Funny how sometimes things that you haven’t thought about in a long time come back around and are ever present? Nopa is back on my radar this week and it reminds me that I didn’t include anything of theirs in my list. Last night I was eating there, sharing in the wonder of Nopa (I’ll write a post about it fully later because it is my opinion that Nopa epitomizes everything that dining in San Francisco should be) and realized that there is a clear entry for my list, in addition to today’s others. With that, I give you……
Nopa Pork Chop: How you been there? Have you done that? It’s obvious that Nopa has mastered this signature piece of swine from the confidence exuded by the waitstaff when you order. These people are foodies, exhibited by the way our server and I bored the hell of our my dinner companions last night talking about the innovation of Mission Burger, the reopening of Quince and how he must try Wexler’s soon. The pork itself is delicately fatty, so you are not gnawing but rather melting. The overall flavor reminds me of a heritage product, like something you might have eaten a 100 years ago. Very earthy, very brined, very tasty. There is a slight glaze and only a little puddle of jus. That’s all they need to make this chop tops.
Grand Pu Bah Khao Soi: If you read my blog, you know that I love this [LINK]. I even hosted a special event for 50 of you to try it [LINK]. But don’t take my word. I am going to out my friend, David Steele, the owner of Flour + Water, who claims “this could be the best tasting thing I ever ate”. There are some detractors. One of my readers grabbed me at the event and said “this isn’t like Khao Soi in Thailand. It’s really good, but not authentic”. While I agree it isn’t an exact copy of the roadside fare in Thailand, I actually think it is better. The broth and braised meats are a pow pow punch. The pickled veggies, wet noodles, dry noodles and roasted chili paste give it a little boom boom. So take it away Black Eyed Peas……
Pizzaiolo Pizza Margherita: It’s official. I’ve said it. I am declaring Pizzaiolo’s margherita the best pizza in the bay. The competition is so freaking close that it’s hard to do this, but I have to have a pizza on the list. You won’t be disappointed by Pizzeria Delfina, Tony’s, Ideale, A16, Bistro Aix, Pizza Nostra and Picco which are the other serious contenders, but Charlie gets the prize. First, it’s the wood. I like-a me some smokey flavor. The sauce and cheese are spot on and the rest of the menu is orgasmic. He also does his non-margherita pizzas as good (Delfina, Picco) or better (all the rest) than anybody. If I had to choose one place, my friends, this is it.
Bakesale Betty’s Fried Chicken Sandwich: While we’re in the East Bay (on the same block, in fact) I’m throwing in a last minute nod to BB. There’s a reason the lines are so long every day for lunch. Part of it is the over-crammed assembly line folly that creates the energy of the spot. But most of it is because they are kicking out some tasty crispy-fried chicken breasts. Slapping them on an homemade roll, piling on a mass of awesome cole-slaw and doing it all messy. They’ll often throw you a treat while you are waiting and you just feel like you’re part of something good. Don’t miss the brisket sandwich either, that adds horseradish and potato chips to the pile.
French Laundry Mac and Cheese: One could easily find a dozen things to add to a best-of list from the FL. They are iconic. Every meal is an experience (though last time I went, it was a mixed one). But the thing that gets me each time, and has emerged as the signature dish, is chef Keller’s deconstruction of macaroni and cheese. The truth is that this deconstruction is actually butter-poached Maine lobster with a creamy lobster broth and mascarpone-enriched orzo pasta. I think we can all agree that pulling this off takes some serious chops. To me it is near perfection in flavor, texture and presentation.
737 Bridgeway Hamburgers: While we’re out of town, let’s jump over to Sausalito. I might be alone on an island with this one but my favorite hamburger in the Bay Area is at a little rotisserie grill in a narrow shack of a burger joint. 737 Bridgeway’s only sign says “Hamburger”. You can smell the cooking down the street and across the block. Tourists line up on their day trips from San Francisco. It seems they have heard about this place, but most of us haven’t. They used to have a sign that read: “How Not to Make a Hamburger” that would detail out the fast food process and then “How to Make a Hamburger” describing their process, which is ultra-fresh ground chuck, fresh sponge-bread roll, rotisserie fire grill, turning the meat once, salt and pepper seasoning on the outside, lappi cheese and the requisite toppings. They also serve crinkle-cut fries, which I think is a perfect foil to the meat. All I can say is that you should try it. Everyone has their own opinion about burgers and it’s likely only some of you will agree. But for me, this is the place.
Last one tomorrow…….