Thursday, July 19, 2012

SF: Salito & Chez Panisse


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Scoma is a very prominent restaurant in Sausalito. Built over the water and situated at the waterfront in the town, the pastel-blue restaurant cannot be missed. 

On my walk in Sausalito, I met a lady who was gardening. She lived in a beautiful house perched over a slope with a view of the sea. I had had a big breakfast and couldn't eat when I walked by Scoma but after my walk I was tired and wanted to sit down for a light lunch so I asked her where's a good place to eat. The lady said that Scoma was for tourists and for better food, I should go to Salito. Her husband especially liked the ciopino, an Italian seafood stew.

I also met another lady who didn't have a good word about the government and said of the Republicans and Democrats: "Put a bag over their heads and they are all the same." If I knew her better, I'd tell her to travel outside of the US more. I'm sure she'll go back a lot more appreciative. But I hear her too. I know I've been gushing about the US but I am aware that it's because I visited two of their best cities and stayed in middle class neighborhoods. Still, North Korea anyone?

I walked up and down the street in Sausalito and couldn't find Salito so I ended up having a large hamburger for lunch. When CY came to pick me up about 4 pm, I mentioned Salito to her and with a car, it was easy to find the restaurant. But I wanted to eat dinner later at a famous SF restaurant so we decided to just have a small bite at Salito, just to check the place out, and then head to the other restaurant.

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This was sourdough bread in a cast iron kettle, only USD0.99 and it was the size of my head. Nearly. It was good, with a flavorful crust and a springy soft inside.

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The clam chowder was good.

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CY and friend were happy that Saulito served beignets, deep-fried French doughnut made of choux pastry. They said the best beignets are found in a restaurant in New Orleans.

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Beignets are yum even without ice cream.

We didn't order a lot but what we had was good. However, I don't think Salito is any less touristy than Scoma because the other customers seemed to be from out of town too.

It's fun when CY is crazy like me because right after this, we drove to Berkeley to eat at Chez Panisse, a restaurant started by Alice Waters in 1971. Waters is an advocate of organic food and her cooking style is simple using the best and the freshest ingredients. Using the finest ingredients sourced from the best producers and farmers also means that these ingredients come at a high price. Chez Panisse was named best restaurant in the US by Gourmet magazine in 2001, and one of the world's top 50 restaurants from 2002 to 2008. The restaurant has turned out dozens of top chefs and food people such as David Lebovitz and Jeremiah Tower and many many more. It is Chez Panisse and Alice Waters who are credited with the Californian cuisine, a style of cooking that emphasizes the use of fresh local ingredients with a strong attention to presentation. I was disappointed to learn that the restaurant doesn't grow anymore veggies in the garden behind it. I guess with the success, the garden couldn't meet the demand of the restaurant.

We arrived about 6 pm just when the restaurant was about to open but we didn't have any reservations so we went upstairs to the cafe instead. Reservations for the restaurant are very much required. The section closer to the kitchen was already full (at 6 pm!) so we were seated nearer to the area above the entrance, which was not so comfortable because the tables were too close to each other.

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A bunya bunya tree grows in between Chez Panisse and Cesar, a tapas bar which was packed even that early in the evening. I just found out that Cesar is owned by Chez Panisse alumni.

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The decor is rather dated.

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One of Chez Panisse' signature desserts is a fruit bowl which on that day was tangerines, kumquats and Medjool dates.

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CY ordered 'Cannard Farm rocket salad with cumin, beets (they came in yellow and pink), almonds and sherry vinegrette for USD9.50. When it came, she was surprised that arugula was rocket.

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Grilled yellowtail jack with spinach, artichokes, snap peas and kumquat salsa, USD26 was light and done just nice. 

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Bellwether Farm ricotta and nettle canneloni with wild mushrooms baked in wood oven, USD20. Excellent. 

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I was undecided between the rhubarb galette with creme fraiche, USD10 and the ginger cake with kumquat and creme chantilly and I finally chose the rhubarb galette. While it was quite good--rhubarb is rhubarb--, it was so thin that it didn't make much impression.

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On the way down, we passed the restaurant and it was already beginning to fill with customers.

Other than the unimpressive rhubarb galette, we enjoyed the meal. It was simple, light and delicious. The menu changes daily according to the seasonal produces. There were only 6 choices of main and the prices were very reasonable for a restaurant of such standing. The menu du jour (set meal of the day) of a salad, a main and a dessert was USD30, excluding a service charge of 17%. The restaurant downstairs is considered expensive, with set menus of USD100 per person. I should make a reservation next time. The only thing I feel that needed to improve was the decor because the cafe and the restaurant looked rather dated. But then, maybe that's how they want to keep it, the way it was when it opened 41 years ago.

5 comments:

YuinTing said...

I must be quite fortunate because I've tried the beignets in New Orleans. It was many years ago but I remember my friend brought my hubby and I to a place that was famous for its beignets. And I somehow still remember its taste...vaguely :-)

laubao said...

Hi Terri!!
Thank you for voting me at Lavazza Competition!! :)
Your pictures are wonderful!! And I really like the picture with all those sauces!!
Hugs!
Laura

Chocolate, Cookies & Candies said...

Terri, you're making me really hungry. I can't get over the variety of food available in the US. BTW, you and Yi will be featured in my Pass It Forward series tomorrow. Check the space....

terri@adailyobsession said...

yuinting: did u like the beignets? i've never eaten one until this trip:)

laubao: u r welcome! hugs too lauraxoxo

ccc: oh my goodness...thanx...u're too kind and i'm not the overachiever you said i am but we'll pretend i am:))

YuinTing said...

Hi Terri, yes, the beignet was yummy & I like it ~~
But so far I've only eaten once :-)

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