Monday, December 03, 2007

Farewell to (Skinny) Arms at Farallon

I am trying to get out the last of my old-old-old San Francisco posts out by the end of the year, and I still have about ten more to go. When I sift through my backlog, it makes me feel good to relive (and simultaneously lament about the end of) my food experiences in San Francisco.

One post I have been meaning to get out for a while now, involves a meal that I shared with four of my closest friends. They wanted me to end my time in San Francisco with style. And thus, they treated me out to a dinner at
Farallon, a San Francisco restaurant renowned for its distinctive interpretation of seafood, or "coastal cuisine," and its glistening blown-glass chandeliers, artfully sculpted into illuminated jellyfish chandeliers-of-sorts. Believe the hype, being in the restaurant really makes you feel like you are "under the sea," (to steal a line from Sebastian the crab).

Would you hate me if I just half-heartedly published a lackluster post with a bare-bones description of my meal at Farallon?

Bring on the hate.

First, as a flirtatious and tempting starter, the server brought us little porcelain spoonfuls of a preliminary amuse-bouche--a silky dollop of smoked salmon mousse. The piercing, smoky flavors of mesquite saturated the foamy mousse, and the mousse was delicately garnished with springy chive ringlets and droplet-sized puddles of extra virgin olive oil. It nicely whetted my appetite for what was to come.

My friends and I started with a tartlet that touted the inclusion of roasted yellow nectarines, Laura Chenel chevre, toasted almond slivers, and a simple lemon vinaigrette. The tartlet arrived at our table looking like a blistered puff pastry mattress with rotund ice-cream scoopful of chevre on the top. The supple nectarines looked like stewed tomatoes, oddly orbiting the tartlet. The tartlet itself sat squarely atop a nest of wilted Sausalito springs watercress. Despite the odd appearance, every element of the appetizer was packed with flavor: from the chevre to the watercress, and the roasted nectarines! The roasted nectarines stood head and shoulders above the rest of the dish.

We also shared an appetizer of rouget stuffed with wild mushrooms and served in a coconut lemongrass sauce with English peas and sweet fennel. I was interested in tasting the fusion elements of the dish, but the licorice-flavored fennel and English peas did not stimulate or ignite my taste buds as much as I anticipated, because they were a little drowned out by the coconut-lemongrass sauce. However, the pungent, fishy flavor of the rouget paired pleasantly with the thick coconut milk-based sauce. My only discontent with the dish lies in the fact that the portion was a little small (as you can tell from the picture--look at the peas to get an idea). While the rough skin of rouget was calloused like a brillo-pad, it provided much needed exfoliation for my tongue, so I actually liked that element.

For my main course, I ordered seared Maryland striped bass with steamed Manila clams, house-made fettuccine, and French butter. A variety of dry spices had been encrusted and seared into the skin of the bass, and it was moist and flavorful. I really enjoyed the fettuccine and chewy clams. The chef at Farallon took a minimalist approach to the pasta, and in doing so, the chef drew my attention to the sweet, milkiness of the French butter, the subtle nuttiness in the tangled tendrils of fettuccine.

My friends ordered seared Alaskan halibut with sweet corn soubise, summer beans, and roasted cherry tomatoes;

Cast iron seared local king salmon with bacon roasted brussel sprouts, celery root puree, beurre rouge; and

Grilled maine diver scallops, white corn, black-eyed peas, and roasted bacon;

To end our evening, we shared two desserts, including two deep-fried raspberry plum pies cloaked with granulated sugar. The pies came with vanilla raspberry swirl ice cream and a divine zinfandel raspberry caramel sauce. The berry-plum filling inside pies was a little sour for my taste, however, the dessert sauce provocatively merged (1) the almost-fleeting fruitiness of zinfandel wine and raspberries with (2) the milky, deep, and long-lasting flavors of caramel. I learned that night that I would like zinfandel raspberry caramel sauce on everything, including spaghetti and cold cereal.

We also ordered the warm flourless el rey chocolate cake with expresso ice cream, cocoa praline nibs, and mocha sauce. When I bit into the warm chocolate cake, I was surprised that little praline granules crunched in between my teeth like the sugary crystals in pop rocks. The gooey and oozing cake and luscious ice cream were imbued with sweet coffee flavors.

As I finish up this post, I realize that I don't wanna say farewell to Farallon. I never knew ye!

Hee, as you can tell, I got tired towards the end and cut down on the descriptiveness. . . . Okay, another San Francisco post down, nine more to go!

The Closest I'll Get to Thomas Keller

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