The Dining Cryptographer: ThirstyBear and Piperade (San Francisco, CA)
Welcome to the 2009 RSA Conference. There are a lot of places to eat around Moscone Center, more if you realize how cheap a taxi ride is compared to your restaurant bill. In each issue, I'll give you two recommendations: one within walking distance, and the other a short cab ride away.
ThirstyBear is a combination brew pub and tapas bar. First the food: ThirstyBear serves some interesting Catalan specialties. If you're a small group, just order a bunch of small plates and share everything. Get a variety: seafood tapas, meat tapas, vegetable tapas. Get some hot and some cold. Really, that's the way to do it. If you're alone, their lamb burger is great for lunch: juicy and flavorful. Or their daily paella. Okay, now the beer: ThirstyBear serves seven different house-brewed beers. Personally, though, I'm happier ordering a pitcher of sangria. (661 Howard St., 415-974-0905, www.thirstybear.com)
Piperade serves an interesting and tasty array of traditional and modern Basque dishes. Think fish: cod, hake, and squid. My advice is to go native and order an array of small plates to share, kind of like a tapas bar. You might try some of the specials. Ignore the entrees, which are generally not very Basque. If you want an entree, I like the sautéed sea scallops, served with sweet apples and spicy chorizo sausage, and the foie gras sautéed with squid and grapes. And, of course, their namesake piperade: a stew of ham, bell peppers, and onions -- served with a poached egg. If you're lucky enough to go on a Tuesday, be sure to order that day's special: the sautéed squid in ink sauce. Chef Gerald Hirigoyen is Basque, and his restaurant is probably the best place in the United States to try that kind of cooking. It's well worth a taxi ride. (1015 Battery St., 415-391-2555, www.piperade.com)