Eating San Francisco

Here in the frantic countdown before i leave for Amsterdam i thought i’d cover a few recent culinary experiences.

Last week i got around to trying Criolla Kitchen, a new place at 16th and Market in the space formerly occupied by the Baghdad Cafe.  The website in the link above is today just a placeholder, but hopefully they’ll update it with more information soon.  The place bills itself as creole/southern food, as seen in this menu in a review back in May.

I know this food well since i was born in deep east Texas just across the Sabine River from Louisiana and one of my father’s sisters married a man named Lafitte who claimed he was a great-great-great grandson of Jean Lafitte although from what i read it’s iffy whether Lafitte had any legitimate offspring.  Yes, that Jean Lafitte.

And now that i think about it, i figure i’m one of the relatively few folks in San Francisco who know that “Nachitoches” on the Criolla Kitchen menu is not pronounced the way it looks.

I went there for lunch with a friend and we had the chicken and waffle, which was good, and a crispy catfish sandwich, which was better.  Both were good enough that i’ll go back.  Besides, the waitress was a delightful young woman, and i don’t say that only because i made her laugh.

With me, dammit.

For my birthday my friend David took me to Mission Chinese Food.  It was his first visit, and i’d been eager to get him to try it.  When he told me he’d be bringing his fourteen-year-old son, i was pleased because he’s a good kid and i like him.  But when they came in the place the enormity of it swept me as i remembered that the kid, while wonderfully voracious, is not the least bit adventuresome in his food.

I looked at the menu and my heart sank.  Then i saw the Hainam Chicken Rice and the “Chinese” BBQ Platter and relaxed since how can any kid not like chicken and rice or Oklahoma style (in spite of the name) barbecue?  Well, i found out.

The barbecue came with a stack of Wonder Bread (i told you it was Oklahoman!), which the kid wolfed first, it being the only familiar thing in sight.  Then i watched him carefully slice off the lean meat every single molecule of disgusting, quivering fat and had a flashback to 56 years ago when i was his age and routinely did exactly the same thing.  The hot links he could just tell from their appearance were inedible.  The chicken rice?  Well, i’d glossed over the fine print, “Dressed in Shaoxing wine, chicken fat, roasted peanuts, and cilantro”, so it tasted funny although he did pick off the peanuts and eat them.

And it wasn’t just the kid i pushed.  David is a gourmet, but he eats very little meat and has a low threshold of tolerance for pepper.  Sigh.

So for the first time at Mission Chinese Food, i did not get to sit there watching folks gorge themselves on food far better than they’d dreamed possible.   Hell, i felt so bad about getting them in there that i didn’t even gorge myself….well, not completely.

I tried to make up for it afterwards by treating them to ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery, where i got to try their ineffable (and Chronicle award-winning) salted caramel ice cream.  Superb.  And they ate theirs with gusto, too.  Finally, something that tasted normal.

In this morning’s Chronicle there was a big article in the food section about a blind tasting of Bay Area ice creams.  Bi-Rite’s salted caramel got very high marks, but the highest scorer of all was the Mitchell’s chocolate.  So of course on the way home from taking some photographs on 6th Street for my friend Robert who needed them for an article he’s writing, i rode oh, about thirty blocks out of the way so as to swing by Mitchell’s and see for myself.  Yep.  Best chocolate ice cream i ever ate with the possible exception of Michael Recchiuti’s, which i tasted twenty years ago in the brief window when he was retailing it and which is now available only at a handful of top end restaurants he makes it for when he feels like it, so i’ll never taste that again.

And finally, tomorrow morning i’ll drop by Goody Goodie and pick up four of their Olive Cocoa Nib Wafers to carefully wrap and take to Amsterdam.  These things are astonishing.  Hard to imagine that something consisting mainly of ground up olives and cocoa nibs could be so good.

And this is it for the 2011 Journal for a month.  Check out the menu in the left gutter and click on “Amsterdam Revisited”, where i’ll try to post some episodes about the stay there when i’m not studying Dutch.

mind openHere’s a new little minipark made by blocking a street nobody was using off San Jose Avenue at about 28th or so, just north of Mitchell’s.

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