Food

Anthony’s Cookies grand opening

Anthony

Another gourmet treats shop joined the burgeoning scene in the Mission. Anthony’s Cookies opened today to a line that stretched around the corner.

Opening

As one of the officials present said, it takes courage to start a business in this economic climate. Specially in as business-hostile a city as San Francisco, if I may add.

Anthony

Inside the store was a buzzing hive of activity, with the eponymous proprietor busy preparing batches of free cookies for the awaiting hordes. At $5 for a half dozen, these cookies are a steal. I tried the double chocolate chip, it came fresh from the oven and had a strong chocolate aroma and the right texture. All in all, a great addition to a neighborhood that already has more than its share of good places to indulge a sweet tooth. I added him to my Google map of recommended bakeries, ice cream parlors and sweet shops in San Francisco.

r n m restaurant

rnm entrance

I have just eaten what is hands-down my best meal of the year at r n m restaurant (their capitalization, not mine), on Haight & Steiner in the Duboce Park/Lower Haight district of San Francisco (not to be confused with the formerly raffish and now utterly commercialized Haight-Ashbury).

The restaurant is named after the chef-owner Justine Miner’s father, Robert Miner, a co-founder of Oracle. The food was so good I am almost ready to forgive Oracle for their sleazy extortion tactics…

I started with the Parisian style tuna tartare with waffle chips, microgreens and a quail egg, a very classic dish (and one too often botched by careless chefs), given a little pep with a slight acidity. It was followed by an absolutely outstanding pan-roasted local halibut on ricotta gnocchi with asparagus and morel mushroom ragout, meyer lemon vinaigrette and mâche. The halibut was crisp outside, flaky inside. The ragoût was simply wonderful, a deep, rich and tangy broth, also slightly acidulated, with a generous helping of precious black morels. To top it off, the dessert, a Peach and cherry crisp with home-made blueberry gelato combined two of my favorite summer fruit in an unbeatable combination.

Be advised the parking situation in that neighborhood is particularly nightmarish, even by SF standards. If I had realized they offer valet parking, I wouldn’t have had to park halt a mile away (after seeking a place in vain for nearly half an hour).

Update (2012-09-05)

Unfortunately, it closed at least a year ago.

Christopher Elbow chocolates

A few months ago, a new chocolate shop opened in Hayes Valley. Christopher Elbow chocolates is based in Kansas City, not a place that immediately springs to mind when the Great American Chocolate Renaissance is discussed. I had bought some of their products from Cocoa Bella, however, and knew they were good, if pricey.

Christopher Elbow

They sell moderately expensive chocolate bars (the No. 10 41% milk chocolate with hazelnuts is pretty good), drinking chocolate, and bouchéees. The latter are a little too bleeding edge for my taste (spices do not belong in chocolate), but the Bourbon Pecan is to die for, a light and moist, pecan marzipan, almost creamy despite the deliberately roughly chopped texture, and topped with ganache. Not surprisingly, it is usually sold out at the other outlets..

The real draw, as far as I am concerned, is the hot chocolate. Dark, rich, creamy and thick, specially if you ask them to blend it with genuine praline, it is absolutely delicious. You can enjoy it in the twee little salon in the corner of the store before a concert at the nearby Symphony, or shopping in Hayes valley. If you are in the neighborhood, try also Miette Confiserie.

The San Francisco chocolate lover’s shortlist

Here are my picks for the best chocolate places in the city (note: updated 2013-04-20):

  • Chocolate merchants: Noe Valley’s Chocolate Covered has made leaps and strides in the last 5 years, and beat previous favorite Fog City News
  • Honorable mentionFog City News, an impressive lineup tended by the knowledgeable owner, Adam Smith. Also the chocolate section at Rainbow Co-op.
  • Chocolate bouchées: Cocoa Bella. This shop is a chocolate integrator: it collects chocolates from small chocolatiers across the world and brings them under a single roof. They also make hot chocolate.
  • Honorable mention: Michael Recchiuti makes scrumptious confections, and his burnt caramel chocolate covered hazelnuts are to die for, as are many of his bars. Try also his Chocolate Lab in the Dogpatch for a cafe experience.
  • Chocolate maker: Guittard. This fourth-generation family of chocolatiers, originally from France, have been supplying professionals like Recchiuti for a century and half. The best dessert I ever had in America was a Guittard chocolate and cherry cake at Eno in Atlanta, of all places. They now have a retail line of very high quality.
  • Dishonorable mentions:
    • Scharffen-Berger: part of the evil Hershey empire, who are lobbying to have FDA standards watered down (so mockolate made with margarine can be passed off as real chocolate)
    • Tcho: overrated, and very simplistic, although their “Tchunky Tchotella” bar is amusing
    • Dandelion: sleazy hipster outfit that turns good raw ingredients into crude dreck
    • L’Amourette: another overrated local brand. The packaging for their “70% Dark Chocolate Gold” screams “Venezuela” and “Sur Del Lago”, but only mentions in small type they use the inferior Trinitario cacao instead of the noble Criollo the provenance (and price) would imply.
  • Hot chocolate: Christopher Elbow on Gough & Hayes has an intense hazelnut-flavored hot chocolate.
  • Honorable mention: Charles Chocolates (disclaimer: I am an investor)
  • Chocolate pastries: Cafe Madeleine, a.k.a. Jil’s Patisserie, formerly of Burlingame, now made in their New Montgomery Street shop (with two additional locations on California and O’Farrell).
  • Honorable mentions: Miette in the Ferry Building. Tartine’s chocolate hazelnut tart. B Patisserie’s chocolate Kouign Amann.
See also my Google map of the best places for sweets in the City.