“Excellence is not an act but a habit,” said Aristotle.
While I barely succumb to habits, my infatuation with tasting menus continues to trail my personality with an alluring addiction. Douse this with a spark for Michelin Stars, I opted for one tucked discretely in Nob Hill San Francisco, a city of culinary paradise.
Sons & Daughters is critically acclaimed, with 28 mere seats and created by Chef and owner Teague Moriarty with only tasting menus for zen inhalation. Made with ingredients from the Bay Area’s local farmers and ranchers, these are served in a wraparound dining room with an open kitchen. The interiors are undeniably romantic, with candlelight sparkling off of chandeliers against grey charcoal linens, with black and white photography (from La Conversation, a collaboration between photographer Hans Gissinger and chef Marc Meneau) which creates a muted tone that makes the tall wine glasses glint. What I liked the most before starting was that my party’s name was printed on a custom menu for a garden like presentation, catering to my vegetarian delight and feeding liquor to the insatiable ego.
Bouche amuse / Chips
Quite a departure from your regular bags full of chips were two delicate ones plated on a natural wooden slab of bark. There were lemon thyme chips with petals and buttermilk chips with grape jam. The former was salty with a hint of herb flavor, while the latter was decadent and rich, cut by the sweetness of the grape. Looking beautiful like art on a plate, these were the kinds I could do with bags full of.
Garden herbs / English pea / Whey
Almost like a garden like salad of sorts were the garden herbs, with bright green english peas and whey dollop of dressing, served with visibly herbs like sharp thyme, and a handful of florets. Plating it in a wooden bowl felt like I was eating from mother nature’s own lap. The tastes were naturally fresh and untarnished with seasoning.
Grains of paradise toast
The grains of paradise toast was a hearty, petite toast dusted with visibly large salt granules, with house cultured butter. The warmth and the melting butter made me yearn for a night by the fireplace. Despite being accompanied with other brads in mounds with specks of spice and baking craftsmanship, this one took my heart with it.
Roasted baby beets / Vandouvan spices / Mustard seeds
Served in a stone dish, the next salad of sorts was another artistic plating composition, with enough architectural and textural complexity to give it moments of observation to inhale. There were deep red baby beets on white goat’s cheese sauces, vertically inclined herbs tucked between golden yellow beets, surrounded by crackling mustard seeds and spices. The combination was an inventive take on a beet salad, retaining the core ingredients but spicing them up with an Indian style spice hand. And the result? Decadent.
Radish / Asparagus
Asparagus was becoming an artist’s delight for plating, and given its fibrous flavor and unusual shape, it was not amusing to see it as a centerpiece for several salads. Similar to a former Michelin tasting, the radish and asparagus combination worked again with chickpea cutlets, lime sauce, asparagus spreads and with lavender florets. Tart and fresh, the taste was that which whisked me back to spring.
Artichokes / Miner’s lettuce
The pickled romanesco cauliflower, artichoke puree, artichoke, sautéed cauliflower and broccoflower combination was one with textural contrasts aplenty. Playing with the new superfood and balancing it with crunchy lettuce, tart sauces and rustic colors on a white plate, the result was a hearty meal with a crunch in every bite.
Morel mushrooms / Hazelnut
The hearty plate of charred mushrooms mixed with farrow was an instant joy for hungry eyes. Seductively buttery grains were topped with hazelnuts, my favorite, and a few herbs and leaves for decor, color and freshness. Warm, hearty and almost like an Indian daal, the nutty crunch were the best parts of this ethereal dish.
Rhubarb / Salad burnet
To cut the hearty meal and kickstart the palette for a double dessert tasting was a palette cleanser of rhubarb and lemon sorbet. Tasting like a salad with greens mixed in, it was a refreshing jolt to the senses after back to back butter heaven.
Polenta / Coriander
The main dessert took me back to my southern favorites featuring a polenta cracker with a polenta cake, polenta ice cream, strawberry and coriander sauce. With polenta as a feature, its textural and buttery tastes were reformulated in many textures and temperatures, all working deliciously with the tart strawberry and the bitter coriander sauce. The result was an almost savory dessert, one with complex flavors and balance.
Dark chocolate / Lemon
To end the night was a dark chocolate truffle with cacao dust, paired with a lemon cracker and lemon passionfruit jelly. The combination was unusual, and the richness of the former was cut with the tartness of the latter, making it the perfect morsel to bid the luxurious night goodbye.