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 Food

Off to the Lobster Shack

I’d had one too many days of Thanksgiving ham, potatoes, and creamed corn (no bird this year) and wanted something totally different.

How about seafood?

I’ve been wanting to try the Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City, anyway. And a couple of friends originally from New England had mentioned it wasn’t bad for this part of the country. So we loaded up the kid and headed over.

It’s an ‘order at the counter’ kinda joint, so it’s a good takeout option if that’s what you’re looking for. We ordered ourselves a side salad, a bowl of New England clam chowder, steamed littleneck clams, and the sauteed shrimp plate.

My chowder was good. Very creamy. Almost a little TOO much cream. It seemed to almost override the seafood flavor. Just a tad less would’ve done the chowder a lot of good.

Then I had my steamed clams. The flavor of the white wine, garlic, fennel seed, parsley and other seasonings were strong. The clams, themselves, were impressive. Meaty, big, juicy and delish. But again, they were a little heavy handed with the seasonings and salt. I would’ve loved a little more allowance to let the clams’ natural flavors come through.

My husband says his shrimp dish was clean and flavored well. The shrimp were fresh and plump. But the blueberry cole slaw was just plain weird. It was obvious they were trying too hard and it didn’t work. His salad, however, was pretty standard and the elements were all very fresh and melded together well.

I was impressed with the service and the quality and freshness of food. Big plus for being a family friendly joint that doesn’t compromise on food quality.

However, they really need to tone down the extras and let the seafood’s natural flavors shine through. A place like this needs to stick to the basics and do them well. Good quality seafood is already so flavorful that they do a big disservice to themselves by adding things it doesn’t need.

Old Port Lobster Shack on Urbanspoon