Bacon Beignets with Chive Crème Fraiche
Panisse Frites (Crispy Chickpea Fritters) with Meyer Lemon Aioli
Chicken Liver Mousse (with roasted bing cherries, pistachio, frisée and grilled levain)
Watson Farm Lamb (with summer squash an baked ricotta)
Bittersweet Chocolate Pot de Crème (with roasted bing cherries and vino visciole)
Blue Bottle Coffee
For my first entry, I am going to dedicate it to one of my favorite restaurants: Frances.
Not only did Frances make it onto my favorite list, it has been awarded a prestigious Michelin Star for 2011.
It all began with my girlfriend blackberry messaging me on a Friday night asking if I wanted to head to Frances for dinner at 7:15 the next day. I laughed. "You are not going to get reservations the day before." She had actually cleverly made these reservations a couple of months ago but had forgotten about them. So clad in our Louboutins and Brian Atwoods, we headed to Frances for dinner.
Drinks were easy. Earthy, easy to drink red wine, blended by Frances' beverage director Paul and Marco Cappelli from Miraflores Winery, is only $1 per ounce. Served in an 18 oz pitcher, it can easily be shared by two. We started with the Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets as well as the Panisse Fites. The bacon beignets are savory little pillows with bits of smoky bacon dipped in a maple crème fraîche with chive. The Panisse Frites are just something else. Who would have thought chickpea can be this good? Fried to a slight crisp on the outside and creamy and savory on the inside, the crispy chickpea fritters are simply irresistible when dipped in the meyer lemon aioli. You say you will take just one more bite and it turns into just another fritter.
We then shared Dungeness Crab Salad and Green Garlic Stuffed Chicken. Little gem lettuce, kumquats, and meaty lumps of dungeness crab in an avocado vinaigrette. It's fresh and delightful. I didn't care for the overwhelming taste of kumquat, especially since they left the peel on so I pushed those aside. The stuffed chicken was the most tender, moist, flavorful chicken yet. I kept marveling over how anyone can make chicken this tender, this moist, and this flavorful. It was served with sautéed gem lettuce and English peas, but the secret ingredient is the thick, I mean thick, cut of smoky bacon that just makes every bite of the chicken even better. We ended the meal with Brown Sugar Semifreddo and Humphry Slocombe's Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. The semi-frozen custrard was light in flavors and rich in texture, which turns out to be a great combination.
One successful dinner later, I quickly made reservations again for an encore and the second time was nothing less than a hit again.
Patrick was phenomenal in taking care of us when we arrived. They were running just a tad late but he started us off with a couple of Market Shots that Patrick made himself and engaged us in conversations. Slightly sweet and slightly tart, last night's Market Shot was a golden peach, blackberry, pandan citrus shrub, and agave wine. We were fortunate to sit with our previous waiter and his animated personality kept me smiling throughout dinner. In the Ridel wine glasses we poured glass after glass of Frances' house wine, a blend of petite sirah and zinfandel.
Panisse frites with the meyer lemon aioli were as amazing as the last time. I knew I was coming back for these irresistible crispy chickpea fritters. The warm bacon beignets dipped in chive crème fraiche were soft and fluffy with wafts of bacon aroma and subtle flavors. Writing about it makes me really want one for breakfast.
The chicken liver mousse with roasted bing cherries, pistachio, frisée and grilled levain was our favorite of the night. (Yes, even more than the Panisse Frites!) The roasted bing cherries added just a hint of sweetness to the creamy and velvety chicken liver mousse. Nothing could have made this dish even better than the char flavors of the grilled levain. We uttered a satisfying "that was amazing" when we thoroughly wiped down the mousse and balsamic reduction with our bread.
The Watson Farm lamb with summer squash and baked ricotta is a lamb lover's dream. Though not a lamb lover, I appreciated the lamb done in three different ways on the dish. Slices of lamb were seared to somewhere between a medium rare and a medium. Braised lamb meat is wrapped in a crepe, slightly dry but went well with the baked ricotta. Next to it was a small piece of tender lamb rib wrapped by a crispy outer layer.
Bittersweet chocolate pot de crème with roasted bing cherries and vino visciole was the creamiest confection. The subtly sweet but strong chocolate flavors pleasantly surprised me. I wish I had order one just for myself. Finishing it all off with a cup of Blue Bottle coffee served in their own carafe was the perfect way to end this quintessential San Francisco meal where the freshest seasonal ingredients meet the artful craft of Chef Melissa Perello.