Monday, October 16, 2006

Starry World, Lunch at Boulevard with Gratte Paille

So, not that we put much stock in Michelin's stars -- although the rankings in the new Michelin guide to SF have been causing minor temblors in the blogging world. I won't weigh in on the controversy, but I will say that we were faintly amused to realize that we live between two Michelin starred restaurants, Quince and Bushi-tei.

Personally, I fear that some of my fave SF eateries are getting just a little too much notice. Eric lets out a bark of indignation every time someone else adds Swan Oyster Depot to their list of SF must-eats. It's no use -- we've joined the other neighborhoodies who never get to have chowder at the counter, but just swing in to get our salmon or shrimp. I'm just relieved that no mention was made of our favorite sushi place up the street which literally can only seat a dozen people. Naka-san, the chef makes exquisite miso, in addition to everything else, and no, we're not telling you where it is.

We did stroll by Bushi-tei last night to examine the omokase menu. We must have been pointing a little too excitedly, because owner Tak Matsuba came outside to hand us a business card. We chatted for a while about the whole Michelin drama and about his restaurant and were utterly charmed. It's next on our list for a nice date dinner.

Last week though, a few of us went to Boulevard to celebrate the marriage of Eric's sister, Ms. Art Attack. (We'll be catering their wedding reception for 50 people, so expect MUCH more on that in coming weeks.) For reasons that pain Eric too deeply to describe, he was not able to join us for lunch.

Life is so unfair.

M'yeah. So, wouldja pass me the menu?

Boulevard, curiously also rated a star, only one. Don't ask me how those things work -- it's certainly not gonna stop me from eating there. It's too much fun. Where else can you just wander in and find yourself next to ex-SF Mayor Willie Brown, who's schmoozing in the bar?

The menu that day had a lot of terrific stuff, but we were intrigued by the bavette -- a cut of beef I had never heard of. I guess it's also known unromantically, i.e. NOT on a menu, as "flap meat" -- there was an article on it in the Chronicle last year though.

Sliced and served English it was perfect -- a crispy seared exterior and lovely and rare on the inside atop a richly flavored jus. The dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes, a few of which we'd picked up at the Farmer's Market across the way a few weeks ago, were stuffed asiago and thyme and bacon. Holy moley, it was good.

Ms. Art Attack is vegetarian, and interestingly enough there were only limited veggie options outside of salad. But the kitchen was quite happy to make up a plate for her that I, for one, was sniffing over.

The crushed Yukon Golds from the Bavette plate, sauteed Star Route spinach, plus wild rice with chanterelles and butternut squash. Yum.

Boulevard also offers a cheese plate -- but of course.

Guess what we had.

Most of the cheese I knew already -- Taleggio, Lingot de Quercy, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Colston-Bassett Stilton from Neal's Yard -- but I wasn't familiar with Gratte-Paille -- a French cow's milk cheese from Champagne-Ardenne, the little block visible next to the little bowl of almonds. It was enticing, with a strong flavor and silky texture not terribly unlike Pierre Robert, but Jesus, Mary, Joseph -- do you see the exploded, oozing Lingot de Quercy in the middle? you mind if I scoop up that with my fingers? Or should I just lick the plate?

Oh sure. YOU get to go to Boulevard. I get Ocean Whitefish in a can.

No, it's fine.

No. Really. Fine.

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