CONFESSIONS OF A                                                                  
A San Francisco Girl's Down and Dirty Adventures in the Culinary Playground

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sardines and Cocas and Churros, Oh My! -- Contigo (San Francisco, CA)

Oh, hey, how's it going? What's that now? You thought I was dead? Yeah, sorry, no such luck.

So when we last spoke in October, we were getting settled in the new house, I was getting my blogging mojo back (a little) and things were starting to return to normal around here.

A month later, I done got knocked up again. That's right. And man, this kid meant business. I was so fucking sick for 3 months that I was on chemo meds, and even then I was still spending more facetime with my loo than I wanted to. Throw in applying to preschools for Diner #3 (something WAY more stressful than it had any right to be), potty training (for #3, not me) and the general exhaustion that comes with having a bun in the oven and I could barely write my NAME, much less a blog post. Diner #4 (a girl if you must know) is due Friday, but I've pretty much concluded that she's never coming out and I'm going to be pregnant forever. I figured there wasn't much to do now other than sit my fat fucking ass down and write you a little somethin' somethin' before she gets here. (P.S. Once she finally pops out we are done with the babymaking because once you get beyond a four-top, restaurant seating gets problematic. Not to mention the fact that the raging bitch I have become in my final days is not someone I ever want to be reaquainted with.)

So anyway, there's this restaurant that's been open more than a year. You've probably been there and I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know, but when has that ever stopped me? And if you haven't yet been to Contigo, then you should really get off your ass (I'm pregnant, what's your excuse?) and go NOW.

Full disclosure: I am good friends with the chef/owner from his blogging days. Brett, and his wife Elan are very dear to us and I would even stop swearing for them if they wanted. That's how much I love them. Fortunately they don't require such things. Anyway, because of our relationship, we get free stuff sometimes. There are some newish blogging rules that require me to tell you that. Rest assured, though, that if their restaurant sucked (it doesn't), I simply wouldn't write about it. There is nothing at all about Contigo that contains the suck.

Contigo is a place that our whole family adores. Some of our best family memories are from there, as Diner #3 has discovered some of his very favorite foods in their dining room. He had his first clams there (14 months) and sopped them up in all their sherry goodness. Jon and I had to order a 2nd order for ourselves. These days, he clamors for the sardines. Three orders worth at a time. Like most 2 year olds, he's gotten more picky in his 2nd year. Except my son's pickiness manifests in him ordering the grilled sardines plain, because God forbid he ruin his palate with the avocado toasts or pickled onions that come with them. Freak.

The staff is rockstar. I love them. They are always smiling, which I think says a lot about the kind of restaurant Brett and Elan are running. They bring us extra napkins, chit chat with Diner #3 and refill our (free, house filtrated) sparkling water before the carafe even dares to get low. I've often wanted to take several of them home with me, but I don't think Brett and Elan would like that. Come to think of it, Jon might not either.

Oh you want to hear about the food?

Holy fucking deliciousness. The food. First, Contigo has filled such a void in this city. Authentic Catalan food is a difficult thing to find in this cold ass city (seriously, I'm so beyond over this freezing summer). If you do find it, it's usually not so great. Never fear, Contigo is here.

I've told you about the sardines and clams, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. I loves me some squid, and there is almost always a dish of calamares on the menu. Lately it's been grilled with padron peppers and romesco, which is rub-your-face-in-it-good, but last fall they were stuffed with lobster mushrooms and I loved that dish so much that I still have wet dreams about it.

My most recent favorite tasty plate is the cazuela. This is a ramekin filled with all of my favorite things in the world. Big fat white beans, pimenton breadcrumbs, chard and a fried Soul Food Farms egg on top. Jon's comment was "I could be vegetarian if I could eat like this all the time." This, from a man who eats lamb brains.

Speaking of meat, Tigo (as Diner #3 likes to call it), has a selection of Spanish hams that melt in your mouth (but not in your hand, just so we're clear). The most glorious of these is the Jamon Iberico "pata negra." You have never tasted anything like this in your life. It is smooth, it is silky, you can taste the acorns that these sweet little piggies fed on before giving up their lives to this noble cause. It is also fucking expensive. And fucking worth it.

The menu changes every day, but the patatas bravas are always there (the best I've had), and you can almost always find the pork albondigas studded with Iberico that our family orders on every single visit. Here are some other highlights, when they have them:

  • Oxtail croquetas -- I mean, really, need I say more?
  • A different "coca" every night -- Catalan flatbread/pizza that is always covered in something delish, and always has the option to add an egg, anchovies, bacon or txistorra sausage. We almost always order one.
  • Fried Soul Food Farms chicken -- DO NOT pass go. Order this if you see it.
  • Seasonal salads with sherry vinaigrette -- Contigo uses the freshest, finest ingredients so it's worth ordering whatever salad you see on whatever night you are there.
For getting your drink on, there is a most excellent wine list which includes several Cavas. I'm a Cava girl, so I rarely go beyond the top of the list. There are also usually two tasty non-alcoholic housemade sodas and/or teas, which I've become well acquainted with while gestating Diner #4.

I will personally come down and punch you in the nuts if you don't order dessert. Candace, the pastry chef, knows her shit. We can never escape a visit to Contigo without the chocolate and churros, which is exactly what it sounds like. Thick, European hot chocolate with crunchy churros. If you only have room for one dessert, though, and the caramel flam happens to be on the menu, screw the churros. This is one of the most delicious custard based desserts I've ever had. Because Diner #3 also has a tendency to bogart the churros, Jon and I usually order whatever fruit based dessert is on the menu that evening. These almost always include a flaky, buttery crust of some sort and I don't know about you, but I find fruit to be much more fun when it includes shitloads of butter.

While I may be friends with the Contigo folk, I swear I ain't tellin' you no lies. If you haven't been, go. If you have, keep going. And if you don't? Oh well -- just means more for me.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld


Blogger cd0103 said...

Missed you! OMG-- Diner #4. I love Diner #3's eating habits. Everyone should be so lucky. I want plain sardines.

8/18/2010 6:38 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

I haven't written a post since last October either. You beat me to it.

8/19/2010 7:21 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

I will be going to avoid being punched in the nuts (and because it's walking distance from my house).

8/19/2010 3:17 PM  
Blogger Andie East said...

I would totally be a loyal blog following restaurant whore junky, but! just when I was getting into it, Diner #3 appeared and now #4? I imagine I may not be hearing from you for a year but thank you goodness thank you for the post.

Best of luck to you and the fam!

8/19/2010 4:49 PM  
Anonymous Genie said...

You crack me up, lady -- LOVE this review. (And, people? IT'S ALL TRUE.)

Congrats on the arrival of Diner #4!!!

8/20/2010 2:43 PM  
Blogger Emma Cohen-Joppa said...

so glad i happened to check your blog today! congrats on diner #4 - good to see you writing again. :-)

8/21/2010 1:44 PM  
Blogger Coyote said...

So nice to have you back. I does love the seafood, so Contigo's now on my list.

9/01/2010 4:37 PM  

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