Saturday, 31 July 2010

Nopa and Toronado

We are in San Francisco and it is cold. Not just a little bit cold but go and buy a jacket in Macy's cos we didn't pack one, cold. It heats up a bit in the afternoon but in the shade when the wind is blowing it feels a little like death.
It a bit of a shock after sweaty New York and Chicago and the ridiculous desert heat of Vegas.
Last night we took a trip to a lovely part of SF around Haight street. We stopped off first in the Tornado bar to try a few beers.

The lit up back wall is a list of the beers they currently had on tap. It takes a while to decide from the range of beers, some unfamiliar, some notorious! The most intriguing beer of the evening was the Russian River brewery Consecration.

The picture doesn't really show you the size of this glass. It's a lot smaller than a normal glass of beer, I estimate 150ml. It's a sour beer, something I've not tried before, but i will definitely hunt out more of it. Brewed with naturally souring bacteria it and matured in wine barrels it takes a bit of getting used to. I'm looking forward to trying Russian River brewery's other sours.
We left after a couple of drinks, pints of 7-8% beer are not the best aperitif before a meal if you plan to stay awake!
Round the corner from Toronado is the restaurant, Nopa, made known to me by the now ex-employee Richie Nakano who wrote the engrossing blog linecook415. We were seated up on a balcony overlooking the long bar and open kitchen. It gave us a great overview of the busy restaurant from our relatively calm position. The style of the restaurant is very much San Francisco, with European influence but with a very large emphasis on the freshness, locality and quality of the ingredients. This quality really shone through in our starters of goats cheese with crostini and tomatoes,

And a pizza-like flatbread with mushrooms, home smoked bacon and rocket. I ate most of it before taking this picture!
For mains the choice was almost made for us. We had to try the famous Nopa burger and the pork chop. The Nopa burger came in a huge bun with a slice of gruyere ,loads of fries a salad and a basil aioli.

The pork chop really lived up to it's reputation. It was the best pork chop I've ever had. Moist yet cooked perfectly and an amazing porky flavour. I've hears that at Nopa they brine the whole loin before cutting the individual chops and then grilling them. This is definitely a ploy I want to use for the BBQ on my new weber when I get home.

It came with potatoes and some salad. Delicious.

We had bottle of lovely Californian Pinot to go with it.

We had a great time at Nopa, the food was great and the now expected high level of service was very much present. I wish we had enough time to go back so I could have another pork chop.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Real tea

Finally - the first decent cup of tea I've found in america - and it only took two and a half
weeks to find one...thank you Coffee Bean!


Location:Market St,San Francisco,United States

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Gibsons steakhouse.

We decided that our first American steak should be in a proper American steakhouse. So we booked a table at Gibson's in Chicago. It was a good thing we booked as there were people queueing out the door to try to get a table. The dining room was
buzzing with chatter as the waiters with white jackets and gloves whizzed around bringing food and drinks and showing off the magnificent steaks they had to offer. We ordered our steaks, Claire a New York strip, rare, and I a Gibson's special ribeye, medium rare and chose a Californian Pinot Noir.

I'm afraid my iPhone photography let me down again and I didn't get any good pictures of the steaks. Here is a picture taken on Claire's camera I can tell you that they were thick, juicy and possibly some of the best beef I have tasted.

Sunday, 25 July 2010


Bouchon restaurant is another string to the hugely successful Thomas Keller empire. I think Keller's success lies in the diversity of his restaurants and the obvious passion and attention to detail that he has imbued into them. Each new venture seems to be opened because he loves that style of restaurant. I will write about our amazing experience in his fine dining location Per Se, New York later.
Bouchon is Keller's take on a French brasserie. In Vegas this branch is housed in the tower of the Venetian hotel.

Like everywhere else in Vegas the Venetian is huge and exaggerated but somehow seems a little less tacky than many of the other places in the strip. Bouchon seems like an oasis of charm and elegance in comparison!
The generous and enthusiastic service we received from our waiter made the experience all the more special. We were brought some cocktails with nuts and some excellent French bread to drink while we mulled over the menu. The cocktails are themed on classic drinks from the 1920s through to now. Claire had the very powerful Bouchon classic,
and I had a nice gin and citrus
Bitters cocktail.

Sucker as I am, I was persuaded to have the special starter and main. My starter was a 'short rib g√Ęteau', a layered slice with braised beef short ribs on the bottom, a layer of foie gras mousse in the middle and the top layer was a horseradish gelee. It came with a mini brioche loaf and a stone fruit relish.

I think it was the best thing I've eaten on the trip so far. Each element was soft, rich and luxurious. I could have eaten another one of these for main and another for dessert.
Claire chose a classic French pate de campagne which came with cornichon and radish. Her only complaint was that she wanted more radish!

My main was a huge veal steak, apparently the equivalent of a bone in New York Strip, slow cooked with wholegrain mustard spatzle, pickled bing cherries and glazed turnips. The steak was topped with a cep butter.

Not being a big fan of fruit with savoury dishes I was surprised at how well the cherries went with the mustard and the juicy pink veal steak. Another big thumbs up from me.
We were struggling a little for appetite by halfway through this meal, so the pile of fries that came with Claire's main of croque Madame wasn't easily dealt with, check this out.

To add to the heft of this plate of food, the croque Madame was made with two thick slices of buttery brioche and topped with cheesy mornay sauce. Claire admitted defeat but only left her crusts and some fries.

To go with our mains we had a bottle of syrah from Santa Barbera. A huge, fruitladen alcoholic beast of a wine, a little stronger than I had anticipated! It mellowed a little after opening a warming up a bit. We finished off this monster meal with a Bouchon signature dessert. Three 'bouchons' (corks) of chocolate brownie topped with, from left to right, coffee ice-cream, strawberry sorbet and peanut butter ice-cream.


A great start to crazy Las Vegas. I'm writing this in a minibus on the way to the grand canyon, have eaten a slightly less sophisticated sausage mcmuffin meal. It was damn good.


As we strolled down the streets of Manhattan on our last evening in New York we felt a slight sadness in having to leave this great city. We had grown very fond of wandering its varied and intriguing neighbourhoods, visiting its myriad of excellent galleries, museums and tourist attractions. I was even going to miss the crazy heat of the subway stations and the crazy people of the subway trains. Mostly I think I was going to leave with a feeling that we hadn't sampled everything that the big apple had to feed us.

We were walking to Babbo the flagship restaurant of the larger than life Italian American chef Marco Batali who was brought to my attention when I read the excellent book, Heat, by Bill Buford. The book records the author's experiences working in Babbo's kitchen but also his attempts to retrace Batali's steps by training to cook and butcher in rural Italy. It is a fascinating read and has meant that Babbo has been in my sights for a while.

As we opened the door and pushed aside the heavy curtain the warm and humid evening gave way to a cool but bustling and lively bar and dining room, decorated with Italian wine and paintings.
We waited a couple of minutes before our table became available and were then led upstairs to a second,slightly brighter room. We started in our typical way with a couple of G&Ts while we carefully picked our way through the very Italian menu. Antipasti, primi, secondi, pesci, carne and dolci all had sections on the menu. But we settled finally on our dishes and a fine bottle of Brunello de montalcino.

I started with a warm lambs tongue salad and Claire had a beetroot tartare with ricotta salata. My tongue was sliced thinly into delicious ribbons and dressed with a...
Claire's beets mimicked a steak tartare in look and with it's seasonings which were laid out carefully on the side of the plate for the diner to add to their taste. Anchovies, capers, gherkins and mustard were all lined up in cute piles.
Claire's main was chianti stained papperdelle with a rich wild boar ragu. I had a stuffed rolled beef flank.

Brooklyn brewery tour

We some excitement and a little trepidation we caught the subway to Brooklyn to visit a very special brewery. Brooklyn brewery has been on my must visit list since I first tasted the fantastic Brooklyn Lager a couple of years ago in Byron burgers, London.

I was gobsmacked, an American lager with flavour. Actually more flavour than a lot of European lagers! How naive I had been. A little more research showed me that the American brewing is one of the most forward thinking and innovative in the world and that a lot of new breweries in the UK have taken inspiration from this.
Anyway back to Brooklyn brewery. It seems that every bar and restaurant has a Brooklyn beer on their list. Here is their summer ale in the Metropolitan museum of art.

Situated near the first subway stop into Brooklyn this relatively new brewing facility also houses a busy bar amongst the bottling line which rocks along to loud music, delivered pizza and the whole range of Brooklyn beers.

By the time our tour had finished it was one in, one out and the queue for the bar was out the door. This brewery guy showed us into their small brewing area.

It was a short but very informative tour. The history of the brewery is very interesting. One of the founders was a middle east news correspondent and started brewing beer illegally in his hotel bathroom because of the no alcohol laws. He soon realised that the stuff he was brewing in his bath was better than the standard beer brewed back at home. When he came back to New York he found business partner, a head brewer and a cool logo and the rest is history. I found it a very inspiring story.

We stuck around long enough after the tour to buy a special bottle of the Belgian style Local 2 and a cool logo t-shirt.

Needless to say the beer was fantastic, we drank it in Chicago so as to compare it with the Goose Island beers.

More to come soon from New York, Chicago and Vegas Baby!

Cheers for now,

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Clark st ale house

Clark street ale house gave us 3 tasty beers,

Goose island pere jacques was a Belgian style with notes of candy and root beer.

The blueberry wheatbeer exorcised our blueberry demons. It was mostly cakey wheat wirh a light blueberry fragrance.

Clarke street pale ale brewed by twobrothers was a revelation. A delicious pale ale with hoppy flavours of Rose, black tea and citrus. Outstanding.

Location:E Chestnut St,Chicago,United States

Goose Island Brewpub

Lunch today is at the goose island brewpub.

Black burger: medium beef patty with goats cheese croquette, spinach and caramelised onions.

For me a jerk pork sandwich: pork with jerk mayo, plantain on ciabatta.

Award winning goose island IPA is outstanding.

An interesting, refreshingly light wheat beer, with peach notes. A farmers Market special

Sai-Shan-Tea: a saison brewed with lemon heritage tea (I think Mark Dredge would be interested in this one)

Chicago saison: chef collaboration series. Floral with hints of grapefruit and papaya. Brewed with local chef Nicole Pederson

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza at Pizzeria Due

Sorry about the lack of posts recently, we have been so busy and the iPhone keyboard is tricky to type quickly. I want to take my time over writing up WD50, Per Se and Babbo so I will give you a quick post on Chicago Pizza.

We arrived in Chicago from New York on the tiniest passenger plane I have been on and headed for our hotel. The seneca hotel is great and our room has a kitchen I'm it, I'm not kidding.

Most importantly it has a full size fridge, something we missed in New York. So we can keep fillings for sandwiches and beer cool. Nice.

We decided on this holiday to make sure we try as many foods that we couldn't get anywhere else. This meant that last night we had to have Chicago Pizza for dinner. We found Pizzeria Due and went in to see if they had a table.

The system for table reservations in Due is great. On a busy night you order the pizza pie in advance and then wait for a table to become available. This is because the pie takes 45 minutes to bake. You can wait almost anywhere for your table, they call for you over a tannoy system with speakers outside, on the patio, at the bar and even in the 'restroom'. Claire and I waited at the bar where we had a beer each. I had a Sam Adams summer ale and Claire had a Sam Adams lager.

The beer on this trip is getting better and better. Both beers were excellent. We were called to our table and waited for our pizza with a hefty slice of garlic bread with cheese.

The tomato sauce that came to with the garlic bread was fresh and tasty, the bread was doughy, cheesy but not much garlic.

Next came the main event, the pizza. I should explain to those who don't know that a chicago pizza is not the same as an Italian or even New York pizza. It's cooked in a deep sided pan with a thick crispy base (and sides). It's layered thickly with mozzarella, then huge trunks of your meat of choice( we had sausage) and topped with a rich tomato sauce. This is what a quarter looks like in the pan.

And this is what the layers look like,

The other factor that makes it different to a thin crust pizza is the ability of this thing to fill you up. Claire and I shared a small which was about 10" and we were stuffed by the end. We would usually have a thincrust 12" pizza each at home!

We thoroughly enjoyed our first deep dish Chicago pizza, but we both decided it may be a while before we try one again. The thing is just so dense and heavy even if it's truly delicious.

We promise to get back on the fine dining tip ASAP but tonight we dine on steak. and I think I may go LARGE.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Jean Georges part 2

Dessert time at Jean Georges. Ever since reading Johnny Iuzzini's book, Dessert Fourplay, I have longed to visit Jean Georges and this was the main reason it was on our list of must visit restaurants in New York. Each dessert he creates is 4 miniatures based on a theme. I chose 'Cherry' and Sam chose 'Garden'. Cherry included an amazing traditional cherry and almond clafoutis, a cherry stuffed with white chocolate ice-cream, again very tasty, a cherry cola which made me grin like a child (also delicious) and the only part I didn't enjoy which was stewed cherries with a chicory foam topping but mainly because I'm not a fan of chicory. Sam loved this one. I was thrilled with my dessert and it finished off our nearly perfect meal wonderfully.
Sam's garden dessert had a root beer float type drink which was a bit weird, a pea shoot sorbet based dessert and chocolate dessert with blackcurrant leather.
He had a glass of Riesling with this delightful spread.We were very surprised when our waiter brought us a special dessert of creme caramel with a pastry twist and this decorated biscuit on top.

Somehow they had found out that this is our honeymoon and brought us this as a special end to our meal.

Pictures will be added later to this section so we'll just leave you with this beauty.