Well Dined

6Nov/140

San Francisco

Well Dined

You guys, I have been in such a writing funk since I have gotten back from vacation.  I don't know what is going on!  But I do want to tell you about the restaurants we visited while we were in San Francisco, and I will try to post more frequently from now on.  Kailey, my sister-in-law (who we were visiting), is a chef in SF (here; that's her at 0:35 and 1:35), so we let her take us on a culinary tour of her favorite spots.  But I determined on our first day that I was just going to enjoy the vacation and not worry about taking photos.  So I don't have any food photos to show you, sorry!

Well Dined | View from Hotel Drisco

View from our room

Before we get to food, I should mention that we stayed at the Hotel Drisco and really enjoyed it.  We had a corner room on the top floor and the views were amazing - we could see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and most of the city.  All the windows really helped because, like many older buildings in the city, Drisco has no air conditioning.  Opening all the windows made for a lovely cross-breeze, though it was too noisy to leave them open at night.  The hotel includes a continental breakfast, and I am not talking about just cereal and muffins.  They have all kinds of pastries with homemade jams, spreads, and toppings.  Also fresh juices, cereal, yogurt, bagels, fruit salad, hot oatmeal, smoothies, salami and cheese, hard boiled eggs, and antipasto style veggies.  In addition to various coffee blends, they will also make espresso drinks to order.  It is a very nice perk.  They also have a wine tasting every evening with cheese and salami, coffee all day, free wifi, free bikes, and the staff are very friendly and helpful.

Well Dined | View from Hotel Drisco

View from our room

On our first night Kailey took us to get Burmese food at B Star Bar.  I am told that their sister restaurant, Burma Superstar, is hugely popular but does not take reservations.  B Star has more room to sit and relax, and does take reservations.  It's still pretty small and crowded, though, and the servers were a bit hectic.  I had never had Burmese food before, and I really liked it!  It's kind of like a combination of Thai and Indian flavors, which makes sense because Burma is located between India and Thailand.  It is really interesting and tasty!  I was a little scared that because of my aversion to spice and cilantro that I wouldn't be able to eat anything.  But that was not the case at all.

We ordered SO MUCH FOOD, it was crazy.  To start, we tried the platha with curry dip.  Oh. My. Gosh.  This stuff is amazing.  Platha is this insanely crispy and flaky fried flatbread that is addictive enough on its own, but they serve it with this sweet curry dip that takes it over the top.  I would order like 5 of these and call it a night.

We also got the B Sprouts, which are fried brussel sprouts with furikake, fish sauce, popped rice and parmesan.  They were very well made brussels, caramelized just the right amount - even Jasper liked them!  I think we also got chicken satay and spring rolls, both of which were good but not stand-outs (as evidenced by the fact that I don't remember them that well).

Next up, at the strong recommendation of Kailey, we ordered two of the traditional salad dishes - both of which contain crazy amounts of ingredients.  The rainbow salad comes with green papaya, cabbage, bean thread noodles, rice noodles, egg noodles, tofu, onions, fried garlic, cilantro, tomatoes, potatoes, wonton chips, fried onion, chili oil, tamarind dressing, dried shrimp powder, and fish sauce.  That's a lot.  It was fun and bright (from the tamarind) and full of texture, but I strongly preferred the tea leaf salad.  It comes with romaine, ginger, garlic, peanuts, sunflower & sesame seeds, tomatoes, lentils, jalapenos (we asked for these on the side), dried shrimp, fish sauce, and fermented tea leaf.  The fermented tea flavor was totally new to me and it was awesome.  It also had tons of texture going on, like the other salad.  This is a must try.

As if that wasn't enough, we also got entrees.  We ordered the spicy duck skin fried rice, which I didn't try (because: spicy) but was popular at the table, and the coconut chicken curry noodles with bean sprouts, pickled mustard greens, shallots, and cilantro.  I really enjoyed that curry, it was sweet like the Madras style that I prefer and came with a hard boiled egg, which I love with curry.  It reminded me quite a bit of this Peruvian recipe that I love, actually.  We ordered some coconut rice to go along with it and the combination was amazing.  (That coconut rice is pretty killer on its own, too.)

I'm pretty sure that was all of it.  I definitely recommend this place!

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The next day we went sailing in the bay.  There are a lot of ferry cruises available, but we oped for a sailboat with Adventure Cat.  This was so much fun!  There weren't many people that day, and we were on the larger boat, so there was plenty of room to spread out.  There are nets on the front of the boat that you can sit in, but you might get splashed!  They also have a small cash bar.  I would definitely do this over a ferry cruise every time.

Before we took off, we toured the Embarcadero and ate lunch at Coqueta - a tapas place owned by Michael Chiarello.  This place is beautiful - right on the water with a glass greenhouse type of structure that houses the bar.  The drinks are creative and lovely, mainly focusing on tequila, gin, and sherry.

We ordered two potato dishes and I much preferred the patatas bravas (smokey potatoes with garlic aioli and tomato sauce) to the patatas xips (house made potato chips with smokey paprika, manchego, and vinegar).

The chicken and pea croquettes were delicious - creamy on the inside, crispy fried on the outside, with a little piece of orange to brighten it up.  And so were the Albóndigas - duck and pork meatballs with tart cherry and tempranillo pureé and crispy shallots.

The sea and mountain open-faced sandwich (sea urchin and iberico ham) was just okay - the bread was too hard and the flavors were muddled.  I was expecting so much more.  The octopus was also just okay (I think Nostos has ruined me for life).  There was also a sunny side up egg and some prawns that I don't remember much about.

We ordered one larger dish to to share - the iberico pork shoulder with chili-honey glaze.  This was very impressive - perfectly cooked, lots of flavor, it tasted more like a medium rare steak than pork.

Lovely, with unique drinks and yummy small bites - this is a perfect place for a group outing or girls night.

Dinner that night was a weekly pop-up at a local bar because the chef is a friend of Kailey's.  Every Tuesday night, Vinyl has trivia and BBQ provided by Sneaky's.  The BBQ is pretty dang legit (and that's coming from a Texan) and the shells and cheese are yummy.  The trivia was crazy fun, too.  Our team, named "I'm a 5 prawn head kind of girl" (don't ask) won 3rd place and discovered a deep affinity for Bon Jovi, despite not remembering any of their songs.

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Dinner the next night was at Hakkasan - a gorgeous upscale Chinese place.  The decor is slick and trendy, more at home in Las Vegas than San Francisco, and the atmosphere is dark and sexy like a nightclub.  (After I wrote this, I learned that they have a Las Vegas location, and it has a nightclub. Ha!)  Dress to impress and keep in mind that the prices are high.  The cocktail menu is great, with categories like "Strength and Grace", "Character", and "Elegance".  I really enjoyed the Yu Shi Fizz with gin, calvados, white peach purée, lime juice, bay leaf, egg white, and prosecco.  There are also a ton of really clever non-alcoholic drinks, which is nice to see.

We tried both the vegetarian and regular Dim Sum platters with their variety of little bites.  I especially enjoyed the beancurd lotus roll and the duck dumpling.  The crispy pumpkin puffs are deep fried deliciousness filled with duck, definitely try those, and the tea smoked ribs are very nice, as well.  The duck is a special treat - crispy skin, succulent meat, served with hoisin and crepes.

I can't even remember what else we got, it was a lot.  We left very happy and very full (and with much lighter wallets).

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For lunch on Thursday, we stopped into Pizzeria Delfina (Mission) for some Neapolitan style pizza (my favorite kind).  It is super, super tiny and the 5 of us were awkwardly squeezed in around an outdoor table, so not so great for groups, but the pizza is awesome.

We started with warm olives, fried anchovies, and some fresh mozzarella, then got two pizzas to share.  Great crust with nice air pockets, decent char, and the right level of chewiness - just what you want for this style of pizza.  This would be a go-to lunch spot for me if I lived here.

They don't offer much in the way of dessert, probably because they are located right down the block from both Tartine Bakery and Bi Rite Creamery (which is where we went for our sweet fix, more on that later).

For dinner, we went to a Japanese sushi restaurant that my husband found, named Maruya, that only serves Omakase (Japanese style chef's tasting menu).  He found this place because he really wanted to introduce his family to Omakase, which is one of our favorite ways to dine.  We had the back room all to ourselves and were totally in the hands of the chef.  No menu, no idea what was coming next.  It was a lot of fun.  We had pieces of sashimi and nigiri sushi, grilled fish, steamed tofu custard with uni, various other small dishes and vegetable preparations, and a soup to finish, along with dessert and a shot of yuzu lemonade.  Standouts were tiny vegetables with a miso dressing for dipping, still crisp white asparagus with strawberry sauce, the grilled fish jaw, and for me - the uni custard (which was fortunate because no one else was a big uni fan, so I got to finish all of theirs).  Sadly, no one liked the mushroom soup at the end and they all sat there, uneaten.  This is definitely an experience to be savored and enjoyed, not rushed.  And it's maybe not the best idea if you are not an adventurous eater or haven't had much Japanese food before.  But if you are a sushi lover or Japanophile - please go here.

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Friday, we headed to breakfast at an (in)famous spot named The Mill.  You may have seen articles written (in favor or against) the $4 artisanal toast.  Kailey likes The Mill for their coffee, especially because they have almond milk lattes, which are hard to find.  I had to try the toast, of course, which is actually $3.50 and comes in 4 rotating flavor combos.  I got the country bread with cinnamon sugar and the rosemary with honey and peach jam and both were super good, though I preferred the rosemary, especially because the jam was stellar.  I have to make something clear here - this toast is HUGE.  It's like an inch and a half thick.  It's a full meal.  So $3.50 for toast is a bit much, but it's really freaking good toast and, more importantly, it's a full breakfast.  So I'm a fan.

For lunch we walked from our hotel to Lower Pacific Heights and happened upon Roam Artisan Burgers.  We are very familiar with the gourmet burger craze here in VA and are opinionated about our favorites.  I thought that Roam was pretty solid - good flavors, not too long a wait, and actually a few bucks cheaper than DMV area places.  I got the French and Fries burger with Gruyere, avocado, caramelized onions, watercress, dijon mustard, and topped with truffle Parmesan fries - messy (avocado is slippery), but very good.  The fries (sweet potato with herbs and more truffle Parmesan fries) were also good.  I was torn between the fancy shakes and the fancy sodas, and ended up trying the caramelized pineapple soda.  It was good, but not quite sweet enough, and I wished I had gotten a shake instead.

Dinner was at 2 Michelin star restaurant Atelier Crenn, which I am going to write a whole separate post on. *EDIT* Post is here. *EDIT*

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Saturday brunch was at Nopa.  Kailey had taken my in-laws there before and they rave about it as the best brunch they've ever had.  So I felt pretty bad that we couldn't make it there until the day AFTER they left to go back home.  Sorry, Mom and Dad!  But they were right, brunch here is super awesome.  We let Kailey take the reins and order and she got us the cardamom bun (yum), goat cheese bread pudding (double yum), soft scrambled egg with brown butter acorn squash (so much yum), and the custard french toast (OMG, I can't handle the yum).  Seriously, that french toast.  It's like 2 inches thick, crisp on the outside (bruleed almost?) and custardy on the inside.  It's so good.  As for drinks, the Ramos Gin Fizz is awesome - creamy in that slick way that egg whites give, just the right amount of citrus.

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We also tried two different ice cream places while we were there - Bi Rite Creamery (Mission) and Smitten Ice Cream (Hayes Valley).  Bi Rite Creamery is an offshoot of the Bi Rite upscale grocery store (which is also super fun to visit) that focuses on small batch, good quality ice cream.  They carry about 20 flavors and also have a bakery attached, and they are very popular - the line when we went was out the door and down the block.  I liked the creme brulee and banana fudge flavors best, but I wasn't blown away, to be honest.  I personally wouldn't go out of my way just to go there, but would gladly stop in if I was in the area.

Smitten, on the other hand, was something else.  They use liquid nitrogen to make every scoop to order and it is SO COOL.  It's really fun to watch and the ice cream is amazing!  It's super creamy (like more than gelato) and really fresh tasting.  The website has a video that explains that the creaminess comes from the low temperature, which forms smaller ice crystals, and the freshness comes from making it to order and not having to add any emulsifiers or stabilizers.  They only carry about 5 flavors, but you don't really need any fancy flavors when the ice cream is that good.  I got vanilla with a seasonal pear caramel sauce and it was just crazy good.  The store is also super cute and modern and looks like a shipping container and there is a sculpture park right next to it to sit/wander through.  For sure try this out, or any liquid nitrogen creamery near you.  I found this place at my local farmer's market and was super excited, I'm such a big fan of liquid nitrogen ice cream now.

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And that is it for our San Francisco trip!  (Finally, sorry.)  Stay tuned for the Napa post!

One Year Ago - Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies
Two Years Ago - Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato, Kale, Apple, and Red Onion
Three Years Ago - Fall Galettes

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