A little detour from the kitchen to the streets (and restaurants) of San Francisco, a city that can seemingly cure all ills (or at least the ones caused by an overly busy summer). The boyfriend and I spent three days and two nights in Union Square thanks to cheap deals on a Hilton room and airline tickets, and the trip was SO worth it. Sure, the scenery and the atmosphere was a lot of fun, but mostly it was about the food.
Following up on multiple recommendations, we hopped on a cable car down to the Mission district for an early lunch / late breakfast at Tartine Bakery (www.tartinebakery.com), which seems to inspire poetry in everyone who visits it. It didn’t disappoint. My croque monsieur was made with deliciously crusty bread, toasty brown cheese, fresh slices of yellow bell pepper, and tender ham. Small, but it filled me up quickly. The famous bread pudding, with fresh banana slices, was perfect. I left with a bag full of goodies–chocolate and oatmeal cookies, a raisin scone, and a brownie–that allowed me to draw out the Tartine experience over two more days.
We headed to Mission again for dinner to check out Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, a little hole-in-the-wall place famous for its spaghetti and meatballs but really for just about everything it serves (one great thing about SF eateries is that so many of them use farmer’s market produce and free-range meats; the menus change with what’s available). Emmy’s Caesar salad wasn’t anything to shout about, but my spaghetti and meatballs–four HUGE ones over a bowl of noodles made with fresh tomatoes and silk-thin slices of Parmesan–was a wonder. It was nothing, though, in comparison to my boyfriend’s steak (why is it that I always seem to end up envying what he orders?). Soft as velvet, cooked in an amazing herb-butter sauce and served over tiny potatoes and green beans soaked in said sauce, we both agreed that it was an experience beyond food. He says he doesn’t know if he can ever go back to “normal” steak.
We managed to luck out with our Chinatown food experiences as well, though I’d been warned that the quality really varies. Boyfriend is now addicted to soup dumplings (something I’ve always said I could live on exclusively) and kept asking when we could have them again (luckily we can get those in San Gabriel). I also managed to grab some sweet bean buns from one of the local bakeries, which were yummy as ever.
Wandering around the North Beach area I stopped into a little chocolate truffle shop and momentarily went to heaven. The cheerful man behind the counter greeted me with a light French accent and filled a bag with noisette, coconut, and hazelnut truffles, the French names of which I enjoyed trying to pronounce correctly, even if I probably didn’t succeed. Ah, truffles…
Of course we couldn’t hit all of the places recommended by friends and those in the know–next time I definitely want to check out Burma Superstar and Mission Beach Cafe, as well as a restaurant where they serve a roast chicken for two that takes two hours to prepare. San Francisco is truly the food gift that keeps on giving!