…and then back to Italy

Another really lovely night of food and conversation but no photos!

While there were many delightful things to look forward to on this trip, one of the highlights for me was getting to have dinner with two of my college friends, Blaze and Heather.  We were all students at Rockford College, but didn’t meet until we went to Regents College in London in the spring of 2000.  As is the case with many college friends and study abroad friends, we had all manner of adventures together, then drifted apart in the years since.  Heather and I have managed quarterly emails, but I hadn’t seen either her or Blaze since leaving Rockford in 2003.

Hadrian's Wall
Tara, me, and Blaze at Hadrian’s wall, spring 2000

After some back and forth about reservations and commutes, we decided to meet for dinner at Flour + Water, which came highly recommended from Shana. Flour + Water is notoriously hard to get into, though, so we hedged our bet with other restaurants in the Mission. Blaze arrived at 5:30 and was told there’d be a two hour wait, so she put our names in and grabbed a table at Shotwell’s, a neighborhood bar a few blocks away.

I know I said that I want Church Key in our neighborhood, but Shotwell’s might be even better. This is a neighborhood place, you guys, in the way that only 100+ year old bars can be. No frills – just a bar on the corner where you might run into a friend while grabbing a quick beer on your way home from work. We did exactly that, and then were joined by Blaze’s husband Michael shortly before rolling over to Flour + Water.

Remember how I complained about waiting in line at Mama’s? Well let me tell you – Flour + Water was worth the wait. Absolutely. Even very hungry Shane agreed on this one.

Once inside Flour + Water, it’s apparent why we experienced a two hour wait. The space is small, and the eaters are happy. And happy, wine-drinking eaters might take two hours for a meal, especially one that came out of this oven:

Photo by *christopher*

We talked. We considered the wine list. We asked questions of the waitress. We settled on a bottle of wine to share, and on amazing things to eat. Shane invoked his extremely useful restaurant request: if I’m only going to eat here once in my life, what should I have? The salsiccia pizza, she said, or the farro farfalle with sweetbreads. So I ordered the former, and Shane got the latter. Worth. The. Wait. Shane’s pasta was exquisite, full of rich and delicate flavors, an entirely different experience than the sweetbreads we had at Restaurant Eve last summer. My pizza was fantastic – thin crust, flavorful sausage, and a curious and pungent drizzle of anchovies.

Pizza 1 and Casual Wine
Photo by portmanteaus

Blaze and Michael both tried items from the antipasti menu – a stuffed squid and some sort of vegetable stew, both of which were passed around the table to our shared delight. I didn’t try Heather’s puttanesca, but it smelled amazingly fishy, the sort of dish that is done best close to the sea. Our wine – a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano – worked well with everything, and we probably could’ve finished a second bottle if we hadn’t already had drinks at Shotwell’s. Besides, there was the matter of dessert:

chocolate budino with espresso-caramel cream & sea salt
Photo by Premshree Pillai

A chocolate budino – halfway between pudding and crème brûlée – with a quenelle of Humphry Slocombe ice cream and a sprinkling of sea salt. So amazing.

Let’s not wait another 10 years to have dinner, friends, but if we do – this meal’s going to be hard to top.

If you go:
Flour + Water
2401 Harrison St. (corner of Harrison & 20th)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 826-7000

Flour + Water takes reservations for less than half of their dining room, so plan in advance or to wait a long time. I promise you won’t regret it.

3349 20th St (corner of Shotwell & 20th)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 648-4104

People like to talk about the food from their back yard as being “deep local”. I’d call Shotwell’s “deep neighborhood”.


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