By Pete Kane
By Anna Roth
By Lou Bustamante
By Anna Roth
By Max A. Cherney
By Anna Roth
By Alex Hochman
By Anna Roth
Rose's doesn't offer chicken in bulk, so I settled for a "terrorized chicken" sandwich ($6) on a heavier cousin of focaccia. The fowl, more terrifying than terrorized, was a blackened chicken breast laden with hot pepper and charred rosemary with a medicinal flavor. The lower piece of bread was minimally moistened by a millimeter's glaze of mustard aioli and a stingy layer of fennel slivers; the top, like the slab of bird, was dead dry. The hero sandwich (ham, salami, cheddar, tomato, olive oil, etc.) looks a better bet. No picnic-appropriate desserts were available that evening.
Picnic picks: stuffed focaccia, tomatoes with mozzarella (shed the greens), hero sandwich ($5.50).
San Francisco, CA 94123
Region: Marina/ Cow Hollow
2125 Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA 94115
Region: Haight/ Fillmore
Rosti looks like a rural inn in Italy, and specializes in Tuscan food, especially pollo al mattone ($12.45 whole/$9 half), chicken seasoned with rosemary and garlic and grilled under a brick "to seal in the flavors." Unlike most chickens, the seasoning isn't just skin deep, but imbues the flesh itself. The breast was dryer than most, though. The accompanying rosemary potatoes are reheatable in foil (on a hibachi, for example). I also tried a rustica sandwich ($7.75) of roast turkey with radicchio, artichoke hearts, and a lemony dressing; it seemed arid at arrival but was fabulous the next day, when the dressing had permeated bread, fowl, and veggies.
A special stuffed artichoke ($6) featured a huge, hollowed-out thistle filled with moist, lemony bread cubes, topped with tomatoes and green bell pepper dice. The flavors were complex enough to keep us coming back for more. An antipasto misto ($8.75) provides a choice of three appetizers: Marinated eggplant in a light tomato sauce ($3.25 separately) was balanced right on the border between lean and rich, firm and gooey; tonno e fagioli ($3.25) had dry white albacore with rich white canneloni beans, a great olive oil, and a scatter of fresh chives; and insalata de mare ($4.25) had old-tasting calamari and shrimp with chopped veggies and a tart lemony dressing; the squid tasted even staler the next day. The scampi salad ($9.25) had plump prawns with greenery, croutons, and an acerbic mustardy dressing; the caprese salad ($8) included unripe tomatoes and oddly bland buffalo mozzarella, lightly marinated in olive oil and basil. For dessert, tiramisu ($4.50) was sweet, heavy, and chocolatey.
Picnic picks: roast chicken, rustica sandwich, stuffed artichoke, marinated eggplant, tuna and bean salad, perhaps tiramisu.
Vivande Porta Via
Picnic heaven at last! At the deli counter in front of the restaurant, Sicilian superchef Carlo Middione and his sous-chefs just seem to pour out an endless array of inventive, sunny, savory bites that are perfect for alfresco eating -- at fair prices, too. Middione makes a spicy southern version of pollo al mattone (marinated in olive oil and red pepper flakes); there were none left when I arrived on the late side, so I got a cold, spit-roasted half of a rosemary chicken (just $4, Safeway's price!), a small half-bird nicely done, tied in contortions so that the thighs protected the breast and kept it moist.
Consider: marinated veggies, white bean salad, pasta salads, eggplant sandwiches, frittatas, individual cheese-tarts and "hand-pies," not to mention pátes, cheeses, deli meats, and complicated breads. My favorites this time were: mandorlata ($12/pound) of sauteed red and green peppers with tiny, exotic raisins and crunchy almond slivers; pasticcio ($3.50), a square of pastry surrounding spiced ham and mild yummy cheese; goat cheese with roasted garlic ($6 for a whole cheese), which is what the Goddess wants you to spread on crackers or sliced baguettes, one of those perfect, simple combinations from the earth, thrilling when softened by the sun. And the potato salad ($8/pound) -- yes, every American picnic needs it, even if it's an Italianate picnic -- had unpared red potatoes with bits of red pepper and chives in a savory mayo dressing. Pared down to essentials, it embodied beautiful, harmonic balance. What didn't I like? The very charred capinatina (grilled eggplant salad) was pretty fierce, and the individual apple tart (weighty, lardy) wasn't a great dessert.
Picnic picks: Go wild, you've found the secret source.
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