Sunday, August 17, 2008

Something to talk about

I've eaten two foods in the last two weeks that forced me to sign onto this blog. The first, french fries from Magnolia gastropub on Haight. The second, halibut and gazpacho from Cortez.

Magnolia is delightful. It's a real pub, not in the completely dark and wooden English sense, but in the Californian sense. There are big tables and wood pillars, but there are also lots of windows and light. The beer is great, even at 2 pm on a hungover Sunday. Actually, I'm not sure that the people who were actually hung over that Sunday (my twin brothers and their friend) would concur, as one of them didn't even have a beer. But my pale ale was refreshing and alcoholic enough to put a fun spin on the rest of the day.

So, the beer is good and the sandwiches are good. Really good, actually. Their Cubano has spinach on it, which may seem like heresy, but the house made (I assume, as they're too delicious to come from a market) pickles will quell any uprising. What is great at Magnolia, and I mean really great, are the fries. They are crispy, maybe double fried, maybe parboiled in advance of frying to dry them out a bit. And then tossed in parsley. They are officially the best fries I've had in my 27 years.

So, go to Magnolia, have a beer and some fries, and disfrute.

And then, when you're done with the pub atmosphere, head to Cortez for dinner. Cortez makes a regular appearance here, as it should in any diner's playlist. Cortez is consistently interesting, with well-crafted drinks and attentive service. Friday was no different, although our entrees were almost unforgivably late coming out of the kitchen. But then our server comp-ed us dessert and two glasses of Moscato, and all was forgotten.

On to the standouts. I had halibut with a beautiful crust, perched atop skinned cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and croutons. And after the server set down my dish, he poured a moat of perfectly salty gazpacho around the fish. Honestly, I was a little concerned about the hot fish and cold soup and the potential tackiness of it all. But it was so good that it inspired me to make gazpacho this weekend. An inspiration I should have ignored (or at least I should have followed a recipe).

And then there was dessert. Pistachio crusted french toast with pancetta ice cream, washed down with Moscato d'Asti. The french toasts were more like nut crusted beignets and the bacon ice cream was all that it promised to be.

Thank you Cortez, for making me feel like a grown up.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Yogurt, lamb, and rice. Boring, you say? Pedestrian?

No, it's heaven.

This little piece of the sky can be found at Fattoush on Church and 26th St. An unassuming Middle Eastern restaurant, this place holds the recipe for my new favorite dish, Mansaf.

According to Wikipedia, Mansaf is the national dish of Jordan. I'm glad to hear this, as it definitely needs an official designation.

I'm not going to attempt to describe it, except to say that it tastes like three of my favorite things: cheese, rice, and butter. However, Mansaf is truly more that the sum of its parts. Try it and you'll see.

While you're there, have the cold meze platter, full of wonderful spreads and fresh falafel (not cold). The mango laban is good, like a thin lassi. And then order the crazy pink hairy dessert, for fun. It's actually quite delicious (if Nate is not around to make unfavorable comparisons to it).