Sunday, May 8, 2011

BOULEVARD SF - Old World San Francisco & Modern Class

Um, so I swear I had them.  My notes on the evening, but they haven't yet turned up and the meal was just too good not to report.  So instead of turning to details on paper, I'm using the lingering memory of a delightful evening with good friends at a great restaurant.  I'm generally all about the words, but the food was so good and the pictures came out so nice I thought just this once, I'd try something new.  I'd let the photos speak for themselves as much as possible.  Since the meal was some time ago, the details of what can be ordered on the menu have become somewhat irrelevant, as many of the options they were serving at Boulevard last fall have been swapped out for Spring Fare.  Nevertheless you'll get the gist of the idea that Boulevard can be a lovely spot to eat. 

Let's begin with the cocktails.
Sazerac, anyone?
  Whenever I'm pressed to pick a drink "on the spot" I go for a sazzy.  The Sazerac is the original cocktail, an old New Orleans variation of an old-fashioned cognac or whiskey drink, named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of cognac that was its original prime ingredient. 

The drink is always some combination of cognac, rye whiskey, absinthe or Herbsaint, and Peychaud's Bitters and distinguished by its preparation method.  Most use the absinthe to "rinse the glass" leaving just a hint of the licorice based spirit.  Others use it as an ingredient.  This historic cocktail actually predates the Civil War.  As such, it makes me feel young to order one....

Day Boat Scallops
 When I find dining companions who will order with the intent to share it all, in order that we might experience as much as possible in the way of flavor.  This sort of openness to the experience as ritual always enhances.

One of the items we sampled were some glorious Day Boat Scallops, sprinkled with what may have been currants...

Scallops are an interesting phenomenon.  They are uniform, sweet, succulent little mouthfuls of crustacean that when prepared correctly can be relied upon to be familiar.  Not exactly the same, mind you, but like bacon, there are qualities one comes to expect, if they are done properly, which there were.  So it's often going to be about the "trimmings" and though I don't remember the specifics, I do remember that the mouthfeel of each mouthfull, was sensational.  Crunch, acid, texture and seasoning.  All present.

At this point we are all pretty blissed out, munching and chatting.  Drinking and chatting.  The couple we were dining with were spectacular dining partners, as they enjoy sharing and tasting as much as the BH and I do.  We had joined a long time friend (who just so happens to be our Dentist, so her nickname is easy).  Her husband joined in the fun, a delightful fellow who is a really bright guy and a camera expert who tried valiantly to teach me a little bit about how to use (as opposed to abuse) my fancy equipment.   He didn't exactly fail, but I seem to be fancy camera equipment challenged.  I have a good eye, so when I'm actually successful at getting the equipment to capture the image I've framed, well at least you can see what I saw. 

The Dentist and the Silicon Valley Executive were delightful company.  I think we had smiles on our faces all evening.  We enjoyed the most stimulating of conversation.  We ate the best food that can be had and we drank some really amazing wines, as it turns out the SVE being as knowledgeable about wine as he is about cameras.  I need to bring him with me when we eat out more often, as it's like having a world class sommelier in my pocket.  Although I love wine, I'm not able to internalize enough information to really select a bottle confidently, unless it's a specific year and vintner I'm already familiar with.   The SVE just went to town with the wine list.  And if you are forming a mental image of  one of "those" wine guys, don't.  SVE was eloquent in his selections without pretension.  He treated the staff and the balance of the company at his table as though we were equally expert at wine selection.  My kind of people.  What he knows (and it's just about everything) he expresses with a gentle and thoughtful confidence.  I have a bias.  I like smart people who are also nice.
Abalone, buttery, soft and delicious

Another dish that stood out was the Abalone.  The abalone was prepared perfectly.  Not sure if many of my readers are familiar with this cantankerous sea urchin, but it can be rubbery and foul if not done just so.  This was buttery and soft, just the way it should be prepared.  My childhood was spent eating varieties of fresh abalone pounded and laden with butter, it is one of the reasons I am so fond of the dish, it is wrapped forever in the distant memories of childhood and visits with my father.  This was a memorable sampling from my favorite time warp, with a fresh new take on it.

 I am gazing at these pictures and remembering what a great meal we had.  The duck was rich and fatty, its skin perfectly crisped, the meat moist and tender and toothsome with every bite.

This was a masterful meal.  The chef at Boulevard is Nancy Oakes, and she knows her food.  We wrapped up our meal with several delicious desserts.  Beautifully plated, and just the right amount of sweet to reset the palate and close out the evening. 

Dining out with friends is a social convention that goes back to the ages.  A tradition experienced and carried on for centuries, if not millennia.  From the banquets of Ancient Rome to modern day anywhere, we humans seem to love experiencing flavor together.  Experiencing life together.  I often wonder if it is because it is one of the ways we can feel connected.  As separate beings, we are always alone.  When we experience the same flavors and foods, we momentarily breach that separation as our palates share the same sensations.  Even though we experience some tastes differently, we are sharing an experience in a unique and powerful way.

We are adding something together to that memory bank we carry with us, bridging the gap that isolates. Whatever the reasons, the ritual persists because it is both basic and pleasurable.  It is as essential to our existence as breathing.

I suggest that the next time you seek a place in San Francisco, you consider Boulevard. I believe your experience will be memorable.  So drop by, and check it out.  They still have Abalone on the menu, so you are in luck!  Bon Appetit!

Boulevard Restaurant

One Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 543-6084

Table size: adequate (not an issue)
Ambiance:  quiet easy to hear
Chef:  Nancy Oakes
Price: expensive