Thursday, October 28, 2010

Asshole Deep in Work

By no means am I going to bitch about the fact that I've been going balls to the wall since we've been back from San Francisco. Remember all the wonderful things I was going to share from our trip to San Francisco? Yeah, well it's taken a back seat to a) getting primer on the outside of my unpainted home before it gets too cold to do so, and b) the perfect work storm comprised of a finishing one project, starting two more, and traveling like a son-of-a-b.

The bride is actually flying out tomorrow and meeting me in Philly for the weekend. BTW, feel free to rob my house, everything of value is either on a plane to the east coast or is being cared for by my mother-in-law. One caveat: you'll have to get past my neighbors watchful eye. She sees and hears ALL.

If I have any regrets, it's that October has been so full of stuff that I really haven't had the opportunity to cook much during, this, my favorite time of year. In fact, I haven't had time to get my hair cut. I'm beginning to resemble Chewbacca. (Damn, Chewy hasn't made it spell check.)

Just a few quick notes:

Due to the fact that I have this fear that something might happen to me on one of my trips, Regina and I always go out to eat or do something special before I leave. Actually, this time we were both leaving on Sunday - she to San Diego and I to Boston. At any rate, we went to Downtown 140 and I'm happy to report that the place is in the very capable hands of Don Triskett. If you go, you have got to try the Ohio Pork Chops with smoked sweet potato , crisp pork belly, brussels sprouts, cider reduction. My good food karma came through for me big time. Every component of this dish was excellent on its own, but screamed "fall on a dish" when put together. I'd like to think I make good pork chops, but these were phenomenal.

I'm not as high on Michael Symon as others are, but I was very sorry to hear that Bar Symon will close this weekend. Of all of his restaurants this was my favorite. I thought it was a good value and the menu - although relatively small - was comprised of stuff I like to eat. The fried chicken was the cat's ass. I certainly hope that shows up again soon. I think the other shitty part to this whole saga is that those who live in that immediate area are going to continue to have to drive for good grub -sucks big time for them.

The next time we meet, I should be able to stay home for an entire week and actually post some stuff for a change.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pinkarons (Pink Macarons) for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By: Mrs. Dino-O-Mite!

This month is my first foray into the MacTweets Mac Attack Challenge. When I saw that we were to make pinkarons (pink macarons) in honor of October being breast cancer awareness month, I was instantly inspired! I got the lofty goal in my head to make macarons in the shape of the pink breast cancer awareness ribbons. As you can see I eeked out one set before deciding that it was harder than it looked and reverted back to “traditional” round macarons.

The filling for these pink gems is comprised of butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and my favorite mixed berry jam. The addition of the jam to the frosting created the prettiest pale purple-pink color!

So, here’s to my mom, aunts, grandmother and women everywhere who’ve been affected by breast cancer. Make sure you get your mammograms and keep up with regular visits to your doctor. You can find out more info here and here.

This Ain't Your Father's Vietnam

Make sure to check here for more San Francisco posts

There are some things that have been written, and written, and written about - The Slanted Door is one of them. There is no shortage of people who have shared their blow by blow accounts about the intricacies of the night's experiences. If this is your sort of thing you can read here, here (called Yummo! *eyes rolling*), and here. They appear to be very detailed and photographed.

The Slanted Door, in case you haven't been, is a sleek Vietnamese eatery located on the water, at the Ferry Building. The Slanted Door is to San Francisco what Babbo (or Babbo's, as my boss calls it) is to New York City. The reservations are a pain, word among the city's visitors is out (and has been for quite some time), and the prices are commensurate with its reputation and locale. (Most people fail to factor in that a view of the water with the Bay Bridge twinkling in the background doesn't exactly come for free.)

The Million+ Dollar View from Outdoor Patio

As an appetizer we ordered the Barbecued Willis Ranch Pork Spareribs with honey-hoisin sauce which made my Top 10 Things I Consumed in SF list. These were perfectly cooked and had a nice crispy skin to go with the firm but tender pork lightly coated in the sweet sauce.

Still partially full from our lunch at Tony's Pizza Napoletana we opted for one more appetizer (Grilled Pork Sausage Stuffed Monterey Squid with cilantro, basil, chili and lime), and one entree (Cellophane Noodles with fresh dungeness crab meat). This squid was a very well balanced dish that knocked back the spiciness of the sausage and chili with the acidity of the lime and coolness of the herbs.

My least favorite was the muted flavors of the noodles and crab. There wasn't a whole lot of crab - but then again I didn't expect there to be at $18.

Is The Slanted Door worth a visit? I think it is - even if you only go there once. While the prices are not exactly cheap, it isn't prohibitively expensive. Location, views, and decor all cost money, and when you have packed house most nights it makes it that much easier to charge a premium.

The Slanted Door
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 861-8032

Slanted Door on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tony's Pizza Napoletana

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There was a time that you could count on one hand the number of establishments cranking out wood fired Neapolitan pizza. In Peter Reinhart's book American Pie the only Neapolitan that is referred to is Pizzetta 211. [It should be noted when I took Reinhart's class back in June he said it probably wasn't worth the trip to solely try the pizza - they aren't exactly located in the thick of things.]

In Ed Levine's book Slice of Heaven, exactly three San Francisco pizzerias are mentioned (A16 which was closed for remodeling, the previously mentioned Pizzetta 211, and Tommaso's which didn't exactly get a ringing endorsement by Levine).

As I looked at the travel map that we had been compiling over the course of the last year, I found myself saying, "For a place that doesn't have much in the way of pizza, there sure are a bunch of pizza places on this map." Our first stop was going to be Tony's Pizza Napoletana.

Apologies for the lame picture. I accidentally erased the originals.

Tony Gemignani's restaurant is actually right next door and connected to Tony's Coal-Fired Pizza and Slice House. Between the two establishments he cranks out like five different styles of pizza (Classic American, Classic Italian, Roman, Sicilian, and Napoletana).

For me the attraction was that Gemignani had actually won the 2007 Best Pizza Margherita in the World Pizza Cup in, get this, Naples, Italy. He was the first American and non Neapolitan to ever win the award.

We arrived in San Francisco just in time for lunch...well....maybe the ass end of lunch. Since there wasn't a whole lot of eating going on during our morning flight, to imply we were starving when we landed would be an understatement.

We dropped our bags off at the the Le Petit Auberge and headed straight to North Beach (thankfully all downhill), to Tony's Pizza Napoletana. The restaurant ended up being about half a block from the hotel (Washington Square Inn), we stayed at the last time we were in SF.

The restaurant itself is certainly a casual place that welcomes both locals and tourists. The walls are lined with subway tile and the interior is tastefully decorated. There were thankfully no kitschy murals of Old Napoli painted on any of the walls. The restaurant is bisected by a wall, the wood fired oven and pizzaioli are on one side, the entrance and bar on the other. I would try to snag a table on the oven side of the restaurant.

As sacrilegious as it is, my wife is averse to pizza margherita. We wanted to order the truffle pizza but fell victim to the small window between white and black truffle season. They were willing to give us a pizza that was "truffle-esque" (sans truffles and instead drizzled with truffle oil) at a greatly reduced price. We instead ordered the New Yorker (muzz, hand crushed tomato sauce, pepperoni, sausage, ricotta, chopped garlic & oregano).

Since I lost out on the option to get the margherita I felt the abundance of toppings kind of overshadowed the dough. If there's one thing I noticed it's that Tony's garlic, whereever the hell it is from, brings the spice. I can't say for sure how much water I consumed that day, but the garlic was certainly whipping my ass all the way up to dinner.

The cornicione is texturally spot on. Each bite offers a soft pillowy mouth feel, with the light crisp that you would expect from being cooked in the high heat of a wood fired oven. My only criticism is that the dough hand a touch of blandness to it that I wasn't quite expecting.

My overall impression is that Tony's is certainly a worthy pizza destination. I found that the numerous pizza spots that I would stop at in the coming days would be as successful in putting together the total pizza like they did here at Tony's.

If you are putting together a pizza map (and I suggest you do), or even just a San Francisco eating map (which I also suggest you do), Tony's Pizza Napoletana needs to be put on both. I just wish I had more time, and stomach room to try the other four types of pizza.

Tony's Pizza Napoletana
1570 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 835-9888

Tony's Pizza Napoletana on Urbanspoon

Tony's Coal-Fired Pizza and Slice House
1556 Stockton St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 835-9888

Tony's Coal-Fired Pizza and Slice House on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bites in the Heights Pt II

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Since I really didn't feel like making the last Bites in Heights post 14 miles long, I decided to just break the thing up into two parts. I find that three is about the limit before people start to say, "You know, I'm getting tired reading this stuff, damn. How many is he going to cram in here?" So here's the smaller portion of the two part post that I think might be more interesting than the previous one.

Anybody here ever heard of a place called Melt Bar & Grilled? Oh, you have?

Did you hear they have a new location on the east side? You know that, too?

Then I don't have to tell you about the wait? Or how Guy Fieri drove the final nail in coffin?

Well, this isn't a review about all that stuff. Quite frankly, I've decided to game the system...sort of. You see, I haven't actually eaten at the east side location since it opened. I have, however, waited in line for carry-out.

For me the sandwiches are just way too much food to eat - even for dinner. I actually like the soups and vegetarian sides that Matt Fish and his staff put together. Melt does a fantastic job of providing daily updates of their specials on Facebook. They've been doing some fantastic glazes with snow peas. The servings are enough for two people.

Some have completely written off Melt, but I feel the specials are worth ordering to go (just call ahead a half hour before you plan to pick it up).

Melt Bar & Grilled
13463 Cedar Rd
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 965-0988

Melt Bar and Grilled on Urbanspoon

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I'm always looking for decent hot dog places. The Dog House over in Coventry puts out as good a Chicago dog as I've had here in Cleveland. Cooked on the flat top, these dogs are the best I've had on the east side. There's also an Italian beef sandwich that is served here that I've heard good things about, but haven't tried. I will say I'm not a fan of the fries.

The Dog House
2767 Euclid Heights Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 321-0717

The Dog House on Urbanspoon

I've been making regular stops at Mama Joyce's while out for lunch. The specials they offer are extremely reasonable. The fried chicken is a favorite of mine. Mama Joyce's does a lot of fried chicken and fish, but unlike Angie's, they do a very good job of ventilating their kitchen.

I will note that this is more a carry out place. I talked to Jeff their cook and he had was doing ribs on Sundays for a period of time. I've included a scan of the cards with the menu. If you're in the neighborhood you've got to give this little place try.

Mama Joyce's Soul Food Cafe
2238 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 371-3100

Mama Joyce's Soul Food Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Anatomy of a Food Vacation

There was a time that my work space at home was nothing but piles of magazines containing endless bookmarks on places of interest for out-of-town dining or food related stops:
  • Page upon page of torn out magazine articles with dining suggestions
  • Hand written notes showing where to get your hands on the greatest chicharrones ever created
  • Scraps of paper vaguely outlining the existence of an ice cream shop named after characters from Are You Being Served? - selling a most interesting flavor called "Jesus Juice"
  • Whole sheets of paper listing "The 150 Perfect Places to Have a Beer"...and we aren't even getting into all of the minutia that can be found on my hard drive.
Everything has its place - and if it has to do with food and travel it was covering up my immediate living space.

I found that one of the biggest downfalls to pile making was the disorganization of it all. You've been hoarding this information for months, if not longer. The end result is a lot of piles: you've got a San Francisco pile (huge), an NYC pile (also huge), a Portland pile, and a miscellaneous pile of random places that were totally mixed together. So you're ready to head out of town to San Francisco and the week before you leave, you decide to start sifting through all of your Bay Area stuff. After ten minutes you've slogged about a quarter of the way through this insane stack of shit and decide maybe you should pack first. Realizing you don't really want to do that either - you choose to do the logical thing and go on Chowhound to look for more stuff.

The night before your flight comes. You've now decided that you'd better get it together and develop some kind of itinerary. Paralyzed by the fact that you have no idea where these places are in relation to each other, and that the weather forecast says it's going to be in the 80's (yes the 80's in San Francisco) for the next five to seven days, you realize you are screwed. You have no idea where the hell your going or whether or not to put your complete trust in the weather man and pack *gulp* lots of warm weather clothes. You decide to do the next logical thing - wing it. It worked in college, right?

Afraid that the weather man was playing a joke of LeBron Jamesian proportions, you pack as though it's not going to be in the 80's for the next seven days (It wasn't. It was in the 90's for a couple of those days). You spend the next seven days walking up and down the streets of San Francisco going to shops you really don't feel like going to and eating at places you really don't feel like eating at. Not realizing that nowhere in this town will you find air conditioning, you end up spending the better part of a week suffering from a severe case of swamp ass. It's on the flight home that you begin to kick yourself knowing your trip could have been sooooo much better if you would have been able to dislodge your head from your ass long enough to make a sensible itinerary. If only you had your act together.

My New Year's resolution was to get myself organized. It's September...just in time for me to make good on that resolution.

It just so happened that during a brief [and by brief I mean no longer than a 4 to 90 minute] workday internet interlude - I stumbled upon the almighty Google Maps.This wondrous little tool allows you to catalog all of those little places that you see during the course of your magazine or newspaper reading, television watching, or internet trawling. Any possible scrap of pile making medium can be put into a map, with any kind of theme, for any kind of geographic area, complete with notes on how you found it and links to where you found out about it.

Google maps was about to make my travels a whole lot easier...

Feel free to watch the tutorial here.

You can actually collaborate with other people on maps, as well. Regina and I pretty much added and subtracted stuff from the San Francisco map over the course of the last few months. All you have to do is give the person permission to collaborate and you're ready to go. Maps can also be made public or private. Often times people will ask me where to go in certain cities and I just email them a link to the map so they can see it.

Sunshine and 88

As our trip got closer we began to organize the individual stores, restaurants, and activities into more localized areas so we could spend a day or two in a neighborhood instead of haphazardly crisscrossing the city. This turned out to be a huge time saver because you could see just how close or far apart some of these places really were.

You can organize it anyway you'd like, but we decided to do ours chronologically (see the left hand column of the screen). We basically organized it by day (only downside - I wish there was a way to put a header in between certain areas to separate them by day).

The chronological order worked out great when I opened it up on googlemymaps on my iphone. While mymaps on the iphone doesn't maintain the different icons you use on your regular Google map, it does locate all of them on a map so you can use it to navigate to those locations. There's also another app I've been playing around with called UpNext 3d that has some promise...too bad I found it after the trip.

I realize that most people aren't as fanatical as I am when it comes to this stuff, but I think regardless of whether you're a zealot or not, Google Maps is the perfect vacation planning tool.

This ended up being our map for last week's trip. Most anything near bottom of the list, we didn't get to, or was closed due to renovations or a day off. With the exception of Hawai'i (which is pretty damn easy to plan for due to the relatively small number of restaurants), this was by far our most organized and enjoyable vacation ever.

I would suggest viewing the larger map since smaller one is pretty hard to read.

View San Francisco in a larger map