Saturday, October 18, 2008

San Francisco Highlights

As some of you know, Chris and I are spending eight glorious days in Northern California at the moment. We flew into San Francisco last Sunday and spent four nights there before driving up to Sonoma County yesterday. We're settled into a gorgeous B&B in the small town of Cloverdale and are having a few days of exploring and wine tasting and driving windy roads. For now, here's a sort of highlights tour of the delicious things we ate in the city by the Bay.

Sunday evening's dinner was our first real meal all day - we'd been up since 4 a.m. to get to Montreal airport in time for our flight; we bought sandwiches to eat on the plane, and I'd made trail imix cookies to tide us over, but by the time we got to the hotel and settled in, it was really too late for lunch, so we had an early dinner in Chinatown. We walked and walked along Grant Ave. until we finally saw a place that looked promising - Oriental Pearl, which it seemed to me might be the same place my family and I had Chinese food a million years ago, on my first visit to SF. Maybe not, but it was excellent nonetheless. We ordered beef with ginger and scallions, Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, and the house special fried rice with Chinese sausage and shrimp. It was all absolutely delicious, and we devoured it happily.

On Monday we took the F line streetcar out to the Castro neighbourhood, where we were enticed by a shop called Chocolates on Castro (even though we hadn't yet had lunch). I allowed myself one dark chocolate covered salted caramel, which was so good I almost went back and said to hell with lunch, I'll have six more. I restrained myself though, and we wandered on to the MIssion District, where after checking out Mission Dolores we stopped into a place on 16th called Taqueria Los Coyotes, and ate the best burritos we ever hope to experience. They were utterly huge, perfect flour tortillas stuffed with rice, one's choice of meat and beans, lettuce, fresh salsa and avocado. I chose carnitas, which is slow-cooked shredded pork, and pinot beans, while Chris went with carne asada (grilled steak) and refried beans. Both were beyond tasty.

It took us a good long walk before we were able to find room for the most divine ice cream, from Bi-Rite Creamery on 18th near Dolores. We'd had some good tips from several people that this was an unmissable place, and they were so right. I had a cup of incandescently tasty, so good it should be a controlled substance, salted caramel ice cream. (Sensing a theme for the day, yet?) Chris enjoyed his cup of bittersweet chocolate and mint chip very much as well. If that wasn't enough indulgence for one day, we also stopped by Tartine Bakery further up 18th to pick up treats for after dinner snack. We enjoyed them with a cup of tea back at the hotel later that evening: Chris's morning bun was a sort of cinnamon roll with orange peel, cinnamon and raisins, and he proclaimed it to be the best of its kind he'd ever had. My pumpkin tea bread was equally divine, moist and delicious, dense and sweet and spicy, topped with pumpkin seeds and sanding sugar.

Tuesday we had booked ourselves in for lunch at the Slanted Door. It's high-end Vietnamese, located in the gorgeous Ferry Building, and while we ended up ordering way too much food for lunch, we enjoyed the food very much. The standout dish was a platter of five-spice rubbed grilled chicken with a tamarind dipping sauce. It totally blew our heads off and I have to find a way to replicate it at home. Chris also had a standout shrimp and pork wonton soup, and our Japanese eggplant with chilies, coriander and coconut milk was also stellar if a little oily. The broken jasmine rice was perfect - I've never had broken rice before and I really loved it.

Dinner that night was a bit lighter by necessity - we ended up at a fun place called Lori's Diner, on Powell, which was sort of a sixties style place, but their Cobb salad was perfectly executed (blindingly fresh avocado! Man, Ontario's a bad place to live if you like avocadoes) and Chris's California club, served on a croissant, was divine.

No food was involved at the next place we went, a former speakeasy called Bourbon and Branch, but it was way cool. You need a reservation and a password to get in, and they take their cocktails seriously. The menu is a book. We each had two drinks - my first one, the Gin Samaritan, was a concoction of fresh grapefruit juice, gin, Aperol, and something else - it was awesome, summery and fresh and just slightly bitter. Chris ordered something with gin, pomegranate juice, lime and ginger, and it was also awesome. My second round, the El Diablo, had tequila, cassis, lime and ginger beer. It was good, but the first one was better.

Wednesday we had lunch at the cafe in the De Young museum - it was packed, but we managed to score seats, and Chris had the greatest cheeseburger of his life - Niman Ranch beef and cheddar cheese served on a ciabatta bun with fresh lettuce and tomato. He raved about it for hours. My ham and cheese sandwich was also brilliantly executed, I must say.

Dinner was at Jeanty at Jack's, a french bistro in the Financial district. We ordered way too much food (again) - the tomato soup in puff pastry was unbelievably rich (more of a bisque, really) as was Chris's rabbit pate (but damn tasty, though skimpy on the cornichons). His main course, coq au vin, was delicious, perfectly executed, with a side of butter and cheese-enhanced egg noodles. My main, the house specialty cassoulet, was beyond huge. I ate maybe a third of it and felt so full there was no way I could even contemplate dessert. Thank goodness for the steep hills - I walked it off before too long!

I should also give a shout-out to our terrific little hotel. the Golden Gate on Bush Street, which served a lovely continental breakfast of orange juice. coffee or tea, and freshly baked, warm croissants (plain, and cinnamon-enhanced) with homemade jam or marmalade. So bad for the arteries, so good for the soul.

In a few days I'll post an update about all the lovely things we eat and drink in Sonoma County.

No comments: