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I ate my heart out in San Francisco…

March 25, 2010

Sean and I got to take off for a few days off to San Francisco. It has been nine years since we have been there, and while I was happy to return to the land of trolleys, bridges and fog, I really had no plans other than to dine at the city’s fabulous restaurants. I took it very seriously. I did my research, asked some of my favorite chefs for recommendations, and took advice from our fathers before we went. It would be a sin to not share. That said, this post is dedicated that that deadly sin of gluttony.

Here’s to San Fran…

Slanted Door: Bob insisted that we go to the Slanted Door the minute we got into town. Vietnamese food is not generally on my list of favorites, but the Slanted Door has changed my mind. I would have gone there just for the incredible view, but after the first course I only had eyes for my food. They do take reservations, but do so well in advance of your trip. If not, be prepared to line up outside for when they open at 11:00am. We were fortunate and got right in. It was packed within minutes. Make sure to try the Daikon Rice Cakes. They are prepared more like a polenta and oh so good! Go on a Saturday morning after you have explored the Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building, it is incredible.

Flour + Water: This is San Fran’s version of Pizzeria Bianco. Their pizza is not the same, of course, but it is good enough to warrant a Bianco-like line outside before their doors open. We ordered a Marghertia and a Proscuitto and Radicchio, which were both worth the wait, but the real star was the Roasted Asparagus and Crispy Pork salad with a mustard vinaigrette. I even quizzed the waitress on the dressing without success. Guess we will have to go back.

Buena Vista Cafe: Out of homage to my Dad, we stopped by the Buena Vista Cafe for an Irish Coffee. This is the U.S. birthplace for Irish Coffee and since we were there right before St. Patrick’s Day, it would have been unforgivable not to stop in. The real show is at the bar. Grab a seat and watch as these concoctions are whipped up. I asked, the bartender said he has only made about three or four million of them. He has it down to a science. This place is so my Dad. I could tell from the street that this would be a favorite of his.

Chinatown: I don’t have a specific place to recommend, but Chinatown on a Sunday morning is something to experience. We wandered around just trying to take it all in. The markets there are fascinating, chaotic and exotic enough to warranted a stamp in my passport. There was everything from bins of chicken feet to buckets with live toads. We were enthralled. You must go experience it for yourself, and then go enjoy the Dim Sum. We found a little place on a side street and had enough food for a week for about $20. (No, I did not eat chicken feet or live toad.)

A16: This one was on my list to try, but then reinforced with Bob’s recommendation. A16 is on Chestnut Street in Cow Hollow, a wonderful neighborhood that we returned to for further exploration. A16 is also known for their artisan pizzas, but we decided to go a different route. After I smelled the incredible roasted chicken the woman next to me ordered, I had to do the same. We also ordered the Citrus and Honey Gelatina for dessert. It came in a jelly jar and almost looked like a science experiment with layers of neon orange, cream and shaved ice on top. It was the perfect ending to the meal – light, refreshing and not overly sweet. Oh – and they serve Burrata! Need I say more.

Chez Panisse: We did have to make a trek across the Bay to Berkeley to go to the famed Chez Panisse, the birth place of local, seasonally prepared foods. They weren’t joking about taking reservations a month out. With only three weeks planning, I was only able to get us a table at the upstairs cafe for lunch, but I was willing to take what I could get. Their menu changes with the seasons and I don’t think that you can go wrong. We did get to enjoy the Pink Lady Apple and Currant Tart with Ceylon cinnamon ice cream.

Kokkari: This recommendation for incredible Greek food came from my favorite French pastry chef, Eugenia Theodosopoulos from Essence Bakery Cafe in Tempe. Chefs always know the best places to eat. Kokkari has a wonderful menu filled with Greek favorites, but it is their preparation that takes it up a notch. I ordered the Spanakotiropita and Moussaka, because when in Rome and all (or Greece as the case was). The food was as good as Eugenia promised, and it is also one of prettiest restaurants in the city. Warm and glowing, with a large fireplace with lamb roasting on a spit, I could have hung out there all night.

Blue Bottle Coffee: Even though our hotel had four coffeehouses within feet of the front door, we made the trek back to the Ferry Building for lattes at Blue Bottle Coffee. I have made it clear my love of latte art. Not just because they are pretty, but because it is usually the sign of a someone who takes making a good latte very seriously. I am willing to cross a town, take public transportation and wait in line for a good latte. Done and done.

So, to sum up our trip… Daikon Rice Cakes, Roasted Asparagus and Crispy Pork salad, Irish Coffee, Dim Sum, Citrus and Honey Gelatina, a Pink Lady Tart, Spanakotiropita, and a pretty latte. Am I missing anything?

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to fast and go to the gym. Or take a nap.

The Slanted Door
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA

Flour + Water
2401 Harrison Street
San Francisco, CA

The Buena Vista Cafe
2765 Hyde St (@ Beach)
San Francisco, CA

2355 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA

Chez Panisse
1517 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA

Kokkari Estiatorio
200 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA

Blue Bottle Coffee
Multiple Locations in the San Francisco area

P.S. I took the above photo with my iPhone. If you go to the city, make time to drive up to Battery Spencer overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. It will take your breath away.
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