Pic here: http://rainydaysandsundays-c.blogspot...
I went to San Francisco this past weekend for a quick visit to one of my favorite cities in the world. I lived in the city for 8 years, and go back whenever I get a chance. There's just something about San Francisco that has always felt like home to me; I feel an instant click whenever I am there. The people, the weather, the politics...it's just more me than Los Angeles will ever be.
All that said, the cuisine is a major reason why I love SF. But this time around, I was plagued with bad luck when it came to the food. The only photo I took was of the best dish I had - the famed chilaquiles at the Primavera booth at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market (the booth is only there on Saturdays and they don't always have the chilaquiles, so I got VERY lucky!). This breakfast is absolutely, completely and totally the best breakfast in town or in the state of California or, dare I say it, the world. You've got a mix of crispy fried tortilla chips tossed with a spicy red sauce and chorizo, topped with Mexican crema, cojita cheese, chunks of avocado and chopped onions. It's served with soft scrambled eggs and savory black beans. Yes, it's a lot of food, but you will eat every last bite because it's THAT good. Besides, after I ate my chilaquiles, I went on a 7 mile walk and didn't eat again until dinnertime. It'll fuel you for the whole day.
Other good food I had in SF on this trip: The cream puff at Beard Papa's (first time I've ever tried). The turkey hash with poached eggs at Universal Cafe. The amazing burger at the Slow Club. Unfortunately, I didn't take photos of these because I either forgot, or have featured the same meals on this blog before. Oh, one other notable: Claire's Squares at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market (as recommended by Becks & Posh). Fantastic.
But on to the mediocrity that seemed to plague this trip:
Piperade, the Basque tapas restaurant that came highly recommended by numerous foodie friends and the every food magazine/website/guidebook. Their signature dish, the piperade, is simply stewed onions and bell peppers topped with a poached egg and a few slivers of serrano ham. It tasted OK, but this is their signature dish? The crab salad was bland and didn't have any acidic balance, and their pork was overcooked and tough. My friend thoroughly enjoyed her halibut in brown butter/hazelnut sauce, which was absolutely delectable, and we all liked our sides of machengo cheese potato gratin, but for the price and with all the hype, I expected a lot more. Oh, and the service left much to be desired. Our waiter was rude, unfriendly and inattentive.
Americano, the restaurant at the Hotel Vitale, where we stayed. I booked a 10:30 a.m. breakfast for me and a few of my best girlfriends. When we showed up a few minutes late, we noticed the waitstaff was busy breaking down all the tables and cleaning up the place. We stood there, waiting for someone to notice us, and when they did not, I walked over and asked the manager about our table. "Oh, it's after 10:30 now and we stop serving after 10:30." I asked why, then, they take 10:30 a.m. reservations, and he said that this was the last seating of the morning. The thing I don't get is that if a restaurant is going to start breaking down tables at 10:31 a.m., why book a 10:30 a.m. reservation? As if we want to sit there amidst all the chaos of table-clearing, dish clanking and vacuums running? We left without eating and went to the Fairmont Hotel instead, where we had a good but average crab cake and Cesar Salad lunch.
Citizen Cake, the place I always go to for the best almond croissants ever made. We poked our heads into this Hayes Valley institution, only to realize they had split up the restaurant into two parts: The bakery, which was very small and featured only pastries, cookies and cupcakes (no sign of their fabulous cakes and bigger baked goods) and 3-4 small tables; then the restaurant, which served lunch and dinner. What a bummer. The restaurant, with newly dark painted walls and a bar where the fabulous bakery counter used to be, looks depressing and small. The cafe is way too small and looks more like the average coffee shop than the destination place for Elizabeth Falkner's famed baked goods. The old restaurant, which combined both the bakery and the main dining room in one space, was light and airy and open, and allowed patrons to see the bakers actually making the cakes and pastries. They were also out of almond croissants, so we walked down to La Boulangerie and had a very good almond croissant down there. I think that's going to be my new cafe stop in Hayes Valley.
The Slanted Door, a place I've been wanting to try for a very long time. What a complete and utter disappointment. We ordered their shaking beef, which everyone insists is the best dish there, and it was basic and mediocre. There were about 7 small chunks of beef, half of which were overcooked, some onions and spices - for $26.00. The "spicy" cauliflower and "spicy" Japanese eggplant had no heat at all, though the eggplant had good flavor. We did enjoy the hoison pork ribs and the egg rolls, and the drinks were tasty; unfortunately, the bar staff "lost" our drink orders twice and we went 45 minutes without any drinks while we ate dinner. The manager apologized and comped two of our drinks, and gave us a free dessert, but overall it was a very disappointing experience.
I think where I went wrong on this trip is that instead of researching out some of the lesser known places, I opted to go to everyone's favorites. In the past, I've gone to old favorites like Il Borgo in Hayes Valley or just scoped out the neighborhoods instead of reading up on what's hot.
I'll be back for New Year's Eve, so hopefully I'll have better luck next time!