Top Tastes is my usual run-down of tastes over the past two weeks. Rather than a list of all-time favorites (another thing altogether), its highlights since my last newsletter, often from new openings. Many dont make the cut, being a revisit written about before or simply not as stand-out as dishes mentioned.
When eating at Beretta and Starbelly owners’ new Delarosa in the Marina, I experienced thoughtful, responsive service, pleasing artisan cocktail and beer selection, and food as satisfyingly crowd-pleasing as Beretta (despite a more sterile environment). Tasty fennel pizza is the same as at Beretta. Antipasti, panini, insalate and spiedinis vary, but a basic Margherita pizza ($11) topped with fresh burrata (+$3), drizzled with fine olive oil, exemplifies delicious simplicity.
I was impressed by my first visit to brand new Baker and Banker. The space’s re-do (formerly Quince, and prior to that the Meetinghouse), with Edison lightbulbs, dark brown walls and booths, gives it a modern, warm elegance. Husband/wife chef/pastry chef team, Jeff Banker and Lori Baker, get it right with each dish, while service is informed and gently engaging. A straightforward Cauliflower Soup ($8.75), flavorful with Vadouvan curry and the crunch of almonds, is cream-like, but with fresh cauliflower rather than cream. Perfect on a chilly Winter’s night.
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Visiting much anticipated Frances tucked away in the Castro, was certainly a lovely experience, if not yet as ‘stand out’ to me as other recent openings. I thought Applewood-Smoked Bacon Beignets ($6.50) would make me crazy (in a good way), and they were tasty, if a little understated. I preferred Duck Confit Semolina Gnocchi ($12) with expertly braised cavalo nero greens. I ordered it somewhat grudgingly since I’ve had the gnocchi/duck confit combo before (wonderfully done, I might add). But it was the best dish of the night: light, fluffy gnocchi, tender confit. Creamed Winter Greens ($6) – another highlight; a simple but tastes-like-home side.
Maybe it’s seasonally appropriate that many favorites the past two weeks have been sweets…
Pastry chef, Lori Baker, created a pitch-perfect Pumpkin Cobbler ($8) at Baker and Banker; piping hot with soft pumpkin, a crunchy cobbler top and candied pumpkin seed ice cream. Too bad it’s a seasonal dessert. I can’t wait for her bakery to open in the same space.
If you haven’t been to RN74 yet, you really should, and lunch is an ideal time to visit (see my review after opening month) with lower prices but still a bustling weekday crowd. It’s ever a joy to order from their unbelievable wine list (by the taste or glass). Recently, I managed to squeeze in dessert after a lush lunch: tart Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta ($9) with candied apples, graham cracker and cinnamon ice cream. I adore expertly-made panna cotta (if not done right, it tastes like one of my least favorites: pudding). This one IS done right: silky, flavorful, even improved by the ice cream and apples.
I was weary of the cupcake “craze” years ago… and it continues. Of course, I love a good one, and Cups and Cakes Bakery, with their brand new SoMa shop (formerly a catering company), renews my pleasure by breathing life into an overdone trend. Flavors are robust, and also offering them in small sizes is just plain smart as I can try more that way. They do Red Velvet right, but Christmas is sweeter with their boozy Hot Buttered Rum and minty, bright (like a Junior Mint) Grasshopper. I crave more.