On Day Two of my most recent SF trip, I experienced something rare - for me at least - a day full of the pleasures of the City with no responsibilities. San Francisco is not an "easy" city - it's hard to navigate - incredibly difficult to park, and everywhere you go you feel like you're jostling for space with all of the other inhabitants. If you can get past the frustration though, there are some incredible rewards.
The first thing I did was sleep in until ten o'clock. That's right - ten o' clock on a weekday morning. I couldn't believe it - but I woke up fantastically refreshed. By the time I wiped the sleep out of my eyes, it was time to go meet Joy for lunch at Pizzeria Delfina. I have been reading Joy's smart and hilarious blog for a long time - suffice it to say she doesn't really talk like that, but she is a hoot. We had a lovely meal at the Pizzeria. I have to say I think I'm in love with that block in the Mission - Tartine, the Pizzeria, and Delfina restaurant all in a row - and then a stones throw down the block, Bi Rite Creamery (not to mention the Bi Rite Market.) It was so great to see people sitting outside on the sidewalk enjoying the sun on a Friday afternoon.
Joy ordered for us at the restaurant, since she knows what's good. We shared an Insalata Tricolore salad with shaved Grana Padano and Lemon Vinaigrette - tart and very refreshing. We also had the house-cured Nostrano - and we fought the urge to order the Fresh Stretched Mozzarella, or the Blue Lake beans with Pancetta, Parmigiana and extra virgin olive oil. (We couldn't completely overdo it - we had ice cream in our future.) We also split the salsiccia pizza - with housemade fennel sausage, tomato, bell peppers, onions and mozzarella. Their pizzas are large and bubbly, with a slightly sweet tomato concasse-style sauce. Dare I say it (please don't hit me Joy!) it was delicious, but it wasn't as good as Oliveto the day before. I'm definitely planning to go back though, to try some more of their housemade menu items - they have a standard menu, but add some interesting sounding specials daily as well - such as the Roasted Corn with Lardo Butter, and "Cherry Pie" pizza, with marinated cherry tomatoes, ricotta salata and basil. It's also very affordable with starters under $10.00 and pizzas around $15.00. Not surprisingly, it gets crowded. There are few tables (all two tops) and even at 1:00 PM we had to wait a few minutes. Get there early or go at and odd time if you want to be assured of a table - otherwise you'll be waiting for a while.
After nearly polishing off our pizza, we headed down the block to Bi-Rite Creamery for ice cream. I swore I was going to go back to this place before I left town, but alas I only had one opportunity to stuff myself with their gorgeous flavors. I chose Salted Caramel, which was a no-brainer after my fantastic experience making this ice cream myself, and Mint Chocolate Chip - one of the best renditions of this flavor I think I've ever tasted. They also make great chocolate chip cookies, which they will cut up and put on top of the ice cream. They stuck slices of cookie in mine like a little cookie forest. Pure genius. When I go back, I have at least a half a dozen flavors I will have to fight with myself to choose from - Ritual Coffee Toffee, Balsamic Strawberry... the list goes on. They also have a freezer case with pints to go, and ready-made ice cream sandwiches. I also picked up a bag of their chocolate chip cookies to take home to Tommy (I'm nothing if not a good guest) and they were better (in my opinion anyway) than the ones I bought at Tartine on an earlier trip, and the ones I had purchased at La Farine the day before. Speaking of Tartine, we swung by there on our way out hoping for some croissants for breakfast the next morning - but they were sold out. C'est la vie.
Joy and I parted ways after lunch. I had hoped to spend some time with my friend Tracy that afternoon, but she was stuck in her conference for the duration, so I decided to do a solo trip to the De Young Museum. There is truly nothing more beautiful than Golden Gate Park on a day when the weather cooperates. I drove past the amazing Conservatory of Flowers - which I will have to make sure to visit on a return trip. It looks like a Victorian Wedding Cake - really an amazing structure. The De Young is also spectacular in its own way. I thoroughly enjoyed strolling through the galleries and I was impressed with the collections and the way they are arranged. It's a beautiful place and a great way to spend an afternoon. Highly, highly recommend. At Amy's suggestion I also made sure to go up to the view tower, which was spectacular - given the aforementioned fantastic weather. I also stopped in their cafe for a cup of coffee. The coffee was nothing extra, but the outdoor patio is a really pleasant place to sit. I'm not sure why but I just love museum cafes and gift shops, and theirs are great examples. In the shop I bought a few pictures and gew gaws to take home - including a Wayne Thiebaud print that is now hanging in our living room (for $5.00!!)
Dinner that night was at Boulevard - one of my favorites. It was good, but I am not sure it was as good as it has been on my last couple of visits. Perhaps we ordered poorly. We had a scallop starter with sweet corn bisque, tuna tartare with avocado and wasabi roe for starters, and Tracy and I each ordered a roasted halibut dish with beer battered mussel fritters, aioli and tomato risotto, sauced with "mussel bisque buerre fondue." Tommy had the steak with crisp potatoes and mushrooms. Our server had to warn us that the scallop starter was actually more of a bisque with a scallop accompaniment, and he was right - there were two scallops in the center of the bowl of bisque, whereas by the description I would have expected seared scallops with a side of bisque - maybe a shooter. It was fine, but really pretty basic. The ahi tartare was also good but ordinary. I expect Boulevard to serve something a little more inventive than the daily norm, so it was a little bit of a let down. The halibut entree was very good, and the mussel fritters were the highlight of the meal.
The dessert selection did not seem to me to be quite up to their usual standard. We had an ice cream s'more pie type of thing that was fine but again not very interesting. I do think I've become more critical of pastry menus since taking my classes, not because I'm some sort of expert pastry chef myself, but because I know what goes into these things. I definitely think they can do better. The company was more than enjoyable though - getting together with Tommy and Tracy is always a treat, and I couldn't have been happier about that.
(Next up - Days 3 and 4, more pizza, Tomales Bay Foods, and Breakfast at Boulette's - again!)