Savory Morsels

The Culinary Adventures of a California Girl

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

***March 24, 2007: Primavera***

Behind the Ferry Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94111
Saturday 8am-2pm
A long line or a packed dining room pretty reliably signals good food. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions for tourist traps, over hyped spots, and cheap finds. Primavera, however, is not one of those exceptions. Primavera’s line at the Saturday morning Ferry Plaza farmers’ market is typically only outdone by the Blue Bottle fanatics waiting for their caffeine jolt.
I learned about Primavera from a friend of mine who is an ex-Chez Panisse chef and frequently braves the line in order to get what he claims ‘may be the best Mexican breakfast in the Bay Area’. Primavera’s breakfasts are definitely my favorite, but I also highly recommend their chi chi Rodriguez drink and the tamales which change to reflect the seasons. Today I made it to the farmers’ market too late for breakfast, but definitely just in time for lunch.
I ordered the taco al pastor which came with piles of perfectly spicy pork, slices of pineapple, radishes, chunky salsa, and a squeeze of lime. Obviously a very Californian interpretation of Mexican food, but I was so happy with the fresh, handmade tortilla and inventive, flavorful fillings that I didn’t have time to worry about the taco’s lack of authenticity. Clearly my fellow farmers’ market visitors who also waited patiently at Primavera didn’t have time to worry either.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

***March 19, 2007: Salt House***

Salt House
2 Shaw Aly
San Francisco, CA 94105
Salt House has been waiting patiently on my Need to Try list since I read of its opening a few months ago. This past Tuesday afternoon, I finally got the chance to check it out. Upon first entering the restaurant and surveying the exposed brick walls and large portions, I was reminded of Salt House’s older sibling, Town Hall. However, Salt House definitely has a more youthful atmosphere; the rustic décor and Acme baguettes served on brown paper contrast with a cluster of contemporary light fixtures hanging above the bar and unusual touches such as water carafes marked with a heart and skull symbol. It seems to be aiming for what I can only describe as modern rustic.
Unless you are absolutely starving, for lunch I would highly recommend splitting a starter. My table decided to share the tuna and hamachi tartar salad. I was impressed with the presentation and simple (but obviously very fresh) ingredients. The dish tasted light and clean and was substantially brightened by the sliced apple artfully displayed on top. In fact, although the tartar salad was tossed in a zesty vinaigrette, it might have been slightly bland without the apple.
For our main courses we ordered the gruyere and fontina grilled cheese with sunchoke soup, the duck confit, and the Dungeness crab appetizer. All of the mains looked wonderful (and were almost entirely eaten despite the large portions). I had the Dungeness crab which was served on top of a pile of shredded lettuce and accented with fried artichoke hearts and an olive tapanade. Although the lettuce was soggy from being drenched in far too much dressing, I was very pleased with my entree. The ample mound of crab was delicious and juicy, the artichoke hearts were lightly fried and perfectly crispy, and the olives complimented the dish well provided a nice bite.
We ended our meal with an unusual rhubarb dessert that was nothing like I had expected. Although the flavors were great separately, the cubes of rhubarb mixed in custard and topped with bits of granola combined to produce a strange textural experience. The pastry chef may want to think about simplifying his desserts a bit. Overall, it was really enjoyable lunch. There are still a number of other restaurants on my Need to Try list, but when I get a chance I would definitely be interested in returning to Salt House. While I have heard complaints that during prime hours it can get quite noisy and crowded, that is a price I am willing to pay for a fun scene and good food!