Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Café Claude - San Francisco, CA
My good friend Melissa offered up three suggestions for my first day’s lunch in San Francisco. The one that struck me as most appealing was Café Claude, a Parisian style bistro. Alex found this ironically delightful, as it is one of her favorites! After navigating across country, through airports and a hotel check in, I was starving when we arrived there on Thursday afternoon. Café Claude is situated on more of an alley than a street, close to both Union Square and the Financial District. The café has outdoor seating available, but since we had arrived during an unseasonable heat wave, all these tables were taken. I found this odd until I quickly learned that many businesses (and homes) do not have air conditioning due to the rarity of hot days. Inside was a tad on the warm side.
Since I was on a mini vacation, I completely abandoned my usual MO and ordered the pasta special for lunch. Good choice! Consisting of penne pasta with chicken breast, arugula, sundried tomato pesto (this is what did it!), and sautéed cauliflower. I don’t even like cauliflower. In fact, it is accurate to say I DISLIKE cauliflower, but for some reason, this preparation had me devouring it. If permissible, I would have licked the bowl when I was done, it was that good. Melissa said her she loves their Nicoise (funny right!) and it was her order for the day. It looked fabulous, coming with fresh tuna, cooked to order. She said it was delicious.
In addition to being adventurous in ordering my entrée, I added wine too. Two diners at our table opted for French wine, Macon Villages at $9 a glass. Since I was in California, I thought I only appropriate that I order a “local “selection. The server didn’t really say the label, simply asking if we wanted French or CA. I ended up with Nickel & Nickel Chardonnay, which at $15 a glass, it cost more than my $14 entrée. Can you say “SUCKER!”? Actually, it was a very nice wine, and prices on the bottle range around $45. Considering that I sometimes pay as much as $3 for 15 cents worth of diet Coke, I shouldn't complain.
I would definitely head back to Café Claude again, for lunch, dinner, dessert, or an afternoon respite from sightseeing and shopping. Live jazz is provided Thursday through Saturday nights 7:30-10:30pm.
A San Fran friend recommended Cafe Claude to me and when Melissa suggested the same location, I thought 'genius! I have dined there previously and it is nothing short of fantastic'. Cafe Claude has always been busy the times I have dined there and this time was no exception. I love French bistros because of this. People drinking, eating and looking happy and relaxed but chatting and gesturing as they share stories and catch up. Initially, I judge a restaurant by its bread, if offered. Claude offers French rolls, crusty on the outside and soft in the middle. Just right and incredibly delicious. Butter is served room temperature which makes for easy use. I hate cold blocks of butter. On this particular day in time, I opted for the Lasagne, a vegetarian version of fresh egg pasta, roasted eggplant, zucchini, spinach, tomato, béchamel and herbes de Provence. Another in our party, Maryland, also dined on this selection and we agreed that it was mouth-watering and wonderful. It was the perfect portion for lunch and with the fresh pasta large assortment of vegetables, it packed flavor. Lasagna can often have more pasta than meat and vegetables but this was not the case. The vegetables and cheese ruled the roost here. For a dish that can be heavier with the cheese and pasta, lasagna at Claude's is filling but not dauntingly large. A good thing for a midday meal.
My first visit to Claude was also during lunch, with Nikki. We sat outside and it was a wonderful day, as it so often is in the spectacular city of San Francisco. Going with my usual desire, I opted for the onion soup gratinée with Gruyere cheese and baguette croutons and the pan seared salmon with fava beans stew, pistou, egg plant caviar, and basil leaves. Onion soup is at its finest with Gruyere cheese. I have had this adaptation in a few other establishments and yes, the top shelf cheese makes a difference. Others work, but be honest with yourself about quality. The salmon was fresh and the mixture of the accompaniments was delectable. Nikki ordered the Endive Salad with Belgium endives with blue cheese, walnuts, diced apples, tomatoes and chives and for her meal, the flank steak, marchand de vin sauce, served with pommes frites. All exceptional, particularly the pommes frites. I will eat those at any time of any day in a French bistro. That should sum it up! Nikki was very pleased with her meal. I enjoyed some of the Endive and was also very pleased.
During another visit, Maryland and I sat at the bar for a drink. As I have still not mastered the art of drinking regularly, I am careful as to what I order. No fruity drinks with umbrellas or mixed drinks (read bad hangover), but I like something to soften the edge of liquor. Vodka has proven the safest vice for me and some brands offer flavors, such as lemon, orange, blueberry, espresso, caramel and bubblegum is the latest of which I have heard. Maryland is always up for anything, so we asked David, the friendly bartender for their flavored vodka selection. They do not carry any, he said (I decided this might be a good thing later)! But, he calmed me when he said he would make us something similar but nicer. It was a smooth vodka with fresh lemon rind finely grated into the drink and a slice on the rim of the delicate miniature champagne flute for garnish. Ah, the presentation. It was picture ready. Delicious, fresh and my new favorite drink. Who needs run of the mill, mass-produced flavors, anyway. We enjoyed our drinks and chatted with a friend who manages Claude and had a fine afternoon break. Our drinks were $8 each, a deal in all many ways, I must say.
If anyone informs me that they plan to visit the Bay Area, my first suggestion is to find Café Claude, tucked in a bright and relaxing alley right off of the busy streets of downtown. My second piece of advice is to start shopping after lunch...great treasure to be hunted, mates.
To view a 1 minute video of Café Claude "Click Here"
7 Claude Lane
San Francisco, California 94108
Happy Hour: Mon-Sat 4-6pm