At the very top of my list of new restaurants I love is Huxley, Kris Esqueda's miniscule Tenderloin charmer. I love its spare but cozy dining room, which is about the size of a dollhouse foyer. I love the turquoise legs on its schoolhouse-style chairs. I love the stealth two-top that is basically carved out of the kitchen counter and somewhat paradoxically fosters an illusion of semi-private dining. But mostly I love it for Sara Hauman's food, which is smart, exceedingly flavorful, and consummately NorCal rustic-yet-refined, but in the best way possible. Case in point: a deep bowl of farro porridge, which carries an earthy, vibrant cargo of wild mushrooms, hazelnuts, and dates. Its photo could accompany the dictionary definition of "comfort food, San Francisco-style," meaning that it manages to feel both decadent and wholesome at the same time, a heavy carb with a conscience.
The other night I found myself plowing through a large portion of Rich Table's menu. For all of the surpassingly beautiful food I ate (I'm looking at you, tagliatelle with sea urchin and poppy seed toffee), it's the damn porcini doughnuts I can't get out of my mind. This sort of feels akin to saying my favorite thing at the De Young is the gift shop, but really, there's a very good reason these things have attained a place in the Gutbomb Hall of Fame. Actually, calling them gutbombs isn't really fair, as the doughnuts themselves are deceptively light and airy, almost more similar in texture to a Parker House roll than anything the Dunkins of the world have to offer. It's the accompanying raclette that shoves them over the edge into smoldering excess. Eating a hunk of doughnut dripping with melted cheese is like snacking on original sin, and you don't forget that—much less want to—anytime soon.
I get a lot of unsolicited samples at the office. Most of the time, they don't move me to write anything, but every so often something will arrive that inspires crowing. Such is the case with Petit Pot, a new-ish line of French pot de cremes from Maxime Pouvreau, a pastry chef and actual French person. The little jars carry four varieties—vanilla, lemon, chocolate, and caramel—and boast both winsome design and bountiful flavor. My favorite was the caramel, which came topped with a little cap of whipped cream. It was silky, tasted faintly of burnt sugar, and made my day better than it was before I ate it. And if there's anything more that one can ask of caramel pudding, I don't know what it is.