Chotto

Chotto, a Japanese Izakaya, is a relative newcomer to the Marina food scene having been around for only a little over a year.  But if you haven't discovered this gem yet, you're missing out.  Traditionally, an izakaya is a Japanese drinking establishment with samplings of food and small bites to go along.  Order a dish here and there along the way while you drink until you've had your fill ....both the menu and service are set up at Chotto to fit this traditional izakaya experience perfectly, allowing you to linger and socialize while satisfying your hunger at intervals that suit your fancy.

So, first things first for an izakaya....the drinks.  As expected, Chotto has a great sake menu.  If you're new to sake, the sampler is a perfect way to start off.  They give you enough to share between two people if you want to use it as a way to decide which larger sake to order for the table.  One of our favorites though, is the cold unfiltered Ozeki Nigori...cloudy in apperance with a deliciously complex flavor.  Somewhat nutty while also a bit sweet with a slightly creamy finish.  Divine and pairs so well with all of their food, especially from the raw portion of the menu.  While we don't typically venture into the cocktail portion of the menu, friends always seem pleased with their unique concoctions...all either shochu (distilled liquor, similar in taste to vodka) or beer/wine based.

My Favorite Cupcake…

 

We live in a city over-run with cupcakes shops.  I don’t know if this trend has taken such a strong hold across the entire country or we are unique here in San Francisco, but within less than a mile from my own house I have at least 4 cupcake devoted bakeries!  But alas, my favorite cupcake does not live in my neighborhood, but my all-time favorite cupcake is in of all places, touristy Union Square.

It’s at a little shop on O’Farrell at Powell, right in the craziness of it all, called Cāko Bakery.  This morsel of goodness is called the Andes Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcake (click the link to see how it should look since mine got a little smashed in transit!) and I honestly crave it and find myself at Cāko pretty much anytime I am in Union Square.  As I’m writing this I’m actually trying to come up with reasons why I need to go back to Union Square (or their second location in Japan Town) again today just as an excuse to get another one of these cupcakes!
Umami Burger Arrives in San Francisco

Most of us living in the Bay Area know that there is a, shall we say, friendly little competition between those of us living in San Francisco and those living in L.A. Why? I'm not really sure. They're such different cities they're honestly hard to even compare but the back and forth continues. Which city is better? Nor Cal vs. So Cal? The prettier people? The smarter people? Which is better...having prettier people or smarter people? The best restaurants? It goes on and on. Silly really, but it's here to stay.

So when I heard that L.A. import, Umami Burger was opening it's first northern CA location in my neighborhood I was intrigued to say the least. So intrigued that Christian and I popped in for lunch on day 2, right in the middle of their soft launch. So not really fair to assess the restaurant in it's entirety so early but since we did check it out I thought I'd share:
Tantalizing Tomales Bay

Tomales Bay on the Pt. Reyes National Seashore is one of our favorite day trips.  We first discovered it when training for a 340 mile, 5-day bike ride from Eureka to San Francisco about 2 years ago and immediately fell in love.  It's only ~40 miles from San Francisco (although with all of the curvy, country roads it takes about 90 minutes to get there) but feels a lifetime away from the city life.  Amazingly beautiful scenery, relatively untouched wildlife and some of the best Bay Area gastronomic treats around!

 

Typically when we head to Tomales Bay, we pack an empty cooler and make our first stop in the town of Pt. Reyes Station...home of Cowgirl Creamery, Bovine Bakery, Marin Sun Farms and many other well-known Bay Area food treats.  This is the perfect place to pick up all of your picnic fixings to go along with those delicious Tomales Bay oysters you'll be adding to your bounty a bit further down the road.  If you haven't been to Pt. Reyes Station before, beware...you'll have a hard time making it out of this adorable town and onto your next stop!  

Incanto

I'm embarrassed to say that I've lived in San Francisco for almost 5 years and last night was my first time eating at Incanto. I've heard so many good things about executive chef Chris Cosentino's food (and have been following his career for a while) that I was honestly a little worried Incanto wouldn't live up to the hype I had built up in my mind...but not to fear, Cosentino's food and my first Incanto experience absolutely delivered!

If you don't know much about Chris Cosentino there is one important thing to note in order to be prepared for the Incanto menu.  Chris is a big part of what I will call the "whole animal" movement...meaning he is passionate about using every part of the animal in his cooking.  Snout to tail if you will, including all of the delectable organ meats that I personally love so much.  Take a quick spin to his site, OffalGood for all of the delicious and gory details on his work in this area.  For me, and my dining partners for the night, this was very exciting and we tried our hardest to sample as much as we could on our visit.
Fort Mason Farmer’s Market

When we first moved to the Marina almost two years ago we were pretty happy with our decision after 3+ years of noise & shenanigans in the TrendyLoin, TenderNob or whatever you wanted to call our old ‘hood. However, there were two things we really missed...diversity (of both cuisines and people) and the fabulous Heart of the City Farmer’s Market in the Civic Center that we used to walk to each Sunday.

  For our first 6 months in the Marina we were shocked to find that there was no Farmer’s Market at all within walking distance (with all of us yuppies? what gives?!) but then last summer the Fort Mason Farmer’s Market opened up on Sundays from 9:30-1:30 for the summer only. Lucky for us it was such a success that they decided to keep it open year round and it is still going strong 1 year later.
18 Reason’s Noodle Lab #2: Italy

Christian and I have been making our own pasta for about 2 years now...but the start of that coincided with the purchase of our Kitchen Aid pasta attachment, so needless to say we’ve stuck pretty closely to the lasagna noodles, spaghetti and fettucini varieties.  Which is great...I don’t know many people who can say that they haven't bought dried pasta in two years!  But we LOVE Italian food, so have been ready to branch out for a while...enter the opportunity to learn how to make hand-cut Italian noodles with a former pasta maker of Quince, Andrew Pimlott!
Zero Zero



Continuing on my pizza theme this week, time to talk about Zero Zero!  Now I know Zero Zero has been open almost a year now, but somehow Christian and I just haven’t been able to get there until now. What was the occasion?  My best friend’s husband was in town for work and staying at the W so we wanted a good place nearby...enter Zero Zero, yippee!

The risk?  Our friend Jeff is a New Yorker, born and raised...so he knows his pizza.  Given all of the hype and positive reviews I was confident in our choice (although I did find myself wishing that we could take him to Una Pizza Napoletana where I 100% knew he would have been impressed! But we were just there and I have weird rules...I digress).
Una Pizza Napoletana



Pizza is a hot topic in this city...we’re always disparaging ourselves against the East Coast, but to be honest I’m racking up so many amazing pizza places these days that I’m considering hosting a “Margherita-Off” sometime soon to truly determine who my favorite is!  Una Pizza Napoletana has without a doubt joined my growing list of faves...

If you haven’t heard of this place give it a quick Google and you’ll quickly see that there is a lot of hype and back story...but the one key piece of information is that Anthony Mangieri, the owner and pizza maker, developed a cult-like following when he had his original pizza shop in NYC.  That’s right, folks, the New York pizza crowd loved his pizza...intriguing to say the least!    So Christian and I went and tried it out this past Friday and while we’ve only been once, here is what we found:
Bun Mee: New Eats in the Fillmore

How I love a good Vietnamese sandwich!  I’m embarrassed to say that until I moved to San Francisco a little over 4 years ago I had never even heard of a Vietnamese sandwich, but lucky for me I moved straight into the Tenderloin...right down the street from the famed Saigon Sandwiches (and the infamous Lee’s Sandwiches).  So boy do I know Vietnamese sandwiches now, yummmm-my!

So when Bun Mee  (a phonetic interpretation of the name of the sandwich banh mi) opened up a couple of months ago on Fillmore we were excited to have a Vietnamese sandwich shop relatively close again...but it took a little while for us to try it out, which isn’t always a bad thing with new places!  So upon entering I liked what I saw...cute, simple interior with a nice big menu up on the wall and a sassy poster making fun of the “no jalepeños” crowd behind the counter.  While there is limited seating I do like the counter seating near the back that allows you to be front and center watching the food being prepared right before your eyes (but that’s always my favorite seat in the house).