Friday, July 30, 2010
I can’t think of a more delectable way to start the day in San Francisco than by heading over to Tartine Bakery & Café in the Mission District for a bon petit dejeuner. As my husband Mario and I walk toward an unassuming café on the corner of Guerrero and 18th, the scent of freshly baked pastries ensconced in melted chocolate and butter helps lift the city’s morning fog.
Inside, the simple, white room is already people-packed at 9:20am. We wait in a line that spills out on to the street and ogle the perfectly curated array of tempting treats. There’s frangipane, pain au chocolat, cake aux olives (a savoury loaf of gruyere cheese, olive slivers, Niman Ranch ham pieces and rosemary), bread pudding with fresh, seasonal fruit, “Breakfast Buns” made with orange sugar, éclairs (for the decadent) and the best black pepper and thyme gougeres (large, golden glorious cheese puffs). And that’s just for starters. We order a round of café au lait beverages to accompany our selections and feel as if we’re on the Left Bank.
We’re joined by Olga Katsnelson – a San Francisco-based food publicist who knows something about what’s wallet-worthy food-wise in the city. At her behest, Texas-born, Culinary Institute of America trained Chad Robertson stops by to say hello. Chad and his wife Elisabeth Prueitt are the “quality obsessed” owners (as Olga would say), of Tartine. We learn that he worked in Burgundy, France for years, along with Elisabeth before returning to the US to put into practice all that they’ve learned. San Franciscans are appreciative patrons.
“For a city of 800,000, seems to me like you lot dine out more than most,” I remark to Olga. She nods in agreement- “Yes,” she replies, “this is a city that takes its food seriously!”
Mario asks Olga why, with the myriad choices available in town, this is possibly the most beloved French pastry shop in San Francisco. She says, “because they do everything the hard way. There are no short cuts and you can taste it.” She’s dead-on. My quiche, made using market-fresh, organic tomatoes, peppers, herbs and crème fraiche is the best I’ve ever had. And bless their hearts- the staff here have the good sense to oven warm their quiche (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my order micro-waved resulting in a soggy, almost water-logged disgusting crust).We wait until 10am at which point Mario gets his wish- an open faced Croque Monsieur sandwich with Niman Ranch ham, gruyere and tomato slices over the bakery’s own rustic, crumb-perfect bread.
By the time we leave, there’s a new wave of patrons lining up for their mid-morning snacks and coffees. Olga tells us that by 5pm, when Chad and Elisabeth put out their daily freshly baked bread selections in time for dinner, they will be sold out in 15 minutes. It’s no wonder the dynamic duo behind Tartine have won a spate of awards. Their newest book, “ Tartine Bread” is due out this year- so if you’re a bread aficionado, keep your eyes out. It will be a tasty tome.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
20 restaurants, 9 bars, Adult Only Beach Club and party till you drop: Is this the life of a Bon Vivant?
On July 2, country legend Reba McIntyre christened the latest large ship to set sail the Norwegian Cruise Lines Epic. Industry insiders are comparing the 1200 passenger ship to Las Vegas. The vessel boasts 20 restaurants including an elegant French Bistro Le Bistro Restaurant, Cagney’s Steak House serving classic American beef dishes, the Manhattan Room designed to replicate a private NY supper club and several Asian and European restaurants. To complement the large selection of Free Style Dining, the Epic also features the first and only ice bar at sea. The Svedka Bar was inspired by the Scandinavian ice hotel concept and of course serves up a full menu of you guessed it vodka inspired delicacies.
Guests who want to experience something really unique can make reservations at the New Cirque Dreams & Dinner. This one of a kind dinner theatre is located in the Spiegal tent which was built on 2 decks of the Epic. The show features 16 performers and a cast of 15 – 20 servers that are also part of the show.
And that is not all. There is non stop entertainment throughout the ship. From state of the art beach parties, to the Blue Man Production, the Second City Comedy Show, Fat Cats Jazz Club, Legends in Concert or Howl at the Moon. For those seeking a more relaxed atmosphere the Epic is home to 9 unique bars including a Sake bar, a whisky bar and of course a martini bar. And if a Cuban cigar is what you seek there is a lounge to accommodate your pleasure. With all this stuff to do a Bon Vivant can spend a month on such a ship and never get bored.