Philz Coffee (SF Bay Area, CA)

Philz Coffee was on top of my list as a must visit spot in San Francisco. Everyone I know was raving about their Mint Mojito Coffees so I had to try it for myself…

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Bean selection. 

 

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Hot Mint Mojito Coffee.

 

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I’m a dark, black coffee kinda girl, but every now and then, I like a little change up. The mint mojito coffee was refreshing and I enjoyed the fresh mint that they use. The hot one was perfect for this cold day wandering around San Francisco! I’d love to try to the Iced Mint Mojito next time. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try any other coffees, but I’ll be back. I hear the Tesora is pretty good too! As you can tell, they have quite a large variety of beans and I’m looking forward to trying them when I’m back in SF!

 

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Rating: 4/5 spoons
Philz Coffee on Urbanspoon

The French Laundry (Yountville, CA)

I’ve learned about Thomas Keller through my my fiance, “The Chef”, and read through TK’s books only to dream of tasting his food. Thomas Keller’s theory is based on “the law of diminishing returns”. Think about that first bite of a dish and that feeling of wanting more and more? That’s exactly what his tasting menus are aimed at…teasing your every taste bud for more and more with the perfect amount in the next dish/bite. In this post, you’ll find one of my most memorable moments in my life…

In preparation of my San Francisco/Napa Valley trip, I’ve read the cutest blog post of a little girl participating in her own little tasting at The French Laundry and her comments are adorable! Click here for the blog post: http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/5607-a-four-year-old-reviews-the-french-laundry. I’ve been holding out for sometime on this blog post, only because I wanted it to be as perfect as the meal itself. It’s been a little over a month since my experience and I can remember every bite.

Our French Laundry experience…

The restaurant in nestled in a quaint and homey area in Yountville, California. It has a “coming home to grandma and grandpa’s house in the country” kind of feel. There’s a garden right across the street, which is where TFL farm their fresh vegetables. The hosts were very pleasant and greeted us nicely. Despite the recognition and caliber of the restauarant, the service is still very warm and casual…

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The French Laundry (TFL) has a preset tasting menu that varies from day to day at a set price of $295. Some dishes have an extra option to substitute your dish for another, upgraded dish. “The Chef” and I decided that since it was his birthday, he would order the menu with all of the upgrades and I would order the regular tasting menu. That way we could both try “everything on the menu”!

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Orange Cornet and Smoked Salmon. This was one of many amuse bouches and a great start to many more bites…

 

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Aged Gruyere Cheese Ball. About 3/4 inch in size, but so good. I wanted to eat a whole bucket of these, but luckily, there was so much more to look forward to…

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“Oysters and Pearls”. “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca. Island Creek Oysters. White Sturgeon Caviar.

This is one of Thomas Keller’s classic dishes. It can even be found in his “The French Laundry Cookbook”. Sure it looks great, but the just to taste it is a completely different experience. The oysters tasted as if they came straight out of the water and freshly shucked onto the plate. I loved the play on “oysters and pearls”…

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(+) Royal Ossetra Caviar. Smoked Sturgeon “Panna Cotta”. Garden Radishes. Oyster Crackers.

This dish was substituted in place of the “Oysters and Pearls”. It was more refreshing and there was a slight  difference between the two caviars. In my opinion, I preferred the Oysters and Pearls due to its richness and savoriness, but the freshness and lighter flavors in this dish was still really good.

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White Truffle Oil-Infused Custards with Black Truffle Ragout. 

Lyla, the 4-year-old food critic, described this as a “chicken that tastes like a fluffy marshmallow”. I’ve never seen a child with such descriptive and a refined palate. I’d agree with her on the fluffy marshmallow texture. It was a rich and soft custard with a deeply, infused truffle sauce on top. Who can say “no” to truffle sauce? (See link here: http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/5607-a-four-year-old-reviews-the-french-laundry). 

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Croissant with a variety of butters. A break from all the savory goodness…

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Salad of Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm. Tangerine “Supremes”. Garden Beets. Petite Lettuces. Green Peppercorn Vinaigrette.

This salad was very light and sweet. The slowly roasted garden beets were divine…I could eat a whole bowl of this stuff! I noticed that Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc also shares the same beets, because the Garden Beet Salad at Ad Hoc was just as delicious, just a tad more wholesome since they serve their meals family-style.

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(+) Carnaroli Risotto Biologico. “Castelmagno” Mousse. Browned Butter. Shaved White Truffles from Alba.

The major theme of Thomas Keller’s tasting menu is elegance, richness, and truffles. Every other dish had a truffle component. If you order the risotto, the waitress brings out a cigar box full of large, whole truffles. Once it’s opened, it infuses the whole room full of an earthy and shroomy goodness. Next, they bring out the plate of risotto and the waitress shaves the truffles for a whole minute. I’ve never seen so much truffle in my life and it was definitely a moment and experience I’ll never forget…I regret not recording the whole process. I guess we’ll just have to go back!

The Truffle Box.

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Sauteed Fillet of Japanese Medai. Young Fennel. Compressed Cucumbers. Brokaw Avocado Puree. Garden Herbs.

You don’t know perfectly cooked fish until you have it done by The French Laundry…Flaky, moist, and lightly seasoned.

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Assortment of Breads: (left to right) Pretzel, Sourdough, Multigrain, French

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Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster. Marinated Tardivo Radicchio. Carmelized Sunchokes. Toasted Sunflower Seeds. Brown Butter Vinaigrette.

This was THE best lobster I have eaten in my life.  It’s easy to overcook lobster and I was so used to the rubbery stuff served at most restaurants. There was something different about this piece and it has changed how I look at steamed lobster. This bite of lobster..So juicy! And it almost melts in your mouth? How do you do it French Laundry??

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Thomas Farm Squab. Hopper Creek Quince Puree. Celery Branch. Sicilian Pistachios. “Sauce Perigourdine”.

It’s not often you find squab (domesitcated baby pigeon) on a menu. It reminded me of a really lean, yet tender duck…but better…

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Herb Roasted Elysian Fields Farm Lamb. Black Trumpet Mushroom “Pain Perdu”. Glazed Petite Turnips. French Pumpkin Puree. Swiss Chard Leaves.

At this point, I’ve just said so many great things about the proteins in this menu, it’s almost unbelievable. I’m not the biggest game meat fan and I’ve always gotten lamb quite overdone, but this piece? I am just amazed…Another favorite of this dish is the easily overlooked black trumpet mushroom “Pain Perdu”. It was so powerful in mushroom flavor and I just wished it was larger than a bite size. I was slowly slicing the pain perdu just to savor each bite!

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(+) Charcoal Grilled 100 Day Dry Aged American Wagyu. La Ratte Potato Puree. Matsutake Mushrooms. Arrowleaf Spinach. “Sauce Bordelaise”.

This was “The Chef’s” substituted dish in place of the lamb. There’s no picking of which dish is better than the other. Each dish was unique on its own. The wagyu was tender and well-seasoned. I only had a bite, but I sure wish I had more!

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“Ossau Iraty”. Globe Artichokes. Meyer Lemon Confit. Marcona Almonds. Romesco Sauce.

A well decorated cheese! A great break in between courses. That’s right. You break by eating at The French Laundry.

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Green Tea and Pomegranate Custard. 

This was the first of many desserts. I love the bits of Asian influence in his tasting menu. This custard was itty bitty and so delicate.

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Feijoa Ice Cream and Pistachio Sauvignon. 

Simple looking dessert? I think not! There was so much flavor jam-packed into this ice cream and it was balanced so well with the Pistachio sauce.

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Chocolate Layered Birthday Cake for the Chef. Rich. Decadent. Chocolatey? I don’t know how you can’t like it!

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Desserts: Cinnamon-sugared doughnuts. Persimmon. Pumpkin and Vanilla (?) Macarons. Cappuccino Semi-freddo.

I have never seen any restaurant offer so many desserts. And they were all perfectly delicious at that! My favorites had to be the cinnamon-sugared doughnuts and the Pumpkin macarons.

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Assortment of Chocolate Truffles.

I’ve never received so many desserts in one meal. During this bombardment of desserts, the waiter brings you a tray of chocolate truffles and you can try as many as you’d like! Dessert heaven!

Just when you thought when you were finished,  they bring out souvenir baggies of shortbread cookies to thank us for dining with them…

So, what is the verdict? The French Laundry was literally a parade of euphoria one bite after another…Each dish was rich and explosive. Each component screamed perfection. Perfection in plating. Perfection in technique. Perfection all around!

With that said, now I can say that I’ve eaten at a Michelin star restaurant…Three stars actually! And I can see why…

Rating: 5/5 spoons!
The French Laundry on Urbanspoon

Brunch @ Atchafalaya (Uptown, New Orleans, LA)

Just taking a quick break from my SF restaurant reviews for my NOLA readers! More San Francisco/Napa Valley restaurants coming: The French Laundry, San Tung, and more…

Back in NOLA…

Years ago, I ate dinner at Atchafalaya and I loved it. I remember an Atchafalaya Pasta that I don’t see on the dinner menu anymore, but since then, there may have revamped the menu. Considering how much I loved it then, I found myself craving brunch and found my way back…

There was about a 25-30 minute wait, but while you wait, grab a Bloody Mary at the bar. You can personalize your own drink at the Bloody Mary station. From what I here, it’s supposed to be the best in the city, but personally, I’m not a Bloody Mary fan. I’m more of a mimosa kinda girl!

 

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Mimosa. I’m more of a mimosa kind of girl!

 

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Soup Du Jour. Crab meat soup.

 

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Eggs Atchafalaya. Poached eggs. Fried green tomatoes. Jumbo lump crab. Hollandaise. Brunch potatoes.

 

 

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Boudin cakes.

 

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Cochon du L’eggs. Sunny-side up eggs. Pulled Pork. Cornbread pudding. Creole coleslaw. Blackberry cane syrup.

 

The crabmeat soup was so homey and light, and I loved it!  It was a great starter for brunch. The Eggs Atchafalaya was refreshing and elegant yet had some good ol’ Southern fried tomatoes for a touch of hominess. If I see crabmeat, I usually order it because you can never have too much! Finally, we had the Cochon du L’eggs, which is as delicious as it looks. Moist, savory pulled pork and eggs. Yes, please!

It’s been years since I’ve been back to Atchafalaya and I’m so glad I went back for brunch. I’m excited to come back for dinner again and hopefully it will be very soon…

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Rating: 4/5 spoons

 

Atchafalaya on Urbanspoon

Ad Hoc (Napa County, Yountville, CA)

While in San Francisco, we decided to drive to Napa and of course, the main goal was to eat at la creme de la creme! Among them is Ad Hoc, a Thomas Keller establishment. Thomas Keller is a world-renowned chef with 3 Michelin Stars for The French Laundry (review coming soon). Now, The French Laundry requires a reservation at least two months in advance for a 9-course tasting menu and we were able to get a reservation! More about that later…

As for Ad Hoc, imagine Thomas Keller’s refined palate but family-style. It’s great for a casual dinner and reservations can be made a couple days in advance or even on the day depending on how many people are in your party. We had a group of 4 and easily booked a reservation 1 day in advance.

The menu that day did not sound as exciting at first glance, but what came out far surpassed what you could imagine being on that plate…

 

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Bread and Butter. 

 

 

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Roasted Beet Salad. Mizuna. Tatsoi. Crispy TFL sunchokes. K&J orchards satsumas. Winter Radishes. Sesame Dressing.

Every element of this dish was well-thought out and very reminiscent of the beet Salad of Hawaiian Hearts of Palm from The French Laundry, but more wholesome and hearty. The beets were sweet and perfectly roasted.

 

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(+) Crispy Pork Belly & Clams. Red Miso. Ginger.

Unlike TFL, there’s a prix fixe menu, but with add ons. At TFL you have the choice to substitute for an upgraded menu item at a significant cost. “No substitutions here! We only do add-ons at Ad Hoc!”, said our waiter. There were definitely asian tones to this menu and it was executed so perfectly. The pork belly was perfectly crisped on the outside and the miso sauce was so well-refined that it even had some exquisite French influences, hence the clams. The Meyer lemon zests added a sweet, lemony citrus burst of flavor that really can only be understood if you’ve had Meyer lemons.

We actually ordered two of these…it was that good…

 

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Kung Pao Chicken. Charred Cabbage. Minuet Onions. Blistered Broccolini. Scallion rice. Pickled TFL peppers.

We hear Kung Pao Chicken all too often from small and even commercial Chinese restaurants. This was not your ordinary Kung Pao Chicken. Imagine a rotisserie chicken roasted to perfection to the point where white meat become dark meat. It was the juiciest and more flavorful rotisserie chicken I have ever eaten. I had no idea chicken could reach this point of perfection. As for the Scallion rice, I couldn’t have enough. It was savory and meshed so well with the Kung Pao Chicken. Perfection.

 

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Vella Cheese Company’s Mezzo Secco. “Looney Bin” Crackers. Marshall’s Farm Honey.

Wow.Who’s genius mind said that I will choose this particular honey to go with this specific cheese and place it on this cracker and it will make the perfect bite? I really want to order some Marshall’s Farm Honey. I’ve never had a more rich and flavorful honey.

 

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Apple Cake. Walnut Caramel.

Now, down to the final dish. Apple Cake. Sounds so plain, but how does this little slice of cake pack so much flavor? The outside crisp was perfect. It ranks probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten. It had the perfect amount of toastiness and sweetness and was smoothed out with the creamy, rich whipped cream. Our friends felt it could use some ice cream, but I felt the whipped cream balanced it out quite nicely.

 

It’s all a food lover could ever dream and hope for. Thomas Keller definitely has your mouth watering with every bite and doesn’t leave you feeling overstuffed or unsatiated. You leave well-nourished…

If your travels revolve around food, this is a destination that cannot be missed. As simple as the  menu may sound, you’re in for a surprise as each dish is brought out and then enters your mouth. Enjoy!

 

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Rating: 5/5 spoons
Ad Hoc on Urbanspoon
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Upcoming Posts:

The French Laundry

Crab House @ Pier 39

San Tung

Yank Sing (San Francisco, CA)

Yank Sing is a fine dining Chinese restaurant that serves dim sum, which an assortment of steamed dumplings and side dishes. It’s very well-known and has recognition from the James Beard Foundation: http://www.yanksing.com/about-us/reviews/james_beard_09.html

At first glance to people who are unfamiliar with dim sum, it may seem strange as a breakfast/brunch option. Don’t worry, you’ll crave it for breakfast soon enough. It’s the perfect meal to bring families and friends together. It’s shared family-style so it’s no wonder large families gather for dim sum every Sunday! The dim sum at Yank Sing can be a bit pricey, but I’d pay for the quality and freshness that they put out. They also have a superb wait staff as compared to other more homey dim sum restaurants. I have nothing against the classic, small, hole-in-the-walls, but I don’t mind the extra customer service and food quality that Yank Sing offers.

Yank Sing has two locations and during my short trip to SF, I went to both…

 

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Soup Dumplings.

 

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Tofu Skin. 

 

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Xiu Mai.

 

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Savory Taro Puff. 

 

 

 

 

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Har Gow.

 

 

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Cheers!

 

The two locations are: the Spear St. location and the Stevenson St.. The Spear St. location is within a business building food court and it’s very nice. The Stevenson location is smaller and not as popular so you may not see as long of a line, but there will still be a wait. Food is consistent between the two.

So were there any notable dishes? Absolutely. The Soup dumplings. I first discovered these Chinese delights in NYC’s Joe Shanghai restaurant. It’s well-known for their soup dumplings and I can still taste my first bite. Unfortunately, New Orleans has no such thing, but I’ve discovered them in major cities like Houston and more recently in San Francisco. Yank Sing has one of the best soup dumplings I have ever had. The dumpling casing is so delicate and very similar to a won-ton. It holds the perfect temperature of soup and dumpling within. Once it’s in your mouth, it just melts…Be sure to add the ginger and red vinegar. It balances the flavors so well. It can be an acquired taste so start with just a touch!

Overall, excellent food and service.

Yes, the dim sum prices are pretty steep, but it’s worth a try! Honestly, I would just go to Yank Sing for a few orders of Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) and some tea. That would be the perfect meal right about now on this Sunday morning…

Foodie Tip: Get there earlier in the day for soup dumplings. They’ll run out if you’re too late!

 

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Rating: 4.5/5
Yank Sing on Urbanspoon
Yank Sing on Urbanspoon