40 Hours in San Francisco

I spend the first half of this week in San Francisco for work. Although I wasn’t even there for two full days, I was fortunate to be able to enjoy two great meals.

Chez Panisse – 1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA

Straight off the plane, I headed to Berkeley on Monday for lunch with my grandparents and aunt who happened to be in town. My grandparents have lived in Berkeley for years and wanted to give my aunt and I a chance to try Alice Water’s famous Berkeley restaurant. This restaurant opened 40 years ago and started the homegrown, health food concept that  is now visible across the nation. Alice Waters is a passionate advocate for a food economy that is “good, clean, and fair.” The restaurant experienced major damage from a fire in the spring and just re-opened about three weeks ago. The menu at Chez Panisse changes daily. We ate upstairs in the more casual café and enjoyed all of our selections (though we we not overly impressed with the service.) I ordered a little gem lettuce salad with poached shrimp, grape fruit and crème fresh. Then I had a pizzette of leeks and clams. My aunt ordered a fried calamari dish that was served with a zucchini salad. My grandmother ordered a beautiful looking tagliatelle with a fresh pesto made with parsley.

I didn’t take any photos of the food but here my aunt and I are outside the restaurant.

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The Slanted Door – 1 Sausalito, San Francisco Ferry Bldg #3, San Francisco, CA

After a great lunch in Berkeley with family, I went back to the city to quickly check into my hotel before dinner with my colleagues at The Slanted Door. We sat in the private room which was perfect for our group because it was mostly enclosed by a glass and had a curtain that blocked the noise from the main dining room.

Since we were in the private room, we had to order from the prix fixe menu. We left the ordering up to one person in our party and lucky for us everything he picked was great. (We did have one vegetarian in our group so he received his own items in place of those he couldn’t eat.) Our three appetizers were:

  • crispy imperial rolls with gulf shrimp, pork shoulder, glass noodle, roasted peanut
  • barbecued willis ranch pork spareribs with scallion, cilantro, honey-hoisin sauce
  • grapefruit and jicama salad with red cabbage, pickled carrot, candied pecan.

I thought the spring rolls were just on par with any others I have had elsewhere. The pork spareribs were very tasty (I do love anything with hoisin) but messy. Fortunately, the waiter bought us damp towels once we were done with the appetizer course. I thought the grapefruit and jicama salad had good flavor but it was 95% red cabbage. I would have enjoyed more jicama.

For the entrée round, we ordered:

  • cellophane noodles with green onion, dungeness crab, sesame
  • sesamepan-seared day boat scallops served with lotus root, fennel, chayote, grape tomato, red curry sauce
  • organic chicken claypot with caramel sauce, thai chili, fresh ginger
  • grass-fed estancia shaking beef, cubed filet mignon, watercress, red onion, lime sauce.

I’m not a big scallop fan but everyone seemed to enjoy them. The cellophane noodles were a huge hit. The chicken had great flavors but it came out after the other items so I could only manage a taste because I was so full.

For our vegetable, we ordered the dirty girl farm spicy haricots vert with beech mushroom, roasted chili. They were a good compliment to the other items so rich in flavor.

For dessert, we were served homemade donuts with a butterscotch dipping sauce and a cheesecake that came with a blackberry sauce and featured an amazing crust.

Lava Lounge – 527 Bryant St, San Francisco, CA

On to the real reason I went to San Francisco….on Tuesday evening, I hosted about 125 guests for a reception and also took about 60 clients to the Giants/Red Sox game. The only food I sampled at Lava was the truffled tofu fries and they were amazing! They were lightly battered and tossed in truffle oil  and served with lemon soy-dipping sauce.

Here are some photos from AT&T Park:

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Although my trip to San Francisco was quick, it was a success overall. I had a chance to visit with family, hosted a successful event and enjoyed a few great meals! Next time, I’ll have to make sure to get some sightseeing in.

City Landing

The other day my friend and I made our 2nd visit to City Landing on the Greenway. City Landing opened last summer when Sel De La Terre closed right near the Aquarium. I personally think that this restaurant has some of the best food in the city of Boston. The menu features a wide selection of intriguing options with many on the healthier side. This restaurant also feature a huge gluten free and vegetarian menu.

On this visit my friend and I split the Crisp Calamari with a sweet chili drizzle and the White Pizzetta that had chicken-apple sausage, oven-cured tomatoes, portabellas and arugula.

Crispy calamari from City Landing

White Pizette from City Landing

It seems that the people of Boston have yet to discover City Landing but with food this good, I’m sure that it’s just a matter of time until this becomes a popular destination. Also with Nebo opening just down the street, the Financial District is becoming a hot spot for weekend eats.

Funny how a melody sounds like a memory

Last night I got back from my much anticipated trip to Nashville. This was my 5th (almost) consecutive year going down for CMA Fan Fest. I went for the first time in 2008 and then have gone every June since 2010. This year we had our biggest crew ever with about 25 of us in total. The trip was absolutely amazing. If you don’t know what Fan Fest is (you are missing out!), it is an 4 day long country music festival that raises money for music programs in public schools. All of the artists perform for free so that all of the proceeds can go directly to the programs. It features all of country music’s major artists performing on Nashville’s Riverfront during the day and then at LP Field at night. Highlights from this year’s line up included Zac Brown Band, Phil Vassar, Luke Bryan, Craig Campbell, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift, Joe Nichols, Sara Evans, Brett Eldredge, Kip Moore, Little Big Town, Hunter Hayes, Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton, Jerrod Neimann, Jake Owen, David Nail, Corey Smith, Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, The Band Perry, Jake Owen and Carrie Underwood. Phew!! That was only the acts that I can remember!! You can visit the CMA’s website for the full line up. Highlights from the show will air on August 12th on ABC.

Despite this being one of the best vacations of my 27 years, we did experience a few snags. The first would be the surprise performance by Lenny Kravitz. If you follow me on twitter, you may have an idea how I feel about this. Lenny came out and performed a 45 minute set which was one of the longest (if not THE longest) out of the 4 nights. The crowd was completely unfamiliar with his songs besides American Woman and Fly Away. After multiple attempts to coax the crowd into singing along to one of his other songs and being met with silence, Lenny then decided to extend the song with a 10 minute guitar solo. He clearly didn’t read the crowd…..or the camera men when they tried cutting him off about 10 minutes earlier. He finally flipped off the crowd and stormed off the stage in anger. I truly don’t know what the CMA was thinking by having this “surprise SUPER MEGA STAR” featured. One can only assume there were some type of backstage politics involved. I won’t even get into the decision to have Jason Aldean (a real country artist) join Lenny on stage for one song and then leave.

The only other snag was Sunday night’s concert at LP Field. Due to an impending thunderstorm, each act was limited to 1-3 songs instead of their planned 5-7. Poor Jake Owen was only brought on stage for one song before he was told to get off. Brad Paisley and The Band Perry were both allowed two and Carrie Underwood had time for three. We all know Mother Nature cannot be tamed but because of the rushed acts, the concert let out over 2 hours before the rain actually began. I do want to commend all of the artists for handling their shortened time gracefully. After all, they donated their time to be there when they absolutely could have been paid to perform elsewhere.

Here are some highlights from our trip:

CMA Fest 2013

Above: Kip Moore, Eric Church, Brad Paisley, Zac Brown Band at LP Field

Nashville

Clockwise: Some of the ladies of the trip, Vanderbilt’s football field from our hotel window, Craig Campbell at the Riverfront, Quitting my day job and learning to play guitar, Phil Vassar at the Riverfront

While in town, we stopped for dinner at my all time favorite restaurant, Whiskey Kitchen. Our meal highlights included WK Bourbon Poppers which were bourbon BBQ glazed chicken poppers, seasoned sweet potato fries, ranch; Aristocrat Wings flavored with truffle, parmesan, parsley, black pepper; The Southerner which was a quarter pound biscuit, peppered bacon gravy, cheddar cheese, topped w/ fried egg and with choice of side choose from: fried chicken, smoked ham, fried green tomato, or steak (I went with the tomato)Whiskey Kitchen, Nashville, TN

Only 360 days until next year’s trip to Nashville. So blessed ^

Restaurant Week

I strongly believe that it is NO coincidence that Boston’s Winter Restaurant Week always falls during the weeks before and after my birthday. This year I went to a few places with the most notable being Hell’s Kitchen Chef Jason Santos’ Blue Inc.

Duck Confit from Blue Inc

Highlights from the menu include: Italian Prosciutto “Carpaccio” with truffle salt, caper aioli, ciabatta crisps, arugula; Duck Confit served with sweet sticky rice, mango, coconut milk, cashews; and Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with  brown sugar caramel, candied pecans.

Proscuitto Carpaccio from Blue IncDark Chocolate Cheesecake from Blue Inc

Highlights from the evening include spending time with someone of my oldest and dearest friends, celebrating Megan‘s last night as a 26 year old and first birthday back in Boston, and plenty of Anorexic Models!

Ladies at Blue Inc