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Just Close Your Eyes and Open Your Mouth: You’re in Italy

In this age of online social networks, where communication is more possible than ever, I can’t help but feel (and I know I’m not alone in this), that we actually interact with one another less often, and in less meaningful ways, than we did back in the ol’ pen and ink days. For me at least, it is now more of an effort to connect with the people I care about. Fortunately, there is still one means of bringing people together that hasn’t failed me yet: food. And what food brings people together more than pizza? From office lunches to drunk munchies, you’re usually hard-pressed to find people who don’t like pizza. Everyone has their favorite toppings or styles, thin-crust or deep-dish, Chicago or New York, but pizza is pretty much as close to a universal food as you can get. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean its passé. There are few things more satisfying then finding your new favorite pizza place. Enter Pizzeria Delfina.

I had been hearing about this place for a long time, but never really felt like waiting in line for pizza when I thought about it. But when my mom, an all-things-Italian snob extraordinaire, came to visit for Thanksgiving, I decided there was no time like the present. We went to the new location on California and Fillmore. It was especially perfect since my lovely dog Emma was with us and we could sit outside. It was even more idyllic considering that it was somewhere around seventy degrees and sunny (in November?!?! In San Francisco?!?!). Despite this anomaly, there was no wait, and we were seated immediately.


Right away, I had a good feeling about the place. Allow me to let you in on one of my secrets: if a place has good bread (or chips and salsa or whatever), chances are their food is going to be just as good, but hopefully better. I haven’t checked the statistics or anything but, aside from Cheesecake Factory, this rule seems to hold up pretty well. Pizzeria Delfina was no exception: excellent breadsticks. Pay attention next time, you’ll see I’m right.


As we soothed our rumbling bellies with breadsticks, my mom and I perused the menu. It had all the things you would expect of an upscale pizzeria, but with some interesting surprises and unexpected ingredients. As the table next to us was busy stuffing themselves with what looked to be perfectly fried golden balls of arancini, we started with that, and boy, were those some perfectly fried golden balls all right. 


For those of you who haven’t had the distinct oral pleasure of arancini, they are crispy balls of cheesy risotto. When they’re done right, the outside is buttered, crispy-fried bread crumbs, and the inside is piping hot, cheese-inundated risotto. Delfina’s were perfectly salted, perfectly hot, and like I said, perfectly fried. Washed down with a hefeweizen (the name of which I have forgotten ((SHAME))), these were an excellent beginning to a superb meal. Next out was the Big Eat’s featured Pizza Margherita.


As any pizza devotee knows, the simplest pizza is often the most difficult to get right, so a good way to judge a pizzeria is by their Margherita, the equivalent of an American slice of good ol’ cheese pizza. Immediately on the first bite of this one, we could taste the freshness of the ingredients: the basil was as aromatic and flavorful as if I had just bitten a leaf off the mother plant itself, the superb quality of the burratta mozzarella was evident by the omgawd-meltinyourmouth-timestop sensation, and the tomato sauce was obviously made by someone who knew exactly what they were doing. But the crust, which can easily make or break any pizza, was an art in itself. Thin as any authentic Italian pizza, absorbent enough to contain the flavors of the sauce while avoiding the icky sogginess that can be the downfall of even the most skilled pizzartists, and crispy and delicious enough on the outside that I was almost tempted to eat my way around the pizza, which, lemme tell you, never happens. This is the Pizza Margherita of dreams, people. And yet, the dream wasn’t over. Once we had tried one, we had to try another. This time we ordered one of the less traditional pizzas, a special which had “Funghi” Hen of the Woods mushrooms, panna, fontina, and nepitella. Don’t worry. I didn’t recognize most of those words either, but that is exactly what made it so enticing.


Now, doesn’t that look divine? The “Funghi” Hen of the Woods is a kind of mushroom that grows on trees, though you won’t find it looking this appetizing in nature. Panna is an Italian-style cream, fontina is an Italian cheese made from cow’s milk, and nepitella is an herb used frequently in Italian cooking, which is kind of a cross between mint and oregano. Combined, these ingredients created a flavor that I had never encountered in pizza, but definitely one that should be inducted into the canon. It was pungent, like mushrooms should be, but the cream and cheese served to balance out the fungosity of the mushrooms. If you’re brave enough to try this pizza, as I know many people are hesitant at best about mushrooms, definitely try it towards the end of your meal, since it is heavier on your palate than most pizzas.

So there you have it, folks. The best damn Italian-style pizza I’ve had outside of Italy. To be honest, I really wish I wasn’t posting this right now from my work desk (Hard Work All Day, E’ry Day), because my mouth is watering and my stomach is hankering for one of these pizzas. It doesn’t matter if there’s a line, or gangs of Marina-ites (or hipsters if you’re at the Mission location) plaguing the place, just go. Bring some friends (or buffers, however you want to look at it) and “connect” over some fairly priced, spectacular pizza. Just don’t forget the arancini, or you’ll be kicking yourself later.

I promise, you’ll never look back. Ciao.



Eggs In Jail, Maybe, But It Won’t Keep My Appetite Behind Bars

When I tell people that I live in the Outer Sunset, there are generally two reactions that I get. One is “Oh, wow. It must be so quiet and peaceful. But, like, what do you do for fun out there?” This is the better of the two. The other one is accompanied by a poorly-concealed wince, followed by “Eesh. I’ve never been out that far. In fact, I never go past Fillmore. I mean, what do you do out there?” Luckily, this doesn’t bother me. I frankly love the fact that I can hear the ocean from my bedroom, can walk to Golden Gate Park, and can walk a block to watch unbelievable sunsets over Ocean Beach, and yet in 20 minutes I can be downtown partying with the best of them. However, there is a clause to most people’s reluctance to come out to what they consider “BFN”: Outerlands. Mention that magic word, and chances are people will either express their undying love for the place while surreptitiously wiping away a small trail of drool, or start squealing about how they’ve always wanted to go there. For those of you not in the know, Outerlands is a rustic, beachside restaurant on 46th and Judah, which specializes in organic, home-style, comfort food like Dutch pancakes, potato soup, roast chicken, and mac & cheese, to name a few. But the item that puts them at #9 on the Big Eat is something that most of us have made at home when low on groceries and probably a little hungover: Eggs in Jail (also known as a Bull’s Eye).

You’re probably asking yourself why a breakfast dish which traditionally consists of a piece of bread with a hole in it in which an egg is fried is on a list of the best dishes in San Francisco. “Whoopee,” you’re thinking. Here’s the difference: the bread they use is baked fresh daily and the slice your eggs are “caged” in is generously sized. On top there are two slices of thick, juicy, perfectly crispy bacon, and on the side is a fresh mixed greens salad with a light balsamic dressing. The egg is most likely special as well, free-range from corn-fed non-genetically modified chickens or something. It’s the perfect light, savory breakfast. I have no complaints about the taste or the quality, and only wish that I had bread and bacon of that caliber lying around my kitchen.


That picture speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that warm fuzzy feeling doesn’t last once you get to the end of it and realize that’s all you get. That uncomfortable “I’m still hungry” feeling in your stomach doesn’t get any better when you get the bill and see that you just paid almost ten bucks for a glorified (yes, yummy, but still, glorified) piece of toast with eggs and bacon. If you read my last post on The House of Prime Rib, you know that I’m not averse to spending money on good food. Food is one of the few things that I will splurge on, because eating is the pleasure I can enjoy most often on my limited budget, since I currently can’t afford to fly to Paris or live in a hacienda in Puerto Vallarta with an ocean view and various Latin and expatriate lovers catering to my every whim. However, my biggest foodie pet peeve is paying a lot of money for tiny little portions, even if it is a portion of really good food. This seems to be par for the course for Outerlands, as every time I’ve gone there, I’ve had the same angry little voice in my head saying “You’re paying how much and you’re still hungry??” 

But if you don’t mind this so much, Outerlands does have good food, and a great location. It’s like eating in a log cabin, as the walls and tables are all dark, rough wood, and they even have quilted blankets in case you get cold. A word of warning, though. If you’re going for brunch, be there at least half an hour before it opens or you will be waiting a good two hours to eat, and if your party is larger than three people, good luck. If you do find yourself with an interminable wait in front of you but you’re determined to eat here anyway, they do offer hot cider with bourbon for around 8 dollars a pop for you to sip while standing outside in the usual Sunset chill. 

Bottom line is this: the food is good, the prices compared to the portions are not, and sorry, but the brunch wait is not worth it. But this is definitely a matter of opinion. My roommate, for example, loves this spot, and wants to eat here all the time. And, as generally bah humbug and reticent as I am about other aspects of this restaurant, there is a certain trifle dessert served at dinner that I would do many shameful things for. Honest injun.




All a Girl Needs is a Little Red Meat

If you’re a meat-eater, a carni-(though openly omni)-vore, you know what it’s like to crave a big, juicy steak. You may get your recommended dosage of fruits and veggies, or have a healthy appetite for chicken or fish. Hell, you might even have a soft spot for kale and quinoa and chia seeds. But as you go along, tofu wrap in hand, you may find yourself thinking about a thick slab of marbled beef, lined with fat, dripping with blood-tinged juice and if you do, I know the place for you. If you don’t, well, I wouldn’t expect you to understand anyway.

One thing I really like about 7x7’s Big Eat list is that most of the restaurants they list are independent, small, and often under the radar kinds of places. There are no chains on there. You don’t see them saying “#54: a Ragin’ Cajun steampot from Joe’s Crab Shack.” No, they mostly choose places that have native San Franciscans scratching their heads and feverishly Google Mapping the closest place to them. This restaurant, however, is a little bit of an anomaly. The House of Prime Rib on Van Ness isn’t a chain, it’s true, but it is a tourist hot spot. And for once, though I did have to elbow aside several slavering Nikon-toting tourists to get to my table, I have to say that the tourists actually know what they’re doing.


The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was how huge the place was. There was the main room and then at least three or four other equally large rooms branching off of it, and every one was full to the brim with prime rib groupies. It was decorated in the traditional steak house style: low lighting, plush booth seats, a fancy-looking bar. But we didn’t come for the decor, and as we had a reservation (smart ones, we are), we sat right down and opened the menu, mouths already watering in anticipation.

The menu is short and sweet, no distractions: Prime rib, starting at about 35 bucks and then rising as you choose what cut you’d like. I went for the House of Prime Rib cut, which is probably around a standard 9-oz cut. Still, not for the faint-hearted. My two voracious friends went still further, and ordered the King Henry VIII cut, and that was just as thick, fatty, and decadent as its namesake. To hold us over until the food came, we ordered one, then two bottles of red wine. Notice how my pictures get worse as the meal goes on? Blame the wine.


We didn’t have long to wait, though, as the waistcoat-sporting waiter started bringing out the accompanying dishes right away. Each cut comes with a salad, which is mixed tableside, mashed or a baked potato, yorkshire pudding, and creamed spinach, which tastes more like creamed bacon. And no, that’s not a bad thing. Also, each table is served hot, fresh sourdough bread, as much as you want. The prime rib is brought out in a portable carving station, and your cut is sliced fresh off the rack. It’s a bit of a show, but the quality of the steak makes everything worth it.


The steak was perfectly cooked, medium rare of course, and each bite melted in your mouth. I’m a slow eater in general, but in this case I exceeded myself. I savored each juicy morsel, only turning to the sides (which were also delicious) so that when I took a bite of my prime rib again, it became a new experience as the different flavors melded together. This is what prime rib was born to be.


By the end of the meal, we understood why this place had been around for seventy years in a city full of great restaurants and snooty vegetarians. This meal was fit for a king, and though we paid a king’s ransom for it, it was worth every penny. That’s the thing about great food: if it’s so good that I spend the whole next day thinking about every bite, I don’t mind spending a whole day’s pay on it. As I literally unbuttoned my pants a little, I figuratively tightened my belt and resigned myself to home-cooked meals scrounged from the fridge for the next week. But this was a meal of no regrets, and I’m already saving pennies for my next beef craving.



No Champagne, No Gain

It’s funny how things happen. Sometimes you’re just going along, putting off decisions about your future, losing yourself in the day-to-day mania of a twenty something woman trying to afford to live and live well in San Francisco by having five jobs and on average no days off, and then those decisions you haven’t made come along and punt you right into the path of a careening future you never foresaw. That’s how I feel right now. While I was trying to decide whether I wanted to move back to Mexico for a while or move to Vietnam and teach English or maybe, just maybe, do nothing until I could stand it no longer, a new job in the world I’ve always had my foot in, recreationally at least, came and shook me awake. Books! I’ve thought about writing them, I’m always reading them, but I’ve never thought about getting into the business of making them, the physical thing you hold in your hand. But I’m exaggerating a little. My new job title at Arion Press, a fine book press in San Francisco’s Presidio, isn’t “bookmaker” but “front desk assistant.” And yet, as nominal a position as it may be, there’s something about being part of the bigger literary world that tells me I may have found a niche for myself, regardless of whether or not it’s the niche I want to stay in indefinitely. Who ever said you can only have one niche? 

   To celebrate my first day of possible nichedom, my roommate and I decided to go grab a drink at a San Francisco landmark, and purveyor of one of the drinks on the List, the Cliff House. Located on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Cliff House is a 150-year old restaurant/bar mostly frequented by tourists looking to enjoy some pricey eggs benedict and mimosas while taking in the panoramic and gorgeous view of San Francisco’s westernmost coast. Unfortunately, I think the view is the best thing the Cliff House has going for it. I’ll admit that our experience was colored somewhat by the fact that we went at night, thereby swapping our view of the ocean for one of infinite inky blackness, but unfortunately, views don’t make a restaurant. But I probably would have been much more inclined to like the Cliff House if I had had that roiling, blue-grey view of Ocean Beach and the endless ocean to distract me from the relative boredom of the refreshments.

   As it was, however, I was not impressed with the sterile, retirement home chic feel of the place. There was little to no personality in the decor, and the same can be said of the drink, the French 77, and the accompanying “spicy” calamari. A French 77 is a classic champagne cocktail made with St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lemon juice and, you guessed it, champagne. It’s refreshing and light, and accompanies perfectly any kind of brunch food. But, to be on 7x7’s 50 Drinks to Drink Before You Die list alongside jaw-droppers like Dosa’s Bengali Gimlet or Comstock Saloon’s Cherry Bounce, I was expecting something a little more interesting. There was nothing wrong with the Cliff House’s rendition of it, but there was nothing very exciting about it either. In my opinion, even a lemon twist would have added a little zing, if only aesthetically.


   I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, she lives in San Francisco and is so nose-deep in mixology that she only drinks fancy libations with homemade simple syrups and things like absinthe or candied ginger.” You’re not far wrong. I do love the variety of drinks available in this city, alcoholic or otherwise (see the Touch of Grey), because there’s no END to what you can make! But I’m still a loyal fan of the basics. My go-to drink is a vodka tonic, and I usually order well vodka. See? So not snobby. But if I’m paying 10 dollars for a drink, I’ll admit, I’m expecting something snazzy. Bottom line: I was not impressed by the Cliff House and it’s French 77, and I don’t feel any inclination to go back. If I feel like a view, I think I’ll bring a flask and head to the Sutro Baths; it’s cheaper and there’s nothing old folks home-y about ruins and panoramic ocean views. 



Cotogna: It’s Time to Un-Fix Your Prix Fixe

There’s nothing like having something to celebrate to make one’s wallet feel overburdened with cash, thus invoking the need to lighten the load. And there aren’t many cities better equipped to help you spend your money than mine own San Francisco.   So when I got an email from a fine book press in the Presidio offering me the full-time job of personal/sales assistant, with the possibility of travel to book fairs the world over, and complimentary copies of each beautifully hand-bound, hand-printed book that they put out, I figured a three-course prix fixe meal with accompanying cocktails was just the ticket to congratulate myself on finally getting a grown-up job that actually involves my main passion in life. Accompanied by my ever down to eat and drink roommate, we headed off our beaten track into the Financial District to the elegantly biz-casual Cotogna to pursue my other main passion: food.


   I had been here once before with my mom when I graduated from college, and had an amazing whiskey-centric cocktail called a State Fair. What made it so unique that I still talk about it two years after my first sip? Just this: the bartenders at Cotogna came up with something called pretzeled whiskey. They poured whiskey (I don’t remember which brand) into a big bag of sourdough pretzels, let it sit until all the salt had come off and the pretzels were little more than white dough, and then strained it. What resulted was a salty whiskey that I could have sipped all day. Unfortunately for me, they no longer offer that drink, and though the cocktail I ordered this time, the Voodoo Baby I believe it’s called, was really a very good rum drink, it was not nearly as memorable as the State Fair. I’m including this past drink in the review to show that Cotogna is capable of experimental genius, this meal notwithstanding. Oops. I think I just gave away the ending. 

   Like I said, I ordered the $24 prix fixe, or menu al prezzo fisso in Italian. The first course was a chilled tomato soup, which was the best part of the meal. I don’t have much experience with chilled soups, but this was excellent. You could taste the freshness of the tomatoes, and the flakes of sea salt and bits of fresh basil added loads of flavor to the dish, and the freshly-baked spicy foccacia they brought to the table was perfect for soaking up any remaining vestiges at the end.


   The main course was a lamb pappardelle with dandelion greens. I love lamb. I think it’s the meat with the most depth, the most layers of flavor. Its addition to any dish can make said dish much more interesting. On the flip side, if not done correctly, it can send a dish to a very bad place. In this case, the lamb was flawless and perfectly tender, but there was one big problem, the kind of problem that is the death knell to any otherwise perfectly crafted meal: too much salt. The pasta itself was good. I like the thickness of pappardelle which is kind of like a smaller lasagna noodle. I wouldn’t say it was perfectly cooked, but it was teetering on the edge. The sauce seemed like it had a lot of potential, but the salt robbed it of any glory it may have had. God, it made me so sad to realize that it wasn’t just the first bite that was too salty, but the whole dish. And it was so pretty!


   One thing I can say is that the dessert at least counteracted the saltiness of the pasta with its sweetness. Nevertheless, I had mixed feelings about it. It was a Concord grape sorbet served with summer berries soaked in red wine. I’ve never been a huge fan of the flavor of Concord grapes. The bitterness at the end has always turned me off. The same went for this sorbet. However, when eaten in concordance with the berries, the depth of the red wine, the sweetness of the berries, and the bitterness of the grapes worked very well together.


   All in all, it was kind of a rollercoaster of a meal, from good to not so good between cocktails and dessert.  And as fun as rollercoasters are in real life, in the world of food it’s a different story. I know that Cotogna changes its prix fixe menu relatively often. All I can say is, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt since my first experience was so good, but I think they should move on to their next menu. Quickly. Oh, and bring back the pretzeled whiskey. Thanks in advance.



It Beats Booze in a Bag: How to Embrace Your Inner Wino without Anyone Being the Wiser

As every San Franciscan knows, whether native or naturalized, it’s rare to get a nice, hot day here. Especially a nice, hot day that doesn’t turn into a windy, foggy soup halfway through. So on these very rare, nigh on elysian days, everyone who’s anyone is outside, enjoying the sun. It’s not just the baby-totin’ mamas and the homework-dodging college students surreptitiously sipping Tecates out of paper bags, but everyone in between as well. Everyone, that is, except those of us unfortunate enough to have to work. Hot days in San Francisco should be city-mandated holidays. Seriously. Because if that were so, maybe I wouldn’t have to work every. single. time.

  So picture me as I slump around at work, trying to find some kind of breeze to get rid of the feeling that I’m a pat of butter slowly reaching room temperature, dreaming of what I would be doing if I had the freedom to join everyone else frolicking madly in the sunshine, braiding flower stems and hula hooping and buying special baked goods from dubious-looking fellows, or whatever it is that people do on days like this. I dream, and it takes me back to a few weeks ago when it was cold and windy (and my day off, of course) and I said “Damn it all to hell, I don’t care if it’s freezing. I want ice cream.” Enter Humphry Slocombe.


  What is it, you ask, that has me dreaming of this creamery halfway across the city, when there are plenty of other places much closer? The answer is part hair-of-the-dog-that-bit-you, part nutritional breakfast ice cream wonderland. It’s called Secret Breakfast, also known as bourbon and corn flakes. Maybe I’m not sufficiently boozy enough for this to never have occurred to me before, but if this isn’t a match made in heaven, I don’t know what is. 

  The restaurant I work in actually uses Humphry Slocombe ice cream for their desserts, so I have a supplier for my addiction, but even so, I couldn’t resist another hit of this stuff. The ice cream itself is a little softer than most because the alcohol in it doesn’t allow it to freeze completely, but the softness paired with the crunch of the corn flakes makes it that much more delectable. I mixed it up a little by getting it as a coke float. It was like getting a a dessert-style Bourbon and Coke, and it was really good, but this ice cream has such a perfect flavor that it really doesn’t need anything to supplement it. A scoop or two is all you need.


  This creamery, located on 24th and Folsom, isn’t the minutely designed equivalent of the Ice Cream Bar I reviewed last time. This place is simple: a small room with a freezer displaying the day’s flavors and a smaller freezer with pints and quarts to take home. They provide a couple of barstools inside and a few small tables outside (for those elusive sunny days!) but other than that, it’s relatively unremarkable. Oh. Except for the two-headed stuffed calf.


But here’s the thing. This ice cream doesn’t need a fancy schmancy locale. It stands all on its own. With flavors like prosciutto, Jesus Juice (coca-cola and red wine), and Blue Bottle coffee, it’s almost an insult for your eyes to be looking anywhere but at the ice cream freezer. Try as many flavors as you want. There’s sure to be something for everyone. But even in the face of so much greatness, I only have eyes for Secret Breakfast. It’s like having a wholesome breakfast with a big dose of get-happy-quick thrown in. Ok, so maybe the wholesome part is a little exaggerated.

  So if you’re out enjoying one of the four truly hot days we have in San Francisco, frolic your way towards the Mission and stop at Humphry Slocombe. Who doesn’t want booze on a hot day? Who doesn’t want ice cream? Just get some Secret Breakfast and thank me later.



When I Think Mushrooms, I Think Dessert…Don’t You?

One of the most fascinating things about the world of food and drink is the seemingly inexhaustible possibilities, or, the fact that you never know what heretofore unthought of combinations of apparently non-complementary ingredients can, with the right mix of imagination and culinary knowledge, become something amazing. This is exactly the case with the Touch of Grey (not to be confused with Shades of Grey, which is what I accidentally ordered to the smirky amusement of the soda jerk) fountain soda. A combination of an old-fashioned soda with some new-agey ingredients, the Touch of Grey is one of many menu options at the perfectly retro Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley.


First, the setting: when you walk in, you feel as though you’ve stepped into a scene from Pleasantville or Peggy Sue Got Married, and you instinctively smooth down your imaginary poodle skirt and tuck your arm into the arm of the Grease-esque John Travolta standing next to you. The guys behind the counter are all dressed in traditional “soda jerk” getups, there are vinyl-covered stools to sit on at the soda counter, and when you order a sundae, you get one of those fancy silver dishes. Screw the overpriced Ben & Jerry’s down the street; come here and indulge yourself in style. At least here, you’re paying more, but for quality ingredients and freshly made sundaes, phosphates, milkshakes, or whatever ice creamy delicacy your heart desires. If you can bring yourself to walk past the ice cream display full of flavors like Bourbon Malt Peanut Butter Cookie, Sweet Corn, or Banana Puddin’ (all made from local, organic dairy no less!), you’ll find yourself at the phosphate and milkshake counter. In my opinion, and especially since they just acquired their liquor license, this is the place to be. Here you can order a traditional soda, like the chocolate phosphate, or their new boozy versions, like an ice cream float made with San Francisco’s own Speakeasy Prohibition amber ale (hey, it’s 5:00 somewhere, right?). When you sit down, lined up in front of you are all the tinctures and flavors you can choose from if you want to build your own soda. Once you order, they make everything right in front of you, so you can see how it’s done.



So, back to the subject of this review: the Touch of Grey. This is one of the phosphates, so no ice cream, but still, not something to be missed. It’s a relatively simple recipe: acid phosphate which gives the drink a dry, tart flavor and makes your tongue tingle, soda (for the bubbles), and cream. The flavor comes from (brace yourself) candy cap mushrooms. Mushrooms?!?! Yes, you read that right. Mushrooms. Which brings me back to my original statement: the most fascinating thing about food is the limitless ingredients and combinations of those ingredients that can make something absolutely delicious.



 If you come to the Ice Cream Bar and try this unique phosphate, sit a minute and admire the beautifully crafted bubbles, reminiscent of sea foam, on top of your soda.   Then, take a sip, swish it around for a minute, allow yourself a moment of “whoa, mushrooms!” and then accept it for what it is: palate-pounding goodness. You’ll definitely note the slight fungal, earthy flavor of the candy cap mushrooms, but it’s neither overwhelming nor repulsive, as you might think mushroom soda would be. Instead, it’s sweet without being cloying, and the earthiness of the candy cap mushrooms smoothes out that sweetness, coating your mouth with a flavor that is as delicious as it is hard to describe. So, if you’re looking for something different, something to challenge and delight your taste buds, I recommend this fizzy drink, and for the eight billionth time, thank 7x7’s Big Drink for leading me to something I probably would have never found on my own.



When Food is as Good as Sex, Someone’s Doing Something Right

I don’t know how other people cope with stress, but I eat. I know the picture in your head right now is a girl in stretchy pants curled in a ball on the couch with a party-size bag of Doritos in her lap and various candy wrappers strewn about the room, maybe even some crumbs in her greasy and unwashed hair, but there you’d be wrong (mostly). Eating junk food like that only makes me feel like my thighs are growing exponentially with each bite, which really doesn’t help. No, I go seek out something so good it’ll take my mind off whatever paltry first-world struggles I may be having, in this case, not having yet found an apartment. And in this instance, man, did I succeed. Killing time before going to see about a sublet in the Mission, I used my trusty guideline to gastronomic greatness, The Big Eat, and found myself at a coffee place called Four Barrel. I refrain from calling this a coffee “shop” because it’s so much more than that. It’s more like getting your daily caffeine dosage in a factory, and it’s awesome. The moment you walk in, you’re sucker-punched in the nostrils with a virile, heady aroma that can only be freshly ground, high- grade espresso. If you’re looking for a robust double espresso (which I always am), this is the place to go. It makes Blue Bottle look like a damsel in distress, and Four Barrel is the dragon that holds her captive.

But the coffee isn’t what I came here for. It was the Kouign Amann, a flaky, buttery pastry that literally, and I mean literally in the sense that I never even found something comparable in a Parisian bakery, literally has no rival. Not only was it beautiful to look at, but the second that thing was in my mouth, I knew that it was the best thing to ever take up residence there. God damn. The outside was crispy and sweet, and the inside was perfectly fluffy. This is what a donut dreams of being when it grows up. It was sweet without being teeth-achingly so, and buttery without being greasy at all. The molten sugar in the middle ran over the crust once you’d taken a bite, and left you licking any last vestiges off your fingers. I’m not joking when I say this pastry was sexual in the liquidy apex of flavor that center contained. There was absolutely nothing that could have been done to make this thing more perfect. I don’t know where it’s from or what Kouign Amann means, I just know that my whole life up to this point has been leading me to this.

Yea, I take food seriously. And if you ever eat something that makes you see how food can be equivalent to sex, you’ll understand why. 

It may sound like I just ate this little piece of Paradise, but I actually ate it over two months ago. That’s how good it was. I remember every little detail. And for someone who can be watching a show, and then forget what she’s watching when the commercials come on, that’s really saying something. Needless to say, for the 45 minutes I sat in Four Barrel, all my stress was gone. I could have been living in a castle made of clouds with naked male cherubim bringing me all the Kouign Amann I could ever eat; that’s how happy I was.



At Least Some Things in the Marina are Packin’

Not that I’m the expert. No, really. Not enough Mexicans in the Marina. If I’m looking for stuffing, I go to Pancho Villa Taqueria, and then the Tin Tan.

And that was a joke. C’mon. You all know I’m off Mexicans…and my dad might be reading this, so shhhhh.

But aside from my amorous preferences, let’s talk about this sandwich. First off, any deli lover knows that a good Italian deli usually makes sandwich-making look easy. I don’t know if it’s because all their meats are so fresh, as opposed to those pre-sliced meats you find at Subway or even more popular places like Ike’s or the Yellow Submarine, or because they actually have fresh baked bread like Dutch Crunch or Rosemary, or maybe one of the Pope’s duties is to personally bless every Italian deli with holy rolling goodness. I don’t know. All I do know is that I don’t want to have any other country’s sandwich in my mouth.

And yes, I do realize I make a lot of references to my mouth. Don’t ask me to explain it.

Walking into Lucca’s was like walking into Italy. With salamis hanging from the ceiling, pannatones lining the walls, and mouthwatering antipastos filling the refrigerated display, I almost expected a guy that in my head resembles Stromboli from Pinnochio to come out and say “Buon Giorno!” But even with all those distractions, I was only interested in one thing: the Sandwich Special No. 1. I was so excited that I didn’t even look at the ingredients. I just chose my bread and fervently nodded my head when the guy behind the counter asked if I wanted everything on it. But what I think was on it was a few different types of meat, including ham and salami, red bell peppers, tomato, lettuce, and provolone. I may be totally wrong, but all that really matters is that the end result was pure sandwich genius. 

Once again Big Eat, thank you for guiding me towards my god: truly good food.