The Blob

The Blob eats Quebec


THE BLOB If you thought the first thing you’d see when you landed in Quebec City, Canada, was a mime in a black mock turtleneck playing “My Heart Will Go On” on an accordion, you’d be almost right. Almost, because the Blob promptly devoured him — chewy! — and went on to enjoy a brief culinary tour of one of the most charming, clean, and friendly cities she’s visited.

Also surprisingly diverse: waves of Canadian immigration have gently streaked “traditional” Canadian cuisine (yes there is such a thing, from the “meat pie” pork tortierre of the Blob’s maternal grandmother to Canadian bacon, berry jams, sweet pickles, and caribou steaks) with global flavors. Quebec being heavily French, there’s also an attention to detail and service that boosts its current restaurant boom to another level — without stinting on any creamy richness.

Chefs here have dived into experimenting with local St. Lawrence Seaway ingredients like meaty Îles de la Madeleine sea scallops, tender green saltwort, smoked Kamouraska eel, late spring fiddleheads and asparagus (all experienced at the superior L’Échaudé in the stonewalled Vieux-Port area, Blackberry cassis and cider, made in the bright, tin-roofed farmhouses on Île d’Orléans across the river, boutique chocolate galore, and ubiquitous maple delights from Quebec’s interior sweeten the pot.

“Smoked meat,” a.k.a. molasses-cured pastrami, piled on a plate with a pickle (Joe Smoked Meat, or tucked deliciously beneath cheese and a layer of butter spread on a pizza (Pizzeria TM in nearby Thetford Mines) fattens up, as does that ubiquitous Quebecois staple, poutine, in a panoply of forms. Let’s eat.



Holy leaping quaintness. This cozy joint in the Lower Town, tucked amid shops selling Inuit art and hip-mom scarves, is a true Quebec experience. Pretty waitstaff offer the house specialty, rabbit, in a dazzling variety of formats: juicy in white bean cassoulet, dipped in honey-rosemary sauce, roasted with “two mustards,” even plated with a hefty side of duck. Simplicity is best, the Blob may have learned from some Beatrix Potter book. So a slice of rabbit pie ($21.95) it was, savory-sweet, with currants and potatoes, atop a splash of balsamic sauce. Paired perfectly with a local Boréale Rousse beer? Mais oui!

52, rue du Petit-Champlain,



Ice cider, who knew? The Blob has been put off by ice wines before — too sweet, too supermarket-y — but this premier line of Quebecois ciders ($47 per 375 ml, less expensive versions available), distilled from frosted apples, has changed her life. Wonderful after a spicy meal, the chilled-syrup, full-bodied sweetness lingers in your mouth like a very good port, but without the sting.



Le Cochon Dingue is a Denny’s-like restaurant chain (but better), and poutine — fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds — is a French Canadian staple that’s become popular in the US. Poutine is available everywhere, from fast food versions to ones with foie gras or hunks of venison. The measure to which all poutine is held? The squeakiness of its curds. And this affordable version ($10) with shredded duck in a sweet gravy has incredibly squeaky curds. It’s squeaky curdlicious.  



This is the place: a former bank on a corner in the neat Saint-Roch district, transformed into a magnet for foodies (there are some gentrification issues here, yes). The innovative menu doesn’t show its hand too much — you’re getting deeply thought-through, hyperlocal fare, but that fact’s not treated like a showy gimmick, plastered everywhere. One stand-out: blood pudding sausage ($23.95), melting with rich, dark pork and accompanied by pineapple (OK, not so local always) chutney and hearty fresh vegetables. Desserts are a must — tiny chocolate squares as dense as black holes dot caramelized bananas in rum sauce with sticky popcorn; érable (maple) flavor erupts in a warm fritter crusted with sweet pecans.  

203, rue Saint-Joseph Est,

Gang’s all here


THE BLOB We so very want to love the brand new Sydney Town Tavern (531 Commercial, SF. in the Financial District, named after a roving gang of Australian, Irish, and English convict-rogues who terrorized the Barbary Coast. The Blob certainly loves a bad boy or five! The pedigree is right: Syndney Town is sister to Irish Times, right around the corner. And the drinks are nice — a huge, like pint-glass huge, pomegranate margarita will solve any afternoon problems, and a refreshing orange crush replicates an Orangesicle, though not too sticky-sweet. But the menu falls too much on the typical gourmet bar snacks side, executed not-so-stellarly: fish was leathery and its chips were a droopy few; meatballs were firm but unmemorable; truffle mac and cheese was dry and pasty. Channel your namesake and do something naughty, Sydney Town Tavern!

PS: Cherries are amazing right now; grab some at the farmers market this week.



Friends, we are living in an era of $9 juice. There’s a complex story behind the founding of Juice Shop by brothers Charlie, Ben, and Jake Gulick (and Charlie’s wife Linda) involving miraculous liver cleansing, which we won’t relate here, because “liver cleansing.” We will relate, however, the taste of our glass-bottle pint of cold-pressed, unpasteurized, kale-parsley-spinach-romaine-etc. A+ Deep Green juice, purchased at a rustic-cute streetside stand in the FiDi (there’s one in Cow Hollow, too): “Deeep Greeen deeelightful. Immediately, the Blob was ready to conquer her day — probably aided by some sort of squeaky super-clean hyper-liver.

Other options include Coco-Clorophyll, pineapple pear chia, Alpha Green, Beta Beet, and apple lemon ginger. Juice Shop will also program an entire 1-10 day cleanse to suit your needs, including an array of juices, plus aloe and blue-green algae, starting at $62. Has there ever been a kickstarter for a personal cleanse?

353 Pine, SF.



So long ago seem the days when the concept of gourmet Jewish deli food was unconcepted, and that cute guy with the dreads from Wise Sons was hawking chocolate babka out of a hand cart on Ferry Plaza. Wouldn’t you know it, here we are, digging with both hands and a fork into the mountain of meat Shorty Goldstein presents as a pastrami on rye ($12). Lean is definitely not the byword here, with thick, peppery, fat-laced slices piled up like brisket on solid, if completely overwhelmed, rye (mustard and accompanying pickle provided). The Blob cannot lie — it took her two days to finish this giant, which comes out to $6 per lunch. Not bad, and helps explain the lines down the street.

As if that were not recommendation enough, when we showed a picture of said sandwich to our very Jewish uncle from the East Coast, he grunted in condescending amusement, which in old-school East Coast Jewish terms is the closest any gourmet West Coast deli food is going to come to approval, so what’s to complain?

We piled on a hefty side of farm fresh veggies as a treat ($5) — that day it was rainbow carrots roasted with a hint of mint. Other sandwich options include exactly what you’d expect: corned beef (every day), egg salad (Mondays), beef tongue (Thursday), etc. Go eat, already.

126 Sutter, SF.



Let’s waltz out of the Financial District and its parade of newbies, and right into SoMa for an old favorite, Walzwerk, which was hopping on an early Sunday evening. (If there’s ever a time for wonderful, heavy East German food, Sunday dinner time is it.) The Blob had not been there for at least one historico-dialectical cycle, but the giant etchings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin on the walls still amused, the fabulously direct waitress remembered us, and the German Democratic Republic memorabilia remained fascinating and somehow hilarious.

And the food. Oh, the food. Mouthwatering sauerbraten with pickled cabbage and hefty dumplings covered in gravy, chicken breast stuffed with apples and bacon, awesomely firm cheese spaetzle, “soljanka” cabbage soup with salami, bacon, and pickles. Treat of all treats? Tangy, dill infused matjes herring (mildly salted herring served “housewife-style”), with fresh fillets soused in sour cream with apples, onions, and pickles — a light, sweet take on Thousand Island dressing, maybe, served with firm pumpernickel for spreading. We love you, tangy-sweet East German housewife!

381 South Van Ness, SF.

Mean Greens


THE BLOB Good green goddess, we’re only midway through the season but your Blob is getting asparagused out! This year, that delectable spring stalk seems especially abundant on menus about the Bay, from the warming canh cua mang tay (crab and asparagus soup) at PPQ Dungeness Island ( in the Outer Richmond to the verdant asparagus ice cream served at a Blob friend’s garden party. Along the way: zingy asparagus lemon pizzetta with prosciutto at Per Diem ( in the FiDi, using Zuckerman Farm in Stockton’s trademark purple variety, and the snap of a Shattuck tempura roll with battered yam at Mission vegan Japanese go-to Cha-Ya (762 Valencia, SF).

The following treats are deliberately void of nubby spears — you can asparaguess why. Yet they’re pretty veg-tacular all the same.



As the Blob was rolling through the diner-riffic wonderland that is West Portal — seriously, the bottomless coffee per square footage of this neighborhood is out of countrol — she remembered a sustainable, construct-your-own salad green spot had sprung up among the laden hash brown platters: Market and Rye. (There’s also one on Potrero Hill.) With choices like strawberries, flax seeds, crispy onions, and, yes, roasted asparagus, it was a lunch lock. It was also lunch rush, and the supercute staff seemed a might stretched to put together everyone’s picky orders, so the Blob chose a signature Wolfgang salad ($10.50) instead. It’s a twist on your old school Asian chicken salad, loaded with roasted chicken, red cabbage, carrots,

toasted sesame seeds, mandarin oranges, crunchy Asian trail mix, and hot mustard soy vinaigrette.

The dressing was just a might too creamy-thick for the Blob’s taste. But if there’s one thing

she loves, it’s a twisted Asian chicken salad. So she sat right down at the rustic space’s communal table with her Mason jar of strawberry water — and Wolfganged that ish right down. You can also order yummy premade salads like spring pea with lemon dressing or broccolini Waldorf by the scoop, like ice cream, which is neat.

68 West Portal and 300 De Haro,



The Orbit Room is such a special splice of atmospheric Europe cafe into artisanal SF cocktailia that the Blob hates to risk ruining it by overpromotion. Its spring drink menu is stunning ($10 each — add egg white for two more dollars, cluck cluck). The Blob stopped in with tasty amiga the Tablehopper (, who recounted her scandalous Coachella exploits while enthusing over a Koriander — practically a salad in a glass, with leafy cilantro, tequila, ginger syrup, lime, and celery bitters. A Spring Shrub shapes a traditional American shrub (a colonial-era cocktail using sweetened vinegar syrup) with strawberry balsamic and black peppercorn base, vodka, lemon, a splash of rosé, and mint seltzer.

But the delicious Hayes Valley Farm coated the Blob’s gullet. It’s a classic bee’s knees cocktail, popular during Prohibition, with honey from the farm down the street, gin, lemon, celery juice, and rose water — all romantically garnished with dried rose petals. Sweet, but also bittersweet: sweet because the Hayes Valley farm honey came back after a massive bee die-off in 2010, bitter(ish) because the farm itself will be demolished next month for pricey condos. (The stalwart farmers claim to be OK with this, appreciating the brief time they had.) In 50 years, will people believe there was once a thriving farm there, not in 1813 but in 2013?

1900 Market, SF.



If you’re going to name something “the feast of all feasts” and price it at $30 per person, you know the Blob’s gonna check it out — even if it’s at a mall (in this case under the dome, thus “cupola,” at the Westfield Center). And yes, even though it does that awful phony four percent HealthySF surcharge thing, which the Blob didn’t know until she got the bill. Up to that point, she would have recommended it profligately.

Strap yourself in for eight or so random courses from handsome Lark Creek offshoot Cupola’s impressive Italian menu, decided by the kitchen. (A complementary “Festa Di Bacchus” wine journey can be had for $17.) As in: two-plus hours of well-portioned food — no flighty tasting menu flim-flam here, these are actual dishes. As in: the Blob and her companion Pinky received two whole Neapolitan pizzas (margherita and spice sopressata), a gloriously delicate handkerchief pasta with simple red sauce, a butter lettuce and gorgonzola salad, another salad of chopped veggies and wine-marinated croutons, an al dente squash and (sorry) asparagus dish, and frothy strawberry tiramisu. The highlight? A somehow feather-light artichoke lasagna — they do pasta soft here — accompanied by an arugula-cashew salad. Finally, the Blob was stuffed!

Westfield Center, 845 Market Street, fourth floor,




THE BLOB Your globe-trotting Blob is currently in her bustling hometown Detroit, gorging on favorite treats, including the kick-ass fried bologna sandwich at Mercury Bar, served on an onion roll with grilled onions, mustard, and local brand Better Made potato chip “smosh.” And of course that Motown favorite, Coney Islands (hot dogs in white bread buns smothered in chili and raw onions) which is everywhere, but best at the old school Lafayette Coney Island downtown. She has some favorite recent treats in SF as well, which she can’t wait to get back to inhaling.


The Blob is calling it: in terms of adventurous flavors, cute and spicy Burma Superstar offshoot B Star in the Inner Richmond has the best brunch going in SF right now. The Zen-lovely space draws a diverse crowd, the prices are “nice brunch” (satisfying entrees, $8–$13, from 10am-3pm) without getting opportunistic about it, and the menu includes Mexican favorites with a Burmese twist.

First, a couple piquant Bloody Marys ($6.75 each) and a dive into a good-sized cauldron of justly renowned roasted Brussels sprouts ($6.75), savory with furikake, fish sauce, and parmesan, but perked up perfectly with crispy popped rice. The star of the dazzling B Star brunch menu is a duck hash quesadilla — probably the least Burmese thing you can think of (roasted potatoes and veggies topped with two eggs over easy and zingy radish slaw), until you notice the “quesadilla” is in fact a platha, a delicately fried and spiced flatbread related to Indian paratha, similar in texture to a tortilla, but both more oily and flaky, giving the shredded duck a hearty base.

If you’re not a duck brunch fan (or you have a share-friendly companion) head to B Star’s yummy “jook nook” menu. The Blob is forever addicted to the home style, DIY version of the steamy-hot, Asian rice porridge comfort food served at Outer Richmond faves like Ton Kiang or Jook Time. But B Star’s gussied up big-bowl selection, starting with base ingredients like shredded chicken with thousand year old egg or pork sung with pickled mustard greens and fried noodles, comes loaded with all the extras, including scallions, chili, ginger, and peanuts. A dash of soy and your day is made.

127 Clement, SF. (415) 933-9900,


A recent return to this genteel Mexican hotspot near Church and Market confirmed the Blob’s addiction to the crispy, crema-smothered, incredibly popular duck flautas there. Three huge tubes of delectable shredded quacker with cabbage and cotija cheese ($9) are enough for a filling lunch, but don’t deny yourself the pleasures of the rest of the menu. Feeling light and pescaterian? Splash into tangy ceviche de pescado with chunks of mahi mahi, avocado, and orange ($10), but maybe skip the ceviche de camarones ($10) — the Blob, a ceviche snob freshly back from a tour of the Southern Mexican coast, found the generous bits of shrimp overpowered by a bland, ketchupy cocktail sauce.

Don’t skip, however, an incredible pambazo (Mexican white bread bun stuffed with potatoes and chorizo and dipped in red guajillo pepper sauce, $6) or, if the duck’s left any room, juicy brisket-loaded soft tacos de saudero ($6 for two). Then go back for the pambazo’s big sister, torta ahogado ($10), a carnitas and pickled onion sandwich drowned in mild red sauce and eatable only with a knife and fork, and several napkins.

235 Church, SF. (415) 552-5700,


The new Farina pizzeria at 18th and Valencia, immaculately white-tiled and accented with neat portraits of vintage Italian comics characters (think Mary Worth in Naples), has become one of the latest flashpoints of the ongoing gentrification debate. The Blob detests the Borg, and $15 personal pizzas are a bit of a stretch — although there are $22 ones, though worthy, at Una Pizza Napoletana down the way at SoMa. The Blob’s orifice, however, was soon spattered with an excellently fiery, soft crust pizza diavolo, with spicy salame, San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, romano cheese, basil and EVOO.

But she was truly blown away by the L Gnudi Alla Cosimo De Medici, i.e. several large spinach ricotta dumplings ($15), hefty balls of al dente pasta sheets, with the slightly chewy give of mochi, stuffed with wonderfully grassy shredded spinach and bathed in butter-sage sauce, a vegetarian treasure worth its own trip (with a glass of Italian red, natch).

700 Valencia, SF. (415) 565-1900,


Eats everything


THE BLOB This coming week sees most of our smaller neighborhood farmers markets resuming their merry little trade, the familiar young faces behind the stalls and bushy green produce spilling forth a sunny welcome after grueling — grueling — months of eating only in-season citrus and avocado. OK, this is California, so pretty much everything’s in season all the time, which is great news for an ever-voracious Blob. But it’s nice to meet with your neighbors on the street for reasons other than complaining about dog poop. (The Blob usually just devours its problem neighbors, but the point is farmers markets are nice.) Here are some tasty eats that also have us communing with a spring-like vibe.



Recently, the Blob had the occasion to experience a NorCal classic — a warm creamy bowl of artichoke soup at Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero, about half an hour towards Santa Cruz. The Blob’s in-laws were visiting for a sunny coastal drive, but the Blob did not eat them, much as we may have wished. Instead, we feasted on another of Duarte’s tributes to its famous local vegetable, a spectacular artichoke ravioli ($14). Its enveloping pasta perfectly al dente, the rich, peppery artichoke-ricotta stuffing had an unexpected granular texture that nonetheless melted on the tongue. (The Blob topped it all with zesty marinara, a special request.)

Plentiful deep-fried calimari, baked Pacific oysters erupting with hot butter, local ollieberry pie (think blackberry-meets-raspberry with a pinch of tart), a biker-family clientele, and that famous soup are Duarte’s stock-in-trade. Add a walk around Pescadero’s vintage California-quaint downtown, presto! A day trip to content any in-law.

202 Stage Rd., Pescadero. (650) 879-0464,



Kitchen Story replaced midrange white tablecloth stalwart Tangerine last November, bringing an Asian fusion sensibility and some comfy decor — granite tile, wood bookshelves — to the Castro spot. (It also brings a hint of panic: “Due to high volume, we respectfully request no substitutions on the menu,” it announces repeatedly.) Although it’s open for Thai-heavy dinner, so far brunch is the name of the game for regulars. And the brunch items of choice are stuffed-to-perfection ricotta pancakes, a sweet yet satisfying banmi panini, and millionaire’s bacon, a sassy little item consisting of thick bacon slices marinated in brown sugar syrup and chiles that’s popular at the owners’ other restaurants, Blackwood and Sweet Maple.

The Blob is a contrarian however, and also a sucker for a good salad, so the mango salad with prawns ($13) was our chosen victim on the most recent visit. It took a few minutes to get some attention, but the food came out of the kitchen fast (1:30pm on Saturday is a great time to go). The Blob’s companion Krispy substituted anyway — gasp! — asking for an extra two poached eggs placed atop his grilled veggie and cilantro aioli “morning melt.” He found the kitchen willing and the combo delicious. The mango salad, a riotous heap of bright color, was brimming with mango. Grilled prawns, however, were scarce, and the smoky-lime dressing a tad too acidic: fruit-based salads need only the merest brightening hint of vinegar; this was over the top.

Nothing a giant mimosa ($8, bottomless $16) couldn’t cut through, but we eagerly await the chance to dive into chapter two of this story: dinner.

3499 16th St., SF. (415) 525-4905,



Maybe it’s because we ate our way through Peru a few springs ago, but pisco sours always put us in a warmer mood. The Blob defaulted to this classic at Peruvian pioneer Limon’s outpost on South Van Ness when purple corn miracle drink chicha morada had sadly run out. (Weird, since Limon possesses its own house brand, Inca Blu.) SF has a long and passionate relationship with the spunky Peruvian brandy — the pisco punch was invented here around 1893, and there are several versions on Limon’s menu. And to no Blob’s surprise, the basic pisco sour ($8), with lime juice, angostura bitters, and simple syrup was excellently sweet-tart without cloying or spiking. And it came with a smiley face drizzled into its heavenly egg white foam. Unbeatable accompaniment to crispy pollo empanadas and meaty tartara de tuna.

Limon Rotisserie, 1001 S. Van Ness, SF. (415) 821-2134,

BLOB TIP: Hey kids, tired of bologna-on-white and bit-sized Snickers in your bag for lunch? Tell your parents that Hayes Valley’s too-cute, newly spiffed Talbot Cafe (244 Gough, SF. 415-553-4945, will pack your bagged lunch for them. Simply order from its regular menu — grilled cheese, BLT, chicken and havarti sandwich, mixed greens ($6–$8) — fill out a paper bag with school, name, grade, class, and date, and the Talbots will deliver something fresh and yummy to your school before 10:45am. They can’t deliver spring break early, however, so sorry.