A Couple of Tarts

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf. ~ Epicurus

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Piece of My Heart (Part One)

I can't say that I left my whole heart in San Francisco when I moved away three years ago. Over the years bits of it have been scattered all over the world. A part of it will always be in Los Angeles, where I grew up, and a majority is definitely here in New York now, but a good sized piece will always be found in the Bay Area. It may be because it's where I really grew into myself, first in college at Santa Cruz, and then through my twenties in San Francisco. It's where I fully realized my passion for food and cooking....Or it may just be because it's so darn beautiful and the vibe is laid back and easy going. Whatever the reason, I will always think of it as one of my primary homes, whether or not I ever live there again.

Dora has been doing such a wonderful job recounting our adventures during her visit to NYC that I am going to let her continue on that track. (Although I will be posting on a few new -to me- finds and a recipe in the near future.) I am going to fast forward to right after I left Dora. I said good-bye and was almost immediately on a plane to the West Coast. I had so much fun and ate so many tasty things there that to write about it all would take more time at the computer than I've got. Instead, I am dividing the highlights into two posts. Here are a few of my favorite things:

**Tacos, tacos and more tacos at two of my favorite taquerias: El Toro in the Mission in SF (598 Valencia Street) and Taqueria Vallarta in Santa Cruz (1101 Pacific Avenue). I always feel the ingredients at these places are super fresh because of the amount of people constantly streaming through. I especially love the marinated carrots at the condiment bar at Vallarta. They are just spicy enough to light a little fire on my lips. I think they are best eaten stacked on top of a tortilla chip. One of the great things at El Toro is that you can choose from two kinds of rice, beans and salsa. There is also a whole list of meat and non-meat fillings. Only in California do you have the choice of tofu for your burrito!

**Cocoa nib rocher at Tartine Bakery. A rocher is a meringue cookie and means "rock" in English. The rocher I had at Tartine had a crisp exterior while the center was soft and slightly sticky. The cocoa nibs added chocolate flavor and crunch without any extra sweetness. It seems that cocoa nibs are the ingredient du jour. For the first time I also tried one of their tartlets: banana cream. It looked beautiful and was surprisingly light. I think they use a puff pastry for the shell since it was so flaky.

**Cocktails and dessert at Range. This is a sleek little addition to the restaurant scene on Valencia Street in SF. My friend J., a fellow pastry chum, knows many of the people working there, including the pastry chef. J. hadn't been in yet to try the desserts, so a visit was definitely in order. We started with tasty cocktails. They have a very tempting list and after some debate I orderd a Hemingway. It was a refreshing mix of flor de cana rum, maraschino liqueur, grapefruit juice and lime juice. We ordered a couple appetizers, which were delicious, and then went on to main event...dessert! The choices were all seasonal and incorporated many of the summer fruits beginning to become available. Range always has a souffle on the menu and that night it was chocolate with cocoa nib (what did I just tell you ?) creme anglaise. We also tried a pavlova with strawberries and lemon ice cream and a pluot tart tatin with cardamom ice cream. The tart tatin was my favorite. This place has gotten a lot of positive press and rightly so. Their dishes show off the main ingredients by adding flavorful accents that don' t take over.

**Blue Bottle Coffee Roasting Company (specifically their Hayes Valley spot). Individually prepared drip coffee seems to be all the rage these days. While a cup of this joe is generally more expensive than your average house coffee, it is so worth the extra dollar. Blue Bottle offers just this, plus lattes to die for. They have other spots where they sell coffee, such as the Ferry Plaza, but this one is my favorite. Not only is it in my old neighborhood (if only they were there when I was living there!) but they have a neat little set up on a side street in a garage, right in front of what I think is a furniture (?) making shop. Get your coffee fix while watching someone saw and hammer away!



Anonymous Lily said...

What a beautiful post. You made me so homesick for the Bay Area. I cannot wait to hear more!

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Karen said...

Thanks for the compliment! As soon as I can figure out my camera, there will be a few pictures too.

6:40 PM  

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