Posts Tagged ‘Dottie’s True Blue Cafe’
April 3, 2011
Slept in a bit and, as if the impending end of the vacation wasn’t enough inspiration for melancholy, did the final Dynamo run of the trip.
I decided I needed a bit more seafood, so we head to the wharf where we visit
Nick’s Lighthouse – Clam Chowder, Crab Cakes, and Crab Sandwich
We’d had good luck at Tarantino’s before, but I wanted to stop somewhere in that main glut of stands on Fisherman’s Wharf, figuring that the competition would mean better food and lots of turnout. And, while Nick’s was doing brisk business, it wasn’t a great meal by any stretch of the imagination.
The chowder was, unfortunately, fairly tasteless and watery. The crab cakes were far from fresh and were like a mouthful of sand in consistency. The crab sandwich was passable, if a bit heavy on the mayo, and suffered from the same bread overload that most sandwiches on the wharf do. We stumbled back to the trolley stop, defeated.
It was only an hour or so before we were looking for a late lunch/early dinner. We took a leisurely stroll up Mission to
Yank Sing – Deem Sum
I’d grabbed a large takeout order from the Rincon Center incarnation of Yank Sing during our last trip and noticed the carts laden with bamboo trays wandering the dining area. We’d vowed to do that version of the dim sum experience on this trip. And it is quite the experience.
We arrived about an hour before closing, so there crowd was spare. Our table was literally descended upon by cart after cart filled with dumplings, fried items, and other food. Our only request during the meal, baked BBQ pork buns, had sold out earlier in the day, unfortunately. But there was plenty of other choices.
The meal was fast. It probably took us longer to walk to the restaurant than it did to eat. It’s easy to see how this kind of dining would be popular for a busy lunch crowd. It’s also easy to see how it could quickly become expensive for people interested in trying one of everything: our meal was no cheaper here than at Wayfare or any of the other higher end establishments we visited, and I certainly didn’t get the feeling like I’d been any more copiously fed than I had elsewhere.
And I have to admit that, having done both now, ordering off the menu is probably my preference. I felt like I got more of what I wanted that way, and didn’t feel as likely to make a $10 mistake like the shrimp balls we ended up with. It’s my fault, really, since I was blithely pointing at things that looked good without looking at a price list or asking. But having a menu in front of me to order from would have definitely avoided the issue.
My favorite dish was the Shanghai Dumpling which featured minced Kurobuta pork and a small splash of broth encased in a dumpling. The waitress was kind enough to walk us through the traditional way to eat it, and it was outstanding. Probably should have stuck with a plate full of those.
April 4, 2011
Our flight left late in the afternoon, so I called the night before and asked for a late checkout, planning to sleep in.
My back had other plans. I was up at six and, after all attempts to calm it down failed once again, I was off to Dottie’s to see what baked goods they were offering. I remember buying several, but only the much beloved whiskey blueberry crumb cake stands out. It was every bit as good as I remembered.
As our thoughts turned to lunch, we agreed that it needed to be a return to Spice Kit. While Loria fed and clothed the baby, I nearly sprinted up the street to grab a couple of sandwiches to go. Thanks for the introduction to the bánh mì. We’ll be back.
It was a great trip for food. I’m quite appreciative of the many compliments we got about Ainsley, but I’m most proud of her restaurant manners. She was almost uniformly angelic, and it was a great first family vacation.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
March 31 – Day Two
We get an early start knowing that there’s a line ahead of us. We know this because of the reviews of the place all mention them. We also know due to a bit of 21st century spying
Dottie’s True Blue Cafe – Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes, Whiskey Fennel Sausage and Mushroom Scramble with Grilled Jalapeno Cornbread, and Blackberry Bourbon Coffee Cake
You know there’s going to be a wait and, in a city where we counted at least six restaurants on every city block downtown, probably something really worth eating when you can look at the Google Maps Street View and see they happened to catch a substantial line outside when they took the picture. Add to that the fact that, despite only being four blocks from our swanky Marriott Marquis hotel, it’s in a particularly manky part of the Tenderloin, and you know that the popularity must mean something.
We got lucky and arrived to find only 4 people in line. That still required about 30 minutes of waiting, so Loria pointed out that we must have gotten there just as most of the dining room was seated. The place is tiny inside, maybe 10 tables. It is decked out in retro style. It is not what anybody would describe as pretty. But since I was there to eat rather than get decorating tips, I couldn’t have cared less.
The pancakes were tender, substantial, and pocked with more blueberries than I’d have thought possible. They are served with honest-to-goodness maple syrup. Loria ordered a side of bacon and it came, as requested, crispy. I don’t know where they get it from, but it was the good stuff.
The scramble was loaded down with the sausage, which looked to be cut up links, fried up crisp. Loria thought that the fennel was a bit strong, but I really liked it. I also really enjoyed the grilled cornbread, especially for the rather impressive trick of having a full jalapeno taste without much heat. Although you can see the majority of the grill area when you walk in, and it’s tiny as all get out, clearly these are people who love food. They must, since they dish out portions of it which are criminally large. I ordered the coffee cake to go, mostly because it sounded too delicious to pass up but I hadn’t a single bit of room left in my belly. For about $30, we were full until well after noon.
That coffee cake? Yeah, it rivaled anything from Dynamo. The booze taste was pronounced, but paired really well with the large, juicy blackberries that covered every bit of the top of the cake. By the time I got around to eating it in the evening, the crumb topping had dissolved into more of a caramel. I doubt the state of it would have made the baker very happy, but oh, dear heavens, was it good.
Good enough that, on the final morning of our trip, I got up at 6am and was in line at about 7:15am to make sure that we had some breakfast to go. I looked in the window and nearly wept openly to see that the coffee cake was not on the hand-written marker board where the daily baked goods are listed. The baker, seeing me crestfallen, shook his finger at me to indicate that the items on the board were not, in fact, what they would be serving. He then took a towel, wiped it all away, and replaced them including, instead of the blackberry version that I’d hoped for, a blueberry whiskey coffee cake. The memory of the previous version was positive enough that I bought two pieces of it, along with a few scones, a regular cinnamon coffee cake, and an apricot peach muffin. All were fine, and although the blueberry incarnation didn’t quite live up to the big, juicy blackberry version, it was definitely tasty.
Full high-quality diner food, we waddled to Powell and stood in line for a cable car. Our plan was to catch a boat to Alcatraz. Arriving at the pier, we took the long walk down to where the tickets are sold…a long walk which passes the Pier 39 sidewalk seafood stalls and…what’s that, stomach? You’re hungry? How tha…nevermind. Later. You can wait an hour.
Eventually discovering that not only is Alcatraz a popular choice today, but that all of the cruises out there are completely booked, we take the long walk back to the pier and past it to Ghirardelli Square.
Ghirardelli On-The-Go – Thick Chocolate Shake
The last time I was in San Francisco, it was for a high school debate trip. I went on one of these each of the years I was in high school. The first year, I established a bit of a tradition upon arriving in the wharf area: I would go to the Ghirardelli shop for a deep, rich chocolate shake, then go upstairs to the Boudin shop and get a bay shrimp sandwich. That combination, despite many lovely meals in SF, came to sum up what I figured the city should taste like.
Sadly, both the Boudin shop at Ghirardelli Square and the sandwich are gone. We stopped by several of the Boudin Cafes – now ubiquitous in the city – and ended up eating at none of them. I guess the lack of my favorite dish soured me.
But, I couldn’t pass up the shake.
Since my time in high school, I’ve become much more selective about the chocolate I eat. This is due mostly to the excellent chocolate tasting class taught by Matt Caputo at Tony Caputo’s Market and Deli as well as a lot of tasting and reading of my own. I expected going in, therefore, that the weight of my current snobbery would overcome any fondness from my formative years. Wrong.
Is the chocolate flavor a one-note samba? Yes. It didn’t matter. The thick, rich shake reminded me of all of the reasons that I prefer dark chocolate to other kinds. We shared the shake, but even as stuffed as I was, I could have eaten a second on my own happily.
Instead, being that it’s still only 11am and a bit early in the day for a second full-on carbfest, we get out of there, wander around what has become a quite barren shop space at the Square, and go looking for something more substantial.
Tarantino’s Sidewalk Cafe – Bay Shrimp Salad on Country Bread
I’m still mostly stuffed from breakfast and the apres- brunch chocolate dessert, so I opt for a sandwich. I’m craving shrimp due to my Boudin-related disappointment, so I go for the shrimp salad sandwich, choosing from what is a surprisingly robust selection for what is basically an open hole in the restaurant wall. It’s simple mayo, celery, and a double-fistful of shrimp, but the salad is really good. The bread doesn’t hold a candle to Boudin and is slightly dry to boot, so I eat most of the filling out of it with a fork and toss it. Done and done.
Then, not surprisingly, we both need a nap, so it’s back to the hotel.
Loria wakes up suggesting Slanted Door, a rather high-end Asian fusion place we looked over in the Ferry Building. She mentions the many noodle dishes sounding good. I recall it being pretty expensive, so I’m not as jazzed. We look out the window and what do we see? Nay, no popcorn or apricot trees. Rain. This is to be the story of the rest of our trip, culminating in an epic storm that we get to experience on our last day in SF as a thundering downpour (which I trudge through four separate times to get food) and a second time the next day when we get to Utah and find that winter has made an unwelcome reappearance.
So, walking down to the Ferry Building is out. I Yelp and discover that several Japanese noodle shops are nearby, one of which has gotten raves.
Katana-Ya – Butter Corn Ramen
Many of the reviews that I read mentioned Butter Corn Ramen. Being intimately familiar with both the stale, plastic-wrapped versions as well as fresh ramen in Japan, the combination intrigues me, so I read no further and we’re off in the rain to get hot noodles.
It’s a tiny place, 15 tables max. We’re seated immediately and start to pour over a huge selection of ramen, sushi, and donburi choices. My mind’s made up going in, though: butter corn ramen for me! I can choose from either shoyu, salt, or miso broth, and opt for the miso. As it the norm for a fresh noodle house, the food is out almost immediately. I quickly discover that, although I’m expecting some exotic flavored noodle or strange ingredient that would explain the name of the dish, it turns out that butter corn ramen is…you guessed it!…a bow of ramen with a couple of pats of butter melting on the top and a half-cup of freshly cut yellow corn. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but given the many choices I had on the menu, I wish I’d read the reviews a bit more closely. The food is delicious and hot, perfect for a rainy evening.
Next time: why not all mall food courts are equal.