Tout Sweet Patisserie – San Francisco, CA

Food Adventures, San Francisco

My apologies for the delay of this post! Life has been absolutely crazy for us, but we’re back to blogging. I can’t believe it’s been exactly one month today since Tout Sweet had their official grand opening.

Smack in the middle of a Macy’s department store

We were so excited when we heard that Yigit Pura of Top Chef: Just Desserts was finally opening up his dream bakery in his hometown of San Francisco the weekend after Labor Day — the same weekend we were planning to be in SF for the Late Night Alumni show at Ruby Skye and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival. Call it destiny! Tout Sweet Patisserie is situated on the third floor of the Macys in Union Square and is just the most adorable storefront. Cute IKEA-fied cafe area, beautiful display of plated desserts, piles of pastries, colorful rows of macarons, and of course, very friendly staff working behind the counter.

This photo does not do justice to the alluring display.

We wanted to try everything but ended up with 5. It was our first stop of the day, so what follows was technically… the breakfast of champions.

Florence – citrus vanilla panna cotta with grapefruit Campari gelée

The one that stood out to me was the Florence — a citrus vanilla panna cotta topped with a grapefruit Campari gelee. It turned out to be Martin’s favorite – so much so that we ordered a second one before we left! The panna cotta was creamy and not too sweet, and the gelée added a slightly bitter note. Wonderful flavor profile!

Petit Tout Sweet – a layered chocolate cake with fluffy chocolate mousse

We also got a slice of their namesake cake – the Petit Tout Sweet, a flourless chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse and topped with a dark chocolate glaze. The layers were decadent and light at the same time, and the glaze… oh the glaze… It had a uniquely velvety texture and we both agreed it was our favorite part of the cake.

Chocolate chip cookie sprinkled with sea salt

Martin inquired the girl behind the counter about whether they had a basic chocolate chip cookie. If that’s your thing, try the one here at Tout Sweet — it’s topped with fleur de sel and has generous chunks of quality chocolate. Our only regret was not asking for it warmed up so we could enjoy that fresh-out-of-the-oven experience.

St. Honore – three profiteroles glazed with caramel

Very pleased with our first round of selections and not yet ready to leave, we asked for a suggestion for a light and interesting dessert. They immediately suggested the St. Honore, essentially a cluster of three profiteroles sitting atop a triangle of puff pastry, dipped in hardened caramel filled with vanilla custard and served with vanilla Chantilly creme. We were given very good advice also – don’t be afraid to dive in! Taking a bite of a whole cream puff and its base of phyllo yielded a wonderful crunch enhanced by the crystallized cracking glaze. The gold flakes were an interesting touch but really didn’t add anything in terms of flavor.

Colorful macaron display

Our fifth dessert that morning was a second Florence. Yup. It was that good. However, we brought home some very colorful macarons (my favorite was the MeMe – the cookie part was a swirl of hot pink and neon green!). Unfortunately we can’t speak to the flavors of the macarons as we gifted them to our friends and family as souvenirs.

Nutella brioche – I should have gotten more than just one!

I also grabbed a lone nutella brioche that had called out to me as soon as we walked in. Despite a long journey being jostled around in my backpack as we trekked up Lombard Street (yes, on foot), it survived the flight back to LA and still tasted delicious! It’s like a chocolate croissant taken to the next level. Plus, it’s adorably round in shape and really, chocolate hazelnut spread makes everything better!

We went the second morning after they opened, missing the crowd of media and paparazzi (yay!) as well as the presence of the owner Yigit (boo!). While the prices were a bit steep (especially if you order as much as we did!), we felt the quality and the flavors were well worth it. Definitely a go-to spot for the next time we return to San Francisco! If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do — they’ve had a month now to iron out the kinks, plus I hear they’ve build upon their menu and now feature savory brunch-y items as well.

By the way, take a look at the back of the staff shirts if you see someone turn around :) We had a “you know you’re nerds when…” moment when we were surprised and excited to see sucrose!

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Check out Tout Sweet Patisserie: toutsweetsf.com

Macy’s Union Square
170 O’Farrell St, 3 Fl
San Francisco, CA 94102

See their Yelp reviews here or follow them on Twitter @toutsweetsf!

Day 3b: Morgan Hill – Maurizio’s

Food Adventures, San Francisco

The evening of Day 3 – dinner at Maurizio’s, or as we affectionately nicknamed it, Italian Take #2.

A glimpse into the kitchen through the pass

After an exhausting drive in traffic crossing the Bay Bridge, we finally arrived in Morgan Hill where we planned to stay over before continuing our journey down the coast. We used our trusty Yelp app to figure out where to go for dinner and decided to check out Maurizio’s. Located just off the quaint little downtown area, Maurizio’s features an enticing menu of authentic Italian dishes with warm, rustic decor and a hole-in-the-wall vibe.

Warm table bread and roasted garlic oil

Our friendly server Daniel guided us to our entree selections and brought us delicious fresh baked bread accompanied by roasted garlic in olive oil to nosh on. The bread was warm and fluffy and the roasted garlic reminded us of the bagna cauda we had at The Stinking Rose in Beverly Hills. A wonderful start to our meal!

Pan Seared Scallops over Risotto ai Funghi

Having read a tip that the daily specials here are awesome, Martin selected the Fish of the Day – seared scallops served over a bed of mushroom risotto. The scallops were pan seared and then finished in the oven, yielding a beautiful caramelized crust and a pale opaque center. The risotto was good and hearty and I liked how the parmesan did not overpower the mushrooms. The dish was garnished with arugula that had been drizzled with a white wine vinaigrette, but it may have been a bit heavy on the dressing because the taste of alcohol was present in almost every bite! (Not necessarily a bad thing…)

Orecchiette alla Pugliese

I chose the Orecchiette alla Pugliese — “ear” shaped pasta with Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, and fresh tomato. The pasta was cooked to a perfect al dente and the broccoli rabe with its bitterness contrasted nicely with the sweet ripe tomatoes and caramelized onions. The Italian sausage is juicy and so flavorful! It is not made in-house, but it is sourced from a local meat shop / sausage maker by Maurizio himself. I really enjoyed how satisfying and well-balanced my dish was. (By the way, someone at the restaurant may want to proofread some of the menu descriptions for interesting spelling mistakes….)

We devoured every last bite!

We both polished off our dishes completely. But as they say, there’s always room for dessert!

Tiramisu

After the interesting tiramisu the night before, we were hoping for a more traditional style here at Maurizio’s and they certainly delivered. Snagging one of the last slices of the popular dessert, we were surprised to learn that they do not soak the lady fingers in a rum-espresso mixture but rather a non-alcoholic rum extract of sorts to make it kid-friendly. The marscapone had a bit of heavy cream whipped in for added fluffiness and it was delicate and not too sweet, just the way I like it. The perfect way to end the meal!

Daniel was so nice to answer our many questions about the dishes and about the chef-owner Maurizio. He proudly mentioned that the chef comes in every day during prep to taste the components of each dish and to demonstrate how to plate them. They do make some fresh pasta; the papparadelle and the fettuccine are both made in-house. Even though the orecchiette and sausage in my dish were made elsewhere, Daniel reassured me that Maurizio is a discerning chef who only chooses the best for his restaurant, and you can definitely taste the quality of the ingredients in the dishes served here!

We don’t find ourselves in Morgan Hill very often, but if we’re ever back in town, I know where we’ll be eating! Make sure you come early before we snag the last slice(s) of tiramisu :)

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Check out Maurizio’s: mauriziosrestaurant.com

25 E 1st St
Morgan Hill, CA 95037

See their Yelp reviews here!

Day 3a: Drake’s Bay Oyster Company

Food Adventures, San Francisco

Rise and shine! We woke up pretty early to make the trek out to the farthest part of California that sticks out into the Pacific Ocean. The windy, narrow roads were very reminiscent of the wilderness leading up to Camp River Glen, the site of Unicamp where we volunteered as undergrads at UCLA. A good 15 minutes into Inverness, California, we noticed a heavy fog blanketing the surrounding forest. The air smelled more and more of salt as we approached Drake’s Bay. It was very serene at 8am, way before any other visitors made their way out there. It was difficult to navigate by GPS because of the trees and abrupt end to the road we were traveling on but we made it!

Once over the hill, there seemed just to be a few flimsy shacks huddled together. “This was it?” we thought at first. Little did we know the reasoning behind why the buildings were in such disrepair until we met Ginny but we’ll get to this later. We pulled up to a marginally sturdier shed that served as the storefront for the small oyster company.

Once we stepped inside, we were greeted by a genial Ginny who commented about us being birds of an early nature. Our attention diverted to the various posters and displays of oysters decorating the walls. Most importantly, we noticed that there was an adequate amount of oysters for us to try, the lack of which was an irrational fear when one is going to an oyster farm.

After a self-guided tour of the farm, which we realized consisted heavily of weathered shacks and makeshift equipment, we were able to finally try the oysters. Ginny was kind enough to teach us how to shuck the oysters, hinge-first and separate the adductor muscle to loosen the oyster. We were also lucky enough to snag a Drake’s Bay Oyster Company oyster knife to help us in our endeavor of 12 smalls and 3 mediums. The few large oysters available were about the size of my face, literally. We spent a good hour shucking and eating the oysters before we headed out. The oysters were super fresh and succulent. Alice liked the smalls as they were brinier and more “ocean” tasting, while I preferred the buttery flavor and texture of the mediums. This was a great high-protein indulgence for our first meal of the day!

As food bloggers, we try to shed light on the food we consume. Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm is no different from any other producer but it just happened they are facing a very difficult time brought upon by investigations conducted by the National Park Service. The National Park Service claims that the operations of the oyster farm causes disturbances to the wildlife and ecosystem which they apparently have scientific evidence to back that claim. We have done our fair share of homework into this matter and we must say that we support Drake’s Bay Oyster Company in preserving and maintaining their operations as it does not seem to do any harm to the surround ecosystem. An independent research study found that the research done by the National Park Service was a stretch and could not prove a causal link between, specifically, oyster farming and harbor seals among other disturbances to wildlife. The battle between the NPS and Drake’s Bay Oyster Company has been well covered in the media in the past year.

Drake’s Bay Oyster Company invites everyone to visit and see for themselves the transparency in which they run their operations and business. We think it’s quite a shame that the livelihood of the family that owns Drake’s Bay Oyster Company, the many workers, and the surrounding communities who enjoy the oysters produced here are under attack by the National Park Service based in inconclusive and manipulated scientific data. For the time being, Drake’s Bay Oyster Company is currently closed pending an unrelated investigation and may close permanently as early as December 2012 depending on the decisions made by the U.S. Department of the Interior. We hope you, our readers, will have the opportunity to pay them a visit before it’s too late.

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Check out Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm: drakesbayoyster.com

17171 Sir Francis Drake Blvd
Inverness, CA 94937

See their Yelp reviews here!

Day Nine: San Francisco – Dim Sum Tour

Food Adventures, San Francisco

On our last day of our One Week, Three Cities trip and for our first meal(s) of 2012, we decided to spend the afternoon in Chinatown and have ourselves a dim sum tour. What we hadn’t anticipated was the lack of seating. While there are plenty restaurants that serve the sit-down dim sum brunch we’re used to, a lot of the more popular dim sum places are a grab-and-go sort of joint. Lines out the door and into the sidewalk, steamer baskets stacked high with different types of dumplings and goodies on each level, yelling across the counter in a mix of Mandarin and broken English. It’s definitely an experience!

As our bus approached Chinatown, the signs became increasingly flecked with Chinese characters and the sights and smells became increasingly more reminiscent of home. Conducting your own dim sum tour is simple — just follow your nose and eyes… and bring cash.

Look at all those dumplings and buns! I want all of them!

We had jotted down a few key places to visit and hit Good Mong Kok first. Known for their dim sum staples, we decided to pick up a selection of our go-to dim sum items: har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings with a clear, sticky wrapper), sticky rice steamed in banana leaves, and cha siu pao (barbecue pork filled buns). Unsure of how to proceed, we stood right out on the sidewalk and started munching on the har gow. Yummy morsels with a juicy filling and soft, translucent wrapper, these really hit the spot.

A whole tray of har gow!

We took a gamble and decided to continue on our search for more dim sum (and hopefully a place to sit and dig in!), so off we went toward Wing Sing Dim Sum. Here we found more of the same basics, including dumplings in many varieties, but what caught our eyes were the xia chang fun (steamed rice noodles with shrimp and sweet soy sauce) and dahn tat (egg custard tarts). And just as noteworthy, here we found a place to sit! Wing Sing has some tables available in the back for self-seating; on the way we also spotted ads for some killer lunch specials ($5 for a plate of rice or noodles and sides? Awesome!). The verdict? The sticky rice had a good texture (not mushy nor undercooked) but it was a bit bland. The cha siu pao, which many people seemed to recommend, are good but the filling was a bit too sweet for my liking. The xia chang fun, our favorite dim sum dish, from Wing Sing looked good in its clear clam-shell packaging with the sweet soy sauce in a little container on the side. It would have tasted even better if it were warm. I guess bringing it home to a microwave would have been one advantage of doing take-out dim sum as the locals do. The dahn tat custard middle was delicious but the crust was dense, more like a pie crust rather than the flakier phyllo crusts we prefer. All in all though, our brunch only cost us about $7 total, so we can’t complain!

Dim Sum Staple: Xia Chang Fun (Steamed Rice Noodle Sheets with Shrimp and Sweet Soy Sauce)

A dim sum brunch would not be complete for us without some delicious boba, so we stopped by Ten Ren TeaStation. Note: the term “boba” for those little tapioca balls varies by region. I tried a few Yelp App queries for “bubble tea” and “pearl tea” after “boba” generated few results. Ten Ren is a popular brand of loose leaf and bagged teas, sold in grocery stores and in many retail locations, so I love stopping by TeaStation when I can. I had their sweetened iced black tea with grass jelly and Martin had their iced black milk tea with boba. The grass jelly was a great texture and reminded me of the cans of suong xao that I used to buy at the Vietnamese markets back home.

The rest of our day was spent walking off our dumpling-filled morning, window-shopping for Hello Kitty hats, and making our way toward Haight-Ashbury. By the time we hopped on the BART to catch our flight out of SFO, we were glad to be heading home. Our One Week, Three Cities adventure was full of fun and delicious noms. We hope our blog series will help some of you plan a future trip to Seattle, Portland, and/or San Francisco, or at least give you a chance to live vicariously through our photos and food adventures. Stay tuned as we return to posting recipes and local hotspots!

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Check out Good Mong Kok:

1039 Stockton St
(between Washington St & Jackson St)
San Francisco, CA 94108

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Wing Sing Dim Sum:

1125 Stockton St
(between Jackson St & Pacific Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Ten Ren TeaStation:

949 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94108

See their Yelp reviews here.

Day Eight: San Francisco – The Codmother and Our Last Meal of 2011

Food Adventures, San Francisco

A short walk away from Fisherman’s Wharf, the Codmother is the an eye-catcher of a food truck with its noticeable pink-puckered lips of a cod. Once “inside”, you’ll meet the very friendly, British-accented owner, Suzanne who greets both regulars and tourist lookers alike.

We shared an order of the fish and chips not because we were skeptical but because we were planning to eat several more times at other places. The fish was great, fried in batter seasoned with salt and black pepper, a simple addition something a lot of fish and chip places tend to overlook. The fish was neither super moist that it melts in your mouth nor overcooked and dry but maintained just a firm enough texture expected from deep fried fish filets. Our only criticism is that the chips were just average and could use some more crunch to them – perhaps a thinner cut version or longer frying time.

Fish and Chips – seasoned with salt and pepper.

With a small menu, the Codmother is able to make whatever they offer taste very good.

We also got a free order of deep fried Oreos from a Yelp! check-in. Thumbs up already for having deep fried Oreos on the menu which is something you can only get either in a theme park or at a fair. The Oreos went into the fryer as sandwich cookies one would buy at the supermarket but emerged as a delicious piece of enveloped cookies and cream that is reminiscent of a tadpole emerging from the water (or rather vat of oil). The batter used for these tasted a lot better than those at a fair where it’s produced for the masses and the oil reused day after day for everything. Suzanne used only a specific deep fryer for just the Oreos so the deep-fried delights wouldn’t pick up the fishy flavor from the fish and potato-ey smell of the chips. These efforts may seem simple but makes a huge difference in keeping flavors separate from each other.

Looks like tadpoles don’t they? Yum!

The water is actually frying oil!

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Check out The Codmother Fish and Chips:

2824 Jones St
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

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We waited until the very last minute to book NYE dinner and that was a BAD idea. You would think we would know better but after having eating so much throughout the entire trip, we could barely think about more food nearing the end of our trip. Luckily we made a few calls and managed to find an open table at Le Charm, a quaint French bistro a few blocks from Market St. Although this was a semi-random find, it did not disappoint.

As expected, Le Charm was PACKED but we finally got seated at 9:45 pm, a little more than an hour before their closing.

Trust me the little suckers are hiding in there!

Continuing on with the  escargot in a parsley garlic butter in an escargot dish. It was delicious but so buttery. The escargot itself were soft with a slight crunch to them.

Duck Confit Traditional Cassoulet: White Beans, duck confit, lamb, garlic sausage, and Toulouse sausage and bacon.

We shared the duck confit traditional cassoulet which was very hearty and filling. Ultimately we didn’t end up finishing this dish because there was so many white beans in it. All the parts comprising of this dish, white beans, duck confit, lamb, garlic sausage, and Toulouse sausage and bacon all added different flavors. The sausages, however, were too salty.

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Check out Le Charm French Bistro:

315 5th St
San Francisco, CA 94107

See their Yelp reviews here.