The Industry All-Stars: Tara Payne

For three years, my writing has been almost exclusively focused on food – literally taking the things I eat off of the plate, and changing them into words on paper. By doing so, I often don’t bring enough attention to the hundreds of other facets of the food industry: the dining atmosphere, larger industry discussions a la Michael Pollan, emerging new trends, or the people who make it all possible.

As I was getting my daily morning coffee from Philz, it suddenly hit me: one of the most important reasons for why I keep going back to this place, or any place for that matter, is because of the happiness I feel whenever I interact with the people working at these establishments. It’s part of what makes San Francisco feel like home; it’s like Cheers – there’s nothing better than getting a warm welcome from people who know you’re name…and they’re always glad you came. So right here and now, I’m starting a new series of posts that puts the spotlight on some of my favorite people in the San Francisco, and what makes them so damn awesome.…Continue Reading

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Buns that Wow: Chairman Bao

Rating: ★★★★★

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus partly because of work, but also partly because of the fall television season starting again. Not to mention my determination to watch Lost, the entire series, for a second time. But the good news is I’m back now with something I’ve been meaning to write about for many, many months. What I’m trying to say is, it’s about damn time I talk about my unconditional love for Chairman Bao.

Alright, so it’s not quite unconditional – there is one condition: their Bao buns must always taste amazing. Luckily, they’ve got that on lock, so I’ve had no problem continuing my love affair with what is arguably the best food truck in San Francisco…Continue Reading

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Returning to a Long-Time Favorite: SPQR

Uova SPQR

Rating: ★★★★★

There are few places I can call home. After over seven years of living on my own, even my childhood home doesn’t quite feel like home anymore. This may sound crazy or exaggerated, but somehow, every time I walk into SPQR, it feels like I’m home. And I don’t just have a special place in my heart for the restaurant itself; for me, the feeling that the city of San Francisco is my home is intimately connected to my ties to particular restaurants, SPQR being one of the most important. After two years of interacting with the staff, being awed by Chef Matthew Accarrino, and just basically being a “regular” (well, at least for me), I can say that SPQR isn’t just an excellent restaurant, nor is it just one of my favorite restaurants in the City. It’s home.

But enough of my sappy, emotional sermon. Why don’t I just explain the reasons why this restaurant is so special? Sure, I could describe the dimly-lit, neighborhood atmosphere, or the professional-yet-incredibly-friendly service. I could certainly discuss the expertly chosen wine list, created by co-owner Shelley Lindgren, whose wine program at sister restaurant, A16, has been nominated more than once by the Beard Foundation. Of course all of these factors add to the overall experience. But, at the end of the day, what keeps me coming back for more is the foodContinue Reading

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Mr. Pollo Version 2.0

Rating: ★★★★★

Dear Mr. Pollo,

I owe you an apology. No, it’s not for what you might be thinking – I’ve never written unsavory remarks about you or slandered you to my friends. In fact I only had positive things to say in my previous write-up of your business. But I did make one mistake in that first review – one big mistake. I underestimated you.

See, even after publically endorsing your Pork and Cheese Arepa as one of the best I’ve ever tasted, I still wrote you off in my mind as a simple specialty shop – my go-to place when I’m in the mood for no-fuss Venezuelan cuisine. But then, one fateful night earlier this year, I finally opened my mind up enough to look past your arepas and venture into tasting menu territory. Now, after making countless return visits for your nightly-changing menu, it’s obvious that my initial perception of you was wrong. Completely, embarrassingly wrong, and for that, I’m sorry…Continue Reading

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Screw Sexy. Serrano’s Pizza is Bringing Real Pizza Back

Rating: ★★★★★

San Francisco is obsessed with perfecting the Neapolitan pizza. Actually, a better way to say it is San Francisco is obsessed with adding their own unique twist to the most classic definition of Neapolitan pizza, instead creating variations that almost classify as the original but more closely resemble a close cousin. A16, Flour and Water, Ragazza, Delfina Pizzeria, Beretta, Una Pizza Napoletana, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, Zero Zero…the list goes on. It’s so prolific that, other than a few, well-known deep-dish pizzerias I began thinking that this was practically the only non-chain type of pizza available in this city….Continue Reading

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Complimentary Beginners as a Means to an End

After seeing the final version of my latest Culinary Trends piece on “Complimentary Beginners,” I can officially say that this article is my all-time favorite. Not surprisingly, it was also one of my more difficult pieces. Finding restaurants that offer interesting complimentary bites, and run the gamut in terms of cuisine and price was no easy task. But the final result speaks for itself!

Below is the full, unedited version. Enjoy!…Continue Reading

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American Cheese Meets its Rival: Beemster Graskaas

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about one of my all-time favorite topics in food: cheese. While I may frequently tweet about my favorite cheese derivative, cheezits, or even add new entries to my cheese list on occasion, I rarely find a cheese so notable as to dedicate an entire post to its magnificence. Get ready, because today is one of those days. Continue Reading

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The Chicken Sandwich at 3-SUM EATS is a Beast

Since returning from Europe, I’ve been…how should I say? Aggressively eating. Aggressively would probably be putting it lightly. Aggressively writing? Not so much. With all of the amazing meals I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy in the past two months, I could probably write epic articles about fancy shmancy dinners until the end of the year. But you know what? Sometimes you just have to put all of that elegance aside and write about a damn good sandwichContinue Reading

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Stunning, Simple, and Seasonal at La Bigarrade

Chocolate Cake La Bigarrade

Rating: ★★★★★

It’s no secret that Coi is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. So, you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon what seems to be the Coi of Paris: La Bigarrade. There are many similarities: a small, limited-seat dining room, utter precision and immaculate presentation on the plate (so much so that I recently designed business cards featuring a picture I took during my meal), a focus on serving the best, local ingredients available, and a careful balance of flavors – so careful that even a single, extra grain of salt could throw it off…Continue Reading

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Tataki Sushi: Eat Well, Save the Planet

Rating: ★★★★★

Finding good sushi in the City is difficult. Add in the words “affordable” and “sustainable” and it becomes nearly impossible. Enter: Tataki.

First and foremost, what really sets Tataki apart from almost every other restaurant in San Francisco is their commitment to sustainable seafood. Ask yourself, and be honest, if you can tell the difference in taste between Yellowtail Tuna and Albacore Tuna? Or, for that matter, Yellowtail Tuna and Mackerel? If you’re anything like me, the answer is probably no. My sushi knowledge goes as far as knowing that I prefer firmer fish to buttery fish, shrimp tempura is magically delicious, and my rolls need to be dunked in wasabi-spiced soy sauce for ultimate satisfaction. Novice at best. So when I don’t see “traditional” sushi selections, like Bluefin Tuna, and am instead greeted with a list of Pole-Caught Skipjack Tuna (katsuo), Closed-Containment Farmed Striped Bass (Suzuki), and McFarland Springs Trout, I’m not disappointed….Continue Reading

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