Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gourmet Ho-down at the Blue Barn

When you think of visiting a barn, scenes of Napa Valley or the Santa Cruz mountains come to mind. Even those little towns you see on the way to Point Reyes. But the Marina District of San Francisco? Wooooaaaaht? (Is that how you spell it, Ellen?)

Well, there I was this past weekend. On Chestnut Street in the city’s Marina District, where joggers have switched to biking in stretchy pants because of the cold weather and young couples walk around in matching Patagonia vests.

In the spot once selling pizza by the slice from Cybelle’s Pizza, you see this rustic barn fa├žade, now the front for Blue Barn Gourmet--what can best be described as a seasonal sustainable deli. The person behind Blue Barn is Sam Joshi, who already has a couple of Marina properties (Mamacita and Umami).

While it calls itself a deli, it seems that much of the business is in the prepared foods section. They sell sandwiches and salads made to order using produce from Oak Hill Farm.

Here’s my photo tour of the tiny Blue Barn in the Marina:

When you walk in, you definitely get the barn motif. But for me, and probably many others, you feel a bit overwhelmed by the descriptions of the salads and sandwiches available to order. My suggestion is to go up to the register where you can pick up a paper menu. Grab a copy, move off to the side and study it, then go up and order. Regulars who already know what they want will thank you.

This is the counter near the register where you order. In the back, you see the cooks working busy in the kitchen making the sandwiches. In the front are all the various ingredients for the “You Pick Salad” sold for $7.50. Similar to Pluto’s (which is a few blocks west in the neighborhood), you can create your salad from the variety of seasonal ingredients. There are beets, pomegranates, caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash, marinated seaweed and just as many interesting dressings (think champagne-saffron or sushi ginger vinaigrettes). There’s a guy who’s ready to make your salad but he was away when I snapped this shot.

In the counter there are tons of cheese, breads and prepared salads. I just hope they have a lot more in the back, because one person can order that whole bowl and they’d be up a creek!

Keeping up with the charcuterie trend, Blue Barn also offers cured meats and fresh artisan bread. Everything looked very fancy, but it must be tough competing with Lucca Delicatessen across the way in the same neighborhood.

This is where you pick up your order. There are two tiny bar tables at the window and really, you’ll find it hard to get a seat and eat in. The people who buy sandwiches here … take. their. time. … when enjoying their sandwiches. That’s OK. On a nice day, you can walk over to the Marina green or the Palace of Fine Arts and snack on your sandwich and specialty drinks. (What I also like about the tiny place is the high ceilings with barn beams.)

So I ended up ordering the Rooster special sandwich (or “sandos” as it's written on the menu). I walked across the street to Peet’s Coffee to savor my sandwich. This is my Rooster all wrapped up. I took a picture to show the stages of unwrap. When I ripped off the outside layer, I found this…

That’s right, a piece of Bazooka gum. It was such a nice surprise and I thought such a fun touch that I was already in love with my sandwich even before taking a bite.

But then of course I had to get to my sandwich, and here’s the Rooster. It’s a chile-lime grilled chicken breast with Niman bacon, avocado, sharp cheddar, roma tomato and a chipotle-scallion aioli all on a toasted ciabatta bread. Dang, that’s a long description, but it just doesn’t give justice to what I ate. My first bite gave me the crunch and feel of grilled panini, and different flavors and tastes took turns surprising me with each bite. One bite: savory. Second bite: tender. Third bite: Vinegary-good. Sometimes it was the cheese, sometimes the aioli. I could go on and on. The only thing I would say was the ciabatta, while nicely toasted, was a bit tough to eat. Still, that is so minor compared to the wonderful blending of flavors in this specialty sandwich. It was worth paying the Marina tax on food around this neighborhood. (The Rooster coast me $8.50. So worth it.)

I had very low expectations for Blue Barn Gourmet. I felt the space was too small. It was a bit too overdone with the barn theme. (I mean, how many things can you distress?) And it was in the Marina. But in the end, this is a place serving solid specialty food. Now you have another thing to do in a barn.

Blue Barn Gourmet, 2105 Chestnut St., San Francisco. PH: 415.441.3232. Open daily (except Tuesday) from 11 a.m.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ooh I saw this on Zagat buzz and it caught my eye, since it is sort of by the office (unfortunately not walking distance though, but do-able by bus)... Looks good and your sandwich sounds delicious!