Top Tastes

Cheese platter at Bar Bambino

Top Tastes is my usual run-down of tastes over the past two weeks. Rather than being a list of all-time favorites (another thing altogether), it’s highlights since my last newsletter, often from new openings. Many don’t make the cut, being a revisit I’ve written about before or not as stand-out as dishes mentioned.


•  Bar Bambino is going to have to get two mentions, the first being one I literally can’t get out of my mind. I’ve always loved their fresh Pea & Mint Bruschette, upset not to see it on the menu anymore (seasonal?) My loss became gain, however, when I tried the Egg, White Truffle Salt & Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano Bruschette ($11.50). A perfectly poached egg with Parmesan shavings gently melting on rustic bread and the taste of white truffle subtle but enveloping. Glorious.

Egg, White Truffle, Parmesan Bruschette

•  Daniel Patterson‘s Cane Rosso hit the Ferry Plaza Building the week of July 13 and I was there to try some initial offerings. Immediately won over by Corn Pane Budino (a piatto del giorno that should be a regular, $9), this fluffy bread pudding with sweet white corn and a decadently crispy top is worth coming back again and again for. I was deflated thereafter to try five other dishes (including porchetta and brisket) that were just ok, some bland, some salty, but none to compare with the budino. It was opening week – here’s to working the kinks out. Love the hand-written list above their counter of farmers produce featured in the dishes.

Corn Budino at Cane Rosso

Corn Budino at Cane Rosso

•  Bar Bambino often offers memorable charcuterie and cheese. Last visit, it was the Vache Agour cheese. Though I loved all three cheeses on my $13 platter, this cow’s milk cheese wowed me with complexity and richness, from Navarre, Spain. Brisbane’s Fresca Italia has been the distributor up till now, but there’s a good chance they won’t continue to carry it and Bambino’s Head Monger, Colin Shaff, told me they’re on their last wheel. Sigh. Trust him to choose something else unique for you, but keep your eye out for this one.


Ryan Farr's Chicken Beer Dog 'zilla style

Ryan Farr's Chicken Beer Dog 'zilla style

•  ‘Dogs are clearly ‘the new black’ and one can’t throw a rock in our fair city without running into a good one (well, not quite, but it’s heading that way). Ryan Farr needs no introduction in the meat world. The hog master himself sits outside Elixir on nice Sunday afternoons (which we’ve been having a lot of) grilling up his beloved hot dogs ($5) and revolving sausages like Chicken Beer (made with Anchor Steam; $5). Follow him on Twitter to see what Sundays he’ll be there. Stakes rise when you order “zilla style“, meaning your dog is topped with kimchi, onions, Ryan’s special “money sauce”, and his snack-to-usurp-all-snacks, Chicharrones. It’s as good as it sounds. Belly up to (and pay at) the bar where you can eat your dog and order from Elixir’s tempting list of Summer cocktails (see Imbiber).  A cocktail and a dog. Now, that’s the life.

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Bacon Caramel Granoturco at Cane Rosso

Bacon Caramel Granoturco at Cane Rosso

•  A snack whereby addictions are formed: Cane Rosso’s Bacon Caramel Granoturco ($5). Selling by the box, get this home-made popcorn, sticky with caramel, savory with one heckofa bacon, to go.

•  Yummy Yummy is just that if you order correctly and one of the best options from their generously portioned, affordable Vietnamese menu is Goi Bo ($7.25): raw beef salad (reminiscent of carpaccio), mixed with shredded cabbage, mint, basil, onion, peanuts, toasted coconut.

•  Happy the lunch from Kitchenette out of a Dogpatch garage. Last visit, I had a good time eating a Dogpatch Millionaire Fried Chicken Sandwich ($9) with garam masala honey, mayo, cabbage, cilantro. Bahn mi meets fried chicken sandwich while watching Slumdog Millionaire.

Duck kimchi dog & beers at Showdogs

Duck kimchi dog & beers at Showdogs

•  I’m developing fond feelings for Showdogs, despite the dodgy, out-of-the-way (unless you’re going to the Warfield or Golden Gate Theater) location. Warm, mostly Irish staff (at least when I’ve been), eight quality draft beers you can get in 4 oz ($2), 8 oz ($3) or 16 oz ($5) portions (I value a place that gives you tasting options), and gratifying range of local dogs ($5-8.50), are all why this could get serious. Cheers for serving a Boudin Noir and a Duck Sausage with kimchi. Lemon Chicken Sausage with fresh arugula is a crowd-pleaser. I love a spicy Louisiana Hot Link and that hefty corn dog. Ditto on crisp, lightly fried (in buttermilk/rice flour) onion rings ($4).

Dogpatch Millionaire Sandwich at Kitchenette

Dogpatch Millionaire


Pal’s Take Away serves sweet-ass sandwiches and salads out of a corner liquor store, which I’ve been enjoying since the week they launched. I took to last week’s Miso-glazed Columbia River Coho Salmon BLT ($7.75) with applewood bacon, heirloom tomato, lettuce, herbed canola mayo. Generous on the salmon, bacon was the right accent.

Peaches & Herb Waffle at Little Skillet

Peaches & Herb Waffle


Peaches and Herb Waffles at Little Skillet (a Summer special; $6): this mini-waffle works as breakfast, snack or lunch as far as I’m concerned. Though toppings change, they tend to be ‘right on’… this one with fresh peaches and maple thyme sour cream.