Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fountain Cafe & Grill

Fountain Cafe is located inside Crocker Galleria, where they have a farmer's market I regularly visit on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  They also have a food court, but I'd never checked out any of the eateries before, until of course, I saw that I had LevelUp credits to use at a few of the places, so I finally ventured up to the top floor to check them out.

Fountain Cafe serves breakfast and lunch, with items you can order from the grill. I didn't partake in any of that though, and went for the pay-by-weight salad bar instead.  The salad bar is really extensive, featuring basic greens and veggies, but also a slew of composed salads, and mediterranean items like hummus, falafel, dolma, pita, etc.  I've been on a serious potato salad, pasta salad, etc kick lately, so the plethora of composed salads was incredibly appealing!

These were the best salads I've had from anywhere in San Francisco.  I was really surprised by how much I liked them, and preferred them over those from local delis, even Whole Foods.  They nail a couple key aspects for me: cooking the noodles and potatoes just right, keeping them al dente so they aren't remotely mushy, not over dressing anything, and their seasoning is just spot on.  The salads didn't look like anything special, but they are very good versions of some classics.  The salads all seemed fresh, made of decent quality ingredients, and with recipes that have been honed in.

I recommend, and am very glad to have found this place.  Thanks LevelUp!  They are also on GoPago, but you obviously can't get the salads that way.  If you want to check them out yourself, you can use my invite to LevelUp to get a free $5 credit to spend here, or anywhere, and you'll also get another $2 to spend just at Fountain Cafe.
Curry pasta salad, macaroni salad, seafood salad.  $6.99/lb -> $2.38 for this container.
None of the salads looked particularly good, but I figured I'd give it a try, since it was (mostly) free.  I had no idea how much the $2 credit could buy me, so I picked the most interesting 3 salads, and took a tiny scoop of each.  If they were good, I could always get more!  My little container was still over budget, it came in at a whopping $2.38!

One salad was a curry pasta salad.  The pasta shells were the highlight - they were just perfectly cooked, very al dente.  The sauce was flavorful.  Also in the mix were celery and cranberries, which added some crunch.  I didn't take any, but it also had large chunks of apple and chicken.  I avoided the chicken since I just don't care for chicken, and I figured the apples wouldn't hold up very well.  This was my favorite salad, and sadly, the one I took the least of.

Next was a classic macaroni salad.  It contained shredded carrots, red and green peppers, tiny chunks of egg, and ... corn.  The corn was super weird, not something I've ever really seen in a macaroni salad, but it worked.  The dressing was mayo based and fairly flavorful.  And like the curry shells, the macaroni was cooked nicely.  I liked this much more than the macaroni salad from A.G. Ferrari.  My second favorite of the trio.

Finally, there was a seafood salad.  Besides the bay shrimp, I couldn't identify what else was in it.  Shredded crab stick I think, in a mayo base.  It was well seasoned and flavorful.  Not high end seafood salad obviously, but tasty and I enjoyed it.  My third pick.

I'd get any of these again, and was really surprised by how much I liked them.
Curry pasta salad, coleslaw.  $6.99/lb -> $2.10 for this container.
On my second visit, I had a very hard time not just getting more of the same three I had the first time, as I liked them all so much.  But, there were so many more fun looking salads to try, so I forced myself to only repeat one, the curry pasta.

The curry pasta really wasn't entirely the same this time.  The pasta was cooked more, not overcooked, but not as al dente as the first time, which is what I had loved about it.  The celery and cranberries were the same, and this time I took some of the chicken and apples.  The apples were pretty mushy.  The chicken was decent quality.  The sauce seemed sweeter, but perhaps that was my imagination, as I'd just had a lot of sweets prior to eating it, and was a little sick of sweet things at that point.

The coleslaw was crunchy, clearly fresh, and had great seasoning, with a little bit of kick from some pepper.  It was lightly dressed with mayo.  The winner of the pair.
Curry pasta salad, potato salad, macaroni salad  $6.99/lb -> $1.96 for this container.
On my third visit, I again struggled deciding which ones to get.  Every single salad I'd had so far as really good, but I still hadn't tried the potato salad.

I couldn't resist getting the curry pasta salad again, since I'd loved it so much the first time, and thought the flavor was still great the second time.  This time I avoided the apples, since they were mushy last time, and avoided the chicken, since I'm not a huge fan.  The pasta was cooked nicely al dente, and the flavor of the curry sauce was just to die for, a perfect balance of curry and sweetness.  I love this stuff.  My favorite, by far.

I tried a tiny bit of the potato salad.  I wish I'd gotten more!  The potatoes were just how I like them - al dente.  I guess this is probably personal preference, but I really like my potatoes to be slightly crisp when in potato salad.  They nailed this for me.  The dressing was mayo based and flavorful, with bits of carrots, green pepper, and eggs.  Much, much better than the potato salad I had from A.G. Ferrari a few days prior.

I also got a little more of the macaroni salad, since I'd enjoyed it the first time.  Unfortunately, this time, the pasta was way overcooked.  Not only not al dente like I like, but actually mushy.  But the flavors were good.  My least favorite though, and I'm glad I got this once before when it was good, as I'd never have gotten it again if this was my first encounter.


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