Last Friday Jack surprised me with a celebratory dinner at Quince to toast my upcoming move to a new position at work. I had been to Quince once back in 2007 when it was located in Pacific Heights (that site eventually became Baker and Banker, and now Octavia). In 2009, chef/owner Michael Tusk moved Quince to its current location in Jackson Square, and began serving a more formal prix fixe tasting menu. Soon afterwards, he transformed the adjoining space into an Italian restaurant named Cotogna (which means “quince” in Italian), which serves a similar menu to the one previously served by the old Quince.
Quince is no stranger to accolades, and it currently possesses two Michelin stars. From the moment we walked into the restaurant we were impressed by the quality of service, ambiance, and food that made up our dining experience. The dining room has a welcoming and elegant decor, with warm floor to ceiling curtains and exposed brick walls. Quince is definitely a “special occasions” spot.
Jack and I both started with cocktails, and they were gorgeous and delicious. Jack had a whiskey-based drink which had gold leaf in it, and mine was a refreshing gin-based cocktail that was equally beautiful. They were both well-balanced and delightful.
I was excited to try the restaurant FnB when I was in Scottsdale for a girls’ weekend a couple weeks ago. FnB prides itself on its “globally accented seasonal menus,” and even offers a predominantly local wine list featuring Arizona wines. Chef Charleen Badman was nominated for the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southwest in 2014 and 2015, and the restaurant itself has won numerous awards since it first opened in 2009.
The restaurant is located inside the charming Craftsman Court in downtown Scottsdale. It was warm and cozy, with unique art on the walls. Our waiter encouraged us to order all of our dishes to share as a table, which was a great way to sample much of what the restaurant has to offer. Many of the dishes were hits, though there were a few disappointments. But the menu was creative and fun, and full of fresh local produce.
Zuni Café is a San Francisco institution. Established in 1987 and named after a Native American tribe, Zuni continues to impress with its top notch food and classy ambiance. With several James Beard awards under its belt, Zuni serves a strong, tight menu – I’ve never been disappointed by a dish I’ve had there. And its south Hayes Valley location on Market Street makes it a perfect spot for a special dinner before a night out on the town.
Edit 4/22/17: Unfortunately Scopa closed its doors on 4/8/17. You can read about the decision here. Fortunately its sister restaurant Campo Fina still serves many of Scopa’s beloved dishes, but we will miss this charming, intimate restaurant.
One of the great perks of being in a wine club is that it’s an excuse to visit wine country on a regular basis. Jack and I joined the Williams Selyem wine club several years ago, and since then we’ve made it up to Healdsburg for at least a day trip a couple of times a year. On one of these early visits, on a very hot fall day, a few of our friends introduced us to Scopa, an Italian restaurant right on the square. We had a group of six (the largest group they can accommodate) and I remember sitting at their only outdoor table, sweating profusely. We felt like we were in Italy! Our whole table shared a variety of appetizers, pastas, and pizzas. Everything was delicious, but what I remember most were the incredibly tender and flavorful meatballs and the perfectly cooked home-made pasta dishes.
Since that visit, Scopa has been our go-to restaurant when we visit Healdsburg. On this visit we started with the Sicilian Green Olives. These are the plump, meaty, bright green Castelvetrano olives from Siciliy (which always seem a little more delicious in a restaurant than when I buy them at the grocery store). These (along with oil-cured black olives) are my favorite olives. We enjoyed them with some house-made Ciabatta bread with Dry Creek extra virgin olive oil. We also each had a glass of sparkling wine, as we were celebrating Jack’s birthday.
I love me a good home cooked meal, especially on the food-centric holiday of Thanksgiving. But sometimes it’s fun to mix it up and eat Thanksgiving dinner out at a restaurant. I’ve done this a couple times over the years, and there’s something to be said about a Thanksgiving dinner without the muss and fuss. If you happen to be visiting San Francisco, there are plenty of restaurants from which to choose on this delicious holiday; here are a few that I’ve been wanting to try:
San Francisco Restaurants Serving Thanksgiving Dinner (2015):
1300 on Fillmore: www.1300fillmore.com 1300 Fillmore St. (415) 771-7100. “Thanksgiving Dinner with all the trimmings:” Three course prix fixe with optional sides ($9 each); $69 per person, $35 for children 12 years and younger. 20% gratuity added, 4% SF employer mandate, $25 corkage (750mL bottle). Menu.
Chou Chou Bistro: www.chouchoubistro.com 400 Dewey Blvd. (415) 242-0960. Three course prix fixe French dinner, optional sides ($7.95 each); $55.95 per person, $30.95 set menu for children. 18% gratuity added. Menu.
First Crush Restaurant & Wine Bar:www.firstcrush.com 101 Cyril Magnin. (415) 982-7874. Three course prix fixe Thanksgiving dinner; $65 per person, $35 wine pairing. 20% service charge. Menu.
RN74:www.michaelmina.net 301 Mission St. (415) 543-7474. Three course prix fixe dinner; $85 per guest, optional caviar doughnut ($50 supplement), optional Alba white truffle raviolo ($75 supplement). Menu.
Have you eaten Thanksgiving Dinner out at a restaurant? Tell me about your experience.
When we were wine tasting at A. Rafanelli this last Sunday, Dave Rafanelli recommended that Jack and I check out Valette for dinner. Valette is a new restaurant (opened in 2015) that moved into the spot once occupied by the restaurant Zin, right near the square in downtown Healdsburg.
The name “Zin” rang a bell, and we quickly recognized the name from our recent trip to Todos Santos, Mexico. We stayed at Rancho Pescadero and took a cooking class from the married executive chef duo Jeff and Susan Mall. During our cooking class (which was amazing – one word: mole), Jeff and Susan told us that they had once owned Zin in Healdsburg. They closed the restaurant last year and started a new, more relaxed life on the Baja Peninsula.
So, in the spot that once housed Zin, we found Valette. It is a beautiful space – very warm and inviting, with high end details, and rustic touches. House-cured meats can be seen through a window into the kitchen. I never ate at Zin, so I don’t know what it used to look like, but I was very impressed by the space and overall decor of Valette.
Last night I took my husband Jack to Rich Table for his birthday. We had both eaten there several times before, but he had yet to try the tasting menu. In general, we really enjoyed the food, ambiance, and service; there were a few misses on the menu, but overall it was a really good dinner. I will highlight my favorites here.
We opted for the Chef’s Picks tasting menu, which included seven courses. For most of the courses, they brought us each different items; if you don’t mind sharing with your dinner partner, this is a great way to try a lot of different items on the menu. We did not do the wine pairings, as we had brought a special bottle of wine with us. Rich Table has a full bar, so we each started with a cocktail. I had the Berber Coast (Old Tom gin, lemon, honey, and Ras el hangout, which is a spice mix from North Africa). It was very balanced: not too sweet, with a nice tang from the spices. Jack had a rye whiskey cocktail called the Dolomite, which we had fun pronouncing.