Monthly Archives: August 2008

Anchor Steam brewery, San Francisco

Media_httpalexdevetyp_iyefw

Last week, we went to a private tour of the Anchor Steam brewery, in San Francisco, in Potrero Hills. I’ve never visited a brewery before. And yet, this has to be done one day. Especially the Anchor Steam one. It was a magic moment. Clearly one of the best thing to do in San Francisco if you like beer.

And maybe also if you don’t. Because that brewery is not just about beer. It’s a real testimony to perfection, tradition and passion. Of course, you get to taste the product 😉 (many times!), but there’s something much more interesting and fascinating in that building: pride.

Our guide, Tom, has been working at the brewery for more than 15 years. We asked everyone we met that evening, and all of them have been around for more than a decade. All of them are talking about their beer with a unique passion, that I haven’t seen in any company yet. It was just amazing. Their eyes were sparkling, and they were so proud of what they’re contributing to. The average tenure (i don’t have official stats on this one) is probably around 10 years. Just incredible.

We’ve asked about the process of hiring and it’s quite straight forward. We were told that they don’t necessarily look for people with brewery experience but that new employees usually spend one to two years working the bottles… Then you go up the ladder…

They also have a moral rule: you have to be at work for 4 hours before drinking your first beer! The kitchen and the bar at the entrance are the only two places where you can get beer on tab. Those are the only two places where employees are allowed to drink. It wasn’t always like this, and they justify that decision by the danger of manipulating the tools under the influence of alcohol. Of course, once you go downstairs, you have access to the huge barrel with real fresh beer. We even got a taste out of one of them!

So beside a cool job where you can taste beer most of the day, why are those folks so passionate about what they do? well, it’s just because the Anchor Steam brewery do things in a traditional way, using tons of manual work, like it was done decades ago. They’re not into the mass production. They argued that they’re actually quite happy that Sierra Nevada is producing 10 times more beer than them because they couldn’t cope with the demand by keeping their current methods. They want to be unique, they don’t want to be for everybody. In their mind, Anchor Steam is not for every beer drinker. It’s made for the connoisseur with the hands of some very passionate people.

I highly recommend you take 4-5 of your good friends, and try to get a private tour. It’s absolutely remarkable, and beside seeing the process of manually making beer, you’ll find there some amazing people.

Anchor Steam brewery contact details:
Anchor Brewing Company
1705 Mariposa Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
Tel 415-863-8350
Fax 415-552-7094

Check out some great photos taken by our friend Lucas!

Tagged , , , ,

Tataki Sushi Bar, San Francisco

Media_httpalexdevetyp_mffvz

Yesterday dinner, we went to Tataki Sushi Bar, on California Street in the lower Pacific Heights area of San Francisco. It’s just a few seconds walk from where we live and we had never tried it!

Tataki is tiny and very well decorated. We had no problem to sit at the bar (which is our favorite spot as you all know by now!) and we started reviewing the menu.

First of all, this place is all about sustainable food. I actually quite like that, especially since it was very discrete. I had read some reviews indicating that they don’t stop explaining why sustainable is, why they’re supporting it etc… Well, either this wasn’t true, or they’ve changed something, but there was zero mention of sustainable food by anyone there. Just a card on the table to make us aware of the issue, which i found quite subtle.

Like any good sushi place, you can find the classic sashimi, nigiri sushi and rolls. But Tataki is very good for the funky stuff…

Again, I had read reviews raving for their fancy rolls. So we’ve decided to focus on the rolls, and ignore the nigiri. We started with a Pacific Sunrise, which is basically cucumber rolled into 4 varieties of fish without any rice. Yes, a roll with no rice! Well, that was just a blast. They have this “tataki” sauce that they use for this dish, and that was just playing with all the tastes. So good. +1!

Then we had the 49er. Again, a big, big winner. We picked it because the guy next to us just had it. It looked so good that my wife just asked the chef to cook one for us. That turned out to be a great decision. It’s basically tobiko roll topped with avocado. Tobiko is the Japanese word for flying fish roe. It gives the roll a funky texture, and the mix with the avocado and the rice works very, very well.

The third roll we had was inspired by a review I had read. It’s called the “extinguisher”. Yes, you bet it was spicy! As in very spicy. Even the plate comes with real flames (from burning rhum on salt). This roll is a kampachi roll, with some very spicy sauce on top. It’s spicy enough to make you realize you’re eating something spicy, but you will be able to eat it, which is always nice. For me, that was the winner of the night, but it may just be because I love spicy food.

Finally, we had some sashimi, just to make sure we were also trying some classic dish. It was also very good, especially the salmon and the yellow tail.

Overall, we’re really glad this place opened in our neighborhood. Prices are reasonable, it is much, much better than Godzilla Sushi, the chefs are really nice and the service was perfect. What more could we ask?

Tagged , ,

Fleur de Lys, San Francisco

Media_httpalexdevetyp_gienl

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite a while, but for some reasons, never got really inspired. For her 30th birthday, I took my wife to Fleur de Lys, in San Francisco, on Sutter Street. I’ve heard so much about this place since i’ve landed in the city that I always wanted to try it. But my (bad) experience at la Folie, which received the same treatment as Fleur de Lys in terms of reviews, discouraged me for a long time to do it. Yet, i thought this is a place I must try.

Once I decided on Fleur de Lys (honestly, hungry french man must eat there at least once!), i went online to check things out. The reviews were quite good (as they usually are), and i got very intrigued by the chef, Hubert Keller. Born in France, he moved to San Francisco in 1982, and since then, got many awards.

According to Wikipedia, in 1988 Hubert Keller was ranked as one of the “10 best new chefs in American” by Food and Wine Magazine. In 1997 he won the James Bead foundation award for best chef in California. Fleur de Lys in San Francisco has been ranked as one of the top 40 restaurants in the United States in 2004, 2005, and 2006 by Gayot restaurant guide, and was awarded one Michelin star in 2006. Fleur de Lys has also been ranked as one of the top 25 restaurants in the United States by Food & Wine magazine.

Quite impressive all this… But what about the food at Fleur de Lys?

Well, my overall comment would be the it lived up to the expectations, without blowing me away. The best dish i had was some beef cheeks, which I usually fear, but those were perfectly braised and served with a very nice sauce. This result in a very light dish, which complete perfectly the meal. To start, I had a roasted maine lobster, followed by some hawaiian prawns on fennel confit.

The lobster was all right – i actually only found one restaurant in my whole life that managed to impress me with lobster. That was a small place, in Ouistreham, in Normandy, that has made lobster with lentils and the combination of the two were just mind blowing. In this case, it was an ok dish, and it was served with a great artichoke puree. The prawns were actually quite good, and they go very well with the fennel!

The major fallback of Fleur de Lys is the service. They want to show you so much love that it becomes overwhelming. Leave me alone when i eat! I’m fine! Plus, there is clearly something wrong when they start to say things like “pardon my reach” thousands of times during a meal. Just walk behind me and you don’t need me to pardon your reach!. Finally, and that was the “coup de grace”, they opened a bottle of alsace white wine and served me a glass. The wine was corked. I called the guy, and tell him: dude, the wine is corked. He looked at me with weird eyes as if I just talked a different language. I asked him to try the wine to confirm. He denied, and walk away with the glass. He came back a few minutes later to tell me that i was absolutely right and that the wine was corked. So why the hell did they serve this to me? Rule #1 in a restaurant, you taste what you serve. If you open a bottle of wine, treat yourself with a small taste. Honestly!

So overall it was ok, with some clear flawns on the service. I wouldn’t say don’t go. That would be terribly unfair, as the decor and the food is good, but maybe you want to warn your waiter to give you some space and make sure the wine is good 🙂

Tagged , , ,