Well, I'm back from my long weekend in San Francisco. I was there for the wedding of one of my college roommates (the friends who commit people to the insane asylum together, stay together), and I was excited for the opportunity to explore the city. I've been to San Francisco once before, but I was a kid and only have vague memories of what we did.
The wedding itself was at One Fort Mason, in a gorgeous room overlooking the water (and Alcatraz - symbolic, as the bride pointed out). We ate and drank well, and my favorite part was when the caterer, dressed in a shiny red/black nehru-collared jacket, served us warm cookies and shots of milk from a giant platter. The rehearsal dinner was at Noonan's Bar and Grill in Larkspur, north of the city. The happy couple met there, so it was fitting that the dinner should be held there. The food was fantastic - definitely a comforting and inviting neighborhood bar.
I started my trip on Thursday, though, with a visit to the Foodbuzz offices and lunch with some of the staff. I wanted to visit after Ben from Urbanspoon gave me crap about not visiting them when I was in Seattle (I didn't know they were based there, I swear!). Dorian, Ryan, and Alexa took me to Taylor's Automatic Refresher in the Ferry Building. Everything looked and tasted great - my California Chicken sandwich (with avocado, jack cheese, red onions, and lettuce) was perfectly cooked, and with a name like that, how could I not order it? Oh, and the fries? Crispy shoestring - my favorite! Check out Ryan's blog for a couple more pictures, and thanks Foodbuzz!!
That afternoon, I met up with my friend Mel (who flew out with me) and her sister Tissa (who lives in SF). We stopped at Arizmendi Bakery and bought Chocolate Things - brioche rolls with giant studs of chocolate. We took them with us as we wandered into Golden Gate Park, taking in the sun and flowers. After a while, we took out our snacks and started munching (the rolls are tasty, but not amazing, although you do find yourself wanting another one the next day). A squirrel approached Mel when it smelled her roll, and she thought it was cute as it inched forward. It put its paws on her foot, and she cooed at it. All of a sudden, it was halfway up her leg, and she shook it off and jumped back. The squirrel then proceeded to charge at us not once, but twice! I was laughing so hard that I could hardly breathe.
We continued walking along, and Mel was still freaked out by the squirrel - until we came around a bend and there, sitting on a park bench, was this German guy, talking loudly into his iphone and feeding something orange (I don't know if it was Cheetos or baby carrots) to a whole horde of squirrels! My thought was that he was training his squirrel army to attack unsuspecting tourists. It was a very David Lynch moment.
Friday found me down by the Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. I will eat ice cream at any time, in any weather, so despite the overcast day, I ordered a mint chip milkshake from Ghiradelli. Definitely overpriced and touristy, but still very tasty.
We also walked by the Boudin Bakery, famous for their sourdough bread. Unfortunately, the bakery tour was closed - I was looking forward to that - but we did get to check out all of the crazy shapes of bread they produce. The special was a big heart for Valentine's Day, but my favorite was this crab. There was also a lobster that looked more like a creature from a bad sci-fi movie than a real lobster. The touristy thing to do at Boudin is to order clam chowder in a sourdough bowl, but I didn't have it in me to travel all the way across the country to have New England Clam Chowder...
And, of course, sea lions. They're loud and cute, but wicked stinky.
On another visit to the Ferry Building, we stopped for sandwiches at Lulu Petite. My eggplant sandwich was fantastic! The bread was toasted and crispy, and the eggplant and red peppers were spicy and well-grilled. Very satisfying!
I really wanted a meyer lemon cream puff after that sandwich, but we wandered through the Ferry Building and ended up at Miette Bakery. I didn't want much, just a taste of something sweet, so I went with two macarons instead - rose and grapefruit. Both of them were intense in flavor, and I loved the subtle nuttiness from the cookies.
I wanted a chance to wander around North Beach (San Francisco's Little Italy), but I didn't get much of a chance. I did make a stop, though, at Liguria Bakery, based on good words on Chowhound and Yelp. Everything said they have real focaccia like you can find in Italy, and I have fond memories of grabbing a slice after work when I was living in Italy. Surprisingly, this stuff was very close to what I remember! The slices are HUGE and made a great snack. It was a little less oily than I expected and needed a bit of salt, but yum!
Other restaurants I tried? Indian Aroma, Caffe Trieste, Le Meridien, Picco, Bar Norcini, Tartine Bakery, Acme Bakery, Squat & Gobble, and The Grove. Picco, located over the Golden Gate Bridge in Larkspur, was probably my favorite meal of the whole trip. They serve a variety of small plates, meant for sharing, and everything we ordered was fantastic. Cauliflower gratin, polenta with chard, crispy fries with romesco sauce - oh wow, I'm hungry just thinking about it. If you ever find yourself in Larkspur, DEFINITELY give this place a try!
On Saturday morning, before I got ready for the wedding, I went back to the Ferry Building (yes, that's three times in three days...) for the farmers market. I really enjoyed wandering around, meeting farmers and seeing all the things that are available in California in the middle of winter. I picked up a big bag of meyer lemons (which are wicked expense in Boston... when you can find them) and a bag of fresh olives. I just kept wandering in circles, and each time I walked through the market, I noticed something I had missed the first time.
I've heard a lot about Blue Bottle Coffee, too, and I was excited to see that they had a booth at the market. It took a while to get my latte (almost 15 minutes), but once I took my first sip, I didn't care. The espresso was rich and smooth - exactly what coffee should be like. I wanted to order a drip coffee too, but I was still on the tail end of the flu and I didn't want too much coffee. I enjoyed watching the Blue Bottle employees making drinks (especially the drip coffees) and interacting with so many people who clearly care about what their coffee tastes like.
The farmers market was a perfect place to find exciting foodie souvenirs (for myself and to give to family members). I ended up buying way too much, but I'm sure I'll enjoy it. I got tangerine olive oil from Stonehouse Olive Oil, dried nectarines from Frog Hollow Farm, jerkey from Prather Ranch Meats, a chocolate chipper from Scharffen Berger, flavored almonds from G.L. Alfieri, dried white peaches from Blossom Bluff Orchards, and rosemary salt from Allstar Organics. Can't wait to try them all!
Oh, and those olives I bought at the market? The farmer pulled me in when she was talking to someone else as I walked by - I heard "Oh, olives are easy to brine at home" and I was in! The olives are brining now, and I'll post updates on them in the future.