Save Me San Francisco: A Tour of the Mission

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California’s capital may be Sacramento but it is definitely not the most attractive place that California has to offer. San Francisco on the other hand is; unless… you’re me. Growing up on the other side of the Bay, I avoided San Francisco like the plague! It just seemed too overwhelming for me. However, after a trip to a more understated part of San Francisco, The Mission, a shift in perception has occurred.

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Many may think of the Mission as the Latino area of San Francisco but taking a closer look provides quite a different view. Take Local Mission Eatery, completely unsuspecting on the outside but walk in and you enter an upscale hipster restaurant. Their whole focus as Chef Chad Kuczek puts it is to “form valuable relationships with farmers throughout California.” Buying fresh and local ingredients being of the utmost importance for this place, as shown by their clear walk-in. You can actually see smoked pigs feet hanging and cured tuna hearts waiting to be shaved. So what does a chef do with the freshest ingredients he can find? Why make a grilled cheese sandwich of course! But this is not your white bread and processed cheese grilled cheese sandwich. The thick cut bread crunches all the way down, getting hands greasy from the copious amounts of butter that has been slathered on there. The apple butter and caramelized butter meld together to create a sweetness that cuts through the rich gooey and slightly salty cheese. If there is ever a dish that has perfect balance and then a heart attack at the end, it’s this dish.

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Okay, let’s be real,  anything little or mini is cute, and we all love cute!  Mission Minis encompasses everything cute. Owner Brandon Arnovick set out to create something affordable for people so he came up with the idea of selling mini cupcakes. Not only was affordability important to him but also culture. So since Arnovick’s store front is located in the Mission he brought the flavors of Latin America into his cupcakes: Aztec Chocolate and Cinnamon Horchata. These mini cupcakes may be thought by some as too cute to eat but not by this foodie. Since I was in the Mission I decided to go with Cinnamon Horchata, and too be honest one bit just wasn’t enough. However, the creamy, smooth frosty contrasted perfectly with the sticky moist cake. A nice hint of cinnamon lingered on the tongue with a subtle hint of almost warmed milk reflecting the rice aspects of Horchata.

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Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream, started by Jake Godby and Sean Vahey, combines the everyday with the just plain strange. Godby, being a pastry chef, felt that there didn’t need to exist such a delineation between savory and sweet, so he began bringing the two together. Humphry Slocombe’s most popular ice cream is called “Secret Breakfast”: A cornflake and Bourbon ice cream. At first it simply is confusion is a cone; I don’t know if I want to watch cartoons or get ready for the club. However, the ice cream has this rough texture due to the cornflakes, some big others only specs. The bourbon comes through strongly but is calmed by the coldness of the actual ice cream and the honey from the cone. Just add a cigarette and you have the new breakfast of champions!

After this Mission Tour I have a new found respect for San Francisco. Culture seeps out from every street, door, and alleyway. I met wonderful people that all frankly really cared about buying locally and fresh which completely transforms and elevates their food. Well world, I’m hungry and ready for my next adventure!

This entry was posted on January 11, 2013. 1 Comment

Chicken a la Corso

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Walking around downtown Berkeley in the crisp Fall air, I had no idea what was waiting for me just a few blocks away. Being a local gal I was accustomed to dining at low key places with standard grub. Nothing high end or expensive was in my repertoire at this time. However, after marrying my (ex) husband all of that changed. The world of food and flavor opened up to me, all starting on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley.

Corso. A small Italian restaurant in Berkeley combining the simplistic Italian cooking techniques with the flavors and flare of the Bay Area. Entering through the flowing beige curtain into the dimly lit dining room, I felt instantly older and more important. It’s as if my “coming of age moment” decided to finally occur at the ripe age of twenty. Taking a seat at the chef’s counter, my eyes became mesmerized by the fast paced yet perfectly synchronized dance that was taking place in the kitchen. My friend, Alex, the sous chef, let me know that I was in for quite the treat!

My favorite part of any meal  typically resides with the bread, however, at Corso the perfectly golden brown bread simply tantalized my palate, leaving me wanting more. Before I had time to demolish all of the soft and crunchy bread, a platter was set before me. The shades of reds and pinks were vibrant and dotted with that spectacular color of white: FAT! Salami, prosciutto, and capicola. These delicate meats cuts so thin they just melt when they hit my mouth. The prosciutto had this velvety buttery texture while the salami was a bit rougher due the all the pepper and spiced that dotted it.

Alex put two heaping tablespoons of a light yellow, only slightly softened butter into a sauce pan. Then came a glistening pink chicken breast, sizzling as it hit the pan, gently splattering grease. When the chicken breast was turned that once white, wrinkly fat cap had now turned a stomach rumbling shade of brown. And oh! what was done next got my mouth watering like Pavlov’s dog. Alex tilted the pan so all the butter ran toward him and he spooned the butter over the chicken, basting it over and over again. Something so deliciously simply yet making all the difference as it moistens and browns the chicken.

Finally the dish arrives, being served in the same pan it was cooked in. The chicken makes the loveliest crackle when cutting through the crisp skin. Butter drips from the fork as I bring a piece to my mouth. Rich buttery goodness fills my moth a once, never before having tasted something so delicate. The chicken quickly gets devoured, the only left being the beautifully melted butter at the bottom of the pan. Thank god for bread! The once crunchy bread dissolved in a few seconds of soaking in that rich clarified butter.

I was stuffed, I didn’t think I could eat another morsel of food. And then there came this exquisitely white panna cotta topped with bright red raspberries and deep dark blackberries, dripping down the sides. The panna cotta was dotted with black flecks of a vanilla bean. I barely had to apply pressure for my spoon to slip through the custard. The egg-y bounty of the custard dissolved within seconds on my tongue. The berries burst like fire hydrants during 1989 in Oakland! Exploding with flavoring.

By the end of this extraordinary meal I felt like I needed a wheelbarrow just to make it back to the car four blocks away. But the entire meal, every calorie was completely worth it! I will definitely be back for the chicken!!

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