Just got back from my food trip to San Francisco. See the link for my (very long) report.
A few things stood out in relation to Portland:
1) We don't have haute cuisine. Genoa is probably our closest now that Couvron is gone, but even they are much more rustic. Don't get me wrong. We have great food and very good prices. Excellent flavor/$ here, I think. But do we have any places pushing the craft? Certainly not at the level of The French Laundry. But even in comparison to Gary Danko's and Masa's I would say probably not. Dishes sound too similar between places like Wildwood, Bluehour, and Paley's. What we have, I think, are a bunch of Chez Panisses (except Chez Panisse makes a new menu every day and provides much better service with tremendously high quality ingredients). I think in some ways, Caprial's may have the most unique menus in town because of her willingness to fuse NW with Asian and Latin. We have an awesome variety of food, but do we have anyone truly impresses?
2) Our farmer's markets are pretty darned good. My friend from Dallas who came up here last year for a food trip was with me in SF. He actually liked the Portland Farmer's Market better than the Ferry Building Farmer's Market in SF. I think it's a wash. We have a little more variety in the produce, but fewer vendors in general, even selling produce, fewer cheesemakers, and fewer people selling fish. Between the Portland and Beaverton markets, though. We have a market community worth being proud of.
3) We don't have a produce store. I love Pastaworks and Porcini Produce. They always have fantastic produce, but it's a small selection. I like New Seasons, Zupan's, Whole Foods, and Nature's. Even Fred Meyer's has decent produce for a supermarket. But have you been to Berkeley Bowl? I've seen less variety in the airplane hangar sized Mercado Merced in Mexico City. And the quality was all excellent. Even the prices were good. If you go to the Bay Area this is a must see. There were so many things I'd never heard of. I felt like a kid in a candy store.
4) We don't have dim sum. It's not even worth calling what we do have dim sum. We have wanna-be dim sum. It looks like dim sum, it just doesn't taste near as good as what you can get in SF. Night and day. That said, even the great quality stuff in SF didn't light my fire. I'd prefer the dishes at Sungari. I wish I had gone to a place that had more than dim sum so I could have seen how Sungari stacks up.
5) SF has an awesome Chowhound community. They get together to eat at least once a week it sounded like. We ate with two Chowhounders at Gary Danko and it was extremely pleasant. I have to say, I'm jealous.
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