KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Maverick
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Monday, November 14, 2005
Texas seems to be following me around. I don't mean in a scuffed-boots-wearin, rifle-toting, big-hair, scary kind of way. More like a "howdy, ya'll!" kind of way. Let me explain. About a month ago I returned to Texas for the first time in 12 years, on my very own Texas Tour 2005 (I hit my hometown of Dallas, as well as San Antonio and Austin where I went to college). But those details are for another time (trust me, there's enough fodder there to last a lifetime). Suffice it to say, when I was there I was reunited with a whole slew of college friends, some of whom I hadn't seen since graduation.

You might be wondering what all this has to do with Maverick, the teensy little restaurant in the Mission which opened in July to big buzz. Well, I'm getting to that. When I returned from Texas, my close friend Trey (also a college buddy) had taken it upon himself to plan an SF gathering of a handful of our college friends who lived in the area, something we'd been trying to do for quite some time.

Not only was it appropriate to have a reunion of Texas friends at a restaurant called Maverick, but it also just so happened that Trey had designed and built all of the ambient lighting, which set the warmly colored dining room aglow (you can check out his work here). The most memorable aspect of Maverick's swanky design, in my (completely unbiased) opinion, is Trey's modular map of the U.S., set over the family-style table in the front dining room.

{An aside} What is it with me writing about tiny restaurants? What is it with tiny SF restaurants, are they the new rage? Or just the only thing that is affordable. Don't get me wrong, I really do like them, but the downside to all that coziness is the roar of the packed-in crowd. At a table of 10, it's not only impossible to hear the person at the other end of the table but also the person sitting right next to you. Or am I just getting old? I'm not offering solutions here, merely suggesting that you be prepared to scream at your friends or your date if you come here.

Not to open this on a negative note, because I really was impressed with this place. We arrived a bit late, but were immediately given wine and water (and let me tell you those glasses were kept full all night, a definite nod to the excellent service we received). One interesting thing that Maverick does--and remember, they are not only a restaurant, but also a wine bar--is to "wash" the wine glass with a splash of whatever wine it is that you'll be drinking. It's an interesting idea, apparently something that's done in Europe? I'm not entirely sure of the point, but if anyone can explain I welcome your comments.

But on to the food, because really that's why we are here, right? We started our feast by ordering an embarassing amount of the crab fluffs that I'd heard so much about (Maverick changes it's menu often according to the seasons, but apparently crab fluffs are a mainstay. Thank goodness.) In fact, we ordered one round and they were so good, we had to order a second. Three plump, round, fried nuggets of crabmeat were set atop celery and creamy homemade tartar sauce. At $11 a pop, they are a bit on the pricey side for the amount on the plate (one of my only criticisms of the restaurant, which I continued to notice as they night wore on), but they are so addictive you don't really care. In fact, I'd go so far as to suggest ordering your own and not sharing.

Although overshadowed by the fluffs, we also opened our meal with 3 out of the 4 salads available on the short menu. The Maverick Salad was a simple, crunchy mix of English cucumbers, watermelon radish, and mixed lettuces tossed with a light vinaigrette. The seasonal fig salad combined ripe slices of sweet figs with toasted pine nuts and a mound of watercress, all drizzled with a tangy pomegranate vinaigrette. Finally, a medley of roasted beets topped a tangle of tender mache lettuce. Salty shaved pecorino offset the sweet, earthy beets and horseradish vinaigrette gave the salad a pleasant bite. All of the salads were exceptionally fresh.

As with the first plates, the mains at Maverick, which touts itself as an American eatery, are based upon ingredients native to cities, states, and regions across the great U S of A: from Idaho trout and Minnesota wild rice to Baltimore crab and Southern fried chicken. My main dish of roasted pork tenderloin was like autumn in New England met my mouth. Thick, juicy slices of tender pork were topped with tart-sweet cranberry sauce, and served with mashed, spiced yams and a poached seckel pear. The flavors of the dish were nicely balanced, although I kept feeling like it was lacking something, perhaps a green vegetable. (I would have added braised greens to round out the dish and to balance the sweetness of the overall medley with a bit of bitterness.)

A number of people at the table ordered the root vegetable stew, an interesting mixture of slow-cooked turnips, parsnips, celery root, and green lentils, served in a red kuri squash bowl. It was a hearty vegetarian option (the only one on the mains menu), and while it wasn't my favorite dish, those who ordered it seemed satisfied. Southern fried chicken was another table favorite (imagine that, at a table full of Texans!). Three crisp pieces of chicken were balanced atop creamy, peppery mashed potatoes drizzled with brown gravy and braised collard greens. A hearty ode to southern comfort food.

Desserts ranged from pumpkin "whoopie" pies--thick, tender, and creamy riffs on the classic--to warm huckleberry crisp that was rich with flavor.

We closed down the restaurant and then some. Finally, around 12:30, after they turned off the music, we realized we were the only ones left in the restaurant. But it was a fabulous time, with promises to get together soon, perhaps at my house for a good old-fashioned Texas BBQ.

Maverick American Eatery & Wine Bar
3316 17th Street (between Mission and Valencia)
San Francisco, CA


Blogger JennyNAB said...

Hi, after reading your blog, the book publishing group (situated in Northern California) that I work for would like to send you a review copy of a food memoir. Is there an e-mail address or snail-mail address that we can use to contact you more efficiently? We will not use your e-mail address for purposes beyond the sending of the review copy.

11/14/2005 1:43 PM

Blogger Kim Goodfriend said...

Hi - thanks for thinking of me, I'd love to check out the food memoir. You can email me at cooking@kqed.org with your email address and I will get back to you with a mailing address (rather than post it here).

11/14/2005 3:21 PM

Anonymous rachel said...

Hey, the link for Trey's work doesn't work, and it would be great to be able to check out his stuff...

11/16/2005 4:50 PM

Blogger wendygee said...

Trey Gerfer's Stereoluz website address is: http://www.stereoluz.net
The link in the post is working now.

11/16/2005 5:03 PM

Blogger Kyle said...

I live just up the block from Maverick and have eaten there twice now. Your review is very accurate; it's a great place. Both food and service are excellent. Serving only US wines is a fun take, too. We had a really good one from Virginia (Valhalla), and recently ordered some more of it at a Virginia-only wine bar in Charlottlesville (VaVino). Anyone reading this should definitley check these out.

Incidentally, I think the idea of rinsing the wine glass with a little of the wine you're going to be drinking is to 'clean out' the glass without using water. It's much better to mix wine with wine than wine with water, so that would 'season' the glass for your new wine. It's also better than getting another clean glass, neccessitating not only more washing but more storage space for the restaurant in question.

1/24/2006 3:54 PM


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