Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Travel: Late Summer Weekend in San Francisco

As I mentioned in my last posting, my current work assignment is located quite a distance from Detroit (i.e. in Reno, NV). So last weekend I decided to avoid the 7 hours of travel time and take a quick flight over the mountains to visit a friend in my favorite city - San Francisco. Christine, a food lover like myself, had a ton of great places picked out for my visit. Thanks to her planning, we essentially ate our way through the city (with walking and hiking in-between, of course, to work off all those calories).

Thursday: When I arrived on Thursday evening, Christine picked me up from the airport and took me to Circa on Chestnut Street. There, I had a nicely prepared, flat iron steak with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and a delicious, smoky asparagus (the asparagus was the highlight of the dish). The steak was plated with a red wine demi-glace and topped with horseradish foam (Christine and I had a discussion about foam - we're not really sure we'd categorize it as a food). We shared the Truffle-Parmesan Fries for an appetizer, which were good, but I prefer metro-Detroit's Town Tavern's version. By the way, I've already decided I want to check out Laiola the next time I'm in San Francisco. It's next door to Circa and the menu (and atmosphere) looked excellent.

Friday: After wrapping up the work day on Friday, we took a long walk from the Presidio area to Union Street. While doing some window shopping, we passed by a sweet shop (Miette) and decided a small, pre-dinner treat was in order. I tried an old fashioned cupcake (a very tasty chocolate cupcake with french meringue frosting and a candied peanut on top) while Christine had a delicious, pistachio macaroon. Then, after browsing in a couple of cute stores, we decided to eat dinner at Mamacita. Mamacita was jam packed and everything they brought out of the kitchen looked delish. We waited for our meal and snacked on "guacamole al don" - i.e. guacamole with fresh tortilla chips and crushed tomato salsa. I had the pan-roasted halibut with poblano chile-polenta and roasted chile-tomato salsita and Christine tried braised meyer ranch tri-tip beef enchiladas baked with oaxacan mole coloradito, leeks and goat cheese. Both dishes were savory, filling and very good. We were so full when we left the place, we decided it was a good thing we had a couple mile walk home -and- that next time we should probably skip the guacamole and chips and wait for the main event.

Saturday: Saturday we started the day with crepes (I love the fact SF has a ton of creperies!) at Crepevine. Both of us selected savory crepes (I had the Greek since I love spinach, feta and kalamata olives). We then took some time out to visit the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building (I'll blog about that experience later). After the Farmer's Market we visited J-Town for a festival and then went to Rose's Cafe for lunch. The brunch menu was still in effect so I ordered the Crescenza-Stuffed Focaccia with white truffle oil. It was very good, but I think what they served me was the pizza crust with crescenza and truffle oil instead of a stuffed foccacia bread. Christine opted for the roasted Turkey Breast, Avocado, Provolone & Dijon on Brioche. It seemed to be lacking tomatoes, so when she ordered some on the side you can imagine our surprise when they showed up with a gorgeous plate of heirloom slices (I stole a few as well as some arugula from her side salad to add to my "pizza"). The highlight of the meal were Italian sodas - I had peppermint, Christine had curant. After lunch, we joined one of Christine's roommies for a hike near Muir Beach and after effectively working off both breakfast and dinner on our 4+ mile hike, we cleaned up and had a late dinner at Nopa. We started the evening with flatbread of house smoked bacon, grape tomatoes, goat cheese. It was excellent and better than any sort of BLT you can imagine. Christine ordered their famous, grass fed hamburger with pickled onions and french fries, and I tried a roasted chicken dish served with a salad of purple heirloom tomatoes, purslane, croutons. Although it was fun to eat the purslane (purslane is pretty much a weed you can find in your own yard if you'd like...and the flavor is fresh and lemony) and the tomatoes were super-fresh and flavorful, my chicken was a little dry. Next visit I would definitely have the hamburger or the pork chop...the two dishes for which they are famous.

Sunday: My last day in town, Sunday, we started the day intending to go to brunch at a funky little place called Liverpool Lil's. However, since they weren't yet open when we arrived (why do so many places in San Fransicso open super late for breakfast?!?), we opted for Judy's Cafe. My favorite thing I ordered was the delicious, fresh-squeezed OJ (although it was quite pricey at $5 a glass). I had a farmhand omelet that had a little too much spice on the potatoes, but was good. If you visit Judy's (and many small restaurants in SF) by the way, be sure to bring cash - they are a cash-only venue. If I visited Judy's again, I'd try the huge plate of Sourdough French Toast (sharing with a friend is probably a good bet). After breakfast, we wandered around the fabulous new Academy of Sciences, checked out the Sutro Bath Ruins, relaxed on Crissy Field for a couple of hours and saved up our appetites for dinner at Zuni Cafe where we feasted on their famous "Chicken for two" (which takes an hour upon placing your order) and shoestring fries. The bloody mary we had for a pre-dinner drink was excellent with balsalmic, finely diced onion, and plenty of spice. And the chicken was perfectly, perfectly, perfectly cooked and served with a warm, chewy, flavorful bread salad. We did notice it the dish was very salty though (between the brine from the chicken skin and the cooking juices poured over the bread salad). So you may want to take that into consideration when placing appetizer and drink orders. For those of you who are unable to visit this San Francisco institution, Zuni has a cookbook (or rather the awesome Judy Rodgers has a cookbook)...with fantastic descriptions and instructions (it may change the way you cook). You can find it at several retailers including Amazon and Overstock. You can also find their recipe for their famous chicken and bread salad here.

Click on the image below for a better view of what we ate.

San Francisco, Dining, Nopa, Miette, Mamacita, Zuni, Crepevine, Rose's, Circa, Motown Maiden

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