Monday, May 3, 2010
Quite a week just went by....It was my special birthday week. Lots of love, presents, cards, emails,phone calls, songs, bouquets,special friend times.I am very blessed and so grateful.
On Thursday, Significant and I went to our bench with a bottle of cremant , a little pique nique of manchego, fig jam, baguette, and we watched the sun set on the eve of my birthday.It was a very windy and cold day, the more reason to snuggle close and appreciate our luck.
Then, the next day it was off to Frances, the new hot restaurant in San Francisco, to meet a couple of dear friends.
The restaurant has gotten a lot of good press, and it is hard to get in.The place is small, joyous when you get in ( which translates as noisy as you sit and strain to hear) and very welcoming. The decor is understated, but elegant and hip.The details are pitch perfect: the hand made carafe, the pretty white napkin, the mix of heath pottery and slim plates, the elegant prints on the walls.
The meal was very delicious, hitting all the right notes of:perfect ingredients,prepared simply but beautifully,presented with grace and attention.
I felt like eating at Alice Waters's daughter( in spirit) restaurant.The philosophy is now ingrained in the souls of Bay area chefs, and we are lucky for that.But, as my Chez Panisse recent experience,I felt that even though the food was exquisite, it felt restrained , under seasoned, lacking a creative pizzaz. I want a bit of whaoo factor when I eat out, I need to be taken out of my comfort zone . At Frances, I had two whaoo:
the house red wine served in carafe and sold by the ounce ( you pay what you drink out of the carafe: smart, affordable): a blend of velvet smooth delicious wine like I have not had before.
The panisses, crispy chickpea fritters that melt unctuously and unexpectedly: a fantastic execution of a lowly Provencal dish.
I had then, the crepe cannelloni with green garlic, wild ramps,savoy spinach,ciabra di capra and mushrooms filling.tasty,well done,not too rich but still very satisfying.
followed by a share of 2 deserts:the presentation is austere, minimalist, to let each simple flavor shine.
Next night was a family celebration. Dot was back from Georgia where she had some sibling time and she had tales to tell.We went to Gather, a new restaurant in downtown berkeley.I wanted to try that famous "vegan charcuterie" platter that has become their signature dish and I wanted my fill of pizza for the week ( I had already snuck one slice on my birthday lunch at the cheese board...).So that is what I had there.The platter felt like it was a collection of leftovers, a mishmash of flavors without a distinctive direction.
The bread served with it was so toasted that it was blackened.I think that Gather doesn't pay attention to details ( unlike Frances). The pizza was nice.Chewy crust, ok filling, but without a sense of deliciousness from an unusual twist.Spinach pizza ( the vegetarian option) was supposed to have some chili oil that I did not detect, so it was tomato sauce, spinach and burrata cheese:uninspired.
The service is very friendly and the chai brittle ice cream was a tasty end to the meal.A meal that tries to "gather" all the notes and turn it instead into a discordant orchestra.