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Posts Tagged ‘Boccalone

San Francisco Strikes Back – Day Five

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April 2, 2011

I did not sleep well in San Francisco. We had a very kind woman at the front desk who, on seeing that we had a baby with us, placed us in a room with some extra space in it. Unfortunately, the room in question also had a bed that did my back no favors. Ainsley was similarly unhappy with her bed, so there was a lot of interrupted sleep during the trip.

I woke up with my back in knots. After trying for an hour, I finally gave up at six and go grab a shower. My back would not let go, so around seven I finally decided that it’s time to try some walking. It occurs to me that an old friend wakes up at 7:30, so I head off to the Tenderloin.

Dottie’s True Blue Cafe – Lamb Merguez Sausage, Roasted Garlic, Tomato, Spinach, Goat Cheese Omelet with Toast and Potatoes

The trip from the Marriott to Dottie’s is a bit like the opening scenes of Little Shop of Horrors. It’s far too late to be heading to Dottie’s and expecting to be successful. Past experience tells me that the line already had several people in it and that by the time I made the 10-minute walk there, there would be enough people in line that all of the ten tables and five seats at the bar will be claimed, and maybe even the second seating as well. I make the turn onto Jones street and am shocked to see exactly zero people in line.

For a moment, I feared the worst and began to prepare myself for living life in a post-Dottie’s world, but I rolled up to the door and saw the usual flurry of pre-opening activity. When I started my walk over, I’d figured that I would take a look and maybe try to talk my way in to grab some pastry to go. With no line and 20 minutes to opening, though, I adjusted my plan and decide to eat. It turned out to be a solid plan as my concern that I’d left Loria high and dry is needless; when I finally go back to the room, the lights are still off and both ladies are sound asleep.

The doors opened and I claimed a table. By 7:30, the usual gaggle of diners are in line. I don’t know how I lucked out, but I decided to pay it forward by eating my meal as efficiently as possible so as to surrender the table to the next hungry person with their face pressed against the glass. I’m the first order in.

It’s the small things about Dottie’s that I love. The omelet is beautifully cooked with perfectly spiced meat and a great balance between the creamy goat cheese, the egg, and everything else. Those things are a given. It is the parts of the meal that would be a throwaway in most diners that really impresses me. On the marker board, my dish had “toast” as the final word. What arrived are two irregularly sliced pieces of lightly toasted, scratch-made bread that, on first bite, clearly have something else going on. I asked my server and he reports that it is buttermilk rosemary bread. I have a new standard for the phrase “under promise and over deliver.” “Toast” indeed.

They did not have, alas and alack, the whiskey berry crumb cake. I grabbed a scone for Loria and a chocolate chip coconut muffin for later. It turns out to be dense with chocolate and predictably delicious.

Dottie's True Blue Cafe on Urbanspoon

Loria forgave me for going to Dottie’s without her as soon as I describe the gauntlet of less-than-completely-housed people as being worse than last year. Stupid economy.

There was one WonderCon panel that I felt compelled to line up early for that doesn’t even start until 1pm. We decided to the night before that I will go do my time in line while Loria and Ainsley grab food from a new place at the mall.

‘Wichcraft – Slow-roasted Berkshire Pork, Red Cabbage, Jalapeno, and Mustard Sandwich and Mozzarella, Roasted Butternut Squash, and Hazelnut Browned Butter Sandwich

Mere days before the start of our trip, I discovered that Tom Colicchio’s ‘Wichcraft brand had opened its first location outside of his two home bases of New York and Las Vegas. Having never had a chance to sample his food, I was excited to sample the fare originated by the mind that I’d heard tear so many dishes apart on Top Chef. I needn’t have been.

I got seated in the panel near the front and Loria came rolling up with the stroller and lunch. We got her seated, I played with the baby for a bit, and we swapped halves of the sandwiches and dig in. The pork is dry. And bland. I took a quick glance at Loria to see if I can read her, hoping that maybe I blew out my palate at Dottie’s or something. She’s as disappointed as I am.

In fact, this might be one of the most boring sandwiches I’ve ever had and I’ve paid over $8 for it. Hoping that it’s a fluke, I finished up my half of the pork and move onto the mozzarella. The cheese is fine. The butternut squash is waterlogged. I cannot get even a hint of the hazelnut or browned butter. I flashed back to a couple of days prior when I stuck my head into the shop just after lunch time and found it nearly empty. It’s very clear that word has spread and done its damage. This ended up being the biggest food disappointment of the trip.

'Wichcraft on Urbanspoon

After the panel, we strolled up to the Ferry Building hoping to catch the tail end of the Farmer’s Market. We wandered around the closing booths, grabbed a couple bags of those 4505 Chicharrones, and headed inside.

El Porteno Argentinian Empanadas – Champioñes Empanada and Alfajores de Limon

Just inside the door there were fresh empanadas. Judging from the line and empty pans, they were popular. We tried the mushroom one and a small cookie filled with lemon curd. The empanada was heavenly. I’m a sucker for good mushrooms, and these are very well prepared with just a touch of shallot and some parmesan cheese. I very nearly got back into line to get a second one, but we had a lot of building cover and only so much stomach space. The cookie was tasty as well: soft cookies with velvety lemon curd nestled between them. What a great way to start our visit and wake up our palates!

El Porteno Agentinian Empanadas on Urbanspoon

Miette Cakes – Gingerbread Cupcake and Grapefruit Macaron

We’d window shopped Miette during our last trip to the Terminal. Having read a few reviews, including a report that their gingerbread cupcake had been named Best Beer-spiked Cupcake by none other than Alton Brown, I figured we’d best make a stop. We ordered the cupcake and a grapefruit macaron.

The cupcake we received was dense but surprisingly dry. Although it contains all of the usual gingerbread spices, the overwhelming flavor for me is that of savory bread, which I’m sure is a result of the beer, and of molasses. The cream cheese frosting is fine, but nothing special. All in all, it’s a fine cupcake but I’m not entirely sure what the fuss is about.

The macaron has a touch of grapefruit flavor. Honestly, it could have used much more. There is also a very grainy texture to the meringue portion of the macaron that is not pleasing. Since their own menu describes them as containing coarsely ground almonds, it seems reasonable to think the texture is intended, but it comes off feeling somewhat unfinished or poorly mixed.

What Miette lacked in the goods, it certainly makes up for in style. The shop looks like My Little Pony wooed an Easy Bake Oven, and each item is impeccably designed and beautiful.

Miette Cakes on Urbanspoon

Ciao Bella – Valrhona Chocolate and Honey Toasted Pecan Gelato

Approaching full but not quite there, I needed gelato. A single scoop of each flavor should do the trick.

The Valrhona Chocolate, in a word, outstanding. I was skeptical that the nuances of this very high-end chocolate would make it into a dairy-based product intact, but I was wrong. The full spectrum of the source cacao was here. I might be missing my guess, but it tasted like their Guanaja variety. If so, it’s a good choice that I’ve made before when cooking with the expensive stuff. It has some bold floral notes which tend to make it through all of the preparation. Regardless of the Valrhona variety used, this is a chocolate gelato that should not be missed.

The Honey Toasted Pecan was tasty as well. I tasted warm honey notes, though the pecan was mostly absent from my serving. Still, a nice gelato flavor.

Ciao Bella on Urbanspoon

Boccalone – Salumi Cone

We stopped by Boccalone and saw the business was hopping. I jumped in the express line and grabbed two salumi cones. I didn’t get a description of what was in there, but it was all just as delicious as last year. If the salumi cone isn’t the best bang for the buck when it comes to a quick, flavor-packed, meaty snack in San Francisco, I can’t imagine what beats it.

Boccalone on Urbanspoon

Out the Door – Green Papaya Salad and Spring Rolls

Our final stop of the afternoon was at the Ferry Terminal’s incarnation of Out the Door. On walking up, I realized that we’d made a critical error not visiting before: the menu at this location is roughly twice the size of the one at Westfield Centre. And, unfortunately, we’re mostly full so we’re not exactly going to be able to exploit the larger menu, but Loria wanted to grab another green papaya salad for dinner later. Our coaster buzzed, indicating that our order is ready to go, and I go up to pay and decide to be that obnoxious guy who tacks something on. Fortunately, I was just after some spring rolls, several orders of which were stacked next to the register ready to go.

Back at the room later, we tuck into the crisp, tasty salad. I’m almost glad Out the Door doesn’t exist at home because it isn’t cheap and I don’t possess the self-control necessary to stay away. So I would be destitute. So, lucky for me, right?

The spring rolls were beautiful: a great balance of rice noodles, vegetables, and shrimp with that beautiful mint leaf providing a nice, refreshing lift at the end. Buried in peanut sauce they’re even better.

Out the Door on Urbanspoon

I started to wonder about whether it would be feasible to live off Dottie’s, Dynamo, and Out the Door in perpetuity.

Next up: the trip winds down and we hit a few favorites and odds and ends.

San Francisco Strikes Back – Day Three

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March 31, 2011

I woke up and discovered that Dynamo has two more flavors I’d not yet tried, so I made the early morning call and asked them to put aside a box. ‘Twas a small box. What followed was a full-blown donut melee. I won. Well, Sara Spearin really won, having not only scored my donut money but $20 for a t-shirt. But I felt like a winner, and that’s all the really matters, right?

Loria was scheduled to help her sisters set up the WonderCon booth, so Ainsley and I had an afternoon of cuddle time on the docket. Her sisters arrived in town and declared themselves in need of a dim sum fix, so I was off like a shot to a lunch spot that, after reading a bit, I decided I must try and discovered that this was probably my last chance on this trip to do so due to some upcoming renovations.

Naked Lunch – Artisan Foie Gras Torchon & Duck Prosciutto Sandwich, Smoked Pork Loin and Chorizo Sandwich, and 4505 Chicharrones

Read that first sandwich name again. Take a second to reflect.

Add to it that it is served with a slice of heirloom tomato which reminded me all over of what an actual tomato tastes like, butter lettuce, and black truffle salt, an ingredient that I have come to appreciate the power of in my home kitchen. I loved this sandwich so much that had I not been scheduled to take care of the little girl, I might have run back up to see if I could score another one. And I nearly strapped her into the baby Bjorn and did so anyway. It defines the word unctuous, with just enough herb from the lettuce and acid from the tomato to balance things out. And as over the top as foie gras on a sandwich sounds, duck prosciutto is even more so, in a good way.

I’d read a few reviews talking about the sandwich being very rich, so we decided to venture a try on chef Ryan Maxey’s latest brain child, a smoked pork loin and chorizo sandwich. It seems odd to call a pork and sausage sandwich light, but it certainly felt light next to the foie gras. Very thinly sliced pork loin with the perfect amount of smoke, just a touch of chorizo, and a creamy sauce. If I’d gone back for another foie gras, I might have needed to grab one of these to throw in the fridge and eat later on.

I’d also read nice things about 4505 Chicharrones, so I grabbed a bag.

Quick side note: after some hard-won weight loss over the past few years, I am a diet-controlled diabetic. When I was first diagnosed, I turned to pork rinds as a low carb snack for my Friday night game nights. Although they provided me with something to cram in my gob to help me avoid eating the other snack delights that generally grace the gaming table, even the hot variety that I could find locally available had the personality, texture, and flavor of packing peanuts. This goes by way of saying that my expectations for what a chicharron could be were fairly low – I figured I’d done my time in that particular circle of gastrointestinal hell and they just weren’t my thing.

Here’s to my sweet pork skin. I was so very wrong.

These little crunchy treats are light and airy. They coat the inside of your entire mouth from the first bite with a pleasant film of porky goodness. The seasoning on them is at once spicy, sweet, and happiness inducing. Had I gone back up with Ainsley to grab another couple of sandwiches, several bags of these would have been acquired, too. Fortunately, although I didn’t make it back up to North Beach for food, we did run across the 4505 booth at the Ferry Building just as they were closing down on Saturday and snagged another couple of bags, including a big one that I shared with my gaming group this past Friday. I was crushed to find out that FDA regulations prevent them from shipping out of state, but plans are in the works to have locals acquire a life-giving box of them to be smuggled across state lines.

Like Dynamo, Bi-Rite, and Out the Door, Naked Lunch has entered my list of places that I’ll need to hit at least once during a trip to San Francisco in order for the trip to be complete. There is some crazy alchemy going on there and I wish I could make myself a regular customer. Hear that, universe? Move the Naked Lunch madmen to Utah, please.

Naked Lunch on Urbanspoon

Ainsley and I played away the afternoon. Mom arrived back at the room hungry, which was good because we had reservations for dinner. We had every intention of hitting this spot during our last vacation in San Francisco, but every time dinner rolled around and I looked at that one, lone map marker way south of everything else, the will to travel left me and we opted for something closer to the hotel. Hungry and excited, we hit the Muni J line and, a rickety train later, we were in Noe Valley.

Incanto – Porchetta di Testa, Handkerchief Pasta and Rustic Pork Ragù, Pork Cheeks, Cippolini and Polenta, Sticky Toffee Pudding and Spice Ice Cream

Many pigs died to bring us this meal. They were appreciated by the diners and honored by the chef.

We’d loved our visit to Chris Cosentino’s Boccalone in the Ferry Terminal last trip and vowed that we’d make it to his restaurant Incanto this time around. Judging by the pictures on the website, we figured it was upscale enough that we ought to call ahead to make sure that Ainsley would be welcome there. The staff were enthusiastic in their positive response, but we booked an early reservation, figuring that on the slim chance that she might get fussy, there would be fewer diners around to be disturbed. We timed our arrival well: the doors opened as we walked up, and Ainsley had conked out on the train ride over.

“Are you adventurous diners?” our server opened his introduction of the menu by asking. Looks like we’re in the right place.

Porchetta is a lovely boneless pork roast constructed with layers of pork flesh, fat, and stuffed with herbs and spices. Porchetta di testa is basically the same thing, only instead of using various parts from the entire pig, it uses an entire pig’s head with the bones removed. Alternately, think of it as a very sophisticated and intricate head cheese without the gelatinous bits. The dish was presented with a salad of greens dressed with an acid-heavy vinaigrette. Loria discovered something interesting early on about the dish: the balance was so well-conceived that there were parts of the thinly cut meat that were relatively bland without a bit of the salad to accompany them, but that lit up with flavor with the addition of the acid and herb. I’m really glad we ordered this to start.

Our entrees arrived and we eagerly devoured both. The ragu had some particularly light and enjoyable pasta. The standout for me, however, were the pork cheeks. The meat was fork tender and had a deep, deliciously meaty flavor and the onions a sweet note that paired well with it. The polenta was perfectly cooked, creamy and rich. The star of the dish was the sauce. A dark, rich concoction that I bore no shame in mopping every drop of from the bowl.

If I have a complaint, it was about dessert. The sticky toffee pudding wasn’t bad, really, just not up to the standard of the rest of the meal. The cake portion of ours was a bit dry, even with generous application of the toffee sauce and ice cream. It also felt a bit small for the $8 price.

That small quibble aside, we loved our evening at Incanto. Between our mains and dessert, Ainsley woke up and one of the servers wandered by to play with her a bit. I really got the sense that we were welcome. It’s a warm space with warm people in it. One of my real regrets from the trip is that had we stayed an extra night, we might have been able to make Cosentino’s annual Head to Tail dinner. Maybe it’ll happen the week before the convention next year and we’ll be able to attend. In lieu of that, we’ll invite nine friends there to do one of his whole pig evenings.

Incanto on Urbanspoon

Up next: somewhere Ainsley ain’t so welcome.

What I Ate in San Francisco – A Confession, final

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April 2 – Day Four

Out the Door – Shredded Chicken Salad, Steamed BBQ Pork Bun, Caramelized Chicken

Tucked in the far corner from the Bloomingdale’s entrance we frequented, Out the Door has both a very busy takeout counter and a sizable dine-in area – especially for a mall. Though I have to admit that there is nothing about this place that says mall food to me. The first meal I ate there, my poor digestive system was feeling a bit abused from days of donuts and ice cream, so I figured I would go light and get a salad and steamed BBQ pork bun. The prices, on first glance, seemed a bit steep, but no other salad options were speaking to me, so I took the plunge.

I’m so glad I did.

The cabbage-based salad had a light, crisp mix of vegetables very delicately dressed in a lime and ginger dressing. Simple and delicious. The chicken on top of it seemed a bit skimpy, but then I’m used to eating large homemade salads with 1/3 of a chicken on top of it. The salad ended up being very filling despite looking small. I topped it off with a steamed BBQ pork bun. Costco, of all places, used to sell these and I loved them. I mourn the loss of them. The Out the Door version had a filling that was less of the paste of meat and aromatics I’m used to having. Instead, it was filled with a complex mixture of still-crisp vegetables, cubes of pork, and enough sauce to cover them.

My second meal there the next day, I went for broke and got the caramelized chicken. Suffice it to say that, even though I tend to view rice as a carb that I can easily cut to a minimum (in favor of dessert), I ate nearly all the rice served with this dish in an effort to soak up all of that unctuous, complex sauce.
Out the Door on Urbanspoon

April 3 – Day Five

It’s our final full day in San Francisco, so I decide to start it off in style. Although neither of the girls are interested in them, I get up very early and go to Dynamo. They are just finishing frying off the hot cross donuts and it becomes clear to me that I either miss the panel with Max Brooks or finally get to taste the cherry cornmeal donuts. Already planning to return next April for the convention, I choose the panel and promise myself the donut on return. Besides, I’ve already eaten five, maybe more…my poor, poor diet.

After the panel, I’m hungry again. So I slog through the rain to the Ferry Terminal to Boccalone for another meat cone, then around the corner to

Yank Sing – Deem Sum Platter and many other tasty Deem Sum treats

I’d read about the baked BBQ pork buns here, so I wanted to give this place a shot. I’d also read that it was fairly expensive for dim sum, which I didn’t find to be the case at all. Maybe a bit more than the $15 for two we’d paid in Chinatown, but the quality of this food was amazing.

Seafood was front and center for most of the dumplings in the dim sum platter. Loaded with scallop and shrimp meat, they were tender and tasty. I’m also a bit amazed that it was all packed so well that it was hot even after my long walk from the restaurant to the Moscone Center. The baked BBQ pork buns were as advertised – simply a step above. I especially liked the onion flavor prevalent in the filling, something missing from other incarnations I’d had before.

I regret both that I decided to hit this one late in the trip, as it would have been worth revisiting, and that I was doing takeout: I’ve never actually had dim sum with the rolling carts piled with bamboo steamers, and they do this at Yank Sing. Next time!

Yank Sing on Urbanspoon

Convention ends, we tear things down, and head back to the hotel with the intention of dropping off the bags and heading to the food court. I have been eyeing Out the Door’s Coconut Pork Riblets. I can nearly taste them in anticipation.

We get ready, head out, and get to the doors of the mall later than hoped to find them locked. I nearly pull a “Khaaaaan” here. Instead, I pout silently as we head to

Mel’s Drive-In – Broiled Chicken Breast Dinner

This place looks horrendous from the outside, so while the girls get seated, I run up the street to look at the menu for Green Papaya in the hope that it’s prices are comparable. It’s more pricey, so I trudge back and face the music.

While the girls work a convention, the business picks up the cost of their food. So when our weary server wanders over, I start by saying “Mine will be on a separate check.”

“Nope, sorry, all one check.”

Um…ok. Eventually Janelle overhears him talking to somebody – he’s finishing up a 13 hour shift. I guess that’ll explain the surly attitude.

I’m too upset at having been deprived of my last visit with Out the Door to argue. The food eventually comes. The girls seem to be ok with theirs. Mine is terrible – dry chicken, gravy that tastes like something mom would have turned in her apron permanently had she made it. The server chides us for not ordering dessert. We pay and leave defeated.

Mel's Drive-in on Urbanspoon

April 4 – Day Six
Our flight is early, so no real breakfast. I wake up around 4am, though, and cannot sleep. So eventually I shower and head to Dottie’s around 7am. I find myself first in line, grab the pastries to go, and return to find the girls getting ready.

My to-do list for the next trip to SF: Sotto Mare, Yank Sing, those Out the Door riblets, as much Dynamo as my pancreas can handle, and some other places we didn’t make:

Mission Street Food
Restaurant Jeanne D’Arc

In my perfect world, we’ll have time the resources to go early and visit Yountville, too. I’ll let you guess why.

What I Ate in San Francisco – A Confession

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March 30 – Day One
We started our SF visit – nominally motivated by Wondercon, which Loria was working and I was attending – at the Ferry Building. And we chose well. And then, shortly thereafter, not so well.

Boccalone – Meat Cone

Chris Cosentino’s salumeria, the offspring of his local Incanto restaurant, is filled to the brim with preserved pork. A smaller shop than I’d envisioned, it didn’t disappoint with the meat cone, a selection of the shop’s delectable pork treats served in a small paper cone of the type you’ve probably had a shaved ice in. Ours had capocollo, prosciutto, and soppressata in it. At $3.50, it’s a tasty, tasty bargain that reminded me just how magical an animal the pig is.

Boccalone on Urbanspoon

Not surprisingly, we weren’t full, having not eaten since a hurried breakfast at 5am. I do truly hate early morning flights. So, we walked around, looking at other options in the Ferry Building, which has a wide variety of small food stands. Several of them, like Slanted Door and Hog Island Oyster Company, I’d heard of and was interested in trying. We had many miles of trudging to do in search of good food, though, so we opted for

San Francisco Fish Company – Crab Cake Sandwich and Clam Chowder

You’d think that combining “San Francisco” and “Fish,” this place would be a no-brainer for good food, right? Instead, we ate a mushy crab cake so overpowered with parsley that I couldn’t even begin to taste the crab, and a cup of the thickest, blandest clam chowder I’ve ever had. It was enough to stave off the hunger pangs long enough to arrive at our next feeding trough, but wasted money, calories, as well as the commodity that proved to be the most valuable on our trip: stomach capacity.

To get to that trough, we took the BART from Embarcadero to the 24th Street station and started walking to

Humphry Slocombe – Boccalone Prosciutto, Toasted Coconut Caramel Candy Cap, and Secret Breakfast

This ice cream shop specializes in wild, out there flavors. As far as flavor went, I couldn’t taste much of a piggy note at all in the prosciutto ice cream, which I’m sure some would argue is a good thing. However, if I’m brave enough to order such a thing, I would at least like some hint of meat in my treat. Instead, it tasted a lot like bland ice cream base.

The Candy Cap in question is a mushroom. It adds a nutty quality to the dessert, and this was by far the best flavor of the three. Secret Breakfast, which I tried just a sample spoon of, is intended to be Irish Whiskey and corn flakes. I couldn’t really taste any of the cereal, so basically it was a half-teaspoon of whiskey ice cream. That’s not a bad thing, per se, but isn’t exactly revolutionary.

My biggest problem with all three ice creams was the texture. Try this experiment: go buy yourself a good premium pint of B&J and leave it on your counter for an hour. Refreeze it, then taste the outer surface. Every one of the Humphry Slocombe ice creams that we ate had this same kind of grainy consistency. It’s likely that the flavors that I wasn’t getting were being washed away by the huge ice crystals ensconced in the ice cream. At any rate, it’s not a pleasant texture for ice cream, and seems like the sort of thing that a pro can easily avoid. Looking at their flavor list, I think we kind of lost out on some of the potentially exciting ones. Unless of course, all those flavors end up just as bland as those we tried. Color me disappointed, overall.

Humphry Slocombe on Urbanspoon

Out the door and a few blocks up the street

Dynamo Donut and Coffee – Ostensibly the Maple Glazed Bacon Apple, but so…very…many

A small, easily missed shop unless you are looking for it specifically. Which, fortunately, we were. I love donuts to a nearly unnatural degree. Put a high-quality, crunchy and sweet apple fritter in my hands and all is right with my world. Ditto a good, dense buttermilk bar or old fashioned. I can tell a good donut shop from a bad one easily by the look of the pastries, and sometimes just from smell.

Dynamo is the real deal.

In total, we visited Dynamo three times in a week, each trip requiring a half hour on public transit each way. We dropped an obscene amount of money on what would would consider to be mere snacks. I would have considered it a happy, happy trip had we subsisted entirely on them. The majority of my weight gain over the course of the trip was due to them, I’m sure. Even the weaker entries were better than the majority of donuts I have readily available to me locally. I gave serious thought to asking about franchising opportunities.

Here is the butcher’s bill for the entire trip. Stop judging me, please.

Chocolate Rose – dense chocolate cake donut with a rose-infused sugar glaze. Just enough of the rose to detect and enjoy, and that chocolate cake is the best I’ve ever had. I wasn’t surprised, on the last of the three visits, to see the baker pull out a large bag of Valrhona chocolate powder. Use the best ingredients when cooking and you’re halfway there.

Spice Chocolate – same dense chocolate cake but dredged in cinnamon, sugar, and chipotle powder. I’ll admit openly that I tasted no heat at all here. I would like to have done so – the combination of chocolate and spicy ingredients really do please my palate. Maybe I hit them on a weak day.

Saffron Chocolate – alleged to be a raised donut with saffron and orange zest in the pasty and glazed with a chocolate saffron glaze, I really only tasted the orange in the pastry and chocolate in the glaze. I would be willing to sit down with a large cup of the regular chocolate glaze and the saffron version to do an in-depth taste test, though.

Vanilla Bean – clean vanilla taste in the glaze

Maple Glazed Bacon Apple – this is, I’m pretty convinced, the perfect raised donut. The apple in the pastry part is crisp and tart. The maple glaze has the sweet, earthy flavor that only comes from the real stuff. The crisp little bacon bits on the top push it over the top. It’s a perfect balance of salty and sweet. I will cop to the flavors of donuts I had during our trip, but refuse to disclose the numbers of each that I consumed. If I did so, a shameful number would be these bad boys.

Caramel de Sel – a nutmeg donut with a layer of fleur de sel caramel. I suspect these are much better eaten when warm. Mine was cold and the hardened, sticky caramel coated the inside of my mouth and made tasting any of the pastry impossible.

Lemon Pistachio – if you’ve had much middle eastern cuisine, you’ll be familiar with the combination of pistachios and lemons. This is a great interpretation, though I admit that I could have used more nuts on the outside.

Lemon Sichuan – vanilla donut filled with honest-to-goodness fresh lemon curd rather than that nasty, dayglo stuff you find in most donuts, then dredged in sugar and sichuan peppercorns. I was hoping for more pepper, as I didn’t really taste any, but I still love this donut a lot.

Lemon Thyme – lemon zest and thyme in the pastry and a honey lemon glaze. Of the more exotic herb-and-spice flavored donuts, this one had the most herbaceous taste. It’s a really inventive combination that works really well.

Candied Orange Blossom – candied orange blossom in the pastry and glaze, and a drizzle of bittersweet chocolate. I think I tried this last on the most donut-heavy day, and my ability to enjoy was getting muted. It was fine, if not entirely memorable.

Apricot Cardamom – cardamom, dried apricot and current pastry with a cardamom glaze.

Chocolate Star Anise – chocolate cake donut with chocolate and star anise glaze. I didn’t really taste much anise, which is fine with me as I’m having a hard time imagining it pairing well with chocolate.

Chocolate Rosemary Almond – chocolate cake donut with rosemary chocolate glaze covered in rosemary-fried almonds. The rosemary is pronounced enough to detect and doesn’t match particularly well with either almonds or chocolate. Or maybe it’s the entire package that I objected to…at any rate, not my favorite.

Meyer Lemon Huckleberry – raised lemon zest donut with lemon glaze, then covered in huckleberry glaze. Tart and sweet, I really enjoyed this one.

Sticky Bun – basically scraps of all the other donuts drenched in a caramel glaze. Better sounding than tasting, in my humble opinion.

Milk Chocolate Passionfruit – raised donut with a passionfruit glaze covered in milk chocolate crumbs. Despite not being a huge milk chocolate fan, the big huge passionfruit flavor won me over on this one.

Hot Cross Donut – a special for Easter, I gathered, this was a filled pastry cream donut that I recall loving and cannot, for the life of me, remember a single flavor involved. I would buy and consume one right now if asked, though, if that gives you any indication how I felt about it.

I got skunked trying to get a Cornmeal Cherry on two separate occasions, so it along with Pumpkin Spice and Guinness Chocolate will need to wait for another day.

Oh, Dynamo. I miss you already.

Dynamo Donuts & Coffee on Urbanspoon

We needed a nap after this. I woke up hungry, against all odds, and searched online for options and found

Sotto Mare – Clam Chowder, Shrimp Cocktail, and Sand Dabs

Neither of us were ravenous, so we decided to walk from our hotel on Market and Fourth to this little gem in Little Italy. The reviews were raves when it came to the seafood. It was a much longer walk than we’d anticipated, so by the time we arrived we were ready for food. We split soup, appetizer and entree. It was uniformly amazing. I thought I’d pretty much seen all that clam chowder had to offer, but this bowl was revelatory: very little cream, all clam flavor. The reviews all mentioned sand dabs as a standout favorite. I love seafood, but hadn’t ever had them. We got a plate with some vegetation and 8 small, pan-fried fish that were rich and satisfying.

I’d go back here in a heartbeat.

Sotto Mare on Urbanspoon

Next time: day two, where we learn that getting into prison is harder than one might imagine, and that I really ought to think more literally when trying to decipher a menu.

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