EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Food & Drink | Baghdad By The Bay

New Mission/Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

New Mission TheatreI have seen this theater being built over a year ago and was interested in seeing what a new theater in San Francisco might be like. I got the chance to experience it when my company held a night out there to see of all things, Back To The Future which came out before most of the employees were born.

It’s a lot different from other movie theaters where you walk up to a ticket booth and buy your ticket then give the ticket to someone standing at the door. You can actually walk in and the ticket seller is off in the back past the stairs up to the theaters. This seemed very odd to me at first because you could easily walk into a theater to watch a movie without paying.

As it turns out this theater is a theater where watching a movie is second place to the experience. When I first walked in there were several retro video games and a record store which going with the retro theme only sold vinyl. There was a bar in the very back and when I got up to the theater we had rented Each seat had a table with a menu. You can write your own ticket up for food or drink you’d like to order and a server will sneak by and grab your ticket and deliver your order. Kind of a cool idea since theater food wasn’t always known to be the best.

Because we were a private affair they offered up popcorn which had truffle butter [don’t worry, it’s not a link to the Niki Minaj song], garlic parmesan or kimchee coatings] as well as draft beer and champagne. After walking around a bit I noticed that they had tables set up in between the rows filled with pizza and sliders. Being an old school native these were not the classic theater foods I expected. I have to say the chicken sliders were pretty tasty and the pizza was of the thin crust California style with lots of veggies and I assume the pepperoni came from pigs who were masturbated and washed daily. In short, I wish I hadn’t eaten lunch that day because the food was really good. The popcorn was pretty addictive even though the the whole truffle thing is lost on me as I am one of those 30% of the population where truffles taste like dirt.

The New Mission is owned by Alamo Drafthouse Cinema which is a chain of all things that started in Austin, TX. Austin is a lot like San Francisco with a bit of a drawl so it fits with our culture here. The idea of getting real food and having a seriously well stocked bar on site actually made this an even better evening. I kind of felt like I was sitting at home watching a movie on my own big screen TV, but didn’t have to worry about cleaning up after my drunk friends when home. While the prices seemed a t0uch high to this old guy they aren’t really that bad compared to other places in San Francisco. Hell for today’s working class it’s down right affordable. Definitely check it out and make sure you walk all over the place to get the full experience. Stop by the bar at the end for a cocktail before you leave and don’t worry about anyone checking your ticket.

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Tacos Are The New Burritos!

Taco, San Francisco StyleI know, that statement is sacrilege and should never be uttered in San Francisco, but I have been noticing a new trend where people are moving away from their first love of burritos and trying tacos again. Not the Taco Bell style fast food garbage, but real, California Style Tacos.

I’m not really surprised by any of this as the burrito as we of the San Francisco Bay Area know it is monstrous. Even the smallest burrito is size of a baby’s leg. The only way to get something smaller is to pick up one of the gigantic bean and cheese pre-packed things at 7-11 which, let’s get serious, to San Franciscans that isn’t really a burrito.

The burrito as we know it in San Francisco started when the migrant farm workers needed a serious meal to take with them when they were harvesting all the fresh produce we all know and love in California. They started out simple and then expanded to be more than just beans and rice with some meat to include cheese, avocados [or guacamole] and sour cream [if you want to be on point it’s called crema agria or angry cream].

If you were working hard all day pulling crops then you need an extreme form of energy supplying food. We in the San Francisco Bay Area today don’t need that much food any more since even the hardest working person in San Francisco is usually sitting behind a desk most of the day [I will tip my hat to construction workers even though most of the time they only look like they’re directing traffic]. There are a few of us who living on a budget will eat toast and coffee for breakfast and then grab a burrito for lunch which in our minds will hold us over through dinner. I’ve been there and done that. Currently, if I get a burrito I tend to eat only half of it and then have the other half the next day.

Super Taco Al PastorEnter the taco. I have a couple of taquerias I frequent and know the people who work there and asked them, How come you don’t make a pequeño, but you make a super? Every time the answer was the same…If you want pequeño order a taco!

So Wife and I started ordering tacos. I grew up on tacos, but they weren’t what most people today would get in San Francisco. They were crispy, fried with just meat and you’d add in some white people stuff. American cheese, head lettuce and if you were lucky some jarred salsa. Nothing like what you get today.

Today when Wife and I go to a taqueria regardless of where it is in San Francisco and don’t want to down 3lbs in one sitting we order tacos…usually super tacos and while the price is only a little bit cheaper than a burrito it’s still far worth the price. Tacos aren’t anywhere near the size of a burrito, but you’ve got lots of fully customizable choices: Street Taco, with just meat and onions, peppers and cilantro, the Standard Taco with rice and beans and maybe a bit of lettuce and then the Super Taco which is everything mentioned that is dumped into a burrito only it’s more like a small open faced burrito [see photos above].

If you’re a little on the big side it’s a good snack or at least make a lunch that you don’t need to go into a food coma after eating it to recover. Like burritos, pretty much every where you go in San Francisco you can get a pretty good taco. Yes, some people will disagree with that statement, but if you’re not from San Francisco you won’t be able to understand the subtleties.

Currently there are several bars in the City that are hosting Taco Tuesdays where the tacos are cheap. Usually between $2-$4 when you’re buying drinks which sounds like a pretty good reason to buy a couple of tacos. Now I am seeing articles popping up of people analyzing and dissecting the quality of tacos around San Francisco just as they did with burritos and that’s probably because I am seeing burritos approaching the $15 range in some parts of the City which is ridiculous.

The time has come to give the taco its due, so dig in and enjoy. The above food porn taco photos were taken by yours truly at Taqueria San Jose, currently one of my favorite places to grab an Al Pastor Super Taco, because it’s a Taqueria, not a Burritoria.

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Beep’s Burgers

Beep's BurgersIt’s not everyday that I visit an old place in San Francisco for the first time, but sometimes those old places change and not for the better and from what you’ve read it just doesn’t seem worth it. On the other hand sometimes those old places change again and it’s worth a shot. For me, it was finally time to try Beep’s Burgers.

I’ve driven past the place thousands of times driving down Ocean Avenue by City College. Beep’s used to look very run down and to me the idea of a drive in selling Asian food and oh yeah, we also can make a burger just didn’t seem very appealing. Things have changed once again and they have new owners and new paint. I have to say it was a welcome change.

Beep’s has come back in it’s original form as a drive in that specializes in burgers and hot dogs, but also has fish and chips, garlic fries, cheese poppers and a few other additions to their menu [note the prices have increased a little since this listing] that make it a bit more inviting than it once was.

Beep's BurgersThe burgers are made using Niman Ranch beef that normally I don’t like it when restaurants have to name their meat, but in this case it actually is better tasting. The bun is kind of brioche, kind of not bun which I actually liked. When you order you’re just getting the burger on a bun with lettuce and tomato. You have to specify everything else, but this isn’t a fast food place even though the wait for your food isn’t very long.

We tried the ¼ lb. cheeseburger and it had that greasy in a good kind of way taste. They got the right amount of fat in their burger. Normally a ¼ lb burger doesn’t make me feel very full afterwards, but this hit the spot when we added the onion rings as a side. Overall it’s a little more expensive than most fast food places, but is more in line with Super Duper and Five Guys price wise. The feel is that of a divey drive in, but not in a bad way. You’ll never feel underdressed here. While it’ll cost you a couple of bucks more than McDonald’s that across the street you’ll definitely enjoy it more.

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Toyose: Let’s Eat In The Garage

oHappy 2015! I’m really hoping you’ll be seeing more of me this year as I want to make more time to write. I know I’ve been slacking a bit, but I’m trying to get back out there cover new stuff that’s out there as well as the old. That being said…

I still have to go to this place, but the number of times during the week I have to drive people here is amazing. Toyose is a “Korean” restaurant in the Sunset District that’s be built into the garage of a residence. Yes, you read that correctly. It is in the garage of a house in the Sunset District. I’m not sure how legal that is, but it’s been getting enough coverage that there’s been no reason for them to be closed down and they have a 100 out of 100 by the health inspectors.

Now I italicized Korean because it seems to me that it’s more a nod toward Korean food, more like Korean fusion food. Yes, there’s kimchi, but Korean food is so much more than that. It’s a late night place which is usually when I’m dropping people off or picking them up. They’re open from 6pm-2am every day [yes, every day] and for some reason it pulls people way out into fog and cold of the Outsidelands at 46th and Noriega late at night.

Apparently when you’re good and drunk [something I wish I could do every once in awhile, but unfortunately can’t anymore] there’s 3 things people like to get there:

  1. Soju: Sure you’re drunk already so why not get more drunk. If you’ve never had it it’s kind of like an Asian version of vodka with only around 25% alcohol so you’re more maintaining your drunken state than making it worse. It’s pretty boring on it’s own so they mix it up with all kind of flavors and yogurt even. Peach seems to be the recommended flavor.
  2. Chicken Wing: Well, ok, who doesn’t like chicken wings when you’re drunk. These aren’t your typical buffalo wings though, they’re in a spicy Asian marinade that will help wake your body back up after a night of drinking.
  3. Seafood Pancake: Yes, pancakes can be savory and no you don’t put syrup on it. It comes with a dipping sauce and looks like you can share it with a few others. I have no idea what kind of seafood is in there and from what everyone I’ve dropped off tells me neither can they, but they got 100 out of 100 from the health inspectors so at least it’s clean.

l-1There are lots of other choices for food like potstickers, garlic cheesy fries, fish cakes, all good sounding foods for when you’re out drinking. Apparently if you’re just going there to drink you can get free popcorn with your soju. Now to you see why I’m saying there’s a nod to Korean food here.

It’s a real mash up of food, but the fact that when you add in that it’s in a garage that’s been converted to a restaurant [yes, the garage door is still in place] it just makes it hip enough to attract people who want to try something different. Wife and I usually don’t get to try most of these places for dinner because we don’t usually get to go out at night, but I think we’ll have to make an exception and get a baby sitter. I’ve been told if you walk in you’ll have to wait between 20-40 minutes depending on the day and time, but they do take reservations. Toyose has a website and I use that term loosely.

Now that people are finding that the Sunset District might be one of the last places they can afford to live without having a bedroom smaller than the bathroom it’s suddenly not so far away as people used to say. A few blocks away is La Playa the spot the Westside Hipsters™ have built for themselves, sort of. Many of the places were there, but turned hip overnight while a few new places have popped up in the past few years.

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Butter With A College Education

Cultured ButterOK, bad joke maybe, but I’ve been noticing that the next new big thing in San Francisco cuisine is all about cultured butter. Restaurants are making their own like it’s something new that’s never been done before and mixing in bone marrow or herbs or whatever they have laying around in the kitchen. The reality is that it’s not that new, it’s actually been around since people discovered milk comes out of cows and oddly enough it’s pretty easy to make yourself.

Why would I want to make butter? You’re probably saying. You can buy it at the store and if you look hard enough you can sometimes even find cultured butter. This is a bit different though because it’s fresh since you made it yourself and the thing that the restaurant chefs aren’t talking about is that if it’s made here it’s got San Francisco bacteria in it that you can’t find anywhere else. Just like our sourdough bread has it’s own flavor, cultured butter made in San Francisco has it’s own super rich awesome flavor.

I came upon making butter totally by accident actually. I kept hearing about creme fraiche as a new big thing and realized that I didn’t think I had ever tried it before so I had to make some. That part was easy. Here’s what you need:

1 pint heavy cream [not ultra-pasturized]
2 tablespoons plain yogurt with live cultures or cultured buttermilk
1 jar

Yes, it’s that simple. Pour the cream into a bowl and whip in the yogurt with a whisk then pour it into the jar. Here’s the part where people might get a little hincky. Lightly cover the jar and leave it out for 24 hours and you’ve got creme fraiche. The creme thickens up and starts to get a taste that kind of between cream cheese and sour cream. You’re free to stop there and use it anywhere you’d use sour cream. The fun fact with creme fraiche is that it’s higher butterfat content means you can mix it into sauces and it won’t break. I was tossing it on everything just to see where it would be good. Baked potatoes are great. Add a little sugar and pour it onto berries or dessert and it’s great. Mix in herbs for a super rich and wonderful dip for whatever you want to dip in it.

Now for the butter part. You can take your creme fraiche and pour it into a butter churn. Don’t have one? A food processor will work just fine. Turn it on and watch it start to look like beaten whipped cream in a couple of minutes. Let the processor keep going for about 5 minutes and it starts to break up from all that agitation. You’re getting butter and buttermilk. Pour the buttermilk off and add some cold water and run the processor again. The water will wash out more of the buttermilk and you might have to do this a couple of times before the water starts to come out clear. The more buttermilk you can extract the longer it will last.

When you’re done you have cultured butter. The buttermilk you got out of it you can use to make more by adding a couple of tablespoons to more cream or you can make buttermilk pancakes. Part of the culturing comes from the yogurt cultures and part comes from your geographic location, i.e. San Francisco. It’s very high in butterfat like European butter. It’s kind of like a rock when you pull it out of the fridge. You can use it on whatever you like. I personally like it melting into some homemade dinner rolls, but again, I’ve been putting it on just about everything to see where it’s best. I’ve yet to be disappointed. It’s a little bit tangier than regular store bought butter and more than even the store bought cultured butter I’ve tried. I’ve used organic cream from Clover Stornetta or Straus Creamery because they’re local and I know the cows are grass fed so you get more Omega 3’s and all the good stuff that comes with grass fed cow’s milk. At the very least don’t tell anyone how easy it is to make and you can been all food snobby when you tell them that the dish you made incorporates hand made butter from the cream of grass fed cows. That’s a lot of words so that means it’s really good.

Yes, it’s pretty much all saturated fat, but it’s healthy saturated fat so it’s good for you right? Just try it and taste it and you really won’t care. I think I’ve found my last meal that won’t disappoint me.

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Riffing On Toad In A Hole: The “Greyjoy”

It's a dick in a box.

I used to be poor, not homeless poor, but barely getting by and food was a little difficult to come by some days. One day I found some sausage in the freezer and remembered the old British dish that was popular during WWII called Toad In A Hole.

Essentially the dish is sausage cooked in a yorkshire pudding. It’s a quite filling dish and easy to make. I only needed to feed myself so I ended up creating my own riff on the Toad In A Hole which quickly became nicknamed after a certain comedy music video. Later I posted a picture of it on Facebook making a little joke about naming it Theon after the character in Game of Thrones who had a certain part of his body removed. What I didn’t realize was that my FaceBook post got posted to Twitter and then it started to turn into a little meme with the GoT’s fans. It has since started to be referred to by Theon’s surname of Greyjoy.

Now that people are talking about my little meal I put together I realized that after writing my story about my thoughts on $4 Toast that someone might steal this idea from me. So I’ve decided to explain my little riff on this dish before you can see it on menu’s around San Francisco for $25 when it really is one of the most stupidly easy dishes to make. Here’s how it goes…

First you’ll need a good sausage. Don’t use hot dogs. I’ve tried Italian sausage, but the fennel doesn’t seem to taste right. Typically a pork sausage or something with some extra spice like a chicken with garlic sausage. I’ve tried a lot of sausages and some of them that I thought would work don’t so you’ll have to experiment. Now first you’ll have to make your batter.

Batter

I take 1 egg, a half cup of flour and a half cut of milk and beat the hell out of it with a whisk. Add seasoning and here’s where I’ll leave it up to you. You want the batter to be a bit savory, but I’ll let you figure it out. I’ve got my own combination of things I use to give it flavor and I’m not telling. When you’re done put it in the fridge. You can let it set for a few minutes to overnight even so if you’re going to make a lot of them you can plan ahead.

Sausage & Cooking

I used a 5.75″ x 3″ pan which is the perfect size grease up the pan with olive oil or butter and get the sausage good and coated and throw it into a 450° oven for 5 minutes. Pull it out and pour the batter over it and put it back in the oven for 20 minutes. You’re done.

That’s really all there is to it. It looks a bit like a misshapen hot dog, but tastes a lot better and will fed a guy’s hunger easily. The yorkshire pudding fills out the dish so that you don’t need to eat a lot more than you really need. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and even figured out a way that if I owned a restaurant how to throw it together quick enough to serve up to customers without them having to wait a long time. Since the recipe is so simple you can easily adapt it in many different ways.

So if you happen to be in a restaurant in San Francisco in the near future and see a toad in a hole or greyjoy on the menu you’ll know who’s responsible for it. Now pop it your mouth!

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$4 Toast, My Thoughts

iMfTrhtWhen I first heard someone talk about $4 toast in San Francisco I knew we weren’t talking about Wonder Bread. No one would have the cojones that big to try and sell Wonder Bread for $4, but of course San Francisco has plenty of bloggers with the cojones to make you think that. These rich techies are paying $4-$6 for a slice of toast!!!! Well, yes bread is involved and yes it’s toasted, but that’s pretty much where in ends for the most part.

Where it started is up for discussion, but people usually point to Trouble Coffee out in my hood or The Mill as the originators. They start with inch thick slices of wheat bread and slather it with butter and depending can top it with brown sugar and cinnamon, peanut butter and honey or whatever the hell they’re going to think up next. For a big eater it’s a light breakfast or a decent snack, but for the average person it’s pretty much a meal. It’s got a lot more calories and nutrition than a slice of Wonder Bread for sure.

The owner of Trouble Coffee said it was a comfort food for her because she grew up poor. For me, I was a kid in a middle class household that wasn’t hurting for money too bad and guess what my Grandmother used to make for me as a treat? Toast with lots of butter and brown sugar. Grandma would toss it under the broiler for a few seconds to get that serious caramelized effect that chefs like to go for now. It wasn’t a poor man’s pastry, it was actually more expensive than a donut back then probably because of the huge amounts of butter and stuff my Grandmother would toss on top of it. While most of the ingredients came out of boxes or bags this was home made for my Grandmother. I still like it today, I just never thought of slicing the bread an inch thick first.

My Grandmother would toss lots of stuff on bread that she’d toast. She used to broil cheese on bread and that was her version of a grilled cheese sandwich. I took a cue from her and toast bread then rub garlic on it and toss some chopped up tomatoes or other vegetables and call it lazy man’s bruschetta. Unfortunately for most people in San Francisco today lazy tends to be the norm. Finding a friend who is a foodie that can cook is kind of rare nowadays. Most of what people are spending their money on food wise has been prepared by someone else. Yes I cook so of course I’m going to not understand why other people don’t, but we’re talking about toast here. You can go to a bakery like Boudin and buy a loaf and ask them to cut it thick for you. You take it home, toast it, toss a bunch of stuff on top [if you’re slick you’ll put it under the broiler…] and you’re done.

The only reason there is $4 thick toast is that people don’t bother to do it for themselves. For the people who started selling it I think it’s a good idea. If you’ve never made it or bought it, it is something special. I had a poor period and a friend of mine gave me a 10lb bag of flour and a jar of yeast. That reminded me I knew how to make bread and I never felt hungry and I was able to do some pretty incredible things with it because when you’re hungry your mind sees everything as something you can turn into food [at least if you’re a guy like me.]

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Incidentally, the $4 toast, after doing a little search didn’t start in San Francisco. It started in Japan as a breakfast item too. It has scrambled egg on top and is sprinkled with chives and is sold as tamago toast for the equivalent cost of…$4

Looks pretty good and I’ll have to give that a try one of these days now.

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