Comfort food is different for every person. It might be your mother's meatloaf, a bowl of butter-padded mashed potatoes, or a vat of chicken soup. Personally, I never thought I'd be looking to a New Mexican restaurant as my comfort food source, but that's exact what Green Chile Kitchen has come to mean for me.
Working on a KQED cooking show has meant that my past week was filled with twelve hour days where I rarely sit down, lots of running, and lots of food. The sad thing is, I didn't want to eat that food. It's no reflection on the chef, mind you, but it's long been a foible of mine that if I cook something all day, I completely lose my appetite for it.
There have been two constants of comfort during this past week of twelve hour days: my husband and Green Chile Kitchen. Green Chile Kitchen moved into the vacated Baker/Fulton corner nearly two years ago and while we have been fairly frequent patrons, I have never written about it.
They have a fresh greens salad to which you are allowed to add five additions from all manner of fresh ingredients. You can also choose to add applewood smoked bacon, avocado, and Fulton Valley chicken breast. I've actually developed my own salad mix that I consider to be the ultimate order. Aside from the greens I request walnuts, blue cheese, red onion, corn, and for my fifth choice, I just get more corn. When I'm really hungry, I'll add chicken breast and avocado to the salad.
When it comes to salad dressing, I'm a purist. I make my own and there are only certain restaurants I trust to get it right. Zuni, Suppenkuche, and Chez Panisse get it right, but a lot of other places don't. It's either bottled or delivered on the side, and on the side just doesn't cut it with me. I mean, unless you're going to bring out a big ol' bowl along with the "on the side" that allows me to slap everything with an even, glistening coat, don't bother. Green Chile Kitchen gets it right. Their balsamic vinaigrette, chipotle lime vinaigrette, citrus vinaigrette, and green chile buttermilk are all made from scratch and they toss the dressing for you. There's no need to dump the dressing on, seal up the box, and shake your foodie, praying that oily droplets don't spew everywhere.
So yeah, I love their organic green salad. I also love their burritos, and their guacamole has recently been made amazing by the piquant addition of chiles. Finally, their green chile stew -- veg or fully meaty with slow-roasted Niman Ranch pork -- is something to tuck your body into on a cold autumn night.
But lately, a side order of their rice and pinto beans is all I need to sustain me during these trying weeks, and it's also about all I have time to shove into my mouth before collapsing, insensible, into bed.
Over this past weekend, where I did little else but sleep and brunch with friends, the thought of being back in my kitchen didn't repulse me, as much as it made me narcoleptic every time I set foot in it. Food was needed. Outside food. Comfort food. Once again, Green Chile Kitchen via my husband came to my rescue. 1/4 of a citrus-herb roasted chicken -- all juicy white meat -- some roasted potatoes, a warm, soft, folded tortilla with fire-roasted salsa, and a glass of Geyser Peak Merlot from Trader Joe's was all my exhausted soul needed to regenerate.
A few quibbles: their overly complicated menu, riddled with so many choices of sides and accompaniments, confuses both the order takers and the order fulfillers, not to mention the patrons. They could also do with another register. While you can stake out the dark wood booths and eat in the welcoming cafe area, we're only three blocks away, so we mostly do pick up. Unfortunately, with one line and one register for everyone, it means if you've placed your order over the phone, you are often standing in a long line with people who haven't placed their order, don't know what they want, and waste your already-packed order's precious heat by browsing the menu and asking lots of questions. Not that I begrudge them the time to make up their minds, mind you, it's just that two lines -- one for pick-ups and one for everyone else -- would make so much more sense.
Green Chile Kitchen
601 Baker (at Fulton)
San Francisco, CA 94117