Strawberry Souffle -- Cafe Jacqueline, San Francisco, CA
By the time we reach Cafe Jacqueline on our second full day in San Francisco, to say we have had an "interesting" day would be an understatement.
|Here's a Clue: We Were Here. Drinking|
You see, we have spent the day on a wine tour of Napa and Sonoma, where a few things happened:
1. Our tour guide, who let's just say is a "character" you can't make up, sent multiple patrons off of the bus to direct traffic in the middle of a Napa highway.
2. By pure chance, Vodka had this SAME EXACT TOUR GUIDE the only other time she had been to Napa three years ago.
3. Said tour was supposed to bring us to the Yountville, CA shopping center, which is home to not one, not two, but THREE Best Thing I Ever Ate dishes. Said tour did NOT bring us to said shopping center, which means we actually got to EAT WHAT WE WANTED at an Italian restaurant in Sonoma, a happenstance we found oddly off-putting.
|We Will Take Home ALL THE BARRELS, Please|
Therefore, by the time we reach Cafe Jacqueline, we are practically starving, being that we have eaten like normal individuals, and not like food hoarders, for most of the day.
|How Quickly Our Stomachs Learn to Adapt to Massive Food Intake|
We arrive at the front door of the restaurant at 5:37pm, and there is not a soul inside. "It's bumping in there," Ginger mumbles, and we look expectantly at a small older woman wiping down the tables.
"Excuse me, are you open?"
"We open at 5:30," the woman calls back. "What time is it?"
Vodka glances at her watch just as a courtesy. "5:37."
"Then we are open!" the woman calls back. "Sit where you like."
And with that, we are off to the races at Cafe Jacqueline.
|Bathroom Tile Facade = Classy|
As we learned from some through Yelping, this restaurant specializes in souffles. Well, not just "specializes," but really ONLY makes souffles. We are here to eat Alton Brown's EGGSTRAORDINARY favorite, the strawberry soufflé, which the woman-without-a-watch assures us is on the menu today.
|Things That Are NOT on the Menu Today: Customers|
When she walks away from our table, Ginger whispers in an all-knowing tone, "I can tell you right now that's Jacqueline."
"Is it?" Vodka asks, assuming Ginger learned this bit of trivia via her foray onto second-rate food sites.
"I don't know," Ginger responds without a bit of irony, and we glance around the still-vacant restaurant. Featuring about ten tables total, to say that the decor is "shabby chic" would be generous. In fact, it looks like the place is one bad night away from going out of business, and things are starting to verge away from "unkempt" and into "creepy" territory.
|The "Multitude" of Window Decorations|
"You like souffle?" Jacqueline returns to our table clutching menus, the subtext of her question being that we better say "yes," being that souffle is all she has to offer us. We place our order for one strawberry souffle, and a waiter with a handlebar mustache soon appears for our drink selections. To Cafe Jacqueline's credit, he returns with two of the largest pours of wine we've ever seen, which we compliment heartily.
|Now You're Speaking Our Language, Jacqueline|
"I can take some back if you like," he jokes (the comedy is relative in this place).
"Oh no, we've had a long day of drinking," we answer, clutching our wine glasses ever tighter.
|Keep This Stuff Flowing and Maybe We'll Forget This Place Looks Like Something Out of the Bedbug Directory|
At this point, another party deigns to fill a table at the restaurant, and our waiter shuts the door behind them with the "Closed" sign facing out. Apparently, five customers is all Jacqueline wishes to handle at one time.
|Are We Being Filmed for Some Third-Rate Reality Show? ARE WE BEING PUNK'D?!|
After at least forty minutes, a giant bowl of warm souffle, topped with a hearty helping of fresh strawberries and powdered sugar, appears before us. We place our spoons inside, raise them to our mouths, and Ginger chokes. Vodka glances at her with little concern, the inference being that she'd like an explanation.
"I inhaled the sugar," Ginger says. It seems someone is just a bit excited to start eating dessert.
|Death by Souffle|
The outer rim of the souffle is slightly -- SLIGHTLY -- crunchy to the touch, but despite the strawberry and sugar additions, it just doesn't have much of a taste. There's nothing bad about it exactly -- it's like a 2 star disappointment.
And then we dive deeper into the souffle bowl.
|Cue Cryptic Music|
"Now, I'm no connoisseur of souffles," Ginger begins, "but this is not done." Indeed, three-quarters of the souffle bowl is filled with what can only be described as "lumpy strawberry soup" -- slimy fruit chunks, barely cooked egg whites, and the overwhelming taste of flour.
|Well, This Looks "Appetizing"|
The whole thing is a bit of a disaster, and what Alton Brown ever saw it it, besides possibly the French authenticity of Jacqueline herself, is unclear.
|Really, Alton? This Is One of the BEST THINGS You Have Ever Eaten?!|
Not only is this souffle bland in taste and runny in texture, but it costs $40 -- $40! We could have purchased 20 meat cones for that price, and even if we didn't want them, they at least featured GOOD meat. And under no circumstances are we in the mood to shell out two Andrew Jacksons for under-cooked soup.
|At Least We Got a Pound of Fresh Strawberries Out of the Deal|
Our waiter comes to clear our practically-full bowl and says, "I hope that wound up the afternoon for you." This statement is met with dead silence, not just because we don't know exactly what it means, but because our mothers taught us that if you don't have anything nice to say, complain to the management.
|Wiser Words Were Never Written|
And here, we know there's no worth to be had in having words with Jacqueline herself, so instead, Vodka merely asks for the location of the bathroom.
"Walk down this hall, through the kitchen, outside, and make a right," the waiter answers.
So, just to confirm, your bathroom is an outhouse, yes?
|Literally, the Bathroom Is Outside. OUTSIDE!|
Vodka follows the directions, past Jacqueline's Honey I Shrunk the Kids-sized bowl of eggs, and finds herself in a barely stable structure adjacent to the restaurant's back "garden" (similar to "comedy," the word "garden" is used loosely here).
|The Fruit of Many, MANY Chickens|
After warning Ginger about what she's about to uncover on her own trip to the restroom, we head out of Cafe Jacqueline's front door, never to return again.
|Even the Large Wine Pours Aren't Enough to Make Up for This $40 Nonsense|
"What makes it even more disappointing is that I wanted so much to like it," Ginger says. "I mean, the eggs looked nice and the woman was cute." In the end, though, the only positive we can say about this place is that they gave us a lot of wine, but all the wine in the world is not worth scarfing down soupy, slimy souffle.
Or, for that matter, choking on it.
Cafe Jacqueline's Strawberry Souffle: 1 star