Taste San Francisco

The road to SF! I’m at the Austin airport waiting for my flight to San Francisco. I’m excited to go on my first trip since I started this blog. That means I’m a newbie food blogger who doesn’t want to annoy everybody in my path (you know who you are) about snapping pics of their food, preferably before they start eating. So thank you each of you, past, present and future, who suffer through my photo delays as their meals get (just a little) cold. I’m working on my food blog ninja skills!

This week in SF, I have lunch plans with a couple of old friends, meet-ups for dinner or drinks with some other friends, and the rest will work itself out.  I lived in Oakland (just across the Bay) about fifteen years ago, and I’m a frequent visitor to San Francisco so it would seem I’d have a good grip on where to eat…but this town evolves so every trip is a new experience. It is one easy town to enjoy food-wise on almost any budget. So here goes!

Day 1: Arrived at the hotel at about 5 pm. Dropped my bags, and headed out for some fun, friends and of course FOOD!

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I’ve arrived at the hotel lobby. Having a glass of chardonnay, waiting for my husband and other friends to arrive in the city. This was in the comfy Westin Saint Francis, in the Union Square section of town. The wine is “Magnolia” Chardonnay (made by Chateau St. Jean for Westin) and they brought me some crunchy snack mix in the lounge where I was relaxing with my wine. My friends started streaming in and my husband arrived. Dinner requirements were simple: what is walking distance and has a big table available at 8pm. With stunning ease, we eyed the place across the street and were able to get a table with no trouble and about a five minute wait. This was a Tuesday night, but there was a big conference in town so we were a little worried about waiting hours for a table. Great start to the dining tour!

Dinner at The Daily Grill. Mine is the Chicken Piccata with mashed potatoes. The rest is my dinner companions’ who were generous enough to allow some quick snaps.

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Good crusty bread while we waited for a friend to arrive.
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This was my dinner. Chicken Piccata with Mashed Potatoes. Perfectly lemony with capers and a balanced, appropriate flavor combo.
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The burger looked excellent. My friend Travis ordered medium well, and according to him, this was a great burger. I think I would choose this if I was having just one meal for the day. After a plane ride I couldn’t swing a burger.
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This magical wonder is a Filet Mignon Pot Pie. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell you it made us all jealous of my friend Hope who was smart enough to order it. But I would split this with someone or plan to take home a ton of leftovers! Gorgeous presentation.
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New York Pepper Steak…yes that steak IS COVERED IN BACON!!!!!! COVERED! So, clearly delicious, among other things.

Day 2:

Lunch with a friend from college, Jill, who I haven’t seen in 15-20 years. She lives in Marin County and came in to the city to meet-up before she had to go to the airport. She was a consummate hostess and tour guide. We had an awesome time and the food was excellent all-around.

We headed to The Mission. First she took me to the best bakery in San Francisco (according to lots of sources including my dear friend Jill), Tartine. This was more of a quickly make it through the doors before the line got outrageous kind of stop. Treats for later. Frankly, I was overwhelmed by the gorgeous displays of artistic achievements. I’m a cook….and I can bake a few things. But I find pastry chefs and bakers in general to be the mad scientists/artists of the culinary world. This place smelled of vanilla, yeast, chocolate, coffee, ginger and lemon. And the line moved fast. Faster than a new food blogger could snap all the pictures I wanted. But I got a few. And yes…the tasting later was as good as you’d imagine from the pics. I must admit that I didn’t catch the names of each of the following treats:

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The tarts next to the coconut cream tarts in the photo are banana cream. I bought one and sampled it with my husband. The pastry was lined with banana slices, topped with the banana cream and then topped with shaved chocolate. I was told they are one of the most famous treats at Tartine.

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After we stocked up on major calories for later, we rounded the corner and headed a half a block up to Pizzeria Delfina. Arguably one of the best mid-day pizza and wine experiences of my life. We sat outside in SF perfect Spring weather and ordered a sampling of local, house made dishes. Oh. And we split a beautiful bottle of Italian Wine of some variety that I didn’t quite catch (see: split a bottle of wine). The staff kept up with our dry sense of humor. That is always a bit of a thrill. Jill is funny. Really funny. So combine the weather, wine, humor, catching up and great food…a fine afternoon to say the least. Note the menu’s date and hand-written daily items.

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Assorted marinated olives. That’s lemon rind and whole hot peppers in the dish!
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I didn’t manage to snap a photo of this plate before we had served ourselves. This asparagus came with shaved parmesan and was grilled and tossed with a spiced olive oil.
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House-made Fennel Sausage Pizza. Perfect crust with crispy bubbles, chewy on the inside. This is the crust I wish to emulate when we make pizza at home. Unbelievable flavor combo on the toppings.

After Lunch Treat in the SF Sunshine: “Bi-Rite” Ice Cream topped our lovely warm day. A little bit of wine buzz, a completely mind-blowing cup of Salt Caramel Ice Cream, and the sun on our faces. For a couple of Scandinavian chicks, we sure did do alright with this Spring-like warm day. After all of this magic, Jill took me to some shops nearby with great personality. Pirate gear for real pirates, for one. The whole neighborhood in this area just rocked the artist vibe. After Jill dropped me off, I took a nap. Yep. Vacation/Food Blogging = Sunshine Daydreams. Did I mention we split a bottle of wine?

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Dinner at the Sushi Boat turned out to be a great little evening reprieve from the madness of the streets above ground. I got the tip from my husband who had eaten dinner there the previous evening with his co-workers in town for Game Developers Conference (GDC). Being on my own for dinner, I figured I had to try it. This place was inside the door and down a flight of stairs from the awning in the picture below.

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Being that this is in the Union Square area, and there was a huge tech conference in town, there happened to be a line of people for pick-up orders as well as waiting for seating. The luck of being a party of one: I was seated almost immediately while others in pairs and larger groups were waiting for up to 45 minutes for the sushi bar and tables. I gather that the take-out option is preferable to locals when there are tourists crawling the streets.

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The sushi bar wrapped around a raised area where the chefs were doing their thing. They placed the sushi on little wooden boat trays that rotated around a little mote propelled by little jets in the water. A cute take on the revolving sushi concept. Lots of options too.

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And now for the close-ups of the small plates I selected from the boats. Note in the photo above there is a price guide by plate shape, size and color/pattern.

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When I saw what looked good, I grabbed it. Then at the end they calculated my price by counting the varying cost-level plates. Gimmicky and great. I’m a sucker for stuff like this. The sushi was quite good. I also ordered hot sake off of the menu as well as a bowl of miso soup. The menu was actually quite vast, but I’ll have to let that wait for another visit….and I will happily go back!

Day 3

Lunch at Colibri: Courtesy of the lovely Jill (see Day two lunch), I was given a tip that about a block from my hotel was a great Mexican restaruant called Colibri. This charming Mexican bistro is easily missed – a narrow storefront with a quietly modern black awning with a tasteful font in the foot of Hotel Diva. In fact, I passed it by once before realizing I missed it. And I’m glad I didn’t miss it the second time. I had a light appetite due to my previous day’s indulgences. So I started with a margarita. House. Rocks. With salt. Excellent and made with the real deal. No mixes. No pre-mixed. Fresh fresh fresh with good ingredients.

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By a few sips in I noticed the Tortilla Soup on the menu. Yes please!

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As I waited for my soup, I was given a napkin wrapped around hot house made corn tortillas, accompanied by three salsas. The green, a spicy jalepeno, the deep red a smokey red pepper, and the orangey yellow a mango and pineapple with lots of garlic. Each perfect in its own way, and made better by the combo of them all. The tomato based soup did not disappoint either. Plenty of flavor and the garnishes in the middle hid some delicious al fresco cheese that is maybe the best al fresco I’ve ever had. Always interesting to see the different takes on “Tortilla Soup”.

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Sunny Afternoon Wine Break on Union Square at Bancarella. Who could resist sitting in the sunny perfect air and gazing at the blue sky and Palm Trees in early March? Not me. Bancarella serves sandwiches, baked goods, fancy coffee drinks (I heard a few people raving about their coffee concoctions) and some nicely selected Italian wines.

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Dinner at Mehfil Indian Restaurant – We enjoyed a nice quiet dinner at Mehfil. A bit off the path of the Union Square area, we walked several blocks to get a little out of the way of the GDC mayhem.

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We ordered Garlic Naan, Chicken Tikka and  Punjabi Channa Paneer. My husband and I would love to come back with more people so we can order more dishes to sample. However, with a hotel fridge filling up with leftovers and bakery treats, it was best to keep it manageable. The Chicken Tikka was excellent. The naan came out nice and hot, and we could have split a single piece, but the orders were bigger than we realized. Not a bad problem to have! I wasn’t as fond of the other dish, but then I believe I’m always comparing channa paneer with a place in Los Angeles (The Lotus) where I got a little addicted to the version they made.
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Two dishes plus naan was plenty for two. We took home leftovers of everything. Keep in mind we’ve been revolving around dining so we didn’t come in with huge appetites. There was no wait to be seated and the staff was very nice and service was quick. They didn’t mind that we hung around for awhile after dinner relaxing.

Day 5

Lunch at Bar Norcini – This lovely little bar and lunch spot takes advantage of great warm Spring weather by offering up outdoor seating and wide-open picture windows that bring the outdoors right into the front of the house. I went in and sat at the little bar area where they were making sandwiches and pizzas right there in front of me.

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This is my lunch. A grilled chicken sandwich with peppers and arugula on a ciabatta roll, toasted. Served with a pickled cucumber and pepper salad. This sandwich reminded me of those you see everywhere in cases in France. A simple sandwich made with excellent ingredients.
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The sandwich case with the daily house made options.
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The food was all assembled right in front of me. This was a Margherita Pizza with fresh basil sprinkled on after it was removed from the pizza oven.
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The special of the day: Chicken Parmesan Sandwich.

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Happy Hour at Bartlett Hall – Waiting on a last late dinner with my husband and some of his colleagues, after some wandering around the city I ducked into Bartlett Hall during their happy hour (M-F 3-6 pm). The prices were excellent. I ordered a Chardonnay, but the bartender suggested the Sauvignon Blanc on the happy hour menu. Very “happy” with it, I asked to see the bottle and struck up some conversation with the bartender. She happily obliged posing for a photo with the wine, which was by “Manifesto”.

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This is Andrea Mia, the extremely sweet and helpful bartender at Bartlett’s.

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Chicken Wings. Spicy. No dipping sauce, but rather, lots of lemon juice to counter the heat.
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French Fries. Three dipping sauce. Ketchup, a “special sauce” and a horseradish-based sauce. Next time I will ask for extra of the horseradish version. Hands-down the most unique and yummy of the three.
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This is the bar manager posing with his two best bottles of liquor. One is sake, the other tequila. Watching him work is a form of entertainment in and of itself. Intense and precise, serious about getting an awesome looking cocktail with great ingredients. The cocktail menu boasts some classics and modern twists on classics.

Final Dinner in San Francisco at the Ferry Building. We chose Sinbad’s for their menu that accommodated a vegetarian dining with us. We also admittedly wanted to take advantage of the fresh seafood and great wine selection on their menu. Let’s not forget to mention the unbelievable views from the dining area. We enjoyed watching the moon rise over the bridge while we ate and chatted.

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A view of Sinbad’s with the bridge visible in the shot.
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BOUILLABAISSE $31.75 Lobster, Prawns, Clams, Fresh Fish and French Tomato Broth
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VEGETARIAN WELLINGTON $22.75 Puffed Pastry Stuffed with Seasonal Vegetables, with Newburg Sauce and Mozzarella Melt
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GRILLED FRESH JUMBO SEA SCALLOPS $30.50 With Fresh Herbs & Tomato Garnish

Night CapEno Wine bar. This cozy little wine bar featured a fireplace and lots of comfy seating. Ideal for a last hurrah glass of wine before retiring to the hotel room to rest up for another day in this busy city.

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I kept intending to come in during the day so I could try the Croque Monsieur, but never made it. Next trip I really would love to get a group to this lovely place for an afternoon cheese and wine flight.

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My visit to San Francisco could only be better if I’d stayed longer. Always an interesting, vibrant city to visit. The sheer number of great places to eat means I can keep going back to the ones I already love, and see what is new too!

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments about where to eat, food shop and experience SF!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. This is a very extensive list. Love the in depth look at all the restaurants. I don’t know where to start. The Mehfil restaurant sounds so good. Then again, I am partial to Indian Restaurants.

    Like

  2. San Francisco has been on my “want to visit” list forever – you just made me want it evenn more. Yum, everything sounds fantastic, I don’t know where to begin!

    Like

  3. Ashley Bee says:

    I’m visiting in May, bookmarking this so I know where to go!

    Like

  4. wickedspatula says:

    This post made me hungry! Especially the chicken piccata and the marinated olives!

    Like

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