10 things to eat right now in San Francisco from Jessica Battilana, including the Hummus and Falafel Bowl at Sababa, Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower at Babu Ji, and “The Forest” at In Situ.
Époisses Toast at Monsieur Benjamin The Époisses toast atMonsieur Benjamin is a head-turning dish, though not because it’s lit on fire tableside. It is the pungent aroma that heralds its arrival at a nearby table, a barnyardy funk that’s a hallmark of the Burgundian washed-rind cow milk cheese, a scent that’s amplified when the cheese is heated. Two thick slices of toast are covered with a paste of Époisses and crème fraîche, then broiled until crisp. Beneath the toasts lies the aromatic runoff, waiting to be lapped up. My children pulled their shirts over their noses, and guests at neighboring tables inquired about the stench. I ate every little bit, and can’t wait to have it again.
451 Gough St.
“The Forest” at In Situ I’ve never been to Menton, France, never eaten at Mauro Colagreco’s celebrated restaurant, Mirazur. So I can’t be certain that “The Forest,” the dish of Colagreco’s served at In Situ—Corey Lee’s restaurant in the SFMOMA, with a menu comprised entirely of other chefs’ dishes—is a faithful replication of the original. What I can tell you is that the tableau, meant to evoke a walk in the woods in the French Riviera, is as surprising and extraordinary as anything I’ve eaten. Tufts of parsley-flavored sponge (cooked in the microwave), potato chip–like shavings of sunchoke and an array of wild mushrooms compete for your attention. And like a forager coming upon a cluster of Boletus edulis, you’ll feel the thrill of discovering a puddle of rich quinoa risotto hiding at the bottom of the bowl.
In Situ (at the SFMOMA)
151 3rd St.
Café Gascogne at Trou Normand One afternoon not too long ago, I grabbed a seat at the bar at Trou Normand when it was still daylight. An hour or so later, I spun out of the restaurant into the darkness, drunk. The culprit was one senior-level libation, the Café Gascogne. This off-the-menu special comprises hot Four Barrel coffee, a generous pour of Armagnac and softly whipped cream. It’s an upper and a downer in one, just the thing for the short, dark days of winter.
140 New Montgomery St. 415-975-0876
Chocolate Panettone from This Is From Roy Though the packaging is a little heavy-handed, what with its mention of “godly mentorships,” the truth is that Roy Shvartzapel’s exquisite chocolate panettone does seem heaven-sent, not something made with just butter, flour, sugar, eggs and dark Guittard chocolate in a bakery in Richmond, California. Shvartzapel has made these cakes his life’s work, and the dedication shows. The cake’s open, airy structure belies its richness—in a moment, a quarter of it can disappear, bite by bite. thisisfromroy.com, or by the slice at:
Pizza del Popolo
855 Bush St.
The Hope Cocktail at Trick Dog I first tried the Hope cocktail in the weeks leading up to the election, back when I was still feeling smug. Hope tasted like Evan Williams bourbon, Luxardo Sangue Morlacco, pineapple and lemon juices, and Anchor Steam’s Liberty Ale, as refreshing as the promise of our first female president. Now, the cocktail, served tall over ice, tastes to me like something you’d drink on a tropical island, such as Tahiti, where many of us would like to spend the next four years.
3010 20th St.
Duck for Two at The Morris The coup is clear the moment you start looking around The Morris’s dining room: there’s duck on nearly every table. A tour de force that takes five days to make, the duck (undersold on the menu as, simply, “smoked duck”) is poised to reach Zuni-like levels of poultry adoration. First brined, then air-dried, then smoked and finally roasted, it’s a restaurant dish in the best sense of the word: a fussy process you’d never want to undertake at home, even if the results are so good you want to eat it once a week. I like to peel all the skin off (don’t panic—more on that in a second) and swipe the meat through the bittersweet honey-espresso sauce. I chase that with the pile of crackling skin, eating it in one hedonistic go, resolutions be damned.
2501 Mariposa St.
Hot Pot at My Pot It’s a nice way to spend an evening, dipping paper-thin slices of meat into a spicy Szechuan peppercorn broth at My Pot, an out-of-the-way hot pot spot in Forest Hill that shares a block with a psychic and a French bistro. As at other hot pot destinations, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure affair here, as you select from a variety of broths and dozens of other add-ins. Don’t miss the bean puffs, a choy, rosy lamb and that sinus-clearing spicy broth.
408 Dewey Blvd.
Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower at Babu Ji General Tso’s chicken is an entirely American construction, so no one should cry foul at the vegan version at Babu Ji, the recently opened San Francisco outpost of a modern Indian restaurant (the other location is in NYC’s Alphabet City). It’s cauliflower standing in for the chicken, and the masquerade works—turns out if you batter something, fry it until it’s crisp and douse it in a sticky sweet-spicy sauce, it’s pretty irresistible. To tame the fire, grab a bottle from the self-serve beer fridge.
280 Valencia St.
The Impossible Burger at Jardinière If you’re looking for a taste of the future, it’s at Jardinière’s bar every night after 7:30 pm, albeit in limited supply. The Impossible Burger, the vegan patty that’s the brainchild of a Redwood City–based company, gets the Traci des Jardins treatment at her Hayes Valley restaurant. The surprisingly juicy, meat-like patty is served with a pile of fries and may convince you you’re eating its beefy brethren, or at least make you feel smug that you’re not.
300 Grove St.
Hummus and Falafel Bowl at Sababa For years, I begged the chefs I knew: Please, open a falafel joint, one with freshly fried falafel, bright salads and homemade sauces. No one took the bait, even as Ottolenghi became a household name. Thankfully, Israeli-born Guy Eshel, a CIA-trained chef who’d wearied of working in fine-dining restaurants, had the same idea. Last summer, he opened Sababa in the FiDi, answering my prayers. My prayers, if you’re wondering, take the form or sumptuous hummus bowls. The creamy chickpea is slicked in the bottom of the bowl; your choice of toppings is piled on top. I opt for a 50-50 combination of falafel and slumped slices of deep-fried eggplant, the grated carrots with orange juice and feta, and the roasted beets, pink and creamy from the addition of labne, and the verdant tabouleh. I don’t even mind that Eshel makes his version with quinoa instead of bulgur. A squirt of tahini sauce, a crown of pickles and a couple of hot pita finish off this dream lunch.
29 Kearny St.