Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen

Wise Sons is a Jewish Deli, with several locations in San Francisco.  The biggest location is in the Mission, open for breakfast, brunch, and lunch, but they also have a space attached to the Contemporary Jewish Museum, lunch only, where you can dine in, or eat (and order) outside in the courtyard when the weather is nice.  They also set up a booth at the Ferry Building farmer's market, which is where I first encountered them.

I've tried a few different items, but I didn't really find anything I liked.  Perhaps it is just because I'm not familiar with Jewish cuisine, so it was my first time trying many of these items.  But overall, just not my thing.

Drinks

Fox Ubet Egg Cream.  $3.50.
This was my first egg cream, so I have no comparison point.

I wanted something refreshing, and I've heard about egg creams forever, so my curiosity finally lead me to order it.

It is just seltzer, runny chocolate syrup, and milk.  Hmm. I somehow thought it would be more like a milkshake, although I'm not sure why.  It was basically like diluted milk that was fizzy.  I really didn't get it.

I won't get another.
Decaf Cappuccino.  $3.50.
Wise Son's uses De La Paz Coffee, a local San Francisco roaster.  I've seen them around town often, but this was my first time trying their product.

The wait for my cappuccino was extremely long, about 15 minutes.  I actually went back to check on it around the 15 minute mark because I thought it must have been forgotten.  They weren't busy.  Even Blue Bottle doesn't take this long!

Anyway.  The foam was beautifully done.  Microbubbles of perfection.  But ... the coffee wasn't great.  Bitter, not in a good way.  Maybe they don't do a lot of decaf, or maybe De La Paz decaf just isn't very good.  The barista certainly demonstrated skill with the foam so I don't blame him.

I wouldn't get another.  The $3.50 price was standard.
Iced Decaf Americano.  $2.50.
On a hot day, I decided to get an iced coffee.  They only have regular iced coffee, but offered to do an iced Americano instead.

It was unremarkable.
Condiments station.
For the coffee, half and half and whole milk are available, along with sugar, Sweet & Low, and Splenda.

Side Dishes

Side of Potato Salad.  $2.79.
This was very, very creamy potato salad, mayo based.  At first glance I was a little confused that I received the proper item, as I couldn't even see chunks of potato, just creaminess!

The potatoes had skin on, which I didn't like, as they were kinda slimy and mixed in.  The potatoes were well cooked however, not too mushy.  The dressing was mostly mayo, but also had a slight interesting flavor from some grainy mustard, but not much.  There were also chunks of crisp, but almost too harsh, red onion.

Overall, this was fine, but not remarkable.  I like to have a little more zing to my potato salad, and like things like pickles or egg added.

The portion size was smaller than I expected, although not unreasonable for the price.  I wouldn't get it again.
Side of Cole Slaw.  $2.50.
Fairly standard slaw.  Two colors of cabbage, not over dressed, something interesting in the seasoning, it was a bit ... zesty?

Neither Ojan nor I loved this, but we also didn't hate it.  Unremarkable.  Price a bit high for tiny portion.
Pickle Plate.  $4.
Wise Sons is known for doing their own brining, so I was excited to check out their pickle plate.  I adore pickles.  My great aunt, who lives on a farm and grows all her own vegetables, makes the most amazing pickles ever.  She pickles everything - obviously cucumbers, but green beans, carrots, cauliflower, peppers, zucchini, etc.  Some sweet, some savory, some spicy, and everything in between.  Let's just say that I didn't encounter those strange store bought things that they call pickles until very late in life.  I still don't understand them.

The Wise Sons pickle platter contained sauerkraut, green beans, red onions, carrots, sweet peppers, and some classic spears.

I really did not like the baby carrots.  Far too vinegary for my liking.  My least favorite on the platter.

The onion was a bit strange.  It somehow tasted fishy.  I really don't understand how, but I didn't like this one either.

The classic spear was ok, a bit mushy, not as crisp as I like, and the the flavor wasn't quite what I like.  Pretty middle of the road.

The kraut was good, and I can see how it would make their sandwiches awesome.  A bit strange on a pickle plate however, as it was odd to just eat by the spoonful.  But flavorful, crunchy, fresh.  My third favorite overall.

The beans were good, crisp, but I love my aunt's dilly beans, and these were just vinegary, so I didn't like them as much as hers.  My second favorite on the platter.

The peppers were delightful.  Sweet, but vinegary, in a really fascinating way.  I'd easily eat tons more of these.

Desserts

Mandel Bread. 2 for $1.50.
And finally, I wanted to try something sweet.  I wasn't familiar with mandel bread before, but I remembered reading that Wise Sons was famous for theirs, and the generous cinnamon and sugar coating drew me in.

This was basically almond biscotti, covered in cinnamon and sugar.  Crispy.  Good crunch from slivered almonds inside.  It was good enough, better when dunked into coffee.  Not something I'd get again just because it isn't very exciting to me, but if you like biscotti and cinnamon/sugar, it was fine.

$1.50 was a good price for two small pieces.
Chocolate Chip. $2.
This was a hard, crisp cookie.  I greatly prefer soft, almost under-cooked, cookies.  It was loaded with chocolate, hard to see here, but it almost wasn't even chips, the entire thing was just chocolate.  Which, perhaps might be good, except that I actually like to taste buttery cookie dough, so this wasn't a winning aspect for me.

Really not my style of cookie.  $2 price was fine for quite a large cookie however.

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Chocolate Babka

I've tried the babka many times, as they always have it out to sample, and it is hard to resist a sample while I wait for my order.  But it is always so dried out.  Maybe that is why they are sampling it, because its old?  I don't know, I love bready sweet things and this has absolutely never interested me.

Brunch

Noodle Kugel.  $3.50.
I feel a bit silly reviewing this since it was my first kugel ever, so I don't really know what I'm talking about.  Offered deep fried and warm with maple syrup, or cold with seasonal jam.  Since I was taking it to go, I opted for the cold version, but I'm intrigued by the idea of the hot, fried, version.

I had of course heard of noodle kugel before, but I've never seen it, much less eaten it.  So, I didn't really know what I was getting into, my vague idea was that it was supposed to be sorta like a noodle casserole, but a dessert, so like bread pudding but with noodles?  And a crispy top?  And maybe not a dessert, more of a brunch item?  I love bread puddings, and I like noodle casseroles, so ... seemed like something I might like.

I still don't entirely know what I ate.  Yes, it was a noodle casserole.  The noodles were in some sort of custard ... my research tells me it might have been cream cheese.  Or sour cream.  Or cottage cheese.  I have no idea what it was.  It also had some golden raisins.  On top was crispy things, a bit sweet.  I have no idea what they were either, but reminded me a bit of corn flakes?

I tried a few bites immediately, even though I was planning to save it for later, and I enjoyed the crunch from the topping, the custardyness of the filling, the softness of the noodles.  All the things I like about a good bread pudding.  I did wish it had more spicing, but I'm not quite sure what I wanted.

Served with "seasonal compote", which I think was raspberry.  It was sweet, went well with it, but, wasn't nearly as good as my mother's homemade jams.

I brought the rest home and tried warming it up, to see how it was that way.  It didn't heat that well, the noodles and custard sorta separated.  The top got nice and crunchy though, and I really think it would be good warm, perhaps when freshly baked.  I also added my mom's peach jam, and then tried drizzling maple syrup over it.  The syrup was the real winner for me, and I see why they serve the fried one with syrup.

So, for me, I think I'd love to try it hot and fresh sometime, but otherwise, cold worked better.  Maple syrup was a winner.  And I think I'd like it for breakfast, paired with a coffee.  It didn't quite meat my "dessert" desires, but if you have less of a sweet tooth than me, I think it easily could.  Brunch is likely where it best belongs.

I'm still trying to figure out how to classify or explain noodle kugel to someone else unfamiliar.  Bread pudding made with noodles instead of bread is my best description, but that doesn't get the custard part quite right.  Or fettuccine-alfredo-quiche?  I guess it just falls into that nebulous category of dishes that are a carb-in-a-custard, like bread pudding or rice pudding, where there are so many different spins, they can be sweet or savory, they are hot or cold, they have toppings or mix-ins, etc.  I'm certainly interested in exploring kugel further!
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