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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wayfare Tavern in SF: Great Burger By Celeb Chef Tyler Florence

I've always been a big fan of Tyler Florence's recipes and cookbooks but had never tried his restaurants so it was a treat trying Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco. It delivered. Since his horseradish burger is one of my faves to make at home when I'm not going to Houston's, I figured I'd try the burger. It was solid, as were the fries. Don't let his fame deter you from trying his very good food. I myself am allergic to celeb chefs but he defies the stereotype.

The brioche bun was perfectly soft and fresh while dense enough to hold the hearty patty, which was cooked a solid medium rare with a nice meaty flavor and just the right consistency. I thought the brie would be too overpowering for the patty but it was on the mild side and nicely melted. The caramelized red onions were sweet and I asked for the bacon on the side as I find bacon to be a distraction in good burgers. Don't get me wrong. I love a nice, crispy bacon as much as the next person but when it comes to burgers, you gotta leave the patty alone. You can also add a fried egg on top but as much as love a fried egg on anything, I resisted to stay true to my rather purist tendencies when it comes to a burger.

I also liked the pickles that tasted home-made for their low sodium content. They were refreshing without being like the overly pickled, sadly shriveled, super salty and vinegary commercial pickles.

Let's talk fries. They were crispy and not over-salted. Approved!

We also shared a nice fig and pork belly salad with some greens as a starter. I realize the choice of pork belly as a starter for a full-on, meaty burger may not have been the wisest one and I did regret it momentarily but thankfully the salad ended up not being as heavy and the figs were super sweet -- a great complement to the salty pork belly chunks.

Another bonus was the complimentary brioche bread served before our meal arrived. It was fluffy and I chowed it down slathered in creamy butter even though I had a whole bun waiting for me. I didn't mind the carb overload because it seemed light and not too dense. Oh, and I walked it off.

I'd definitely like to return in the evening and try its extensive wine and beer selection.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Parish: Fried Oyster Poutine Anyone?

It was a blessing in disguise when we heard that Perch was too full and had to head to the Parish instead. Perch has a great view, I hear, but Parish probably has better food. Indeed, I was impressed with the interesting takes on classics and the modern and swanky redo of the former Angelique Cafe space's interior (RIP).

The drinks weren't as impressive, however. The Russian Tulip was a glass containing 99% ice with a splash of some vodka, lemon juice, grenadine and bitters. It tasted like diluted lemonade.

We had the slow cooked pork shoulder with some greens and more interestingly, paneer, chunks of the delectable Indian cheese that comes with super soft spinach at your fave Indian restaurant (yes, saag paneer is the one).

In case you haven't noticed, we ordered a bunch of fatty, luscious and crunchy goodies to go with our drinks. We'd had a long day, damn it. We deserved it. So the slow cooked pork dish was soft and a mix of healthy and meaty for a fine balance.

Next up: fried chicken with some greens, grilled peaches and grape tomatoes. What better way to enjoy a big old chicken leg with a crunchy crust than with healthy greens and fruit? Again, the balance. The chicken wasn't as good as at Son of a Gun (I know, broken record) but it was decent.

We even had fried oysters, which I would never order but was pleasantly surprised at how good they were. Not only were they fried oysters, they were in poutine form, which signficantly ups the decadence ante to the whole experience.

Poutine is a great Quebec tradition that consists of fries smothered with seemingly whatever your heart desires (or fears), although traditionally it's usually been gravy and curd cheese. Animal has a great version with pulled oxtail and Biergarten did for a while with short ribs but I no longer recommend it. There was a dearth of fries in this oyster version but I appreciated it for its novelty value.

It's hard to talk decadent, the overused food blog term of the century, without mentioning roasted bone marrow. It was a tad disappointing, especially compared with Church and State that's also all about super heavy and delicious stuff.

The bread was crusty enough but the marrow wasn't as spreadable. It needed work.

Last but not least, what's a happy hour without a blood red burger split amongst the group's carnivores?

I was glad the patty was cooked medium rare, red enough in the middle to really taste the beef, with epoisses, a soft French cheese that was a good counterbalance to the pickled carrots' tanginess.

The bun was soft enough but I wasn't crazy about this burger because you guessed it, while above average, it was no Houston's burger. But one recent burger had in SF was not bad, but more about that later.

We also had a burrata salad with greens and grilled peaches that was good but not enough greens. Loved that peaches were grilled as they brought out the fruit's natural sweetness.

Service and ambiance were great. Parking is a bit of a pain as you have to use a lot nearby, pay and walk, God forbid.

I'd like to return to check out its other bar food classics like fish and chips, balanced out by the very healthy chopped kale.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Laurel Hardware in WeHo: Great Space, Cool Atmosphere and Delicious Oozing Egg Sandwiches

I love discovering gems in my own 'hood. Laurel Hardware was one of those places you always drive by but never got a chance to try. It was actually a real hardware store before going through a transformation into the coolest restaurant that I'm happy to report has pretty good food.

Let's deconstruct this fried chicken biscuit sandwich that came with a side of pancetta gravy. I'm not a big gravy person. I find it rather distracting. So I just used a small dollop of gravy for my sandwich but frankly, I don't think it needed it -- especially in light of this perfectly oozing egg. Kudos to the kitchen for getting the egg just right -- a beautiful soon-to-be runny sunny side up.

True, I didn't think the chicken was nearly as mind-blowingly crispy and juicy as the one in Son of a Gun. But it was a thicker cut and managed to stay quite moist and nicely seasoned. It came with collard greens in a biscuit bun that wasn't my favorite biscuit but it was ok. Think the biscuit could have had a harder crust but I still appreciated the different experience of a fried chicken biscuit sandwich.

I liked the Gangster cocktail that was cucumber vodka with watermelon and lime juice. It was so refreshing -- the perfect summer drink. Very appropo considering it was 100+ weather.

I didn't care too much for the mojito that came with a "summer float," which I found too sweet.

I did, however, love the decor and vibe of this place, at least during the day. It features floor to ceiling windows and has different spaces in the back with booths, communal tables, couches and an outdoor patio area. It's a very long and slightly narrow space and I loved it. I wonder what it's like for late night drinks. Note to self: must try.

My brunch companion had the turkey bacon sandwich in a pretzel bun with heirloom tomato and homemade ranch sauce. I usually never rave about turkey -- sorry but what's there to rave about -- but this turkey tasted home-roasted and freshly sliced. The bacon was chunky and cooked just crisp. I didn't mind that the sandwich came with fries, which were good but not terribly memorable.

I'd like to return soon to check out other brunch items and dinner/drinks menu -- and perhaps sit in the outdoor patio in the back. The space looked so inviting. Service was good too. Recommended.