Flour + Water - San Francisco

2401 Harrison Street (Mission District)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Tel. 415.826.7000

Flour + Water is one of the new restaurants on the block in the Mission District and is getting high praise from food critics and bloggers. The restaurant focuses on the simplicity of ingredients, hence the name Flour + Water. Just like many of the other Mission District restaurants the style of the restaurant is definitely eclectic. I love that this restaurant has a very unpretentious, yet cool vibe to it.

The restaurant specializes in house made pasta (and who doesn't love house made pasta) and Neopolitan thin crust style pizzas that are baked for no more than 2 minutes at a blistery 427 degree centigrade. According to the website, this is approximately the same temperature as hell, but only heaven awaits as you enter these doors. The prices are definitely reasonable for the quality of ingredients and quality of food your are going to get.

Margherita Pizza with tomato, basil, fior di latte, and extra virgin olive oil (13)
Fresh out of the oven, piping hot, slightly crispy, yet soft crust are some words to describe my initial reaction to the pizza. The pizza has a beautiful crust that is slightly charred but with a fantastic chewy consistency and a wood imparted flavor. Pizza doesn't get any simpler but more satisfying than this.

Maltagliati with brown butter braised duck giblets (15)
At the first bite, it tasted a bit livery and I wasn't sure if I liked it because I never really had duck giblets in my pasta.  It was just unexpected.  But as I took my second bite, and then the third bite, I just couldn't get enough of it.  I really just wanted to lick the whole plate. The freshly made pasta had a wonderful consistency that is only attained through fresh and not dried pasta. Included in this pasta dish was either pumpkin or squash bits that really lightened the dish that could have been too heavy.

Basil granite with late summer stone fruit and prosecco jelly (8)
While perusing the dessert menu, my eyes immediately darted towards this dessert. Basil? Love it..Stone fruit? Love it... Prosecco? Love it.. Did I love this dessert? No....Did I hate it? No... It was a light and refreshing dessert but didn't really taste the prosecco in the jelly and the basil granite was just so-so.  Yet the concept was very interesting and unique.

I like what Flour + Water stands for with their simple approach to food without compromising flavors. There is something so satisfying about a great pizza and perfect pasta; this is my comfort food. The excellent food and the laid-back cool vibe is something I am definitely looking forward to returning to in the future.


Range - San Francisco

842 Valencia Street (Mission District)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Tel.: 415.282.8283
Owners: Husband and Wife: Phil and Cameron West 

Range is located in the Mission District on a corner of a humble building across from a neighborhood park.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Nothing to distract one's attention from the carefully prepared seasonal dishes and lovely drink concoctions here at the one star Michelin restaurant.   

We made reservations for the first seating at 5:30 p.m. (so that we could have a second dinner around 9 or so at Flour + Water).  The place was empty, but it quickly filled up by 6 o' clock.
Known for their mixology, I ordered a Mr. White (9.50), which uses Pueblo Viejo Tequila and housemade strawberry-mint shrub with lime.  The drink was smooth, tasty, and not too sweet. Delicious and refreshing.

I ordered the marinated mussels with shaved fennel, lucques olives and cherry tomatoes (12.50).  This by far was the most heavenly.  There were so many layers of flavors and textures that went so well together.  The whole dish itself exuded lightness and freshness. The mussels were well cooked. The tomatoes were sweet. The dressing was sweet yet tangy at the same time.  I absolutely loved this amazing salad.  It was love at first bite.

Next, I ordered goat cheese and sorrel stuffed pasta with lime butter chives (13) 
You could really taste the citrus component of the lime - it added a nice brightness to the dish. Otherwise, it would have been too rich.  I had this as a main, but after eating the excellent fennel salad, this one was not at the same level. A bit disappointed, I craved the salad even more.

We then had the whiskey and brown sugar glazed pork ribs with a carrot salad (11.50)
The meat was very tender and was fall off the bone tender. The whiskey and brown sugar glaze was very good - not too sweet, just right.  It was nice having the carrot slaw as it tempered the sweetness and saltiness with its citrus element.  This dish was very well done.  I could definitely eat a whole rack of these ribs.  

Lastly, we had the pan roasted bavette steak with oven dried tomatoes, broccoli di ciccio, barley, and horseradish sauce (26). The steak was perfectly cooked medium rare.  I liked the horseradish sauce with the meat.  It was creamy and had a faint hint of the heat.  I didn't like the barley too much.  I don't think I'm much of a barley person.  It tastes a bit too healthy and bland for me.   The oven dried tomatoes added another flavor depth to the dish, but I don't remember too much of the broccoli.  Overall, this dish is very enjoyable.

When my husband made reservations, he mentioned our anniversary.  And at the end of our meal, they served as their complimentary dark chocolate squares with an anniversary candle.  Very sweet! 

This restaurant certainly earned its one Michelin star - thoughtful and delicious dishes as well as serving creative drinks.   The service also was impeccable and very attentive.  I would love to come back here and try other new dishes and see what the chef can create next. 


Canteen - San Francisco

817 Sutter Street  (Nob Hill)
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 928-8870

We continued celebrating our 2nd year anniversary by taking a trip to our beloved second home, San Francisco.  Our first meal was at Canteen, which is reminscent of a 60s diner in the South because of its retro decor, bar stools, vintage books, and its polished simplicity.  It just has this unpretentious, homey and nostalgic feeling.  And there are only 7 bar stools and 4 booths.  Small, but quaint.

Two waitresses here run the show and they were so genuinely kind and down to earth.  They served us the brioche rolls which were excellent!  It tasted like a buttery croissant, without the flakiness.  

For the amuse bouche, they brought out a small piece of smoked salmon with pepper over slices of honeydew.  I was not very impressed by the presentation of it.  It looked a bit sad.  The smoked salmon had a nice flavor, but there was nothing here that excited my taste buds or amused my "bouche".

Lamb's Tongue Vinaigrette with butter beans and romesco (10.50)
The vinaigrette went well because it added another flavor dimension to it.  I don't usually like beans, but it was well-cooked and smooth in texture.  I loved the nutty, romesco sauce which consisted of red peppers, pistachio, parsley and "other stuff" say the waitress.  The tongue itself had a rillette texture in a way and enjoyed the light and bright flavors of the lamb.  It was a great way to start the meal.

Albacore with lobster sauce, eggplant puree, and peppers (23.50)
The seared albacore was cooked perfectly and was moist and tender.  The dish was carefully prepared, and the buttery lobster sauce and puree tasted good on their own, but when I put it all together, the flavors just did not meld too well.  It was sort of a "musky" taste.  Plus, it was a bit overpowering for the delicately mild-flavored fish.

Pork Schnitzel with a poached egg (25)
We went with one of the waitress' favorite dish on this menu.  Pork schnitzel is thinly pounded breaded pork cutlets and was topped with fresh arugula, poached eggs, arugula and paprika sauce.  It was good dish with intense flavorings, but I expected more out of it.     

We were served with the "Week 190" seasonal menu.  But one of the timeless items that doesn't change is the "Vanilla Souffle since 2004" (8.50).  They brought out the souffle and pierced it through with some kind of cream sauce.  And since my husband had told them we were celebrating our anniversary when he made reservations, they brought out 2 complimentary glasses of champagne.  What a special touch!

The great thing about seasonal menus is that you get to taste the chef's inventive creations using seasonal ingredients and artistic talent.  So I will probably return one day.  Plus, I also have read that they serve really good brunch, so I'll try that out too.


Sage on the Coast - Newport Coast

7862 East Coast Hwy
Newport Beach, CA 92657
(949) 715-7243

09.09.09 was our 2nd year anniversary and we wanted to celebrate it near the beach.  Sage on the Coast is a fine local restaurant in the Crystal Cove Promenade plaza at the end of the strip.  The atmosphere was friendly and not too pretentious as other Newport Beach restaurants.  We made reservations for the Wednesday and was a bit embarrassed that we did because the place was pretty empty.  There were only 2 tables occupied in the whole main dining area and a few more tables in the patio. But I shouldn't complaint because sitting in the patio was romantic and private, especially with the lighting, which made our anniversary night special.

The bread basket had these delightful bread crisps that were dusted with Parmesan cheese and dried rosemary and tasted so delicious.  

We each ordered the tasting menu which includes the 3 courses and a dessert for $35.  For an extra $10, the tasting menu is paired with 3 glasses of wine.  Good deal!
For the amuse bouche, we had Balsamic Grilled Peaches over arugula, onions, and walnuts.  The dish was good, the arugula a bit soft and a little bit heavy on the dressing.  There was nothing that particularly stood out.  The peaches were served warm, reminding me of comfort food in the winter.  Eating these types of "salad" requires eating all of the different components at the same time for a worthy taste. 
Wine: Roederer Estate, Brut (Anderson Valley, NV)

For the first course, I had the Blackened Sea Bass and Vegetable Enchiladas wth spinach, summer squash, mozzarella, grilled corn, tomatoes, parmesan, and guajillo sauce.  The fish was moist and crisp on the outside.  The roasted tomatoes on top of the enchilada added a nice juicy dimension to the it.
Wine: Merum, Monastrell (Jumilla, Spain 2006)

The chef kindly accommodated my non-seafood eating husband with the enchilada and pork crepe instead of the sea bass.  The crepe tasted more like a barbeque pulled pork taco.  The braised/pulled pork was encased with a "crepe" wrapping.  The barbeque flavor was unexpected but he nevertheless enjoyed the dish overall.

As for the second course, we had the Grilled Sirloin Bruschetta which had tomatoes, arugula, burrata, and extra virgin olive oil.  The crostini was very difficult to cut through with the knife and clamored many times against the plate.  Sage uses market driven ingredients and we could taste it in the tomatoes because it was very fresh and tasty.  The burrata was very creamy, but the meat itself was a bit overcooked.  I kind of felt the courses were out of order.  This light tasting bruschetta should have been served before the more heavy flavors of the enchilada. 
Wine: Allegrini, Palazzo della Torre (Veronese, Italy 2005)

For dessert, we had a Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake which had raspberry coulis, sweet cream, and an almond florentine on top.  This was a good version of a cheesecake - very smooth and creamy.  I was happy for the raspberry coulis because it added more flavor to it, and the almond florentine had a nice crisp that added texture to the overall dessert. 

Sage on the Coast is a nice getaway from the nearby crowded and noisy restaurants.  It's secluded enough for people to enjoy a serene evening right next to the beach (though it could be a different story on the weekends).  The food was good, and I like the fact that they use seasonal ingredients. We enjoyed our experience, especially with the $35 tasting menu and an additional $10 for wine pairings. Worth a stop for a reasonably priced dinner, although nothing really too exciting.



Nothing is more satisfying and refreshing than a cup of fresh gelato while touring the beautiful Italian sites.  We had gelato just about twice a day (at least).  Here's a compilation of the delightful gelaterias we visited. 

Gelateria Stalin (Via Visconti, 24, Vernazza, Cinque Terre)
After ordering your gelato, sit outside around the corner at the benches and tables or head down to the scenic harbor.
Il Gelato di San Crispino (Rome)
Via della Panetteria (near Trevi Fountain)
Some say this is the best gelato in Rome. I ordered half Ginger and Cinammon and then Honey Cream (3 euros for coppetta).  Both were very creamy and wonderfully flavorful.  They're served in a cup only, no cones. Grab some fine gelato and people watch at the nearby Trevi Fountain.

Old Bridge Gelateria (Rome)
Via dei Bastioni di Michelangelo
Before heading to the Vatican, we stopped for some gelato, because we were expecting to wait  a couple of hours in line for the Vatican Museum. For only 2 euros, you can get 3 huge scoops of different flavors.  What an amazing deal! Can't miss this gelateria with the long lines. Even nuns frequent here. Some of the flavors shown below are pistachio, coconut, nutella, chocolate, strawberry and lemon. We even got more gelato after we finished touring the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica.  (Hint: We went to the Vatican at 12:30pm after the tour groups left, and there were absolutely NO lines!)  

Gelateria Centrale (Monterosso, Cinque Terre)
There were quite a few of Gelateria Centrale in Cinque Terre.  Two actually in Riomaggiore.  We got our staple flavors: strawberry and lemon - a delicious contrast of sweet and tangy.
Gelatissimo - (Florence)
Via di San Giuseppe, 4R
This gelateria was a bit off the beaten track.  It was still refreshingly good and smooth, but nothing incredibly special.  We got our usual flavors: strawberry and lemon.

Gelateria Carabe (Florence )
Via Ricasoli 60r
Located a block south of the Accademia, we got to try homemade Sicilian gelato with ingredients shipped in from Sicily.  We wanted a break from the creamy gelato and ordered the granita (slush-type dessert/drink) which originated from Sicily.  Again, we got strawberry and lemon.  It was quite refreshing and you can taste the real flavors. It's usually served with a spoon and straw to experience both of the flavors.
Festival del Gelato (Florence)
Via del Corso 75r (just off Via dei Calzaiuoli)
This gelateria can't be missed with the big neon sign and the colorful decor inside.  It's just a few steps from the most touristy and busy street of Florence - Via dei Calzaiuoli (it's the long pedestrian street that connects the Duomo with Piazza della Signoria).  Strawberry and lemon granita once again. And again, so refreshing.
Giolitti (Rome) 
Via Uffici dei Vicario 40 (Near the Pantheon)
The most popular gelateria in Rome.  And the most crowded.  Get in line to pay first, receive your ticket, and then go to the gelato counter to order your scoops. It has excellent gelato - creamy and very smooth, but can be pricey. My husband and I usually share, which consequently means we have to compromise. I like chocolate; he likes fruity flavors. So we asked the guy what "fruity" flavor goes with dark chocolate.  He scooped for us watermelon with chocolate chips and cantaloupe, topped with whip cream. Strange combination of flavors, but surprisingly, they all went very well together. 

La Boutique del Gelato (Venice)
(corner of Salizada San Lio and Calle Paradiso, next to Hotel Bruno)
The only way to know Venice is to just get lost. We weren't looking for La Boutique but stumbled upon it as we were exploring the city. I was so excited because this gelateria is considered the best in Venice.  It's recommended by every guidebook there is. (I might add that I spotted at least 10 people a day with the Rick Steves' guidebooks). Anyway, out of all the gelato we had on our trip, no other gelateria is as generous with their scoops as La Boutique (2 euros for 2 ginormous scoops) They were HUGE and I had to quickly eat it before it quickly melted away.  Definitely a must visit!
Michielango (Venice, Italy)
Salizada Pio X
This place was not as generous (probably about half the size of La Boutique and was more expensive (2.5 euros for 2 mediocre-sized scoops). I guess the location is convenient though - near the Rialto Bridge.  I would pass on this and find La Boutique del Gelato.


Il Pirata - Cinque Terre, Italy

Via Gavino, 36
Vernazza, Italy
Reservations highly recommended, cash only, breakfast and dinner

The Sicilian dynamic duo brothers instantly connect with customers with their charm, witty jokes, and vast knowledge of other countries.  Massimo and Gianluca are twin brothers believe in providing an inviting atmosphere rather than being uptight and snobby like other restaurants. 

As we were perusing the menu outside, one of the brothers immediately asked if we were from California.  I was impressed because of all the places in the world, he guessed the right U.S. state.

Il Pirata is not located on the waters, but on the other side of the train tracks.  There's actually a view of the parking lot and the mountains.  Still, I had a very fun and memorable evening with great food, great dessert, and excellent service.  I suggest dining here and then enjoy a glass of wine by the harbor.

We had met a family visiting Italy for a wedding and decided to vacation for 5 days in Cinque Terre.  They dined at Il Pirata 3 times and could not stop raving about it.

They first gave us complimentary breadsticks, olives and their in-house pickled eggplant that had a spicy kick to it.

For our appetizer, we ordered the carpaccio with fresh tomatoes, arugula, and Parmesan cheese.  With a squeeze of the lemon, it was a very nice light way to start the meal.

For our pasta dishes, we ordered tortellini with prosciutto and cream sauce. Our friends had love this dish so we had to get it and they were right on point.  The saltiness of the prosciutto complemented so well with the cream based sauce.  The dish was pretty straightforward, but the flavors and seasonings were quite excellent! One of my favorites on this trip!

Cinque Terre was our last Italian destination and I couldn't leave without tasting some gnocchi.  So we ordered the gnocchi with pesto sauce.  The sauce was well-balanced and the gnocchi was soft, but a bit on the chewier side.  It was still very delicious, but not the best gnocchi.  I actually think the homemade gnocchi at Osteria La Buca in Hollywood is one of the best I've tried because it really just melts in my mouth.

Known for their delicious desserts, we ordered the last of the panna cotta ("cooked cream") with strawberries and whipped cream and drizzles of melted chocolate.  It was creamy but a little sweeter to my taste.  The strawberries were sweet and fresh though.

Il Pirata is also known for their authentic Sicilian pastries made fresh in the morning.  They don't serve any typical American breakfast (ie. eggs and bacon), so please don't ask. Most of the pastries are 2 euros each and are still warm from the oven. We tried a croissant with some kind of orange flavored custard and a strawberry with cream croissant.  I usually like the more light, flaky type croissant, but these were less flaky as I would like, but still good though and not too sweet either.

This place has such liveliness and great food. I haven't tried many other Cinque Terre restaurants, but it was just an enjoyable experience.  I'm sure many suggest to eat where the locals eat, but Cinque Terre has so many tourists that it's impossible to find any hidden eatery filled with locals only. There are many tourists here (thanks to Rick Steves), but I say, just give Il Pirata a try and enjoy the company and food.