Around the World – Hillside Supperclub, San Francisco (Aug 2017)

Food connects people all over the world. Our visit to Hillside Supperclub in San Francisco was a prime example of that as it was only a couple of months earlier that I met Tony and Austin Ferrari at the communal table of Oaxen Krog** in Stockholm whilst on business trip.  

The Ferarri brothers told us that they operated a small neighbourhood restaurant in San Francisco and standing invitations to drop by were extended. Shortly thereafter I was planning our summer holiday to the Pacific Northwest of the United States. As Koen and Erica coincidentally did a road trip of Pacific Southwest around the same time, we managed to plan a one day overlap in our itineraries in San Francisco. I already had a certain restaurant in mind where to meet up…

About the restaurant:
Hillside Supperclub is located at 300 Precita Avenue on the corner with Folsom Street in the Bernal Heights neighbourhood. It actually started off as a pop-up project in 2012 together with chef and co-owner Jonathan Sutton, Tony’s classmate in cooking school, but was made permanent in January 2013 due to the great response they got.

The restaurant’s tagline “come as strangers and leave as friends” is definitely not just some hollow marketing phrase. It has a very laid back setting, attracting all kinds of guests and you really feel welcomed here.

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After the dinner in Stockholm, I found out that both their ventures and backgrounds were quite impressive: Tony received a grant from the James Beard Foundation to study in Thailand and worked at SF’s one Michelin-starred Acquarello. Austin worked at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, tutored by maître d’ and wine director Jonathan Waters and official sommelier. Furthermore, they are quite the entrepreneurs: besides Hillside Supperclub they also opened a coffee shop, Provender Coffee (1415 18th Street SF) in 2015. In their hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, they just kicked-off with Ferrari Barber & Coffee Co., revamping the barbershop that their grandfather and great-uncle opened in the 50s with the addition of a coffeeshop.

About the menu:
As you will see, we managed to order a lot of the items that were on Hillside Supperclub’s menu that day, which consisted of 8 starters, 4 mains, 4 desserts and a some off-menu specials. Their passion for casual, rustic and traditional cooking resonates in the market-driven menu with sustainable, seasonal produce and ingredients. They also take pride in cultivating a network of local purveyors and host monthly themed dinners showcasing the products or their suppliers.

The fact that the portions are European style (i.e. not huge as we actually managed to complete a 3-course dinner!) did trigger some comments on various review sites that the food was overpriced, but in our experiences in San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, they are definitely on par with similar types of restaurants.

Their wine list is a mix of both European and West Coast US wines, with a very nice selection of French Chenin Blancs and Pinot Noirs. Wines are available from about USD 35 a bottle (and upwards with a “specials” winelist available on request).

The food and drinks:
Awaiting the others to arrive from Oakland, we started off with some delicious – still warm, crisp, yet very fluffy – focaccia bread.

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Plate of homemade focaccia, rosemary, olive oil

We also ordered a glass of Rosé Crémant de Loire, a sparkling Cabernet Franc made by Château de Brézé, from Saumur, France. Both were gladly ordered again once everybody had arrived.

The starters:

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Summer Melon Salad
Cucumber, lime, feta, nasturtium, smoked paprika, extra virgin olive oil
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Foie Gras and Waffle
Sherry gel, bacon walnut cômpote, crème fraîche and blueberries
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Watermelon Gazpacho
Red vain sorrel and toasted pepitas
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Steak Tartare
Parsley, capers, cornichons, shallots, quail egg, grilled levain

Being that night’s “guests of honour”, we also got the Anchovies and Meatballs starters as additional sharing plates on the house. Those dishes didn’t disappoint either, especially that magnificent tomato sauce for the meatballs! It does without saying that the recipe comes from Nonna Ferrari…

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Nonna’s Meatballs
Tomato sauce, picked herbs, pecorino, focaccia
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Marinated White Anchovies
Confit baby peppers, crispy garlic chips, oregano, olive oil

The main dishes:

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Roasted Local Trout
Walnut anchoiade, sour plum, beans, eggplant puree and celery
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Pot Pies
The Spring Lamb Pot Pie: Spring onions, roasted fennel, baby carrot, mint, velouté
The Vegetarian Pot Pie had a delicious chickpeas curry filling
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Grilled NY Steak
Fresh corn, marble potato, white beech mushrooms, truffle butter, bordelaise

The kids enjoyed the NY steak and plates of home-made mushroom ravioli in cheese sauce (not pictured).

Too bad that Tony and Austin had to leave mid-service to catch a flight to Cincinnati. With the diversity of our main dishes, I could have used Austin’s expert advise on the wine pairings. Eventually, we decided on two great wines from up-and-coming Californian wine makers. The fresh and crisp 2016 Jonquille Viognier from Jennifer Reichardt’s Raft Wines and a surprisingly light and refreshing 2015 Familiar Mourvèdre from Hardy Wallace’s Dirty & Rowdy Family Winery.

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Dirty & Rowdy Winery, 2015 ‘Familiar’ Mourvèdre (Santa Rosa, CA)

The desserts:

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Chocolate Fudge Cake
Summer berries, whipped yoghurt, basil, sea salt and hazelnuts
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“Colors of the Ocean”
Sponge cake, yuzu, apricot, meringue, raspberry
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Chocolate Custard Farm Egg
Madeira cream, salted caramel, white chocolate caviar
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Cheese board
Sheep and cow cheeses with cornichons, fig jam, grilled levain

Across the board the food was great; nicely balanced and seasoned. Only small critiques would be that the chocolate fudge cake turned out just a tad dry and the pot pie lids were tucked in slightly uneven and therefore were not entirely cooked through in places. We had a splendid evening and it was great seeing the Ferrari brothers again. Alas too short, but I hope to be able to welcome them in Amsterdam in the future!

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