Lunch with the Michelin Guide – Colobri Mexican Bistro

Colibri Mexican Bistro is a wonderful restaurant located in the Theater District of San Francisco. Like the name says, the food is Mexican. Authentic Mexican.

Colibri Mexican Bistro

The colors inside are warm and inviting.

The interior of Colibri Mexican Bistro

We were seated near the front window decorated with various glass bottles.

The Window

After being seated, a napkin containing piping hot, fresh tortillas was brought to the table, along with 3 salsas.

Fresh tortillas with 3 salsas

The three salsas were a mango salsa, red salsa, and a tomatillo salsa.

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The mango salsa was the favorite of Irise and Sandra. It was sweet and mild, with just a hint of chile. You could easily compare its flavor with the sweetness of a jam or preserve. The red salsa was smoky, with bits of tomato, onion, and spices. It was spicy, and a little too hot for Irise. The last was a tomatillo salsa and my favorite. It was hot, but tasted like the homemade tomatillo salsa my father makes. Tomatillo, onion, garlic, peppers and chilies made a fresh, piquant combination. On a hot tortilla, it was marvelous!

Tomatillo’s are sometimes called the Mexican tomato. Looking similar to a small green tomato, they are covered with a brown, papery outer leaf, similar to an onion skin. Once the papery leaf is removed the skin is somewhat waxy to the touch. The green tomatillo is cooked and combined with chilies, onions and spices to become tomatillo salsa.

For our appetizer course, we ordered Sopes Surtidos. An assortment of Sopes with beans, chicken, shredded pork and sautéed vegetables served with queso fresco, onion, and sour cream.

Sopes Surtidos

For the main course, we ordered the Tacos Surtidos, Carnitas, and the fish of the day.

Tacos Surtidos

Tacos Surtidos was a sampling of three different tacos – Chicken with chipotle cream; steak with onions and red cabbage; and fish with tomatillo-seranno salsa, onions and cheese. The chicken with the chipotle cream was the hands down favorite. Tender chicken that was deliciously seasoned with onions topped with avocado and chipotle cream all wrapped in a fresh, hot tortilla. All of those flavors combined in your mouth made for a smooth creamy bite. The seasoning was perfect. I could have eaten more of these for sure! The beef taco was also a little disappointing – the beef was more on the tough side and difficult to cut and chew. The fish taco was ok. I must admit I have had better fish tacos – the fish was not crispy and the beans made it seem a little soggy.

Everyone agreed the Carnitas was the best dish out of those that we ordered.

Carnitas with Arroz a la Mexicana

Tender Michoacan-style marinated chunks of pork served with guajillo and arbol chili salsa were plated along with Arroz a la Mexicana -traditional Mexican rice with diced vegetables. The meat was so tender it could be cut with a fork. Placed on a hot tortilla, it was like heaven in your mouth. The salsa was the perfect condiment, adding a touch of heat bringing all the flavors together.

Lastly, was the fish of the day – Fresh Salmon in a crust.

Fish of the Day

Irise, our fish expert thought it tasted, well, fishy. Too fishy. The crust was crispy and delicate and the sauce tasted similar to the mango salsa, but we left a lot of the salmon on the plate. Shocking, because all three of us LOVE salmon. So, we leave you to draw your own conclusion about the fish.

All in all we really enjoyed the hot tortillas and fresh salsas. It’s quite a walk from our office so it’s doubtful we will be back, but Colibri met our expectations – a little bit of Mexico in San Francisco.

Thank you, Colibri!

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Lunch with the Michelin Guide – Bouli Bar

Walking along California Street toward the Ferry Building is always an experience. We were on our way to Bouli Bar

San Francisco Ferry Building

Tourists fill the streets this time of year bringing with them a festive air of being on vacation. On this particular day, the sun was shining, the temperature was hot for San Francisco, and smiles were everywhere.

There is a lot of construction near the Ferry Building so as we took a detour through Justin Herman Plaza we came across La Chiffonniere, a sculpture made of curved stainless steel and epoxy by Jean Dubuffet.

La Chiffonniere

We arrived slightly late because of the detour, but it didn’t seem to matter which was good for us.

Boulibar
After a brief wait, they had our reservation and they seated us near the pizza oven. A curtain of long strands of brass beads separated the dining area. My friend Maria commented the curtain was custom made and very expensive. A quick look around revealed a Mediterranean theme – beaten brass lamp shades, and very minimalist tables and chairs. Even the exterior of the menu had a minimalist theme.

Bouli Bar - Menu Cover

After being seated, the server came by and asked us if we wanted still or sparkling water. We opted for both, and our water glasses were discretely filled during our meal.

Prior to coming to Bouli Bar, I did a quick check of their website and noticed that most of the images on the site were blurry. So here is my nod to the blurry image theme of their website.

Bouli Bar - Seltzer water

The menu offers “farm to table” freshness and embodies seasonal cuisine.

Bouli Bar Menu

We ordered the mezze – a platter of house made pita, crudite and your choice of three condiments. For the condiments we selected the hummus, beet relish with slices of white grapefruit atop, and the artichoke puree.

Mezze

The pita bread was warm and fresh from the oven. The exterior was crisp and slightly charred. The interior was soft and chewy. Taking a small piece of pita, I spread the hummus inside and took a bite. The hummus was cool and smooth, in contrast to the heat wave we were experiencing outside. The artichoke puree was velvety, because it is prepared by hand, and the artichoke meat is actually scraped from the leaf. There was no hint of fiber at all. The saltiness of the feta made the artichoke flavor shine through and was the perfect compliment to the puree. The beet relish was bright and lively on your tongue, especially with a bit of white grapefruit. The beet relish was everyone’s favorite. The beet relish was prepared with care as well by the use of a special mill that grinds the beets and removes any fiber from the relish leaving behind a texture that looks like a cassis sorbet.

Our second selection was the Eastern Mediterranean Salad. Made with farro, bulgur, barberries, little gems, moroccan mint, ricotta salata, sunflower seeds, pomegranate reduction, red wine vinagrette, and za’tar. The smell of fresh mint was the first thing Maria noticed as the platter was set before her. This salad was my first experience with little gems lettuce. Little gems are like small versions of romaine lettuce and has a tender texture similar to butter lettuce. Barberries were another food I had never tasted. At first I thought they were pomegranate seeds, with the seed removed. They are so delightfully bright RED! The salad was a big hit with us and made us feel as though we were eating such healthy food.

Eastern Mediterranean Salad

The next course was the warm funghi – a blend of shitake, pioppini, and trumpet royale mushrooms with sherry vinegar, crisp lavash and fresh herbs.

Warm Funghi

Prepared in the oven, the earthy mushrooms are transformed by heat and smoke from pizza oven. The mushrooms are meaty, and slightly caramelized. The sherry vinegar and fresh herbs coupled with the crisp lavosh turn this dish into something that could be a meal all by itself.

Saving the best for last, the Chilled Seafood with Socca arrived. A crisp cake of chickpeas, with fresh, fresh, fresh seafood was the perfect end to our entrees. The shrimp was succulent and briny tasting. I’m not a big fan of calamari, but everyone else thought it was cooked perfectly. Sandra and I split the last two bites, it was so good!

Chilled Seafood with Socca

So, my tummy may be full, but my dessert compartment always has room. Today was no exception! First up was the Yogurt Panna Cotta.

Yogurt Panna Cotta

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that we had a beautiful panna cotta at Campton Place. Although very tasty, we all voted the Panna Cotta from Campton Place was the best.

The Bittersweet Chocolate Custard was a big surprise! The espresso cloud gave no indication of the chocolaty layer beneath. The brittle sesame nougatine offered the perfect foil for the rich custard. The turkish coffee cocoa nib shortbread melted on your tongue – buttery rich!

Last, but not least was the Bl Meyer Lemon Meringue Tart.

Bl Meyer Lemon Meringue Tart

This was fantastic!!! A flavorsome crust, mildly tart lemon filling and perfectly prepared meringue.

We all enjoyed our meal at Bouli Bar. We were a little skittish at the beginning as the restaurant was not ready to receive guests at 11:30, the time of our reservation, but our fears were quickly allayed after we were seated. It was so good, Maria was considering coming back to celebrate a birthday.

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Lunch with the Michelin Guide – Bocadillos

Our first trip to Bocadillos in December ended badly. The day before, I had phoned just to make sure all was ok and was told if we were there by 11:30 we would have no trouble finding a table. The following day was rainy, but we went out anyway, because that’s what we do! We got to Bocadillos and were greeted by a sign on the door that said they were closed for a private party. I opened the door just to make sure there was no mistake, but yes, they were closed. This seemed quite strange to me because no one had mentioned this when I called the day before. A few of us – ok, it was really all of us, grumbled and said to cross them off our list! Instead, we went to Brasserie S&P, which was the silver lining on that day. However… we did go back to Bocadillos.

Eating through the Michelin guide friends

Bocadillos has a few tables and a large community or common table in the center. I love this because, if you’re talkative like I am, you may meet someone interesting with a story to tell. This was not that day.

The menu is interesting with a wide variety of selections for lunch.

Bocadillos Menu

We all decided to order the Bacon and Potato soup.

bacon and potato soup

A nice, simple, potato soup that was creamy and hot, with crunchy bits of bacon on the top.

Next came the Garlic Shrimp.

Bocadillos Garlic Shrimp

Oddly, there was not much garlic flavor with the shrimp. It was more of a tomato flavor than garlic flavor. They were spicy, but not overly so.

We ordered two salads and the first was a roasted beet salad, ras al hanout with a harissa dressing. The roasted beet flavor came through and the dressing was very complimentary. This salad was delicious and was quickly devoured by everyone.

Next came the kale salad. These days, it seems everyone has kale salad on the menu, so it’s interesting to see how each establishment puts their own twist to it. This one was served with pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and thinly sliced avocado on top. The dressing was a lemon vinaigrette, which was very mild compared to the stronger flavor of the kale. I really enjoy kale salad. It makes you feel healthy as you eat it.

Bocadillos

Next, came our Bocadillos – small sandwiches with various fillings – smoked salmon with chive cream cheese, fried chicken, eggplant, and bbq kurobuta pork.

Bocadillos

Now, it is no small feat to split four tiny sandwiches between 4 women but as a group we are very focused – plus we are good with knives! We each got to try a little bite of each. The kurobuta pork was the hands down favorite.

Bocadillos

The smoky flavor of the meat, coupled with the crisp slaw was a perfect match. My other favorite was the eggplant with peppers, zucchini, mushroom and pesto. How could they fit all of that into a tiny sandwich??? They did, with splendid results. The smoked salmon was also good with a nice cream cheese – similar to a bagel. The fried chicken was ok.

We love to order dessert!

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Flan is always, always a good idea. This flan was was creamy with a good caramel sauce.

Bocadillos

The arm of the gypsy – a sponge cake filled with hazelnut mousse. It was served with blanched hazelnuts. Creamy and delicious! I would order this again!

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Warm chocolate cake with banana ice cream was very similar in texture to a brownie. The ice cream melted into the chocolate cake, giving a very dense, very moist texture to the cake.

Just one word in our opinion – skip the yogurt with cacao nibs, seasonal fruit and honey. We each took a bite and were done.

All in all, the food was ok. The service was ok. Not sure we would come back ever again, but it was one to cross off our list. On to the next experience!!

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Lunch with the Michelin Guide – Chiaroscuro

Lunch with the Michelin Guide went to Chiaroscuro. The building is near the Transamerica building and they serve Italian food.

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The menu was filled with many tasty foods. Sandra had been there before so she had to hold the menu.

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We placed our order and decided to have some water. It was served with an artful twist to lemon and lime.

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For the first course, a delightful surprise was brought to the table. A lovely appetizer of a blue potato, cooked to perfection with a fresh currant and a lovely sauce. I don’t know what the sauce was made of, but it was delicious.

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For our appetizer, we ordered the degustazione di salume. A charcuterie of imported Italian meats served with pickled vegetables and crispy toast.

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For the second course, we ordered the Insalata Melograno. Made with frisee, endive, arugula, roasted pistachio, Nicasio Foggy Morning Cheese, fresh raspberries, and a pomegranate reduction. The crisp greens with the raspberries and creamy cheese was a delight to the mouth. A wonderful balsamic was so beautifully arranged on the plate was the perfect blend of sweet and sour.

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For the main course, Sandra ordered the Trilogia – a tasting of three classic Roman pastas; Carbonara, Amatricana, and Cachio e Pepe, the three signature pastas of Chiaroscuro. The carbonara was fresh tasting with large bits of pancetta, the Amatricana was spicy, with tomato and basil, and the Cachio e Pepe was creamy and delicious – similar to macaroni and cheese.

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Irise ordered the Pesce del Giorno – the fish of the day. A lightly seared ahi tuna, served with roasted vegetables and an arugula salad on the side. The tuna was cooked perfectly which made everyone happy since the tuna had been overcooked at Brasserie S & P.

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I’ve noticed that I’ve been ordering chicken, so this should come as no surprise. I ordered the chicken! Petto di Pollo was an oven pan fried in extra virgin olive oil, with a fresh lemon juice glaze served with roasted vegetables. Mangia, mangia!!

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Our last course was of course, dessert. Fresh apple cake was served with a mascarpone sauce and fresh berries. The recipe was from the chef’s mother and it was sublime. Not too sweet, with a simple dusting of powdered sugar. The perfect ending to a perfect meal.

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When the server presented us with the bill we all asked, why do you not have a Michelin star??? The food was better than one star restaurants we’ve been to. He responded, we’re working on it! They sure are and I’m sure we will see them in the next guide. If you are wondering about Chiaroscuro, please go. You’ll be pleased with the food and the service!

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The Romantics of San Francisco

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love. It brings out certain emotions in all of us. For those that are single, there are feelings that may be a little painful or sad but today I saw a man that took being single on Valentine’s Day and made it into his own!

I saw him from across the street, standing on the corner. Everyone that passed by him glanced at his sign. At first, all I could read on the bright pink sign was “Just Say Hi!” so I did. I told him I had a Valentine and he said that was good. He explained that starting with Halloween, a five holiday season began that was not so pleasant for single people. At Thanksgiving all the family asks when are they going to meet someone. Christmas, more of the same. New Year. Finally, Valentines Day is the last holiday. He was very good about and said he was a very romantic person and to make sure I really made my Valentine feel special. Good advice! We went our separate ways but then I thought he would make a good subject for a photo!

Valentine Romantic

He called himself the Hopeless Romantic.

Valentine Romantic 2

There were more romantics along the way. A long line formed at one of the flower shops along Montgomery Street. A man pushing a cart down the street remarked jokingly to the man with a pink sign, “There’s a line of men that can’t go home until they get some flowers.”

The flower line

I walked past a woman with hair the color of a Valentine. I almost didn’t stop, but I’m so glad I did. I told her I loved her hair color and would she mind if I took her picture. She was so happy to oblige!

Valentine Red Hair

Down the street and around the corner was another flower shop with a queue.

The flower line

An amazing day, in an amazing city, filled with amazing people. Making every life meaningful.

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Campton Place – Dine About Town

Our next Michelin Guide location was Campton Place. The Michelin Guide rates Campton Place with one star and it was well worth the visit!

The gracious lobby is decorated with beautiful orchids.
Campton Place Orchids

After being seated in the dining area, I noticed the lovely sculpted calla lilly light. It was so beautiful and provided such a lovely glow to the room.
Sculpted Calla Lilly Light

The prix fixe menu for the Dine About Town event offered a two course menu for $18.95 or three course menu for $25.95. We all decided on the three course menu.

Campton Place Lunch Menu

Maria and Irise selected the Winter Salad with goat cheese, almonds and olives with a Meyer lemon dressing. The salad was fresh and beautiful and this image does not do it justice.

Winter Salad

The greens were crisp and the salad was filled with thinly sliced carrots, radishes, fennel, and cucumber. The tomatoes were sliced and seeded. The dressing was refreshing and slightly tart.

Sandra and I ordered the Sunchoke Veloute with heirloom grapes, hazelnuts and beech mushrooms. Traditionally, a Veloute is a creamy sauce, but in this case, it was a creamy soup. The bowl was brought to the table with a delicious mound of mushrooms and raisins in the middle. The soup was poured, tableside, from a small pitcher around the mushroom and raisin mixture.  Its texture was smooth and creamy. The tiny beech mushrooms are best described as cute! So tiny, like the ones you see in a fairy story.

Sunchoke Veloute

For the second course Maria and Irise ordered the Slow Roasted Pacific Bass with Cauliflower, Raisins, and Cilantro. The cauliflower was served at least three ways; raw, roasted and pureed. The sauce served with the cauliflower had a mild curry taste that was an unexpected delight on the tongue. Thinly sliced radishes were placed atop the cauliflower and bass. The fish was moist, with a crisp top.

Slow Roasted Pacific Bass

Sandra and I ordered the Braised Beef Short Rib served with Black Truffle Potatoes and Kale. The short rib was so tender you could cut it with a fork. It was so delicious paired with the black truffle potatoes. The texture of the potatoes were smooth, like cream!! The trumpet mushrooms were on the plate with a single mushroom perfectly placed on the top. The mushrooms provided an earthy flavor to the dish. The kale was finely chopped but had plenty of texture and flavor. The Braised Beef Short Rim  is currently my favorite entree in the last three Michelin restaurants we’ve enjoyed so far.

Braised Beef Short Rib

Last, but definitely not least, was the Citrus Panna Cotta! Panna Cotta is a dessert made with milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, and gelatin. The citrus, comprised of pink grapefruit, blood orange, mandarin, and orange was perfectly sectioned, juicy and sweet. Placed on top of the panna cotta was a sprig of mint and a graham cracker garnish. The panna cotta was so smooth and fabulous. Maria said it was better than wine!

Citrus Panna Cotta

Delicious Panna Cotta

We are all looking forward to our next time at Campton Place and we will most assuredly be back!

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Lunch with the Michelin Guide – Michael Mina

Last year my co-worker Sandra and I decided to make a goal of eating at all the restaurants in the Belden Alley in San Francisco. We did it! It was a fantastic goal, but once we were done, what else could we do? We thought for a long time and then, one day it occurred to me! Lunch with the Michelin Guide! There is a special section of the Guide for San Francisco, specifically the Financial District which is where we work. Our plan is to go to a different restaurant once a month near our pay day and see what happens. For our inaugural outing, we opted for Michael Mina. Michael Mina has one star in the Michelin Guide and has a wonderful reputation for food excellence and impeccable service. A group of six of us went, which is almost too many, but we ordered almost the entire menu.

Butter served in a hand thrown ramekin was the first to arrive at the table, followed by some delicious sourdough bread, served warm.

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Our first starter of three was Michael’s Classic Ahi Tuna Tartare. Habanero infused sesame oil, pine nuts, and quail egg yolk. It is prepared table side and is served with toast points. It was sublime! The quail egg provided a creamy texture to the tuna along with the slightly spicy oil and crunch of the pine nuts was a great combination in your mouth.

Michael's Classic Ahi Tuna Tartare

We also ordered the Warm Kale Salad with baby beets, turnips, and marcona almonds.

Warm Kale Salad

The third starter was the Squab Leg Confit with creamy polenta, shaved radish, and chickweed. You would think a leg of squab would not, could not be distributed among six people but a total of 3 legs were served on the plate. The confit melted in your mouth. Crisp skin on the outside, tender, fall-off-the-bone meat on the inside. Rich flavors coupled with the creamy polenta was close-your-eyes delicious. In spite of a few little tendons, this dish disappeared quickly.

Squab Leg Confit

The fourth starter was the Morro Bay Abalone with matsutake mushroom puree, apple, and curry oil. The abalone was tiny, about the size of a mandarin orange. It was chewy and to be truthful, it was difficult to get a really good taste since it was divided six ways.

Morro Bay Abalone

Lastly, for the appetizers, was the Squash Tortelloni with brussels sprouts, chanterelle mushrooms, and pomegranate. These were cooked perfectly with the seeds in the pomegranate providing a nice little explosion of flavor and crunch with each bite. It was a beautiful mingling of creamy and tart.

Squash Tortelloni

For the entrees, we went wild! Out of seven on the menu we ordered 5 plus the special.

The first entrée was the Pan Seared Dorade with a baby leek sauce, Brussels sprouts, and pickled carrot relish. The fish had a very crispy skin and flaked nicely when placed on the fork.

Pan Seared Dorade

The prawn and mussel pasta was delicately flavored with saffron. The mussels and prawns were cooked to perfection, and the pasta was al dente.

Prawn and Mussel Pasta

The most disappointing dish was the Vegetable Risotto, due to the hair in the dish and the fact it was cooked improperly. The rice was still crunchy. :-( I’m sorry to say the only photo I have is terrible.

Vegetable Risotto

At the end of our meal, Executive Chef Ron Siegel came out and was kind enough to take a photo with us.

Michael Mina Executive Chef Ron Siegel

In spite of the hair in the risotto, we all enjoyed our lunch at Michael Mina’s

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