[A Pig at Large by Wilfrid: November 9, 2015]
By the time you read this I'll be back on Pacific Time again, but this time last week I was headed back from the Fort Worth/San Francisco. I didn't miss a dinner in SF, as I did in Fort Worth, but then my shifting schedule made it difficult to get any of the reservations I wanted. Left it too late.
But I did make it to the Asian Art Museum (SF MoMA still closed for major renovations).
And I ate some strawberries, three bucks-worth of fresh fruit from a large farmer market I accidentally found around the corner.
I did manage a spontaneous dinner at Tosca Café, across the street from the Vesuvio bar and City Limits bookstore. Just coming up on its centenary, Tosca had been a shadowy dive bar for many, many years. In 2013, two familiar New York names--Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig (etc, etc)--took it over and turned it back into a restaurant. Noisy and dark--forget about photos--it manages to combine original fittings, and truly diner-style tables and chairs--with the air of being new, swanky, and slightly posh.
An odd combination.
Despite pasta and tiramisù, the short menu oozes Bloomfield: tongue, jowl, various tails. Sadly they'd 86'd the oxtail terrine, so I ordered some crispy pig tails instead. These were fat tails, chopped into short lengths, and straight out of the fryer. Piping hot, the skin had almost turned into crackling. Fried sage leaves on top, and a dark agrodolce sauce underneath. More pig to follow in the shape of one fat tube of pig liver sausage, rich and loose-grained, with brown butter, some smashed pumpkin, and pomegranate seeds for a sharp accent.
I could almost see the cheeses. The sausage plate seemed a bargain at $19, but made three cheeses for $18 look pricey. That's cheese these days. No complaints about the price of the steam table at Foley's. This kind of food was common in New York pubs when I settled here in the '90s, and not just Irish pubs too: fresh roast turkey, baked ham, corned beef, with sides, for about $12 a plate (less for a sandwich).
And no messing about with chopping the cabbage. Foley's actually provides a full evening's entertainment: drinks at the front bar with the piano player and his fans; then after dinner from the steam table, you can move to the bijou rear bar to digest. Another San Francisco classic is John's Grill (established 1906).
Even less planned than by Tosca porkfest was a brief stop at Trou Normand, a sparkling bar and dining room in art deco Public Telephone building. If I hadn't decided on Tosca, I'd have returned here for dinner. As it was, I just had time for the house-made rabbit salami (they also offer two lamb salamis at the bar), and some 2006 Raffault "Les Picasses."
A long walk down to Fisherman's Wharf ended in disappointment, as the ramshackle collection of old lobster and crab shacks and trattorias has been replaced by bars and grills built around a sort of Disneyland version of a pier. I might as well have been at Fulton Street. Still, the crab cake sandwich from one of the anonymous counters was pleasant enough.
More enjoyable, although not exactly a balanced take on the food pyramid, was the duck confit brunch plate at Bourbon & Beef in Rockridge, a modest BART trip out of the city center.
Another meal which lasted all day was the breakfast super-burrito from a hole-in-the-wall on Mission, just west (actually southwest) of 6th. Did not need to order airline food after this monster. Mexican sausage, egg, rice, beans, guacamole...