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Monday, November 8, 2010

San Francisco Highlights

So many people along the way have asked about the research I did going into my trip to San Francisco. How did I decide where to eat, where to go, and what to do? Although I would like to think of myself as more spontaneous than I actually am, I did put a lot of time into researching this trip. The majority of the preliminary research came from blogs or reviews, but even more came from talking with people when I arrived in San Francisco. I went to places where I would meet like minded people who would stear me in the right direction.
Although this trip was centered on meeting Ruth Reichl, that opportunity was only part of the week.
My travel style is fairly laid back. I like to eat good food, but honestly I am on a limited budget. I am willing to grab a simple piece of fruit or a bit of cheese for lunch in order to save up both my appetitite and finances for a more spectacular dinner. Some days it is the lunch that becomes the focus and if eaten late enough I skip dinner altogether. One thing that became clear two days into the trip is that my Fairbanks palate and stomach was not going to be able to take all of the rich city food. I had a list of over 20 options for meals and snacks in 7 days. I had hoped to visit the majority of them. I barely put a dent in my original list, not to mention all the items that I added to the list as I met people along the way.  I went all out on Sunday and Monday, by the time Tuesday rolled around the only meal I ate was a salad late in the afternoon. 

So if you are headed to San Francisco sometime soon, here are my humble food related recommendations with a few photos from my trip as well:

Fish and Farm- The food and the service were solid. I enjoy eating at a place that feels like you are eating out without being too stuffy to the point of feeling uncomfortable. Fish and Farm had a casual atmosphere, yet the food was anything but casual. The selling point for me was actually the fact that they had fried chicken on their menu. It has been so long since I have had really good fried chicken. It goes without saying that it was perfectly fried and juicy.  My favorite part of the meal was the heirloom tomato salad. A simple salad topped with bacon and the best blue cheese I have ever tasted. It was only a week ago that I mentioned that I just don't like blue cheese anymore, and then I find this one from the Pt. Reyes Creamery. I actually drove all the way out to Pt. Reyes Station just to pick some up and bring back to Alaska. The little cornbreads made in Madeleine pans were a nice touch as well. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that half way into the meal a movie star was seated an elbows length away.

Tartine- Well, what can I say about Tartine that hasn’t already been said? I think the thing that shocked me the most is that I almost missed the place due to how non-descript the building was. 

Lemon Ladies- If you have been following this blog, you know I love Meyer Lemons. I have been ordering lemons from Karen Morss for years. I was finally able to meet her and the lovely lemon ladies (the trees). This one you don’t have to go to San Francisco to do, Karen ships all over the United States, even Fairbanks!

Omnivore Books- I could have spent an entire day in this place. They had so many great imports, and older books as well. I’m still in awe of how they fit so many great cookbooks in such a small space. The manager was also wonderfully helpful. Although she admitted she didn’t eat out much, her restaurant recommendations were spot on.

Bi-Rite Creamery and Market- These two places were the highlight of my trip. Salted Caramel Ice Cream at the creamery was addictive. I won’t admit how many times I stopped in that week, but let’s just say they recognized me and knew what I wanted the last time I stopped in. The Market half a block down is wonderful for stocking up on goods to take home. They also carry St. Benoit yogurt, which I ate my share of over the week.

Pizzeria Delfina- Just down the road from Bi-Rite. I have eaten a lot of pizza in my life, this would be in the top three of all time best. Their homemade sausage and perfectly tender crust is my new bar in home pizza making. The wine list is pretty spectacular for a pizza joint. The fact that they are a 30 second walk to Bi-Rite Creamery really sweetens the deal.

Burma Superstar- Fermented tea leaves and fried garlic never tasted so good. I will crave their Tea leaf salad for the rest of my life. It is places like this that making eating out a pleasure. Never could I re-create this salad in my own home. That really makes the place feel special. 

Sebo- The manager at Omnivore books told me this sushi would change my life. I didn’t know that meant I would be broke afterward. The sushi here is very expensive, but dare I say worth it? I say go, sit at the sushi bar, eat as many pieces of Nigiri as you can afford. That is what I did.  

Boulette’s Larder- This is the spot in the Ferry Building where I had lunch with Ruth Reichl. We both had the Albondigas. The best meatballs I have ever eaten in my life, so tender you could have eaten them with a spoon. I was such a nervous wreck during our lunch that I wasn’t able to eat very much, so I took them in a doggie bag and proceeded to scarf them down when I got a few blocks away from the ferry building. Even cold, they were still the best meatballs I have ever eaten. 

Dynamo Donuts- This was one of the places that I knew I had to go to. I have had this planned out for months. For some reason I didn’t get there until the second to last day of my trip. This is probably a good thing as all the flavors were just amazing. I ended up ordering four donuts and eating ¼ of each of them. Maple Glazed Bacon Apple, Meyer Lemon Huckleberry, Coconut, and Caramel de Sel were my choices. I really wanted to try Lemon Pistachio, but five donuts just for me seemed a little excessive. The person at the counter assured me that people order one of each of the dozen flavors all the time. Each of the donuts was perfectly crafted. I loved that the flavors were subtle which made mixing and matching so much easier. My hands down favorite was the Meyer Lemon Huckleberry. 

123 Bolinas- I was so tired after my crazy week and a long drive this day. 123 Bolinas in Fairfax was just what I needed. This wine bar made me wish we had just one place like this in Fairbanks. It is the perfect place to meet a new friend for a long chat. That is just what Shae and I did. I found Shae when she wrote about High Bush Cranberries and Fairbanks on her blog. We knew we would have a lot and common and decided to meet in Fairfax. We talked non-stop for two hours and on the drive back to San Francisco I kept thinking about all the things I still wanted to ask her about. Good thing she will be back in Fairbanks next summer. I'm totally jealous that she gets this place as her local watering hole.

Commis- This was the cherry on top of an amazing week. This was also my first experience with a Michelin starred restaurant. Everything was so well choreographed that I felt like I was part of a dance performance rather than a meal. The whole evening just flew by. It felt like I had only been there for 20 minutes, but almost as though I had been hypnotized it had been over two hours. As I walked out the door I felt like I had just spent the day at the spa. Never have I had this type of experience with a meal. The food and wine were perfectly paired. The absolute lack of d├ęcor made the food and wine the central focus of the experience. The staff was welcoming and attentive even though I got lost on my way and showed up ½ hour late. If I ever get back to San Francisco, this place will be at the top of my list for places to return.


  1. Thanks for taking the time to write this all out - San Francisco food suggestions are always very welcome. Now I'll be waiting for you to perfect a recipe for Meyer Lemon Blueberry?Lingonberry? Doughnuts...

  2. Laurie- Why didn't I think of that? What a great idea!


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