The House

Not like that mean doctor guy on TV, but like the teeny tiny little restaurant in Big-Plate-Italian*-dominated North Beach, San Francisco. The House. Grant Avenue just off Columbus. The location is unsuspecting. The website is underwhelming. The food is amazing.

Tuna rolly things. They don’t have a menu on their website, so you’re getting my best recollection of the dish names and components. Good luck!

I went for one of my four (yes, four) birthday meals this year. I went on my actual birthday. This was The Choice. It’s difficult to choose a birthday restaurant, let me tell you. “Angie, you know all the restaurants in SF, why don’t you pick?” Wait, what? Is there a sit-down Quizno’s in midtown**? No, seriously, I don’t know all the restaurants. I was looking on the SF Gate’s top 100 list and hadn’t even heard of most of the places. It’s sad, I know. And it’s exacerbated by the fact that I have a horrible memory. What I’m saying is, come birthday time, I’m on Yelp and OpenTable like every other idiot.

Insulting my readers aside, I had actually been to the The House once before this fateful day. In fact, my friend peed right outside, in the alleyway next door. It was that kind of night. (I did not approve of said urination, just for the record.) It was delicious. Not the pee, the food. Sheesh. So I went back for my birthday.

And it was awesome. Asian fusion. Classy but not uber-San-Francisco-expensive. The place is small and inevitably crowded any night of the week. Make a reservation or prepare to wait for some SF-appropriate amount of time for a table. And you’ll have to wait outside flanked by a sex shop and a sketchy dive bar because there’s no room for even a group of four to stand in the place. That’s how we roll in SF.

BUT, it’s all totally worth it. And none of those things are really that bad. We made a reservation for my bday. Me. Lita. Mala. A bottle of bubbly. And this food:

First is the picture at the top of the page. You understand that I have to put a picture “above the fold” so you keep reading, right? That’s what that’s about. That tuna roll thing was delicious. I believe the waitress recommended it as their most popular appetizer. Good start, House.

Next was this calamari. Now, you know that I a) love appetizers and, b) love calamari. This was expertly executed. Delicious. Our true-vegetarian friend was thusfar unimpressed. We ordered her asparagus which was also really good, but I forgot to take a picture. Moving on.

Calamari. Boom.

For the main, Smalls and I split some fishy and they made up a noodly dish for Lita. There was nothing entirely veggie on the menu (come on guys, wtf), which I did not notice before (no menu on the website, grr!). But, like all good SF places, they don’t blink an eye when you ask for something with no meat. They whipped up this huge plate of noodles in no time.

Fish ‘n green beans. Yums.

Vegetarian noodly dish, made to order on request.

And, because I am me and it was my birthday, it was a double whammy for dessert:

Chocolate cake!

This was coconut creme brulee. I don’t like coconut, but I trusted them to feed me only good things. They did not disappoint.

And this post somehow got way too long. I’m out. Happy birthday, biatches.

*Big Plate Italian is what Carissa calls the old-school restaurants that serve immense portions of Italian food and have things on the menu like Chicken Cacciatore, Spaghetti Bolognese, and Eggplant Parmesan. They give you a loaf of bread to start. And cookies and mints to finish. And when you leave, you’ve somehow consumed not less than four pounds of carbohydrate-laden foodstuffs, served to you by the most overbearing-yet-entirely-kindly group of people ever. That is Big Plate Italian.

**Quote courtesy of Liz Lemon.

House on Urbanspoon

Spain: We’re not just hungry, we’re Americans.

I went to Spain in late August for a week with my friend Mala. We met up with four other people (only one of whom we already knew) in Valencia in the southeast of Spain, threw some tomatoes, then headed to Barcelona for a few days with just the two of us. It was rad. A whirlwind trip, for sure, but definitely fun and definitely worth all the flying (2 stopovers on the way there!).

Seafood paella in Valencia, Spain

You might imagine that we ate food while we were there. It was pretty much a main activity. Since I could type about this all day, and I have about a billion photos, I’ll give a summary below and then you can scroll through the pictures until the rolly wheel on your mouse breaks. Enjoy.

  • Valencia is not my fav. We did have some good food there, but the city is mostly either touristy and cheesy, or sorta run down and Hayward-esque. They do have a strange area with a bunch of rad buildings housing museums and the like, and a cool beach area that’s super touristy but still nice. And it definitely was an AWESOME place to rent an apartment with five other rad people. And provided good access to the aforementioned tomato fight.
  • Barcelona is rad. Super touristy in the main part, but it’s beautiful, has great restaurants and shops, a nice wharf and beachfront area, and lots to do. Def way better on the gourmet food front. Mala and I felt like we were home here.
  • When you order wine, you order “vino tinto” or “vino blanco” (at least in Valencia). It’s funny. There typically isn’t a wine list (again, at least at all the places we went), and I have no idea what kind of wine I’m drinking. You just choose red or white. I thought it was funny.
  • Tapas. They’re everywhere. Lots and lots and lots of tapas restaurants, all boasting their own form of paella, which I think are all exactly the same. We never found great paella, unfortunately, and ended up getting pretty sick of tapas pretty fast, sadly. But we still had plenty, and they were usually pretty good. Here’s  a typical tapas menu:

Tapas menu in Valencia, Spain

Ok, now for food.

Tapas Hall of Fame

Calamari. I know, I love calamari. There were often many types of squid offered on any one tapas menu, and I never could figure out which one was the one I wanted (above). Sometimes I got grilled (still good) or big onion-ring sized rings (not as good). The smaller pieces of fried squid (above) was my fav kind.

Bravas. These are fried potato pieces slathered in an aioli sauce. When they were good, they were really good.

Russian salad. It’s everywhere. We finally mustered the balls to try it. It was delicious. Apparently it’s common in many regions, but the Spanish version typically consists of: minced boiled potato, minced boiled carrots, canned tuna, minced boiled eggs, peas, roast red pepper strips, green olives, and mayonnaise. The weird breadsticks are just there as an obstacle, as far as I can tell.

Tortilla. Yeah, it’s not like a Mexican one. This is like a potato quiche. It’s really good. And, I find it funny that they make tortilla sandwiches. In case you want some carbs with your carbs. Totally yum though.

Those were def my fav tapas. We ordered them again and again, while also trying to branch out each time. We tried paella a variety of times, and it was good, but it was never great. So much so that I’m not even going to include it in this post, except as the cover photo to make you think I’m going to talk about it. Trickery.

Other Good Food

When we got to Barcelona, we immediately made reservations at a fancy restaurant. It was necessary. And delicious. Mala powered through a bout of food poisoning from the day before, and we bought the crappiest umbrellas known to man to handle the pouring rain to make it to this schmancy Barcelona restaurant. This is the tuna tartare. Totally worth it.

This chocolate mousse (from aforementioned schmancy Barcelona restaurant) was amazing. It was light and fluffy and made almost completely of air somehow. The taste was incredible. We were mesmerized.

We found a vegetarian restaurant in Barcelona. We almost ordered everything on the menu. Then we didn’t. This was a good decision. These fried rice balls were bomb.

Pasta from vegetarian restaurant: good.

Chocolate fondue from the vegetarian restaurant. Mala was excited.

And, for the season finale, Mala and I found a nice place to have a full English breakfast. I’m not sure if you can tell how much food is on that table, but we each had 2 eggs, potatoes, baked beans, a grilled tomato, grilled mushrooms, bacon, toast and jam, and a blueberry pancake. We ate every bite. (She ate my bacon, I ate her tomatoes and much of her beans.) The Aussies next to us were impressed. Because “we’re not just hungry — we’re Americans”. Booya.


Something Shiny

Or tasty. Hi. I went to Spain. I’ve been stumbling over life trying to catch up with writing and other things I love. But I haven’t had time to sort my pictures, collect my thoughts, etc. So here — something shiny for you to look at in the meantime. I’ll be back soon… :)

French toast from Park Tavern’s brunch, North Beach.