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Blue Plate, San Francisco, California, Tasted on June 8, 2006  It's been awhile since we've written about specific meals and some readers have written in saying they miss the write-ups. There are still a bunch of entries left in our Restaurant Love series, but we ignore our readers at our own peril. We're doing some traveling. San Francisco and Las Vegas to be exact, and fortunately we found a few places worth writing about. As we've discussed in the past, people can be afraid to recommend restaurants for me to eat at. Luckily, my friend Allie's sister bravely recommended Blue Plate in San Francisco. As Alex and I were headed to that are anyway, Blue Plate became our next destination.

Maybe it's not fair, but the first three words that came to mind as we walked into the restaurant were: hip, local, and pierced. Atmosphere isn't super important to me anyway, so anyone offended by my trite description should move on. I'm saving my energy for describing the food. We ordered a slew of dishes so we could really get a sense of the place.

(Apologies in advance for some of the pictures being blurry. The light was super low. I decided to publish the bad ones anyway so you could get a sense of what the food looked like.)

First up was Sweet Corn Chowder with Basil Oil. It was thinner than I expected but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact it's unique texture made it stand out. It's super crisp clean fresh corn flavor made it enjoyable. Up next were Duck Rillettes on Toast with Cherries, Pinenuts, and Savory. Hearty, clean flavors, rustic. Alex thought he tasted cinnamon. Excellent.

Bar food up next with Spicy Chicken Wings with Buttermilk-Thyme Dressing. First class buffalo wings. Simple. Unadorned. Just right. After the wings we also got the Balsamic Braised Smoked Bacon with Cornmeal Fried Oysters, Easter Egg Radish, and Herb Salad. The bacon was super smokey and delicious. The thicks slabs were quite nice. The oysters were fine but unnecessary and frankly... distracting. I know this may be unfair to say, but honestly, whenever I see too much stuff on a plate I think it's a sign of insecurity. The bacon was fine on its own. In fact, it was superlative. Why the oysters needed to be there I have no idea.

Round three began with English Pea Ravioli with English Peas, Sweet Corn, Oyster Mushrooms, and Piccolo Fino Basil. The pea ravioli represented everything I like about great pasta - a flavorful sauce with a good ration to pasta. It was light and fresh. My only complaint, a touch underseasoned. In addition to the ravioli we got the Blue Plate Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Blue Lake Green Beans. Alex liked it. I thought it was too crumbly and didn't have enough flavor. I will stipulate (your honor) to the fact that the bacon on top was a nice addition. We couldn't resist ordering a side of Macaroni and Drunken Spanish Goat Cheese. Blue Plate's Mac and Cheese was excellent. The super crispy top contributed a quite a bit. Nice.

We were in a pretty good mood by this point so dessert seemed like a good idea. Specifically, the super melty Chocolate Baby Cake with Cold Foamy Sauce and the Pink Grapefruit Sorbet with Ginger Cookies and Candied Ginger were both delicious.

Here's the thing about Blue Plate. The restaurant has a coherence and an aesthetic that is about both the decor, the service, the menu, and the food. Hip, local, down-to-earth. American neighborhood food made well, and brought slightly upscale. Refined but not unreachable. Most people who go out to eat really like descriptions like the one above. The words are comforting to them because they need a particular pitch to make them feel that they are eating at a restaurant that represents their particular world view. It's branding. While I'm a big fan of branding in general, I'll admit it has less impact on me when it comes to food. I do recognize when it's done well. And Blue Plate has a great "feel".

That said, I like Blue Plate because the food was yummy. I'm excited to go back. See... it is possible to recommend a restaurant that I'll enjoy. ; )











Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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