Archive for the ‘Duck’ Category

Duck Prosciutto – Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro (SF)

HOUSE-MADE DUCK PROSCIUTTO – ANNABELLE’S BAR & BISTRO, SF

It takes a lot of effort to make prosciutto. Generally about 18 months or so, and some serious patience to watch it hang until it’s ready. But when it comes, it makes patience aphoristically virtuous. But thankfully, we can just order prosciutto without the watch and wait.

Duck prosciutto - Annabele's Bar & Bistro (SF)

Duck prosciutto – Annabele’s Bar & Bistro (SF)

Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro recently offered a small plate of their special house-made duck prosciutto, paired with sweet, thick cantaloupe slices. It was more colorful than a circus: bright green, orange, purple-black, various hues of brown and tan, and blush. The duck was lush and not exceedingly smoky, striped with translucent fat. A small hailstorm fall of smoked almonds were scattered across the plate, most within a dazzling verdant swathe of arugula puree. And fig vino cotto, like an indigo oil spill, haunted the plate as a fabulous substitute for aged balsamic. A panoply of great color, taste and texture; a memorable prosciutto platter from Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro. (The dinner menu has a more Mediterranean prosciutto platter appetizer with pecorino cheese, olives, roasted peppers, and crostini for $15.)

The Grade: Excellent

The Damage: $15

The Tip: Annabelle’s has a three-course prix fixe nightly ($33)

The Skinny: Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro
68 – 4th Street, San Francisco CA
Phone: (415) 777-1200
Website: http://www.annabelles.net/

Executive Chef Larry Piaskowy of Annabelle's Bar & Bistro

Executive Chef Larry Piaskowy of Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro

Roasted Duck Breast (Maverick, SF)

PAN ROASTED LIBERTY DUCK BREAST

What a panoply of flavors from Chef Scott Youkilis at Maverick in this duck dish.  The Liberty Farms duck breast is perfectly pan-roasted, medium-rare, and as succulent as a great fowl can be. Then there’s  crookneck squash and goat cheese custard, figs, some glorious duck jus…zoinks.
Fantastic duck at Maverick, SF

Fantastic duck at Maverick, SF

It’s a  full-flavor bonanza and an architectural wonder, stacked with colors and textures like some kid assembled various shapes from board games, models, and construction toys into an imaginary fort. A little fort hiding a sacred duck; sounds like a Japanese film. A fort ready to be forked. The colors alone: pink, purple, varying browns from sienna to umber to Mississippi mud, with stripes of green and gold–make eating at Maverick a blast. One of my favorite duck dishes this year.

THE GRADE: AWESOME (highest grade)
THE DAMAGE:  $26
 THE SKINNY: MAVERICK

3316 17th Street San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 863-3061

Make a free reservation for Maverick here on OpenTable.com.

Maverick SF - a foodie respite in the Mission

Maverick SF – a foodie respite in the Mission

Prix Fixe Dinner – Michael Mina

MICHAEL MINA – RESTAURANT REVIEW – PRIX FIXE DINNER

With an atmosphere of contemporary elegance, plus excellent service and trays of succulent small bites coming in spectacularly focused trios, Michael Mina restaurant is certainly worth the special occasion splurge. Tables are distant enough for your group to feel safe and uncrowded. You enter the room–hidden within the Westin St. Francis Hotel on Union Square–by climbing a small flight of stairs, perhaps accurately representational of the culinary temple that Michael Mina has enjoyed since its inception.

Michael Mina has many offerings of multi-course (prix fixe) dinners. The standard three-course dinner sets you back $105. Expensive, to be sure, but it’s a wonderful experience. Six-course tasting menus are $135, and a great three-course pre-theatre meal is $55.

COURSE ONE – PASTA, BRAISE & CONFIT

Course 1 - Michael Mina SF  Prix Fixe Dinner - Pasta, Braise & Confit

Course 1 – Michael Mina SF Prix Fixe Dinner – Pasta, Braise & Confit

LEFT: Fettucine, Rabbit, English Peas

A beautifully rendered meaty pasta, rife and verdant with variegated greenliness. Few American chefs seem to really honor rabbits effectively; the chefs at Mina certainly do. Tastes like Spring and Summer in a dish; simply delicious.

TOP / CENTER: Orecchiette, Pork Short Rib, and Fava Beans

Perhaps the only faux pas moment of the meal. The potentially rich flavor of the pork short rib was nowhere here, and not supported by typically chewy orecchiette (ear-shaped, dense, and spongy pasta), and born-to-be-mild fava beans. Blah.

RIGHT: Ravioli, Duck Leg, Radicchio

Wow; utterly phenomenal. This is a little triumph: rich duck confit, sumptuous in its dark gravy, magical in its layered tones of smell and taste. If you go this season to Michael Mina, request your waiter if you can get a single large portion of this instead of the trio; I surmise they would oblige you. This is the best meaty ravioli I’ve eaten in 2009, and among the best meaty pastas of the year. I’d like to have a big bowl of it and a glass of Super Tuscan; that would be a perfect meal.

Duck Confit Ravioli, Radicchio - Michael Mina SF

Duck Confit Ravioli, Radicchio – Michael Mina SF

COURSE TWO – BRANDT FARM BEEF and SPRING VEGETABLES

At first, the tiny bites of steak on the tri-partite plate seem light. But the incredible flavors from each steak made every bite fulfilling, worth enjoying slowly. Each of the three steak dishes was excellent.

Course 2 - Steak & Spring Vegetables - Michael Mina restaurant

Course 2 – Steak & Spring Vegetables – Michael Mina restaurant

COURSE TWO, LEFT:  FILET MIGNON with Sauce Bernaise, Sacramento Delta green asparagus

Beautiful little stacked portion of filet mignon with a perfect bernaise sauce, paired with slivered green asparagus. Cleverly piled like a double-stack…not sure if this is a wink on a double burger but it was great, either way.

Filet Mignon with sauce bernaise - Michael Mina, SF

Filet Mignon with sauce bernaise – Michael Mina, SF

COURSE TWO, CENTER:  DRY AGED RIBEYE, wilted spinach, morel jus (plus potatoes)

If you’ve ever wondered why people pay so much money to get dry-aged beef, wonder no more. This is a tiny piece of steak that packs a wallop of flavor. Another perfect presentation, and a great piece of steak.

Dry aged ribeye steak, Michael Mina SF

Dry aged ribeye steak, Michael Mina SF

COURSE TWO, RIGHT:  BRAISED TRIO, young leeks, horseradish vinaigrette

Our waiter described this as “Tongue and Cheek,” so there’s beef tongue, beef cheek, and something else equally tender and delicious. A great balance of the beef parts with the earthiness of both the leeks and the brightness of the horseradish vinaigrette.

Braised Trio (beef and cheek), Michael Mina - SF

Braised Trio (beef and cheek), Michael Mina – SF

COURSE THREE: CHEESES – GOAT, SHEEP, COW

For my last course, I opted for the cheese plate and it was again a small triumph of three. Savory with sweet, earthy and salty; everything well paired.

• Minuet, Pear Purée, Hazelnuts

• Pecorino Ginepro, Port Cherries, Juniper Balsamic Vinegar

• Pianoforte, Porcini Syrup, Puffed Wild Rice

There are some great options for sweeter things, but I like cheese to finish a languorous meal. Mina’s renowned for amazing desserts, and anything you order will be pretty great.

THE GRADE: AWESOME (highest grade)

THE DAMAGE: $105

THE INSIDE TIP: Get a very similar three-course meal at Michael Mina for $55. (Each course will be single, not trio, servings but most of the dishes for the regular prix fixe will be available at the beginning of dinner service for the lower price.) Make your reservation for between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. for their special pre-theatre dinner price. Go-go, early birds.

Free reservations at Michael Mina via OpenTable.com

THE SKINNY: MICHAEL MINA

Inside the lobby of the Westin St. Francis Hotel

335 Powell Street, San Francisco CA 94102

Phone: (415) 397-9222

Website with menus: http://www.michaelmina.net

Hours: Dinner: Tuesday – Thursday 5:30pm – 9:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Duck Breast (The Elite Cafe, SF)

Pan-Roasted Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast

The Elite Cafe serves a simply excellent duck breast. Pan-roasted perfectly, it’s sufficiently seared on the outside with that just rare enough ruddiness inside to make it perfectly juicy, tender, and sweet. The duck is an Elite Cafe staple, partnered up with braised winter  greens and sweet potatoes. The greens provide a grounded, earthy balance to the candied sweet potatoes and sweet duck meat, which swims (no pun inherent) in a small pond of its own jus.

The colors on the plate–brown, pink, orange, and dark green–comprise a painterly palette rife with fantasy. It’s a plate that exhibits the strong visual appeal of food in all its dazzling variety. And while the sweet potatoes were candied far too sweetly for my taste, Elite Cafe’s duck breast is still one of the best I’ve had in 2009, a  high recommendation.

Duck Breast, Elite Cafe, SF

Duck Breast, Elite Cafe, SF

The Grade: Excellent

The Damage: $29

The Skinny: The Elite Cafe

Elite Cafe on Urbanspoon

DUCK CONFIT

DUCK CONFIT (roasted duck confit)

THE DISH: ROASTED DUCK CONFIT

Favorite of Francophiles, duck confit is made from the duck leg, which is salt-cured, then slowly cooked in an oven at low temperature so it poaches in its own fat. The curing usually takes a couple days, and the slow-poach roasting can vary from 2 to 10 hours. It’s often served at room temperature or below over green salad, but I far prefer the version served hot.

Roasted Duck Confit, Bistro Ralphs, Healdsburg CA

Roasted Duck Confit, Bistro Ralphs, Healdsburg CA.

Bistro Ralph’s roasted duck confit is a generous portion (two legs, not one), and the meat peels gracefully off the leg bone.  The richness of the duck is well balanced with perfect polenta and duck jus in a nice wide bowl, making a perfectly hearty winter meal. The addition of the huckleberries, to me, was entirely unnecessary because they just weren’t integrated well. Nonetheless, it didn’t interfere with the excellence of the dish. I’d have to say this was among the best duck confit dishes I’ve had in the past 3 years.

THE SPOT: BISTRO RALPH, HEALDSBURG CA

A lot of really good restaurants survive in Healdsburg and, while others may get the notoriety, Bistro Ralph’s unpretentious vibe and unbelievably good martinis keep locals recommending it to tourists who weren’t savvy enough to make reservations at Cyrus a month in advance. It’s a bit narrow and, like many other local restaurants, a bit noisier than it should be, it serves solid fare at hearty portions for the prices.

THE GRADE: EXCELLENT (4 out of 5)

THE DAMAGE: $27

THE SKINNY: BISTRO RALPH
109 Plaza Street, Healdsburg CA
Phone: (707) 433-1380
Website: www.bistroralph.com (Note: only basic info online to date; no seasonally updated menu)

Hours: Lunch 11:30 – 2:30 (Mon-Sat); Dinner 5:30 – 9:00 (Mon-Thurs) – 9:30 Friday & Saturday; closed Sundays.

Bistro Ralph on Urbanspoon

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