State Bird Provisions: It’s Hot

My Food Companion (FC) moved back to New York earlier this year. On his recent visit to San Francisco, I had to suggest a new place to dine. It had to be good. It had to be trendy. It had to be the “it” place. I had something in mind. State Bird Provisions was on my hit list. In passing, three friends had mentioned the restaurant in the past few months. All I needed now was a reservation. One of my friends told me she knew one of the investors of the restaurant. After a few texts back and forth, I got my Thursday night reservation.

We arrived early to State Bird Provisions in the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco. If you don’t know where that is, it’s a couple of blocks away from the Fillmore Theater. It is a small restaurant. There was barely an area to wait, just a narrow path which was not conducive to the food cart that had to be rolled by. More on that later. There was a bartender who was pouring wine, so we got a couple of glasses. I was quite surprised that the pours were light. My understanding is that from a bottle, you can get four to five pours. If I were to estimate how many pours the bartender would have gotten from her pours, I would say seven. A quick tip is to buy the bottle.

We got seated at about the time of our reservation. The waitress came by to explain the concept of the restaurant in that there will be a variety of small plates coming out “dim sum style” that you can choose from. Some of them were brought out in the food carts I mentioned earlier. In addition, you could get other items off the menu that are cooked to order. One of the best things about dim sum is that you could eat immediately. Altogether we had nine items, six that passed us by, two that we ordered, and one we received on the house because the waitress forgot to put our pancake order in.

I won’t go through each of the dishes we had. I will just name the three I would absolutely have again on a return visit.

The garlic bread with burrata was a savory delight. My FC devoured most of it.

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The sweet corn & garlic chive “shortstack” with mt. tam were the pancakes that took awhile. It was worth the wait and I’m tempted to recreate this one.

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The beef cheek & oxtail curry, bok choy, french crepes were all mine because my FC doesn’t eat meat. This was a delicious “melt in your mouth” stew that I took a doggie bag for because I wanted to make sure I could have some dessert.

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Before dessert our waitress brought us complimentary ‘world peace’ peanut muscovado milk. I would never have ordered it, but now that I had a shot of this, I would have it again.

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The stand out dessert was the one that my FC ordered. It was the chocolate mint ice cream sandwich with blackberries. Delicious!

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I found the food at State Bird Provisions to be unique and inventive. I think the dim sum concept also works because I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a dish brought to another table and want it because it looks so good. Congratulations to State Bird Provisions! Earlier this month, Bon Appetit Magazine named them Restaurant of the Year! Reservations may be even harder to come by.

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Outside Lands: Standout Food

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Last week was Outside Lands at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Outside Lands is a three day Music and Art Festival. For short I will refer to it as OSL. The event was in its fifth year and it was my first time. For the most part, I tend to avoid crowds of 60,000. I was lucky to have a friend who hooked me up with an all access pass.

There were over one hundred acts (music and comedy) playing on six stages at OSL. Although I love music, I knew more food vendors than musical acts. I had a great time listening to music, but I was very impressed by the organization of the food vendors. I couldn’t believe Golden Gate Park united about 75 food carts, trucks, and stations. That’s not counting the wine and beer. On my first day there, I spent a lot of time scoping out the food vendors.

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The main stage was located at Polo Fields and restaurants throughout the Bay Area had food stalls on the right and left of the stage. After a lot of debate including whether I should have fried chicken and waffles from Little Skillet, I decided to give Homeroom a try. I’ve heard about this restaurant serving up mac & cheese in the Temescal neighborhood in Oakland, but haven’t had a chance to try it out. They were serving up Gilroy garlic mac & cheese. It had a subtle amount of garlic with rich creamy cheesy flavors. I enjoyed it and it was perfect on this cold summer day in San Francisco. Now I have to remember when I am in the mood for mac & cheese, there is a place close by called Homeroom that can make it perfectly.

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There were additional sections of the park that had food and drinks paving the way to other music stages, a few of them with food trucks. You could get items such as tacos, pizzas, cupcakes, or even fried green tomatoes. I tasted one of my friend’s fried green tomatoes from Those Fabulous Frickle Brothers and they were really good. The wood fired oven pizza offered by Del Popolo were one of the most popular food trucks on site. They have the most beautiful food truck and the pizzas coming out looked amazing. Their twitter feed indicated they planned on serving 1,000 pizzas for each of the 3 days.

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Chef Michael Minna was representing as well. He sponsored an area called Outside Lambs. Pop-ups selling lamb poutine and gyros were available. The name is cute, but pork or cattle would be a little more up my alley.

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Choco Lands was a cutely decorated section in the park where you could find sweets. Among some of the treats were cupcakes, cookies, popcorn, and chocolate bars. I got a bag of chocolate covered caramel corn from the vendor Delessio. It was such a large bag that I put it in a ziplock and I’m still enjoying it. I got mine with peanuts and when I’m eating it, I feel like I am having fancy Cracker Jacks.

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There was also Wine Lands and Beer Lands. Food was definitely highlighted at OSL and not only did they have something for everyone, they had enough for everyone.

“Outside Lands featured an expanded palette of food and beverage options that made eating and drinking at the festival just as much fun as listening and dancing.” – Rolling Stone

Aunt Mary’s Serves Up Breakfast

During the episode of Master Chef when the contestants had to cook up eggs four different ways – poached, soft boiled, sunny side fried, and an omelet, I wanted to be a part of that. I’m pretty good at cooking up breakfast food, so I don’t tend to go out to eat breakfast very often. When I do, I am looking for something special.

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Aunt Mary’s in the Temescal area of Oakland is pretty special. Even Guy Fieri thinks so.
He was at Aunt Mary’s a while back to shoot Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. A friend of mine and I recently paid Aunt Mary a visit. We waited about twenty minutes before we were seated, an unusually short wait according to yelp. The time went by quick as we were able to help ourselves to coffee.

Many things on the menu looked good. My friend and I decided to share a few things. We had the Pain Perdue, which is a Cajun style French toast made with baguettes soaked in a whiskey laced custard served with white wine fresh fruit compote. This dish is baked to order and takes 20 minutes. It seems like it might be a really heavy dish and really sweet. It was soft and light and had the perfect amount of sweetness. It was delicious.

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The other main dish we ordered was the Southern Bubble and Squeak which are potato-Southern greens cakes with pot likker gravy, topped with eggs, with a biscuit, and a side of greens. I liked this a lot more than my friend. It was pure comfort melting in my mouth. They must call it pot likker gravy because you will want to lick it up.

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In addition, we ordered two sides. We had a side of sausage. The added fennel in the pork was nice. My friend liked it a lot and reminded her of eating a Chinese pork dish her mom makes.

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The other side was grits with cheddar cheese. I actually like my grits to be on the runny side with a poached egg next to it. It was tasty, but I’m not convinced that this is something I will ever be a big fan of.

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Aunt Mary’s is a great place for breakfast and I will be back to see her when I don’t feel like cooking up my own.

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The Big Oyster

My BFF and I started the Oakland Readers Book Club eleven years ago. We recently read “The Big Oyster,” by Mark Kurlansky. “The Big Oyster” is a historical look at oysters in New York. It was my BFF’s book choice. I wasn’t surprised because oysters are one of her favorite foods.

If you ever wanted to know something about oysters, “The Big Oyster” is likely to have your answer. Did you know oysters are the only food that is eaten alive? Did you know that in the 1800’s, New York produced more than a billion oysters a year? There was a time oysters were more relevant than the hot dog!

Our book club always meets over a meal. This meal would be a potluck to include oysters on the half shell. My BFF picked them up from the Hog Island Oyster stand in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. The farm is actually located in Tomales Bay.

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She had a great conversation with the manager George about “The Big Oyster.” He sold her some Bluepoint Oysters that would be great for our meeting because they originate in the Atlantic which is what we read about. He also threw in some Pacific oysters and Kumamoto Oysters so we could do a side by side comparison.

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Big thanks to my BFF’s BF for shucking the oysters. They were all ready when we arrived. The largest ones on the platter were the Pacific, the medium ones were the Bluepoint, and the smallest ones were the Kumamoto. My favorite oyster has always been the Kumamoto, partly because of the size. I get intimidated by eating large raw oysters.

The oysters were all very fresh and like the book said “like eating the Ocean.” I was able to distinguish that the Bluepoint Oysters were sweeter than the other two. I still like Kumamoto Oysters the best, but discovered that I like the Atlantic more than the Pacific.

This was a great book club meeting because I learned a lot and tried something new. Thanks Oakland Readers and thanks JWo for capturing these photos.

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