Boccalone Salumeria

Posted on

I’m a huge Chris Cosentino fan. Incanto is one of my favorite restaurants, and ever since Boccalone Salumeria opened up in the Ferry Plaza, I’ve been a regular visitor. Cosentino was pushing offal before offal was cool, and thanks to his efforts, more and more people these days are willing to try things like tuna heart and beef kidney.

For the squeamish, Boccalone Salumeria offers more traditional salumis, but in a myriad of flavors. During my last visit, I bought a brown sugar and fennel salame sandwich to snack on.

Brown sugar and fennel salami sandwich

The slow-aged salame was perfectly spiced and the sandwich had bits of sweet fig to balance things out. My only wish is that the sandwich had more actual salame; the bread to meat ratio was a little higher than I prefer. But Boccalone makes a great product, and I’m due to return and try another one of their cured meats.

Boccalone carries soppressata, prosciutto, guanciale, pancetta, paté and all the usual suspects, but what I’m really interested in is their nduja, which they began carrying earlier this year. Nduja is a soft, spreadable, spicy, salame that originated in Calabria and I’ve never heard of anything like it. Intrigued? So am I.

Oh, and they carry mortadella with black truffles. As an Iranian-American, mortadella holds a special place in my heart (the pistachio-flecked, garlicy variety is the preferred deli meat of Iranians around the world), so I know I’ll be picking up a pound or two of Boccalone’s version when I visit next.

Chris, if you’re reading this, God bless your offal-loving soul. Offal is no longer something that elicits cries of disgust when I mention it to fellow eaters. On the contrary, now they welcome it with open arms.

St. Francis Fountain

Posted on

I was never a breakfast person growing up. I mean, I like to eat breakfast (who doesn’t?), but my morning meals have usually been a little untraditional. I mean, if you can eat pasta or steak for lunch or dinner, why not at breakfast?

But I’ve caved in. I’m a breakfast person now. I like eggs and turkey bacon; I devour sausages and hashbrowns. And that’s why I’ve become a repeat visitor to St. Francis Fountain, San Francisco’s old school diner-slash-candy store in the Mission District. Expect a wait, but it’ll be an entertaining wait as the place is always packed with the most hipstery of hipsters.

The chef’s mess (scrambled eggs with bacon, peppers, cheese, sour cream and salsa) is a popular favorite, but I often get the huevos rancheros.

Huevos Rancheros

The eggs are cooked just right and the salsa is fresh-tasting and spicy. During my last visit, I was feeling extra hungry and ordered the biscuits with sausage gravy, which also comes with two eggs.

Biscuits with sausage gravy

The potatoes were perfectly crispy and the sausage gravy was delicious, but the biscuit was huge. Too huge. It felt like a rich mass of dough covered in a rich mass of sauce. Which is what it’s supposed to be, I guess, but in this case it was just too much. I think I was expecting a flakier, less intense biscuit.

Overall, St. Francis Fountain is a solid place to go to for breakfast or brunch. You can’t really go wrong on the menu, but some items certainly stand out more than others. The service is cheerful, the crowd is fun and I love the neighborhood.


Posted on

Once in a while you find a restaurant so perfect, so unassuming and so satisfying, that even after one visit it becomes an instant favorite. I first tasted Chris Cosentino’s cooking at the Anthony Bourdain book release event last November, so when a friend’s birthday rolled around, I knew I had to take him to Cosentino’s restaurant, Incanto.

Neslted in San Francisco’s Noe Valley, the place is an offal-lover’s paradise. You want beef heart? Check. Mortadella? Check. Tripe? Check.

To start, we ordered the grilled beef heart with roasted golden beets:

Grilled beef heart with roasted golden beets

Internet, do you have any idea how much I love beef heart? And beets? The two together was like a marriage made in heaven. The true sign of a well-cooked beef heart (or kidney) is that it still tastes good even after it’s cooled down, and this easily stood up to the test.

For my entree, I got the Bucatini, Sardinian cured tuna heart, egg yolk and parsley:

Bucatini, Sardinian cured tuna heart, egg yolk and parsley

I sometimes mix a raw egg into my rice when eating chelo kabab, or with a number of Korean stews. But I’ve never had it with an Italian pasta, and oh my, it is delicious. The tuna heart added a perfect note of saltiness.

My friend got the truffled mortadella agnolotti, which was also very good:

Truffled mortadella agnolotti

For dessert, I had the three-cheese plate, which was my least favorite part of the meal. It could have been because I was already full, but I’m not really a dessert person to begin with:

Three-cheese plate

Incanto may not receive as much hype as some other Italian restaurants in the city (especially ones that *cough* start with a letter and end in a number *cough*), but the service was attentive yet not stuffy, the food was what offal dreams are made of, and well, it’s my favorite Italian restaurant.


Posted on

My guiltiest food pleasure is ramen. Through the years, my tastebuds have moved up the ranks from Maruchan’s Oriental flavored instant ramen to Nong Shim’s seafood ramyun. I usually add toppings to the soup, like konnyaku or okra. And a raw egg at the end, of course.

You would think that ramen-yas (or ramen houses) would be one of my favorite types of restaurants then, but no. I seem to enjoy pre-packaged, preservative-laden instant ramen better than the real, handmade thing. That being said, one of the few Japanese restaurants that serves up a bowl of ramen good enough for me to return to is Sapporo-ya in San Francisco’s Japantown.

Kimchi ramen

I got the kimchi ramen, which was a good fix for a chilly afternoon, though I could have done without the big slabs of pork. (Seriously, what is that about? Why does almost all ramen include pork or at the very least, pork broth?) The noodles were a firm, chewy texture, and the wakame provided a colorful contrast.

I still count on my good friend Nong Shim as my ramen standby, but Sapporo-ya is there for when the mood strikes. Oh, and don’t go there and order the yakisoba, it’s too greasy. They do have okonomiyaki though, so I know I’ll be back.

Burma Superstar

Posted on

I was at my alma mater a few weeks ago for the Iranians on the Internet conference and afterwards, I met up with a friend to pay a visit to my favorite bookstore, Green Apple Books.

As we were walking down Clement Street afterwards, we spotted a buzzing crowd around Burma Superstar and having heard a lot of good things about the place, decided to give it a try. Ever since I moved out of the Richmond district in San Francisco a couple of years ago, I’ve stumbled upon all these great restaurants that were in my neighborhood the whole time I was living there.

I checked out the menu while I waited for our names to be called. Half an hour later, we were seated. We started with the samusas, which to me tasted like a cross between Indian samosas and Iranian sambuseh:


I had the Nan Gyi Dok (Coconut Chicken Rice Noodle Curry) and my friend had the Burmese Beef Curry. Both were delicious.

Nan Gyi Dok

Burmese beef curry

Burma Superstar gets busy and cramped, but in a warm, inviting way. The service is attentive and the food is pretty good (albeit heavy). I’ll be back for more. With all the attention on Thai and Vietnamese cuisine in recent years, Burmese is just waiting to be discovered.