Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial munching.

To kick off the Memorial Day Weekend (the last Monday of May is an annual remembrance day for those who died whilst serving in the US Armed Forces) my sweetheart and I took our hungry tummies to Valencia Pizza & Pasta for a big dinner.

I haven't been to Valencia P&P for quite some time, but if there's something you can guarantee, it's that this place always serves big portions for reasonable (read: cheap) prices. It is virtually impossible to finish the huge meals, so you are invariably getting dinner, which also serves as tomorrow's lunch.

We arrived at just after 6pm, and the joint was still pretty quiet. The sun was beaming through the windows, creating a nice feel in this café-style restaurant, which is small and has a relaxed ambience.

From our previous visits, we knew that one of us had to get the breaded pork chops, and for our second dish we went with the short ribs (loverboy and I nearly always split our meals for a more varied dining experience). Ohmygoodness soooooooooooo yummy! The pork chops were as delicious as I remembered, and the short ribs (which I have never had without the bones) were soft and succulent.

Along with your meal you get a basket of complimentary garlic bread, and either soup or salad. The wine is good, and at $2.95 a glass, or $12 a bottle, it's a total steal.

Suffice to say, we left with our tummies full....

We ended the Memorial Weekend with a trip to Krispy Kreme on Monday afternoon. It was a decadent decision, but so worth it!

The banana cream pie doughnut was particularly yummy....

There is something so fun about sharing indulgent treats with a lover, and given that the final countdown to my departure from the US has begun, it was particularly sweet to satisfy this urge, not only because I will not be seeing my darling fiancé for a while, but also because I will undoubtedly go back to my more sensible diet once back in the UK.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Slim in the square.

Last Wednesday the summer dance and concert series 'Swing in the Square' kicked off in Union Square with a live performance by local voodoo jump blues band, Slim Jenkins.

Running from May through to September, the fourth wednesday of each month will feature live music, a dj and a dance lesson from 6-8pm, courtesy of Jewels in the Square & A-Town Agency.

Having been to Lindy in the Square last September, and as an avid fan of al fresco dancing, when Wednesday came around and brought with it rain and grey skies, I was rather disappointed. Thankfully though, the weather picked up in the afternoon, and whilst it wasn't a particularly summery day, it was nice enough (and dry enough) to spend time outdoors.

Skipping the lesson, we showed up at 7pm, minutes before Slim Jenkins took to the stage. There was a huge crowd of dancers and spectators and a fun atmosphere.

Having been at some of Slim Jenkins' first shows last year, it is amazing to see how far they have come in such a short space of time - both in their music, and also the size and frequency of the shows they are playing. They have a unique sound, are fun to dance to, and clearly love performing.

The band kept their audience captivated, sounded great and looked sharp. I was surprised how clear they sounded given that it was an outdoor show with a lot of traffic and noise in the surrounding area.

I particularly like their version of the song 'Bacon Fat' - super fun tune and makes me giggle!

We danced to nearly every song they played, but I have to admit that dancing on concrete in plimsoles is not my favourite way to get down. It's hard to spin when neither your shoes nor the floor have slide, and by the end of the show my legs felt pretty heavy. Next time I would definitely go along in a more smooth-soled pair of shoes, to ensure ease in gliding across the surface.

So after a super fun, free live musical performance, and an opportunity to dance outdoors, we took it up the road and indoors to Le Colonial, for some more live music and dancing, this time to the musical stylings of The Cosmo Alleycats.

As one of Le Colonial's resident bands, The Cosmo Alleycats play in the bar area of this venue every Wednesday, and it is free to go along and dance. The band play a host of danceable classics, and are definitely worth checking out.

Alas by the time we got to Le Colonial, my legs already felt like they had been set in concrete, (and to add to that, I was feeling pretty hungry) so I didn't dance too much more, but still enjoyed chatting to friends, with the odd foray onto the dance floor.

When we left, I had a sudden craving for mac'n'cheese, and whilst this is a dish I am good at making from scratch, I was super happy to head to Safeway and buy two boxes of the bright orange Kraft variety for $1 each. This is the easiest thing to make at 11pm, and there is something really decadent, and from my perspective, American, about indulging in such a classic, lazy, two-step meal.

As soon as the first forkful reached my mouth, I knew I had made the right choice - it was exactly what I needed, and with the addition of some pepper, tabasco, pickled jalapenos, and mustard, it was deeeeeeeeeeeeeelish.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oh yes it's ladies night...

Last week, a bunch of my lovely girlfriends here in San Francisco organised me a ladies night out to celebrate my engagement. It was such a kind gesture, and I really enjoyed myself!

We started the night at Asiento, a mission bar that I had not been to before. It's a fairly minimalist, spacious venue with a modern feel (and corresponding modern drink prices...), and lots of natural light. It attracts a slightly older crowd, and there were no mission hipsters in sight - instead, it is more of a 'glass of wine and cheese selection' type of place, which suited our glamorous group perfectly.

Once everyone in our party had arrived, we hijacked the ipod dock, sipped on cocktails and champagne (thank you to all my awesome gals who plied me with drinks allllllll night!) and settled in with a cheese selection and cupcakes. The atmosphere was great, and it was novel to be surrounded by just the ladies - this also provided the prime opportunity for girlie gossiping...

Time flies by when you are having fun, and before I knew it, a few hours had passed, so most of the group had to call it a night. Those of us that remained, popped 'round the corner to Jay n Bee's for a nightcap (or three) and some late-night pizza. It was fitting to swing by this joint as part of my engagement celebration, as this is where I first met my fiancé, back in 2009 at the Rockabilly Fridays night that used to be held here.

A few cosmopolitans later, it was home time. When I reached said destination, I was suitably hyper and my poor fiancé (trying to watch a movie) was subjected to me rambling on about how much fun I'd had....until I conked out and fell asleep.

Thank you, thank youuuuuuu to my fabulous girlfriends for throwing me this super fun night out - I had a blast, and am very lucky to have you all as friends, you're the bestest!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Filling up on farmer's fried chicken...

My love of buffets knows no bounds, and whilst such gorging is normally reserved for Las Vegas eateries, it was unleashed in San Francisco on Sunday, as Team Brunch discovered an all-you-can-eat brunch at Farmer Brown.

Yes, for $16.50 you too can chow down on as much soul food as you can shake a stick at. This includes; finger lickin' fried chicken, home fries, pancakes, grits, eggs, bacon, banana bread, yogurt & granola, biscuits & gravy (chicken or mushroom gravy) and fruit salad.

This was my first foray into the world of Farmer Brown - it has taken long enough, considering that I have wanted to try this place for years now. Well, the fried chicken was delicious, really delicious. I just wish I could have eaten more! Next time I am going to bring a ziploc baggie and save a few more pieces for later in the day...

I rarely eat fried chicken, so this was a real treat, as were the biscuits and gravy, which were also yummy. Given that the price of a set brunch dish is only a couple of dollars cheaper, it is worthwhile to spring for the buffet, where not only do you get more sustenance for your buck, but you also get to pick and choose a bunch of different food items if you can't decide what to have.

Farmer Brown tends to get packed for Sunday brunch, so you would be advised to make a booking in advance, like we did. When we arrived we were amazed at how lucky we were to get seated in a quiet little corner, away from all the noise....that is until the resident jazz band started setting up right next to us. Before I could worry too much about how it was about to get all kinds of funky up in our mix, the music started, and surprisingly, it was actually not too loud, and totally mellow - perfect for a Sunday morning. I am still not quite sure why the band members were wearing sunglasses indoors though...

I enjoyed dining at Farmer Brown, but I have a few gripes, which are as follows:

a) What kind of soul food buffet doesn't include cornbread?
b) Granted, there were pancakes, but I was hoping for waffles to accompany my fried chicken - just sayin'...
c) I feel like coffee should be inclusive of the brunch buffet. It's just downright cheap of them to charge separately for the morning caffeine fix.
d) The service is slooooooooooooow.
e) They will add 18% gratuity to your bill if you are a party of six, despite the fact that it is a buffet so you are serving yourself.

We got the steep gratuity taken off our bill and left a tip which we felt was more fitting, given that the service was so slow, and that all our waitress did was bring us water and coffee (again, in an untimely manner). The whole tipping system in America is a little obscene to me anyway, but when they add a huge optional gratuity charge to your bill, which is rather unfair (given the level of service), don't be afraid to say something.

They took off the gratuity charge and left us to our own tipping devices, leaving us able to concentrate on letting our food digest with more peace of mind.

Following such a huge meal, Aaron and I wandered over to Union Square to walk off some of our gluttony and check out an art installation by local artist and friend, Jeremy Sutton. The big metallic heart entitled 'Classic San Francisco' depicts the Golden Gate Bridge and gives new meaning to the expression, I left my heart in San Francisco....