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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Anna's Oven - Americana, Searching for a Voice

"Beef Stroganoff"
I live near the 39th st/Volker district, and I love it. I love the diversity, I love the culture...I practically live on 39th street! I even have a credit at Prospero's Book store; they gave me $30 more on my store credit when I gave them my old espresso machine for their newly renovated upstairs! Across the street from Prospero's Book Store, however, is a quaint little bistro called Anna's Oven.

I know the Lead Cook/Chef there because he's got a dog that's about the size of mine. I spotted this gorgeous Great Pyrenees from across the street and went up to pet him; about five minutes later, I acknowledged the human that it was attached to, and we started chatting.

Thank you, Anna's Oven.com!
What really grabbed my attention at Anna's Oven was their commitment to charity. 50% of the profits this restaurant makes goes to the improvement of a girls' school in Kenya. I realize that there are many domestic problems, but part of being American is helping others, oddly. I know that sounds odd, but when your neighbor trips, you help them up, and that's a very American mentality, regardless of the certain Xenophobes in Congress. I finally was able to drag B here tonight and check it out.

Anna's is a small bistro with globally good intentions, but the staff running it is a bit cobbled together. This is not a bad thing! The lead cook, Victor, has been a Sommelier, a cheese monger, and a world traveller in his lifetime. He's been to France, Italy, and he and I always find something nice to chat about. He lives in the 39th street area, too, so I see him around a lot. It's just him and his apprentice in the tiny kitchen at Anna's, and they're really trying their best. They're even experimenting with more vegan options so they can better serve their clientele!

"King me."
Anna's has a really fun and eclectic environment. I think it's the perfect fit for 39th street, because it's a little bit funky, and it's a little bit home-y. The table that we sat at had a checker board built in, which chips in a tiny coffee cup to play! B crushed me, of course, but whatever, checkers isn't my game. I am more of a rummikubs kind of girl. What was really cool about the table was that the checks themselves were cut-outs of pop culture and paintings. We had fun recognizing the pictures, and chatting about it.

B got the chicken Pot Pie, which had a crazy flaky crust on top! It was poofed up like a big frosted cupcake, and I heard the audible crunch as he broke through it with the spoon. The flavor was good, but the inside itself was rather soup-y and thin. It was disappointing, and not the wonderful thick gravy that you would normally expect from something labeled chicken pot pie. When I spoke to Victor about it, he said it was made that day by the apprentice who was still learning; a forgivable offence, in my mind. I mean, hey--you remember being young and still learning! I think what people forget is that there are individuals cooking for them in restaurants. People are very hard on the cooks, who are often just trying their best. But I digress.

Good lord, that's a lot of pasta...
I got the Beef Stroganoff, which was oddly red-colored and not the traditional thick, white creamy mushroom sauce that we all know and love. It tasted a bit of tomato, probably to give it a different kind of kick, and was in need of seasoning...but it's, in my mind, not quite Beef Stroganoff. It was a good beef noodle dish, but I wouldn't call it Stroganoff. Beef Stroganoff is a very traditional comfort food that we have come to adopt and love here in the Americas, and we know how we like it. So it's a classic; what's wrong with keeping it a classic? In America, when you say "Beef Stroganoff", you have a vision in your head of what that should be. It's not red, and that unctuous mushroom flavor is very apparent. The noodles, however, were paper-thin, and while it was odd...it was good! They make their lasagna with it, which is really neat. I think the sauce could have been a little thicker, and more mushroom-y, but the flavors were really great. Again, though, I don't think I'd call it beef stroganoff.

When Victor and I first spoke, I told him I was a pastry chef and he asked for a few tips on creme brulee. I didn't want to give away all of my secrets, but I did give a tip or two...so when we came in tonight, we were brought out one of the lavender creme brulees. And it was good!!


They did a really great job of infusing the lavender, and the texture of the creme brulee was just perfect. It had come out of the oven not long before we arrived, so it was still a touch warm...but quite the perfect texture. The only trouble with having a still-warm creme brulee is that the heat often prevents the sugar from getting terribly crisp, or rather, staying terribly crisp. It was crisp to begin with, but as we ate it, it got a little soft from the residual heat. But, hey, I won't say no to a creme brulee! I can tell you that once it cools, it'll be a really good dish.
Anna's Oven on Urbanspoon
All in all? Though I think the menu itself is a bit all over the place, I still give Anna's a solid 7 out of 10. There are some technical flaws, probably things that only an anal-retentive foodie jerk like me would notice, but they're good people working for a good cause that are really trying their best. I will be back.

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