I felt the same way as the late Walter Cronkite, as I departed San Fran Monday night. (Well, almost – that midnight departure, the result of a three-hour delay, after two martinis, was a little brutal. Thank you, unnamed Southwest attendant who awoke me from my slumber in Gate 31 to board.)
Now, San Francisco admirers possess varying reasons for their love affair with this city, and while I have many, one factor grew 10-fold throughout this trip; the food scene in San Francisco. It’s a new concept for me, as I’m just beginning to understand and appreciate the elements of good food.
Food was on the brain, as I was attending the Food Fete event – a networking extension of the annual Fancy Food Show taking place, which attracts foodies, culinary experts, chefs, food producers, students, writers, bloggers, etc., to witness the latest in gourmet food innovation and trends.
I traveled far and wide from the land of Los Angeles – a city that is pretty hip to the food scene. Indeed, we have food trucks for every pallet, world-famous chefs, like Wolfgang Puck and his flagship Spago Beverly Hills and Michael Cimarusti’s Providence, as well as enough pork belly, gastronomic delights and small plates to fill the 405.
Still, San Francisco emits more of a historically enriched, international and effortless food vibe. There is, of course, the cutting-edge culinary influence, but it’s not boastful; San Francisco food is, in one word, classy. So, as a foodie-in-training, I embraced the food focus of the trip and set out to, in 36 hours, discover San Fran’s secrets – old and new – that are, perhaps, not so secret. Here’s what I found:
Ferry Building. Located in the historic Ferry Building Marketplace, this indoor market on the San Francisco Bay is a physical celebration of food, boasting a wide array of restaurants, food and culinary vendors and flavors – not to mention the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Ferry Plaza is truly a food lover’s version of heaven. You want a lobster sandwich? Got it; San Francisco Fish Company. Oysters on the half shell? Yep; Hog Island Oyster Company. Artisanal cheeses (Cowgirl Creamery’s Artisan Cheese Shop), hand-crafted olive oils (McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil), or an original Italian salami sandwich (Mastrelli’s Delicatessen)? Don’t forget a chocolate confection from Recchiuti. I sure didn’t.
And, I haven’t even touched on the restaurants…the Ferry Building houses Charles Phan’s nationally renowned, Vietnamese-influenced The Slanted Door, Il Cane Rosso, the Southern Italy-inspired sandwich shop emphasizing fresh, local ingredients, and MIJITA, an authentic Mexican cocina focusing on classic Mexican dishes, with a simple, organic twist.
You can eat your way right through this building; all the while overlooking the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island and emerald ocean waters. Remind me to wear elastic next time I go back – and Ferry Plaza wasn’t even intended to be a meal stop. Next up…
Tadich Grill. As the sign above the door states, the storied Tadich has been around since 1849. (We’re talking pre-Civil War, and it’s still operating.) I can see why. First, you are greeted by a gigantic, circular, dark-wooden bar (think old-fashioned, homey diner), inviting you to take a load off, enjoy a bowl of seafood chowder and chat with one of the friendly servers, whose stories make it plausible they have actually worked there since 1849.
In regard to the food, it speaks for itself; Tadich serves up the freshest seafood possible and delivers the BEST Cioppino I have ever experienced…we’re talking huge prawns, massive scallops, sweet and juicy Dungeness crab, salty and tender clams and mussels; all stewed in a savory – and appropriately spicy – tomato broth. This dining establishment in the financial district represents the best of San Fran.
Boulevard. Chef Nancy Oakes is hailed as San Francisco’s most “beloved chef,” and her nationally acclaimed restaurant, Boulevard, has been dubbed San Francisco’s finest. So, I set out to find out if: 1.) This was true. 2.) Why? Well, Oakes doesn’t disappoint, and it’s largely attributed to her expertise in combining regional, seasonal cuisines and French flair, which are evident in all dishes, ranging from the Berkshire Pork Rib Eye & Braised Duroc Pork Cheek from Iowa, to the Lamb T-Bone from California and the Bluenose Sea Bass from New Zealand.
I feasted on the pan-roasted Sonoma Duck Breast, comprised of braised duck-stuffed ravioli, chocolate & rosemary hazelnut pesto, black truffles, King Trumpet mushrooms and more. The savory duck breast was perfectly accented by the sweet, rich, nutty pesto and further enhanced by the intense, oaky flavor of truffles. Local game, meet sophisticated French ingredients; a food match even eHarmony would be proud of.
Food Fete Event. Like all industries, social media is sweeping the culinary realm, and there is no better city to pair food and beverage producers, with savvy Web conversationalists. A cocktail party designed to link the suppliers, bloggers and media of all forms, Food Fete provided an opportunity to chat with and gauge interests of bloggers and media. I always love putting faces to names – such as Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy and Benjamin Seto of Cooking With The Single Guy – and discovering new food-focused Web endeavors, such as Yummy Veggie, FoodAndHome.com and DooF, while drinking martinis that boast a new vodka as tasty as Ketel, but half the price – Rue 33 of Sam’s Club.
My 36-hour San Francisco food adventure came to an abrupt end, however, as I glanced at my watch and realized it was about time to fly South. I rushed to the airport and was greeted by the longest Southwest line ever and frustrated flyers; never a good sign. What I would give for one more martini and another bowl of Tadich Cioppino. Like Cronkite said, “I just wanted to linger as long as possible.” I guess that’s what three-hour delays are for.