Top Tastes

The fabulous new Baker & Banker
The lovely new Baker & Banker

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), it’s highlights since my last newsletter, often from new openings. Many don’t make the cut, being a revisit written about before or simply not as stand-out as dishes mentioned.


Delarosa's satisfying Margherita Pizza
Delarosa’s satisfying Margherita Pizza

•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.

Beef Spiedini w/ grilled carrots & onions at Delarosa
Beef Spiedini w/ grilled carrots & onions at Delarosa

• 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.


• I’ve always liked Split Pea Seduction’s gourmet crostatas, basically flaky, puff pastry-like tarts, but don’t find myself on this stretch of 6th Street often enough to try a crostata of the day (get ’em to go as there’s not much ambiance in the ‘cafe’). A recent rainy day was brightened by a straight-out-of-the-oven Roasted Yam/Applewood Bacon Crostata ($3.99 for half; $6.99 for whole) with an egg on top ($1.25 extra).

Semolina Gnocchi with Duck Confit at Frances
Semolina Gnocchi with Duck Confit & Cavolo Nero at Frances

• 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…

Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta at RN74
Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta at RN74

• 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.

Cup & Cakes Bakery
Cup & Cakes Bakery

• 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.