Friday, June 06, 2008

Best San Francisco Girls Night Out Ever

Cocktails: Absinthe, Dinner: Bar Jules, Dessert: Boris Portnoy

Last night I was lucky enough to be treated to a girls' night out of my own choosing. Together, I think we made some excellent decisions.

Absinthe: Has been making some of the City's best cocktails since long before innovative cocktails were all the rage. I nearly plumped for a simple glass of bubbly for my aperitif until I noticed that she was ordering a special libation off the chalk board menu. It sounded perfect and it was: Aperol, a sour cherry gastrique, rosemary and Angostura topped up with soda (?), a deftly balanced drink where the initial impression of warm spices opened up to reveal notes of herbs, fruit and bitters.

Bar Jules:
This walk-in only spot in Hayes Valley actually accepts reservations for six or more. Know in advance that you'll surrender yourself to the short, daily changing menu, which goes up on their website around lunch time each day. Last night's dinner looked like this:


asparagus soup with sour cream 9.

butter lettuce salad with beets and pistachios 8.

la quercia prosciutto with long cooked favas and grilled bread 15.

mussel salad with creamer potatoes, peas and pickled carrots 12.

northern halibut with cucumbers, radishes and french beans 25.

muscovy duck breast with apricots, escarole and balsamic vinegar 23.

wood grilled skirt steak with cauliflower gratin 24.

Between us we tried everything above. The mussel salad with its cold boiled potatoes, bright, vivid peas, pickled carrots and dollop of garlicky mayonnaise was deceptively wonderful. The moist, tender domestic ham was beautifully presented: the delicate, fanned slices glistened with olive oil whilst the sturdier grilled bread and fava beans provided a rustic contrast. Everyone who chose the steak was swooning over the cauliflower gratin. Although I had plumped for the duck, which was good, I was more grateful for all the forkfuls of the creamy cauliflower that headed in my direction. Under regular circumstances I would probably have settled for some of Bar Jules' Chocolate Nemesis for dessert, but since we'd heard rumours that Boris Portnoy had just landed at The Candy Bar we elected, on the spur of the moment, to pay him a visit instead.

Boris Portnoy: I head this section with the Chef's name, rather than The Candy Bar's name because, make no mistake, we went there for him, and not just because it is 'San Francisco's first Dessert Bar'. Some readers may remember that Boris was the highlight of a previous girls' night out when he worked at Campton Place. Last night we asked Potnoy to simply show us his stuff. He brought us out plate after plate of beautifully presented sweet treats. A milky chocolate parfait that collapsed into a melting, oozy, delectable mess, a key lime custard more puckering and intense than any you will ever have tasted, the white coffee he has bowled me over with in the past, now made into an ice cream and an eggy warm brioche with spicy cherries and a stunning feta sorbet were just some of the highlights from last night.

If you can lure him out to your table, Chef Portnoy seems to enjoy hearing that his desserts are appreciated. When we asked him why he left the more grandoise Campton Place for a small neighbourhood spot, he said it was because he wanted to make food for real people. That would be you! Go pay him a visit...

PS Thanks to all my girls for making last night such a treat.

2007 | Apples in Season
2006 | No Way
2005 | Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la
2004 | Red, Hot & Pink Menu

© 2008 Sam Breach
Best San Francisco Girls Night Out Ever


  • At 6/6/08 10:15, Anonymous EB said…

    What a fabulous night! I'd been debating going to The Candy Bar or not... debate over.

  • At 6/6/08 11:09, Anonymous Fatemeh said…

    Could not imagine a better way to celebrate Sam!

    Thanks for pulling all of us together, sweets. My belly and cheeks ache today from laughing so heartily last night.

  • At 7/6/08 00:08, Blogger FJK said…

    Absinthe is one of my favorites!
    Gald you had such a great night out -- Forget Sex and the City, it's Friends and the City that count

  • At 7/6/08 12:10, Blogger ChrisB said…

    Sam I thought I had commented on this post. Glad you had a good time with your friends.
    Now I'm waiting to hear about last night's dining experience!

  • At 7/6/08 15:42, Blogger Chef Ben said…

    Sounds like a fun night. Bar Jules is still on my list of places to go.

    BTW, you already know I've tagged you, but I'm doing it here to officially tag you with thememe about your Top 10 Favorite Food Photos. I can't wait to see what you come up with! I"ve always been a fan of your photography and site! :)

  • At 8/6/08 10:16, Blogger Alice Q. said…

    Sounds like a fun time! I will have to put The Candy Bar on the list for later this month - so sorry we're going to miss you!

  • At 8/6/08 10:57, Blogger wheresmymind said…

    I so wanna meet the green fairy one of these days :)

  • At 8/6/08 16:32, Anonymous jen maiser said…

    I wish I had taken a picture of all of us *attacking* the dessert plates. You'd think we hadn't eaten in days. Agree with F, my stomach hurt the next day from all the laughing. Good times ...

  • At 12/6/08 21:03, Blogger Joy said…

    Now I'm even MORE sad that I missed it! At least I get you all to myself tomorrow:).


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