poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


Birthday Love

As much as I love cooking meals at home with TC, it’s also nice to go out every now and then to a nice restaurant. Birthdays definitely call for a bit of celebration and indulgence, so a few weeks ago, I took TC to Greens in San Francisco for his birthday. Why Greens? First, being that it’s in Fort Mason, the dining room has a gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Marin Headlands. Second, it’s one of the oldest higher-end vegetarian restaurants in the city, if not the country. Third (and related to #2), it sources all of its produce from local farmers and vendors, whom we like to support. Finally, a friend had given a strong recommendation, saying that Greens was one of his favorites. So, reservations were made and off we went!

We arrived 30 minutes early, but there was plenty of seating in the waiting area where we could also order drinks. We sat down next to a man in fishnets, high boots, no pants (that we could see), and an Under Armour mock turtleneck under a long blazer. Only in San Francisco!! Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture, but trust me when I say it was a sight to behold.

The view of the dining room at Greens, from the waiting area.

I ordered a glass of prosecco (it was a celebration, after all) and TC opted for the raspberry mojito, which was sweet (but not too sweet) and potent.

Contemplating the menu over drinks.

We were seated promptly at 7:30, our reservation time. Fresh bread, toasted almonds, and water were brought to our table almost instantly. After our server introduced herself, I informed her that it was TC’s birthday. She gave him a quick glance and asked, “Don’t I know you…?” Well, as fate would have it, our server E dated one of TC’s good friends almost 10 years ago. After catching up a little, she took our orders and remained friendly, yet professional, for the remainder of the evening.

We had heard great things about the appetizers, so we ordered three. Yes, we’re pigs.
Roasted wild mushrooms with olive oil, salt, thyme, and sage. This was my favorite out of the appetizers.

Mmmm, wild mushrooms.

Sampler: Italian butter beans with pickled red onions, meyer lemon, and tarragon; spring pea and radish salad with arugula and mint; grilled artichoke with lemon oil; three beet salad; grilled herb slab; fromage blanc; olives. The butter beans were amazing, and I enjoyed the beets and cheese too. The artichokes were disappointing.

I still have dreams about those butter beans.

Artisan cheese plate. Nothing to write home about. Even TC wasn’t a huge fan.

Meh. Kinda dry, crumbly, and tasteless.

Oh yeah, did I mention the view?

Sunset over the Marin Headlands.

The birthday boy!


Not sure what look I’m going for here…

OK, on to the main course! TC ordered the butternut squash and sweet potato gratin, with poblano chilies, green onions, smoked cheddar, fromage blanc custard, and cilantro. It was served with tomatillo sauce, cashew cream, grilled polenta, and chard and kale with pumpkin seeds. If you go to Yelp, this dish is very polarizing; people either love it or hate it. TC absolutely fell in the former category. In fact, I think he’d eat this every day if he had the choice. It was very tasty — just the right blend of spices and textures.

Butternut squash and sweet potato gratin with polenta, kale, and chard.

I ordered the farro risotto with wild mushrooms, spring peas, fava leaves, leeks, green garlic, and shaved Pantaleo (cheese). It was good, but definitely not as tasty as TC’s gratin.

Farro risotto with wild mushrooms and peas.

What’s a birthday celebration without dessert? I ordered the chocolate torte with salted caramel ice cream and cocoa nibs. I loved the combination of flavors and textures. I also got a cup of decaf coffee, which was the most excellent coffee I’ve had in a long, long time. To me, it was how coffee should taste, if that makes any sense. Anyway, I’m sure it was like $5 or $6 (I didn’t look at the check before throwing down my credit card), but it was worth it.

I’m a sucker for chocolate cake.

TC triumphed again with the ordering. (Luck of the birthday boy?) He got the butterscotch pot de creme with pecan brittle and chantilly cream. It was amazing and I don’t even like butterscotch! Very creamy and rich, but without going overboard.

Our server E surprised us with two complimentary glasses of sauterne, in honor of TC’s birthday. So sweet! (Literally and figuratively.) All in all, we both had a great time at Greens. The atmosphere and service were great, and the food was wonderful. Even though the dining room was quite crowded, noise and neighboring conversations were never bothersome. I’d definitely go back again.

Happy birthday TC! xoxo


A Good Year

I’m making a return to food posts today. Don’t you think it’s about time? Yeah, me too. Good thing this one will be chock full of deliciousness.

At the end of September, TC and I celebrated our first anniversary. Yay us! TC suggested that we go to Esin in Danville, where he had dined twice previously and was very impressed with their food. I snarked for one second at the thought of going all the way to Danville, when there are so many great restaurants closer by in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco. But then I realized I didn’t have any better ideas, so I conceded. Plus, the Yelp reviews are pretty great. So that was that, and reservations were made.

First, the menu. I was thoroughly impressed with the selection — I would’ve eaten every single item from the menu. Everything sounded delicious and fresh, and most of the items were local, seasonal, and/or organic. This then presented a dilemma: what should we order? We ended up getting 2 appetizers, a soup, 2 entrees, 2 desserts, and a half bottle of wine. Yes, we were definitely in the mood to celebrate (i.e., pig out)!

perusing the extensive wine list

We narrowed down our appetizer choices to the popcorn shrimp with garlic aioli and the flatbread with fresh figs, caramelized onions, blue cheese, vincotto, and arugula. We also shared a bowl of the mushroom soup. All 3 were fabulous, but the standout dish to me was the popcorn shrimp, which was super fresh and breaded and fried to perfection. After looking at the extensive wine list, I chose a half bottle of cabernet franc from Lang & Reed, which was mellow enough for the appetizers, but stood up nicely to our hearty main courses.

Mushroom soup with a cabernet franc from Lang & Reed. The AMAZING popcorn shrimp in the rear.

Flatbread with figs, caramelized onions, bleu cheese, vincotta and arugula. So tasty.

For our main entrees, TC chose the Painted Hill pot roast, with garlic mashed potatoes and baby root vegetables. He’s gotten it before at Esin and really liked it, and was debating whether or not to try something new. In the end, he decided to go with his old standby, since it’s one of his favorite dishes ever.

Pot roast with mashed potatoes and baby veggies.

For me, I ordered the duck confit with pomegranate, crispy sage, celery root puree, rainbow chard, and pear chutney. I like to order things I wouldn’t cook at home, and this dish definitely fit the bill.

Ooh la la! Duck leg confit!

The duck was delicious, but since I was pretty full from our appetizers, and because I wanted to save room for dessert, I had all of 5 bites and asked for the rest to be boxed up. TC did the same with his pot roast. Then it was on to dessert!

Esin is famous for their bread pudding, but neither of us are bread pudding people, if you know what I mean. So we put caution to the wind. I ordered the apple crumble and TC ordered the lemon meringue pie. While the pie looked very impressive, my apple crumble was superior.

Impressive presentation, but the proportions were off.

Apple crumble. Would've been better if I got it a la mode, but it was darn good nevertheless.

We were completely stuffed! I should mention that the service was superb. Our server was knowledgeable, friendly, and professional. The manager stopped by twice to check on us, and agreed to take a photo (see below), even though he had no idea how to use a DSLR camera. As for the atmosphere, I thought it was good but not great. I liked the spaciousness of it; nothing irks me more than paying a pretty penny for a meal and being seated 2 feet away from the next table, and also when a dining room is so loud, you can hardly carry a conversation. On the other hand, Esin was almost too spacious. They sat us in a giant booth, big enough for six people! I joked that we had enough room to lie down to nap between courses. Also, the restaurant is located in a shopping center, which, even though it was a nicer shopping center, was still a little off-putting. (Yes, I know, snobbishness in full force!) But all in all, it was a very memorable and delicious meal, and hopefully the first in many anniversary dinners to come.



Feelin’ Fancy?

It’s no secret that the Bay Area is blessed with many highly-rated, world-renown restaurants serving fantastic food without a lot of attitude.  To celebrate getting my cast off last month, I decided to treat myself to dinner at Rivoli, often rated as one of the best restaurants in the East Bay (aka Berkeley and Oakland).  It did not disappoint, rivaling my experience at Chez Panisse Cafe.  One bonus: relatively easy reservations.  One negative: walking in with friends M & K, we (median age = 35) were half the age of most of the diners in the restaurant.  Maybe it’s because we were there on a Sunday. Who knows? More importantly: who cares? This was one of the best all-around meals I’ve ever had.

View of the garden from the dining room at Rivoli. Quiet charming.

View of the garden from the dining room at Rivoli. Quite charming!

To start: we ordered a bottle of rosé: Vin Gris of pinot noir by Robert Sinskey, Carneros 2008.  We went with this particular wine because M & K were fans of Sinskey wines.  It turned out to be a great choice — fruity, dry, and stood up well against most of the food.

"Artistic" photo of the cork on the cork dish. Cuz I'm artsy fartsy and stuff.

"Artistic" photo of the cork on the cork dish. Cuz I'm artsy fartsy and stuff.

Vin Gris of pinot noir Robert Sinskey Carneros 2008

Took a photo of the wine, in case I forgot... typical after a few glasses!

For appetizers, we shared two dishes. First, we had the Bellwether Farm ricotta gnocchi with roast pear, fig marmalata, toasted walnuts and fried sage.

Ginormous gnocchi. Not as big as my head though.

Ginormous gnocchi. Not as big as my head though.

The gnocchi were the biggest gnocchi I’ve ever seen, and had a smooth velvety texture.  They were really really good. However. Not to be gauche, but for $13.95 I better get some mind-blowingly awesome gnocchi.  Either that, or serve me more than 3 pieces. This was the only “disappointing” dish the whole meal, and it wasn’t even that disappointing.

Balancing out the minor disappointment was the highlight of the meal (also, one of Rivoli’s signature dishes): portabella mushroom fritters with aïoli, parmesan, arugula and caper vinaigrette. OH MY GOD. This was heavenly… so much so, that I kept raving about them for a full 72 hours afterward.  Perfection. That is all.

You cannot even perceive from this photo how divine the portabello fritters were. Amazing!

You cannot even perceive from this photo how divine the portabella fritters were. Amazing!

Next up: main course. The great thing about going to dinner with good friends and fellow foodies is that you can taste their food without shame.  M ordered the grilled wild Alaskan halibut with mashed potatoes, spring vegetable ragout and chervil butter.  Sometimes, grilled fish ends up too dry, but not this halibut. Tender and flaky, just the way I like it.

Grilled halibut on a bed of yummy.

Grilled halibut on a bed of yummy.

K went for the garlic and parsley tagliarini with braised beef Bolognese, porcini mushrooms, red wine, prosciutto, tomato, toasted breadcrumbs and parmesan. You might ask (as we did), “What is tagliarini?” It’s just a fancy name for a long, ribbon like pasta — wider than linguini but not as wide as fettucini. The sauce had that braised, slow-cooked goodness that was rich and hearty.

Dark and savory pasta.

Hearty and savory pasta. This photo doesn't do this dish justice.

My choice was saffron and fennel risotto with dungeness crab, Prince Edward Island mussels, shrimp butter and salsa verde. I was craving risotto for some reason, and this really hit the spot.  The seafood was so fresh and delicious, and the risotto broth was perfection.

Seafood risotto - perfect.

Seafood risotto - perfect.

Mid-meal and loving every minute of it!

Mid-meal and loving every minute of it!

Even though we were stuffed, we knew we couldn’t leave without ordering dessert.  We ended up sharing the warm chocolate and hazelnut cake with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and orange caramel. It wasn’t terribly unique, but warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream is my definition of the perfect dessert. (Or, one of them anyway!)

Chocolate and hazelnut cake with vanilla ice cream and chocolate and orange sauce.


Happy diners!

Happy diners. Bon appetit!