Thursday, April 27, 2006

Park Chalet

After what has been an altogether too-long-and-rainy winter, we had another beautiful day in San Francisco yesterday. And what better way to celebrate the sunshine and the afternoon than cocktails at the beach? I toodled through the park on my little city bike with flowers in the basket (okay, no flowers in the basket since last week, but it makes for a nice image) to meet Valentino at the not-so-Dutch windmill on JFK and the Great Highway. I was in a great mood because I'd just had a productive meeting to procure more writing work (and it had been a lucrative lunch shift at The Restaurant, although I made a couple of mistakes and the eagle-eyed GM noticed, which is Not A Good Thing), and Valentino was in a great mood because he'd just finished working at the preschool. He grew up in the Sunset, his mom now runs the preschool that he attended, and he and his brother both work there. Now that's community.

After a few minutes of contentedly watching the ocean, we rode over to the Park Chalet to enjoy the sunshine and toast each other's happiness. We started off with a couple of Hangar One keffir lime-based drinks; his was a ginger pomegranite thing and mine was basically a mojito with Chambord. They were both pretty sweet but we had restaurant gossip to catch up on and the grass was nice. The great thing about the Park Chalet is that it literally backs up right against Golden Gate Park. There are little pathways and gardens that lead you right into the center of the park, and if you go upstairs to the Beach Chalet, there are wonderful views of the ocean. Perfect at sunset time.

But it was still afternoon and we'd heard that the food was better at the Park Chalet. We had a chopped salad and the ahi tuna tartare, both good but nothing really to write home about. Our second round of cocktails was a green-tea martini (with Chambord again) and a blood-orange Herradura margarita with Cointreau (delicious!), and we decided that the Park Chalet was a better place to drink beer. They have many different kinds there which they brew on-site, and which cost a third of the good (but overly sweet) cocktails.

Our next course was middle-eastern-style beef skewers, rare. Great quality meat, and rare atually meant rare. They were served over a chopped salad of yogurt sauce, cucumber, and tomato, with some crunchy squares of toasted tomato bread (more like crutons) that didn't work with the dish. It was great besides that. We also had a side order of beer bread, which was basically a thick, white bread flecked with brown; warm, and served with butter. The big winner was the wild mushroom, goat cheese, and garlic pizza. Ultra thin crust, loads of toppings, and whole cloves of roasted garlic. We'd thought about heading down to see our friend and fellow co-worker who also works at Kuleto's on Union Square, but after that pizza decided it would be for the best if we kept our breath to ourselves. A glass of Australian Shiraz (a little raw) and a Rosenblum red-blend (quite good) accompanied, and we got out of there for $100 (including a 25% tip. Hey, we're restaurant people!).

One of the nicest things about this place (besides the pizza), was how neighborhood-y it felt. There were little kids and dogs running around making friends, tourists, and locals alike. It had the feel of a mellow German biergarten, with its mixed-age and demographic afternoon set. The service was very friendly and genuine.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


The newest restaurant in the district just north of the Panhandle (NOPA) opened eight days ago. We went to the corner of Hayes and Divisadero to test it out.

Three of us waited at the bar for a table that wasn't in direct sunlight--the restaurant's giant windows don't have coverings yet, so many guests were seated and dining with sunglasses on. The cocktails are good and inexpensive; I had an elderflower lemon drop (minus the sugar rim), that didn't really taste either like elderflower or lemon, but it was delicious and refreshing. Dangerously drinkable. My future roommate had a tall mojito (that's the drink she measures all bars' measure by--boring, and bartender-unfriendly, but a good standard. If a bar's got a good mojito, it's not going to suck), and Valentino had a lemon-soda with Hendricks.

Our table was ready quickly and an army of workers showed us to it. A new restaurant, everyone's on the floor, and since the waiters dont' wear a uniform (besides jeans and a brown shirt), it was hard to tell who was who. The new-vibe was in full effect, with everyone rushing around with their eyes wide open, thinking "Oh shit! I can't believe we're actually doing it!" Everyone was very friendly and open about the new spot. I'm guessing about half the diners were curious restaurant people, like us. Every waiter, manager, and chef wants to be the first from their restaurant to check out a new place. Reporting back gives one a sense of pride.

The waitress (who was a friend of mine, we worked together at the Castro restaurant that just changed ownership) brought us a little amuse of breadsticks wrapped in bite-size salmon with creme fraiche and a little pot of fleur de sel for dipping.
We started with a flatbread (arugula, prosciutto, and green onion. I forget the cheese) that was excellent. Crispy and thin as flatbread should be, but they cut it in a wierd artsy zig-zag pattern that was original, but none of the pieces were the same size so it wasn't good for sharing.

I ordered the fritto misto and the seafood stew. I forgot that fritto misto was fried things, and I wasn't that hungry so everyone else ate them. The big winner was the deep-fried slice of sweet Meyer lemon. My future roomie had the pork chop (nice and simple with Tarbais beans and rainbow chard), and Valentino had the burger (so fantastic that he didn't say anything good about it: all the more to not have to share). I ordered the seafood soup, which was thick, spicy, red, and tasty. I couldn't really tell what was in it.

We had a few more cocktails with the meal, and everyone ordered desserts. The best were the creme fraiche ice cream with mandarin shaved-ice, and a strawberry-rhubarb gallete served with ginger ice cream. Bourbon creme brulee was pretty good (though it didn't stand up to the first two), and chocolate cheesecakey-thing was a total bust.

The best part was the price--all appetizers were under $10, entrees were around $15. We got out of there for $35 each, and full bellies to boot!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Eight days a week

What kind of idiot wilfully imposes an every-day schedule on themselves? This one, that's who. So now I'm working four days a week at The Restaurants (lunches), and three nights at The Bistro. This is probably going to be way worse than all of the doubles I have been working. Still, I've been able to save up a bunch of money, and I told myself when I had saved up 5K I was going to quit one of the jobs so I can ride my bike all day and write for more money, which was the whole point of moving to San Francisco.

Boozely tells me he'll pick up weekend shifts for me at The Bistro, and I wouldn't want to quit there because I just started. Plus, the shifts are SHORT (last night: 2.5 hours. Tonight: 3.5 hours), and the money is good. It's less than at the old restaurant, but the clientele at the last place were mostly young and middle-aged gay men who threw money at me when I shook my curls and said "Meritage," or "Dry Creek Valley." But the stress of working under the crack-addicted management at the last restaurant wasn't worth all of the gay tips (I once got a grab-bag of M.A.C. cosmetics for a tip!). I'd rather make less money and get to:

-Bring my mom to work with me (day one. She was in town visiting and came in for dinner at the bar on my first night, staying for three hours). This same night, I had two tables come in and request me. One was the owner of theCafe du Nord, who I have known since moving to San Francisco since he backed over my bike with his truck when I was working at O'Reilly's Holy Grail for a minute. He bought me a new wheel and I realized chivalry wasn't dead after all.
-Come in a half-hour late to work (day two). I was shopping in Union Square and lost track of time. I excused myself and promised it wouldn't happen again.

-Cut myself at 8pm (day three, today). I was tired and grumpy and wanted to go home and they let me, with no questions asked!

I can't believe how easy it is to work at The Bistro, and how nice and laid-back everyone is. Plus, the food's great, and lots of famous people come in all of the time and tip well.
But at The Restaurant, I'll make an obscene amount of money once I get moved to nights, and I'll get health insurance after five more months.
What's a girl to do?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Changing posts

The inevitable has happened; I'm changing night jobs. After months of wondering when The Restaurant was going to settle down, I realized it wasn't. I was the senior server there, after a mere 8 months of employment. During that time, the front-of-the-house staff turned over completely TWICE, and although management had directed its psychotic fits of rage elsewhere for the time being, I still felt as though I was walking on eggshells every time I came to work. It was a hard decision to leave, because I enjoy the clientele very much, and I did a good job there and was lauded for it often, but for the last several months the stresses have been outweighing the benefits.

I went to dinner with my girls Mariah and Marissa on Friday night, at the bar of a tiny Pacific Heights neighborhood place where my dear friend is the head server. The chef came and sat with us at the bar while we ate, and as I bitched to him about my current night-time job, he got a look of introspection.

"Want us to fire someone here so you can come work with us?" he asked.

I thought about it, and replied that under no circumstances would I want to cost someone their job.

"No, really!" piped in the GM, who'd been listening in. "We've been trying to get rid of this guy for a while. We'd love to have you come and work with us!"

It was as simple as that. I emailed my resume when I got home that night, and filled out my paperwork the next day.
The Restaurant was disappointed when I gave my notice but I hope to leave on good terms. It was a good run, and every restaurant has bullshit to deal with--this one was probably no better and no worse. After giving notice, I sat at the bar because Valentino was working and a friend of his, who works at the super cheesy Wipeout Bar & Grill.
I'd seen this restaurant when the Country Cousins were in town last week, and we had poked fun at its tourist-trap cheesy Waikiki surf decor, because San Francisco doens't have a surf culture to speak of. But when Valentino's friend told me he'd just made $175 at his LUNCH shift, I nearly choked on my hot toddy. Kamaha'o!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

EOS Wine Bar

Valentino and I finally made it out to EOS on Monday for a re-try of the date we were supposed to have on Valentine's Day. I must say, it's pretty rare for me to leave a restaurant thinking "What a great meal! I really can't wait to come here again!", especially in this town of 4,000 or so restaurants. But by the time we were wiping our plates clean of the main courses, I was planning for my next jaunt to EOS.

We went there with the purpose of trying a bunch of wines, and I was very impressed with their list. We tried two different flights, the Varietal Hodgepodge Flight to begin, and my favorite was the Alsacean Pinot Blanc, as it usually is. Valentino doesn't care too much for whites, so I sipped the Soave, the Rhone blend, the Pinot Blanc, and the Riesling Kabinett with gusto.

I started off with a Thai spiced chopped salad, and Valentino had the organic lettuces with pommelo and hazelnut-shallot vinaigrette. Both were amazing, and we shared back and forth, but not too much because the salads suited our tastes perfectly. I love spicy, sour foods with mineralistic, high-acidity whites; he loves smoky, sweet, nutty tastes and so sticks with classic palate-pleasers and dark, plummy red wines.

Main courses were the Belgian ale marinated angus hangar steak for him, which was pretty good but arrived well after my Prince Edward Island Mussels with chorizo and Asian herbs. I think the waiter thought we wanted to do a fish course, then a meat course. With the main courses, we had the Spanish Reds Flight, which paired really well with the mussels and chorizo. We also added a half-glass of the Andrew Murray Vineyards "Esperance" blend (Grenache-Mourvedre-Syrah), which was good but overpriced at $5.50 for a tasting pour. Valentino and I both agreed that the best red was the Bodegas Murviedro Old Vine, which was a varietal I'd never tasted before: Monastrell.

Service was great; our waiter was extremely wine-knowledgeable. My favorite reds tend to be Cote du Rhones, and he had a lot to say about the white CdR that was in our first flight. We skipped dessert because although the food is supposed to be "tapas-style," we were quite full from 2 courses each. A signifier of a good meal is that each party likes what s/he ordered the best, and we felt that way after leaving EOS. On the way out the door, we noticed the little bistro next door, and I can't wait to go back!