A San Francisco Visitor Goes Out to Eat
AKA: Where did my Mum Wine & Dine when she visited the Bay?
Back in July a certain someone asked me to name eight restaurants to which I'd take my foreign foodie visitors when showing off the tastes of San Francisco. The request was answered with rather more than eight suggestions in the post I wrote here.
Recently my mother spent the better part of nine days staying with us here in San Francisco and I thought it would be fun to compare the theoretical suggestions I made in that post with where I actually took her to eat. I didn't consult my previous guide before planning out our itinerary, indeed today is the first time I have looked at it in quite some time. So? Back in July was I putting my money where my mouth is? And what did my mum think of the places I took her? Let's find out...
1. Yield Wine Bar [website]
In an attempt to stop my mother succumbing to jet lag on the evening of her arrival I dragged her a couple of blocks down the street to my favourite local wine place, Yield, where we propped ourselves up at the bar and shared English bubbles with the staff, tasty flat breads (the vegan Tomato Sauce, Roasted pepper and Oregano was my favourite from the menu that night) and glasses from their list of biodynamic, organic and sustainable wines.
- Was Yield a part of my original Visitor Guide? YES!
Tried and Tested: Fred and I have visited Yield so many times that we now count the staff as friends.
Mum Delivers Her Sentence: A friendly place to drop in for a drink and snack.
2. Ubuntu, Napa [website]
Mum was desperate to meet a certain little dog and his wonderful parents so we made an outing of it and headed up to Napa to try out lunch at Ubuntu, an applauded new vegetable restaurant where the feisty, fresh, cured green olive appetizer turned a few heads. The four of us shared everything but found only one worthwhile item per course. After the bright olives, (and passing quickly over the sickly, salty-sweet lavender almonds which sat by their side) we were happily silenced by a homey warm salad of Little organic potatoes and torpedo onions whilst being concurrently non-plussed by a green salad (with brown edges), persimmon and pomegranate. Moving on, I'd suggest that visitors from San Francisco skip past Ubuntu's pizzas - be they Nettle and Crescenza or mushroom because you can find a better pie here, here, here or at your other favourite urban pizzeria. To make your hour-long journey worthwhile opt instead for the more unusual but satisfying Cauliflower three ways (puree, roasted and raw) - and served in a cute little cast iron Staub. This dish, with its contrast of flavour, texture and colour (smooth and tender through crunchy, creamy through spice-scented, white through purple to green), was exactly what I expected everything at Ubuntu to be. But the Brussel sprout dish, whilst equally unusual, was no near match on the satisfaction meter. Although I loved the creamy bed of grits on which the green orbs were perched, the bullyish smear of smoky sauce underneath was overwhelming whilst the adorning sticks of celery root perched on top seemed to have lost their usually bold personality.
We had all decided against dessert until a flippant (but in retrospect clever) comment by our server led to us caving in and ordering the cheesecake, along with four spoons. Whimsically, it arrived in a clamped glass jar that begged for a ceremonious opening. Once the lid was unbuckled, a rather polite battle for the cloudy billows of cream covering a strata of buttery crumbled crust, drunken cherries and smeary vanilla-flecked cheesecake ensued, with the opponents not putting down their spoons until the very last fleck had been taken care of.
- Was Ubuntu a part of my original Visitor Guide? NO!
First Impression: This was my first visit to Ubuntu.
Mum Delivers Her Sentence: The company was better than the food, the entree menu was disappointing, the chef spoilt the pizza with too much hot spice that was not so nice but the potatoes were moreish.
3. Moshi Moshi Sushi [weblinks]
The night before thanksgiving you need something light and sushi is the perfect choice. Luckily our local, Moshi Moshi, was open. It's not the best sushi in town, but for us it's the most convenient and it always hits the spot when I can't be bothered to cook.
- Was Moshi Moshi a part of my original Visitor Guide? No!
Tried and Tested: Fred and I eat here at least twice a month. He always has pork chop salad and/or gyozas.
Mum Delivers Her Sentence: Only my second experience of visiting a sushi restaurant and surprise, surprise I enjoyed it.
4. Stinson Beach Grill [previous visit]
When a November 23rd is warm enough for bare feet and paddling and the air is so clear that you can see as far as Mount Diablo, there is nothing else for it, except a drive to Stinson Beach. We don't go there to dine, we go there for everything else. But if we have to eat, we'll do it at Stinson Beach Grill where everything looks twice as good as it tastes and we'll be smiling anyway because of all the fresh air and the gorgeous scenery.
- Was Stinson Beach Grill a part of my original Visitor Guide? No!
Tried and Tested: Scene of Fred and my first ever daytime date, Fred and I have visited Stinson Beach Grill a few times since.
Mum Delivers Her Sentence: Eating outside in November is as memorable as the food. (Ed: I think she meant it was more memorable than the food, because the food wasn't up to much.)
5. Cafe Bastille [website]
You know you are a regular when the owner has left instructions for the staff to ply you and your special visitor with complimentary champagne, even though he knows you are only stopping by for a drink. These are people I truly love. I call them my friends.
- Was Cafe Bastille a part of my original Visitor Guide? Yes!
Tried and Tested: Scene of Fred and my first ever dinner time date. He's been eating here almost weekly for over 10 years.
Mum Delivers Her Sentence: We dropped in for pre-dinner drinks. I was surprised to see how lively it was with so many people eating outside, it had a great atmosphere. The staff were friendly and it does help that Fred is French and good friends with the owners who looked after us well.
6. Scott Howard [website]
Treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen, Scott Howard is like a temperamental boyfriend that I love, hate and am constantly drawn to for more. My visit number eight in six months and I still can't get enough of it. Do you think they might start a frequent diner programme just for me?.
- Was Scott Howard a part of my original Visitor Guide? Yes!
Tried and Tested: Eight visits under my belt in less than 6 months.
Mum Delivers Her Sentence: Good meal deal - delicious. Ahi Tuna tartare was the best, it melted in your mouth and I even got a recipe for the carrot broth.
7. The Ferry Building [website]
We didn't get up early enough. We were like tourists. Arriving at the Saturday market after 10am is a nightmare. I don't drink coffee but I queued at Blue Bottle for my mum anyway. I'd heard they do good coffee...
- Was The Ferry Building a part of my original Visitor Guide? Yes!
Tried and Tested: I do 90% of my shopping here every week.
Mum Delivers Her Sentence: Sam queued to get me a coffee from the Blue Bottle Coffee Co. I could not believe how long it took for staff to make one cup of coffee!, The best coffee in SF? Hmm not so sure about that. (slightly bitter rather than smooth).
8. Manresa [website]
Mine and Fred's third visit to David Kinch's Los Gatos restaurant in a year was, from my point of view, my favourite visit to date too. Maybe because I drove and didn't drink too much, I could remember the whole wonderful experience more acutely. We had the tasting menu (18 courses if we counted correctly). It was wonderful from start to finish. David sent us complimentary champagne to begin with and then the good food just kept coming. The highlights? For me, the vegetables from the garden get me every time and the oyster with urchin jelly wasn't far behind.
- Was Manresa a part of my original Visitor Guide? Yes!
Tried and Tested: will Pim and David adopt me, please?
Mum Delivers Her Sentence: I never thought I would manage 18 courses! A wonderful variety of tastes and textures and a wonderful dining experience all-round, particularly when you get to meet the chef.
9. The Carnelian Room [website]
Avoid the mixed drinks and just get a glass a bubbles. Stay only long enough to toast the fantastic view over North Beach, the Marina and the North Bay.
- Was The Carnelian Room a part of my original Visitor Guide? No!
Back for Seconds: And we'll come again with the next tourists to stay too - but just for one drink and then move on.
Mum Delivers Her Sentence: Good view, poor cocktails.
10. Oola [website]
We told mum she had to order the ribs. She didn't and was disappointed, perhaps, until Fred let her have
- Was Oola a part of my original Visitor Guide? Yes!
Tried and Tested: We first dined at Oola on their opening night and recently attended their third birthday party.
Mum Delivers Her Sentence: Oola's tuna didn't live up to expectation but I wonder why I didn't order the ribs? At least Fred was good enough to give us some of his.
11. Pres A Vi [website]
After a tour of Industrial Light and Magic where we met with Yoda, Darth Vader and some stormtroopers we needed somewhere close by and fast for lunch. Pres a Vi hit the spot with
- Was Pres A Vi a part of my original Visitor Guide? No!
This was a first impression.
Mum Delivers Her Sentence: Too much food for lunch.
12. COC0500 [website]
I was contemplating Zuni, but it was already booked so I took mum to COCO500 for her last meal in San Francisco. I had an exceptional off the menu appetizer - with pork belly, quail wrapped quail egg and little quail legs on the side. We'd eaten so much over the previous week, we couldn't even manage an vacherin between us for dessert. What has my world come to when it has no vacherin in it? No worries - there is always the next time and because it's COCO500, no doubt we'll be back.
- Was COCO500 a part of my original Visitor Guide? Yes!
Tried & Tested: I'd guess I've eaten at COC500 at least a dozen times by this point.
Mum Delivers Her Sentence: My final dinner (I almost feel I've been eating my way around SF). Delightful little spicy taco but quite filling and I could have shared half as a starter. Difficult to choose main course. I opted for beef which was very tender. Service questionable due to some staff inability to understand you don't mix sparkling water with tap water! However, Waiter was good.
In case you wonder, we did do a little eating at home along the way too, and I can vouch that my mum now also loves June Taylor tomato ketchup, Fatted Calf Bacon, Soul Food Eggs as well as the recipe for Heidi Swanson's home made muesli and St Benoit Yoghurt.
Now she's gone home, I am missing my mum, but I am not missing all
that dining out. Methinks I need a break!
Where would you take your family if they visited San Francisco for a week?
PS - I won't bore you with details of how excruciatingly painful it was to get this post up, needless to say I am having blogger publishing issues from home that I currently can not fathom and are driving me crazy. I really hope the issues won't stop me from taking part in Menu for Hope. If you come back on Monday to see what my prize is and find nothing, the reason will be because I simply haven't managed to get the issues sorted. Fingers crossed...