Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Happy Birthday To Me! Those that know me well know I'm not one to shy away from my birthday. I try to make it last as many days as possible with a variety of celebrations, this year being no different. Tori, my fine dining companion (read: one of my few friends who doesn't mind dropping some serious cash on an transcendent dining experience), and I have been slowly compiling a list of places, primarily in San Francisco, that we MUST eat at one day soon. As a consolation for her being out of town for my actual birthday she offered to let me pick somewhere off of our list and she would treat (have I also mentioned Tori is exceptionally generous?) Perbacco had actually been our most recent add. A close friend from my restaurant days who is now living up in San Francisco and working at an amazing restaurant up there had "checked in" on Facebook and knowing her exceptional taste in restaurants I had to check it out. I couldn't read more than half way down their menu without salivating. Everything sounded exceptionally refined yet satisfying, like each bite would be a unique yet familiar and comforting experience. Boy did it not disappoint!

We both rushed home after work to get dolled up for our special night out. News to no one Tori was still in the middle of doing her hair when I arrived. We did however make it to the city just in time for our reservation after some creative parking in the Financial District (the sign by our spot said it was only off limits the week before, the signs on the spots in front of and behind ours?.... the week of, but alas we did not get towed!). We were greeted and taken to our table right away. Perbacco has an intriguing mix of both polish and warmth to its decor. One thing I particularly liked was that although I was seated facing the wall there was a mirror running along the back of the banquette so I could see the whole room without having to awkwardly turn around (came in handy when a table of attractive young gentleman were seated behind me).

After being seated we were greeted promptly, brought water and some thing crisp bread sticks with a house pesto for dipping. First order of business of course- beverages. One of our favorite local restaurants has a great sparkling cocktail with elderflower liquor and champagne. When Tori saw a similar concoction on the menu with the addition of blood orange juice we had to have one. I was pleased to see that their wines by the glass were offered in 1/2 Lt carafes and decided to go with something we would both enjoy (even if I did plan to drink the majority of it) and something I hadn't tried before, a Muller Thurgau from the Alto Adige region. It was right on point with what I was looking for which is always pleasant when trying new wines. We had perused the evening priors menu on line (there is a new menu each day at least in part) so we had some idea of what we were interested in ordering. We decided to share the Wild Mushroom soup with Black Truffle Crema to start as well as a chilled asparagus with shaved radishes topped with burrata and a lemon vinaigrette. Heaven. The soup was the perfect silky consistency and the earthy mushrooms were complimented so well by the richness of the drop of truffle creama. The asparagus was the perfect appetizer satiating our growing hunger but light enough that we did not feel full yet. The asparagus was sweet and crisp the burrata cool and rich the radishes and citrus vinaigrette balanced everything perfectly.

We went with pastas for our main course. With my affinity for Risotto I was very curious to try theirs which on this particular evening featured cubes of prosciutto and peas. Tori couldn't help but order the Ricotta and Meyer lemon Raviolis. The pact would be we would eat half of our dishes and then swap so both could enjoy the different textures and flavors. True to our word we carefully each ate half way down our plates and transferred them hand over hand to the other when we were done. Then of course there were the side dishes. I have become an obsessive lover of brussel sprouts and could not let the meal go by without ordering their side of brown butter brussel sprouts with capers and parmigiano reggiano and Tori a side of rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes. Against our better good we cleaned all of our plates. Everything was cooked to perfection the wonderful balance of flavors calling their sirens song to our tongues for just one more bite.

Now we have all been faced with this dilemma. You have come to the end of an excellent meal, if you are wearing pants you are fighting the urge to unbutton them (there's a reason I chose a dress with a flowy skirt that evening) and then voila the dessert menu. I have to concede that this may have been the only choice that if given the chance again I would have chosen differently. Don't worry your pretty head, of course we ordered something, but I think for our utter lack of belly space the dense Meyer lemonciello cake we ordered was not what the palate needed. While the flavor was delightful the texture was hard to enjoy on such a full stomach. One of their many creatively flavored gelatos (the night before there was an extra virgin olive oil gelato on the menu, can't lie my interest was piqued!) or the panna cotta of the evening might have gone down a little easier.

All in all however Perbacco was everything I had hoped for. I look forward to an oppurtunity to dine there again, however with all the progress that still needs to be made on our list it may be awhile!

The Garage

As a student at San Jose State and an active member of Greek life I spent an exorbitant amount of time on 11th street in downtown San Jose where many of the Fraternity houses are located. About 5 years to be precise. We frequented the 7-11 on the corner of 11th and San Carlos streets just about every Thursday night. For a whole semester I had weekly bagel dates with a close friend at the bagel shop there! But never in all of my 5 years did I experience the Garage restaurant at Naglee park. Something I now hugely regret! Just a few weeks ago my mom invited me to join her, my dad and some family friends for a small birthday dinner. Our friends are avid followers of Triple D (Guy Fieri's Food Network Program Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives). They often seek out restaurants that have been feature on the show. Foodie friends of mine had previously posted the youtube clip of the segment and had visited the restaurant giving it rave reviews. Why had I been dragging my feet all these years? It's hard to say but now that I know this treasure exists I will absolutely be back. They hit the nail on the head as far as fresh local and sustainable goes. For goodness sakes they make their own in house ketchup (which is a major treat with their thick cut steak fries). There is nothing I enjoy more than dining out with fellow food lovers- and here's why, it is an unsaid rule at the table that everyone must order something different, and everyone's plates are available for a taste test. We managed to sample the majority of the menu: their flagship burger, Pork Ribs, Herb Roasted Trout, a Butternut Squash soup topped with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Mussels in White wine, Shrimp, Roasted Seasonal veggies, and Roasted pears with melted Gorgonzola. YUM! everything was fantastic with a nice clean rustic presentation. They also have a great selection of beers and wine. One thing I found the most surprising and delighting was their relatively low price point. Similar dishes in larger establishments would easily cost 25 - 30% more, but I'm guessing with their high popularity and relatively low overhead (small space, small staff, limited hours) they are able to give their guests a great deal on some really quality dining. Word to the wise though, their dining room is charming but tiny so get there early, or wait till it's warm out and enjoy the much larger patio (I know I plan to as soon as a nice 80 degree day hits!) If you would like to view their current menu's or read more about the restaurant click here- Garage