Monday, May 18, 2009

Boulevard, San Francisco

Ok, I seriously don't know why I can't seem to blog more than once a week (ok, ok....once every TWO weeks!). Maybe between work, watching season finales of my favorite shows (LOST, The Real Housewives of NY, 30 Rock), Twittering (or is it tweeting?) and Facebook-ing (uh, is that a word?), I'm just too distracted to hunker down and document my meals these days. It's odd how guilty it makes me feel. Am I letting down the handful of people who actually read this blog ( cat)? Is FoodBuzz (with whom I just signed up) talking about what a huge disappointment I am to their food blogging community during their morning meeting (not that I know anything about their process but my imagination runs wild)? I still find plenty of time to read other blogs, but even that makes me feel bad- I mean, if Mr. Lebovitz has time to write yet another brilliant book, Matt takes time from his vacation to share this gorgeous steak (or make everyone feel jealous!), and Molly manages to get posts up inspite of the fact that she and her husband spend practically every waking moment working on their anxiously anticipated restaurant, I think I can set my lame list of excuses aside and post a few photos, no?

So here I am, head hanging in shame and back yet again with a vow to be more consistent. Not that you have to believe me, of course. You've been burned by my promises before, so I understand if you're reading this with your arms crossed, nose in the air, thinking, "I'll believe it when I see it." Don't you love how my mind deludes me into thinking that people actually care about me updating this teeny tiny blog? I told you, my imagination runs wild......and makes me have visions of grandeur.

Anyway, I did have a wonderful, blog-worthy meal while in San Francisco last weekend. J and I had only one night in the city, so we opted to return to Boulevard where we'd had a perfect lunch over the holidays last year. We wanted to make sure that our sole meal out would be good, and by choosing Boulevard we knew it'd be a wonderful experience.

Boulevard is one of those old-school restaurants in the very best sense of the term. The service is impeccable, the ambience a perfect mix of formal yet homey and the food always prepared thoughtfully and presented beautifully. It always strikes me how many staff are working at the restaurant, but it's a well-oiled machine and every single server, busboy, manager, chef, line cook and host has specific duties that each fulfill with a great sense of purpose.

J and I decided to order appetizers and entrees each, and then share all four dishes.

Up first, my appetizer: AHI TUNA TARTARE, Pickled Hearts of Palm & Mariquita Farm Carrots, Fried Fennel, Smoked Paprika Romesco, Spanish Almonds, House Made Sesame Olive Oil Crackers

This was very good, although I wasn't sure what all of the extras (the almonds, fried fennel) really added to the dish. The tuna was ultra fresh and the finely diced carrots and pickled hearts of palm added texture, but the other elements, though nice, didn't really elevate the dish beyond being a good, fresh tartare.

J's appetizer: MONTEREY CALAMARI STUFFED with DUNGENESS CRAB Italian Butter Beans with Spanish Chorizo & Meyer Lemon Relish

This dish is what J and I would dub "the winner." The baby calamari were tender and stuffed with a generous amount of fresh crabmeat. The chorizo added bite while the butter beans added a nice creamy texture. I'd order this again and again.

My entree: CAVENDISH QUAIL (VERMONT)QUAIL BREAST WRAPPED in PANCETTA & SLOW ROASTED LEG Pyramid Ravioli with "Bolognese" & Polenta Fonduta Braised Lacinato Kale with Garlic & Aleppo Pepper FlakesToasted Pine Nut & Parmesan Relish, Roasted Quail Jus

Definitely another "winner" dish here. The tiny breasts and legs of quail were wrapped in a single layer of paper thin, crispy pancetta that didn't dominate the lovely flavor of the quail, and the I'd love a plate of those on their own anytime.

J's entree: PACIFIC WALU (HAWAII)WILD CAUGHT, GRILLED Herb Roasted Artichoke Heart, Green Asparagus, Pioppini MushroomsFresh Snap & English Peas, Fava Beans, Meyer Lemon & Herb Vinaigrette

Quite possibly the "cleanest" dish I've ever had at a fine dining establishment that wasn't a crudo or tartare of some sort. This fish was gorgeous, firm but slightly flaky and the thinly sliced asapragus and other spring vegetables retained the right amount of crispness. This dish just couldn't be any fresher and nothing contained a coating of grease, or even oil, really. I'm sure there was some fat used to cook this but none of it was left on the palate. A beautiful example of quality ingredients speaking for themselves.

All of this fabulous food, plus a view of the bay....I mean, it doesn't really get much better. If you're ever in San Francisco and you want a sure thing, I'd highly recommend Boulevard.

One Mission St,
San Francisco, CA 94105
Telephone: 415 543 6084

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Blog slump + Bottega Louie

Holy cupcakes- it's been forever since the last blog post! It isn't that I haven't cooked or eaten lately; I just feel like I'm in a bit of a blogging slump. J, ever helpful, often calls out "did you take a photo?" before taking a bite of anything, and I just respond by shrugging and digging in. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but it could be that I've been really enjoying some nice, post-work bike rides to the Rose Bowl with J, so by the time we get home and eat, it's late and I'm too hungry to stop for photos! Oh, and Gossip Girl might be on TV (don't judge!).

Anyway, one afternoon a few weeks back, we decided to ride our bikes from our home in Highland Park to downtown, to check out Bottega Louie, a new restaurant/bakery/deli/bar/cafe that had just opened. It took us just over an hour to get there, and we purchased a couple of mini sandwiches and were satisfied, but not necessarily wowed. The space was gorgeous with high ceilings, and the display cases boasted all kinds of goodies, but we felt the staff just didn't seem to really know what they were doing. On more than one occasion during our first visit we'd see nervous employees milling about, not quite sure what they were supposed to be doing.

We decided to give it another go, this time for dinner, and were so happy we did. The staff seemed to have worked out the kinks and were working together in harmony, and we were seated right away at a cozy back table. On our first visit I'd seen the pizza oven and knew we'd have to try one of their pies. We ordered the arugula salad, the portabello "fries" and the margherita. All were superb- the baby arugula was spicy and fresh, portabello strips deep fried to perfection and pizza thin, crisp and topped with a light hand. We were thrilled.

We went back and were as pleased with the second visit, and this time I finally whipped out the camera. Since we'd already tried the pizza we wanted to check out their other offerings.

Our new favorite rosé, from the Bastianich family:

We once again ordered the arugula salad and it was as perfect as the first time:

The arancini were good, but not as good as the ones at Terroni's:

The carmelized green beans were beautifully browned, some blackened, and totally delicious:

The Fettucini Belmondo was as simple as it gets, and was delicious and fresh:

Everything was good, but I think the real winner is the pizza, which we'll be back for repeatedly (along with that arugula salad!).

We decided to skip the plated desserts and opted to buy a couple of canelés from the bakery to take home. We'd bought one canelé on our first visit and were totally, utterly hooked. It was quite possibly the best canelé I'd ever eaten- slightly crisp and carmelized on the outside and tenderly moist on the inside. We picked out one vanilla and one orange canelé and I handed the cashier at my credit card.

After two swipes, the cashier apologized and said that the machine had been wonky all day and wasn't reading my card. I handed her another, and, after two attempts it went through. This entire process took about 90 seconds and I was too busy gawking at all of the food in the display cases to really even pay attention. The staff acted like they'd killed my goldfish, and, having overheard me telling my husband earlier that I should have gotten a pisachio eclair, asked me to wait while they got something for me for my "trouble." I tried to tell them that it was no big deal and it really wasn't any trouble but they insisted and handed me a large box. I felt awful so I tried to give it back and they just kept insisting, smiling and winking that I'd be happy when I opened it.

So, was I happy? You tell me:

I mean, holy cow. Let's take inventory here: two chocolate macarons, one vanilla macaron, a madeline, one giant brownie, a blueberry scone and my beloved canelé! By the way, I ate the pisachio eclair in the car so it isn't pictured (I know, I'm a pig! But it was a mini eclair!) but get a load of these sweet treats! All because it took four attempts to swipe my credit card? I still felt bad about it but they seemed like they really wanted to, so of course J and I sampled some of the treats and I took the rest to work. The canelés are still my favorite, but the chocolate macarons were pretty amazing too.

Check out this perfectly made canelé

I mean, they had me at marghertia....... but now, I guess they complete me.

Bottega Louie
700 S Grand
Los Angeles, CA 90017
213 802 1470