THE BLOB This coming week sees most of our smaller neighborhood farmers markets resuming their merry little trade, the familiar young faces behind the stalls and bushy green produce spilling forth a sunny welcome after grueling — grueling — months of eating only in-season citrus and avocado. OK, this is California, so pretty much everything's in season all the time, which is great news for an ever-voracious Blob. But it's nice to meet with your neighbors on the street for reasons other than complaining about dog poop. (The Blob usually just devours its problem neighbors, but the point is farmers markets are nice.) Here are some tasty eats that also have us communing with a spring-like vibe.
ARTICHOKE RAVIOLI, DUARTE'S TAVERN
Recently, the Blob had the occasion to experience a NorCal classic — a warm creamy bowl of artichoke soup at Duarte's Tavern in Pescadero, about half an hour towards Santa Cruz. The Blob's in-laws were visiting for a sunny coastal drive, but the Blob did not eat them, much as we may have wished. Instead, we feasted on another of Duarte's tributes to its famous local vegetable, a spectacular artichoke ravioli ($14). Its enveloping pasta perfectly al dente, the rich, peppery artichoke-ricotta stuffing had an unexpected granular texture that nonetheless melted on the tongue. (The Blob topped it all with zesty marinara, a special request.)
Plentiful deep-fried calimari, baked Pacific oysters erupting with hot butter, local ollieberry pie (think blackberry-meets-raspberry with a pinch of tart), a biker-family clientele, and that famous soup are Duarte's stock-in-trade. Add a walk around Pescadero's vintage California-quaint downtown, presto! A day trip to content any in-law.
202 Stage Rd., Pescadero. (650) 879-0464, www.duartestavern.com
MANGO SALAD WITH PRAWNS, KITCHEN STORY
Kitchen Story replaced midrange white tablecloth stalwart Tangerine last November, bringing an Asian fusion sensibility and some comfy decor — granite tile, wood bookshelves — to the Castro spot. (It also brings a hint of panic: "Due to high volume, we respectfully request no substitutions on the menu," it announces repeatedly.) Although it's open for Thai-heavy dinner, so far brunch is the name of the game for regulars. And the brunch items of choice are stuffed-to-perfection ricotta pancakes, a sweet yet satisfying banmi panini, and millionaire's bacon, a sassy little item consisting of thick bacon slices marinated in brown sugar syrup and chiles that's popular at the owners' other restaurants, Blackwood and Sweet Maple.
The Blob is a contrarian however, and also a sucker for a good salad, so the mango salad with prawns ($13) was our chosen victim on the most recent visit. It took a few minutes to get some attention, but the food came out of the kitchen fast (1:30pm on Saturday is a great time to go). The Blob's companion Krispy substituted anyway — gasp! — asking for an extra two poached eggs placed atop his grilled veggie and cilantro aioli "morning melt." He found the kitchen willing and the combo delicious. The mango salad, a riotous heap of bright color, was brimming with mango. Grilled prawns, however, were scarce, and the smoky-lime dressing a tad too acidic: fruit-based salads need only the merest brightening hint of vinegar; this was over the top.
Nothing a giant mimosa ($8, bottomless $16) couldn't cut through, but we eagerly await the chance to dive into chapter two of this story: dinner.
3499 16th St., SF. (415) 525-4905, www.kitchenstorysf.com