In the midst of last week’s intense heat wave, I escaped to cooler points north thanks to a timely work-related trip. As soon as I landed in San Francisco, sunny and 70 degrees, I hopped BART to my hotel, dropped off my baggage, and made a beeline for Craftsman and Wolves to indulge in avant-garde pastries (served with a side of gentrification).
The bakery’s unusual name is a nod to artisans and the “numerous challenges that one faces when pursuing their craft,” according to the website. Craftsman and Wolves’ proprietor, William Werner, was previously the pastry chef at Quince.
The bakery offers an ever-changing selection of breakfast pastries, cakes, confections, confitures, desserts, and savory lunchtime fare.
The best-seller, The Rebel Within (front center), is a savory Asiago and Parmesan cheese muffin flecked with breakfast sausage, black pepper, and chives and filled with an oozy-yolked poached egg.
Not in the mood for a runny yolk this afternoon, I started with a “Savory Tart” topped with tangy fromage blanc, snappy brined beets and turnips, and toasted pistachios ($5.50). My only complaint was that the flaky base was a bit difficult to cut through using the provided butter knife. Otherwise, this pastry was as good as expected.
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I finally made it to Union for dinner this week, nearly five months after it opened in Old Pasadena. I’ve been following the restaurant’s positive press since the start, but couldn’t quite swing a meal here (walking in at 5:30 PM on Saturday evening was impossible) until now. It was most definitely worth the wait.
Along with partner Marie Petulla, Chef Bruce Kalman has created a boisterous, 50-seat restaurant celebrating Northern Italian cooking using locally-sourced ingredients.
Prior to settling down, Chef Kalman was a James Beard nominated Rising Star Chef, pickle master, and alumnus of Park Avenue Café in New York, Spiaggia in Chicago, The Misfit in Santa Monica, and The Churchill in West Hollywood.
To start, a warm and crusty loaf from Etxea Basque Bakery served with house-made cultured butter sprinkled with coarse salt and damn fine giardiniera ($6). This was deceptively simple and so, so good.
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While we’re on the topic of Koreatown, let’s discuss the awesomeness of Mapo Kkak Doo Gee!
I was first introduced to this gem while researching The Food Lovers’ Guide to Los Angeles a few years back. In a neighborhood full of stellar restaurants, I keep returning here time and again for the dependably delicious cooking.
As you can likely deduce from the facade, Mapo Kkak Doo Gee is a no-frills kind of place. The menu features homey Korean fare, and seats are easy to come by at both lunch and dinner.
One of the perks of dining in Koreatown is the free and refillable banchan served alongside every meal. While it’s always nice to receive something for nothing, it’s rarely the case that these pickled and marinated nibbles are as memorable as the main course. At Mapo, however, the banchan are so remarkably good that my chopsticks can’t help but reach for more.
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The second half of my second trimester of pregnancy has been good to me. After a rough start, I can finally hold down food without the aid of modern medicine, I have a great deal more energy, and best of all, I’m able to stay awake past 8 PM. I’m not sure what the next couple of months will hold, but for the time being, life rocks.
While the good spirits are running high, I plan on cramming in as much good eating and restaurant explorations as possible. For our first dinner out on the town in a few months, The Astronomer and I made it a priority to check out Chef Roy Choi’s Commissary, his latest (and final) dining venue at The Line Hotel in Koreatown.
Located on the hotel’s second floor rooftop, Commissary is a greenhouse with a focus on fruits and vegetables. Roy’s been layin’ off meat for years now, and Commissary is a reflection of how delicious and satisfying a plant-based (but not necessarily vegetarian) diet can be at its best.
The restaurant’s space is full of light: pure sunshine during the day and urban twinkly at night. There’s a shimmering pool nearby and superb vibes all around.
The restaurant’s illustrated menu (see topmost image) is divided into five price points and comes with a supplementary decoder to describe various preparations and additional ingredients. The Astronomer and I both found the menu to be whimsical and fun, even though it wasn’t the most streamlined.
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