Tag Archive for downtown

Food Should Taste Good Brunch with Tablehopper!

It’s been three weeks since I was invited to brunch at the Cavalier in downtown San Francisco, hosted by Tablehopper Marcia Gagliardi and the Food Should Taste Good (FSTG) snack food brand. It’s never too late to write about great food, right?

The brunch was part of FSTG’s national promotional tour that’s been challenging star chefs, like the Cavalier’s Jennifer Puccio, to make inventive dishes featuring FSTG’s products. Obligatory disclaimer! The brunch was entirely free. The invitees were a fun mix of new media types in a variety of industries, and we were thrilled to be ushered into a reception in Marianne’s Room, a speakeasy-style nook concealed from the restaurant proper and full of lush red furniture and saturation-drenched artwork.

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As we mingled, Bloody Marys and Pimm’s Cups flowed.

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Our expectations rose with our hunger; the Cavalier was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Best New Restaurant award last year, after all. Light appetizers included FSTG peppercorn crackers topped with deviled egg salad, provolone, and pickled jalapeno and FSTG’s “the works” chips with smoked salmon, avocado, spices, and sprouts.

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Both provided an appeasing nibble before the much heavier—and mouth-watering-delicious—roasted garlic and cheddar fondue appeared.

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The fondue was served with FSTG sweet potato kettle chips. While great on their own, the chips weren’t really large enough to hold up to fondue dipping. But that didn’t stop us from making messy attempts to scoop it all out anyhow. Hot cheese! Must eat hot cheese!

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Neumanali

Neumanali is one of Hayward’s few fine dining restaurants. Bijou, just a few blocks up B Street, is the only other one that immediately comes to mind. Neumanali is tucked away by the downtown Hayward BART station in a beautiful Victorian that most people don’t even realize is a restaurant as they walk past.

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I’ve wanted to check it out since we relocated here. Early December, I invited another couple who loves good food to come along. The restaurant had an intimate feel despite the lively large party being hosted that night. Discounting that group and ourselves, there was only one other table used throughout our meal.

Neumanali provides typical white tablecloth service despite having a tiny staff. Warm, rosy lighting means photos aren’t as well focused as I’d like, but I’m sharing them anyhow.

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The walls were forest green and decorated with people-pleasing Impressionist paintings of orchestral groups, except for the bathroom that randomly featured nudes. To my taste, the atmosphere is stuffy but I absolutely want to try it again in warmer weather when we can sit on their lovely patio.

Dinner started out great, with us sharing two bottles of Eden Canyon’s Freedom from the Press 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon over the course of the night and enjoying soft, bubbly bread with olive oil, balsamic, and strong garlic.

Another commonality shared between Neumanali and Bijou is that both restaurants serve up new American cuisine with an eye toward French preparations. Our friends started with the warm goat cheese salad that comes with grilled pears and mixed greens.

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Praise of “this is fabulous” and “that was a spectacular salad” rang out, making it one of the most enjoyed courses of the night. Friend #1’s grilled rosemary rack of lamb with roasted potatoes, heirloom grains, and a pomegranate reduction sauce was probably the only course praised more highly.

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In the forefront of that picture are eggplant chips that weren’t listed on the menu. Friend #1 declared she could eat a whole bag of them. They were thick enough to give her something to bite into while maintaining a delightfully crunchy exterior. She also exclaimed over the heirloom grains, which turned out to be close to a sweet version of rice pilaf.

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Sapporo

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Sapporo is the sushi restaurant’s answer to the overly familiar neighborhood pub. If you need to be greeted warmly by a hostess and have your every need catered to in a reasonable time frame, I’m not sure it’s the place for you. There’s nothing wrong with those expectations, but Sapporo won’t meet them. Instead, the tiny staff—consisting of one waitress and the sushi chef Sam—will get to you in due time, and your drink order will likely be yelled across the restaurant.

As soon as you see the restaurant’s interior, you’ll realize it’s a playful joint. Keep yourself entertained while waiting for service by looking at the polaroids covering the walls and booths.

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And keep that playfulness in mind as you realize Sam’s banter with the regulars is far more entertaining than the photos. Otherwise, you may be worried actual insults are being flung around rather than friends skewering each other. Heck, not knowing for certain is part of the appeal.

Sam, the sushi chef.

Sam, the sushi chef.

But I think the existence of a Crazy Sammy roll resolves that question pretty well.

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