Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I used to be a food critic

In high school I was in journalism. I loved journalism. I could probably write a whole blog about journalism, but I have a feeling I would bore people. Senior year of journalism, two friends and I, “inherited” the Out to Lunch column. Two of my very best friends, Ashley and Lindsey, along with myself titled the column, “The Trio is Out to Lunch.” Once a month we would go to various restaurants around Manteca and order inexpensive meals. We would trade off who wrote the article. We would then critique Manteca lunch spots such as Hob Knob Bobs and Sicily Pizza. We even braved AM PM’s lunch. One of us wrote a good review about Sicily Pizza so they gave us gift certificates and framed the article on the wall. It was fun, mostly it was a chance to hang out with friends while simultaneously completing a homework assignment.

Danny and I went to San Francisco this past weekend. Amongst other entertaining things, we ate. We both enjoy trying new foods and new restaurants. San Francisco is definitely a good place to practice being a foodie.

We started our food quest at La Cumbre. It is a Mexican restaurant Danny saw on one of the Travel Channel food shows…perhaps America’s best chow down places, or some other food show that hasn’t led us astray. Danny said something about how the modern day giant burrito was created here. I’m not sure if this is true, but I’m always down for a burrito the size of a football, so off we went. La Cumbre is a short walk from Bart, in the Mission district. We walked in and it looked promising. The meat was made to order in front of our faces. I went with the old standby carne asada burrito. Danny asked the lady which meat she preferred. She said the chicken is more delicious. Of course our burritos were ordered deluxe with sour cream, guacamole and cheese.

From my seat the Virgin Mary was staring at me, as I was about to devour my giant burrito. It was good. Danny had a similar reaction. I was a little disappointed. I wanted great, not good. I think that’s the problem with living in the central valley. Or maybe it’s not a problem. We have simply amazing Mexican food here. I told Danny I like this burrito, but I feel like I have had this burrito a hundred times in Ripon, Modesto, and Manteca.

To my left was a laminated picture of some girl in a Maxim magazine. A small article in the corner said that La Cumbre’s burritos were voted the best in the nation for 2009. I’m pretty sure the girl in the picture has never eaten a deluxe burrito in her life. I didn’t finish my burrito.

After walking around the California Academy of Science all afternoon, we had built up a bit of an appetite. Yelp, an iphone application, has been a great help in our restaurant searches. We wanted something different at a moderate price. Danny found a French restaurant called Rue Lepic. I found one called Fleur de Lys. Both had similar ratings. We ended up at Rue Lepic, because Fleur de Lys was booked for Valentine’s Day.

Rue Lepic was at the top of Nob Hill: quite a feat for my sore feet. We had to wait until it opened at 5:30. We sat down...pretty tired and the man immediately brought us some champagne. Excellent! We were looking at the special Valentine’s Day menu, deciding what to have and then I saw in small print, the price. In a panic I told Danny to look. We had to get out of there! It was too expensive for what was supposed to be a cheap weekend getaway. We were already sipping our champagne and of course we were the only ones in there. Danny reassured my cheap skate ways that it would be okay, besides it was Valentine’s Day.

So our 5 course meal began. To start we both ordered the escargot. Yummy! I’ve never had snails before but I enjoyed them quite a bit. They have sort of a clam texture and just taste like whatever sauce they are in. Luckily the sauce was a creamy garlic butter sauce. The waiter told us the soup was the best in town. I’m not sure about that, but it was delicious. It was tomato basil with some crème fresh in the middle. The salad was a crab salad. The crab was fresh…avocados ripe, nothing to complain about. For the main course we both ordered the seafood dish. it consisted of scallops, shrimp, and a white fish…I forget what kind (some food critic I am!) Anyway, this dish was very good. I was getting very full so I couldn’t finish it all, but not to worry Danny will clean any ones plate.

For dessert we had the option of chocolate ganache, crème brulee, or peach sorbet. Of course I was going for the ganache, so I had to convince Danny to get the crème brulee…so I could try it. I told him I think he would like crème brulee. He didn’t go for it. His reply was, “You know what I say, Go Ganache or Go Home!” His saying soon became the weekend’s mantra. The ganache was heavenly. Super rich, cleverly displayed, and came just in time for us to scarf down and hail a taxi to take us to see Wicked.

Breakfast was planned by Danny. Once again he Yelped in up. He decided upon Dottie’s. It was close to our hotel and close to Betsy Johnson...where I just had to go before we left. When we got to Dottie’s, there was quite a long line. Good sign. The people in front of us didn’t know how long the wait was, they said you just wait. We waited a little less than an hour, and I must say it was worth it. The hour didn’t seem that long, because we quickly became friends with the couple in front. We even ate at the same table as them. As Matt said, “It’s a bromance, we can’t separate now.”

Dottie’s is a small hole in the wall type café, with ridiculously cute chandeliers and has waiters who are strikingly similar to the character Adam Sandler plays in Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Besides the fun atmosphere, the food was wonderful. Both Janey and I ordered chocolate chip French toast. The bread was more the consistency of pound cake, but less sweet. So rich I could only eat half a slice, but it probably didn’t help that I sampled other items. Danny ordered the lamb sausage omelet and a sweet potato cranberry muffin. The omelet was great, if you like lamb, and of course I do! The muffin tasted like fall. No other ways to describe it. I believe Matt ordered some basic egg, bacon, pancake, and country potato breakfast. He enjoyed everything, except the pancakes didn’t compare to some at a restaurant they frequent. Probably the best part was the cornbread with jalapeño jelly, a different taste, but pleasing to the palate.

If people knew that we had only met our new friends an hour ago, they would have been shocked. We were sitting there sharing muffins and cornbread and exchanging phone numbers and facebooks. All three restaurants were good, delicious, yummy… whatever positive adjective you like. It made me think about how even though eating lunch at AM PM with the Trio wasn’t the best culinary experience, it was an experience. And La Cumbre isn’t the best burrito place in nation, but I was eating a decent burrito with the one I love.

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