Not having visited San Francisco since my freshman year of college (an unmentionably long time ago), I’d forgotten about the hidden, and somewhat hard to find alleyways that are sprinkled throughout the downtown area of the city. Gitane (pronounced zhee-tan), the French word for “gypsy,” is a hidden gem down one such alleyway (6 Claude Lane to be exact), next to Union Square.
After gorging ourselves with steamed mussels at Grand Café Brasserie and Bar, and a platter of raw oysters at Hog Island Oyster Co., my fiancé and I opted for a more romantic dinner. Chef Bridget Baston took over the Spanish/Portuguese/French/North African restaurant in April 2010. The funky venue features outdoor dining on the alleyway patio, a dark and sexy downstairs bar (with an extensive mix of cocktails and sherries), and even sexier indoor seating upstairs.
DRINK: Having already had several glasses of wine at lunch (hey, I was on vacation!), I opted for the Esta Noche cocktail over ice. Mixed with blanco tequila, ruby port, agave nectar, fresh lime, ginger beer and angostura bitters, I immediately wished I were sitting on a beach in Mexico. If you’re not in the mood for an alcoholic beverage, like my fiancé was, the bar also features a tropical drink made from pomegranate, lime juice and a few other mystery ingredients.
APPETIZER: The minute we opened our menus, our eyes were glued to the bacon bonbon appetizer. Sweet, salty and savory, the bonbons are made with dried prunes stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in smoked bacon and covered in a spiced port glaze. They were so good I even considered ordering them again for dessert.
ENTRÉE: I stuck with my “only eating seafood while I’m in San Francisco” mantra and ordered the Espadon—grilled swordfish with pumpkin seed pesto, sautéed kale (crisp with just enough salt) and slices of baked pumpkin. The comforting scent wafting off of my plate put me in the mood for fall weather. Unable to decide, my fiancé ordered the Agnea (roasted rack of lamb and braised shoulder) but asked for all the sides that came with the Cerdo (pork tenderloin). The lamb was cooked perfectly, and while the low lighting made it hard for me to see the many sides of vegetables laying under the meat, my date pointed out that he enjoyed the lightly seasoned and very crispy summer beans and braised hearts of romaine.
DESSERT: We shared the brown butter almond cake, baked with Cava-soaked seckle pears, huckleberry compote and a side of spiced-rum gelato and pear sorbet sprinkled with rosemary-infused crumbled streusel. I almost always order a dessert with chocolate, so ordering the almond cake was a real stretch for me. I have to say I don’t regret it one bit. The crunch from the streusel went perfectly with the creamy sorbet and the warm buttery cake. It’s a perfectly elegant dessert for somewhat cool weather.
Tip: Ignore the directions your iPhone Google Maps app gives you. Claude Lane is located near Sutter and Kearny Streets.
Bacon-Wrapped Prunes with Goat Cheese
12 large dried prunes
4 ounces goat cheese
12 slices bacon
Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
1. Halve the prunes.
2. Stuff prune half with goat cheese
3. Slice bacon in half.
4. Wrap prune in 1/2 bacon slice
5. Arrange prunes with the loose end of bacon facing downward on a foil lined cookie sheet
6. Broil until browned, turning half way through