People tend to use the term “it is not how you start that matters, but how you finish,” I guess this statement can be true, but if this is a statement you live by, then you are definitely taking a gamble against all those people who live by the first impression rule.
I have not quite figured out what rule of thumb “Hops & Hominy” in downtown San Francisco is living by, but I was was willing to figure it out. The name alone takes me back to my childhood when my grandmother called grits “hominy” and how she made it with such love, care, & flavor made me excited to enter this edible extravaganza.
“Hops & Hominy” brought to the table complimentary organic stoneground buttermilk cornmeal cornbread, that was piping hot upon arrival, in a cast iron cake pan, but this cornmeal was a far cry from cake, it was bitter, slightly gritty, flavorless, and extremely disappointing, and as a result the endorphins that were building inside me with the thought of starting the night with a southern favorite began to subside at rapid speed. As disappointment crept in my members questions began to swirl in mind…can the meal get better from here and am I doomed for a despicable meal? But I am trooper and I remain committed to task at hand, ready to ride the ride until the wheels fall off, so we order the Coos Bay Pacific cornmeal fried oysters with jalapeño aioli sauce; now after the debacle with cornmeal cornbread one would think why “would you order this dish,” but I’m an individual who believes in the second chance theory, so we go in, and upon the first bite I think “now we are cooking with gas” these oysters are delicious, not overpowering by the cornmeal, fried to perfection, seasoned perfectly with a spicy kick, along with oysters that tasted like the fisherman just got them from the ocean a few hours back…ok ok so now my endorphin level is increasing, so I figure why stop there, and then we order the mac n cheese with sharp cheddar sauce, breadcrumb, & bacon. Now if you follow me, you know I was probably sold by the bacon, but not this time, it was the breadcrumb, most home cooks use breadcrumb when making mac n cheese, because it not only adds flavor, but texture, so now I figured this chef is on to something, and my goodness my assumptions were right, this mac n cheese was a slam dunk, I usually dont prefer cheese sauces, I mean home cooks aren’t making cheese into sauces, they are grating the cheese,and sprinkling it over the mac n cheese, this is what my childhood remembers and my palate recalls and desires, but this sauce knocked it out of the park, and the bacon added smokiness and saltiness which landed this mac n cheese into the “BTE”zone (best thing ever).
So while I am on this delectable edible streak it is only appropriate to try the shrimp and grits, I mean thats the whole point behind the name “hominy” so I order the grits with cheese, crab, and a tomato brandy sauce, and visually this dish was absolutely enticing, but the execution of the grits fell flat; grits should be creamy, not gritty, and the menu noted cheese, but there was no taste of cheese, no sharpness, nothing pungent, and where was the crab? if it was in there, it hid itself from me like a pro, but the tomato brandy and the perfectly seasoned shrimp was what moved this dish into the “BTA”zone (better than average), but they definitely needed someone from the dirty south to teach them how to make grits that are good with or without the bells and whistles.
Now its only appropriate to end an evening with desert so we ordered the peach cobbler. When the cobbler came out in a mason jar, I thought “cute,” they opted to substitute vanilla bean ice cream for marscapone…bad move, there was more marscapone than peaches. I mean isn’t the whole concept of peach cobbler to have peaches, isn’t the peaches supposed to be the star of the show, the center of attention, needless to write the ending was peachy kingless.
First impressions usually leave a lasting impression or how you finish can make you forget the initial impression, but in this case for “Hops & Hominy” it is important to forget the first and throw out the last and FOCUS ON THE MIDDLE PEOPLE…FOCUS ON THE MIDDLE.