The Clement Street Bar & Grill in San Francisco’s Richmond District creates an inauspicious initial impression. It’s dark, older and, at first glance, the menu, in a plastic sleeve, features a scattered array of offerings. Thankfully, first impressions aren’t always right.
We dined at CSB&G to commemorate my oldest son’s graduation for his master’s from the University of San Francisco. The bar made it possible for us to raise our glasses in celebration, and the grill provided entrees to make it special. Our guest of honor selected Salmon glazed in an orange vinaigrette. The grilled-to-perfection fish was showcased by the tanginess of the glaze. I had the Black Truffle Porcine Mushroom Ravioli. The earthy blend in the light pasta pillows was rich and satisfying. Other dishes included the Pasta with Scallops and Shrimp in a rich wine base; a well-grilled New York Steak; Fettucine with Chicken; and Pork Tenderloin with a cranberry chutney. Everyone one at our table was pleased.
Nonetheless, we wanted dessert — in large part because we couldn’t ignore the tantalizing offerings: Key Lime Pie, Creme Brulee, Banana Cream Pie with Black Bottom Crust and Fresh Blackberry Pie. Unfortunately, the temptations fared better on the menu than they did in reality. The caramel shell over the Creme Brulee was too thick; it overpowered the otherwise well-executed vanilla custard underneath. The pies were fine, but not exceptional.
Our eyes adjusted to the comfortable setting, we enjoyed our meal, and things weren’t as dark or old as they first appeared. I can only hope the same can be said of me.
Clement Street Bar & Grill
708 Clement St.
San Francisco, Calif
Like other Harry Hole mysteries by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, Phantom accelerates from zero to 120 in no time flat. The quick-pace, heart-thumping action alternates voices between a third-person omniscient narrator and a recently-murdered drug dealer. The latter isn’t as disturbing as it sounds. In fact, it’s a powerful device, identified by italics, having the deceased Gusto reveal a lot about his wasted life and elements of his demise, without divulging who dunnit.
Harry returns to Oslo from his self-imposed exile in Bangkok to help exonerate Oleg, the son of the woman he’s never stopped loving. Although they are not flesh and blood, Harry has strong paternal feelings for Oleg. Consequently, Harry finds it unlikely the young man could be guilty. Harry relies on former connections within the police force to help in his unofficial investigation, as well as employing his own brand of whatever-it-takes approach to solve a crime.
Russian drug lords, crooked politicians and policemen, and Harry’s own demons help propel the story beyond drug deals gone bad. Nesbo is impressive in his ability to create black and white characters with nuance; that is, even the bad guys have a few redeeming qualities, while the good ones can’t help but disappoint from time to time. In the process, it’s difficult to determine the guilty person before Nesbo spells it out.
It is not necessary to have read any of the previous Harry Hole mysteries before jumping into Phantom, the only question is why would you not want to?
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
There’s not much to the small town of Palmer Lake just west of Monument; in fact, there isn’t even a lake – just the imprint of its past existence. Yet, the range of good places to eat is impressive. La Rosa Southwestern Dining is the newest on the scene with fresh takes on standard New Mexican fare.
The restaurant boasts an extensive selection of tequilas and Mexican beer. The house margarita was the perfect blend of sweet and tangy.
The special the night we visited consisted of three tacos filled with chicken, chorizo, pineapple, grilled vegetables and lots of cilantro. It was refreshing and light, a contrast to the heavy, but palate-pleasing Chicken Mole.
When mole is on the menu I lose my sense of taste adventure: I can’t ignore the allure. La Rosa’s mole is a thick blend of spices and chocolate with enough of a kick that I was doubly grateful I had a margarita nearby. The rice and beans, in their simplicity, complimented the flavorful sauce. The only issue with the dish is the difficulty in cutting the chicken, which is a half still on the bone. It also detracted from the overall visual appeal of the dish.
The Chile Rellenos and Fish Veracruz were other dishes sampled by our group, and each offered distinct, rich flavors. I’d like to return to try some of the other entrees, but will have to ask for a menu where the mole has been removed. Otherwise, I won’t be able to resist.
La Rosa Southwestern Dining
25 Highway 105
Palmer Lake, Colo.
(The University of Tennessee College of Communications and Information, where I attended graduate school, was in the shadow of the football stadium. At the time, the Volunteers were the nearest thing in the state to a pro team. Close as I was to the gridiron, I never attended a game. Instead, my attention was drawn to the Lady Vols basketball team because the coach, then in her fifth year, and I shared a name. I’ve followed Tennessee women’s basketball ever since.)
Nearly two years ago, Pat Summitt who coached the Lady Vols for 38 years, announced that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. She continued to coach for a year, but last season handed over the reins to an assistant. Although still involved in the program, Summitt spent a large portion of the past year writing her memoir, Sum It Up with Sally Jenkins. It’s subtitled “1,098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective.”
Her records aside, what is particularly noteworthy is that when she began coaching, Tennessee high school girls were still relegated to playing half-court ball. Summitt recounts growing up on a farm in rural Tennessee, and after graduating from college initially being offered an assistance coaching job at UT. That never happened. Instead, she became head coach where, in the beginning, she did everything except sell tickets. Ultimately, she was instrumental in drawing national attention to women’s basketball.
Summitt’s accolades include Olympic medals, as a player and coach, national college championships, and the fact that 100 percent of all of her athletes graduated from college – many of whom went into teaching or coaching.
The latter and her love for her son are what fuel her passion for life. Anyone who’s seen Summitt pace the sidelines during games knows her as a no-nonsense, disciplined and demanding coach. What many don’t know is the depth of her compassion for her players, colleagues, and women’s sports. In an honest, unsentimental voice, this is what comes through in her book.
Sum It Up
Crown Archtype, 2013
385 pages, including appendices
Mountain Shadows is a misnomer: the restaurant isn’t in the mountains but shadows might be right; it is mostly a bright spot for breakfast, does feature a bit of the dark side.
The bungalow-style diner has a steady clientele of regulars, as evidenced by the servers’ exchange of quick wit with them. Even for us new to the establishment, the staff was ready with a smile, acknowledgement, compliment, and coffee.
Mostly, it’s basic fare. My husband and son ordered eggs, bacon, and pancakes. They were quite pleased. I was in the mood for something with a little kick, so I selected the Chile Relleno. It’s topped with green chile and an egg; I skipped the latter. Creamy/crunchy hash browns and flour tortillas filled out the plate.
I was impressed with the fried thick-battered coating on the poblano chile, and even more taken with the pork-infused green sauce that had been poured over the top. It took a few bites before I reached the cheese-filled center, and that’s when the honeymoon ended. Processed cheese is such a disappointment, and that’s exactly what was hidden in the depths of the relleno. I would order the green chile again, but not that dish – at least not there. Shredded cheddar was sprinkled on top of, but it never occurred to me to ask what the relleno was filled with. The fake gooey stuff took me by surprise, but I guess I should be prepared for it to appear on a plate from time to time.
2223 W. Colorado Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO
Under the right circumstances, even a restaurant in a strip mall can feel like home. It may have nothing to do with the food, but everything to do with the friendliness of the staff. In the case of Uchenna, an Ethiopian restaurant, very little on the menu was familiar. Yet, the owner made my companion and me feel as if we were long lost family members. Actually, she did this to everyone who walked in.
We were treated to small cups of tea with rose water and lemonade. Neither one appealed to me, although my friend particularly enjoyed the tea.
Having no real clue what to order, the combination plate seemed like a great way to sample several different tastes. It featured red lentils in a mild spice mix, and green lentils in a traditional berbere sauce, which is a blend of garlic, red pepper, cardamom, coriander and other spices. Also on the plate were green beans and carrots in a spicy tomato sauce along with cabbage in a briny garlic and onion sauce. Everything was served over injera, the traditional Ethiopian thin, sponge-like bread. Rolls of injera lined the plate.
The owner instructed me to push up my sleeves, tear off a piece of bread to use as a scoop. She suggested trying each item separately to get a sense of each flavor.
Eating without silverware slows down the process resulting in an experience more than a meal. It was far from what I knew, but surprisingly close to my heart.
2501 W. Colorado Ave.
Colorado Springs, Colo.