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We did quite well, meal-wise, for several days in San Jose, mostly working off the recommendations from Eater.  We had an excellent lunch at Grub Shack, a casual Hawaiian joint downtown with flavorful meats, good mac salad, and a penchant for adding a fried-egg topper.  We visited The Table, an upscale-cozy spot in Willow Glen and had a lovely dinner, with highlights including the fried brussel sprout leaves (like Rasika's palak chaat with a Western flavor profile), unctuous beef cheeks, and ricotta beignets (with lemon curd!).  The Mediterranean kabobs at the Café Artemis in the Pruneyard shopping center in Campbell are tender and tasty, and the sampler for 2 easily serves 3.  The combo plates come with rice and bulgur (bland, but a nice change in typical carbs) and an unusual mélange of vegetables heavily featuring leeks and carrots.  The first two places were genuinely wonderful, though I'd return to all three.  We also had a forgettable lunch at the chain L&L Hawaiian BBQ "“ it's fine and the portions are generous, but the cooking is nowhere near par with Grub Shack.

We had a dim sum lunch meal at Koi Palace in Daly City.  While the food was excellent, bearing out our, "it's great as long as its busy" impression, the service was still, at best brusque.  They forgot about our noodle dish, made fun of us again when we reminded them to nix the seafood, and the water had more floaties than could be ignored.  While I have loved the food here, the overall experience has become disappointing.

Siam Spoon Thai Cuisine in South San Francisco has an expert helming the wok who churns out great fried rice and noodles.  The egg rolls were boring and my curry was fine, but I missed out on the best part of the meal (except for a few stolen bites).

Luigi's Sandwich Palace is tucked away on an odd street in South San Francisco, but the crowded parking lot speaks to the its deserved popularity.  It's got huge sandwiches (though not overstuffed "“ the bread is big, too) featuring good meats (real roasted turkey!), and a perky garlic spread.  I ate way more of my turkey-avocado-provolone on sourdough than intended.

Dinner at Contigo (tapas) in the Noe Valley was delightful. While not every dish was a hit (eh, turns out that sardines are simply too strong for me, so I can't blame them, though the chickpea-spinach dish was somehow both bland and muddy), the atmosphere (wood everywhere, and patio seating year-round), service, and overall food impression was quite positive.  We especially enjoyed the oxtail sliders, sautéed brussel sprouts, and cod with parsnip puree.

We also had a great dinner at flour + water.  The carrot salad was gorgeous and deliciously fresh and we loved our two pastas "“ a pappardelle with braised pork and another shape with lamb, mushrooms, and brussel sprouts (apparently the theme of the week).  Our maiale pizza was good "“ I really liked the crust, but the toppings were a bit overloaded.

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We went to Nari on Saturday. It's Pim Techamuanvivit's new restaurant. Pluots with pork, shrimp, peanuts, garlic, coriander roots and coconut sugar Watermelon with sweet and salty

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We did quite well, meal-wise, for several days in San Jose

I've always wondered why Dionne Warwick insisted that you go through Los Angeles to get to San Jose. Maybe she was in San Diego at the time?

"Do you know the way to San Jose?"

"LA LA LA LA LA-LA LALALA"

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I met my boyfriend (let's call him "B" for now) in May last year when he was visiting NYC; we've been in a long-distance relationship ever since. 
 
We keep in touch by the power of Greyskull the wonders of modern technology and a lot of patience.  Every couple of months, one of us flies out to see the other for a couple of weeks.  There'll be a move to the left coast in the future, but one step at a time....
 
Anyway, that's background for you.  Here are pix from my January/February trip:

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A mushroom vendor inside the Ferry Building.

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Someone on Facebook said that this was a boring menu. What do you think?

Brenda's
652 Polk Street (Eddy Street)
The Tenderloin

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We had brunch at Savor.

Savor
3913 24th Street (Sanchez Street)
Noe Valley

Below: Crab cakes on english muffin with poached eggs topped with spicy cajun hollandaise; home fries; fruit cup.

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Grilled pork loin with basil, cilantro, cucumber, tomatoes & jalapeno Dijon aioli on a French roll; beer-battered french fries; mixed green salad.

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Chicken breast on sourdough with smoked bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomatoes & mayonnaise.

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Never been in one; have to check them out eventually.

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Would you pay $32 for a bowl of cioppino even if it had crab in it?

Brunch pix from Greens (204 Bay Street, #A (Powell Street)).

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Yellow Finn potato griddle cakes with leeks, manchego, parsley and chives; romesco, crème fraiche and herb salad.


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Corn tortillas with roasted butternut squash, poblano chilies, peppers, grilled onions, Rancho Gordo beans, cheddar, cilantro, napa cabbage, avocado, tomatillo salsa and crème fraiche.

Quivira Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Dry Creek Valley

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Wild mushroom and leek pizza with asiago, grana padano, thyme and arugula


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Warm cauliflower salad with crisp capers, pine nuts, mint, tarragon mustard vinaigrette and shaved pecorino fiore sardo.


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Orecchiette with Knoll Farm rapini, Juliet tomatoes, spring onions, green garlic, olive oil, pepper flakes, bread crumbs and grana padano


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Butterscotch pot de crème, with whipped cream and pecan shortbread cookies.



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Flourless chocolate torte, espresso ice cream, cocoa nibs.


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One thing that shocked B and I was that an Applebees is located right in Fisherman's Wharf. So annoying.

And predictable.

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Thanks for linking to the post above on Twitter, Don. :)

Here are some pix from my August/September 2013 trip. I'll be visiting again in June, and possibly in December.

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Keller's Farm -- strawberry ice cream, crème fraí®che ice cream, strawberries, rosemary syrup, cornmeal shortbread cookies

Ice Cream Bar
815 Cole Street (Frederick Street)
Cole Valley

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Ricotta pancakes, honey butter, maple syrup, fresh fruit

Kitchen Story
3499 16th Street (Sanchez Street)
Mission Dolores

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Duck páté salad, peaches, petite garden greens, Spanish sherry

étoile restaurant at Domaine Chandon Vineyard and Winery
1 California Drive
Yountville

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I understand what Chez Panisse represents to the history of modern American cuisine, but I have been thoroughly unimpressed by their cuisine. They seem to be resting on their reputation, and they have not anything innovative in the past decade or longer. I have had two meals in the dining room, and walked away realizing that I had a very well prepared meal, but nothing truly memorable or worth the hassle.

 

That's perfectly fine.

One need not constantly reinvent the wheel in order to have a place at the table, in my opinion.

I'm reading, I suppose you could call it, an "authorized" biography of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse. It covers the genesis and history of the restaurant all the way to the present day, which was as of the date of publication, 2007, around the time AW issued her cookbook "The Art of Simple Food".

Contrast a menu from the Jeremiah Tower era (for Thursday, June 5, 1975) to the posted menus on the restaurant's website for this week, and the difference in style clear. My preference leans towards the latter.

Gratin de queues d'écrevisses -- shelled crayfish tails, sautéed in Cognac, with a cream and crayfish butter sauce and gratinéed

Consommé de chou rouge -- duck consommé with puréed red cabbage and sliced red cabbage cooked in walnut oil

Selle de porc sur le gril -- marinated loin of pork roasted over a charcoal fire with fresh herbs, served with a fresh herb butter sauce

Salade chaude d'épinards -- salad of spinach wilted in oil and sherry vinegar

Fruit and cheese

Crème Carème -- cherry sherbet

Coffee or tea

That menu was priced at $9 which, if you adjust for inflation, comes out to $40.41 in today's dollars.

B and I visited Chez Panisse during this recent trip. We had a lunch at the café. Other than a touch too much salt in the Provení§al fish stew, it was exactly what I expected -- simple, delicious and well-prepared food with an attunement and reverence for seasonality, cooked and served with care. I completely support the notion of letting the ingredients speak for themselves.

Someone upthread mentioned that meals cost $300 per person; I think that is a gross overstatement. Our bill came out to $136 including tax and service charge for two people. The main restaurant prices its dinners from about $65 to $100 (although for Valentine's Day, the menu costs $150 a head). If you order wine, I could see a hefty price point; $100 per person is quite reasonable, however. Your mileage may vary.

There may be a visit to the main restaurant in the future, but probably not until the end of the year.

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Kiraku in Berkeley did a great job of fortifying me before 3 days of dull conference food.

www.kirakuberkeley.com

I met up with a college buddy and one of her good friends at this tiny Berkeley izakaya last week.  Reservations include an "honor" type commitment to consume at least $30 of food and booze per person.  Do not be frightened off by the "Japanese Tapas" description on the menu and front awning.  I would have thought folks in Berkeley knew what an izakaya is, but perhaps not.

We were blown away by a couple of the dishes -- everything else was good to excellent, but not transporting.

The fried lotus root chips with celery salt were so light and crunchy we ended up ordering a second bowl.  This was the favorite of our not-so-familiar-with-Japanese dining companion. The chips were potato chip thin and practically grease-free.

The takowasibi was a first for me.  This is raw, not cooked, octopus marinated with a touch of wasabi.  I had a second, not quite so good version of this at another restaurant later in the week.  I could have this over rice for breakfast several days a week.

We had a smoked carrot (or possibly an unusually large gobu root) pickle which was an interesting mix of smoke, crunch, and vinegar.

The albacore yuzu ceviche was almost delicate with the citrus notes.

They have a huge sake menu and one of the staff is happy to consult with you and suggest either a sake to your taste or a sochu he thinks will work for you.

Things I regret not trying:

Fried garlic with miso.  I was going to spend the next 3 days in tight quarters at an all-hands meeting and I decided to be kind to my colleagues.

I'll be back.  With drinks and tip, I think we still kept it to under $120 for the 3 of us.  Seating can be a little tight, but not as tight as Inn at Little Washington.

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i am heading to SF in few weeks and was wondering if anyone had any new restos to add to what has been mentioned or special call outs!  it's been awhile since my last visit so want to brush up my hit list!   :rolleyes:

Yes. :) Give details about where you'll be and what you're looking for.

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I'll be staying in the Soma District, close to Union Square first weekend of May.  I would like to stay away from tasting menus but other than that all is game.  That said, if you highly recommend a resto with only testing menu option, I wouldn't discount it either!  

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On the non-tasting menu front, I strongly recommend Bar Tartine.  Also fun are Nopalito (Mexican food) and Swann Oyster Depot (wait in line to eat at a counter, mostly raw bar).  I've loved the Mission Chinese in NYC, but SF is its home.  (Intense flavors, hipser/fusion Chinese food).  Cotogna is nice for Cal/Ital but not as SF-specific.    I hear great things about AQ, Rich Table, Nopa, and State Bird Provisions, but I haven't been yet.

If you're inclined to try tasting menus and money is no object, I had an amazing meal at Saison (I thought clearly better than Coi, Sons and Daughters, or Atelier Crenn).  Benu is an interesting option as well -- I thought the highs were amazing, but too many dishes were not. 

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I was really sad to hear that Incanto closed, but happy I had a chance to visit Top Chef Master Chris Cosentino before the bricks tumbled. His official site (linked) has at the bottom his new projects. Whether they will be open or not when you visit, crazeegirl, that is another story. But this is a chef worth following. I had such a delightful meal there --pretty balanced, not overly salty or overly-anything.

One definite hole-in-the-wall type of place to hit is a place called Happy Donuts. It's a basic, old-fashioned donut chain, but cheap donuts that taste good, well, you really can't find that here without either getting a mini one (think Dunkin Donuts, which have shrunk in size) or mini AND pricey (think all the fancy places). This place is especially great to hit after you've had a few drinks.

A great place to visit is the Japan Town near Chinatown. It is a big mall at 1581 Webster Street, and I feel like everything you find in there is pretty close to authentic. I had no room to eat another meal after Incanto, but somehow found room to squeeze in a Sophie's Crepe. I think the other little stand might do it a bit better, but how can anyone resist matcha ice cream-wrapped crepe with a bit of whipped cream? Oh-so-good. Here is an idea of what Sophie's Crepe does. I hope to go back to try some of the sushi, tapenyaki, or ramen places in there.

Since I was catching an early-early flight to LA from here, I tried my best to find a late-night place. Not too many places are open 24 hours that looked alright to hangout in that was nearby the airport when I was searching, but Nopa fit the bill enough for me, opening until 1:00am. Determined to try something, I found delight in their lemon tart ($8.00). Service was excellent at the bar, with the mixologist bending the menu a bit to make me a bourbon coffee, instead a usual irish one. I think using good coffee, such as Blue Bottle (I think that was what they used) in marriage with bourbon, well, I was a happy camper. But happiness elevated because that lemon tart was just the right amount of lemon-y goodness--slightly tart, with a tinge of sweet, paired with a nicely done shortbread-style crust, I think. I just enjoyed my time there.

I just wished I had more time there.

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Just got back from nearly a week in San Francisco - the real reason for the visit was to host my sister's baby shower, but boy did we do some eating around town.

Friday - Breakfast consisted of pastries and coffee from Tartine.  I opted for the ham and cheese croissant, which was enormous and contained about a week's worth of butter.  I also picked up a chocolate hazelnut tart, which I enjoyed later in the day - the crust was perfection, with a bit of a citrus note that helped counteract the rich chocolate flavor.  Dinner was at The Cavalier, which seems to focus on upscale British pub fare.  I started with grilled asparagus hollandaise, with smoked salmon and caviar, and then for my entree I had a grilled ribeye with horseradish mashed potatoes.  The steak was absolute perfection.  A bunch of desserts came out on the house (thanks to my brother-in-law, the chef, being recognized by one of the bartenders), and the sticky toffee pudding was the best of the lot.  The place is VERY loud, and service was pretty slow, but it was a satisfying meal.

Saturday - Breakfast was at the Ferry Building farmers market.  I had the chilaquiles from Primavera, and they were amazing.  I also decided to try some Humphrey Slocum salted caramel ice cream, to see if it compared to my favorite (Bi-Rite), and it was indeed a very respectable version.  Lunch was dim sum at Yank Sing - the xiao long bao and shu mai were delicious, as usual.  Chef David cooked us dinner at home from his market finds, so we wound up with Kumamotos on the half shell, fried squash blossoms (stuffed with a mixture of bacon, scallions, cream cheese, and mayo), and fried soft-shell crabs with a squash and pea salad.  Yum.

Monday - Since we were shopping in the Marina area, we stopped for lunch at Perry's.  I didn't have high expectations for the meal, but it was actually really good.  I had a filet mignon sandwich with mushrooms, caramelized onions, and garlic butter, and it was extremely tender and flavorful.  My sister's burger was also very tasty - you could really taste the beef.  Dinner was a wonderful omakase at Akikos.  It was pretty expensive (with a few drinks, the pre-tip total was about $400), but the quality was top-notch and everything was supremely delicious.  It's a small place, and it seems like they book up with reservations pretty quickly (they were turning people away while we were there), but it was a highlight of the trip.  Do note, there appear to be two Akikos in the Union Square area, and the one I went to was at 431 Bush Street (NOT Mason Street).  Dessert was, of course, some Bi-Rite salted caramel and roasted banana ice cream, eaten in the car on the way to take my mom to the airport.

Tuesday - Lunch was at Deli Board, a sandwich place in the Soma neighborhood.  The sandwiches are HUGE, with lots of fresh toppings and roasted meats.  I had the Ron, which was roast beef, jalapenos, slaw, cheddar, avocados, and "Board sauce," all on a garlic roll.  Very hearty and well seasoned.  They give you a ziploc baggie of homemade pickles with your sandwich - the pickles were big crunchy dills and were really good.  We went back to Tartine for dessert, opting for a lemon cream tart and an eclair.  I preferred the tart, which was wonderfully light (in flavor, that is) and refreshing.

Take note - my brother-in-law's restaurant, Lazy Bear, will be opening in late summer!!!  We will be returning to visit the baby right around the time it's supposed to "go live," so hopefully we'll be able to report back.  We have eaten at his underground restaurant of the same name, and it was spectacular.

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On the non-tasting menu front, I strongly recommend Bar Tartine.  Also fun are Nopalito (Mexican food) and Swann Oyster Depot (wait in line to eat at a counter, mostly raw bar).  I've loved the Mission Chinese in NYC, but SF is its home.  (Intense flavors, hipser/fusion Chinese food).  Cotogna is nice for Cal/Ital but not as SF-specific.    I hear great things about AQ, Rich Table, Nopa, and State Bird Provisions, but I haven't been yet.

If you're inclined to try tasting menus and money is no object, I had an amazing meal at Saison (I thought clearly better than Coi, Sons and Daughters, or Atelier Crenn).  Benu is an interesting option as well -- I thought the highs were amazing, but too many dishes were not. 

I had a really disappointing meal at Benu in '12.  Possibly the worst ratio of cost/quality of any meal I've ever eaten.

State Bird always impresses me, but you'll either have to get lucky with a reservation or wait in line (gross).

I haven't been to Saison in several years and it was at their old location, but I didn't love that meal.  Definitely preferred Coi.  But sample size is 1 for both.

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My boyfriend, cousin, and I had a great dinner at Abbot's Cellar. The restaurant prides itself on its beer selection so we asked our server to bring out whatever she thought would pair best with our food. I can't remember what we ate or drank but it was all really good. Highly recommend this restaurant. After eating out quite a bit (and with more eating out to come) I was really happy to enjoy an excellent meal at moderate prices. The price for three appetizers, three entress, and six fancy beers was $200 (including tax but not tip). I kept thinking that this is the kind of restaurant/experience I hope for every time I go to Birch and Barley.

My boyfriend and I also had a less than great dinner at Lers Ros for Thai food. It is ranked in the SF Chronicle's list of Top 100 restaurants and while we had a decent meal we were not blown away. Maybe we didn't order correctly?

Finally, I slurped down half a dozen oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company in the Ferry Building. All I have to say is that I love oysters.

For coffee, I highly recommend Blue Bottle Coffee as well as Sightglass. Sightglass roasts its own coffee at its location in SOMA as well and I picked up a bag of beans for the rest of our vacation in San Diego.

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Local's Corner is quickly becoming one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants.  Great local seafood, both cooked and raw.  A solid CA-centric wine list and a few good beers on tap.  Tonight I had a couple of small bites: smoked sturgeon, trout roe.  Followed up with a raw brussels sprouts salad with almond breadcrumbs and Capricious cheese.  Finished with a stellar smoked trout terrine that I plan on trying to duplicate at home, having just smoked some trout a few days ago.  It's small, just a handful of tables and five barstools, which makes it perfect for a solo dinner at the bar since the other four seats are invariably occupied by couples.

Local's Corner has closed.  Tim has been cooking at 398 (which just opened and is pretty tasty classic French) before he moves to Seattle.  Super bummed.

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In happier news, Prubechu has been exceptional on all three of our recent visits.  Guamanian cuisine is not one I was familiar with: it's a crazy mashup of various external influences (Spanish, Japanese) with some tropical pacific as the base (think coconut milk, banana leaves, lots of excellent fish, pork).  Crazy good, and the tasting menu has recently gone from $45 to $50.  Great bottled beer list as well.

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The halibut crudo I had at Hog Island Oyster Co in the Ferry Building in November was the single best thing I ate in 2014.  They often have it as a special, but the preparation varies; that day it was marinated in passionfruit juice.  The preparation I had in December was good, but not quite the mind-blowing excelence of November's lunch.  The whole family (ages 15 to 76) enjoyed dinner at Hog Island in December.  Kiraku, a tiny izakaya in Berkeley, is turning out extremely tasty dishes and will stay in my rotation when work brings me out there. 

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If you're driving up to Napa from San Francisco, is this worth a detour?

It depends on what you are craving.  I'd check their web site and see if it is a turn-on for you.  They have a funky reservation policy, requiring a spend of $30/per person, but will give you a gift certificate for the shortage should you manage to not spend $30. I am not sure if they are open for lunch, which would probably rule it out for your upcoming trip.  Try the lotus root chips.  They were ethereal at my first visit, a bit on the oily side on my second.

If you are looking for serene surroundings, skip it. It is a small place that is tightly packed.

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If you're driving up to Napa from San Francisco, is this worth a detour?

Kind of random, but if you are in the mood on the drive up to Napa on a weekday (they still have the tours on the weekends but the machines aren't usually running then), take a short detour to the Jelly Belly Factory and take the tour. It's fun, free, informative, and worth going for the Jelly Belly President Reagan portraits alone. Great for kids but I've taken adults and they've had a blast as well.

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If anyone is interested, I'll write a summary of my meals in Napa and San Francisco from a couple of weeks ago. (Is anyone interested? I don't want to write stuff if it won't be used.)

I'm heading to SF and Napa/Sonoma in August...so yes Don very interested!

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^I am if it involves ramen or meals at Nopa, Rich Table, or La Ciccia, where I have reservations coming up.

I'm interested.

I'm heading to SF and Napa/Sonoma in August...so yes Don very interested!

Okay, I have all my menus - I'll write something in the next week or so.

Elizabeth, I went to Rich Table in October, 2013 - I wrote a very thorough review which should be of some help to you. You should also PM ferment_everything, as he's been there several times, and his recommendation to me was an outright winner.

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Nopa was disappointing this time 'round.  Rich Table was excellent, especially those porcini doughnuts.  La Ciccia was probably very good but for various reasons I won't go into here I didn't particularly enjoy it.  That's no fault of the restaurant, though.  If the menu appeals to you, go, you'll probably love it.  It looks like everything is well-executed.

There were two great finds on the trip.  First, Ramen Underground in the financial district served a great bowl of tonkatsu.  Maybe not the very best, but certainly the perfect pick-me-up between a long flight and a not-yet-ready hotel room.  Second, B Patisserie in Pacific Heights was just outstanding.  We got a few things for breakfast and a few more things to eat on the plane.  Everything was exemplary, just the way it should be.  Most wonderful, though, was the kouign amann, which I've heard of but never tasted until yesterday.  It's basically croissant dough but shaped differently, with a little sugar to form a slightly caramelized glaze on top.

A friend suggested we try the xiao long bao at Dumpling Kitchen in the Sunset District.  The buns had nice thin wrappers but the broth and meat were bland.  If that's the best SF has to offer, don't bother.  Go to Bob's Shanghai in Rockville instead.

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We're still waiting for your write up Don!

Okay. I'm sorry for the delay - I'm absolutely swamped until early June, and don't want to do a half-ass job (if anyone has any questions, write me (off the top of my head, here is a list)).

If people are interested, I'll start writing reviews again in June, but sometimes I wonder if I spend hours and hundreds of dollars writing these (I'll spend the money regardless), and 20 people read them.

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Any recommendations for a solo traveler on a budget? I'll be in Santa Rosa this thursday and heading to San Francisco sunday. I'm meeting friends at some point sunday afternoon/evening (though maybe in the east bay somewhere where they live), and I'll be staying downtown. Years ago with my dad I was at Swan Oyster Depot and liked it, though on this trip I think I might check out Hog Island (and maybe cowgirl?). Thinking of going to the Giants game monday night, so if anyone has any particular recommendations for around that area for pregame eats. Have no real preference in terms of type of food, I've been to SF many times before, just not in nearly a decade now.

I'm flying back tuesday afternoon, so also I'm looking to plan what I'm doing monday and potentially sunday night. Thinking of going to the Asian Art Museum as well as the De Young.

I'll also have thursday night and all day friday to plan around Santa Rosa, but will post in the Sonoma thread.

 

I got into San Francisco late sunday morning, headed to Oakland first for a matinee A's-Yankee's game at the Coliseum. Then met friends first at The Trappist, a Belgian-focused small beer bar in downtown Oakland. Not a big beer list, but they had some unique stuff on tap, I had an excellent gose from Germany. Walked across the street after that to a good Cambodian restaurant, though nothing great enough to especially seek out; service was good and lingered there for a couple hours with good conversation.

Monday my plan was to walk from downtown to the Asian Art Museum--oops, they and the DeYoung closed mondays. I walked to Golden Gate Park anyway and had some tea at the Japanese Tea Garden. Took Muni back downtown where I met friends at Yank Sing, an upscale but very good dim sum place (with another location, I want to say in Chinatown). Walked from there towards Chinatown, shopping around a bit, stopped at City Lights, then went up to Coit Tower, parting with friends at Fisherman's Wharf. Weather was perfect for the Giants game that night.

Tuesday I had a couple pre-flight hours to kill, so bought TCHO chocolate to take home, then also some cheese at Cowgirl in the Ferry Building. Growing up and currently living in Chicago fresh seafood is not something I'm used to eating, so I got a quick lunch at Hog Island, with a perfect view of Treasure Island & the Bay Bridge. Oysters were great, clam chowder less so. But when I stepped out of the car when I got back home I knew I was sick immediately. It could've been just that I'm not used to eating seafood, or maybe it was all the cream in the clam chowder--don't know.

But all in all, it was a great trip.

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On 3/18/2015 at 0:11 AM, DonRocks said:

If anyone is interested, I'll write a summary of my meals in Napa and San Francisco from a couple of weeks ago. (Is anyone interested? I don't want to write stuff if it won't be used.)

On 3/18/2015 at 5:38 AM, porcupine said:

^I am if it involves ramen or meals at Nopa, Rich Table, or La Ciccia, where I have reservations coming up.

On 3/18/2015 at 8:19 AM, jasonc said:

I'm interested.

Wow, okay, I'm writing without notes, but I remember enough to at least give you some guidance.

I arrived into Napa, spent a couple days in the valley, going to dinner both evenings at Oenotri (where I'd been before and loved). Oenotri reminds me of 2 Amys more than any other DC-area restaurant, the difference being that Oenotri is better on just about all fronts. Yes, as good as 2 Amys is (and it is good) Oenotri is a better restaurant, plain and simple - it's worth going out of your way for if your're staying up in that area. Highlights include produce, pizza, and any unusual dishes they may be featuring. Their menu changes regularly, so the exact items no longer exist, but I got a pizza with s, San Marzano Tomatoes, Fior di Latte, one other early spring vegetables from their garden, and a separate order of pancetta. I recommend any salad with Meyer-Lemon Vinaigrette, a Farm Egg surrounded by local produce, and Strawberry Gelato with Olive Oil Bombolini and Meyer Lemon Crema. This is the only restaurant on the entire trip that I went to on two separate occasions, and is one of the best Local and Seasonal, Modern Italian restaurants I've been to in my life. If it were in DC, it would be my favorite everyday restaurant.

I then took the SF from Vallejo into the Ferry Building, and had a fantastic lunch at The Slanted Door - I got there when it opened, before it was crowded, sat at the bar, and had some of the freshest seafood I've ever had. Starting with some wonderful non-alcoholic drinks with citrus and ginger in them (I went non-alcoholic this entire trip, and I'm glad I did, as it opened my eyes to what San Francisco is doing with the non-alcoholic cocktail scene - the drinks just plain taste better, and are less expensive - either brilliant concoctions, or fresh-squeezed juices - I'll take either one over something made with cheap alcohol, especially for lunch. The Wild Mendocino Uni ($20) was expensive, but came straight from a live uni, and was about the best I've ever tasted. an order of Beef Carpaccio was an excellent middle course - light, but satisfying, and my dessert isn't on the current menu but had Strawberries throughout.

Later that day I ordered on Caviar, and got my dinner from R&G Lounge in Chinatown; Salt & Pepper Prawns, House Special Steak, Black Mushrooms & Mustard Greens - this was as fine a hotel delivery meal as I've had in memory.

Next day for lunch: Zuni Cafe, which was by far the low point of the trip. I met a friend, and we waited standing for what seemed like forever, sipping on a crummy juice drink, until a decent table finally opened up. Having dined at Zuni Cafe before (and having been greatly disappointed at their famous "chicken for two" before), we ordered "safe" by getting small plates, and were remarkably disappointed. Our Salad was dressed by someone who must have been on their first day on the job - it was swimming in dressing, and we choked down a bowl of Polenta. We'd ordered the best-sounding Pasta dish we could find, and it, too, was a bitter disappointment. Our server asked if we wanted dessert, and we politely said no - we just wanted to get the heck out of there.

Dinner was another story, as it was in the form of a late Brunch at the outstanding Boulevard. The entire menu has changed over, and the one I brought home is buried in a box right now, but we were happy with 100% of our food items, *and* our drinks, and remembered how little it took to concoct a non-alcoholic drink that has some flavor and character. Boulevard was a huge winner on this trip.

Back in Napa, I headed back up to Bouchon for my second visit, and had yet another rock-solid meal starting off with one of very best bread baskets I've had at any restaurant in America. If Bouchon were in DC, Le Diplomate wouldn't be getting so much positive press, as it just simply has much better food. This time around I remember very well what I had: a Truite Grenobloise, perfectly cut and cooked, and perfect with my gingery non-alcoholic drink. It was a truly lovely, classic preparation which I'd gladly find in a Bib Gourmand restaurant anywhere in France.

I apologize for the lack of detail, but everything is thrown into boxes right now, so I did the best I could by memory.

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A friend suggested we try the xiao long bao at Dumpling Kitchen in the Sunset District.  The buns had nice thin wrappers but the broth and meat were bland.  If that's the best SF has to offer, don't bother.  Go to Bob's Shanghai in Rockville instead.

Dumpling Kitchen is very meh.  Kingdom of Dumpling has my favorite XLB in town.  Shanghai House does good ones too, and the chicken wings are insanely good.  If you're down in Mountain View, go to Bamboo Garden.  Best XLB in the bay area imo.

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So let's say you've never been to San Francisco. And let's say you're able to enjoy just one night there. And let's say the next night you're going to dine at The French Laundry, which will certainly check the box for exhorbitant fine dining/tasting menu extravagance. Where do you go? I was thinking I'd like to do something that SF does much better than DC. Perhaps Chinese food? But the reviews suggest Mission Chinese may have lost a step. What about Slanted Door? We have plenty of Vietnamese options in this area, but maybe that's worth trying. Or perhaps just a good burrito in the Mission District. Decisions, decisions. Any opinions?

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Ha! It was your post that made Slanted Door sound so good. So you'd say Boulevard? (We're staying in San Francisco that might).

Boulevard was *my* best meal there (aside from possibly Slanted Door, where I had a lot of things like Crudo); my worst meal, by far, was Zuni Cafe. That said, Boulevard is a pretty old restaurant, so it's not really cutting edge. I would honestly look at recent Beard Award nominees and winners, and see what's on the list from 2014 and 2015. There are literally twenty restaurants in San Francisco that you just won't go wrong with.

Oh! I forgot about Coqueta, where I had the best tapas of my life by far (I've been twice, and it was great both times) - go there, and *get a reservation*.  You can actually have a drink and some Crudo at Slanted Door (after walking around the Ferry Terminal Building), then hop up to Coqueta (or over to Boulevard), both very close to Slanted Door, for the remainder of your meal. Why not have a sampling of two places? Slanted Door is open all day, so you could go there at 4:30 (don't get fancy here; stick with raw fish and the like), and be at Coqueta by 6:00 - you'll have *great* drinks at Coqueta, too.

Take Uber over to Hotel Abri if you can get a discounted room - it's a great little boutique hotel, and my room was something ridiculous like $125 on hotels.com (I was there on a dead weekend and got lucky).

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So let's say you've never been to San Francisco. And let's say you're able to enjoy just one night there. And let's say the next night you're going to dine at The French Laundry, which will certainly check the box for exhorbitant fine dining/tasting menu extravagance. Where do you go? I was thinking I'd like to do something that SF does much better than DC. Perhaps Chinese food? But the reviews suggest Mission Chinese may have lost a step. What about Slanted Door? We have plenty of Vietnamese options in this area, but maybe that's worth trying. Or perhaps just a good burrito in the Mission District. Decisions, decisions. Any opinions?

When I visit San Francisco, no matter how long I stay, I always make sure I save one night for a giant Mission burrito and some salted caramel ice cream from Bi-Rite.  Sometimes it's the simple things.   :D

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We hit San Francisco for a long weekend to attend a wedding, what a great city!

Six of us decided to rent an AirB&B and we ended up with a three bedroom beach house overlooking the ocean in the Outer Sunset neighborhood, which is away from the tourist areas and really is an urban beach community.  Due to wedding activities I didn't get to hit up as many places as I wanted to, but that's how wedding weekends often work.

Cliff House "“ Perched on a cliff with panoramic ocean views and next to Land's End Park, Cliff House is a bit on the touristy side.  The Zinc Bar has a Clyde's Restaurant Group feel to it.  Popovers are the thing to order "“ a large bowl filled with steaming popovers, butter, and jam.  Makes for a pleasant afternoon snack while watching the fog roll in. 

Beachside Coffee Bar + Kitchen "“ Tucked in along Judah Street, a couple blocks back from the beach, this corner coffee bar and café is instantly likeable.  Excellent pour over coffee and great bacon and egg brioche sandwiches.  So good we went twice for breakfast.  DC needs more informal places like this.  Gets busy weekend mornings, especially on Sunday.

Trick Dog "“ I was tired and jet lagged and this place was loud and crowded.  Cocktails were ok.  I might have liked it on a slower, quieter night, but really I just wanted to go to bed.

Flour+Water "“ We took a side trip to Monterey and traveled back for one last day in S.F.  Knowing we would be traveling a good chunk of the day we wanted something casual and tasty and Flour+Water hit the spot.  Lovely fresh panzanella salad with heirloom tomatoes and lemon cucumber.  Cured salmon had pristine ingredients which didn't quite work together but the salmon has lovely.  Corn cappelletti with lobster mushrooms was one of the best pasta dishes I've ever had, the pasta was beautiful.  The pomodoro pizza was tasty, if a bit soggy.  I should have used the Two Amy's trick and ordered it well done.  Excellent bread and dipping olive oil.  This is a wonderful restaurant.

Philz Coffee "“ Our friends were raving about Philz Coffee and when we spotted the Philz Coffee Truck down by the Marina we had to get some.  Damn this is good coffee.  Pour over coffee from a truck with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.   

The final night we stayed at Chateau Tivoli, a lovely restored Victorian B&B a couple blocks North of Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies.  Easy walks to Golden Gate Park, Civic Center and the fabulous Asian Art Museum, and a mostly downhill 30 minute walk to The Mission District.     

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I want to say thank you for all the good tips that folks provided for our one day in San Francisco, before our Napa trip.
 
Saturday afternoon we went to Taqueria Cancun in the Mission District where I had the chicken burrito. It was delicious. Not a life-changing experience as I've heard some describe SF burritos, but very, very good. I'd eat there a lot if I lived nearby.
 
But the main event of this particular trip was Coqueta. Thanks to Don for the recommendation. It has the vibe of sitting in a small warehouse or storage room, and let me emphasize 'small'. We were seated at an elevated table between the bar and the wall, and no one could walk by without bumping into us. It took a while for our server to come by, and between the cramped quarters and the lack of attention, I was getting anxious. I shouldn't have been. Once we were on the radar screen, we were treated to a fantastic dinner with warm, gracious service.

The server was helpful without being bossy. I'm not a fan of small plates, yet he convinced us to concentrate on the small plates. Were I an Eskimo, I'd have bought his refrigerator. But his advice was spot-on. I had wanted to try their paella, and he steered us away. "The paella is great, but it's big and you'll fill up on it," he said. "Since you're not from here and won't be coming back soon, try more small plates and get the pork shoulder."

Now I could tell you about the small plates... the Croquetas de Pollo which tastes like mini pot-pies... or the Gamas al Negro which are prawns with black garlic sauce and taste a little chalky but still very good. I could tell you about the "Sunny side-up Huevo" with crispy potatoes and chorizo dressing where I could have licked the plate. Or the Yellow Cauliflower Steak that was very good, but nothing you'd fly across country for.

Or... I. Could. Tell. You. About. The. Pork. Shoulder.

The pork shoulder is why you have servers. The good ones stop from you ordering what sounds good and tell you to order what is good. Ours was unequivocal: order the pork shoulder. Thank god we did. It was dropped off by a runner, who quickly disappeared. As we stared at the pinkish strips of charred meat, it was obvious there had been an error. They had brought us the beef rib-eye. Mistakes happen, and we flagged down our server to alert him to the mistake. "Sorry," he said. "I should have mentioned that. The pork is 100% acorn fed, so the finished result looks a lot like beef."

Humbled and hungry, I dug in. It was the best pork I've ever had. Rich, meaty, and smoky. It has now put me on a mission to find more 100% acorn fed pork. (Not acorn finished dammit, It's not the same!)

So if I can offer my own SF advice now. Go to Coqueta. Order the pork.

post-551-0-06979700-1444434996_thumb.jpg

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The server was helpful without being bossy. I'm not a fan of small plates, yet he convinced us to concentrate on the small plates. Were I an Eskimo, I'd have bought his refrigerator. But his advice was spot-on. I had wanted to try their paella, and he steered us away. "The paella is great, but it's big and you'll fill up on it," he said. "Since you're not from here and won't be coming back soon, try more small plates and get the pork shoulder."

Now I could tell you about the small plates... the Croquetas de Pollo which tastes like mini pot-pies... or the Gamas al Negro which are prawns with black garlic sauce and taste a little chalky but still very good. I could tell you about the "Sunny side-up Huevo" with crispy potatoes and chorizo dressing where I could have licked the plate. Or the Yellow Cauliflower Steak that was very good, but nothing you'd fly across country for.

Or... I. Could. Tell. You. About. The. Pork. Shoulder.

The pork shoulder is why you have servers. The good ones stop from you ordering what sounds good and tell you to order what is good. Ours was unequivocal: order the pork shoulder. Thank god we did. It was dropped off by a runner, who quickly disappeared. As we stared at the pinkish strips of charred meat, it was obvious there had been an error. They had brought us the beef rib-eye. Mistakes happen, and we flagged down our server to alert him to the mistake. "Sorry," he said. "I should have mentioned that. The pork is 100% acorn fed, so the finished result looks a lot like beef."

Humbled and hungry, I dug in. It was the best pork I've ever had. Rich, meaty, and smoky. It has now put me on a mission to find more 100% acorn fed pork. (Not acorn finished dammit, It's not the same!)

So if I can offer my own SF advice now. Go to Coqueta. Order the pork.

This reminds me so much of a similar story. I was in Annecy having dinner at Marc Veyrat (the most memorable meal I've ever eaten). When they brought out the cheese cart which was the size of a *piano*, our server asked us what we'd like to try. I replied that I'd like to try some cheeses from the region, "but there's no need to try Reblochon," I said, "because we can get that in Virginia."

The server looked at us in silence for about two seconds with a glare that bordered on being cocky and smug, yet somehow wasn't at all. He simply said, with a slightly dismissive look on his face, "Get the Reblochon," as if he knew some strange, dark secret that we weren't privy to. We got it, and it was like nothing I've ever tasted before or since - this was a classic example of transportation across the Atlantic - even in a best-case scenario - changing the very nature of unpasteurized cheese, and needless to say we thanked our server *profusely* - it was a lesson I'll never forget. (It probably didn't hurt that this was a Michelin 3-star restaurant, and they were sourcing *the* best Reblochon made.)

Coqueta puts Jaleo in proper perspective, don't you think? I know I said this above, but I've had tapas most places in the world worth trying them (Barcelona, Madrid, San Sebastian, etc.), and I've never had tapas as good as these.

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Will post more later on our SF trip but just wanted folks to know that Coqueta is closed for a facelift through Jan. 7 (2016, just a few days), in case anyone is coming into town this week and was planning to eat there. We walked by today and they were already deep into refurbishment and the work only started this morning!

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"S.F.'s Magnolia Brewing Co. Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy," by Sarah Fritsche and Esther Mobley on sfgate.com

I hope they make it out the other side in one piece (or a close facsimile thereof). While they didn't have the best beer in the world the couple times I've been, it's been solid beer, brewed well to style, and with good food to boot. And every time I've been there its been busy (at different times of day, days of week, and times of year...)

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Just got back from a week in SF and can happily crow about two dinners:  Frances & Stone's Throw were superb.  New American cooking, limited menus, informal but attentive and knowledgeable service and the courses were really, really good (menu changes daily).  The only issue with Frances is the tight space so it can feel cramped but the servers do a good job of maneuvering and paying attention.

Farafallon - seafood near Union Square Park - is a lovely room and the service is quite good but the hefty price tag and anemic sized servings casts a big shadow.  I would not return but others seem to love the daily changes.  The sable - aka black cod - was highlighted and was just meh.

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Having seen this question I've been curious to find out what gives!!!   Steak and cheese or not?   I hit up HellBurger Arlington last week and discoverd a "steak sandwich" with cheese on the board menu, but it was definitely not the big and cheesy (a sandwich i loved for its quality of steak, cheese, overall gloppyness (gloppy in a good way) and one I thought offered a combination of better meat and cheese than any cheesesteak or steak and cheese I had devoured.

Well the big and cheesy is no more...at least not now.  In its place are steak sandwiches.

Steak sandwiches with a meat filling that is not shaved or thin beef or roast beef.   These are sandwiches with tri tip cuts, with thickness.  A steak sandwich.  I haven't eaten one or seen one in decades.  I did a quick search in google for one in DC and all I could find were steak and cheese sandwiches and in some noted expense acct steak houses, roast beef au jus with thin cut roast beef.  (It admittedly wasn't a thorough search--they might be out there).  I checked restaurants and images.   Didn't find another one.

I had the variation with mushrooms, onions.  Quite tasty.   Tri tips are a pretty rare steak cut in my experience.  They are smallish cuts....and I recall being introduced to the cut in California years ago at a BBQ.   Tasty then and tasty at HellBurger.

The sandwich was $11 or $12 as I recall and while not huge was ample in size and reasonably filling.  Hey it was steak...not shaved meat.

I don't consider myself a big red meat eater but I do get to Ray's and HellBurger periodically.  I still find the quality excellent and the pricing terrific.  And frankly a thickish or semi thick steak sandwich is something I have neither had or seen in what seems like forever.  Its a nice change of pace and I found it scrumptious.

Meanwhile HellBurger is an ever changing entity.  Even as the layout and presentation has changed it keeps putting out great quality burgers and other items at what I consider great prices for the quality.

I haven't been to Ray's for a couple of months, but this post hit a sweet spot for me. I'll be in San Francisco next week and one of my all-time fave sandwiches is the tri-tip from Buckhorn Grill, which compares to a Philly Cheesesteak like Toro at Sushi Taro compares to Chicken of the Sea....

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