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Carolyn Tillie

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Posts posted by Carolyn Tillie

  1. Like Peppyre and others, I haven't posted here in ages. 


    But I have many and fond memories of Steve reaching out to me at the onset of eGullet and the friendships that came out of the genesis of this site. 


    His and Jason's vision brought many of us together and it was a privilege to have known him, at least virtually. 


    May he enjoy his Greater Feast with gusto.

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  2. Hey, just wanted to thank Carolyn publicly:

    Tanpopo was GREAT. After the bowl -- cauldron is more like it -- we didn't have any room left for a bento box or sushi. We'll hit those next time.

    Glad you enjoyed yourself! Part of moving to Napa means I no longer have access to these things the way I used to which I will miss when it gets cold and blistery this winter...

  3. Up until last fall, I lived in Japantown....

    For budget and authenticity, look for Takara - which is in the part of the mall right behind the hotel, sort of away from the other restaurants in the main building. That used to be my go-to lunch once or twice a week with a KICK-ASS Bento Box for under $10: three slices of California roll, soup, salad, tempura, and then your choice of an entree (teri chicken, sashimi, pork katsu, etc.) Best deal in town, actually.

    Tanpopo, up in the Buchanan corridor of Japantown has the best and most economical noodles in the city. There is often a line on Saturday nights and it is worth the wait. It is also the only place in town that makes and serves takoyaki.

    Lastly, just across from Tanpopo is Sushi Aka Tombo, the BEST sushi restaurant in the city. His omakase is around $35 and a screaming deal considering the quality of the fish.

  4. Burma Super Star was a real surprise and seemed to be a local hot spot. I needed to find a meal near Golden Gate Park and came across this little restaurant. There was a 40 minute wait in the cold and it was worth every second. Great food, remarkable service.

    Burmese food in general is very popular in the bay area and mostly a rare commodity to many visitors so we locals tend to recommend it a lot. Burma Superstar is the most trendy and expensive of the lot (having received some Food Network coverage), but there are many other excellent, less-expensive options; Mandalay, Larkin Express Deli, Pagan, and more.

    Now that I live in Napa, my sojourns into the city usually always involve getting Burmese food as it is the one ethnic cuisine I really miss eating a lot of...

  5. In Mendocino, the Sanford Inn has a better-than-expected brunch (mostly vegetarian). I am also a fan of Cafe Beaujolais.

    In Healdsburg, you need to have the pork belly sandwich for lunch at Bovolo and don't think of hitting that town without dining at Barn Diva.

  6. Pasta Pomodoro - a California Italian restaurant chain. Their portions are pretty generous, and the bread the put on the table at the beginning of the meal is so tasty you have to be careful not to fill up on it. I remember the Spaghetti Polpette being really good and they have wine in three different sizes of carafe so you can try different ones if you want to, without breaking the bank.

    Hate to tell you this, but Pasta Pomodoro is fairly reviled by the snobby San Franciscans (I'll only admit to having dined there once or twice because it was the only place with open tables in my neighborhood). To the extent that the chain has had to close several of them and only two or three are left within the city. Most of the extant members of the chain are now outside the city; Novato, Redwood City, San Ramon etc...

  7. Well, after doing as much research as I could and stretching our budget, I ended up with a reservation at Coi. It seems some people aren't impressed, but for the most part the restaurant does impress. I was hoping to find a restaurant that was more slanted towards modernist styled cuisine, and from what I can tell most say Coi does it best in the area.

    Thanks for the suggestions.

    I reiterate that I think Attelier Crenn would be a much better choice than Coi considering you are looking for modernist-styled cuisine. Much more and consistent use of molecular techniques and far superior flavor combinations....

  8. I've got a question for those who are familiar with the SF dining scene. My budget will allow me to go out for one nicer, most costly, meal while visiting the area. If you could pick just one restaurant what would it be? I know I can get reservations at Coi, but Quince also looks good. I'm having trouble picking, at the same time if there is somewhere else that I should check out I'm also open to other suggestions.

    I would Attelier Crenn and Saison on the top of my NICE list. I have eaten at Coi twice and walked away both times very unimpressed; more show than substance and those items I remember about the meal were the misses more than the hits.

    I know Benu has its followers -- being a French Laundry alum and all that -- but my meal there was so uninspiring as to give me no compelling reason to return.

  9. When exactly are you coming? No one has mentioned Michael Mina. I have not been there, but you might want to take a look at the website, particularly the bar menu. There is a long happy hour w/discounts and a small-plates menu that sounds very appealing. I could go for duck leg tacos with smoked creme fraiche. It might be a good bet if you are not too hungry after a day of eating.

    Those of us that dine often in San Francisco have not mentioned Michael Mina for a reason; it is atrocious.

    Their flavors are discordant, the setting is loud, and the prices are not worth what they are trying to pull off. Yes, they are always busy -- with tourists who don't know better.

    I have eaten at four different MM restaurants (Dana Point, San Francisco (2), Las Vegas) and have yet to have a satisfactory experience at any one of them. I advise people to avoid MM at all costs - there are infinitely better places to eat in San Francisco.

  10. OK, so French Laundry was a bust. I called for three days straight, 5 phones blazing each day and all I could get was a wait list. What a crock, nothing is worth that amount of work. Anyway, here's what I managed otherwise:

    Tartine Bakery for 5:00 Bread




    Zuni Cafe

    How's that list sound for dinners? Lunch will be whatever we happen to stumble into or picnics at the wineries.

    Some of the local favorites for lunch include the Ahi Burger at Gott's, Cook's in St. Helena, the Oxbow Market (you can start with a selection of meats from Fatted Calf and finish up with Hog Island oysters), and Bistro Sabor.

    At Bouchon, I heartily recommend the saffron moules frittes.

  11. Another classic SF, hole-in-the-wall dive that I just love is Swan Oyster Depot. Normally I stay far away from SF tourist attractions, but I make an exception here. Open for lunch only (until 5pm) and no credit cards; expect to wait 45 minutes on the sidewalk to get one of their 10 or so stools at the counter. But once you get a seat, it is worth it. Oysters, clams, shrimp, fish, crab all prepared before your eyes by the 4-5 staff behind the counter. Oh, and the best clam chowder I ever had. Last time I went, they had fresh sea urchin. For something like $10, the guy took one of the live sea urchins, cracked it open, extracted the 5 "tongues" of roe out, cleaned out the top of the shell to use as a tray, and served to me on a bed of crushed ice. Probably the best, freshest uni I ever had. The decor, stools and staff probably hasn't changed in 50 years, but the with fresh seafood like that they don't need to.

    Good call on Swan's - but with the caveat that it is not a SF tourist attraction. 90% of those people in line are locals... Most tourists don't have the patience to want to wait in the line but we who live here know the value of that neighborhood gem.

  12. I ate at Coi a week after they opened and again a little less than a year ago -- in both cases, I was completely underwhelmed and almost disappointed.

    The true hot-spots in San Francisco right now are Attelier Crenn and Saison for over-the-top, exceptional cuisine. Dining Room at the Ritz has taken a huge dive and it could take a long time for it to retain it's former glory.

    A lot of people are jazzed about Benu from former French Laundry chef, Corey Lee, but my stint there was almost as regrettable as my trip to Coi.

    Concur with Annachan's recommendation for Kappou Gomi; no bento boxes, no nigiri sushi, and no Benihana-like presentations; just incredibly authentic and unusual-outside-Japan cuisine.

    Another thing to consider: San Francisco boasts an unusual number of Burmese restaurants; an intriguing cuisine that has Indian, Chinese, and Southeast Asian cuisine. I'd recommend Burma Superstar for a great lunch stop (the Gin Dok salad is my personal favorite, but others seem to like the Tea Leaf salad -- but I'm a ginger fan).

    A trip to San Francisco is nothing without the following: A Mission burrito, the Ferry Plaza on Saturday mornings (Boccalone meats, Acme bread, Frog Hollow pastries, Boulette Larder's cannele, Cowgirl Creamery cheese, Hog Island oysters, Recchiuti chocolates, and Pepples donuts), Tartine bakery, Humphrey Slocombe and/or BiRite ice cream, an Irish coffee at the Buena Vista, and cocktails at Bourbon and Branch.

    My go-to restaurants:



    Baker & Banker


    Attelier Crenn


    Sushi Aka Tombo

    Kiss Sushi

    Sam's Grill (over Tadich for old-world, San Francisco seafood)


    Bar Crudo

  13. Paula Wolfert's Slow Mediterranean cookbook has a great recipe for grilled toasts topped with avocado, slivers of scallions, and balsamic-marinated sardines or anchovies.

    I make them all the time for parties and people are astonished how great it tastes!

  14. SolBar is owned and operated by the folks at Meadowood and is probably one of the better choices, having garnered a Michelin star.

    I have friends who swear by JoLe, but I have yet to drive up-valley to head try it.

    I have also just begun to hear rumors about a restaurant called Lakehouse that might be worth investigating.

    Consider that St. Helena is only 10 to 15 minutes away and there you have options like Terra, Cook, the CIA and Farmstead.

  15. Heavens Dog/Slanted Door - Same owner, but Heavens Dog has more emphasis on cocktails and importantly is a lot easier to get a seat there than the insanely popular Slanted Door. Get Shanghai dumplings & a few cocktails and all is well..

    I'm a dissenter Heaves Dog DOES have fabulous cocktails but singularly uninspiring food making it not worth the trip for me. Far too many great places for cocktails in this city with better eats! The Sidecar at Bix, for example, paired with the incomparable steak tartare...

  16. If you're at the Ferry Bldg. why not go to Boulevard.

    For me, that answer would be, "If you were at the Ferry Building on a Saturday morning, WHY BOTHER going to Boulevard?"

    There is such a plethora of great food to be had on a Saturday visit with all the stalls and eateries, that a place like Boulevard would be a waste unless you were not into wandering and noshing, preferring a more formal sit-down.

  17. I was going to chime in with the Crab Cooker as well; a stalwart of the area, I am in my late 40s and remember eating there as a kid with fond memories and still return once a year when I visit friends.

  18. The Wharf is a tourist area so it really isn't known for great food. McCormick & Kuletos has average food at pretty high prices, and great views.

    Read this.

    And read it again.

    One more time.

    In general, the food at the Wharf is EXCEPTIONALLY mediocre and to be avoided at all costs.

  19. Going back through your list, skip McCormick & Kuletos = CHAIN/FAIL! If you want good seafood, consider Tadich, Anchor & Hope, or Farallon.

    Completely agree that Saison will be a great exclamation point to your trip, although you might find it similar to French Laundry (although I would almost take Saison over the Laundry). Here is my write-up on Bottega, since you asked. Bauer wrote it up this week in the Chron and raved about it.

    Lastly, do you realize that Bar Tartine is going through a whole menu re-do? Chef Nick Balla -- who just left Nombe -- is completely changing over its French theme to Hungarian. Personally, I have been following Nick's career for a couple of years and can't wait to see what he does, but what you have been reading about Bar Tartine will definitely not be the same when you come in May.

  20. Mike - the secret is to make appointments at smaller, boutique wineries. And stay off Highway 29; that is where the bus-loads of tourists are located. You will do much better driving up Silverado Trail or (my preference) is up into the mountains and making appointments for a one-on-one experience and better wine:

    Howell Mountain - Ladera (I used to work there), O'Shaughnessy, Outpost, Neal...

    Spring Mountain - Smith-Madrone, Pride, Terra Valentine...

    Mt. Veeder - Hess, Robert Craig, Mt. Veeder Winery...

    Have you decided where to eat yet? Tyler Florence's new Rotisserie & Wine has a pretty fabulous selection of potted meats, Terra has a newly-opened boutique cocktail bar, Bouchon's mussels are to die-for.

  21. maLO, I suggest you avoid Fifth Floor. It has gone through chef after chef and recently, when I stopped in just for a cocktail, it was filled with poorly-dressed hipsters who were too loud and the cocktail menu was less than interesting.

    For cocktails in the city you want to consider Bourbon & Branch (a MUST for the cocktail person; reservations required), Alembic (good food, too!), Pisco, or Gitane (another place with great food). I'm still a Campton Place detractor; it is too staid and there are much better places in the city (Saison, Frances, Prospect, and all the aforementioned cocktail places).

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