picnic area on the Maine coast, and summer abounds in the heirloom tomato filling for ravioli, accented by halved cherry tomatoes. This should be a signature dish for Farallon.
Flour + Water: Albacore Conserva with Tonnato, Pickled Squash, and Black-eyed Peas
After numerous visits to the consistently wonderful Flour + Water, I now have a system of ordering from the constantly changing menu: always get a pizza, get as many pastas as possible, bypass the secondi just because it takes up space from the pastas, and always get whatever seafood antipasti is served by Thomas McNaughton that night. I’ve never encountered anything like this tuna two step– in tender meat form (if you’re worried about cooked, cold tuna being dry, stop worrying) and sauce form. The pickled squash is the perfect teammate for the tuna.
Flour + Water: Robiola Scarpinocc with Aceto Balsamico
Less sexy than its pasta colleagues, this simple “tootsie roll” pasta wrapped around a soft, not funky goat cheese, drizzled with an ethereal aged balsamic is a simple exercise in how a basic cheese filled pasta with butter and vinegar can take you for a transcendent ride. Nobody wants this to end. What, four, maybe five ingredients in the dish? It doesn’t need anymore.
Flour + Water: Pizza with Prosciutto, Nettles, Leeks, Chili, and Fontal Cheese
In this intensely passionate pizza city, I still insist the thin-gas fired pies at Gialina, and McNaughton’s bready, charred pizzas at Flour + Water are the best. Sorry Pizzeria Delfina, Starbelly, Zero Zero, Little Star…The key here is the puffy crust, thick enough to hold up the layers of toppings, but flexible enough to still be considered a lighter pie. This particular pizza may be the most impressive yet at Flour + Water. Nettles bring a fresh taste to the wispy ribbons of prosciutto’s velvety texture and boost of salinity. The key is the soupy funk of leeks and fontal. Then things just get even more exciting with spice from chili flakes and a hefty squeeze of lemon. I can guarantee three things at Flour + Water: a nightly wait of over a half hour before 10 pm, the city’s best pastas at a place not called Quince, and pizzas every bit on par with those pastas.
Harry Denton’s Starlite Room: Negroni
The grand old bar and lounge atop the Sir Francis Drake is a strange mix of a luxurious swanky setting with tourists in sweats and sneakers before 8 pm and a hip-hop club afterwards. No matter what, the place still makes you feel like a stud. Nothing fits the bill better than a classic Martini or perfectly executed Negroni with Beefeater gin. Just skip the overly sour, unbalanced signature Cable Car cocktail.
Park Tavern: Petit Poulet Rouge with Bloomsdale Spinach and Pee Wee Potatoes
The burger and deviled eggs deservedly are ordered by every table. Nearly every table almost always orders this too after seeing it carried by. The whole small cornish game hen is roasted to an idyllic moistness, then the center carved out, and placed standing on an iron rod in the skillet used to finish the cooking. Spinach soaks up the garlic heavy juices. Look out, the hen may walk away from the dish! It could be a gimmick, but Jennifer Puccio consistently makes this signature dish a winner.
Black’s BBQ: Pork Short Ribs
Kreuz Market was the winner of our Lockhart, Texas taste-off. We’ll cover the competition more next week. In the mean time, how about some…pork short ribs at Black’s BBQ? Yes, sadly in the capital of beef brisket, the beef brisket was dry. Fortunately the pork short ribs were perfection, full of smoke in the crust, and meat that falls off the rib bone like it should. Don’t be scared to add a little sauce, even though is Texas bbq. In Texas or St. Louis, who cares where you are with these pork short ribs. Whatever you do, don’t get the black eyed peas at Black’s. It’s a lesson in bland sides.
Kreuz Market: Beef Brisket and Jalapeno Cheese Sausage
This is the way brisket should be. No sauce, no rub. Just meat that sings of wood, fire, and the most powerful campfire. Kreuz knows how to craft sausages too, especially this slightly spicy one that barely dribbles out some of the melted cheese. In this barbeque paradise where the forks are at the end of your hand the plates are butcher paper, everything just tastes and feels messy– and correct. Excellent spiced baked beans too.