The best latte in the land and re-discovering daikon rice cake

April 28, 2011

VW van requires a bit more work today (new clutch). The weather is beautiful and Jon and I decide to take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) from Berkeley to San Francisco.

To the Ferry Plaza Market for breakfast. I wait in a long line at The Blue Bottle Coffee Co. (there’s always a line up here) for what is possibly the best latte I have ever had. Yes, I know that’s a huge statement to make, but it is true. Something about the coffee they use and only organic milk…Jon picks up a nosh at the Meat Market booth – a toasted bagel with ‘schmear’, a cream cheese spread with sundried tomatoes and a breakfast sandwich with bacon, cheese and egg. Our stand up breakfast gives us the sustenance to walk through the rest of the market and view the vendors (with envy) who are the producers, from fresh food produce, cheese (Cow Girl, one of my favourites), McEvoy organic oil (excellent) to items such as Heath pottery made in Sausalito (the dishware that’s used at the Slated Door – at $28 per dinner plate, that’s impressive).

We decide to walk through downtown San Francisco and come back to the Ferry Market for a late lunch at the Slanted Door. Jon scores a light, black, wool coat and sports jacket. We couldn’t resist the quality and the price -- $250 including alterations finished within the hour!

I’m happiest when I return to a restaurant and the experience is as good as or better than the first time. The Slanted Door can do this. We arrive at 1 pm and the 265 seat restaurant at the back of the Ferry Plaza is full, except for a few seats at the bar which we take. A gin and tonic (tonic by Ferry Few which is available at Everything Cheese in Riverbend – buy it, it makes a difference). BBQ Ribs and the Daikon Rice Cake (couldn’t pass the rice cake up – it was an amazing dish on the culinary tour last year and still is). The ribs come stacked 5 to a plate, each at least 5” in length, very meaty and slathered in a Vietnamese inspired (sweet/salty/spicy) bbq sauce, immediately followed by steaming hot cloths which are very necessary to clean fingers and face. The daikon rice cake reminds me of thin potato kugel – same sweet, sticky, fine texture, but this is quickly pan fried on high heat to finish and drenched in a sweet soy sauce. It meets my standards for exceptional carbohydrates!

At the recommendation of the patron to my right, we order the Cellophane Noodles with Dungeness Crab. He is on his second order! Jon and I order one to share. See through thin noodles, coated in a light sauce with big chunks of fresh crab. The craftsmanship of this dish allows the full sweet flavour of the crab to come through. Great choice.

We head back to Berkeley and pick up our van. It’s close to 6 pm and we’re on the freeway heading south to San Jose to visit friends that moved there from Edmonton 12 years ago.

Evelyn and Ed McNeill have a lovely home complete with an outdoor pool (Ed says he spends more time cleaning it than swimming in it) and gardens with perennials that bloom 12 months of the year. Over 20 types of roses that smell beautiful (yes, they actually have a scent!). Apologies from our guests that the cut roses on the dining room table were cut several days ago and could look fresher. To my eye they look fresher than anything you’d see back home!

Two cheeses are put out to start – Cow Girl Creamery’s Triple Cream Brie and Point Reyes Blue. Okay, here I go again with statements about the best I’ve ever had. We need to get these in Edmonton! I’ll give Everything Cheese a shout – they’ve got a large selection of US cheeses, maybe there is hope!

Dinner is a marinated ‘tri-tip’ bbq roast. Now this is a cut I’ve not heard of before. It’s from the area just in front of the shank where three muscles come together. Like flank it does well to marinate and bbq slowly, which is what the McNeill’s did. It is juicy and tender and leftovers cry out for sandwiches! I’ll be talking to Sunshine Organics about this cut of meat when I get home! Some oven roasted potatoes and roasted fresh local asparagus with sautéed grape tomatoes topped with goats cheese round out the plate. Home cooking doesn’t get much better than this! A petit chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream from Whole Foods for dessert. I’m full after the entrée, but like a good soldier, I somehow eat all of the dessert.

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