Summer at Le Garage

Summer at Le Garage

July 25, 2011  |  food & drink, san francisco  |  2 Comments

It is summer and in my mind there is not a better place to escape the notorious San Francisco fog than at Le Garage in Sausalito. This casual French bistro, facing a boat-filled harbor with crisp sheer light and romantic sunsets, offers an unparalleled Mediterranean experience. For brunch or dinner, and when the weather permits, sit at the terrace with its extensive views of the bay. Hear the sounds of seagulls, watch the boats, breathe the fresh California air, and let yourself be pampered with amazing food and service by the staff at Le Garage.

I visited the place three times this past week, and I loved it every time. The gorgeous setting definitely has a positive effect on patrons’ state of mind. Everywhere I looked, I saw happy and relaxed faces. There is no doubt that once you experience the ambiance at le Garage, you will come back again and again, in search of the lingering effect it has on you.

If you get there for lunch or brunch, you can find an array of easy dishes to order. I had the Masami Kobe beef burger in a ciabatta bun with cheese, tomatoes, and grilled red onions and aioli, served with fries and sprinkled with herbs. The meat is fresh, well done, and in generous portions. The following week I ordered the Duck confit with a maple gastrique, and I was equally impressed by the tenderness of the meat. My friend chose les œufs à la coque served with Serrano ham, roasted potatoes and oyster mushrooms. She told me, “You rarely find this dish served in a restaurant.” For dessert, I tasted the cherry clafoutis. I loved the amount of big cherries inside. It made a big difference to me. I also had the rhubarb tart. It is light, salty and sweet, and it represents the perfect summer dessert!

For dinner, I sat at the bar next to a couple from Sausalito. They were regulars they told me, enjoying very much their dinner and time together. I could see Mount Tam through the big bay window to the north and imagine the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean in a splash of red light. Then behind me I saw the dishes being ordered and leaving the kitchen. They looked yummy. I wish I could taste them all. But I know what I will order next time – the duck in a bed of stone fruits and huckleberries. The bartender recommended the Mussels Napoleon with Early Girl tomatoes, basil pistou, fresh mozzarella and white wine. I was raving about my choice soon after I took my first bite. The T-bone veal chop with girolle mushroom jus looked awesome on the plate as did the Black Canyon Angus Rib-eye au beurre rouge. On Friday and Saturday the chef offers nightly specials.

Bravo to owners Bruno and Olivier (the executive chef) who have done an amazing job by creating this place, having the most welcoming staff and tending to their clients with care and delicious food.

  • Le Garage’s web site!
  • 85 Liberty Ship Way # 109, Sausalito 94965
  • Lunch/Brunch 10Am-2:30PM, Dinner 5:30PM-9:30PM
  • (415) 332-5625

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Bar at Gitane

The Bar at Gitane

May 11, 2011  |  food & drink, san francisco  |  No Comments

Every time I go to Gitane (gypsy in French) and sit at the bar, look at the luscious décor and let myself get immersed in the sensual orange light, the openness of the space and the Andulusian influence, my energy changes and joy fills me up. If you are looking for a good meal with an escape, a sense of inner transformation, this is the place for you. Nothing here is left for granted. As you enter the door, your entire experience is calculated and cared for.

The night I was there, the music shifted from French lounge to Spanish, perfectly corresponding to the change of mood after the food and the wine started arriving. The three bartenders had their eyes set to the needs of the customers, shaking the cocktail mixers almost to the rhythms of flamenco. The wines on the list are mostly Spanish, Portuguese and Southern French, mirroring the concept of the restaurant. It was a delight finding a great selection of French cognac, armagnac, calvados and liqueurs, all lined up in colorful bottles, reflected in a mirror behind the bar!

The food has Iberian, Moroccan and Provençal influences, with a lot of flavor and spices. Mint, almonds, olives, and peppers add exotic tastes to the palate. The stuffed calamari (Calamares) with bacon and onion, Manzanilla olives, cherry tomatoes and heirloom potatoes were superbly delicious. The Tajine (spiced chicken breast, saffron tomato broth, green olives, cauliflower, almond, couscous) rivals the original Moroccan inspiration. The pan roasted rockfish (Peix Roca) with chickpea stew, eggplant yogurt and broccoli rabe was light and exuded the summer flavors of a Mediterranean meal. You can order the whole menu at the bar, which included other notable dishes such as Bastilla (sweet and savory pastry with chicken, spiced almonds, apricot fennel salad), lamb mergez, Bacon Bombons (stuffed prunes with goat cheese, spiced port glaze), etc.

The Beignets, perfectly French, perfectly fluffy, arrived with three dipping sauces – melted chocolate, naughty cream, and seasonal fruit preserves. The dessert, big enough to be enjoyed by two people, was the crescendo of the night. The bar at Gitane is definitely the place for pleasure seekers, bohemians, and nostalgia for the past, where time was cherished and fervently enjoyed with all the senses. And this is why Gitane is one of my favorite places in the city. Do I need to mention that the owner is French?

  • Gitane restaurant, 6 Claude Lane, San Francisco
  • Reservations: (415) 788-6686
  • website

 

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The Restaurant at the Basque Cultural Center

The Restaurant at the Basque Cultural Center

April 13, 2011  |  food & drink, san francisco  |  No Comments

Why would you go to the Basque Cultural Center in South San Francisco if you are not a Basque and you don’t play pilota (handball game)? Because the food at the restaurant is so good that you would be amazed. Imagine eating home made food in a small village restaurant in the Basque country of France! It’s what you get.

I came to feast on a recent Saturday evening with a group of five friends. We had an early reservation at 5:30 PM. A gracious grandmotherly hostess in an elegant outfit greeted us at the door and led us to a round table with white linens.

The dining room is large and has an old-charm quality to it. It has big tables with a lot of room between the tables, and it is apparently conceived to host an extensive number of people. The restaurant filled up fast. We heard Basque language spoken at nearby tables. We saw faces that reminded us of the Basque country. It is definitely a place for a mature audience.

We ordered two bottles of white and red whine at $26 each and then looked at the menu. Most of my friends came for the rack of lamb. I wanted to try the veal sweetbreads, as I always order sweetbreads if there are any on the menu. All entrees come with soup and a salad, so we didn’t order any first courses.

We started with the soup (potage). I haven’t had such delicious home made soup since my days in France. It was made from leaks and potatoes. You could taste the leeks while the potatoes gave it just the right consistency. The waiter left a big bawl on the table for seconds. The bread was a sort of baguette, but it didn’t taste like a baguette. It was thicker and saltier, perfect for mopping up your soup bawl and enjoying with butter.

After the soup and the salad, we were full before the main courses arrived. The rack of lamb looked masterly done, the portions were generous and my friends were raving. The sweetbreads were tender and cooked in a thick earthy sauce. The dish was satisfying to my palate, and I enjoyed it immensely.

We finished the meal with the traditional Gâteau Basque, which tasted fresh and had the right amount of subtle almond filling. I also tried the chocolate mousse. A touch of liqueur made its fluffiness melt. By the end of the meal the wine was gone, and we were laughing and joking more than usual. The meal was worth the drive.

The Basque Cultural Center is an impressive building with parking situated in a residential neighborhood in South San Francisco. It opened in 1982, thanks to the contributions and efforts of the Basque community. The restaurant is one of the many ways the center gets funded, another being membership. According to the web site, the Basque Cultural Center counts close to 500 members. The Center boasts a pilota court, banquet rooms, and outdoor barbeque areas for festival times, which take place a few times a year and draw Basque expatriates from all over California.

  • Basque Cultural Center 599 Railroad Avenue, South San Francisco
  • Reservations: (650) 583-8091
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