Sunday, October 2, 2011

Patisserie Blavette Daniel

To this day, I'm not certain of the actual name of this patisserie, but the labels on their cakes read "Patisserie Blavette", the awning out front reads "Blavette" and the Internet follows it as Blavette Daniel and due in part to my original entries on Foodspotting, Daniel Blavette. Whatever you choose to call it, it's one wonderful bakery filled with classic French pastry.


The four photos above were the first taken of Blavette. We had looked into the window on Rue Mouffetard and noticed a sweet display of boxed macarons that seemed like a nice gift to bring to friends in Bologna, our next stop on that particular trip. The variety of pastries was  striking, because they were all very classic and beautifully executed. Not wanting to overstay the welcome, it seemed these four shots would be enough to give anyone an overall view of what was offered by the patisserie. Upon our return home, while editing the photos, it seemed far too few and I knew I would be returning for more photos, more macarons and a few pastries to try while I was at it.



It wasn't until my second trip that all the savory tarts, tortes and quiches were even noticed. Even pizza was represented in the bakery; the smoked salmon and creme fraiche pizza is on my short list of must try items. As I continued to look around there were breads and baguettes lined up against the back wall, like wallflowers at a dance, but these would find partners in no time, judging by the line forming behind me in the shop . One could furnish themselves three meals a day in this establishment and not repeat anything for a month.


Tucked in amongst the quiche and tortes were these two sandwiches. This place was a treasure trove of culinary gold! It's mystifying that so much was missed on the first trip. I must have been in a macaron induced haze at the time, or merely fixated upon the sweet pastries. They are definitely glazed to make them shimmer and sparkle in the pastry cases, so they cannot be missed as the light plays across their surfaces; it's a conspiracy.



Ah, the dainty, innocent looking macarons that beckoned us into the bakery from the street the first time, then lured us back a second and third time. A charming little item that distracts and delights, dances on the palate, then vanishes into thin air, leaving one hungry for more and in various other flavors. You have to try them all, don't you? One pays a hefty price for that moment of pleasure. At almost a euro each, the addiction can eat up a snack budget in a hurry. I found myself pricing them at every bakery I saw, trying to find a bargain. Even the large macarons at Blavette were reasonably priced compared to the more renowned patisseries (2.4 euro compared to 4 euro each). The way I calculate, if I buy Balvette macarons instead of some from say Lauderee, I'll save so much money I'll be able to afford a Hermes scarf in three more trips!


If you couldn't tell that I'm completely besotted by macarons, you might think so after I mention that I purchased two French cookbooks on the subject , and I neither read nor write French. Still, hope springs eternal and I have plans for making them one day, although I seem to be able to easily find them now, everywhere I go in Europe and even at home. I've saved the best for last, as one should always do with dessert.



Caffe Sport

If you've ever been to Sicily, you can probably tell that this is a Sicilian restaurant the minute you walk in the door. The hand painted decor including chairs, rails and a fishing boat are all reminiscent of a traditional Sicilian cart with its riot of bright colors and intricate designs. When I first walked into Caffe Sport it was even more frenetic with fish nets hanging from the ceilings filled with all sorts of oddities, and the classic chianti bottle candle holders on every table.  When my friends and I sat down the waiter was brusque and demanded that we not order different pastas because it was all coming out on one platter and we had to share. Reservations were also highly controlled with only 2 seatings per evening and you'd better not be late. Owner and chef Antonio La Tona would poke his head out from the kitchen occasionally to see patrons enjoying themselves through his efforts. Now that he's passed on, it is easy to tell that he had been the driving force, the gregarious personality behind the success of the restaurant. Thankfully, he also "passed on" his recipes, and his family still owns and operates Caffe Sport. Antonio's large presence could not be replaced, so things are a bit less frenetic, less regimented and the waiters are much nicer, though just as efficient. Caffe Sport is still the best Italian Seafood restaurant in the city and puts the other Sicilian owned restaurants on Fishermen's Wharf to shame. Their original recipes have long been forgotten.
When you are seated, the first thing that hits the table is this sauce, made of garlic, cheese, tomato paste and olive oil. It is heavenly spread on bread. This condimento might also be wonderful on your food, but it never lasts that long.
We ordered pasta, all three of us in the party and this time we didn't have to order the same pasta or share, although we did share because it was so good. Our friend ordered the clam in red sauce pasta and savored ever morsel of it. All of our pasta dishes were made with mostacioli (penne), all the better to gather up the sauce.
The prawn pasta I had ordered was magnificent. The very first pasta I had ever ordered at Caffe Sport was also a prawn pasta, but I don't remember it having bechamel sauce on it. I also don't remember it having cheese, but all the pastas are sprinkled with it these days. It is very traditional for Italians and Sicilians to avoid serving cheese with seafood, because it overpowers the lighter seafood taste; they usually replace cheese on seafood pasta with fried bread crumbs. If the truth be known I always sneak a small amount of Romano cheese into scampi when I make it at home. This vibrant and rich tomato sauce on top of the bechamel was the same sauce used on all three pasta orders. The two combined  flavors were deliciously delicate on the prawns, along with the fresh basil leaves, and didn't overpower their flavor.

This photo may just say it all when it comes to the taste of the mussels and pasta. It is one of my all time favorite pasta recipes and it is impossible for me to imagine how anyone else could improve upon it. As we sat at our table, waiting for our food, a couple from out of town walked in, peered around and left. I found myself uttering, "big mistake", because I knew they had just passed up a great meal.

They also passed up on the best cannolo I have eaten in California. The orange peel used in this one was beautifully fresh and not dried out. I suspected that it might be house made. While traditional cannoli are made with dark chocolate, I really preferred the milk chocolate used at Caffe Sport. The ricotta was also remarkably fresh and sweet; I'd be shocked to discover that it was commercially made. No matter, it was rich and silky and the perfect companion to the fried pastry dough. I need to go back to this restaurant more often; we had a great meal.
Caffe Sport Menu CASH ONLY
574 Green St
San Francisco, CA 94133
Tue-Sat noon- 2:00pm & 5:00pm-10:30pm
(415) 981-1251

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Woodhouse Fish Company

Having two locations in San Francisco makes this restaurant, specializing in seafood, twice as good. My introduction to it came about through a contest on . Working my way through 32 restaurants, ordering a specific dish from each to photograph, I was relieved to eat something as simple and familiar as fish & chips. I liked it well enough to explore the menu a bit further within a month of my first visit to their Market Street restaurant. My second trip, and those since, was to their Fillmore Street location. The decor is a bit less inspired by a crab shack and more visually appealing. In truth, I really covet the squid sculpture that hangs above the entrance door. 

A two piece basket of their light and flakey deep fried cod with French fries was very filling, and I’m not certain I could actually eat more, but it is available for anyone needing it. Fish was placed over a generous serving of fries and came with a small cup of coleslaw, a small serving of tarter sauce and a metal bucket filled with condiments including ketchup, Tabasco sauce, and most importantly malt vinegar and salt. How the British came up with that idea might make for a good Google search. All I know is that it really tastes good especially on impeccably fresh fish with crisp fries.
A simple Iceberg wedge with a blue cheese dressing makes their salad an old classic, but the toast and tomatoes take it a step further. In truth, I found the bread a bit odd. Was I supposed to break it into croutons? The Woodhouse combination clam chowder was enlightening, as it was new to me. It was a clever way to create a 3rd soup option for the menu. Definitely a good taste and once stirred together, a beautiful color. My recollection is a bit faint, but I do recall tasting a spice that was not usual for a clam chowder no matter what style. It was distinctive and now I’m compelled to try it again, not a problem, in order to report back. It may have been cinnamon, but I’ll edit this post later when it’s known for certain. Whatever it was, the addition made the chowder all the better and original. You won’t find it elsewhere.

How does a lobster roll sound? No visitor from the West to the Northeast could ever have imagined that a good lobster roll could be found in California. That’s probably why we eat so many of them when we’re on the other coast. Thanks to efficient, timely transportation services, and the will to import them, Maine lobsters make the transcontinental crossing, so Woodhouse can serve them  to their customers, and on the proper shaped roll too. Woodhouse Fish Company should be in business for a very long time because this is a restaurant that really wants to please clientele, and it seems they do it effortlessly. Even at Fish in Sausalito, there are only crab rolls.

Did I just say “only” crab rolls, as if they were poor relations? That was purely unintentional, I assure you. The Dungeness crab rolls are spectacular in their own right, fresh as a sea creature can be, they are served up on the same roll used for the lobster. They are anointed with just the slightest amount of mayonnaise, with such a light hand, that I may just be imagining it. Did you notice the “take out” box? These make a spur of the moment picnic like no other! But the fish and chips would be just as much fun at less than half the price.
Ah, but we’re not done with the rolls yet. On my last visit the daily special board listed a soft shell crab sandwich and I bit, hook, line, and  sinker. It was delicious with the added feature of being served warm on the toasted roll. The crab barely fit into the roll and I needed to encourage it back in several times. It was so good, I still find myself perusing these photos from time to time in a nostalgic state of bliss. Did I mention that it came with bacon? You can see it peeking out between the roll and the soft shelled crab.
Here’s your chance to make a selection, go ahead and pick something! Besides sandwiches, salads and soups they have a lovely selection of grilled and baked fish.
Woodhouse Fish Company Website
2073 Market St, San Francisco CA 94114
11:30a.m. – 9:30p.m. daily (10p.m. F&S )

1914 Fillmore St, San Francisco CA 94115
11:30a.m. –10p.m. daily (10:30p.m. F&S)

Walk-ins only, call for daily specials
(415) 437-CRAB (2722)