Monthly Archives: March 2007

Not-So-First Class on United

One of the perks of my work-a-day job is that every so often, under very  special circumstances, I get to fly First Class. Today (Sunday) is one such occasion. My very sweet and thoughtful coworker got us booked in First because we had to fly on the weekend for an 8:00 a.m. Monday morning meeting in Philly. (There are at least five things in that last sentence that I hate with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns.)

So, ever the dutiful vegetarian, I made sure to order my meal ahead of time. I mean, what a boon! You actually get fed in First Class, instead of eating out of a $5.00 cardboard snack box. Yippee-yahoo, right? NOT. I got the saddest excuse for a vegetarian meal I’ve ever been served. Some boiled cauliflower and carrots with brown rice, a mound of sliced almonds (I shit you not) and a ladle of marinara sauce on the side. WTF? I’m not a fucking rabbit! Give me some goddamned food! And don’t even get me started on the freakin’ carob-chip cookie they offered as desert. Peeps—I didn’t order cardboard. I ordered vegetarian. Mama wants the real chocolate for fuck’s sake.

Thank God for the free wine. That’s all I’ve got to say.

Airlines of the world, listen up. Vegetarian means “skip the meat,” not “skip the flavor.” Sliced, blanched almonds were never meant to be center of the plate. And carob? Well carob is just gross.

(Deep breath.) Rant over. Okay. Back to my free wine.

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Filed under Major Coin, Rants

District, I Stand Corrected

It sure is a good time to be an oenophile in San Francisco. Wine bars are popping up all over town like daffodils in spring. Case in point: District, the new wine bar on Townsend at 3rd.

As you may recall, my first experience with District was less than ideal. It was a Friday night during the post-work crush and the squealing hordes were out in force. I couldn’t even get IN the bar, let alone drink anything—it was that busy.

But I tried again this Sunday during the light of day. I had friends visiting from out of town; two smart, fabulous women who know their way around a wine menu. It seemed like the right time to give the place another shot and it turned out to be a smart decision. District is a great spot for whiling away an afternoon.

The interior was every bit as lofty and spacious as I’d read: It felt downright cavernous when empty. Their by-the-glass selection is dizzying, and their flights (all nine of them) are clever. District is thinking beyond the usual “Reds of Sonoma” or “Tour of Germany” concepts. You can taste Oak vs. Stainless, in a no-holds-barred aging-style cage match. Or Primitivos to Zins. (Like so many of us, the grape moved to Cali and changed its identity.) I opted for Big Funky Reds. (Cue the P-funk, please.) There wasn’t a loser in the line-up, but funky they were. Like, serious junk in the trunk funk. The Oliver Pithon Rhone Blend was hell on the nose—sulfur pumped out of a baby’s ass, I swear—but heaven on the tongue. Big and gracious and chocolatey. And my bass-booming flight was the perfect companion to the artisinal cheese plate.

Speaking of cheese, the joint ain’t vegan-friendly: The non-meat options are all pretty heavy on the fromage. There’s Arancini di riso with fontina and sage—a kind of rice and cheese croquette—plus a goat cheese and pesto pizzetta, and a mixed green salad with blue cheese crumbles. (There are also nuts and olives on the menu, but nuts and olives don’t make a meal. At least not a very satisfying one.)

The takeaway is this: big thumbs up on the wine selection. I can’t wait to go back and explore more. Just be careful when you go. Maybe in few months, when the honeymoon is over, Friday nights will be more manageable. Until then, try it in the afternoon. (Feel free to fill in your own “afternoon delight” joke here. I’d write one for ya, but that’s just too easy.)

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Filed under Cocktails First, Mid-range Meals, Reviews

The Mystery of Fringale

Dinner at Fringale last night was an inspiration—but not in the way you might think. It inspired me to figure out a new restaurant review rating system. Why? Because the restaurant itself is fantastic. It’s just the lack of vegetarian options that sucks.

I’ve never understood why Fringale doesn’t get more attention in San Francisco. Hell, even I’m guilty of ignoring it. We were looking for a place to grab an early dinner before the Bloc Party show at the Concourse Exhibition Center, and the first place that came to mind was COCO 500. I couldn’t get a table for five though, so I had to figure out another option. Doy! Fringale is right next door. But nobody ever seems to talk about the place. It’s like it doesn’t exist. Why is that? Every meal I’ve had there has been great. And if you eat meat, Fringale is a real gem.

The dining room is small and intimate. The service is top notch. The wine list is terrific. The food is well-executed. And the staff all have adorable French accents. What more could you ask for? (A vegetarian appetizer, or something other than risotto for a main dish, I suppose. You know me. Never satisfied.)

So yeah, I had the mushroom fricasée risotto with fried parsley and white truffle oil. There was nothing else for me to order. It was good, though. They used wild rice, which gave the dish a bit more texture and interest than usual.

There wasn’t even a vegetarian salad on the menu: The closest thing was the butter lettuce with sweet anchovies and mustard vinaigrette. But ordering it without the anchovies would be ridiculous. No anchovies, no salty punch. You’d just be stuck with an $8 pile of lettuce. I guess I wasn’t in the mood for a fuss. I didn’t bother to ask for the chef to dream something up for me.

Which brings me back to the rating system. It needs to have three components, I think. Like, overall restaurant quality, vegetarian selection, and vegetarian execution (meaning, how good was the food I was actually able to eat). What do you think? Am I missing a category? Maybe service?

Broken down this way, here’s how Fringale scored:

Overall Quality: B+
Vegetarian Selection: D
Vegetarian Execution: B+
Service: B+

If my (hypothetical) kid came home with grades like that on her report card, what would I say? “Nice job overall, but no more TV until you bring home at least a C in Vegetarian Selection. Now get your butt upstairs and finish your homework, young lady.” (So much potential, that kid has. I just want to see her try a little bit harder.)

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Filed under Mid-range Meals, Rants, Reviews

Don’t Take My Word for It

Get a second (or third, or fourth) opinion from other Bay Area bloggers on the new Blog Soop SF site. Such a genius resource!

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Filed under Uncategorized

Hope for the Universe: A Great Meal at Salt House

If there was ever proof positive that service makes the meal, it happened Tuesday night at Salt House.

I started the evening as a skeptic. I’ve always thought Town Hall (Salt House’s big sister) was overrated, and I assumed the apple wouldn’t fall far from the tree. Plus, I was relatively sure that once the apple fell, it would be hastily fried in bacon fat and served with pork loin. While the meatier half of my prediction held true—the menu is no picnic for vegetarians—the stellar service and damn-fine-tasty, singular vegetarian alternative won me over.

The short of it is this: If you’re a vegetarian looking for any kind of choice in the matter, don’t go. But if you’re willing to take what you get, and you’re lucky enough to have the waitress we had, then check it out and tell me if you agree.

The dinner party was a birthday celebration for my friend Mary Michael (happy birthday, MM) and we were joined by four of the most ass-kicking ladies the city of San Francisco has to offer. The evening had a television quality to it—you could almost see the cameras tightening in to catch a smile here, a toast there. Cut to camera B, and we’re all laughing in big, genuine, infectious waves. So maybe I was predisposed to like the food. I mean, when you’re having that much fun, your taste buds want in on the action, right? (Nah. I was having fun at NOPA and I still thought it was crap.) Continue reading

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Filed under Mid-range Meals, Reviews

Perbacco: No Time For Love, Dr. Jones

My visit to Perbacco was a test. I have a hypothesis, you see. A theory. And it goes something like this: Contrary to what you might think, it’s really not a lot of fun to be a vegetarian in an Italian restaurant. Why? Cuz all you can order is pasta and risotto. Which gets to be carb-tastically old after a while.

However, until last night, I’d never bothered to ask if any of the chefs could whip up a vegetarian entrée for me. After all, pasta’s not really a main course, so don’t I deserve a little secondi love?

Apparently the answer is “no”. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

Continue reading

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Filed under Mid-range Meals, Rants, Reviews