Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Stinking Rose, North Beach

For Christmas Eve dinner, we ended up at the Stinking Rose. A lot of places weren't open and it seemed like the kind of resturaunt all four of us would enjoy. We arrived a little after our reservation time and were seated a few minutes later. The Stinking Rose is one of those places that have hidden rooms everywhere. We walked pass the kitchen and up the stairs to a crowded room and our table.

The first thing we ordered was the famous Bagna Cauda (or garlic soaking in a hot tub) along with Garlic Swiss Chard Fontina Fondue. A little warmer sits on the table waiting for the garlic when it arrives in it's little skillet. 20-30 garlic cloves float in olive oil and butter. A couple of anchovies that have lost their anchoviness and now tast of garlic swim along with the cloves. Garlic has to be one of the few flavors that could overwhelm anchovies. The skillet is served with some soft garlic rolls. I found the rolls a little too soft, I prefer something a little more rustic and hearty. The garlic was fine though and we ate most of it. The fondue was very good although a small portion. We scraped the pan clean. It was served with a few very thin crostini. A few more would have been nice.

For our entrees, John got the steak, highly recomended by the waiter. I had a bite of it and I have to say it was pretty tasty. Grace had the Gnocchi in a garlic cream sauce. She was supposed to trade with Kate who got the meatloaf and garlic mashed potatoes. I am not sure either dish was very well recieved or maybe they were both to full of bread and garlic but a lot remained on both plates when they were cleared. I had the garlic roasted whole dungeness crab. I have been dying for dungeness since the season started and here was my chance. It was dry and not very flavorful. It did not cure my urge for dungeness crab but increased it because it was so lacking.

Although the food was not exceptional, we did have a nice time. It was fun to be in the city for our first California Christmas Eve and the four of use enjoyed the adventure and each others company more that anything else.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sol Food, San Rafael

Last night John and I had dinner at Sol Food, the new eat-in version of the take out stand on 4th. We had enjoyed a meal a few months ago at the take-out stand and wanted to visit the new eat-in restuarant. The building is painted bright green and easy to spot. The interior is very clean and nice. Communal tables along with individual tables share the space with window counters and a long counter along the food prep area. One wall is cleverly created with old doors. Drums sit high along a shelf high up on the walls and a plantain holds the napkins down on each table next to some very flavorful hot sauce.

I ordered the evening special of pork chops. 2 thinly sliced pork chops were nicely seasoned, served along side a pile of white rice covered in red beans and green olives. I had my choice of plantains - sweet or garlic and got both. My only complaint would have been that I could have eaten a few more of the pork chops - they were that thin!

John got the Bisteca Encebollado, which was thinly sliced grilled steak with onions. I am not sure he would order it again. The steak was very thin with not much flavor. He got the same side dishes as I did. He licked his plate clean, I might add and wouldn't let them clear it until he had eaten his last two bites of plantain.

My friend Bishlan has recommended the fish but they were out last night. Apparently it is not on the menu and you have to ask for it. We asked the host about it. One dish was a whole tilapia and the other was cod. I would like to try that next time.

We shared our table with some strangers who pretty much kept to themselves. The man had the shrimp in tomato sauce that looked pretty tasty but he didn't offer me any!

Everyone from the underage busboy to the hostess and bussers were very friendly. The place had a good crowd with almost every table filled. I will definately go back and try some other dishes, just not the beef!