Posted in Food, For Kids/Parent, Lunch, San Francisco

Comfort Food, Elevated

Can a grilled cheese be…subtle?  Can it become “artisan”?  After a visit to The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in San Francisco, the answer is YES.  And it can be damn tasty too.

Let me clarify and say that this is not a Kraft American Singles on Wonder Bread kinda grilled cheese, although I’d love one of those right about now.  In other words, the grilled cheese has been elevated here to a higher status.  The place is basically a takeout counter, so there’s no pretension here.  Good thing because nothing goes worse with a grilled cheese than pretension.

My foodie pal Anne Marie and I ordered the Red, White and Blue Plate special, which gives you your choice of a nice sized sammie and small bowl of housemade roasted tomato soup with creme fraiche.  Everything here is homemade with primo ingredients, right down to the lemonade and freshly baked sweets and breakfast breads.

We ordered the Mousetrap w/tomatoes, which is their traditional grilled cheese with sharp cheddar, havarti, and monterey jack on artisan sourdough, and the Mushroom Gruyere with fontina, gruyere, roasted wild mushrooms, sauteed onions, leeks and thyme butter on fresh country-style wheat.

The Mushroom Gruyere was my favorite.  Despite having a lot of ingredients including leeks, mushrooms, potatoes, caramelized onions, and gruyere and fontina cheeses, the sandwich was the perfect texture and had amazing subtlety in its flavors.  Everything just worked and was incredibly flavorful.  And the country-style bread had the perfect crunch and texture.  It was hearty but didn’t compete with all the flavors going on.  I was amazed that it didn’t leave me feeling heavy or like I’d just eaten a pound of grease.

The Mousetrap was mighty tasty as well, though it was almost too much cheese.  So much so that they all started to blend together and I begged for a different element to break up the cheesy party.  The tomatoes, unfortunately, didn’t help and got a little lost, flavor-wise.  I would, however, recommend it if you are a traditionalist and love your grilled cheese on sourdough.  There’s definitely something to be said for that.

The soup was perfectly tangy and smoky, and ideal for dipping the sammies in.  Throw in the big giant crunchy house-made croutons, and it could’ve been a meal in itself.

I think this place does a great job of showing how you can elevate something so seemingly one-dimensional, to new heights. The staff are helpful, friendly and work quickly to get the line moving during peak times.

This is not your mother’s grilled cheese, for sure, but it’s also not Sunday brunch, either.  Regardless, you’ll definitely leave happy.

The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dinner, Food, For Kids/Parent, San Francisco

Is Gialina’s the Best Pizza in San Francisco?

The hubby, kid and I decided to head to the city for something fun, yet family friendly.  Enter Gialina, which foodies in the area have described as one of, if not the best pizza in San Francisco.  It’s also been named one of the Best Pizzas in the country by GQ magazine.

The place is TINY and is a neighborhood joint in the Glen Park area of the city, which means you don’t head there for atmosphere or decor.  Parking is a breeze, but the wait can be torture.  The only answer is to show up before 5:30pm, which we did.  They only serve dinner, but they do it 7 nights a week.

Service is accommodating and friendly, but not warm or inviting.  They’ve got a job to do and they do it well.  However, with the space being so small and the amount of people who are waiting outside, they never make you feel rushed so they can turn the table.  I greatly appreciated that.

We had the Little Meatballs w/tomato sauce & provolone, and the Pork Belly w/sauteed chard studded with currants.  Both these appetizers are fantastic, which is why this restaurant is known not only for their pies but the small plates they put out.  Surprisingly, I LOVED the chard because the bits of currants gave it tang and sweetness that contrasted the flavor of the bitter greens and pungent garlic so well.

Then the pies.  We ordered two: the Wild Nettles pie w/panchetta, provolone and mushrooms was first.  WOW!  The combo of flavors is incredible and not one you would think of.  The nettles give texture and fresh green flavor while the panchetta and provolone give heft and richness.  But the biggest thing about their pies is the CRUST!  It’s paper-thin, so much so that you can practically see through it.  Yet it’s not annoyingly crackly and dry like a cracker.  It had a nice soft texture on top and a thin crispness on the bottom.  It was almost like a freshly baked baguette, but of course, not as thick or doughy.  How do they do that?  I mean, it’s paper thin!  And the crust also had the slightest tang, almost like it was sourdough.   Amazing and very impressive.

Our second pie was just as delicious, but in a totally different way.  The Atomica had a tomato sauce with a little kick from chilies, mushrooms, thinly shaved red onions and mozzarella.   Again, wow!  Such simplicity and quality in its ingredients and preparation.

We were so impressed that my husband declared it the most memorable pizza he’s ever had.  I declared it the best thin crust pizza you’ll ever find in San Francisco.

I’ve tried A16 (the restaurant, overall, is overrated IMHO), Pizzeria Delfina (great Neapolitan-style pies, but it’s a different crust that’s much more pillowy, and the pies can occassionally be soggy in the middle), Pizzeria Picco (a bit dry and boring), and Pizza Antica (can you say inconsistent?).  But none compare to the innovation, simplicity, and sheer expertise of Gialina.  It’s the little unassuming Italian neighborhood restaurant that blows most others like it, out of the water.

Gialina on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dinner, Events, Food, Lunch, Shopping, Street Food, Travel

I Heart New York

It seems like ages since BlogHer ’10 came and went, but a lot has happened in that time, hence this extremely late post about my travels to NYC.  Man, I love that town.  Everytime I go I threaten to move there.

There are so many different ways to eat cheap, eat well, and find creative new things to try (this is also true when it comes to shopping and fashion there, too).  Because I was busy working BlogHer ’10 for about five days, I literally saw daylight Wednesday early evening when I arrived, and then Sunday morning once the conference was over.  Crazy, huh?

Fortunately, New York is one town that never sleeps, so I didn’t have a shortage of things to do or places to eat.  I also squeezed in a trip to the Top of the Rock, which I’ve been wanting to go to for a while.  So much cooler than the touristy Empire State Building, in my opinion.

I’m sorry, I was talking about food…   I apologize for the lack of photos since I lost my Blackberry in a cab.  Typical, I know.

The Famous Halal Cart
Had the chicken and white sauce and it’s something you really should try.  The chicken was super moist and the fabulous creamy sauce that is worth the raves.  There are several “imposters” across the street, but the one you want is closest to the Hilton Hotel’s front entrance (Midtown, not Times Square), just across the street (where we were lucky enough to be staying).

Limelight Marketplace
I am so happy I decided to make the trip down to Chelsea to visit this place. It is the cutest “mall”, for lack of a better term. It’s an old church that was then turned into a nightclub, and is now an adorable building that houses the cutest and most eclectic shops, boutiques, and artisan food shops! You can’t get a meal here but you can definitely walk away with snacks and hard-to-find food goodies.

Balthazar Cafe
Now, I didn’t have lunch in the bistro like I’d wanted, but I did make it to the cafe. Had a ham and cheese panini and it was a big “so what”. Next.

The Legendary Katz Deli
I think Katz has seen better days. Many food bloggers have commented that their pastrami and corned beef have been dry on recent visits, and I have to agree. Regardless, it was still a solid pastrami sandwich, just nothing to write home about. But “When Harry Met Sally” is one of my fave movies of all time, so it was nice just to go and check it off my list. The pickles are damn good and the service is quintessential NYC (know what you want and make it quick). It’s probably the most touristy thing I’ll ever do in the Big Apple.

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Truck
I was so excited when I happened to see this truck on my way back from Uniqlo in SoHo. (Someone please open a Uniqlo in Northern California! It’s like a Japanese H&M and I miss it!) I’d seen a piece on these guys on some food show and they had some very interesting flavors like Currents and Cream (which they were out of!), and Ginger. I decided to share the Cane Sugar special with my friend Monique. It was creamy, bordering on a gelato texture, but not as elastic and smooth. The ingredients were obviously quality (they apparently only use the finest milk, eggs, and cane sugar, no additives), and it had a lovely butterscotch aftertaste which was delightful. But it was overpriced, in my opinion. Again, something to cross off the list. No regrets.

After all those good eats, it was ironic that my last meal in town was at Panda Express at JFK. I guess not every meal in NYC can be a winner :).