Following July’s dining out drought as a result of my meet, I finally got back on the horn and finished August’s Favorite Food Finds with some truly outstanding experiences. Admittedly, I may have overcompensated in this month’s food finds as my adventures took me to some far (and lavish) places. That being said, it was totally worth it, and for someone who loves food and loves new food finds, I couldn’t be more happy. For this month’s Favorite Food Finds, I was up and down the Bay Area, and was privileged enough to have had dinners at places with well-known head chefs. While a number of the places I visited are well-known and long standing bastions of food paradise, there were a few trips to some newcomers on the scene as well. As we get set to move into September with more fall themes, I definitely enjoyed all the summer fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, corn, and summer squashes! Because of that, this month’s Favorite Food Finds focused more on the savoury than the sweet. If you’ve been keeping up with my postings, you know that I can’t say no to a good dessert, but to pick almost all savoury dishes this time means that those must have been real winners!
For the August Favorite Food Finds, I’d label it as Awesome August. With our first year wedding anniversary at the end of the month, the need to get back out onto the food scene after a small hiatus, and the opportunity to get out of the city a little bit to do some exploration, there was a little bit more time (and money) that went into this past month’s excursions. Manresa and ad hoc, the two places I was looking forward to the most in all of my planned adventures, required the time to get out to the restaurant and also enjoy the scene since it’s a rarity to get out and be out of SF for more than a few hours.
But not all of my adventures took me to Napa or Los Gatos. One of my favorite things about going out to new restaurants is when a restaurant can convert me into loving something I previously was skeptical of or didn’t like. Having read so much about Octavia in the SF press, whose head chef also runs the fort at Frances, my friend Brittny and I committed ourselves to going awhile back since reservations are fairly hard to come by for a reasonable dining hour during the week. Aside from the beautiful pasta and protein plates that are all over the Internet, the one thing Brittny wanted to get was the breaded eggplant. My experience with eggplant has always been neutral to general distaste; I certainly avoided it if it were presented to me in its raw and unadulterated form. That being said, and trying to open myself to trying new things, I had one bite of that eggplant dish and was an immediate fan. I was so impressed by the dish that I went and bought an eggplant that weekend at my local farmer’s market in an attempt to get amped about my new interest. While I have yet to touch the eggplant, it’s safe to say that I am no longer a skeptic but rather a big fan!
Ah, Ad Hoc. Famous for their fried chicken and their head chef Thomas Keller, making a trip here was an absolute must. Back in May, my girlfriends and I decided to plan a trip out to Ad Hoc. Time went by, and people’s schedules got busy, but my friend Mei-lin and I were committed to the cause in making sure we kept our reservation. I am insanely glad that we went since Ad Hoc is one of those places you just don’t say no to when you have the opportunity. The menu here is, well, ad hoc, in that you don’t get the same thing every single night. The night we went, there was a delicious looking pork chop with a scallops add-on (yes, we added it), but one of the things that sent me into inspo overload was the triple cream brie cheese course that came following the entree. The cheese, from local darling Cowgirl Creamery, was absolutely delicious. What made this 100x better were the biscuits and strawberry jam that came to accompany the cheese. It was the perfect balance between sweet and savory, and just decadent enough where you felt like you had the post-dinner sweetness that’s needed after a big entrée.
Sometimes you just gotta go back to some of those O.G. establishments. Zuni Cafe is one of those places that, as a local, you associate it with SF tradition and a place that EVERYONE has been to at least once. It took me almost 5 years of living in SF to get to Zuni, and it took my parents coming in to town to finally get around to trying the famous chicken & bread salad. So, let’s get down to the essentials: the chicken was absolutely amazing and worth ordering. Having seen it in recipe books, I’m 200% sure that if I tried to make this at home, it’d be an utter failure. The chicken is tender, juicy, and full of flavor. And let’s not forget about the bread salad, that’s literally swimming in the chicken juices, oil, raisins, and lettuce. It’s pretty damn good chicken. While the menu suggests that this dish is meant to be shared between two people, the amount of food is clearly sufficient for almost four. While the legend/head chef at Zuni Cafe may be gone (RIP Judy Rodgers), the chicken & bread salad lives on and is absolutely delicious and worth having once in your time in SF.
Another newcomer that’s been getting a lot of press is the rising trend of Belgian food establishments. And not just waffles! Belga was on my to-try list for a while, and once I got around to venturing back out after my meet, this was one of the first places I looked at going to with my friend DJ. As Yelp Elites and fellow foodies, we had done a fair amount of due diligence on the place (thanks Michael Bauer), and decided that rather than committing ourselves to an individual entree, we would share everything and enjoy tidbits at a time. The one that maybe shouldn’t have been shared were the absolutely incredible frites aka french fries. These frites were easily some of the best I’ve ever had. Now I know what you’re saying. How can french fries be that good? Aren’t fast food fries sufficient? The answer is: no, not all fries are created equal. In the case of Belga, the frites are accompanied with some absolutely mind-blowing curry ketchup. Later that week, I was inspired by the ketchup flavors when I was making dinner at home and while it doesn’t stand up to what Belga was dishing out, it definitely promoted some new awareness on how to make ketchup more exciting.
And last, but most certainly not least, dinner at Manresa was something that I had been almost giddy about for months now. After our wonderful experience at Meadowood, going to Manresa was truly an experience that requires ample preparation. While the food here was absolutely incredible and delicious, the bigger celebration was our first wedding anniversary. I truly believe that it made the food that much more delicious – especially since my wonderful husband gave me a camera lens to better document all of our food excursions going forward. Given the strange and weird food allergies I have to sea urchin, fish eggs, honeydew and cantaloupe, the restaurant had to make a few modifications for my dietary restrictions. One of the best things I ate that night were maitake mushrooms in a delicious dashi broth. The ingredients, albeit very simple, had so much flavor depth that it made it one of the best mushroom dishes I’ve had the joy of having. I already enjoy maitake, but to infuse it with a delicious broth made me secretly happy that my food allergies had brought me to this dish. Dinner was fantastic, and I got to say thank you to Michelin star rated head chef David Kinch, and enjoyed celebrating a year of happy memories and delicious food with my husband.
As always, check out my Yelp reviews for more in-depth reviews and photos from my dining experiences of some of the places mentioned here!
1. Crisp eggplant, Miso Butter & Charred Sungold Tomato from Octavia
2. Mt. Tam Triple Cream Brie, Drop Biscuits, and Strawberry Jam from ad hoc
3. Roast chicken and bread salad from Zuni Cafe
4. Frites with curry ketchup from Belga
5. Maitake in dashi from Manresa Restaurant