For my birthday, Faith bought tickets to Margaret Atwood's reading at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. Atwood is one of my absolute favorite writers, and I brought her latest novel (The Year Of The Flood) with me on my trip to Sonoma - and finished it just in time. She's used her considerable sway over her fan base to turn her latest book tour into a series of fundraisers for local charities, which I thought was pretty nifty indeed.
Before the reading, though, we needed sustenance, and decided to head to Bar Tartine (the restaurant outpost of the legendary Tartine bakery) for an early dinner. As the offspring of a bakery, it's only fitting that Bar Tartine serve superlative bread. This being San Francisco, it was, of course, a sourdough, with a chewy crumb dark - almost black - crust. Served alongside, some of the prettiest, freshest butter I've had in a long while.
We decided to order a couple of snacks, a couple appetizers, and - in order to sample the brioche bun - to split a hamburger. First up, a round of housemade cheddar crackers. The crackers were buttery and rich, full of the sharp, only slightly smoky flavor of sharp cheddar. I never knew crackers could be this sinful, or this satisfying.
Next, we tried the radishes with fig and walnut puree. This was delicious - but we didn't really enjoy the radishes with the fig spread. We slathered the spread on our bread, dipped the radishes in the butter and sprinkled them with salt, and ended up much happier for it all. Gorgeous as separate entities, but a pairing that didn't quite work.
It was dark by the time our burger made it to the table, so I wasn't able to snap a photo of it. But I'm sure that the images we managed to grab of our appetizers more than make up for what's missing. First up, a tomato salad with Point Reyes blue cheese, frisee and edible marigolds. The tomatoes were of the late-summer variety: impossibly sweet and soft, tasting of sunlight and dirt.
Last, but most certainly not least, we shared a pork charcuterie plate. Rillettes made from the shoulder, and terrine from, well, the rest of the pig. Alongside were a little more of that sourdough (toasted this time) and some lightly pickled baby carrots. The rillettes were good, but the fatty richness obscured any other flavors that might have been waiting to get out. The terrine, on the other hand, was amazing. It too was bursting with piggy flavor, but was drizzled with an herbed vinaigrette. The sauce lent enough tang to bring a much-needed contrast to the pork, and it absolutely made the dish.
Our burger was similarly tasty. The brioche bun was (unsurprisingly, after what I learned on this visit) huge, full of sweet butter, and soaked up the burger's juices quite splendidly. All in all, a high point in a week of many good burgers.
My general feeling about Bar Tartine is that I would go back in a heartbeat, and that I'd love to actually eat at the bar. We sat next to the window (I wanted to take some gorgeous photos for you all), but the energy and activity all seemed to emanate from the rear - I want to see what that's all about.
561 Valencia Street
San Francisco, California