Dining Updates

The last few weeks have been filled with great meals and company, though all that fun and quite a bit of work has gotten in the way of actually writing. Here are some quick updates on old favorites as well as initial impressions of new places from our outings in the last month .BacarIt seems that, on the first Monday night of every month, the SoMa wine bar and restaurant Bacar offers their wines at half off, with a very short list of exceptions. Their list is quite broad at around 40 pages long and, at half off, the wines are priced pretty close to retail, if you could find them in stores. The event is surprisingly unpublicized, so perhaps it's meant more as a reward for regulars and insiders than as a way to turn over their stock or fill up the restaurant on a Monday night. Oh, and their food is pretty good too. Many thanks to Alder, of the venerable Vinography, both for cluing us in and for an evening in great company.Bistro ElanAnother great meal at our favorite local counter visiting with our friends there. Patrick has some interesting new wines on the list, including a 2003 Maranges la Fussiere 1er Cru Bernard Morey et Fils Chassagne Montrachet that stood up slightly better than the very flat 2003 Poissenot we tried with some trepidation at Bacar a few nights before. Though in the past the Chef's pork dishes haven't been our favorites, the falling apart tender version with slow roasted onions, potatoes, and bacon currently on the menu is fantastic. Cafe Gibraltar

A (short) pilgrimage with friends to another of our absolute Bay Area favorites. Being partial to non-winter vegetables and Gibraltar's unbelievable Greek salad, I'm usually less in love with any seasonal menus at this time of year, but Chef Jose Louis still manages to impress, especially with tender and flavor-rich meats in innovative, Mediterranean-influenced preparations. Although we still manage to eat there fairly often, Cafe Gibraltar would be one of our everyday defaults if it weren't for the half hour drive over the hills to get to Montara. Though the food has a different flavor and is more comfortable and perhaps less "advanced," I would put Cafe Gibraltar on the same level as Pilar in Napa. This hidden Bay Area gem is well worth a trip, or several.Pizzeria DelfinaIn a very positive move, Pizzeria Delfina now appears to be spreading the toppings on their pizzas closer to the edges for better balance in the proportion of crust. It turns out that sausage can actually improve a Margherita pizza, which sparked a brief conversation with Owner-Chef Craig Stoll about his message to the staff not to be afraid of your food and that nothing can be too bad for you in moderation. I like his philosophy. Although everything is slightly saltier than my norm, the aforementioned pizza, the pureed lentil soup, and the beet salad were particularly good. A16A16 has been on our list for quite awhile. I'm not willing to cross it off quite yet, since this initial visit was just a light lunch at which we shared the Dine About Town menu with wine pairings and a wild mushroom pizza. The intriguingly unfamiliar Italian wine-focused list and good food definitely merit another visit.TamarineThis visit to the always-packed, Palo Alto see-and-be-seen Tamarine with Oren's parents and my sister was a step up from our last meal there. Everything was actually pretty good, except for about half our order of Tamarine Prawns, which tasted off. I suppose my only real complaint is that Tamarine is trying to be The Slanted Door, but it just doesn't measure up. I guess that's the trade-off you make for suburban convenience.QuinceAnother outstanding meal at Quince with Oren and my sister included to-die-for seared scallops with olive oil and blood oranges and several fantastic pastas. We also had a few dishes that were only very good, but with that being the most damning thing I can say about any aspect of the experience at Quince, it remains one of my absolute favorite restaurants in San Francisco. Although your best chance of a reservation is still to call a month in advance, they are ridiculously nice about trying to get people in and we were told that the odds are pretty decent if you call the day before or day of.Tutto Mondo, CarmelThis place was packed, but we had no idea why. And, as if the one-course, two-hour dinner wasn't bad enough, the flat tire when we got back to the car didn't help.Asia de Cuba Room ServiceI had a good meal at Asia de Cuba for my sister's bachelorette party several years ago. Then again, maybe the food tasted so good because the night was so fun. The rooms at the Clift are starting to look a bit worn, but Asia de Cuba is still humming along just fine from the look of the crowds there. And, as room service goes, theirs isn't too shabby, but if I was faced with actually paying that much for a ridiculously large frittata, fries, tuna tartar, cake, and the other miscellanea we sampled there with some friends (through a long story of very good fortune, we didn't actually have to foot the bill), I'd probably opt for visiting any number of great spots nearby instead. Still, there is something to be said for the royal feeling of having a feast wheeled into your room.Le Pain Quotidien, Beverly HillsI mention this here because, having visited this bakery and communal table restaurant a few times now, I'm quite impressed. Le Pain Quotidien is a relatively small chain that is quite popular in Europe, New York, and LA. I'm usually anti-chain, but I feel like this one's got it right, with their great sustainable biodynamic food philosophy and because you might never guess it was more than just this one great little spot if it weren't for all of their own branded products, from black pepper to jam. I would actually be thrilled to have one in my neighborhood, so if you see one, check it out.Sawa SushiI can't just dip a toe into the fray over Sawa (see Chez Pim and Chuck Eats for an introduction to the debate), so stay tuned for info on my latest adventure there.Woodward's GardenThis little restaurant tucked away under the freeway at Mission and Duboce seems to be one of the busiest places no one's ever heard of. Maybe I have the location to thank for our last minute table on Saturday night. As first impressions go, it made a solidly good one. The food was very reasonably priced and interesting enough to be worth further exploration. That wraps up January dining with All In. With the guilt of all these great meals and tidbits unreported, hopefully I too can now shake the amusingly dubbed "Blatigue" that's going around.