(Last) Evening in Hayes Valley and SoMa

A visit to Rare Device was at the top of my list – on par with Shane’s trip to Treats – so we headed there after our lunch at Monk’s Kettle. I’ve been internet friends with Rena, one of the owners, since sometime in the early aughts, back when I was a bored customer service wage slave and spent a great deal of time reading fun blogs from internet strangers. (Hmm, sounds familiar.) Anyway, it was wonderful to finally meet Rena and to see the cute SF store – I’d been to the late Brooklyn location, but had missed her on that trip.

Rena asked if we’d been over to Hayes Valley yet – we hadn’t, and were immediately convinced to make it our next stop by her mention of Miette, a sweet candy store a short walk away.

Miette, Hayes Valley
Photo by tastingsf

After careful scrutiny, I came away with a wee bag of salty Dutch licorice and an Idaho Spud, one of the candy bars discussed in Candy Freak, which I recently read and enjoyed. The licorice was fantastic, with a much broader range of flavors and salts than I expected. The Idaho Spud was kind of like a Mounds bar, except with a weird agar-agar texture. Not unpleasant, just odd.

While I was in candy heaven, Shane sought out a bathroom and caffeine at Boulange de Hayes. I found him with an espresso and a few wee macarons – the next big thing in the dessert world, but still a bit of a novelty for us. We both liked the size and crunch of the cookies – we tried coffee, pistachio, and one other that I can’t recall.

I feel I would be remiss in talking about our wanderings in Hayes Valley if I didn’t mention two important things. First, we bought matching backpacks at Timbuk2. $40 each, really sturdy, a great deal! Second, I met an awesome corgi named Zoe while Shane looked at glasses. Zoe was just hung around letting me scratch her ears until someone mentioned cookies, at which point she started doing hilarious pirouettes. You earned that cookie, Zoe.

We had some time to kill before our dinner reservation, so we after an in-depth map consultation, we headed towards City Beer Store. It was a fair walk in blustery weather with our new backpacks strapped on, so we were happy to take a load off with a great beer.

City Beer Cuddles

City Beer Store is tucked away off the beaten path – the sort of place you’d never spot unless you were looking for it – which makes it ideal for a quick drink after work or before an evening engagement. We dug in the cooler – with some help from the bartender – to find another Summer Solstice for me, while Shane debated whether or not to buy a 2 day old bottle of Pliny (he didn’t). We could’ve comfortably hung out and drank for an hour or more, but seafood awaited us!

Anchor & Hope
Photo by magerleagues

Anchor & Hope came highly recommended from Bon Appetit, among others, so we decided that it would be a perfect splurge for our last night in town. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the possibly the most disappointing dining experience we had on our trip.

We were seated right away, and after some time with the menu, our server took our order, suggested wine pairings – and then went home sick. Time passed, and no server or wine. Another server arrived with our entrees: seafood risotto for me, and a seared ahi tuna for Shane. No wine.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a tentative seafood eater. I can do most shellfish, and am working my way up through meaty white fish. I had carefully checked the menu before ordering, and so was surprised to have four sizeable chunks of salmon in my risotto. Salmon! My food kryptonite! I ate one piece, then ate around the rest as it quickly went cold – not how you want to be eating when you’re paying $25+ per plate. Shane enjoyed his tuna, but liked the accompanying sausage and beans even more. Our wine finally arrived, but only after we’d flagged down another server. Honestly, the highlight of the meal for us was the Blue Bottle milkshake and wee maple macaron that we split for dinner, both of which were sweet and delicious without making us feel guilty about the indulgence.

I’ve subsequently been told that Anchor & Hope can be hit or miss – and I received a very apologetic email in response to my complaint – but I still can’t shake the disappointment of that last special meal.

If you go:
Rare Device
1845 Market St (between Laguna & Guerrero)
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 863-3969

Sweet housewares shop and design-y gallery spot on Market.

Boulange de Hayes
500 Hayes St (Hayes & Octavia St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 863-3376

Busier than the Noe Valley location, but excellent macarons!

Miette Confiserie
449 Octavia St (between Linden & Hayes)
San Francisco, CA 94101
(415) 626-6221

Magical candy store with big jars of all manner of sweets.  Don’t even think about your dental bills.

Timbuk2 Store
506 Hayes St (near Hayes & Octavia St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 252-9860

Timbuk2’s first retail location, full of fun bags and lots of heavy stuff with which to test the bags.

City Beer Store
1168 Folsom St (between Hallam & Langton)
San Francisco, CA 94103-6028
(415) 503-1033

Tiny beer counter tucked away on a busy, somewhat industrial-looking street.  Great selection – a few beers on tap, and they’re happy to open anything you buy from the case or the shelves.

Anchor & Hope
83 Minna St (between Shaw Alley & 2nd)
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 501-9100

Highly rated seafood spot downtown, but our experience was meh.  Probably not worth your money, though the lobster rolls looked pretty epic

Hog + Rocks

Back in the day, a very long time before I knew Shane, he was really into electronic music.  I’m not sure if his devotion to electronic music reached the same heights as my devotion to a certain Canadian band, but I do know that he was similarly involved in online communities related to his musical passions, most specifically the IDM mailing list.  His work trip to SF last fall provided the opportunity to finally meet Kiya, one of his friends from the IDM list – as well as a fellow aficionado of fine denim, good food, and good beer.  Calling Kiya a denim aficionado is a bit of an understatement.  He and his wife own amazing denim stores in SF, New York, and, most recently, Los Angeles.  He’s a dangerous – or fantastic – sort of friend to have when you are a gentleman of discriminating denim tastes.  Long story short: we were looking forward to hanging out with Kiya and his wife, and were delighted when they suggested dinner Monday night.

After a full day of walking and driving and photo taking, we were exceedingly happy to be picked up – along with our luggage – by Kiya and Demitra and whisked off in the direction of the Mission.  Our first stop for the night was Zeitgeist, an intense bar featuring the best Bloody Mary in the city.  As we walked in, Kiya told us that the bar goes through more beer than any other bar in the city, which I would believe based on the hipster population density on the patio.  True to form, my Bloody Mary was excellent – though a bit spicy for me – and packed to the brim with snacks:

bloody mary ..
Photo by fatniu

Alcohol blankets in place against the cool SF night, we were off to our next stop: dinner at Hog and Rocks. We were interested in having some good seafood while in SF, and Hog and Rocks specializes in ham and oysters, so it seemed like a perfect spot.  Hog and Rocks has only been open since mid-summer, and I’m guessing this interesting and moderately-priced spot is going to be a lot harder to get into by the time we get back to SF.

We were seated at the bar and directed to three menus: dinner, ham/oysters, and shot/beer. That’s right – shot and a beer. And not in the Irish car bomb sense – more like a pairing of a shot and a beer. All were priced at around $8 – an outstanding price in Ann Arbor, much less in an up-and-coming spot in SF. I had a shot of a very floral gin along with a Sam Adams Light – the ladies’ choice, obviously.  On to dinner, and to a serious consultation of the ham and oyster menu. We decided to order two small plates each, giving us lots of delicious things to sample over the course of the evening. My two came from the ham menu – an Italian speck served with melon, and a Spanish jamon serrano with olive oil, saba, and a nutty mahon cheese. Both were delicious and just the right size for a few bites each. From the main menu:

  • Ham and cheese corn fritters – a little too doughy, but good dipped in a spicy mustard.
  • Sea scallops crudo – didn’t realize that ‘crudo’ meant ‘basically raw’ – the plate wasn’t all that appetizing when it arrived, but the basil and citrus came together nicely with the jiggly scallop.
  • Cast iron octopus – I’d had my cephalopod fill at Flour + Water, but this looked intriguing and apparently tasted even better.
  • Chicken wing confit – the name was enough to convince Kiya that this might be the dinner of his dreams.  The wings were good, but not dream-worthy, though they did feature the house hot sauce.
  • Cavatelli pasta with English peas, egg, and ham – really the stand-out dish for both of us – pure comfort food without the weight you’d expect from a pasta dish.  Along with last night’s succotash, I’m newly convinced that you can make a simple and lovely pasta the centerpiece of a meal without having to feel guilty and/or run a 5K the next morning.

I pocketed the ham menu to see if we can recreate some of the dishes for future snack dinners, though I doubt we’ll be trying the oysters at home.  With plans made for the next day’s Russian River trip, Kiya and Demitra delivered us to our Airbnb room, and we slept the sweet sleep of the tired and full.

If you go:

199 Valencia St (Valencia and Duboce)
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 255-7505

Get a Bloody Mary, if that’s your thing. Demitra also highly recommended the tamales sold by the tamale lady on the patio.

Hog and Rocks
3431 19th St (19th & Mission)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 550-8627

Get a shot and a beer and some really excellent ham.

0208 Bay Scallops with Citrus and Dried Herbs

Recently I requested Mario Batali Simple Italian Food from the public library – and the thoughtful catalog suggested I might also be interested in Andrew Carmellini’s Urban Italian.  Sure, why not?  Carmellini, like Batali, preaches the gospel of stripped-down, unfussy Italian cooking – delicious, rustic stuff that make take all day, or might be thrown together in half an hour.  The book is peppered with personal anecdotes, funny in-phrases from his restaurant, and suggestions about how to make the process of making his recipes even easier.  It was in this spirit that I decided to tackle scallops for the first time ever.

0208 Bay Scallops with Citrus and Dried Herbs

At first blush, the recipe for Bay Scallops with Citrus and Dried Herbs couldn’t be much easier.  Pat the scallops dry, then dust them with a mixture of herbs and flour.  Cook them quickly with a bit of oil, then set aside.  Done and done.  It was the sauce that was a bit fancy – the Cara Cara orange had to be peeled, segmented, and supremed (which, it turns out, is easier to do prior to the peeling and segmenting), which I’d never done before and which I’m glad I noticed in the directions BEFORE I started cooking.  See, I’m learning!  After removing the scallops, the pan is deglazed with orange juice, which is reduced until thin.  Whisk in a bit of butter, add the supremed oranges, and toss the whole lot with the scallops just before serving.  I made a quick bag of edamame, which provided a nice and salty counterpoint to the sweetness of the sauce.  We both really liked the scallops, though Shane would’ve preferred a different sauce.  Next time!  This time, however, I felt pretty bad-ass for producing a totally new dish, a side (albeit a pre-fab one), and a sauce in about half an hour on a weeknight.

Bay Scallops with Citrus and Dried Herbs from Urban Italian