I was prepared to have amazing food in San Francisco, I just wasn't prepared to have every meal be excellent. (Well, truthfully, not all the meals were excellent - there was a run in with a burrito near Artfibers that was merely "okay", although probably still better than a comparable Nashville burrito.)
The food yummy-goodness started in Palo Alto. The conference food was (shockingly) quite good, but even better were afternoon snacks and breakfast from Satura Cakes in downtown Palo Alto. Satura Cakes is a small chain of cake shops. They also have free wi-fi. When you add cake + free internet access, you've more or less achieved my ideal work environment.
My friend Judith and I hung out at the cake shop one afternoon (Judith: Satura Cake with spongecake and strawberries, Me: Green tea panna cotta). Tim & I also went there for breakfast. Those two linked photos apparently prove that I'm a creature of habit - I sat in the same chair regardless of who I was at the cake shop with.
(ps The only bad news is that the Palo Alto location is temporarily closed due to a fire in a nearby building on July 2nd. Hopefully they'll be able to re-open soon!)
We had an amazing dinner at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. I thought that all of the positive comments about Chez Panisse couldn't possibly be true, but I'm glad that I was wrong. It's nice to go to a restaurant that actually lives up to its reputation. The four course prix fixe meal included North African vegetable salads, halibut, quail with couscous, and a fig tart.
The dinner ranks as my #3 all time meal, following closely behind our anniversary dinner in Carcassone, France last year and the night during our honeymoon on Vahine Island where I had a tuna steak for the first time. The only negative thing I can say about Chez Panisse is that it was a bit of a pain to get there. Because we needed to buy some clothes for Tim before dinner, we were pressed for time and really needed more time than we had to take public transit. We ended up taking a cab both ways, a fairly pricey ride. If we had more time, I'm sure we could have worked the subway/bus schedule out.
The only downside of going to such an amazing restaurant our first night in San Francisco was that any other restaurants were bound to feel a little boring afterwards. The good news is that dinner at Zuni Cafe the next night turned out to be quite good, although a bit more hectic than Chez Panisse. I had what was basically a big plate o' lamb (several different cuts of lamb, with various seasonings). Our waiter almost convinced me to try a fresh oyster, but Tim talked me out of it. Overall, a good restaurant that I highly recommend and quite close to public transit, so it's easy to get there.
We fell back on a standard Kim-Tim travel approach for some of our other meals - gather a picnic. On Friday (on the way to Noe Knits) we stopped off at Bi-Rite Market. We were lucky we happened to be walking right past it, we never would have discovered it otherwise. They had an amazing collection of cheeses, plus fruit and vegetables. Their slogan (at least, on the sign outside the building) is "Buy Fresh Buy Local", which fits pretty well with us. We asked someone working in the cheese area for recommendations for local cheeses and ended with an amazing hand pressed marinated goat cheese. Toss in a few white nectarines, some other local cheeses, a small loaf of bread, and even local salami, and you've got a fairly hearty picnic.
This probably makes us food geeks, but we were both incredibly enthusiastic about going to the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. We took the cable car to get there (best time of day to ride the cable cars - ridiculously early in the morning!), and I got a good vibe as we were walking up. It was funny - I thought that the entire market were the 20 or so stands in front of the Ferry Building. We needed breakfast, so we picked up some fresh squeezed orange juice and a blackberry hand pie to munch on while checking out the stands. Once we got to the end of the building (right before we realized the main part of the market was actually on the other side of the building!), we found a stand selling this - the most delicious breakfast egg/bacon sandwich and fried potatoes I've ever had:
From there, we just started wandering around all the booths - lots of beautiful flowers, plenty of fresh veggies, tons of fresh fruit, all kinds of artisanal cheeses, and my personal favorite - jams from June Taylor.
There was so much astonishing, tasty-looking produce and other goods that we were both overwhelmed. Every direction you turned, there was something amazing. Sort of like a food version of Artfibers :) We actually wandered around the market (in a daze) for so long that we ended up getting lunch there too. We picked up this delicious chicken tostada from a stand called Primavera, as well as a tasty zucchini tamale:
On top of the great food, we also had a great view of the Bay Bridge during lunch.
At some point during the morning, we also wandered into the Ferry Building Marketplace which has a number of cute shops and restaurants. We picked up some French macarons at a bakery called Miette:
If I remember the flavors correctly, they were chocolate lavendar, strawberry, and hazelnut with chocolate filling. Yum. Our other purchases in the building were a bottle of California wine (for a dinner in-room picnic) and some Michael Recchiuti chocolates.
Since we had a mini-bar fridge in our hotel room, we picked up cheese, bread, fruit, and yogurt for dinner that night and breakfast Sunday morning. We picked up some delicious lemon quark cheese to eat with strawberries too. Overall, we had a great time at the market!
I hope I've covered all the amazing food experiences we had in San Francisco. We were hoping to have a dim sum lunch in Chinatown (on our first day in town, when we went to Artfibers), but all of the dim sum restaurants we found were closed between lunch and dinner. We setlled for some bubble tea instead:
San Francisco really is a food-lover's dream city. So much fresh local produce, so many great restaurants. Just for the food, I totally want to go back to visit again!