Happy hour with Urbanspoon @West of Pecos & Pork Belly Donuts @the Sycamore

by foodhoe on August 23, 2012

550 Valencia St, SF, CA 94110 | 415.252.7000 | website
Sun-Thu: 5:30 – 10:30 pm | Fri-Sat: 5:30 – 11:30 pm

The good people at Urbanspoon invited a small group of bloggers to a Taster Series event, a highly enjoyable happy hour at my new favorite tavern West of Pecos on Valencia Street. Urbanspoon is an online site that I have been affiliated with for some years in so far that I embed a spoonback at the end of all my restaurant posts with a link to Urbanspoon. Their website claims that they are the world’s leading provider of time-critical dining data, a major division of a very important multi-national corporation, and an all-around BIG PLAYER in the multi-billion dollar restaurant information industry. Whatever the case, foodhoe’s foraging ranks #2 on the Bay Area Leaderboard and my ranking has been rotating around with a few other blogs for the past few years, my friend Ben’s blog Focus:Snap:Eat, Jo Boston is a Foodie, Chrysanthemum and Foodnut who has held the #1 spot forever. I was delighted to see Jo (who I met at Swagapalooza last year) and to meet the very charming Edda who writes A Housewife’s Tale along with Ben and some fun Urbanspooners. We all got cool Urbanspoon t-shirts!

We sat in the bar where we chatted over delicious southwestern dishes and quaffed refreshing beverages. I first heard of Urbanspoon from their iphone app, which had an unusual gimmick where you shake your phone and it finds a good nearby restaurant for you. I visit the website frequently to look up vital stats on restaurants as well as newspaper and blogger reviews. Urbanspoon has a lot of features that I didn’t know about, like Rezbook, which is a reservation service that lets diners view immediate table availability at the restaurants found in Urbanspoon. The Right Now feature is especially helpful to check wait times for restaurants that don’t take reservations and have heavy waitlist and walk-in traffic. Their iphone app also now includes a social DineLine with check-ins, and the ability to post photos, so you can keep track of where and what you are eating. The DineLine feature is more like Foodspotting than Yelp or Foursquare and is integrated with Facebook so you can integrate your Dineline history with your Facebook timeline.

The food began to fill up the table. Queso and Tortilla Chips, a thick and delicious mixture of melted cheddar and jack cheese mixed with roasted New Mexico green chile rajas and chorizo. It was cheesy and gooey, perfect to scoop up with tortilla chips.

There are a lot of options for chip dipping. The Guacamole is exceptionally good with ears of roasted corn, chopped onion, and chopped grape tomatoes which adds a vegetal crunch element to the creamy dip. There was also salsa which was good on chips as well as drizzled on things. Please click around on the photos with the Lytro logo, you can play around with the focal point on these pix!

The Scorched Corn on the Cob ($6) is coated with sweet chile crema, dried lime, and rich tendrils of cheese.

Grilled Young Asparagus ($6) with ancho chile hollandaise, and smoked bacon

The Maple Leaf Duck Flautas ($7), house made corn tortillas, potatoes, asadero cheese, fire roasted tomatillo sauce, salsa piquen

A lot of the dishes were served to us by local celebrity and man about town, Tyler MacNiven. He is one of the brother/owners (their other restaurant is Woodhouse Fish Co.) and is a very festive front man who carries a lighter in a holster to brighten the candles at your table. His big claim to fame is that he is one of the hippy dudes who won the Amazing Race Season 9.

He also served us a couple of rounds of mini versions of some of their signature cocktails. This is the Prickly Pear Margarita.

We were served some tacos which were not on the menu, filled with tender chicken or carnitas and topped with chopped fresh herbs, slices of fried garlic and red onion.

A lightly griddled flour tortilla filled with tender succulent carnitas and cheese.

Green Chile Mac and Cheese ($8) f the melted sage derby cheese. It was topped with new mexico roasted chiles which added a bit of heat, and crunchy breadcrumbs for texture.

One of my favorite things Campfire Cornbread muffin skillet ($5) topped with sweet chile butter, sprinkled with chopped chives and drizzled with molasses syrup. This was fabulous paired with a beverage called the Rodeo Ghost, which was made with mescal and zucca amaro, it had a delightful smokey flavor and I liked the taste sensation of alternating a bite of this and a sip of that. A very fine dessert to end a happy hour.

Inevitably everyone, even the Urbanspooners, was taking pictures with their mobile phones. Thanks for a lovely time Urbanspoon, you guys are the best!

We parted ways with the Urbanspooners and I led a contingent on a quest… we walked a couple of blocks over to the The Sycamore, which is located at: 2140 Sycamore Street, SF, CA 94110 | 415.252.7704 | website. It was brightly lit inside and the walls were filled with interesting artwork which made it feel more like a cafe than a bar.

We decided to sit in the back which had picnic benches to sprawl out on, some festive murals and they were also projecting animated images onto one of the painted brick walls. Very atmospheric.

This is what we came here for, Pork Belly Donuts with Maple Makers Mark Glaze – 3 for $4

It was like a beignet, and inside was a gorgeous meaty filling that was excellent with the sweet crispy texture of the exterior. I had imagined a round donut, but this was better, the thick crunchy shell was especially well suited with the rich pork belly filling. I’m going back for more. This and the cornbread skillet thing and the Ghost Rodeo! A girl can dream…

We enjoyed the breaded and fried mac and cheese balls ($4) which came with a bowl of ranch to dip in.

And Edda was still hungry and ordered a Lamb Slider Lamb Burger – Seasoned Ground Lamb, Caramelized Onions, Romesco Aioli and Manchego Cheese $3.50. She said it was very good. The menu was full of small delicious things, a BLT or fried catfish slider… salad or fries for an extra $1.

Me, Ben, Edda and Jo. Fun times! We parted ways, Jo and Edda attempted to go to Mission Chinese Food down the street, but the line was too long. We agreed that will have to be another trip.

Sycamore on Urbanspoon

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