Work travel strikes again but at least this time I ended up in one of my favorite cities – San Francisco! Here are notes from the travel scratchpad. I took photos when appropriate; client dinners don’t always lend themselves to foodie habits. If you’re planning a trip there yourself, check out our past reviews in San Francisco.

Boulevard
Landing in San Francisco late in the evening, I was flying solo for dinner.  I wandered from my hotel but was not lost. Boulevard was calling my name and I knew I could find a warm seat at the bar. The brasserie feel of the restaurant put me at ease immediately, as did the fact that it was so crowded at 9pm on a Tuesday night. I scraped my chair up to the bar and immediately landed on my dinner for the evening: pan-roasted California squab with homemade gnocchi, white truffles from Oregon, and roasted brussel sprouts. I was in heaven. The squab was rich and moist – slightly crispy on the outside but still the deep red I was hoping to see in the center. The soft, plump pillows of gnocchi melted on my tongue and the slight tang of the sprouts brought my palate back down to Earth. The by-the-glass wine list was a little pricey but a well-made bourbon cocktail soothed me into the rest of the evening. Their Michelin star is well-deserved.

Boulevard on Urbanspoon

Barbacco Eno Trattoria

courtesy of A Food Lover's Life

Ask someone to come up with trademarks of the Bay Area and you’re likely to get similar answers: great food and technology. (It’s no shock that OpenTable is based there.) Barbacco has found the perfect way to blend both: the drink menu is on an iPad. Brilliant. But the restaurant is more than a tricked out lunch joint. The food was spot on: brussel sprouts lightly fried in duck fat might just spur a religious experience while the farro risotto melds a lesser known grain with a round, full-bodied flavor and the risotto texture I expect. Well done all around.
Barbacco on Urbanspoon

A Top Chef restaurant, another Michelin starred spot, late night burritos, and the top of my Next Time! Wishlist after the jump.

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img_7196When it comes to speakeasy-chic, it’s way too easy to cross the line and come off as trying too hard.  The best way to avoid that pitfall?  Don’t try – just be. 

Once you’ve walked up the dimly lit stairs and settled in to the cozy dining room and bar that make up 1905, it’s understandable to lose yourself in the fantasy that you’re in some secret hideaway known to a chosen few.  The walls are decked out with ornate metalwork and wall sconces that look like lotus blossoms.  The ceiling is pressed tin.  The furniture is distressed just-so.  But the door is cleary marked with the address, and a sign hanging outside the entrance clearly displays the skeleton key that is the restaurant’s symbol.  This place just feels exclusive…and that’s a good thing.

We had heard about this newcomer to a block of 9th Street that was previously best known for Ethiopian must-try Etete when it first opened, and we were definitely interested.  dakota1905benedictEven so, we hadn’t gotten around to visiting before Monday, when Alex at Brightest Young Things invited us to attend a tasting event in honor of their new brunch, which will debut this Sunday, March 15th. 

Over the course of the evening, we got to enjoy a few of the dishes that will appear on the inaugural brunch menu, as well as a few additions to the dinner menu and a killer dessert.

More tasty bites (and even tastier photos by Dakota Fine) after the jump. (more…)

A shot of the bar at Johnny's from their website

Since its move to Capitol Hill in the fall of 2006, Johnny’s Half Shell has been performing an admirable balancing act, trying to maintain the sort of neighborhood appeal it enjoyed in Dupont Circle while catering to the Capitol Hill crowds.  Stop in on a weeknight, and you’ll find as many as four private events (read: political fundraisers) going on in rooms tucked away from the wood-paneled dining room and the tile-and-marble appointed bar area.  There may be plenty of people sitting and enjoying seafood with a New Orleans sensibility inside and out on the patio, but the real action is likely to be at the bar.

For us, a big part of Johnny’s appeal lies in their “Three Happy Hours.” From 4:30 to 7:30 every weeknight, patrons in the bar area can enjoy oysters on the half shell, clams and roughly a dozen soups, salads and appetizers from their regular dinner menu at significantly reduced prices.  Paired with the “Strong Drinks” Johnny’s proudly boasts, you can easily make a meal of these smaller plates without breaking the bank.

Tips on the best of the bunch and a first look at Chef and co-owner Johnny Fulchino’s new Absinthe fountain after the jump. (more…)