Where else you can walk out of your home on a sunny afternoon, decide to take your son to the nearest outdoor space, walk into the green emerald lawn and stumble upon a colorful stand offering "Sex Advice & Lemonade" (good thing my kid is still illiterate; I was not in the mood to explain things yesterday). After you find a cozy spot in a large bench between the popsicle vendor and the bulldog wearing a tutu, you figure you'll have to move because the smell of cannabis in the air in that side of the Dolores Park playground it is a bit stronger than you can handle.
And, on leaving the park, you have a chance to see a picturesque group of 20 or so enthusiastic dancers in the sidewalk rehearsing for the upcoming Thrill the World, a worldwide attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the Largest Simultaneous Dance with Michael Jackson's “Thriller.” Thousands of people in cities around the world will learn the “Thriller” dance and perform it at the exact same time on October 27/ 28, 2007.
They invited us to join the choreography, but Tetti did not get into it.
This is nothing really; the other week at Dolores Park they had a Stripper Bake Sale with some gals from the Lusty Ladies - and yes, they were all in professional attire. Tetti really liked their snickerdoodles. Besides the free sidewalk entertainment, the other great thing about living in the Mission District is the concentration of great eateries. This weekend our son had a last minute invitation for a play date, and, with such a great chance of childless time and no reservation on a Saturday night, hub and I just decided to try our luck on 18th street, begging for a walk-in table for two at Delfina. Sometimes we get lucky doing that. That was not the case, though. Or perhaps it was, because we decided to give a chance to the new kid on the block, Farina, which features cucina tipica di Genova. I have been reluctant to try it because I heard mixed reviews and it is definitely pricey - not that Delfina is a bargain, but at least it is for sure excellent. I don't like to take pricey risks.
The restaurant's architecture and the interior design are super slick; we got seated by the window, with a view to the lively Women's Building with its mural. Nice. The menu was promising, even though they were out of the pancetta wrapped quail, which was the item that got my mouth watering for starters. They served an assortment of house backed breads, and as I waited in vain for some butter or olive oil, I figured we were supposed to eat it dry. Hhhhmmm. Not a good sign.
I turn to my right side, and I see the waitress pouring Parmesan cheese onto someone's gnocchi. What? They do not offer freshly shaved parm? Oh, oh, maybe we should give up on that place. But now we are here, and we are hungry. We order a salad and also give the Foccacia di Recco a chance. And Farina lives up to it. The foccacia is crunchy in the borders, incredibly fresh (did they mill that flour in the morning or something? Unbelievable!) and chewy in the middle. Pretty much perfect.
For primi and secondi piatti we shared a lasagna with pine nuts, mushrooms and bechamel sauce and a fillet mignon with roasted leek and asparagus. Ah, I had a glass of the Valpolicella (forgot the year though - forgot to bring my Moleskine to the restaurant; as I claim before, it was barely planned). The salad was all right, I just get annoyed when I am served tomatoes still cold from the fridge (is it too much to ask them to be room temperature?). The homemade pasta in the lasagna was very light and one of the best I ever tried. By the middle of the meal I was pretty happy; that was a good sign. Our neighbors were two Italian ladies, and one of then told me it was her first time at Farina too, and she was very cautious when trying Italian restaurants because most of the time she feels she could have done better just cooking for herself at home - but tonight she did not regret her adventure. I agreed, although I still felt that a saucer with a bit of extra virgin olive oil at the bread moment would have improved a lot the experience. She left with a smile and recommending me to pay a visit to A16. Will try to go - but it is hard for me to leave the Mission...
Back to Farina: The ambiance is festive, the place is child friendly without losing the sophistication, and stylish, but never snub to the point of making one uncomfortable. An Italian Nonno keeps walking among the tables, over viewing the action, picking a dropped scarf here, playing with a baby there, pointing discretely to the buss boy a nearly finished meal... according to my waitress he is one of the owners, the one real deal Italian. Cute. Sweet. Feels like a big, San Franciscan family reunion of foodies.
For dessert, we ordered the Panacotta with Strawberry Coulis; it had a cleverly placed blueberry in the middle with a crystal sugar wavy toothpick crossing across it. Pretty good, but did not have the tiny vanilla seeds that I so enjoy seeing when eating something custardy like that. It was just ok. Maybe its problem was more to have come paired with the sinful, divine warm milk fritters with dried oranges and citrus sauce. The dessert was a synthesis of the whole experience: couple of things excellent, some stuff ok, details missed. An overall very satisfying experience. I will come back. As soon as I recover from picking that tab...