Monday, September 28, 2009

homegrown heirloom tomatoes highlight a san francisco dinner party

I had the most wonderful dinner recently at the home of Steven Oliver. Steven, a restaurateur, wine aficionado and all around foodie writes a web column for the Nob Hill Gazette, called “Taste.” But many a moon ago Steven and I went to high school together in Del Norte county. Steven got a lot of his good taste from his parents, Clyde and Sharon Oliver.

Long before Steven and I moved to San Francisco, Sharon Oliver was the premier pastry person in Crescent City. To say Clyde and Sharon have a love of the outdoors, gardens, everything food and all things gourmet would be an understatement. A visit to their home is a delight to the senses as well as the palate.
Steven carries on the tradition with a terrific eclectic apartment in San Francisco with high ceilings, textured paint, leather, mohair, hunting trophies and an extraordinary wine collection.
There, on the window sill, the heirloom tomatoes sit like eye candy with their little bumps and nubs, swirls of color and irregular shapes. My brother and sister-in-law, Rick and Donna Parker, also from Crescent City, sip wine while we all watch Steven make dinner appear effortless, with a roast pork tenderloin on Asian scented pasta, grilled vegetables and of course the heirloom tomatoes from Clyde and Sharon's garden tossed with fresh buffalo mozzarella.

I was lucky, they saved a batch of these last of summer beauties for me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

rich southern cuisine at brenda's french soul food

I discovered a delicious little spot this week that I can't wait to revisit. Okay, I didn't discover it, I knew about it and just hadn't got a chance to go there. First, they usually have a wait and I wanted to pick the least crowded time. Turns out, Mondays at 2:00pm is only about a 5 minute wait.

Brenda's French Soul Food is located at 652 Polk Street in San Francisco. Brenda is a native of New Orleans transplanted to San Francisco with quite an impressive resume of restaurant gigs and it shows. If you love beignets there are 4 types to choose from and even a sampler plate if you can't decide. I was most interested in a Granny Smith apple beignet oozing with honey butter or a savory beignet with crawfish, scallions and cheddar.

I indulged in a po' boy with fried shrimp, chipolte remoulade and thin crispy fries ($9.50). My mouth was watering when a plate of creamy, cheesy grits went by topped with glistening shrimp. Mile high home made cream biscuits are the house specialty and to make it even more difficult to decide, there is a daily specials board with the likes of catfish benedict, Cajun shrimp pot pie and bananas Foster French toast. Most items are below $10.00.

Give Brenda's a visit for something a little different and unexpected for breakfast and brunch. I will continue to plot my next visit while filling my time with dreams of shrimp and grits.

Monday, September 14, 2009

tasty lunch at tender greens and tomato pie in la

I went to LA over Labor Day weekend to visit my dear friend Brendan Eisan. The plan was to make it a working weekend redoing his photography business web site with updated photos, colors and graphics. Brendan is the owner of Blink Photo and he is a talented photographer, but the hours of work involved in redoing a web site is so daunting it is much nicer to split up the work.

Brendan and I are big foodies. It is not uncommon for us to hop in the car and fight traffic for an hour to find some hidden gem. Add to that the fact that we are hungry most of the time, making it inevitable we would need to venture out for some sustenance sooner rather than later.

Usually we build our food trolling around a theme: all hotels, LA landmarks, Mexican only, etc. This weekend, we needed to keep it tasty but quick and inexpensive. Brendan's new favorite quick lunch spot that I hadn't tried yet is Tender Greens, located at 8759 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. The great concept of this clean contemporary space is the well priced organic food from local farms. I loved that whatever big salad you choose, the price is the same, $10.50. If one salad has a little more food cost it is simply made up by the low food cost of another. Brendan is hooked on the grilled chicken cobb, chopped romaine tossed with Point Reyes blue cheese, bacon, egg and avocado. I was drawn to the Chinese chicken salad because of the tatsoi greens, a favorite of mine but not on a lot of menus. You can have soup, sandwiches or a hot plate from the grill such as marinated flank steak with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and a simple salad for, you guessed it, $10.50.

Brendan got a recommendation from someone about a certain little joint serving a slice of pizza that reminded them of New York. All we remembered was that the name had the word tomato in it. After a Google search, we found Tomato Pie at 7751 ½ Melrose. The place looked closed till you opened the door and the tiny interior was packed. Lots of slices to choose from, most in the $4.00 range. We ordered the “grandma,” topped with crushed tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, Parmesan and mozzarella and the “meat lover,” pepperoni, sausage, ham and bacon. The service was great. The young gal at the counter brought our slices outside to us. She checked back later to see how we liked it and offered to get me another diet Coke. (Only .50 with a slice). This is not a table service place-- so she was very refreshing. The pizza was tasty, but we decided we are still on the search for perfection.
We did get back to work and the website turned out great. Check out Brendan's portfolios at Blink Photo and use him for your next event.