Culinarily speaking, San Francisco is a treat-filled feast. It’s a city you can just eat up. I did plenty of running around San Fran’s magnificence, and I needed to fill the ole tank early and often. Bluestem was probably the most memorable of my gastronomical (and sometimes comical) endeavors to do so. Bon appetit!
With all there is to be done in my new second favorite city, we found ourselves in a position all travelers eventually find themselves: hungry. My group and I (which consisted of my wife, my mom-in-law and three good flower friends) were having some fun with mom-in-law’s semi-obsession with watching ABC’s The Bachelor. And so, our adventure to Bluestem began as what’s known in the contest-to-win-true-love-during-primetime-reality-TV world as group date.
Through the windows, passers-by can easily view what look like hand-made-from-found-wood tables, booths, bar stools, chairs and countertops. This consciously contemporary decor is what drew me (and my aforementioned group date) to Bluestem. Once inside, we were greeted the way one wants to be greeted when entering anywhere: with genuine kindness.
The menu meets the eyes and makes them bigger than your stomach, all in one swoop. Their creative drink menu got me started with a cocktail that consisted of grape soda, Cabernet and the fennel and anise flavors of the one and only absinthe (pairing that bite of sparkly pine with combative bitters—Bluestem’s barkeep has a lot to keep up with). Grape halves at the bottom of each drink made for an alcohol-soaked treat at the end of each glass. I called it Purple Drink. They called it the Violet Femme. The longtime fan of the Violent Femmes in me appreciated that very much.
Moving on to the menu for appetizers and entrees, we ended up agreeing on the deliciously in-season corn chowder with a chipotle butter and crunchy, perfectly seasoned croutons. The way to really get to know a chef is through his/her soup style, and if this scrumptious soup dish is any indication, I feel like I know and love Chef Sean Cavanan. I want to eat that soup. I want to slurp it. I want to drink it. I want to make it into a shake on a hot day and chug it. I want to bathe in it. Okay, I don’t want to bathe in it, but you get the idea. Shit was fire.
Peaking early and feeling optimistic about the rest of the dishes, we moved to our second course of arugula salad with stonefruit, Point Reyes Original Blue cheese and just enough pumpkin seed oil. Not quite take-a-bath-in-it-worthy, this salad was still a nice transition of flavors and a contrast to the heat we had from the chipotle-infused chowder. Starring in the salad was the perfectly buttery and creamy Blue. The tanginess of this cheese’s yin complemented the subtle sweetness of the stonefruit’s yang. Yay!
The meat-heavy entrees on the menu led us wacky vegetarians to form like Voltron: two side dishes becoming our pseudo-entree. We chose the Bloomsdale spinach with garlic confit and the Kennebec fries. Simple and understated on the menu, the flavors were on point, reminding me of the Chicagoan fries my grandma used to serve at her bar on Lincoln Avenue (triple your cool points if you remember Mary Anne’s!). Around the table, the offerings ranged from a deconstructed chicken pot pie to cheeseburger and a fry or two. The pictures might not do the dishes justice, but group date drew rather silent once the entrees were served, which only means one thing at the dinner table: Good eatin’!
The best of the eatin’ though didn’t even happen until dessert dared itself to step in our paths, facing certain demolition and demise in our bellies. You want to talk about desserts? Bluestem is what’s happening. We couldn’t stay away from the aptly named “Mocha Madness,” but it did not matter once the desserts arrived because we created the ultimate community smorgasbord of desserts. Sharing is caring, after all…
I’ll get right into it with the aforementioned Mocha Madness: chocolate and espresso cremeux, panna cotta, warm caramel cake and espresso Oreos; the less creatively designed Stop and Smell the Roses: organic vanilla ice cream profiteroles (Mmmmmm, cream puffs…), strawberry rhubarb compote and the aromatic finish of creme rose; the even-less-creatively-named -than-that Black Cherry Sundae: organic vanilla ice cream, cherry granita, cherry gelee, creme chantilly served with warm chocolate chip cookies.
Isn’t it amazing how after stuffing ourselves to the brink, we’re able to find that elusive reserve tank of our stomach that saves room for that delectable dessert staring back at you from the back of the menu? It’s like a seventh sense.
Seven senses amplified, divine desserts for days—what could prove to be the most delicious soup ever and absinthe? A guy could get used to this…