The Chez Panisse kitchen; Eric ready for dinner at Chez Panisse; Blue Bottle coffee at the Saturday market.
Eric’s f/1 photography group met for a weekend in San Francisco at the end of September. The two of us flew down a few days early to do some eating, and then my friend Jacki and I toured around and shopped while the guys were doing their photography thing. Here’s where we went:
- Jardiniere – This is a classy, upscale, expensive place near the symphony. The food was good, but not out of this world. We had an excellent pinot recommendation – George Vintage IV, which we really loved. And when we reached the end of the meal, we regretted having had (awesome) cocktails and drinking most of that bottle of pinot, since we had to miss out on the dessert tasting flights of name-your-drink. They had a good two dozen different flights: armagnacs, tawnies, scotches, everything.
- Boulette’s Larder – Eric and I went here for weekday brunch in the Ferry Building. We sat outside on a brilliant beautiful day (as it was for our entire visit), overlooking the Bay Bridge. They had a limited menu of impeccable simple ingredients. We enjoyed poached eggs with beans and a beautiful slice of tomato, with a dusting of Parmigiano, along with a huge plate of toast from Acme Bread Company, a great bakery also in the building.
The Ferry Building; a farmer selling grapes; rotisserie chicken at the farmer’s market.
- Slanted Door – This is a modern Vietnamese place in the Ferry Building. We went here for a light lunch. It was good, but I doubt I’d go back, since nothing we ordered impressed me hugely. The size of the place and type of food vaguely reminded me of Wild Ginger in Seattle.
- Chez Panisse – We hadn’t been here before, and were really impressed by the execution of a simple menu. We went for a weeknight dinner and were offered one small tasting menu. Just four courses seemed tiny compared to most restaurants’ lengthy tasting menus nowadays, but it was perfect – I hate the overstuffed feeling at the end of a huge meal, and this just made us feel satisfied and happy. The food initially seemed like fairly standard local fare when reading the menu (tomato salad, lamb three ways), but the seasoning was spot on and little touches of simple things made the standard become inspired (such as tangy-salted handmade ricotta and warmed Nicoise with the tomato salad).
- La Taqueria – Great tacos in the Mission District. They charge for extras like cheese and sour cream, which make it a little pricey, but worth it. I couldn’t get over the fact that they would charge $1.20 to remove the beans from the tacos.
Bi-Rite ice cream cone; choosing flavors at Bi-Rite; a Ritual Coffee Roasters cappuccino.
- Ritual Coffee Roasters – We stopped here for our caffeine fix in the Mission. You can watch them roast the beans right there in the store.
- Tartine Bakery – The line was out the door and inching slowly at this popular bakery. I rested my feet at an outdoor table while Eric stood in line to get a slice of lemon meringue cake. It was moist, yummy, and super-rich (I could barely eat more than a few bites).
- Bi-Rite Creamery – Awesome ice cream. Beats our Molly Moon, particularly the salted caramel ice cream, which is very close to my all-time favorite homemade ice cream (Bi-Rite’s is missing the yummy caramel praline bits). I was really bummed when I found out that David Lebovitz would be visiting from Paris and signing cookbooks here only a week later.
Lemon meringue cake from Tartine; pop rocks dark chocolate bar enjoyed with peanut butter hot chocolate at Christopher Elbow; sole with corn chowder at Range.
- Range – A one-Michelin-star restaurant tucked into a corner of the Mission District. We had a reservation but chose to sit at a table in the bar, which had a better vibe than the rooms in the back. We were all guessing what Eric’s “sole with corn and potato chowder” would be – chowder with sole in it, or sole with some chowder on the side? Turned out it was neither. The sole was served in a bowl with a shallow pool of chowder at the bottom and lots of chunky vegetables. Don’t miss the homemade butterscotch pudding for dessert!
- Ferry Building Farmer’s Market – The ferry building has lots of interesting food shops open every day of the week, but the place comes alive on Tuesdays and Saturdays when the farmers set up tables all around the building, and everyone in San Francisco comes out shopping.
- Yank Sing – I didn’t go here, but Eric did with the guys for dim sum and said it was great.
Peppers at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market; a mural in the Mission; the f/1 guys enjoying dim sum.
- Rye – On the recommendation of Michelle and Kelly at Licorous, Jacki and I stopped here for pre-dinner cocktails. The space is really cool. Dark, brick walls, high ceilings except a lowered wood ceiling over the bar, a pool table near the bar, and a lounge on the other side of the room. It looks like it would be a fun place to go late at night.
- Zuni Café – This was my second time here and it was just as amazing as I remembered. Last time, we could tell there were a number of nooks and crannies behind the main dining loft, but I had no idea just how many there are. The second floor dining rooms are tucked away everywhere, each with railings overlooking the first floor. Loved the Caesar salad, and had a nibble of Jacki’s starved tomato salad – those were the best, sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. The roast guinea hen was super-flavorful and juicy. Yum.
The wood stove at Zuni Café; a tea shop in Chinatown; the starved tomato salad at Zuni Café.
- Citizen Cake – We stopped here for brunch while shopping on Hayes Street. I’m always a sucker for Dutch baby pancakes, and theirs was great.
- Christopher Elbow Chocolates – Lots of yummy gourmet truffles here (you can get some of them at Chocolopolis in Seattle), and interesting inclusion bars, too. Jacki bought a dark chocolate bar with pop rocks, which fizzled on your tongue as you let it melt in your mouth. They had a dozen different drinking chocolates – I liked drinking my peanut butter chocolate in the chocolate lounge.
- Blue Bottle Coffee Company – We stopped to pick up espresso beans from the Hayes Valley location. It was mid-afternoon and there was still a long line crossing the alleyway in front. We didn’t get any drinks since we had had Blue Bottle mochas (made with Recchiuti chocolate!) just that morning from one of the two Blue Bottle stands at the market.
- Canteen – We all went here for Sunday brunch. It’s a tiny, tiny place, like a small diner, so we had to split into two tables. Breakfast was satisfying and tasty – I’d go back, and would like to try dinner here.