The Modern Tea Bar… My Visit to Samovar SFO

So, I got a little side-tracked over the last two months…but, I am back 🙂  and have so much to share with you about recent tea and food experiences that “wowed” me.  In late January I shared my excitement about getting to San Francisco to explore the Samovar Tea Bars.  The post is here, titled Samovar Tea Bar here I come...  This photo is a shot from our car window as we crossed the Bay Bridge from Berkeley going into San Francisco on a stunning, crisp, February afternoon.  The bridge is enormous and such an engineering feat…notice the pyramid shaped TransAmerica building in the right background…a famous landmark site as one enters this unique cosmopolitan city.

View from our car window as we crossed the Bay Bridge going from Berkeley to San Francisco...a crisp, beautiful winter afternoon

View from our car window as we crossed the Bay Bridge going from Berkeley to San Francisco…a crisp, beautiful winter afternoon

It was the January issue of Food and Wine magazine that turned me on to this hot tea spot.  Then last week, our dear friends J. & J. saw Bon Appetit’s  four page spread in their current May issue called “Join the Tea Party” where they noted Samovar as a hot spot for tea calling it “the newest outpost … offers organic and single-origin teas steeped in futuristic French presses.” After reading all about Samovar, we got to experience it live and in person. This is a seriously awesome tea bar.  We went to the Yerba Buena location situated at the Moscone Center.  It is a bustling area…we went at a quiet time (10:30 a.m.) and enjoyed excellent service and fabulous tea and beautiful foods – and I loved our server’s t-shirt..and his incredible attitude.

My mantra and sign off for most posts is... "Drink Tea...it's good for you".. so we loved our server's t-shirt...too bad, they don't sell them.  He was very funny too.  What a fabulous atmosphere

My mantra and sign off for most posts is… “Drink Tea…it’s good for you”.. so we loved our server’s t-shirt…too bad, they don’t sell them. He was very funny too. What a fabulous atmosphere and he was happy to pose for a photo.

Our view walking up to the entrance to Samovar, Yerba Buena…

Walking up to Samovar Tea Bar ... signage on walkway...view from the front is expansive of San Francisco

Walking up to Samovar Tea Bar … signage on walkway…view from the front is gorgeous scene of San Francisco buildings with a large seating outside seating area not yet set up for the day…we went inside…it was cool out

IMG_5034Entrance…note my guy sitting inside…you can barely see him

just outside door to samovar...if you look closely, my main guy is sitting at our table...

just outside door to samovar…if you look closely, my main guy is sitting at our table…white collar, glasses, menu in hand…tolerating me photographing

It is just a cool place…a wall of tea canisters and clean, chic, white Samovar bags of tea are hanging off a large wall, easy to shop…

Wall of Tea...at Samovar Yerba Buena SFO

Wall of Tea…at Samovar Yerba Buena SFO

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The demographic of clientele is broad and global in nature, also, as many men as women taking tea.  Their menu offerings reflect a global perspective, their teas are clearly of superior quality and the tea service is masterful.  They are tea masters. We so enjoyed the easy attitude, and unpretentious yet perfectly styled table ware for each global menu.  Being there brought back the inspiration which drove me to write Tea With Betty as a menu planner for teas from 17 different cultures and perspectives.  I opted for the Russian tea menu.  (well, of course,  the place is called “Samovar”…the Russian hot water / tea service centerpiece that fascinated me with tea and society during my Russian Literature reading days).

Below is my Russian Caravan tea service, lightly smoky with milk …and a lunch plate featuring Russian tastes, salmon, beets, eggs with caviar and a perfect Russian tea biscuit.  But first, David went more Asian with a delicious Matcha tea …we went home with some incredible teas too.

Matcha tea served from a clear beaker, my Russian Caravan service with milk ... a black smoky tea...my Tolstoy menu...beets, salmon, caviar on eggs and peppery Russian tea biscuit..delicious

Matcha tea served from a clear beaker, my Russian Caravan service with milk … a black smoky tea…my Tolstoy menu…beets, salmon, caviar on eggs and peppery Russian tea biscuit..delicious

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Our tea and food...Matcha from a clear beaker for David...Russian Caravan, smoky black tea w/ milk and and delightful Tolsoy menu w/ salmon, caviar on eggs, beets, peppered Russian tea biscuit...the perfect slightly sweet bite to finish this lunch plate

My peppered Russian tea biscuit…the perfect slightly sweet bite to finish this lunch plate

 

We look forward to returning and trying other teas and menus.  The British tea looked so appealing, the scone rustic and full of oats…this one photo is from Samovar’s site, as the one I snapped didn’t come out well.

English menu...rustic scone, fritatta, fruits and black tea...lovely and not too sweet

English menu…rustic scone, fritatta, fruits and black tea…lovely and not too sweet

It was a treat.  Wish they were near me. It would certainly be a weekly venture, but at least I have enjoyed steeping the teas I brought home.

Drink tea…it’s good for you 🙂

Enjoy

Providence L.A. – Sublime Modern American Seafood…Beautiful Food, Sustainably Sourced

 

Providence sashimi...first dish...fluke, cucumber yuzu ...Normally I don't eat raw fish...this was just stunning with flavor, freshness, and the best of the ocean

Providence sashimi…first dish…fluke, cucumber, yuzu …Normally I don’t eat raw fish…this was just stunning with bursts of flavor, freshness, and the ocean

Well, happy birthday to me! My dear husband surprised me with what he knows to be my favorite gift…awesome foods, prepared with finesse, leaning towards  healthy, made with the  best  quality ingredients – which are  creatively manipulated into flavorful, beautiful,  bites…thus was our experience at Providence Restaurant in Los Angeles the other night…and it came with gracious, comfortable, un-austentatious service.  Enjoy the photos of our  courses…each were just a few bites…making you want more, and then the next stunning dish came…and mmmmmm….we were awed again and again.

Uni egg...Santa Barbar sea urchin hiding beneath soft scramble eggs...ok...I almost asked for a substitution dish here...but I am a sucker for anything custard-like...so I went for it..I am now an uni fan as long as it is covered with custard :-)  This dish reminded me of my 7 year old experience eating 3 minute soft boiled eggs out of the shell in my Italian grandmother's kitchen  ..just soft and comfortingly delicious

Uni egg…Santa Barbara sea urchin hiding beneath soft scramble eggs…ok…I almost asked for a substitution dish here…but I am a sucker for anything custard-like…so I went for it..I am now an uni fan as long as it is covered with custard 🙂 This dish reminded me of my 7 year old experience eating 3 minute soft boiled eggs out of the shell in my Italian grandmother’s kitchen ..just soft and comfortingly delicious

Maine Lobster with matsutake mushrooms...in season now...porcini like and stunning...can't believe this is the 2nd time this week I was graced with the pleasure of these mushrooms...our Chef friends served them to us Saturday night...they are  just wonderful..

Maine Lobster with matsutake mushrooms…in season now…porcini-like and stunning…can’t believe this is the 2nd time this week I was graced with the pleasure of these mushrooms…our Chef friends served them to us Saturday night…they are just wonderful..

 

Possibly THE most beautiful course of the night...scallop with curry, makrut lime, mint

Possibly THE most beautiful course of the night…scallop with curry, makrut lime, mint

 

This was my favorite course of the night...striped bass, turnip, brown butter, smoked sesame ... just incredible textures and bursts of flavor...you taste buds tingled mmmmm

This was my favorite course of the night…striped bass, turnip, brown butter, smoked sesame … just incredible textures and bursts of flavor…made one’s taste buds tingle and come alive… mmmmm

…we  chose the main course …I opted  for John Dory – a white fish…David chose the Liberty Farms Duck…then…since we had eaten so “light” … the artisanal cheese cart came, just perfect for sharing…and finally elderflower sorbet and then my chocolate dessert (with a discreet birthday candle 🙂 …this was just possibly the best meal of my life – certainly a perfect one at this point in my life  …

Duck, John Dory, Cheese plate for two...green tea now...petite perfect desserts...sorbet and chocolate torte

Duck, John Dory, Cheese plate for two…green tea now…petite perfect desserts…sorbet and chocolate torte

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So, who are these guys 🙂 ?  Their website states:

“For a decade, Providence has elevated the standard of modern American seafood restaurants. We invite you to experience Chef Michael Cimarusti’s award-winning cuisine in the heart of Los Angeles, welcomed by one of LA’s legendary hosts, co-owner Donato Poto.
Chef Cimarusti is completely dedicated to procuring the finest sustainable seafood—from regional coasts and international waters—and treats those ingredients with uncompromising respect and sophisticated technique. “First and foremost, what guides us here is sustainability,” Cimarusti says. “We use only wild-caught, sustainable products, mostly from American waters, and look to highlight their finest qualities.”
The accolades for Providence include multiple James Beard Award nominations; “Top 50 Restaurants in the United States” by Gourmet magazine; “Best Seafood Restaurant” by Los Angeles magazine; the #1 ranking in “Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants” in the Los Angeles Times; and two highly coveted Michelin stars.

I actually signed up to vote for them for the 2015 James Beard awards, something I’ve not been motivated to do before…

Of course, I finished with a lovely cup of green tea…beautifully vegetal and light, expertly served in an iron tetsubin pot. Just lovely!

 

 

 

The Finesse of the Donut @ Blue Star Donuts

Blue Star Donuts...this way, you couldn't miss it with the line out the door.  The line moved along quickly and efficiently...it was fun being there and gave you a bit of time to figure out which donut to choose

Blue Star Donutsthis way>>> Actually, you couldn’t miss it as there was a  line running out the door. The line moved along quickly and efficiently…it was fun being there and moving through the line gave you a bit of time to figure out which donut to choose.

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Visiting Blue Star Donuts on a drizzly Portland, Or. morning

Visiting Blue Star Donuts on a drizzly Portland, Or. morning

Portland, Oregon offers a plethora of fabulous, remarkable, and renowned cafes and bakery establishments….none more popular (and rightly so) than Blue Star Donuts.  With a line of patient patrons running out the door, this Food Network featured cool shop, known for offering unique, quality donuts which reflect a high degree of craft, understanding of ingredients, and skill in creating is totally worth the wait and the calories.

The display of products was tantalizing, clean, and simple…and donuts are just about made fresh to order.

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The donuts...

The donuts…using fine ingredients such as Valrhona chocolate, hazelnuts, and my favorite combination, maple & bacon Mmmmmmmm

Who would have thought a donut could be cool.

The staff was delightful and helpful.  I love an open kitchen, theirs reflected great organization and was really clean!  My nephew said he once heard Chef/Owner Stephanie Thornton say “we just make donuts.” How nice to see someone master their craft, do it well, and offer remarkable consistent products which tantalize your taste buds with diverse combinations.

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Blue Star kitchen...organized, clean and lots of brioche donuts ready to get dressed :-)

Blue Star kitchen…organized, clean and lots of brioche donuts ready to get dressed 🙂

The decor was cool, white, and clean with really neat descriptions of their philosophy of quality and a good education in the definition of various social media platforms…note the use of Steven Smith Teas…and Portland’s Stumptown Coffees. All consistent with the quality of the donuts.IMG_1689

 

It's about "quality" and I got schooled too in social media defined...

It’s about “quality” and I got schooled too in social media defined…

My biggest challenge was managing how to eat breakfast at one of the awesome breakfast eateries and  fit in donuts!  It was work, but we figured it out :-). While we did a good job getting to several eating establishments on our Portland must do list, we will definitely need a few more trips back to this wonderful city to consume more of the beautiful products offered.

Inventive, Flavorful, Whimsical & Beautiful Foods…

All you need are incredibly high quality ingredients…and a wildly creative mind, oh and some madly, outstanding skills in the kitchen – that’s what we experienced at Chef Michael Voltaggio’s L.A. restaurant, Ink. this week;

According to the Food & Wine website, Voltaggio was honored as one of 2013’s best new chefs  “because his modernist cuisine pushes boundaries — he’ll serve octopus over buttered-popcorn puree — but it is still delicious.”

Interesting flavors, great presentation, very inventive, and superb service are key reasons why I would come back, as well as bring friends and family.

Ink.'s Little Gem Salad...with anchovy puffed toast

Ink.’s Little Gem Salad…with anchovy puffed cracker and the most stunningly cool and creamy and savory frozen burrata mmmmm – who would have thought to have made an ice cream out of burrata cheese?  Voltaggio did.  And it took my favorite summer indulgence in cheese to a new level — and I always want my anchovies served this way too…flavor in a puffed cracker

little gems, burrata, anchovy cracker, lemon dressing 

Hamachi

Where’s the Hamachi?…gorgeously hidden under delectable tastes of crispy cheese, chives, & tomato – fresh and creamy and salty like the ocean

 hamachi, citrus kosho, smoked buttermilk, tomato, oaxacan cheese

Monterey Squid with cippollini onions and chanterelles

Monterey Squid with cippollini onions and chanterelles which whimsically mimic each other in shape and color…creamy, chewy, powerful flavors in each bite

monterey squid, coconut-onion soubise, chanterelles, miso

and we loved the clean, simple table setting…and the fact that they “get” that silverware should be treated with a bit of reverence and care and sanitation….

silverware carefully placed on a stone...off the table

silverware carefully placed on a stone…off the table

 

 

Ink.  We will be back.

I had a perfectly prepared whole leaf jasmine green tea to finish off my meal too…served in a tetsubin pot.  We went home happy and raving fans…even the 60 mile drive won’t keep us away 🙂

Ink.  Subtle...cool...understated exterior and interior...the food and chefs speak for themselves

Ink. Subtle…cool…understated exterior and interior…the food and chefs speak for themselves

And YES...the chef is in the kitchen...how nice to actually have the celebrity chef really work in his own kitchen...does it make a difference in the food?  We think so.

And YES…the chef is in the kitchen…how nice to actually have the celebrity chef really work in his own kitchen…does it make a difference in the food? We think so.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Night At Ad Hoc…

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken...a large seemingly unending skillet full...crunchy, tender, juicy good

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken…a large seemingly unending skilletful…crunchy, tender, juicy good

After taking one crunchy bite of Ad Hoc’s decadent, crispy, juicy fried chicken, my husband looked up and said, “this is just crazy, stupid good!”  He was right.  There’s not much better than getting to indulge in perfectly prepared fried chicken. Chef Thomas Keller’s Yountville restaurant, Ad Hoc, serves up the best every other Monday night. We actually plan our Napa vacations around those Monday nights.  I suppose it’s a little crazy and stupid…but worth it to us. After starting with a remarkable little gem salad – prepared from fresh picked veggies from the Thomas Keller garden, we finished with the below cheese and dessert courses.  Quality ingredients…prepared meticulously and simply…always spot on good!  I even enjoyed mine with a lovely green tea, as I was a bit “wined out” from a day of tastings.

Ad Hoc sources small chickens, specifically grown for them, for their fried chicken recipe. The recipe is featured in their Ad Hoc cookbook.   The chickens are uniquely small.  They are flown in  fresh daily from Texas. The atmosphere in this casual, chic restaurant on fried chicken night is bustling and happy.  Our server, Sarah, even made sure we left with a box of fried chicken, packed “to go”…it’s calling my name right now as it sits in the little fridge in our hotel room.  I suppose I could justify breaking into the box tonight with the fact that Ad Hoc’s tag line does say … “for temporary relief from hunger” 🙂

Ad Hoc home... for temporary relief of hunger

Ad Hoc home… for temporary relief from hunger

Ad Hoc's dinner are a 4 course, prix fix menu...always included is a cheese course and dessert...here is an aged gouda goat with the crispiest thin toast and a stunning fig jam...then luscious lemon posset with blueberry topping, and an almond cookie - all went well with the fried chicken

Ad Hoc’s dinners are a 4 course, prix fix menu…always included is a cheese course and dessert…here is an aged gouda goat with the crispiest thin toast and a stunning fig jam…then luscious lemon posset with blueberry topping, and an almond cookie – each course complements the next.

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Got Tea? Dean & Deluca Does

I am a consumer who likes to know as much about the products I purchase as possible, including the origin of the item.  Name brands are my preference, in particular for a quick purchase, as inherently, there is a built-in trust factor for me that the company has processes in place which does most of the scrutiny about the quality of the ingredient for me.  I suppose this trust has been ingrained in me from my years of working for a global company whose guiding principle was focused on “quality.”

This “trust” principle holds true for me about how I feel about where I shop too.  Dean & Deluca is a food, wine, and kitchen store that simply offers fabulous products, and an array that is stunning.  Whether cheeses, chocolates, sugars, salts, olive oils, spices, or teas….when they offer a product, you get choice!  Lots of choices to choose from.  Rarely does one find a wide selection of brands of quality teas to choose from in one location.  You may find 75 different flavors of one brand of tea in a shop…but usually not many brands with a nice variety of flavors.  On my recent trip to the Napa Valley, this is the tea selection offered at Dean & Deluca in St. Helena.  It was double of what I saw last time there.  Many were French brands, all were high quality.  I did take a few home with me to try. One brand I hadn’t tried before was TWG…they had a New York City Breakfast Tea that I purchased to send to a dear friend who has just gotten into tea and loves NYC…

 

The Kusmi display was expansive, the most Kusmi I’ve seen anywhere.  I’ve recently gotten into their teas through the variety my sister-in-law brought to me from her recent trip to Paris…seems their U.S. marketing is in full gear  🙂

An expansive tea selection at Dean and Deluca...plus a Betty teapot ... ahhh

An expansive tea selection at Dean and Deluca…plus a Betty teapot … ahhh

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Dean & Deluca is not only serious about their tea selection…right next to those racks is the most interesting plethora of tea cookies and biscuits too.  I love a good oat cookie and they had several.

As I was leaving, my heart tugged as I saw they carried the exact “Betty” teapot which I used as the model for my book cover…which has the double meaning of reminding me of my Mom, Betty… a heartwarming shopping experience this day.