Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Eating our way through San Francisco . . .

Let me begin my post on eating with a photo of my cycling in Yountville -- and mad props to Pater for setting this one up -- I'd have sworn (based on much experience!) that he could never click the shutter that fast. We were very pleased to borrow the bikes from The Villagio Inn and set off daily following routes suggested by the concierge, then experimenting along the many side roads to create our own ideal distances. Calories, calories, and more calories needed to be burned between breakfast and dinner. We ran several times as well, and in San Francisco we walked miles and miles, but it was lovely to have some variety. Because, as I mentioned, all those calories . . .

First of all, the San Francisco calories. You already know about the tacos and tamales and the Humphrey Slocombe ice cream (ah, the memory!) all eaten in good company.

And I think I mentioned, in passing, that we ate a few times at decent, but not notable Italian restaurants in the North Beach area wending our way home from a long day sightseeing.

More memorable was a pleasant Italian restaurant we discovered by chance on our first evening, one I'd happily return to on a future visit: Seven Hills Restaurant on Hyde Street. Great food, lovely service, in a charmingly intimate two-room affair. The only impediment to full enjoyment was that I'd misunderstood Pater's intention (to return here for a full meal) when we'd popped into a nearby wine bar (Cafe Meuse, which I'd also recommend) to have a glass before dinner, since it was still a bit early. Instead, I surprised him by ordering a flight of reds (after all, weren't we in wine country? wasn't this educational?) . . . he rose to the challenge . . .and we arrived at Seven Hills 90 minutes later not quite so keen on a full bottle for dinner. No problem, though, as their list of wines available by the glass is very decent. Perhaps the ample lubrication before dinner accounts for my inability to tell you what we ate, but I do remember that it was all very good. Go. See for yourself. An added bonus is that you could take the cable car to get there, although we got the sense that this is very much a place frequented by locals rather than tourists.

We also loved the food at Canteen, one of the places Lisa was good enough to recommend. I loved the amuse-bouche, a perfectly-proportioned and textured spoonful of avocado and smoked trout, so I was hooked from the start. Good thing, too, because otherwise I might have been bothered by the cold drafts that kept sweeping in each time the door opened. We were sitting at the counter closest that door and brrrrr. . . But the sumptuous chestnut soup warmed me . . . so velvety good, such a rich, earthy flavour. The other highlight, for me, was my Vanilla Souffle, airy, sweet, rich with that eggy-vanilla fullness I can still conjure up in memory.
Too bad, though, that one dish came so quickly on the heels of the last.
I get the fun of the canteen/diner ambiance, but still, we were in and out in just under an hour, more than a little bemused at having spent close to $200 that quickly. We stretched out the evening (and burned off some of those calories) by walking back to our hotel (Canteen's downtown, our hotel at Fisherman's Wharf), comparing tasting notes but feeling a wee bit "What just happened" as well.
We'd go back, but we'd actively resist being prodded along through our courses.
The other foodie highlight for us in San Francisco was the Saturday Farmer's Market in the Ferry Building. We have some pretty wonderful Saturday markets in Vancouver, as well as Granville Island market which is open every day. But our daughter had really recommended this one so we went. And I have to say, if we lived in SF, we would be there every Saturday. We'd be able to pick up persimmons
and beautiful beets
but Pater would also be able to keep an ongoing supply of Tasty Salted Pig Parts from Boccalone instead of making do
with a Salumi cone (of assorted sausage slices).
(my apologies for the blurry photos)

This cone was picked up as we strolled along AFTER having wonderful home-baked scones with our latte and Americano which, in turn, were consumed AFTER the steamed pork dumplings we picked up because we were starving and hadn't yet found the scones to eat with our coffee (What? we'd walked all the way from our hotel -- it was time to take on more calories!) but BEFORE I stopped to sample a few oysters in the half shell and try my first-ever raw clam -- more rubbery than the oyster, but also more conducive to some enjoyable chewing . . . sweet and seasalt-y at once. . . .

I had thought to fit both Yountville and SF eating into this post, but this has gone on long enough and I really have to get to work. Still, enough for you to chew on here, no? Made you hungry yet? Personally, we've embarked on a bit of a healthier-eating kick around here, but it's lovely to reminisce about the good ol' days, week before last . . .


  1. Now my mouth is watering! I'm bookmarking your restaurant notes for our next visit. I really resent being rushed through a meal, but I think most Americans are used to food coming so quickly after they order that they get tetchy if it doesn't appear with lightning speed.

    Can hardly wait to hear where you ate in Yountville, bet we went to some of the same places!

  2. You should be a food writer! Just had a big lunch and yet my mouth is watering, that has to be the ultimate compliment!

  3. Oh my goodness, I'm now STARVING. I love reading about food (my mother began her professional food career as a reviewer), and I agree that SF is a great place to eat. When we got there we'd spent two weeks driving across the bottom of the US, aghast at the awfulness of most of the food (despite the produce being lovely), so it was a very welcome change. Looking forward to the next instalment!

  4. That salmon and avocado mixture you describe has my mouth watering!

    And the fresh beets. How I wish I had some--little baby ones with good greens on top. I recently read a recipe that called for this with spaghetti noodles of all things. We tried a version of this last night and we were pleasantly surprised. It is not a dish that I would have thought to prepare.

  5. This post mentions all of my favourite carbs. LOVE!

  6. Pseu: I think you'd like Seven Hills. And I suppose that for many people, efficient and quick service is what they're looking for. I prefer to linger, to really stretch out and savour the experience. Suspect you guys are the same.
    Duchesse: Well, the subject matter is certainly inspiring. . .
    Tiffany: I just wish I'd taken better notes. I'm so impressed by those who can remember every detail of a meal eaten months, even years ago. I have a tough time with last night!
    Terri: It was a delicious mixture, delicately smoked trout and just enough of each that the avocado and trout balanced each other exquisitely.
    Those tiny beets really are delightful, aren't they -- I love a mix of golden and red. Hard to imagine them with spaghetti, though -- maybe you could post the recipe.
    K-Line: So . . . scones, steamed pork dumplings, ice cream, beets, and wine? those are all good carbs, right?

  7. Luckily for me I have just had lunch otherwise this post would be agony, it must be lovely to eat to please yourself.
    I find it so hard with the girls as they all like different food,so we invariably end up with pizza from a chain proffering our voucher! I shall look forward to some more grown up meals later!
    It is when I see markets that I love the idea of renting a flat for the week rather than a hotel, Mother did it in Paris and said it was brilliant being able to cook for a change as they too have great markets as you know.
    I do love it though when you drift back to a holiday whilst working for just a little light relief.

  8. SF is such a great restaurant city. I know NYC is supposed to be the ultimate USA american restaurant city but for me SF is much more heartful in its cooking. Maybe I have just spent more time in SF. I may have a bit of a west coast bias.;-)
    Love this food report! Yummy!!

  9. Alison: Oh, I remember those compromises eating out with kids. Some of ours were quite adventurous, food-wise, but there were far too many meals eaten at fast food places over those years.
    And yes, this idea of renting a flat so you can cook the great market food . . . we're going to try this for our next trip to Paris, although it's my understanding that the kitchens in the available flats aren't great.
    How did your mom find hers?
    LBR: "Heartful" -- what a lovely adjective for food/cooking. We were certainly impressed by SF and hope to get back. And such an easy trip, same time zone, leave after breakfast, there by lunch . . .

  10. Mater, I love the photo of you cycling. Actually I love all of your photos.

    I agree with LBR, SF has the best food and cooking I've experienced. Well, maybe with the exception of Seattle.

  11. Susan: Thanks!
    I'm surprised to hear of Seattle as a contending foodie city -- what are your favourites there?

  12. Such a wonderfully evocative post. One feels like one is vicariously sensing the pleasures of the food through your words. I adore the SF farmer's market and go every time I am there. I would certainly be there every week if I lived in the area.

    And I agree that SF is a fabulous food city, as is New York, but having eaten extensively in both I would say I prefer SF myself, and Bel's word "heartfelt" perhaps fits my experience.

    I hate being rushed through a meal and want to savor the ambiance, the food, the company, but my spouse is one who counts the seconds.


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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