Sunday, March 8, 2009

Suppenküche (San Francisco, CA) - 3/7

"Cooking is a little like witchcraft, like alchemy, to transform people from angry and tense to relaxed and warm, happy. Therefore the right witch doctors in the kitchen can perform magic on the customers..."
- Suppenküche owner, Fabrizio Wiest -

For the past couple of years my bff, Candace, has been trying to drag me to Suppenküche, a traditional style German brauhaus /restaurant in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. I have only heard amazing reviews from previous patrons of the restaurant, including many native Germans who claimed its the best German beer and food they have had outside Germany. So using my birthday as an excuse to finally check out this local favorite hot spot, Candos and I pitched up for an early dinner last Saturday night. (Suppenküche is a small restaurant and sits people together at their long tables. Because of this, they only takes reservations for parties of 6 or more, so its wise to try to get a table early or be prepared for a long wait.) After a long week, I was looking forward to some hearty beer and the meat & potatoes fare.

According to the restaurant's website, Suppenküche owner Fabrizio Wiest came to San Francisco in 1993 from Munich with the concept of opening a traditional German Wirtshaus to show Americans something about German beer, as well as the warmth of the atmosphere from his home. Fabrizio's grandfather had a small country brewery which delivered beer to several dozen Wirtshausen in the small region of Mengkofen until 1970. Fabrizio has fond memories of being at the old beer places with the local people, eating, drinking, talking, and being raised in an environment with farm people. It is from this tradition that the Suppenküche originated. "Many valuable things were lost from the old time, the old ways of living.The connection to the land and to the people who lived in such traditional ways," states Fabrizio. "Suppenküche brings a bit of the atmosphere from that small Bavarian village to San Francisco, merging the monastery with the Wirtshaus, serving a cuisine developed throughout the ages, in a place that is safe and warm."

I arrived early and thought I start on a beer while I
was waiting for the rest of the party to arrive. I was surprised at how full the restaurant already was at 5:30pm on a Saturday. Overwhelmed by the massive German beer selection, I chatted with the very friendly and knowledgeable bartender who convinced me to try a delicious dunkelweizen (a dark wheat beer) called "Celebrator." When Candos arrived, we beat the crowd and had just e
nough time to order a couple kinds of dark hefeweizen (an unfiltered wheat beer) before we were seated. Candos were full of great suggestions from their travels to Octoberfest in Germany last year and were surprised the food and beer at Suppenküche was even better than some of the fare they tried on their travels. As both the beer and the food are filling, we decided to order family style and shared the appetizer of asparagus wrapped in bacon in a lemon-butter sauce, the special entree of succulent pig with a bread ball smothered in a rich, thick mushroom gravy, and a second entree of "Jägerschnitzel in Champignonsoße mit Spätzle und grünem Salat" or Sauteed Porkloin in Mushroom Sauce served with Spätzle, sauerkraut and Green Salad. All in all, the food was authentic, delicious, and served in huge portions. I would give them 5-stars all around. The biggest surprise of the night was when Candos talked me into trying a Berliner Weisse, a "white" beer from Berlin that is brewed from a mash that is three-quarters barley, one-quarter wheat and add a little raspberry syrup, to take the edge off its sharpness. It was delicious.

We sat at the table with a group visiting from out of town and were happy when they ordered the house specialty, 3 liters of beer served in glass boot that is called "das boot" by the locals. We quickly made friends with our fellow diners and ended the dinner with a delicious German black forest raspberry cake and a hysterical (albeit slightly drunken) rendition of happy birthday sang to me by our fellow diners.

After my evening at Suppenküche, I would happily say that Fabrizio Wiest delivers a magical evening all around with delicious authentic German food served in a safe and warm environment. Suppenküche is located at 525 Laguna (at the corner of Hayes and Laguna). It is open every day for Dinner from 5:00 to 10:00pm, and for Brunch on Sundays from 10:00am to 2:30pm.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cheeseboard Pizza (Berkeley, CA) - 2/11

The Cheeseboard Collective is one of Berkeley's best kept secrets. Anyone who has lived in the East Bay of San Francisco can tell you what a diamond in the rough this store/restaurant is (even amongst the other gems of the North Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto). This store is more than a bakery, cheese shop, or pizza parlor... its a way of living and has a strong cult following. Even facebook has a group called "Cheeseboard. Need More Be Said?"

The Cheeseboard Collective is composed of two stores situated next to each other in the Gourmet Ghetto... a pizza shop that only makes one type of pizza day with live jazz music and the other a bakery/gourmet cheese shop. The Cheese Board collective was founded on November 6, 1967 by Elizabeth and Sahag Avedesian, and was created as a special business model where all workers own an equal part of the collective and have equal power and working for equal wages. To achieve this, upon joining each member is given ten shares worth $100/share. When a member leaves these shares are sold back to the corporation. All members are paid an equal hourly wage. Profits go to buy new equipment, raise wages, or are placed into our retirement fund. Moneys placed into this fund are distributed based on hours worked.

The cheese shop/bakery is amazing gem of its own with extremely helpful and knowledgeably staff. Its the only place you should go when you need to pick up some cheese for a dinner party, picnic in napa, or something to compliment a new favorite bottle of wine. And the scones are a personal favorite of mine (and compliment the coffee at the Peet's around the corner.)

When I first started going to the Cheeseboard in 2003, the pizza shop was a little hole in the wall with enough room to fit a counter, a long line out its door and down the street, and a small piano. If they ran out of pizza, they would just shut down early for the day. People would grab their pizza and sit on the median on Shattuck Ave. Ironically the only thing to change is that they expanded the space to fit in some picnic benches and full jazz quartet and Berkeley put a "No Trespassing on the Median Sign" up a couple years ago... which people like to lean up against while they slurp down these amazing pizzas.

Every day, the Cheeseboard release their pizza creation of the day at:

The wait in the line is not bad, despite the fact that there is ALWAYS a line. Today's pizza was roasted eggplant, onions, mozzerella, olive oil, spanish smoked paprika, Grana Padano, garlic, and parsley.... And they always give you complementary slices to go with it. The pizza is all about the bread. And it has been described by one local food critique as "It has to be a mixture of cheese, secret ingredients, and drugs??? I have no idea what they put in it but its magical..."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

On this special day to celebrate the glory of love, I thought it was only appropriate that I post a few photos of my favorite things...

Thursday, January 8, 2009'-perfect-omelet/19201.html

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's Resolutions...

Happy New Year! I must apologize for not updating my blog on my numerous travels and adventures over 2008. Unfortunately, 2008 was a difficult year filled with too many goodbyes to people I loved and cared about. But the one lesson I learned was to enjoy whatever little adventures and joys life brings to me. So my New Year's resolution this year is to post more blog entries on my local adventures and travels... the places I call home and regularly visit. As well as, actually getting around to post all those travel photos that have been taking up room in the photo archives in my cupboard.

In the meantime, my New Year's wish to you is that God will grant you always a sunbeam to warm you, a moonbeam to charm you, a sheltering angel so nothing can harm you... laughter to cheer you, faithful friends near you, and whenever you pray, that heaven will hear you. (Irish Prayer)