Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More San Francisco...

Yes I went again! This time it was for a lovely girls' weekend with my good friend Susan. We stayed at a little hotel called the Hotel Serrano which I can highly recommend. It's literally right around the corner from the Clift and the St. Francis (just off of Geary on Taylor) at about one third the rate. Free NY Times, good (organic) coffee in the morning, beer and wine happy hour in the lobby at night - good sheets, a decent shower, iPod dock, minibar, robes - everything you could want. It's also right next door to a wine store, close to a taxidermy shop and around the corner from a happening bar called "Swig."
Zuni's bar
First we hit Zuni , for their stupendous burger, as I mentioned earlier. (It was fun to try the red onion pickles that I had made for our party a few weeks ago!) I also had a couple of oysters and some champagne - gotta live it up on vacation, ya know. Dinner was some entirely forgettable appetizers and a couple of pizzas in the bar at Postrio - where we met up with Tommy. I was looking for something interesting but relatively casual and inexpensive in the Union Square zone - we probably should have just done starters in the regular restaurant. The one highlight was spotting Gavin at the bar. He looks a little bit like Christian Bale in person. It was my second mayoral sighting at a venerable San Francisco eatery. The first was Willie Brown, who gave me the old up and down at Boulevard a few years ago.
Capay Organic
The next morning we hit the Ferry Building for the Farmers' Market - I bought my usual assortment of cookies from Boulette's, and we munched Acme pastries. I also bought some Frog Hollow Farms Jams and Chutneys which I've been enjoying with my Acme toast for the last couple of mornings.
Frog Hollow Jams
We checked out Tony Bourdain doing a signing at Book Passage - though the books were sold out. We met up with my friend Moira down at the Ferry Building, and when we were done there we went to Delfina Pizzeria for lunch. Roasted Cauliflower with Peppers and Garlic at Delfina Pizzeria
Delfina is the kind of place where they can take something you wouldn't necessarily expect to taste good, and make it absolutely delicious. We ordered a cauliflower dish that turned out to be one of the best things we ate all weekend - along with the baked ricotta (with arugula and those little peppers and some levain toast) and a Margherita pizza. A glass of crisp and fruity white wine and I was all set. We then traveled over to Bi Rite Creamery , where Moira and Susan enjoyed some Roasted Banana ice cream and I had my fave salted caramel/mint chip combo again - why mess with a good thing?
Flowers at Stem
In between the eating occasions we did some tooling around the City - we walked around Union Square and enjoyed the lights and decorations, hiked up to Coit Tower, and did a little boutique-ing on Fillmore Street. It was cold and foggy, so we stopped in at the Bittersweet Cafe for some frothy hot chocolate. I'd ask for it extra hot next time, but it was very good and rich. They have nice thick whipped cream that they dollop on out of a container, and homemade vanilla bean flecked marshmallows.

Dinner that night found us back in the Mission at Foreign Cinema. I had heard about this place before, but had a different impression - I thought it was more casual and cafe-like, with an outdoor movie venue. It's a really lovely space - sort of industrial chic with lots of candles, a huge fireplace, windows, etc. They play movies on the large wall in the courtyard, with subtitles. Our experience with the food was mixed - I ordered a tuna tartare starter, and a dish advertised as a curried mussel stew for my main course. The tartare was so oversalted it was inedible, and the curry sauce with the mussels was bitter and unpleasant. The other starter we ordered, the foie gras torchon, was delicious - and came with a nice cranberry chutney, mizuna and toast. (We actually sent the tartare back and asked for a second torchon.) Susan ordered a ribeye steak, which was perfectly cooked with good minerally flavor, and came with some rich, cheesy potatoes. Luckily, she had plenty to share. I think the lesson here is stick to the basics. It's no Delfina, that's for sure.
Cafe Fanny and Acme Bakery
On our way out of town in the morning, I took Susan by Cafe Fanny, Alice Waters' casual cafe on San Pablo in Berkeley (named for her daughter.) It was a really easy detour on the way to the Oakland airport - only about ten minutes out of the way. This was one of my favorite spots when I lived up there, and it hasn't changed a bit. We had some mochas, made with organic Dagoba chocolate, and some beignets, and I had a couple of poached eggs on toast. I also picked up a big bag of bread at the next door bakery to take home - which we've been enjoying. I also took some by Jora and Brian's on my way home from the airport. Little Juliet is absolutely gorgeous.

I'm going to go ahead and post this - but I'll be back to add some more links, and photos later. I will also be posting one of my new favorite Thanksgiving recipes (thanks to my friend Isabel), so check back for that if you like sweet potatoes! As you can see, I've now had a chance to update this post with the photos and links, and the sweet potatoes are posted here. Enjoy!


  1. I'm so glad oI found this blog!! I just moved to San Francisco a week ago, and my "transplantation" was based on a trip out here in June. On that vacation, my culinary adventures paralleled yours almost EXACTLY.

    I did not, however, have the burger at Zuni Cafe . . . although I've gotten that specific recommendation from no less than five people since I moved here. I opted instead for their chicken (you know, the one that takes 45 mins to prepare), and it was stupendous. When I next crave a burger, I'll make a beeline.

    Don't know if you've ever been to Palo Alto or not, but it looks intriguing as a foodie destination. I made my virginal trip out there just last week, with admittedly low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised, however . . . had a lovely lunch at a Thai place downtown (Typhoon), and the rest of this 'burg looks very promising food-wise. And why shouldn't it, when you consider the joint influences of Stanford and the kazillion-dollar IT businesses there. If you happen to go, I hope you'll write about it here . . . that way I'll know where to eat when I go back!

  2. It's been a long time since I've been to Palo Alto, so I can't really comment - but I remember they had some good food down there! I haven't tried the Zuni chicken at the restaurant, but I made it at home last night - it's really good and fairly easy, one of these days I'll have to compare mine with theirs. Glad you're enjoying the City and thanks for checking in!

  3. Alice Q,

    These photos are stupendous! Really, you made my jaw drop. Having just been to SF, I can say you captured it, perfectly. And that shot of the bar at Zuni? It makes me want to go back, right now.

  4. Hey there, Alice Q. I found you by a search of my own name (you know how it goes when you're bored at work) and can't tell you how thrilled I am to have found it. I *love* this post about your trip to San Francisco. I just went two weeks ago for a girls' weekend of my own, and also ate at Foreign Cinema. Everything we ordered was great but the service was a little bit pretentious. Still a fun experience. It mos def sounds like you have a lot more insider knowledge of the area and while I adore the adventure of stumbling into the fabulous unknown, I do wish this post had been written before I went. I had a great time anyway but dammit if you don't sound like a terrific traveling companion. ;)

    Thanks so much for linking to my column. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  5. Shauna - thank you so much!

    Aaryn - I saw your column abouyt that right when I got back - too funny. I checked out your blog too, very cool! I've really been enjoying your stuff and look forward to reading more. I think we actually have some mutual friends, I'll have to send you an email. Cheers!

  6. Hey Alice - sorry I missed you that weekend - just as well - it has been crazy and will remain so til Christmas I expect.

    It's my mum's last night in SF ce soir and I am trying to decide between Zuni and Coc500... we'll see. She really loved Manresa.

    BTW I have seen both Gavin and Willie (each more than once) in local eateries. is this all that Mayors ever do? Eat out?

    PS I made marshmallow without corn syrup for thanksgiving. More on that later xx

  7. alice q...i came back to snoop around (i'm trying to learn how to cook but usually end up burning the water)and took a closer look at your picture montage from your san francisco weekend. were you at foreign cinema on sunday the 11th, by any chance? because if you were, you were sitting just above me at the bar. rachel and i were seated in the corner booth just below the spot where you snappee your photo. wouldn't that be somethin'?