20 August 2011

Vancouver & SF Food Roundup

So between SIGGRAPH in Vancouver and a week with my foodie friends in SF I had an awesome vacation of eating! Here were some highlights:

Steamworks (Vancouver)

Brew pub at the entrance to Gastown. The food wasn't remarkable but the beer is solid, good place for a party or getting together a group of friends. The Vancouver answer to Gordon Biersch (with both the good and bad points that implies -- definitely a bit loud).

Revel Room (Vancouver)

New Southern-influenced small plates. This place is where the Lighter/Darker party was on Wednesday, and the party was so loud that I lost my voice for a couple days even though I was only at the party for an hour. Came back with Carmi on Thursday for dinner and was pleasantly surprised to get yummy small plates including cornbread, hush puppies, beef ribs, and so on to go with our local microbrew. Definitely an easy choice in Gastown.

Locavore (Mission, SF)

MJ picked this for my arrival-day dinner. Despite a lost-key episode giving rise to a 90-minute delay (Sorry MJ!) this place is fantastic. Locally-sourced ingredients as you might guess from the name make anything you order an excellent choice; we shared around and didn't have one miss in anything we ordered.

Little Chihuahua (Divisadero, SF)

I had lunch with Dave Moore at his neighborhood Mexican (lucky dog!), Little Chihuahua. Great unpretentious Mexican food at Divisadero and Page.

Little Star Pizza (Mission, SF)

One of my rituals when heading to the Bay Area is to get some Chicago-style pizza, usually at Little Star, still the best Bay Area option IMHO. Went with Nick and Naoco on a Saturday and just barely beat the rush (I was the latest arrival since there were no taxis in all of SF this weekend due to the Outside Lands concert!).

Ben & Nick's (Oakland)

Great neighborhood craft beer bar. Two new IPAs for me and a whole host of catching up with Ben Thompson!

T-Rex (Berkeley near Gilman)

Met Ewan and Sonoko for yet more new-southern-esque food, this time with an emphasis on the BBQ. Their cornbread is even better than Revel Room, and the Mac 'n Cheese, Beef Ribs, and Brisket meant that we couldn't finish it all so E&S got some take-home food. I predict they made their cats happy with it ;-).

District (SOMA, SF)

Met Melissa Bachman here to catch up on life events, dirnk excellent wines and grab a light dinner. All the small plates are good, the wine is awesome, and the divan seating is fun.

Pixar Cafe (Emeryville)

It seems weird to review a corporate cafeteria... but I have to call out the Gazpacho here! Green tomatillo, garlic... it packed a punch in the mouth and was as satisfying as twice the quantity of something else would have been. Got to catch up with Jeff P. and Ken Lao, ran into Andrew Stanton and Craig Good as well.

Sidebar (Oakland)

The whole week I was in the Bay Area it was sunny, clear, and fair (temperatures in the 60s). It's pretty hard to beat Sidebar as a place to meet for drinks under those conditions: Oren and I sat at a window table and looked out at Lake Merritt. The Paprika Fries are a pretty good choice to munch on while chatting too.

Aziza (Outer Sunset, SF)

As hard as it is to pick one, this was the food highlight of my entire trip. Not surprisingly, Charles picked this place out and guess what he's a regular there (we even got his favorite waiter). I pushed for the tasting menu, which is slightly pricey but oh-my-god good. Aziza is new Moroccan and man have they got it down.

Their cocktails are a revelation. I'm not really a cocktail guy -- beer or wine depending on the food -- but at Aziza the cocktails are a must. Pretty much every single one is a revelation combining ingredients you know in a way you don't, balanced to perfection. Charles had the gin/pilsner/beet and I had the rye whiskey/absinthe/bitters/grapefuit -- both were incredible (beet cocktails! who knew). It seemed like mine tasted more like lemon than grapefruit, Charles was guessing it contained the pickled lemon used in North African cuisine.

The tasting menu takes you on a pretty thrilling run through the menu. I didn't take notes but the highlight was probably the off-the-menu refresh course which was a three-layer with (IIRC) a tomato ragout on the bottom, goat cream in the middle and whipped potato on top. The entrees we went for were the exquisite lamb shank and the squab with fig; the only complaint was that the lamb shank was a bit too much to eat at that point. Fantastic restaurant.

Darwin (SOMA, SF)

But was I done? No! Steph and I met for lunch at Darwin, in fact just around the corner from District. Darwin is a pretty humble sandwich place, but since the sandwiches are *awesome* the lines get pretty long at lunchtime. I had the pastrami, Steph the roast beef. We got lucky and scored a table so we didn't have to use the curb chairs ;-) but definitely be prepared for lines 12-1.

Local Mission Eatery (Mission, SF)

The last stop was this place with Ruby and Axel. When Ruby first mentioned it, I thought it was a description not a place name! Again they emphasize local sourcing and the result is sweet; Ruby's Beef Tongue was good but the Albacore, Beef Stroganoff, and Ratatouille all got great reviews. I skipped the dessert but the really perfect French Press coffee made for a awesome capper to my week of eating my way through SF!

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