Posted in Events, Food, San Francisco

Group Dining at the Social Club

A get together of friends over dinner was in order, and I was once again, on the lookout for a restaurant that had three elements: 1) reasonable parking, 2) reasonable prices, 3) the ability to accomodate a table of 10-12 people without paying for a private room. These three criteria can be difficult to fill in San Francisco.

So a friend suggested the Presidio Social Club in San Francisco. Because of the location, there was going to be ample parking, the pricepoint was right (entrees $17-$32), and they could accomodate a large table like ours without charging an additional room fee. And the food was good!

We ordered multiple dishes between us and all were solidly tasty (Cabbage Soup, Chopped Salad w/Avocado), but the highlight of the appetizers seemed to be the Frisee and Endive Salad with Bacon and Fried Egg. Both rich and fresh.

egg.jpg

For entrees, we ordered several Flat Iron Steak main courses w/Fries (perfectly cooked meat and fabulous fries!!!), White Cheddar Mac & Cheese (not nearly as good as Home Restaurant in SF, but acceptable), and the Oxtail Stroganoff (wonderfully executed with its homey egg noodles). But the standout was the Kobe Beef Sloppy Joe! The meat was fabulously juicy and tender, and that sauce had a great vinegary kick. Just excellent. And those fries again…YUM!

mac.jpg

Desserts we ordered included the seasonal Cranberry Sorbet (fresh, sweet, and light) but it was the Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Parfait that made us all swoon. The cakes were full of chocolatey flavor that was deep and rich. And that creamy parfait was the best thing of the night!

Being the dorks that we are, we weren’t interested in the wine list the waiter offered. We were MUCH more excited about the selection of sodas! They have Bubble Up, Mexican Coca Cola, Stewart’s Root Beer and Creme Soda, and a few more that we didn’t get to. Frankly, I think they should advertise this more on the menu since sodas like these are hard to get in the Bay Area. Some of us want to go back just for a soda and that cupcake dessert!

parfait.jpg

The setting is classically fun and so is the menu, and the waiter was extremely accomodating and friendly. Though we had to wait longer than we wanted for our reserved table, we were apologized to repeatedly and the food, service, and selection more than made up for it. It’s a great place for a comforting American meal, a group dinner, or even some dessert and a retro soda at the bar.

Presidio Social Club – Bldg. 563 Ruger St. – The Presidio in San Francisco – 415.885.1888

Presidio Social Club on Urbanspoon

Posted in Food, Shopping, Travel

Shanghai: Part Two

So again, MSG is in everything here. You’ve been warned.

That said, the food in Shanghai is distinctive, flavorful, and very rich.

Because China is so big, different regions have very distinctive food styles. In the south (Canton, Hong Kong, Guangzhao, Shenzhen, etc.) rice is served all the time and dishes are stirfried. In the north (Shanghai, Ningbao, and the like), meats are commonly braised in rich sauces and their main staples are noodles and dumplings; foods that are heavier, heartier, and made with flour because of the colder climate. In Beijing, there’s lots of hotpot, goat, and lamb. Hunan food is infamously spicy.

So here are three highlights from our trip to Shanghai:

JADE GARDEN – Classic Shanghainese food in a colonial French setting. The place is eternally packed, so make sure you call for reservations no less than a week in advance. We enjoyed the Braised Pork (pictured below) and the Crystal Shrimp served with dark vinegar.

jade-garden-braised-pork.jpg

XIAO LONG BAO – This isn’t a restaurant but arguably the signature dish of Shanghai (pictured below). It is steamed dumplings filled with pork and sometime some seafood like shrimp or crab. It is so damn flavorful and there’s a special way to eat them so you don’t waste the “tong” or soupy oil that’s sitting inside the dumpling. You can get them at any Shanghainese restaurant but the best have both a flavorful tong/soup and meat filling inside AND a super thin delicate dough. If there’s one thing you HAVE to order while in Shanghai, it’s a steamer full of these puppies.

xiao-long-bao-yu-yuan.jpg

YU YUAN GARDENS VARIOUS FOODSTANDS – This is a good place to experience “street food” without questioning how unsafe they are. Because these foodstands are within the Yu Yuan Gardens Bazaar, they’re cleaner and a bit safer. And the food is very tasty. You can try classics like soy sauce tea eggs, fishballs, tripe, egg rolls, and my favorite, fried stinky tofu with chili sauce. It’s like cheese for the Chinese because they ferment the tofu much like cheese. Hence the stinkiness. If you are an adventurous eater, it’s not to be missed.

yu-yuan-bazaar-foodstand.jpg

Much of the food we had during our trip was sublime. But I have to admit, my husband and I are COMPLETELY burnt out on Chinese food for quite a while!

Posted in Food, Shopping, Travel

Shanghai: Part One

So let me preface my description of Shanghai with this… Everything you eat will have MSG in it. They don’t use it in “pinches,” they use it by the teaspoon and tablespoon in each and every dish. It’s as normal to them as soy sauce, or salt to us. It’s just the way they live. So eat with caution and drink a lot of water if you travel there.

shanghai-skyline.jpg

Now, with that said, my husband and I had a dandy old time in Shanghai. The area is so developed, so metropolitan, it’s scary. I was there just 12 years ago, and its now infamous skyline didn’t exist back then. Yes, that famous skyline has come to fruition in the span of only 10+ years. Amazing and frightening at the same time.

There is a lot of rich cultural history in Shanghai. Hong Kong is much like New York in that it’s so bustling, crowded, and metropolitan. But Shanghai at times can be like New York on steroids. You can’t get into the hottest (and truly tasty) restaurants without a reservation at least two weeks in advance. And unlike Hong Kong, this town has an artistic side. Hong Kong can be a bit too trendy and vapid.

bund.jpg

There was a lot of French colonial influence in Shanghai during the 1920’s and 30’s. The classic dresses that women wore called qipao or cheongsam were standard fare during this time. And that French influence was the reason for the riverside area called “The Bund.” All it’s buildings are very European and old (and now houses a bunch of high end bars, clubs, hotels and restaurants).

And because of the French influence during that time, Shanghai has a strong sense of European art and culture. It’s the reason why I love the city. A combination of dirty old China (still very rough around the edges) and European sophistication.

Besides The Bund, here are some districts to visit:

taikang.jpg

TAI KANG LU –

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was in a little neighborhood somewhere in Paris. It’s a maze of narrow alleyways and a bit hard to get to. But it’s totally worth it. Great spot to enjoy yourself at a cafe and shop for art, teas, jewelry, housewares, and magnificent photography. We loved this area immensely. It’s so charming.

xing-ti-di.jpg

XING TI DI –

This is the hot spot for the young and trendy. If Paris Hilton were to visit Shanghai, she’d come here. There are some cute little boutiques, but it’s the place to be for coffee, a drink at the hottest bar or club, or dinner at some of the trendiest restaurants in town. It’s worth a visit, but if you enjoy going to bed before midnight, no need to spend too much time here.

yuyuan.jpg

YU YUAN GARDENS –

This place is a dizzying maze of little Chinese shops and food galore. It’s a little like an organized flea market, but more like a crowded bazaar. There’s also some classic Chinese buildings (with their distinctive curved and pointed roofs), gardens and ponds. If you want gifts for the folks back home (pearls, other jewelry, accessories, and knick knacks), this is the place to get them. And stop by the many food stands that serve stinky fried tofu, xiao long bao, and other classic food-stand delicacies. Yum!

Nice segway into the food discussion… But that’ll have to wait until next week. 🙂

Posted in Food, San Francisco

Pizza by Delfina

rist1.jpg

I LOVE THIN CRUST PIZZA! And my lactose intolerance wasn’t enough to stop me and J. in our quest for an expertly prepared thin crust Neapolitan-style pizza.

Regulars to Pizzeria Delfina know the waits can be long. Fortunately, we were there by 12:10, and I snagged their last two top inside the restaurant.

Their menu is small, but everything we had was exceptionally fresh and expertly prepared. We decided on the Spicy Cauliflower antipasti to start and it was delicious. The capers were the perfect foil for the roasted cauliflower’s nutty flavor. Nice and tangy. And there was just a hint of spice that came from the few bright red slivers of chili pepper.

cauliflower.jpg

J. ordered the Salsiccia Pizza, which included slivers of red onion and fresh fennel sausage. The sausage was wonderfully fresh and mild with just a touch of spice and depth from the fennel.

And that crust!!! Words can’t explain that fabulously wonderful crust! It’s not cracker thin so that it snaps. That’s a whole different kind of thin crust pizza. This one was perfectly thin, but still with a touch of doughy bite. It was perfectly crisp on the bottom so that when you bit into it, you could hear the crispness. It was heaven!  No two thin crust pizzas are created equal, and this one was exceptional.

salsiccia.jpg

I chose the Margherita which had buffalo mozzarella, a mild tomato sauce, and a disappointing two–count ’em, two–basil leaves. The cheese and sauce were obviously fresh and exceptional in quality, but almost too simple and lacking a bit of oomph. But that crust was again, the star of this pie. It made a good pie, truly memorable.

pizza.jpg

The place is tiny with only a handful of tables and a few counter stools. If you’re willing to take advantage of the sidewalk tables, they do have heat lamps. Everything is very basic so decor and atmosphere aren’t what you’re here for.

It does get loud though with everyone waiting for a table during peak times and the incredibly loud pumping music. Still, the staff are friendly and don’t rush you even when the line is out the door. Something J. and I can appreciate.

There was no room for any dessert on this trip, but we did seem to find some once we walked over to Bi-Rite Creamery just down the street.

Totally worth my lactose intolerance’s consequences.

Pizzeria Delfina – 3611 18th St., S.F. – 415.437.6800

Pizzeria Delfina on Urbanspoon

Posted in Events, San Francisco, Shopping, Travel

Welcome 2008!

Happy New Year!

Sorry for the long absence VB readers.  I’ve just returned from a trip to Shanghai and will write an entry or two in the next few weeks about a couple of my food experiences during my time there.  I’m still trying to get over the jetlag.

In the meantime, you shopping fanatics know this is arguably the best time of year to score bargains.  I’ve just updated the Sales and Coupons page, but here are some of the best sales out there:

Neiman Marcus – Online After Christmas Sale.  Additional 25% off already sale merchandise.

J.Crew – Final Sale of up to 80% off.

Banana Republic – More than 50% off winter merchandise and new markdowns were just taken.

L’Occitane – Up to 50% off select merchandise for a limited time.

Ikea – Winter Sale with up to 60% off select merchandise.

Jeremy’s – Additional 60% off already sale merchandise.  Weekends throughout the month of January should have some good sales in general.

Elephant Pharmacy – Up to 75% off a wide array of seasonal and discontinued merchandise, as well as 25% off all body care and cosmetics!

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend is traditionally the last big push that retailers will make to get rid of their winter merchandise.  Therefore, that will be your last weekend to score great bargains.  I know this may sound crazy to many of you, but it’s also the perfect time to do some X’mas and gift shopping.  It’ll set you up for the rest of the year. 

After that, the bargains will be few and far between.