Monthly Archives: January 2007

La Folie, La Snooz-ee


Friends, I’m gonna save you some time here and cut straight to the chase.

Service: A+
Food: C-

My partner and I have a tradition. Twice a year, on our dual anniversaries (the day we met and the day we married) we go out for a ridiculous meal. The goal is to have as many courses as possible, with wine pairings, and leave the restaurant drunk and stuffed. For the most part, we’ve been pretty successful at accomplishing both over the past few years. So we decided to go old-school this time around, and hit La Folie in Russian Hill. All the reviews kept hailing its renaissance, so why not?

(I’m about to give you several reasons why not.)

We walked into the place and the space looked lovely, especially on such a crappy, rainy night. The dining room was warmly lit, with reddish-hued walls and a decent-sized crowd of diners. But apparently this room was not for us. Instead, we were ushered to the back room, which was lit more like a hospital, with one other lonely couple in it. Our table was up against the wine cellar, which seemed to be buzzing slightly. Or maybe that was just my ears, buzzing FROM THE SOUND OF SILENCE IN THAT GOD-FORSAKEN, FREEZING COLD ROOM.

But whatever. This was our special night, and I was going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Luckily, my positive attitude was matched by the staff’s. I have to give credit where credit is due. From start to finish, the service was top notch. Our waitress was nothing short of delightful. Helpful, approachable, and funny in a totally appropriate way. She subtly steered us away from ordering the wine pairings: She said it wasn’t a very good value, and suggested we order a few half-bottles with the help of their sommelier, George, who she claimed was “Very French and not too tedious.” (True on both counts. George was great.)

I ordered the Menu Jardiniere, and my partner ordered the Menu du Marche, with the beef from the main menu as a substitute for the veal. (My stink-eye worked!)

The amuse bouche was a harbinger of things to come. Mine was a spear of asparagus fried in some sort of fuzzy, crispy batter, with a lemon aioli. Very TGIF. What next? A Bloomin’ Onion? My bouche was not amused.

Thankfully the wine arrived. Our first bottle was a Louis Latour Marsannay, 2002. Freakin’ delicious.

Next up, Roasted Spiced Butternut Squash Soup with Squash Sage Ravioli. It was fine. And, in retrospect, probably the best dish of the night. But that ain’t sayin’ much.

The soup was followed by a Goat Cheese and Fourme D’Ambert Terrine with baby pickled beets and a teeny tiny suggestion of Frisee salad. The best I can say here is that the goat cheese wasn’t overpowering. Whee!

I’ll pause now to give props to bottle number two, a Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cab, also 2002. Nicely done, George. You know how to pick ’em.

Then on to my “entree”, the Trio Du Jardinier. Potato, Leeks and Wild Mushroom Cannelloni (burnt), Squash, Eggplant, and Polenta Tomato Lasagne (pedestrian), and a Roasted Vidalia Onion with Curried CousCous (gross). It was all nicely plated, but completely uninspired on the flavor front.

Finally, for dessert, I had the warm Pain de Genes with Toasted Almond Ice Cream and Pear Consomme. I could have fallen asleep eating it, it was that boring.

Normally I would bitch and moan that the chef was giving us vegetarians the shaft, but I can’t even play that card. My partner’s meal was just as dull as mine. Lovely to look at, but a snore past that. Like some pretty Marina girl with nothing between the ears. Sigh. Even the last-bites truffle plate under delivered. They actually managed to make a blood orange pate de fruit without a hint of zing. (Recchiuti, where are you when I need you?)

We made a deal at the end of dinner. Enough f’ing around. Next year, we’re going to Cyrus.


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Filed under Major Coin, Reviews

One Market

I don’t know how the French do wine at lunch.

Correction: I don’t know how the French do wine at lunch and actually get anything done during the rest of the day.

We finally reached the end of a very long, involved project this week, so it was time for a nice, expensive lunch to celebrate. (Have I mentioned how much I love my job?) Proximity dictated the choices, so I made a reservation at One Market. I hadn’t eaten there in several years–and frankly, I recall being underwhelmed last time–so again, I went in with the bar set pretty low. We wanted to drop some coin, and this place has the balls to charge dinner entree prices for lunch. Win-win. We ordered a bottle of the featured wine and set to work.

I started with Persimmon and Mache salad with candied pistachios, shaved fennel and pomegranate. It was actually pretty tasty. But my eyes were on my coworker’s dish the whole time. She had the good sense to order the Beet (no, it’s not a typo like I thought) Carpaccio with marinated rock shrimp and radish sprouts. I’m a freakin’ whore for beets, and this dish looked (and tasted) gorgeous. “PURPLE!” screamed the beets, “GREEN!” screamed the sprouts. And bonus points for beets in place of beef. Apparently, it’s a common dish in vegan restaurants, but I’d never seen it.

Then I moved on to the Autumn Squash Skewer. (But wait, it’s January…) I don’t know that I would have normally ordered it, but the other veggie choice was literally billed as “Vegetarian’s Choice”, which was—duh— your choice of any four of their side dishes. Which just made me feel like I was pickin’ my sides at Boston Market, you know? Not to mention the fact that one of the sides in question was garnished with smoked bacon. Is bacon a vegetable these days? But I digress. The skewer was nicely done. The big chunks of squash made me feel like I was getting something, I dunno, substantial, and it sat on a bed of broccoli rabe and dried fruit vinaigrette. The dish felt like an entree, instead of a collection of misfit sidekicks, and I was down with that.

Anyhoo, dessert was a perfectly serviceable mini coconut cream pie, which only made me dream about throwing it into someone’s teeny tiny face. Not that it was bad: more that it was twee. But thank God for its twee-ness, because I had to go back to work, stuffed and buzzed and barely functioning. I almost fell asleep at my desk half an hour later.

Again, I ask, how do the French do it? (Fuckers.)

(Originally posted January 18, 2007)

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Filed under Major Coin, Reviews

Lime. Who knew?

A decent meal can sneak up on you when you least expect it. Or, rather, because you least expect it.

That’s the way it went down Saturday at Lime.

We were looking for a casual, inexpensive place to meet a friend for cocktails, and the presence of snacks was a requirement. Lime was an easy choice, especially given the fact that my friend is from out of town and utterly hopeless with directions. It’s pretty simple to find Market and stay on it.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Lime. Part of me really likes it there. It seems hip and fun– but if you pay too close attention, you realize that it’s hip and fun in an IKEA way. Cheap and not all that well built. But whatever. That doesn’t stop me from drooling all over the IKEA catalogue. Nor does it keep me out of Lime.

The cocktails, as usual, were tasty. Their Kaffir Gimlets are divine– they’re not afraid to let them be bitter. (Fresh lime juice and Hangar One Kaffir Lime vodka with a touch of simple syrup.)

And, I’m happy to report, the food was tasty. Yes, I had low expectations. And yes, I was two gimlets in, but damn if it wasn’t decent. We started with the Baja Fish tacos. Small, but the fish was crispy and light. Then we added veggies (green beans with kalamata olives and red peppers; nice and snappy with a decent amount of spice), grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup (the soup, which was more like a dip, was tangy and thick) glazed sea bass (in little lettuce cups for handy eating) and the zucchini fries (the only real let down of the bunch– there was way too much batter and it left them feeling soggy and limp). We finished off with a plate of five mini red velvet cupcakes. Sultry-teenage-super-yum.

I enter most restaurants with such high expectations, I can’t help but have them dashed. Let this be a lesson to me, I suppose. Aim low, get happy.

(Originally posted Saturday, January 13, 2007)


Filed under Cocktails First, Reviews

The Curse of San Francisco

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Living in San Francisco ruins a girl.

Dinner last night at Maverick was fine. Nice. Swell. But not much more.

Now, had Maverick been ripped from the corner of 17th St. and magically transported to another city, or if I’d spent my entire life living in Iowa or something, last night’s dinner might have been resplendent. Instead, it was “enjoyable.”

There’s a whole slew of restaurants here in the city that are like that– all at an equal level. With their beet and chevre something-or-other salads, and their solidly prepared Alaskan wild salmon and their truly respectable wine lists. I go. I eat. I enjoy. But I’m rarely floored. Which is really kind of sad. The average is set so high, your star has to go supernova to actually shine.

A nice problem to have, I guess. But on to the food.

I started with the grilled radicchio salad with fried sunchokes, shaved dry jack cheese, a poached egg, and mustard vinaigrette. It was actually a pretty good choice for a cold night, and I’m a sucker for dry jack. (So under-appreciated, that cheese.) Then I had the only vegetarian entree, with was risotto cakes with some sort of too-sweet butternut squash mush slathered in between. It was the perfect example of the old “Well, we should probably stick *something* on the menu for those pesky vegetarians, but fuck if we’ll actually try too hard to make it good.” Snoresville. Just like the last vegetarian entree I had there. They’re just phoning it in. (At this point, you may well be asking, why does she keep going back? For all its faults, I like Maverick. It’s cozy. They’ve got a nice wine list. And there are pictures of James Garner in the bathroom.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to sound like an ingrate. I’m glad there was at least a nod to us non-meat-eaters. I just fantasize about a day when it’s not an afterthought. And when I get to choose between, oh, I dunno, TWO entrees.

Yeah. I’m a dreamer.

(Original post: Thursday, January 11, 2007)


Filed under Mid-range Meals, Reviews