Posts Tagged ‘Trompe-l’œil’


Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

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After a horrifically disappointing meal at nearby Heaven’s Dog, I have BFF Lisa to thank for whisking me away to Thermidor for dessert. I had recalled they had a specialty doughnut on the menu and with iPhone in hand, she had mapped out that it was close enough to a theater where I had tickets for the evening and just enough time to grab dessert before curtain time.

It is pastry chef Kyle Caporicci who has created the dessert which called to me; Coffee, Cigarettes and Doughnuts with carrot cake, white chocolate custard and coffee ice cream. The “cigarette” is a stylized, thin white chocolate tube filled with a creamy mousse and is apparently infused with tobacco leaves reputed to give a nicotine buzz. I can’t comment on whether or not it gave me a nicotine buzz, per se, but the presentation and flavors did excite me. I’m giving some leniency in this because the “doughnut” is not actually fried dough, but carrot cake. But being the Ho that I am, I was terribly impressed with the plating, concept and flavor combinations. The coffee ice cream is some of the best I have tasted (and surprisingly, it is not coffee colored the way one would expect it). The classic cream cheese frosting was lightly studded with sprinkles but the little cakes were set upon some ground

Working the bar was a chap named Morgan and we felt an instant affinity, partly for his gregarious nature and for his gorgeous culinary tattoos. I just asked for his particular favorite gin cocktail and all I remember was him saying he had freshly made some raspberry purée and we just instructed our assent to construct whatever he deemed fit. It was a beautiful site, watching Morgan throw himself into the cocktail making was like watching Nijinski approach Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring; raw and inspirational and entirely heartfelt. We loved this place already. I wished I had written down what else was in the cocktail but we did know there were egg whites which produced a creamy and rich libation.

And then a tall man in a white jacket — Chef Bruce, no less! — walked up with an order of Pommes Dauphine (warm potato croquettes) served with lobster butter. Yep, I got a real fried dough entry out of this visit along with a cool dessert and an amazing cocktail! The Chef was confused as to who had ordered the appetizer because he could see we were already well under way with a dessert. Laughing, I coaxed him over. In a rush to catch a play, we didn’t care what order our dishes had arrived and the only disadvantage seemed to be in the fact that the intensely tender morsels of fried potato dough was the fact that garnished with salt and served with the unctuously rich lobster butter, it came across as too salty after the sweet dessert and fruit-sweet cocktail. Chef Bruce told us he made the lobster sauce fresh from live lobster and the quality was exquisitely discernible. The fried dough offerings were light and perfectly fried.

There was no bigger regret that we had eaten elsewhere beforehand and that our time was so short. But between two amazing courses and better than superlative service, this is a restaurant I will return to very shortly.

8 Mint Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 896-6500

Thermidor on Urbanspoon

Coffee Bar; Trompe-L’œil Doughnut

Monday, April 5th, 2010

In the French language, Trompe-l’œil means to fool the eye. Personally, I am big fan of Trompe-l’œil as an art form. I have practiced it myself — painting a living room ceiling blue with fluffy clouds giving the appearance of a lovely Spring day with the naked sky above me. I learned it as a decorating motif, making the eye see more space than really exists. There are very famous renditions of Trompe-l’œil in the art world, including the modern Carlo Marchiori and his muralist haven, Ca’Toga in Calistoga.

And there is a slight sense of irony that I experienced a little Trompe-l’œil moment at San Francisco’s Coffee Bar. Located in an area in SoMa (South of Market, for those you unfamiliar with our neighborhoods), I had just finished a painting lesson when I settled in at the upstairs bar which looks down upon the workers. I am a metalsmith by training and I had been taking painting lessons from Chris Leib to expand my repertoire.

I spied the dark brown, cinnamon-studded morsels in the pastry case and ordered one alongside a latté. I have to say, it was one damn-fine latté. The “doughnut,” however, was not a doughnut at all. My eye had been tricked by its size, demeanor, and gorgeousness. This hunk of dough had not been fried, but baked. It was dry and leaden and crumbly. It was probably vegan (although I have had some very good vegan pastries) in its attempt to be HEALTHY. Apparently the Coffee Bar gets their pastries (or at least this one) from Jasmine Rae Bakery, but here was an attempt to make something decidedly unhealthy less so. Sadly, it didn’t quite succeed in even being a good baked good. Very crumbly and the consistency of the classic Dolly Madison crumb cake but with so much cinnamon as to burn the mouth.

1890 Bryant St
(between 17th St & Mariposa St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Neighborhood: Mission
(415) 551-8100


Coffee Bar on Urbanspoon