Wednesday, April 27, 2011

San Francisco Weekend

Flew out to San Francisco last weekend to visit some wonderful friends. While there, of course I took full advantage of the many fabulous restaurants, complete with an outstanding dinner at the legendary Chez Panisse.

First stop, the Ferry Building. Opened in 1898, it was the transportation focal point for anyone arriving by train into San Francisco.  Today, it serves as a marketplace for everything from artisan cheeses to fresh fish to high-end coffee roasters.  One of my goals on this trip was to visit as many of the West Coast coffee roasters as possible (more about our "coffee crawl" later).  The Ferry Building is a great place to sample some of the California purveyors of fine food in one location (Slanted Door, Gott's Roadside, Hog Island Oyster, just to name a few).  Unfortunately for us, Friday at lunch hour is not the most ideal time for this.  It was mobbed.  We could not get in anywhere without at least a 60 minute wait.  And after a 6 hour flight, we just couldn't endure it.  So we settled for some fish tacos at a not quite-so-mobbed seafood stall.  But all was not lost!  I spied a Blue Bottle outpost and quickly got on line. They specialize in small batch roasting and individually prepared drip coffee.  I ordered a cappuccino and watched as the barista carefully brewed the coffee, then frothed the milk, and finally "drew" a lovely little heart design with the foam. Outside of Italy, this is the best cappuccino I've ever had the pleasure of drinking. Smooth with a rich coffee-caramel flavor, I savored each drop. 

Dinner our first night in SF, was at Perbacco, a sleek Italian on California Street.  In Italian, Perbacco means "to accentuate the positive," and the restaurant's food certainly lives up to that.  I had a delightful Strawberry and Arugula Salad with a white balsamic vinaigrette, ricotta salata, and toasted almonds for my first course.  I couldn't resist having pasta for an entree and the Raviora were comforting yet sophisticated.  Small pillows filled with Meyer lemon and ricotta, bathed in an asparagus passatini with mint, accompanied by a hearty Dolcetto were the perfect "welcome" to San Francisco. 

Day 2 of this whirlwind food tour, including the Chez Panisse dinner, tomorrow.  Bye for now...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bucu Burger Bar and Bakery

Burgers AND a bakery?  Bucu stands for Burgers and Cupcakes. What??? An interesting establishment has popped up in Paramus offering burgers and house-made cupcakes.  Where two of my favorite foods are involved, I knew I would have to investigate.

Started by Rick Ross and his wife, Kathy, they got the idea for Bucu as a compilation of everything people like: burgers and shakes, cupcakes, ice cream. They have not cut corners on any of the ingredients. The meat supplied by Pat LaFrieda (you’ve heard of celebrity chefs, LaFrieda is a celebrity butcher), is a special formulation made just for Bucu. The burgers are on the smaller side, as compared to the burger towers you might get at other joints, and while the meat had a nice texture, it was overdone for my taste. The people manning the counter do not ask how you’d like your burger cooked and when I spoke to Ross later, he assured me that you can get a burger cooked to order. Next time, I’ll be ordering up a rare, juicy burger-cheese combo.

The tidy menu offers 5-6 “composed” burgers and the option to “build-a-burger.”  Some of the composed options include the “Jersey Burger” (applewood smoked bacon, blue & cheddar cheeses, topped with grilled onions), the “SB 48 Burger” (cheeseburger piled high with hand-cut fries and chili), and the “Pig Out Burger.”  We sampled this last burger because we thought it was actually a pulled pork sandwich, but it’s really a burger topped with pulled pork, Jalapeno Jack cheese, and horseradish coleslaw.

We loved the Haystack Onions – thinly sliced and so crispy with not a trace of grease. The Hand-cut Fries were nicely salted and seasoned.

Bucu also offers chicken wings, hot dogs, salads, and a few sandwich choices.  We didn’t sample any of these because, really, we came for the burgers.  Oh, and maybe, a cupcake.

Kathy is the head baker and creator of all the cupcake and cookie recipes.  She uses only Callebaut chocolate and rotates the selection of cupcakes daily, ranging from carrot to red velvet and everything in between.  I forced myself to try the Pistachio and Coconut.  Both had a really nice crumb and creamy frosting.

They’ve come up with an interesting twist using their cupcakes and ice cream – it’s called a “Cupcake Shake.”  Take a cupcake, add ice cream, whir it in the blender, and voila – a cupcake shake!  The owners said the Red Velvet Cupcake Shake has been flying out the door. 

Speaking of ice cream, they get their ice cream delivered weekly from “Max & Mina’s” in Flushing.  Known for inventive, bold flavors, Max & Mina’s offerings the day I visited were Dark Chocolate, Madagascar Vanilla, and Cookie Monster.  Just as you might imagine, Cookie Monster ice cream is blue and studded with Oreos, chocolate chips, and graham crackers.  It was really good!  But being the vanilla snob that I am, I turned all of my attention there.  And let me tell you, it did not disappoint. Rich, creamy, and full of intense vanilla-bourbon flavor – I emptied the cup in no time flat.

Open only a little over two months now, the restaurant is humming along. Prices are reasonable and decorated in warm earth tones; Bucu sets itself apart from traditional fast food operations. Even though you order at the counter, your meal is delivered to the table when ready.  All the food is made from scratch, and all the confections made daily in-house. The owners are on-site and hands-on.

When I asked Rick how he came up with the name (after all, it is a little unusual), he said he toyed with other, more traditional, names but thought Bucu would grab attention and draw people in. That it will, and the food will keep them coming back.

65 Rt 4 West
Paramus, NJ
Open 7 days, 11am-10pm