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7×7’s BIG EAT SF- 2010

March 24, 2010

It comes as no surprise that I’d want to tackle the Big Eat SF 2010 List. I’m usually hungry and I like a good challenge. As soon as the February issue came out I was excited with uncontained hunger just flipping through the pages that listed the 100 things to Eat & Drink in SF before you die. The glossy food porn shots alone were enough to have anyone drooling over: pork fat, noodles, slippery oysters and bottles of Burgundy. Why not have it all on the same night.

One man has already accomplished this daunting feat of eating all of the dishes on the Big Eat SF list. I both salute and envy this calculated techie who set his culinary sights table high and ate his way through all 100  in record time. I personally wanted to give myself a year to complete the list (that seems reasonable) and so far I have happily crossed out 4. I then had struggled doubts and was ready to abandon the list after a disappointing recent dinner at a well-regarded restaurant with a dish in the top 5. I’m not one to give up just that easily (I’m hungry remember). So, with a whole hearty appetite and a fresh side of optimism I have decided to press on and attempt to complete the list. I’d like to blame it on the images of #52- Coconut Buns from King’s Bakery that lured me back, or the full-page dedication to the appreciation of decadence; the layered hot mess of sandwich from Ike’s Place, respectfully known as the #100- Menage a Trois. Please stop it some more, and yes, please count me in (to the Big Eat).

A glorious cover. #4- Chicken and Waffles from Little Skillet

I can’t and I won’t take credit for the organization of completing the list. I have a wonderful culinary partner in crime who is very good at keeping secrets and masterminding surprises in explored gastronomy. Coupled with my passion, joy and excitement for eating and my Culinary partner’s passion, joy and excitement for Open Table and ethnic food, we are a match made in Aziza (heaven).

In no particular order I’ll start with Wexler’s.

The #71 – BBQ Scotch Egg

Wexler’s is a new restaurant I’ve been wanting to try  in the Financial District. The restaurant is modern, tiny and looks like it was previously an art gallery. It wasn’t difficult to get a reservation (no 2 month wait like Flour & Water or Frances),  though it seems it is very popular as it was jam-packed with people on a recent weekday night. Maybe the recession is finally over? You might describe the food as modern-Southern or even New American with a Southern twist. I thought the Scotch Egg was amazing. It was a spicy BBQ twist on a traditional English snack. The wonderfully smokey seasoned and crispy exterior was perfect in contrast to the softer hard-boiled egg that lay in the center. I could have definitely eaten a few more of those as a bar snack to accompany a nice Tempranillo. Wexler’s also makes interesting cocktails, just ask the bartender what their personal special is that night. I enjoyed an interesting margarita with a salted chili rimmed glass. It was a bit like drinking the love child of the Bloody Mary and the Michelada. Curious. Wexler’s also does a really good Chicken liver pate that was served with a really nice grapefruit marmalade. Don’t pass up the plate of pork either, it is simply just outstanding.

#1 Roast Chicken and Bread salad at Zuni Cafe

Stone me in the streets for saying this, but I found the food at Zuni Cafe underwhelming. Zuni has had quite a reputation throughout the country since its conception in the early 80’s and I get the idea; it’s all about simplicity. I respect their standard of using fresh, local, and sustainable ingredients and admire that the restaurant still does this. I was marveled at the restaurant space, as it is a beautiful building and I was absolutely delighted to sit at a wonderful table right in front of the open kitchen and wood burning brick oven. I started with the parmesan polenta because I’d heard such good things about it. It was heavy on the pepper and very low on salt levels. Luckily Zuni supplies each table with salt and pepper. I am rarely one to salt my food at a restaurant or pepper for that matter, but there I was, salting away (salting at Zuni eek!). We also ordered a sardine dish, which sadly was forgettable. I think it involved cheddar and celery. The Roast Chicken with bread salad takes an hour to prepare (our’s took about 45 minutes). The Roast chicken was cooked perfectly. It was juicy, and tender and the bread salad was light, flavorful and tangled with frisee and pinenuts. The balsamic vinegar was a nice acidity for the chicken. Yet somehow still, we both agreed it was just a ho-hum dish. Especially at that price. Roast chicken is roast chicken and I’ve had better (I’m sorry to any Zuni lovers out there). And it also didn’t help that we had eaten at Aziza the night before. That’s a hard act to follow.

Beignets with brandy caramel sauce at RN74

Prior to the list being published, we had a wonderful meal at Michael Mina’s RN74. The restaurant has a highly acclaimed sommelier and #26 on the Big Eat list is a bottle of Burgundy, I’m sure it must be very good. After our delicious dinner we had the incredible beignets which I highly recommend. Though we’ve eaten there already, technically RN74 is still on the list. Perhaps we’ll go back, sit at the bar, and dine again on the sensational Pork Belly with Manila clams and enjoy a lovely bottle of Burgundy. Beignets for dessert again please.

# 63 Meatballs with Grapes at Aziza

We’ve been to Aziza 3 times now, and every time has been such a wonderful delicious culinary adventure. The dining room is well-lit, sexy and mysterious. The service is sweet and personable with the exception of the 2nd time we visited when there was a bit of a snag with our reservation ( the host and a case of over booking). Otherwise I am always ready to be a willing participant in the hands of Aziza’s more than capable staff. I’d love to eat here every night, if I could afford to.This is the type of food that brings me to my knees crying for more. It’s also a place I’d love for everyone to try at least once, please (I promise it’s not a gateway drug). All 3 times I’ve had the extreme pleasure to eat the meatballs and grapes, it is truly an amazing starter. The nice contrast between warm, slightly peppery meatballs with cooler sweet red grapes, skewered in bondage for your partaking. Sadly I have not captured this delicacy with my camera phone. I offer instead a few of the amazing dessert selections from Pastry Chef Melissa Chou. Her desserts are simply incredible and are a perfect match to the extreme detail and brilliance being pumped out of Mourad Lahlou’s kitchen at Aziza.

Rose hibiscus soup with yogurt mousse

Buckwheat crepe with coffee mousse and banana-date fritters

I look forward to tackling the remaining 97 items on the Big Eat list. A reservation at the Slanted Door is next. #7 awaits me….

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