Picking a restaurant for twelve people is easy.
Picking a restaurant that twelve people will actually enjoy is not.
So, when my friends from Florida (now living out here) and I knew we were playing host to our families over Memorial Day weekend, we racked our brains for somewhere, anywhere, that might have decent potential to even seat us, let alone feed us.
"How about the dough room at Flour+Water?"
"Gluten allergy. And it's booked."
"I really love Firefly!"
"They don't take reservations of more than eight people."
...on and on like this for days, and we still couldn't come up with anything. The restaurant either couldn't accommodate a group of our size, was unavailable, or didn't have a food type "safe" enough to appease so many different palates.
Finally, I remembered hearing about Local: Mission Eatery, but knew it was pretty small. Running out of options, I decided to try my luck and, lo and behold, we had a winner! They could work with our food allergies, could seat all of us, and with the ubiquitous "New American" food categorization, we had to have a winner.
I'll get to the hospitality section later, but let's get onto the part you'll really like. We were welcomed with open arms and lavender almonds. While they certainly weren't for everyone, they were a huge hit for those of us who loved them. The essence of the lavender was definitely present, but not overbearing in that, "I'm eating flowers" sort of way. The aroma filled our nostrils as the sweet and crunchy almonds still played a vital part of the overall flavor. They gave me a really relaxed, lazy-night-at-home feeling that made me warm inside. The lavender bubble bath of the culinary world, if you will.
Afterward, we were presented with shots of chilled asparagus soup topped with a small chiffonade of basil, and it was at this point that I knew we had made a phenomenal decision. We were in the clear. Our decision was going to pay off. No mini glass bowl was left unlicked, as each of us tried our best to be "appropriate" but failed miserably. Yet if you knew this group, you wouldn't expect anything less.
Chilled Asparagus Soup, Basil
The soup was more like a pudding - super thick and impossibly creamy due to the, well, cream. But the beauty was in the simplicity of the ingredients: asparagus, cream, and spices. Done and done.
A duo of salads followed. Both served family style, one had asparagus, home-made black olive oil, preserved blood orange, squash, arugula and mint, while the other was a new potato salad with artichokes, kale, soft farm egg, and pickled mustard seed aioli.
New Potato Salad
The table was evenly split in its favorites. After everyone took a small, polite portion of each, we quickly found who liked what and polished off the rest. Normally an asparagus lover through and through, there was something about that new potato salad that really blew me away. A perfect combination of crispy fried and boiled potatoes, the textures played off of each other a little nicer for me. But the kicker was that mustard seed aioli - creamy with a salty bite and a sinus-tingling, light horseradish quality. Killer good.
The asparagus salad was no joke, to be clear. Ideally cooked green spears had a great snap with none of that stringy skin that can sometimes form, the arugula provided the necessary peppery bite that contrasted well with the sweet preserved orange. Again, very good, but I can't get my mind off of those potatoes.
The ricotta agnolotti with english peas, carrots, fava beans and preserved meyer lemon was fine, bud didn't quite blow me away as much as some of the other dishes did. The produce was clearly fresh, bright, and tasty, but at the end of the day it was a good pasta plate.
Of this food pairing, the polenta cooked in whey was whey better (sorry, too easy). Creamy polenta with large hunks of creamy goat gouda and a poached egg and charred pickled onions. My only complaint was that I wish I had another egg, but I guess that's just me - I'll do just about anything for a runny yolk. The onions gave the cheesy dish a great dose of acid and texture so it wasn't simply a rich mush and really brightened it up.
Polenta in Whey, Goat Gouda, Charred Pickled Onion
The main dish (as if these weren't main enough...) came in the form of three doses of protein. First, grilled quail with braised little gems, strawberry sofrito, turnips and jus. I really dug the strawberry sofrito mixed with the braised little gems. I liked the quail, but the tiny bones are always a turn-off for me. Taste-wise, it was as great as everything else, but I can never get enough meat from the quail to make it worth my while.
For the meat eaters who were afraid they may not have found anything else they could/would eat, they brought us roasted ribeye with hen of the woods, red potatoes, and baby rapini. Perfectly medium rare steak was elegant and melted in my mouth. (Not pictured, sorry!)
However, ask anyone at the table what the best dish was, and the answer was unanimous: the salmon. None of us have ever tasted salmon so...salmony. Mind you, this is completely different from fishy. The pure flavor of salmon was intensified into each and every bite. And as good as the flavor was, the texture was even better. It was the softest, smoothest salmon from top to bottom that I have ever experienced. I could have sworn it was cooked sous vide, and would have put my very mediocre food reputation on the line. But when I asked the chef, she told me that they simply put it between two parchment sheets and cooked it, "Really low for a really long time."
If I had to describe the texture, it was like a fluffy, soft, heavenly pillow of magic that somehow still had that wonderful flaky layering effect. Somewhere between sushi and, for lack of a better word, not sushi. It still haunts my dreams in the best possible way, and I want to go back just for three orders of that to eat alone in a dark corner and not care who sees it.
Knowing that Shauna of Knead Patisserie was in charge of the desserts here, I couldn't turn them down. She is one of my two favorite pastry chefs in the city and has the talent (let alone the lines at her pastry shop) to back it up. My experiences with her pomme d'amour and croissant (which I still contend are the best in the city, by far) were enough to have us order two of each item.
Chocolate Pot de Creme, Coffee Foam, Cookies with Cream
The chocolate pot de creme was so thick, rich, and incredibly satisfying, even for a non-chocolate lover like myself. The coffee foam on top was too light to have been real, and the chewy chocolate cookies with fresh cream were devine. The strawberry delice had all sorts of crazy wonderful textures: crunchy, creamy, chewy... and used some wonderful in-season strawberries. The almond cake in the cherry fancier was killer, and the cherries were plump and plentiful. A perfectly sweet ending.
This meal turned people on to foods that I know they would not otherwise have eaten. I think I saw my father eat a dark leafy green, meat-and-potatoes people were given a whole new twist on the theme, and the meal lit a bulb over the heads of previous onion haters.
Props if you got that last joke.
LME showed people what local, fresh ingredients can really do. As my mother said, "I've never tasted anything this real before."
And that's what LME is about - a farm-to-table concept with stellar cooking skills that showcase the ingredients available at hand.
We could not stop talking about this meal all weekend, which I guess is the point of going out to dinner with a large group. Sure, you need to actually eat, but when you can eat, talk, and drink during the meal itself and continue talking about it for days to come, the chefs have succeeded and the people are happy.
And we are happy indeed.
As promised, a quick note about the incredible hospitality that was shown to us. First, they were able to accommodate all of our food allergies - and I know that this has become somewhat more manageable, it was fantastic that they let us be so picky with a family style meal. Second, we were running late after a somewhat exhausting bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, and they moved our reservation back an our and a half without making so much as a peep about it. They gladly made room for us and allowed us to join them. Finally, our server, Joyful, was just that. Joyful. Delightful. Wonderful. She anticipated everyone's wine/water/plate needs, and always with a gigantic smile.
And she was cute, to boot. Call me.
Local: Mission Eatery, you now have fans from here and afar. From the bottom of our hearts, thanks for feeding us.
Clearly, all of my disposable income goes to food, but still a newbie to San Francisco, I don't quite have a grasp of the entire spectrum of food events around town. Fortunately, I have friends who do, and I had the pleasure of attending the Monk's Kettle "Dinner of the Trappist" back in February. Having experienced firsthand what a stellar job the Monk's Kettle team does at food and beer pairings, there was no doubt in my mind that when the menu for the Great Divide dinner was announced for this past Monday AND knowing one of my best friends would be in town that tickets were to be purchased immediately.
Good decision, or best decision?
I've always found the staff at Monk's Kettle to be not only intelligent and informative, but more importantly, happy. Then again, what is there not to love about working in a place where you are surrounded by fantastic beer and delicious food and, generally speaking, a crowd that can appreciate it?
Brian, Kevin, and Hedes
Three of us were welcomed with smiles and, in contrast by name, Hedes - a Belgian-style golden ale packing some heat for our reception at 7.8% ABV. Light, crisp, and fruity, this is one of those that will sneak up on you and kick you in the pants before you realize what hit you. Apparently, most Belgian ales have these demonic names, because what better describes Belgium than the devil?
Not originally planned for the menu, head chef Adam Dulye was inspired by the peach notes in the Hedes and the ripe peaches at the Ferry Building Farmers Market just a few days earlier to create a crostini with peaches, candied bacon and fromage blanc. The fruity sweetness was pleasant, the saltiness of the bacon gave it a nice contrast, and the fromage blanc was smooth and mellow. The pairing was just light enough to whet the appetite in anticipation for courses to come.
Peach, candied bacon, fromage blanc
For me, the best parts of these pairings are the explanations from those who actually know what the hell they're talking about: namely, Mike Reis, beer program co-director and certified cicerone. Mike intelligibly walked us through the process of finding these beers and their perfect pairings, as well as the occasional interesting tidbit about the beer name itself. Colette, for example, was chosen when the brewers at Great Divide tasted their farmhouse ale and imagined walking through the fields and happening upon a pretty young woman and thought, "What would this young girl's name be?"
Apparently, it was Colette.
I Want To Love You - Pretty Young Thing (PYT)
Lots of tree fruits here - bananas, apples, and perhaps a little grapefruit bitterness coming through, in addition to some earthy undertones. A nice "funk" that you get from some farmhouse ales, that subtly reminded me of some Jolly Pumpkin beers I'd had back in Ann Arbor. As for the food pairing - some roasted cauliflower, spring peas, and what was supposed to be a bintje potato brandade. Let's say that Chef Adam took some liberty with the "brandade," - the salt cod was removed, for one, and the potatoes were deep fried.
Good decision, or best decision?
Roasted Vegetables, Spring Peas, Bintje Potato Brandade
I'm glad the salt cod was removed - I don't think that would have played well into the rest of the dish, and I think it would have overpowered the beer in a bad way. As for the potato - well, can you really do harm by deep frying anything? Crispy outside, and smooth starch innards made these a hit, and the earthy root vegetables helped to bring out Colette's more subtle features. The kicker for me was the very light lemon zest that really made the dish pop and tie it all together. And, you know, it looked pretty.
A term of endearment or friendship, Hoss had the least friendly food pairing. The beer itself was solid - almost like eating a slice of rye bread, it had deep caramel undertones and a grainy-ness that made me want to pour it over some pastrami and let my inner New York Jew have a field day. The dish was a boudin blanc with caraway dumplings and a currant chutney. I think the issue here was the sausage, which, though cooked perfectly, just didn't have the flavor that I wanted it to have. I think a fennel sausage may have played better into Hoss's strengths. The caraway dumplings were phenomenal, made almost more like a spaetzle, and the sweet currant chutney cut right through the spice of the rye.
Hoss - Named For Writing On A Kid's T-Shirt
Boudin Blanc, Currant Chutney, Caraway Dumpling
The 18th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA was up next, and it didn't disappoint. Strong bourbon flavors really hit from the wood-aging, along with some deep red fruits and a hoppy backbone.
18th Anniversary Wood Aged DIPA
Game hen two ways was the pairing of choice. The roast was a bit dry, but the confit was quite literally falling off the bone. The corn and fava bean cassoulet was fresh and bright, and added a nice crunch to counter the soft protein. This was the first time that I had a cured egg yolk, which is apparently just made by dumping an egg yolk in salt and letting it sit there until it turns into a giant jelly bean of a yellowy deliciousness. Overall, a solid dish with a great beer.
Game Hen Two Ways, Shell Bean Cassoulet, Cured Egg Yolk
The beer we had all been waiting for had arrived not a moment too soon. The Yeti, an Imperial Stout that clocked in at a fun 9.5% ABV, was a treat in-and-of itself. Easily consumable as a dessert by itself, the aromas of dark chocolate and coffee were matched with a pleasant bitterness and a sweetness of molasses.
Yetis Apparently Do Exist...And Are Delicious
What impressed me most was that Chef didn't take the easy route. Sure, throw a delicious imperial stout in with virtually any coffee or chocolate dessert and you've got yourself a winning pairing. However, the easy route is rarely fun. Instead, salmon smoked over oyster shells with asparagus and black truffle potato gratin was the venture.
Oyster Shell Hot Smoked Salmon, Asparagus, Black Truffle Potato Gratin
As much as I LOVED the flavor of the salmon, it was pretty dry. And sure, I understand that cooking salmon is difficult, let alone for 50 people, but I was nonetheless disappointed. The potatoes were wonderful - creamy and cheesy...scallopy? And the dish as a whole was a phenomenal pair - despite the stretch from an imperial stout to an untraditional dish.
Finally, the last taste of the night - the Titan IPA paired with hop sugared pretzel donuts, white chocolate, and candied orange preserve.
The Titan had a surprisingly light feel to it - a hint of orange and citrus on the back and a nice, well rounded hop character. It went really well with the preserves, which was more like a syrup than I envision a preserve to be. The citrus notes of each played off of each other well. Yet for whatever reason, the white chocolate really stood out to all of us. It managed to stay at a point that was not clawingly sweet and was a smooth saucy texture.
...of Hop Sugared Pretzel Donuts...
...With White Chocolate and Candied Orange Preserve.
I attempted a bite of the pretzel donut on its own. Chewy innards, crispy exterior, hoppy sugar coating, and an awesome pretzel taste. Well done. But then I tried mixing and matching the dipping sauces - each individually, then in tandem. Somehow, the simple bite of all three components made for a taste that hit all the right senses - sweet, savory, bitter...but I guess that was the point.
Three men; three best friends - employed full-time and reunited after a long year apart, using our minimal amount of disposable income on an incredible dining experience. We owe this great memory to you, Great Divide and Monk's Kettle. Thank you for a night we will never forget.
Lately, I've been a bit stressed out at work. Even in the non-profit sector, the stresses to raise money to further your cause and ensure a balanced budget are not lost on any member of the team. So, after countless hours wearing multiple hats, my vacation could not have come at a better time. Strategically planned around Memorial Day, a ten-day excursion in the Bay began as one of my best friends flew into SFO tonight.
As I left the office, putting out as many preemptive fires as I could possibly imagine, I was ready to let go, sit back, and enjoy the ride...
That took 45 minutes longer than usual thanks to the pleasure cruise that is rush hour traffic.
I must admit that despite the pressures of my job and the bumper-to-bumper commute to the airport, nearly all was forgotten at the sight of Brian. It had been almost a full year since I had seen him last, just before I left college for San Francisco. Just as happy as always, Brian gives off this incredible energy that just makes you want to be around him all the time. He was a sight for sore eyes in that magical "guy love" sort of way. But I digress...
The first meal with someone who visits your city (yes, this is my city now, thank you very much) is always an important one. It sets the tone for the rest of the trip: one bad dinner and you spend the rest of your time trying to pick up the restaurant's slack, but a great one and you're full, happy, and ready to take on the world.
We received the latter at Outerlands.
I had been there for brunch (which was beyond phenomenal), but had always wanted to try their dinner. A cozy atmosphere with rustic, fresh, farm-to-table ingredients was exactly what I needed to shake off the work-week funk in which I sat, and Outerlands fit the bill perfectly.
Brian had been adhering to the Paleo diet, which excludes gluten entirely. For this trip, however, he decided to step away, and so what better spot to take him than one known for its bread that, in my personal opinion, is better than Tartine. Yes, I said it, and I will say it again - BETTER THAN TARTINE.
Bread and Butter is Their Bread and Butter
My one gripe (which isn't even that big, all things considered), is that you never know how long you may have to wait. They don't pick up the phone, they don't take reservations, and they are way the hell out in the...don't make me say it...However, we were already in the car and I was having trouble finding parking by my house, so we decided to take our chances. Taking the first available is always a good choice in my opinion, and as we grabbed a beer to hold us over, we may have waited about fifteen minutes before our names were called and we were ready to feast.
As we cozied up to a four top underneath the heat lamps with our closest friend Kevin, we started off with two orders of their famous levain - inch and a half thick slices of sourdough, a flaky, crispy-but-not-too-crispy crust (which is where I think it outshines Tartine) with a fluffy, chewy interior were the perfect canvas on which to paint (generously) the house made butter and flaky sea salt. It's one of those comfort food moments where you take a bite, chew and ponder, and heave a gigantic sigh of blissful calm and sloop back into your chair.
The newest menu item caught more than one set of eyes at the table, as we partook in two plates of shrimp and grits with farro, pork shank, English peas, and other ridiculousness. Kevin, looking dazed and confused at the thought of having to make a decision among the mouth watering choices, finally decided on the beef tenderloin - which I offered to split with him.
And good thing I did.
Rarely have I ever had meat so tender that it quite literally melted in my mouth. The flavors were so intense, with a nice salty bite on the forefront. It was cooked to that delicate balancing act between rare and medium rare, beaming a pink hue that beckoned to me.
But let's not forget about the shrimp and grits - it was no throw-away dish by any means. Using farro for the grits was an awesome alteration, and the fresh peas really had a chance to shine in terms of taste, color and texture. The snappy crunch played well into the chewy farro, and the bright green popped on top of the paler grains. Shrimp were perfectly cooked, and the pickled peppers brought some pep to the dish. It was surprisingly rich, but super-satisfying.
Shrimp and Grits
One of the things that I loved most about this dinner was that the portions were normal. I know how relative a term that is, but here's the way we all seemed to come to the same conclusion.
Yes, it's nice to finish off a meal with something sweet, but often times I find myself too full to even think about it. All of us were extraordinarily content, and didn't really want the night to end. So, a chemex of Sightglass Coffe for Brian and me, and some (shockingly wonderful) barley tea for Kevin, and we shared each of the three desserts on the menu. After all...why not?
I have to admit that while the carrot cake was good, it was by far and away the least impressive of the three. Served with crème fraîche and a crisp sugar brûlée, it was decent, and let's be clear, polished off.
The other two boggled our taste buds in the best way. The strawberry almond shortcake was killer: it tasted as though they soaked the angel food cake in amaretto and topped it with fresh strawberries, which would have been enough. Add onto that a yogurt moose, and you've got one hell of a refreshing finish to a meal.
Strawberry Almond Shortcake
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum was the salted caramel pot de crème with dark chocolate and rosemary caramel corn. Apparently this is by far-and-away the most popular dessert, and with good reason. I'm not sure how well they played together, but separately were outrageous. I'm always an advocate of herbs in my dessert (not those herbs...), so the rosemary caramel corn struck a chord with me. It helps to balance out that cloyingly sweet candy that coats the corn kernel, and gives back some of that earthiness. As for the salted caramel pot de crème, Kevin had the best description.
"It's like a liquid truffle."
Not quite a liquid, per se, but not quite a solid either. Imagine that smooth texture you find on the inside of a truffle, and apply that to dark chocolate atop, as well as the salted caramel below.
Salted Caramel Pot De Crème w/ Rosemary Caramel Corn
When all was said and done, we were full, happy, and cozy. I didn't want any more, and I certainly didn't want any less.
Just how a perfect meal should leave you feeling.
It was one of those perfect nights that you remember forever. The company was unbeatable, the food was to die for, and as the chill came into the Sunset air and we held onto our hot beverages, we struggled to arise from our seats, as none of us wanted it to end.
Outerlands - thank you for a wonderful start to a much needed vacation.
"Kevin, your eyes are closed."
"They're always closed..."
As Richie Nakano, chef-owner of Hapa Ramen, prances around Japan, stuffing his face with deliciousness (over pictures of which I can only drool via his Instagram feed - @linecook, if you want a treat), the other members of the Hapa Ramen team are more than just holding down the fort, dishing out some killer meals from the Ferry Building to the Lower Haight. No surprise, really, because when you experience the care and passion that goes into each dish they serve, you quickly realize just how talented is each member of the Hapa family.
After a few weeks of gorgeous weather in the city, the familiar overcast skies and cooler weather are creeping back in. As I stepped out of my car after an incredibly long day at work and a seemingly longer drive home, I was issued a prompt slap in the face by the brisk breeze whipping through the streets of Hayes Valley. Granted, coming from college in Michigan, I might as well be on a Caribbean cruise and to be quite honest, I can't complain too much about the temperature. Still, after being spoiled these past few weeks, I just wasn't having any of this nonsense. My whole body took on a chill, and all I wanted was a hot, steaming bowl of ramen to warm my soul.
Lucky for me, Hapa Ramen just so happened to be popping up yet again at Wing Wing, just two blocks from my house.
As I rounded the corner of Haight and Webster and pushed my way through the orange and black door, I could already begin to smell the glorious broth that was about to fill my stomach. I was greeted by the pseudo-familiar face of Finch Linden (who, among other things, is a phenomenal photographer - check her out @finchlinden and http://finchdown.tumblr.com/). She took my order - Spring Pea Miso Ramen, English Pea & Mushroom Panisse, Sugar Snaps, Snow Peas, Konbu - and we "officially met" after knowing of each other through Twitter and Instagram.
Torn on which of the two options to order, the woman behind me asked if I had tried them both before, to which I explained that I was pretty sure these were all new, limited edition trials (Finch confirmed)...so no.
I offered, however, to split mine with her if she would do the same.
"All for halvsies," she agreed, and when our orders came, Finch looked a bit puzzled when we asked for two bowls. Now normally, we would both have agreed, save for two key factors. First, she was on the tail end of a cold and didn't want to get me sick. Second, we had just met about two minutes prior.
"Wait, you two don't know each other?"
Well, we do now.
As it turns out, Lauren (I learned after we both decided to dig into each other's food), is originally from Arizona, went to Northwestern undergrad, spent some time in Italy before going to grad school in Virginia and moving out here to take a job with a marketing firm which, just as my luck would have it, she just quit to take a new job in L.A. We had been complete strangers just moments earlier, yet I already felt as though, by her moving, that I had just lost a (potentially really great) friend.
Lauren, best of luck with your move and new job: if you're half as good at your job as you are at keeping a conversation with a complete stranger, you're going to be a star.
On our perch at the end of the ordering counter, we bageled a bit (see my previous post for a definition), and ran the gamut of conversation from how we spent the Jewish holidays to the horror stories of trying to find a place to live in the city. Turns out, we may also have some mutual friends. The food itself was incredible as always: the spicy broth of the chicken ramen was a perfect strength for the cool evening, the garlic sausage and garlic oil were an ideal paring. However, I think this was the first time in my life when I preferred the veggie option to the meat, as the miso broth and snappy peas were killer good, and despite not knowing from a panisse, it was fantastic. And that slow egg...oh that slow egg...
Forty-five minutes later, she decided it was time to head back home and pack up the rest of her belongings. And there I stood, alone with two half-bowls of ramen, wondering what the night would have had in store for me had it not been for this chance encounter. Finch and I shot the shit for a bit until, full and warm from bottom to top, I made my way back home.
The logistics of splitting a bowl of ramen are a bit tricky - long noodles are not easily cut with chopsticks, bowls filled to the brim with broth that are not conducive to pouring, chicken sausage and pea and mushroom panisse falling apart (in a good way)... However, all things considered, I think our execution was pretty impressive, and we had a lot of fun trying. And it was a good thing we each got our own slow egg: that would have been a disaster.
But isn't that just a damn-near-perfect metaphor? We're all made of experiences and features that make us unique - some of which we can share easily, and others that take a bit more prying to let loose. But if you at least make the effort, when all is said and done, you get to try a little bit of something new each and every time.
I've always contended that food brings people together, and this exemplified that sentiment to a T.
All because of two bowls of ramen.
Whenever I run, my mindset is that each step I take counts as two, because eventually, I’m going to turn around and head back home.
That logic loses its charm after five miles when it dawns on you that you actually have to get back home.
Regardless, after ten miles out to ocean beach (and back…) I found myself wanting to stretch at Patricia Green. Always a hub for dog walkers and picnickers, I find it lively enough to be ideal for people watching, but calm enough that I don’t have to worry about taking up too much space and breathing in the pot-smoke of Dolores Park.
Yet as I took my final strides toward the Green, I could immediately sense that something was different. A large white tent across from Ritual in the former AetherStream spot; amazing music from the ‘60s and ‘70s blaring; and a ton of people – separate from the never-ending line at the Biergarten.
9 Darling Road - A Ritual Dance Party
What that what was happening?!
As it turns out, Ritual Coffee was celebrating its first anniversary in the Proxy (seventh anniversary since inception), just in time for SF Made Week. As I stepped underneath the mysterious white tent, my eyes were drawn to a slew goings-on. To my immediate right, a bar serving beer and three (I can only imagine delicious, yet I can only attest to one) "punches" - lemon lavender, cucumber mint, and grapefruit something-or-other.
A little farther up on my left, boxes of delicious and beautiful Black Jet Baking Co.
cupcakes with tiny Ritual flags were available for the taking, as well as mason jars of espresso-laden custard. Across the way stood Aaron, teaching lessons on how to brew a shot on the "Rolls Royce of Home Espresso Machines."
Aaron (Purple) Teaching The Perfect Shot
My Very Own Espresso!
But the main attraction was no doubt the dance floor. Fantastic DJs spinning the likes of Simon and Garfunkel, Sam Cooke, ... and for their founder Eileen Hassi, the Dexy's Midnight Runner classic, "Come on Eileen."
Greatest Hits of the 60s and 70s
Eileen Hassi - Dancing in a Blur!
A dance party theme at "9 Darling Road," named for their espresso blend, the free event served as a celebration and a thank you to all of the employees and customers of Ritual, according to Hassi.
"I wanted to elevate the level of coffee in the Bay Area, but also create a sense of community."
And indeed she has.
Among the people I met were Paul and Ben, Hayes Valley locals and owners of a well-known cockatoo named Casper, who actually has his own Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/casper.cockatoo). Originally from Australia, Paul has been in San Francisco for about 30 years, and couldn't be happier to be part of the Hayes Valley community. When I mentioned that I felt out of place, doused in post-run sweat and donning my Vibram five fingers amidst the skirts, dresses, suits and ties, of those who actually knew about this shindig, he alleviated my stress. "No way! That's what makes San Francisco man! It takes all kinds."
Marianna and Casper: The Friendly Cockatoo
All of these people rallied around coffee. Well - most of them. When I told Hassi that the people to whom I'd spoken were definitely having a great time, she was curious as to one thing:
"Do people even know what this is for?"
Most people did, but some were unsure. Two girls thought it was a private party, but were waved over by some strangers who invited them with open arms. Given how classy an event this was, I would have been skeptical as well. But I know one thing - everyone in the community was in for a damn good party. Drinks, dancing, and desserts made for a killer time.
By the time I left, the party was still going strong. From hipsters to suits to cockatoo owners and everything in between - the people of Hayes Valley, the staff and customers of Ritual, and lucky passers-by were treated to a fine time.
Each step that every person took to attend this incredible extravaganza counted as two, because eventually everyone would have to end up back at home. But I guarantee you that each person in attendance will continue to make trips to Ritual, no matter how far: not only for the delicious coffee, but for the sense of community it creates.
Happy birthday, Ritual!
First, a few definitions:
Bagel (n) - 1. a dense, round bread roll that is boiled before being baked. Traditional in Jewish cuisine.
"I ate a delicious bagel with schmear at brunch with my bubbie after Passover."
2. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Nothing.
"Those ferkakta Dodgers posted a bagel last night. Lost 0-2 to the Giants."
Bagel (v) - to discover the religious beliefs of another through indirect means. To find out if someone is Jewish without asking outright.
"Does that boychik know he's trying to bagel a shiksa? What a putz."
Tonight, I ate bagels and bageled with Schmendricks - whose bagels are anything but bagels (and to be perfectly honest, whose founders are anything but Schmendricks).
Dan, Deepa, Dagny and David didn't dive directly into the doughy domain after Dartmouth. After heading out to the west coast, the D4 took respective positions in the "real world" - David as a school psychologist, Dan as a partner at Trinity Ventures, Dagny in the education sector, and Deep as a corporate lawyer. Somehow, all of them manage to keep their current jobs while providing the city of San Francisco with the first fantastic bagel this side of New York City, all with undying chutzpah.
That is, except for Deepa, who quit her job to invest herself fully in Schmendricks: and that takes some serious bagels (alternate definition? Check.)
The Schmendricks: Deepa, Dan, Dagny and David
Despite selling bagels for the past three months or so, they decided to throw a "Launch Party" at Four Barrel on Thursday night. It was like break-fast after Yom Kippur. Only with more alcohol. Bagel-d'oeuvres topped with whitefish and onions, veggie-pâté and carrots, cream cheese and smoked salmon, and roast beef and a pickle were plentiful and an excellent nosh to start off the evening.
There were also not one, not two, but THREE open bars. The first two were traditional - an alcohol bar with mimosas, bloodies and beers. The second was a coffee bar, expertly barista-ed by Four Barrel. But without a doubt, the star of the show was the bagel bar. That's right - BAGEL BAR.
Schmendricks Bagels, Multiple Schmears, Capers, Onions. Heaven.
Those of us east-coasters have a standard to which all bagels must be held - the New York City bagel. Many have tried to imitate: 99.9% have failed. Some credit the water, others credit the air, but nearly everyone would argue that it is impossible to find a decent bagel outside the Big Apple. (No, New Jersey doesn't count - no one cares about New Jersey).
Like any good Jew, Schmendricks vehemently refuses to accept what has been laid down as "fact." Working tirelessly for two years, the D4 perfected the recipe. Pre-orders for their pop-ups sell out in under an hour, and the lines for their individual sales on Sundays wrap around city blocks.
And it isn't just about the taste (which is stellar), but they also nailed the texture - a dense, chewy interior with a just-right, slightly crisp exterior with a beautiful sheen. People - this is the real deal.
I'm Ready For My Close-Up, Mr. Bag..il?
Here's where things get really cool. Apparently, you don't need to be Jewish to appreciate a good fantastic bagel (who knew?). Schmendricks is bringing people together full-circle (or full-bagel, if you will). I met some incredible people with fascinating backgrounds: Stephanie - a consultant for witnesses. Hannah - PR worker and music blogger (www.indieshuffle.com). Andrew - tech blog writer. Rebecca - capitalist and event planner. Some Jewish, most not. Some west-coast natives, most not. Some meshuga, most not. But we were all head over heels for these bagels, and at the very least, had that in common.
Friends, Family, Customers - The Whole Mishpucha
Expect big things to happen very quickly. Already providing their bagels via catering to companies around the bay, you will no doubt find them in stores sooner than you think. Success could not come to a kinder group of people.
Sorry New York, but your one draw back to the east coast has just been taken away. Though I guess you still have pizza...
So here I am, 12am at home all hyped up on Four Barrel espresso (and french press...), full, happy, schmutz still on my clothes, and not nearly bageled out.
In any sense of the word.