More San Francisco Treats
January 31, 2004

Quick update because I've been getting loads of very nice email from people wondering if I'm dead from a perforated something.

The reading went well. Very, very well, in fact. In addition to some close friends, I also had a great core group of people from TWoP there to support me, sit in the front, and laugh at everything.

Pre-show, we met up at Papa Toby's for snacks and drinks. The food was excellent -- Dr. Mathra and I shared a toasted baguette with warm, oozy brie served with paper thin slices of green apple and red onion. I think there were briny capers bouncing around as well. I had a nice glass of a Côtes du Rhone (and this is one of those places where they fill your glass up to the tip-top, very nice) but also noticed that the wine menu featured one of Kermit Lynch's wines. I think I'll have to try that next time. We figured out that Papa Toby's Revolutionary Cafe in the Mission is a brother to Momi Toby's Revolutionary Cafe on Laguna off of Hayes -- so near to us! Here's a cool fact: Momi Toby's is owned by Terry Chastain and Fernando Velazquez, and Velazquez's grandmother (Momi Toby) was chef to Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution.

Even closer to us on Fillmore is our new favorite restaurant that serves amazing fish. It's the Alamo Square Seafood Grill. Last Thursday Dr. Mathra and I checked it out -- it's adorable. It's got the whole French bistro vibe going on, borne out by the fact that the server and host are also both French. They have an amazingly cheap prix fixe at $12.50 and a way of ordering fish à la carte that's simplicity itself. For main courses, you have your choice of four fish (salmon, snapper, swordfish, tuna), four ways of preparation (grilled, sautéed, poached, blackened) and five sauces (beurre blanc, béarnaise, mousseline with lime confit, provençale, and beurre maître). Dr. Mathra had grilled salmon provençale and I had grilled snapper with beurre blanc. The provençale is a reduction of tomatoes, capers, black olives, and onions -- it was tart and very much like a confit. Incredibly delicious. My grilled snapper with luscious beurre blanc was firm, mild and a lot of fish for $13.50.

Oh! I forgot our appetizers! I tried out the classic mussels steamed with white wine and was in heaven. Dr. Mathra sampled their crab cakes -- which you can also order as a main. These crab cakes were packed with more crab meat than any New England crab cakes I've experienced. Often you get more chopped peppers, onions, and breadcrumbs than you do crabmeat. Not so here. The crabcakes were served with a red pepper aioli and a relish of roasted corn and fennel. Incredible. I'd order that for an entrée, definitely.

Aside from the fish, they have a chicken breast dish, a vegetarian entrée, and a steak, but clearly they are all about the fresh seafood. I'm dying to try their seafood stew. It's served with rouille croutons, so it must be their take on bouillabaisse. Their appetizer menu is quite extensive and has some tasty salads (including Niçoise) that are begging to be sampled.

For dessert, Dr. Mathra tasted their award-winning crème caramel, which came with a simply amazing crème anglaise and caramel sauce. I had a sticky, smoky tarte tatin à la mode. Both were winners.

We had a velvety Côtes du Rhone that was nice, smooth and very reasonably priced for restaurant wine. We noticed that you can bring in your own wine, and on Wednesdays they wave the $12.00 corkage fee. The host and hostess were very solicitous and made sure our wine glasses were never empty. When we left the host said, "See you next week!" which was nice and neighborly of him. We're definitely going back for more fish.

I'm also collating all these wonderful brussels sprouts recipes and I can't wait to try them -- thank you all those who sent stuff in. I'll report back soon.

Gotta git me a bushel of brussels.

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