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Made in San Francisco, California.

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Separated at birth: Pop/Tennis Version

10.13.15 Posted in Photos by

The Roger Mr. Taylor


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Put a little Thistle in your Meats

09.01.15 Posted in Food by

The recent profusion of bespoke butchers is only bringing good things to light. The formula is pretty clear, small front of the store featuring house cured salumi, select cuts of locally sourced animals along with local foodstuffs that round out a picnic or appetizer plate like cheeses, butters, and pickles. Fatted Calf was one the style’s pioneers and has now refined it to a model in their Napa store up to the relief casts of bones running along the ceiling. We’re just so fortunate to have all this action and that’s despite all the complaints about the preciousness and expense because the quality is just off the charts. 

My latest encounter with this species came over the weekend in Petaluma where Thistle Meats’ tiny store front on the main drag of Petaluma Boulevard checks all the boxes: A trio of cold cases up front with a work area stretching into the back. On Saturday the main butcher table was a study in Nigel Slater minimalism, just a few shanks rested there ready for a photo shoot or braise.

But the real action is all in those cold cases. The cacciatore salume is perfectly fatted, at room temperature it almost melts in your mouth. Their Milano is a reminder of just how negligent we’ve been with simple salumi, Thistle’s version is so fresh and light that it’s a siren call for a glass of rose.

Once you dig further into the meat case the picture only improves. The house made Bologna is a budget steal. It’s all beef and not the fully emulsified meat mixture you might expect. It’s a bit chunky and you can actually taste the beef. Oscar Meyer, eat your heart out.

I could go on, the full range of charcuterie is well represented and the diversity in sausages includes seldom seen European classics like the Bavarian Weisswurst and a Toulouse. Not to say that the meat case is polluted by Eurocentrism, the wave of innovative American sausages are all there like the rosemary scented rabbit which is an instant classic. Then the cuts of meat are just so vividly colored testaments to their freshness. Oh and they carry Andante, one of the prides of Sonoma cheese making. The one weakness is a lack of bread. Fortunately Della Fatoria is right across the street.


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I have seen the future of food, it’s in Sonoma

08.18.15 Posted in Food by

Not the town, mind you, but off the same exit to Rohnert Park that hosts the Graton Rancheria Casino. And it’s a fast food place named Amy’s Drive Thru. Yes, that Amy’s. The menu embraces just about every trend in fast and casual dining; burgers, pizzas, burritos, and salads. But they’re all vegetarian and some are even vegan. It’s more than reasonably priced, it’s downright cheap, a family of four can dine comfortably for under $20. And when you consider it’s all organic, healthy enough to encourage sin, and literally encased in the trapping of contemporary sustainability – a living roof – you really have to wonder, did you just hop off a dark desert highway? But no, you didn’t. Neither did everyone else at Amy’s because the place is packed.

That’s quite a contrast to all the beef burger mini-chains popping up and IPOing all over the landscape. Combined with the upcoming Roy Choi/Daniel Patterson healthy fast food creation about to open any day now in the Tenderloin, we may have a trendlet here. Maybe it’s even a sign of salvation just as long as everyone getting there drives an electric and applies the same sensibility at home then we’d really be getting somewhere.

Lest you think this is a one off, Amy’s Drive Thru looks ready to expand and they’re savvy about marketing too. Their preview video gets all those hipster associations right. I’m just a tad concerned that someone might assume they’d get to the coast with a warm burger.

After you finish your burger, chili-fries, etc drive under the freeway and head to one of Sonoma county’s great brewing institutions. Beercraft’s taproom features constantly rotating taps in the back and a retail store up front just in case you need to pick up and go.

Tomorrow: The past of food is still alive and well in Sonoma.


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Separated at birth

08.17.15 Posted in Movies by

Rachel McAdams parkerposey


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Provender Postulates Potrero caffeinapocaypse 

08.07.15 Posted in Espresso by

Marzocco check.

Sightglass check.

Hexagonal white tiles check.

Air plants check.

Provender recently opened on Potrero’s frequently changing 18th St strip. It brings the best coffee on the hill, to date by serving that Sightglass with just the right pour length. It’s a bit too bright for me but more integrated than the surrounding espressos at Farley’s and Chatz. Even if you like what they offer you have to wonder at the density of decent espresso on Potrero Hill. The Dogpatch side is bustling with Neighbor Bakehouse, Piccino, Front, and Dignita. The North side has Papa November‘s permanent trailer pop up.  The Mission side has Sightglass, Blue Bottle, and Coffee Bar. And there are rumors of yet another Potrero Hill caffe up on 20th. For what used to be a quiet residential neighborhood that’s quite a lot of coffee.

Provender replaces Bake which was great, especially for breakfast pastries, but the formula appears to be good espresso + good baked goods + sandwiches for lunch, at least until we see this location rotate along with the rest of the strip. The sandwhiches at Provender are commendably light, especially the beet sandwich. Just don’t expect to eat in. It’s literally a store front so you either eat on the bench out front, drink your espresso at the bar in the window or take it to go.


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Scarlet City Roasting

08.05.15 Posted in Espresso by

Pin ball machines go with craft beer, why not espresso? Maybe, especially espresso given how well Scarlet City works. It’s situated on an Emeryville corner surrounded by the out-of-control generic condo developments that are rapidly consuming every bit of open space in the Bay Area. The location isn’t exactly gemütlich, concrete is the governing architectural material, but Scarlet is about coffee, science fiction, and pin ball so you can easily distract yourself. They even have a trailer.

Coffee is in evidence through the central bar which, in contrast to the trend of hosting espresso blends, Scarlet roasts its own. The default Warp Drive blend is rich, sweet, and is rendered with a thick crema by the resident Marzocco. In even starker contrast, they only serve espresso drinks. These are people worth knowing, perhaps even loving. Their roasting schedule is posted on the web site so that you can buy it fresh but really, get out of the house and leave your computer at home because there’s no wi-fi here, and experience a cup of well made espresso. Savor it then proceed to the science fiction theme.

The bar is lined with models from science fiction films, Star Wars and Star Trek are well represented but I’m guessing that Gene Roddenberry is the patron saint since the bar is in the shape of a Star Trek insignia and not the Millennium Falcon. The back walls are lined by science fiction pinball games. On my last visit Terminator 2 and Demolition Man consumed the most quarters which, at a minimum of fifty cents a pop, go faster than when I was young and flipper happy. The Space Invaders pin ball game is the most vintage dated, covered with H.R. Giger inspired/ripped off drawings.

H.R. Giger's influence abounds.

H.R. Giger’s influence abounds.


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20th Century Cafe

07.10.15 Posted in Espresso by

20th Century Cafe in Hayes Valley conjures up a swelling false nostalgia for Hapsburg era Trieste, or is it Zagreb? It could just as easily be Vienna but this sliver of a elegance along Gough Street wouldn’t countenance those comparisons. The ladies that run it come straight out of San Francisco and the menu, while inspired by Eastern European, is clearly contemporary. It’s such a tiny place filled with a grand atmosphere that recalls Tosca and Trieste in their prime.

Lindzer Torte at 20th Century Cafe

Come for the incredible sweets including their justly lauded Russian Honey Cake but if you have the appetite or partners then wander through their Sacher and Linzer Tortes.  The nostalgia shades into the convivial environment composed of marble tables and a plush banquet that runs the length of one wall. These features induce strangers to share quite frequently or you can drift on the background music which quite frequently features the piano.

Espresso at 20th Century Cafe

As for the espresso, they have a vintage machine that produces a very soft and rounded cup which is, appropriately enough, served in delicate china.


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How your coffee is made

04.07.15 Posted in Espresso by

Sweet Maria’s has a great video of the post fermentation processing in the middle of an Ethiopian night.


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Trouble Coffee – Bayview

02.12.15 Posted in Espresso by

Trouble Coffee - Bayview

Trouble’s second incarnation is a half block off Third on Yosemite amidst homes and sundry light industrial buildings. It feels like SOMA in the 80’s and 90’s, bedraggled but with creative spark. The city is obviously growing this direction, the sunny weather is already there.

And then there’s Trouble which has carved out its own identity replete with a parklet that provides quite a contrast to everything else on the block. It has a concrete base with steel stadium seating facing the tiny store front. Perhaps it’s a riff on nearby and soon-to-be-demolished Candlestick. It has a very strange effect because you sit with your back to the street and face into the espresso bar.

And it is a bar. It’s tiny with three or four stools that look they were stolen from the Zeitgeist or Benders. Steel and the occasional funky ceramic item which could just as easily have been manufactured in the 60’s as today mesh with an Ornette Coleman album cover, cassette tapes, copies of Basic Rockcraft by Royal Robbins with Tom Frost on the cover, and Renato Poggioli’s The Theory of the Avant-Garde. But they’re all purely decorative: The focus is clearly on the experience.

There is something of a secret espresso menu but in the way of these things it’s not entirely secret because people like me write about it and it’s not entirely novel either with variations on an Americano and depth charges. I didn’t try any of them. I did try their espresso which is a nicely layered experience. Roasted by Intelligentsia on Potrero Hill, it starts in the high range, bright with very little acid. Beth, the barista at the time of my visits, described it as having a mineral sensation which, upon hearing the term, was perfectly descriptive but I’m not sure that I’d ever arrive at it myself. The cup then moves through a nice mid palate nuttiness, finishing with a dark chocolate roundness. It is served in a little hand sculpted ceramic cup with a murky green glaze. The aesthetic is totalizing.

A very engaging barista complements the funny customer base. One day it was steel guys and gear heads. Another it was creative types. Yosemite Place just down the street is full of offices with bland names that stir the imagination so I’m sure there’s some creative ferment amidst its halls. Then again, they may all just be grow houses and money laundering operations. Who knows. Feel free to jump in and write a counter-narrative here. The music drifts from place to place. A Spacemen 3 cassette tape played on a Walkman through an audio jack first complemented, then sparked conversation. The cassette collection inspires with classics like PIL and many a hand decorated mix tape; sensibility to burn.

Should you take a stroll you’ll find lots of crap sitting around for the taking. A friend filled my trunk with shelving and let a few broken pieces of curb stare him down. We didn’t even seriously consider the entire Chevy Blazer center console but only looked for the rest of the car.

There be treasure on that Yosemite.

 


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Pinhole Coffee

01.22.15 Posted in Espresso by

The latest addition to the Bernal coffee scene.

The latest addition to the Bernal coffee scene.

 Pinhole Coffee is one of the more recent additions to San Francisco’s coffee landscape and the latest demonstration that there are many trained baristas with ambition ready to plug the caffeine holes in our urban fabric. The barista is familiar from Blue Bottle, this end of Cortland in Bernal doesn’t have coffee, so the business plan must have been clear.

IMG_3684

The multicolored back wall at Pinhole.

The outcome works well, no financial district blond wood and white tile here, one whole wall is covered in colored stripes.

As with most small caffe’s these days Pinhole has a variety of suppliers:

The espresso shots are thick, almost chocolatey in consistency. They’re served in funky green cups and saucers. There’s a cuddly corner bench with wood stump table as well as a massive communal table.

Espresso in a very hand made environment.

Espresso in a very hand made environment.

It’s a single room with a small bar fun ambiance created by the rotating cast of neighborhood visitors.

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Murals are everywhere these days.