|Pork shoulder at Trou Normand|
San Francisco, December 29, 2014—A FULL DAY in San Francisco today, touring Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach and, of course, checking up on comestibles.
Let's start with breakfast — we did, of course. We'd heard so many good things about one Mission District bakery, for so long, that we began there. A popular spot, no doubt about it; and the items in the case looked very nice. The croissants, while baked to a perfect color, were too big for our taste, and I thought a little too bready; and our caffe lattes were weak, and what coffee flavor there was seemed a little sour, a little bitter. Definitely not the best coffee in town. We bought a gougère and a couple of "rochers" — meringues — for later, and then stepped around the corner to try another place we'd heard about.
Here the croissants were just as I like them: very flaky, dark golden brown, a reasonable size — but a little cold at the center, as if they'd been held a while under refrigeration, then brought up to temperature. And my cappuccino was really not very good: very bitter; undrinkable. Oh well: as a friend pointed out, off to a bad start.
At midday we split the gougère and the meringues: the gougère was very nice indeed; the almond rocher tasty; the chocolate-nugget rocher unpleasant, I thought, as to both texture and flavor — simply not a good combination. We went on, though, to an old favorite of mine for lunch, where I had a perfectly acceptable mozzarella-and-basil panino with a glass of Pinot grigio, and we then finished with a cappuccino laced with that warming, comforting egg liqueur Vov. Graffeo coffee! Clean espresso machine! Barista who knows her stuff! Shoulda gone there for breakfast!
Dinner at a place new to me, down in the financial district. I'm not sure the menu makes a lot of sense: the restaurant has a Norman French name, the menu runs to northern Italy. We began with four items from the charcuterie-salumi menu (there were four of us at table): pork paté with fennel and thyme; lardo; "dry guanciale" made with garlic, clove, and red wine, and "rabbit salami" flavored with sweet peppers and white wine, along with a "brassica salad" with pickled cippolini and pecorino.
Alas, the lardo was rancid and inedible, and the guanciale tended in that direction. The paté was delicious, we thought; also the rabbit salami. The salad was very nice, though I'd have loved a few more of those delicious little cippolini.
Given the opportunity to make a scientific comparison, as I explained to the grandchildren, I could hardly pass up the braised pork shoulder for my main course. It was quite as delicious as it had been the previous night, at another restaurant, though instead of being vaguely Cajun it was now vaguely Italian, with just the slightest hint of a gremolata accompaniment.
Dessert: pies from Mission Bakery. Mine was a walnut pie, and I liked it very much; it followed beautifully the trou normand that introduced it — a small glass of Calvados, a little rough perhaps but that's in its nature, nice and apple-y, not too artificially sweet.
Mâcon blanc, Bonhomme, 2012 (a little thin but developing well); Nebbiolo, Monsecco, 2010 (very nice indeed)•Tartine Bakery, 600 Guerrero Street, San Francisco; 415-487-2600
•Craftsman and Wolves, 746 Valencia Street, San Francisco; 415-913-7713
•Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store, 566 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco; 415-362-0536
•Trou Normand, 140 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco; 415-975-0876