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Introducing Sara Deseran's Weekly Food Column: Famished
Sara Deseran | Photo: Sara Deseran | May 10, 2012
San Francisco's deputy editor on the best things she ate this week.
The food blogger's dilemma: You're starving and you have the most beautiful sandwich in front of you. Do you take the time to snap a picture before taking a bite? Or do you dare ruin a pretty picture because, well, you're famished?
In today's case, I succumbed to the latter—tangy goat cheese and a sweet and soft "confit" of whole cipollini onions squishing out of the sides of crusty, toasty focaccia, as I scarfed down the first half of the sandwich, licking my fingers and marveling at what a perfect creation Naked Lunch in North Beach had just made me. Stuffed with tons of argula and a few almonds to boot, it made vegetarianism seem like an option. So excuse the somewhat sad excuse for a photo. It was in the name of good eating.
This is not to say that I've been turned. Last night, Jordan Mackay, San Francisco's wine and spirits editor, and I stopped by St. Vincent (1270 Valencia St. at 24th St.) to drink good wine and beer and eat meat. The restaurant was full of industry folks. There was Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani of Ame in one corner, and Vinny Eng, the bubbly general manager from Bar Tartine in another.
Opened by famed Italophile somm David Lynch, St. Vincent is loosely calling itself a tavern. I'd describe it as a restaurant serving refined comfort food of the Northern California order. Yet it definitely begs the question: In the new world of restaurants, which comes first, the food or the drink? In this case, the drinking is the reason for the pilgrimage, but the food is plenty good to keep you there. We had a deliciously doughy and warm pretzel with mustard, a drop-dead gorgeous salad of greens from Little City Gardens, a great ramp soup, and some nice mains such as trout with potatoes. There was also a very non-vegetarian dish of pork belly involved. Lynch himself, poor guy, was suffering a cold and a smashed thumb from some DIY construction. No one ever said opening a restaurant is easy, that's for sure.
My favorite two discoveries in the drinking category? At St. Vincent, from the ecclectic, mostly Euro-focused list of 100 wines under $100, you can order half bottles of any wine (and I don't mean splits). And better yet, Lynch serves 8-ounce glasses of beer, from their all-brewery-direct draft program. As someone who's not the biggest beer drinker, I really appreciate this smallness. I have no interest in chugging down a pint, so anything larger than a glass eventually warms in my hands, and loses its luster. Eight ounces is just so proper, and allows the beer to shine. At St. Vincent, I enjoyed the Craftsman Brewing Company Heavenly Hefe while Jordan had the Rye Pale Ale. If something is super hoppy and bitter, you can still relish the taste, knowing you're not in it for the long haul.
And then there's the fact that you you can always order more. Which we did.