Thursday, April 16, 2015

California Dreamin'

Every once in a while, California pops into my mind.  It's not because I lived there for 18 years, back in the go-go days of the 80s and 90s.  Maybe it's because every day I read another article about the coming droughtpocalypse; when I first moved out west, it was to Santa Barbara - then in the midst of a 100-year drought - I think those happen every now and then (in what's basically a desert).   And believe me, when you're standing in downtown Santa Barbara, watching the hills burn, smelling smoke and feeling the heat, it's weird.  So don't get me wrong - I think we're fucking up the earth really badly, but there are already enough people talking about that, and "food" blogs are supposed to be somewhat fun, no?

Where was I?  Oh yeah, California. Specifically, San Francisco and the Bay area. Since I ended up spending a long time in Silicon Valley, after 2 years in Santa Barbara, I like to return to the city by the bay, whenever I get a chance. So we jumped at the opportunity last month, to celebrate Significant Eater's b'day and our belated anniversary, and found ourselves in a rental car at SFO, on a beautiful, sunny Wednesday afternoon.

Here's where we head first - at least when it's dungeness crab season...
Because there's nothing quite like this...
Crab Louie
Just a big old pile of freshly steamed dungeness crab (maybe my favorite crustacean), topped with what's called Louie dressing,  and a big hunk of sourdough bread...ahhhh. There'll be a line, most likely, but it's worth the wait for Swan's impeccable seafood. They were out of uni this afternoon, but there were still some excellent oysters to be had, and those, along with the above Louie, should help you forget about your early morning flight.

After a nice break at our Union Square hotel (The Rex), and a couple of rye old fashioneds in their cute little bar, we were off to find Kin Khao, Pim Techamuanvivit's lauded Thai eatery. Pim is an old web friend from the early days - she posted on some of the first food boards and also Chez Pim; now, she seems to be busy running a restaurant. And a damn good one, too...
Kin Khao
Those chicken wings were great, but the highlight for me was the curry, with rabbit and rabbit meatballs. It's spicy, so be careful.

The next morning, we got an early start, since we were headed to Pescadero for lunch.. But we wanted to make our traditional visit here...
The Gate
Amazingly, I got Significant Eater to walk almost halfway across the bridge. I pretend I'm not scared of heights, so this was a first for both of us, and it goes to prove that it's never too late to try something you never thought you'd do.

Birthday dinner this night was at Chris Cosentino's new place, Cockscomb. We've been Cosentino fans for a while, at least since eating at the now-closed Incanto several years ago. Cockscomb's a big, high-ceilinged space, in a much friendlier location than Noe Valley, at least if you're staying in North Beach/Union Square, etc. It's got a great open kitchen, and chef was working the pass. A nice selection of oysters led into this bruschetta topped with uni and Iberico lardo...
Cockscomb Uni Bruschetta
I could easily eat the quail I had as a main on a weekly basis, and Sig Eater proclaimed her steak to be one of the better ones she'd had in a long time; must be that big, open fire they cook on.

Breakfast the next morning was at another one of our favorites, Plow. Plow's up on Potrero Hill, and if you're sporting a vehicle (it is California, after all), breakfast or lunch here is a must. It can be healthy or not - that's your choice. We usually go half and half; that is, we shared avocado toast (it is California, after all), and also a delicious house-made sausage with eggs, home-fries, and coffee cake to top it off. The service is sweet and earnest, and you'll thank me for this recommend.

We kinda skipped lunch; okay, not really -  lunch became a sandwich and snacks from here...
Ferry Market Building
Which actually was a sort of disappointment, only because I couldn't cook with these...
Oh well, maybe next time.  For now, these loomed ahead...
Filbert Steps
390 steps up - a good way to burn calories, right? The views are also pretty spectacular as you make the climb. There's the Malloch Building, used by Bogey as a refuge in the classic film noir, Dark Passage...
1360 Montgomery Street
And there's also...
Coit Tower
Bring water for the climb, and if you're lucky, the parrots of Telegraph Hill/ North Beach will be out and about - they often cavort in the trees on and around the Filbert Steps. From the top of Telegraph Hill, we made our way, walking, back to the hotel, first passing this locavore fish seller in Chinatown...
Stockton Street
I guess San Francisco's not that much different from NYC after all. Though I'd sooner eat a fish from the SF bay or ocean than I would one from the East River, but that's just me; YMMV. A shower, a nap, a cocktail - and time for dinner at - The Progress.

The Progress is the sister restaurant (and right next-door) to James Beard winner, State Bird Provisions. They offer a prix-fixe menu in the dining room, and a la carte service at the bar...we chose the bar, because, well, we like bars.   Long-time San Francisco restaurant critic Michael Bauer reviewed The Progress, with much better pictures, back in February. I'll defer to him, but I sure wish we had a place like this (or like State Bird, for that matter), here in New York. We had a fine time, with fabulous people working behind the bar - and great food.

Don't forget coffee; San Francisco is a damn good coffee town. We always hit up one of our favorites, Four Barrel, on Valencia Street in The Mission. Sig Eater will have one of these...
Macchiato at Four Barrel
While I go straight for the double espresso. I also bring home a couple of bags of beans, which I'm just now finishing.

This trip, we discovered a new (to us) great view spot at, you guessed it - Buena Vista Park. We approached from the back side, the entrance at the top of Duboce Avenue; if you're willing to schlep up a bit, and you're lucky, you might see this...
Golden Gate Fog
And what do you know? As we headed to our next stop, look who showed up...
Parrots of Duboce Triangle
The parrots of North Beach now appear to also have spun off a flock in the area of Buena Vista Park. This guy was giving me the eye...
Wary Parrot
Our next stop - a little time enjoying the views from the Marina Green...
Marina Green View
The Rock
Don't forget, even though it's beautiful and sunny out, it may also be...
Sig Eater Enjoying the Weather
Chilly and windy. It's San Francisco, dammnit, but Sig Eater is well prepared...layers are important here.

Our final meal (well, we did have breakfast the next morning) of this whirlwind trip was at Trou Normand, located in the classic 1925 Pacific Telephone building. Trou Normand does the in-house charcuterie thing, butchering whole animals, so along with a nice roasted pork shoulder and a fine Tagliatelle Bolognese, this "small board" hit the spot with our cocktails...
Trou Normand Charcuterie Assortment
On the way back to our hotel, we popped into North Beach fave Comstock Saloon, for a well-made Sazerac. After all, we deserved it, don't you think?
Until next time, San Francisco.


  1. Hey Mitch:
    Next time work in a visit to Thanh Long in the Sunset District-41st /Judah) for some dungeness and garlic noodles. Othewise your blog totally made me jealous.
    My best to SE.

    1. That sounds good, Bernie. Another of our favorite lunch spots is out that way - Outlands - right on Judah near the ocean.

  2. Tasty fun! Happy to hear Costentino's place was good, he's put his heart into it. And I agree dungeness crab is the best. xoxox

  3. That was fun but what happened to our old favorite, HUNAN? Henry's shredded pork? Oh how I crave that dish.