Monday, March 27, 2006

SF Day 2 & 3: Ferry Building, Gourmet Club, Golden Gate Park


Saturday morning, we did my favorite San Francisco activity. My goal was to buy the ingredients for a salad for dinner for Sunday night at John's sister. It was like being in salad heaven! And to make matters worse, my PC friend Tom involved in the decision. Every stall brought on a new idea - "look at these field greens - we could get dried fruit from that other stand and sugar some pecans and make a fig balsamic vinegrette! look over there - what about there!" The decision was clinched when we went to Tom's friend's farm stand and she let us taste some peppery arugula blossoms with a hint of flowery sweetness. It looked like a wildflower bouquet, with long stems with small forsythia like blossoms of pale yellow and brown. We ended up buying arugula blossoms and field greens planning on tossing in large pieces of crisp bacon, shards of parmesan and a meyer lemon vinaigrette. We served melted herbed chevre croutons alongside.

Grace and John and I spent quite a few minutes tasting honey at the honey stand. Each kind had its own unique flavors and characteristics. We ended up choosing the CIA honey - the hives are in the herb garden at the culinary institute - it had a very strong flavor with lots of different notes. We plan on drizzling it over fresh riccotta, along with some lime oil. This was Tom's idea. We brought it to Joan's sunday night. He piled it in the middle of a large plate, drizzled the honey and lime oil over it and then surrounded it with crackers. We also brought a Cowgirl Creamert Triple Cream Cheese caller Mt Tam and some Humboldt Fog - a creamy cheese with a ribbon of blue. The outer edge gets runny like a Brie the longer it sits out.

Saturday night was Southern Gourmet Club at the Marx's house. Southern? Doesn't sound so appealing or gourmet but oh my goodness - what a feast! Perfectly fried chicken, seasoned with onion powder, garlic powder, paaprika and cayenne then drizzled with honey! Chicken Fried Steak sandwiches on tender, buttery biscuits served with gravy alongside. Pulled pork in a sweet but mustardy sauce was especially tasty. A huge pot of Farmer's Market greens - chard, dandelion and more were served cooked up with pork fat in a big pot of "likker". A fabulous salad of frisee, beets and pears with candied walnuts may not have been too southern but no one complained. A black eyed pea salad, blue cheese mashed potoatos, cornbread speckled with bacon, served with freshly made butter and honey, and corn pudding spiked with more bacon and japepenos rounded out the menu. To top off the evening, sweet potato souffle came to the table fresh from the oven, served along with pecan pie and a lovely light coconut cream cake, layered with fruit and a whipped cream icing. Several wines were served throughout the evening and explained by Nick who had the chore of pairing wines with almost every dish containing bacon! It was a food lover's feast and Ihope to be in town for the next theme of Persian!


Sunday was a glorius sunny day. We ran through several ideas of how to spend our day but cancelled several because they ended up indoors. Finally we just hopped a cab to Golden Gate park. We were dropped off in front of the De Young and even though the stark rusty exterior was really tempting us to go in, the rare sunshine insisted we stay out. First stop was the japanese garder. The minute we walked in the gates we were attracted by the peaceful wooden builind serving japanese tea. We beat the crowds and sat at a table in the sunshine. We were served oolong and jasmine pots of tea by a lovely woman in a pink kimona, alongside a plate of japanese sesame and alond cookies and various japanese snack bits. The setting was so peaceful and sunny and beautiful, it was hard to leave but the rest of the japanese garden beckoned us. A lot is compacted in a small space but every where you look is beautifully manicured and tended as only a japanese garden can be.

The sunshine was still tempting us to stay outdoors so our next stop was the free botanical garden. Needless to say we weren't the only ones out on a beautiful sunday in San Francisco. We wander down concrete trails then veered off onto mulch paths winding through the gardens. Colorful bushes and flowers, none to be seen in the Midwest, were there to be explored, smelled and enjoyed.

We ducked into the De Young cafe for a quick lunch with promises to come back soon to check out the museum.

The evening was spent at John's sister's Joan for a fabulous family dinner. Tom and I served up the ricotta appetizer and the cheeses. Dinner was a fabulous butterflied leg of lamb, marinated and tehn grilled. The other meat was a spooky blackc tri tip. At first glance it looked like Mitch had left it on the grill for about 24 hours - the whole thing was an uninterupted solid black. Turns out it comes this way from a special marinade at the butchers. I think the only way anyone would every buy it would be on a strong recomendation because it did not look particulary appetizing. But when cut super thin, the black became just a thing edge. The meat was very tender and flavorful and with a little horseradish sauce - truly amazing! Our salad made it to the buffet with a vinaigrette of meyer lemon juice, olive oil, dijon mustard and a smidge of honey. The flowers sprinkled over the top looked really lovely and added a nice arugula bite. Joan made rosemary potatoes, lemon orzo, bread and butter and oven rosted asparagus. Dessert was a dense creamy bread pudding served with a toffee sauce and orange scented whipped cream served with dense chocolate brownies speckled with cranberries. I was temporarily distracted from dessert by cuddling my new great niece and rocking her to sleep, but I eventually gave her up and had my share. It was a fun evening with family and friends and delicious food - what more could you ask for!