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short trip report (actually: long report on short trip)

Dbird | Nov 19, 200309:28 PM

With a couple meals yet to go on this 4-day, 4-night visit I wanted to thank all whose posts here have helped me construct a very satisfying trip.
On Monday at lunch time I discovered the Ferry Building. Reminds me of Chelsea Market but more focussed and well, better. So I started at Hog Island oyster bar, with six kumamotos followed by six 'Atlantic' oysters, which are evidently blue points adapted and grown in the Tomales (tamales?) Bay. They were beautifully prepared with all the sweet liquor left in the shells. Followed this with a half pound of very sweet, tenderly cooked lobster meat from the just-opened fish market across the aisle. At $12.50/lb my only regret was not having a fedex box and dry ice to buy up the rest and ship it home.
That evening I had carpaccio and TWO orders of mussels at Plouf (mariniere and bretonne). I think they were truly shocked at my voracity and capacity (not to mention gluttony). Mussels were small and sweet and gritless, but the sauces were frankly a bit insipid and oddly undersalted. Skipped the frites.
Tuesday went down for an early lunch at Tadich Grill but seeing the line (like a firing squad against the wall) decided in the interest of time to see what was up at Aqua. Hadn't been in five years or so and was doubtful but it was there. The dining room was fairly empty when I arrived. I requested a table and was shown to a makeshift spot in the window facing the room which I refused in favor of a banquette. I didn't want much, but the memory of yesterday's lobster drew me to the lobster salad appetizer (lobster, cauliflower puree, mache). I asked the server's advice about portion size (was an appetizer sufficient for lunch, or should I have a double?) and he said that the mache was really just a garnish and advised a green salad. Against my better judgment (like most, I lament the typical fate of 'field greens') I assented. He said he'd bring the salad first and then the lobster and was gone before I could say actually, I'd prefer them either together or with salad after. The dining room was filling up. Another table was approached with a glass of wine I had ordered; a table was seated opposite mine and immediately presented with amuses (as was one other table but no others including the one at which I was seated). Bread was offered, refused, deposited. The salad met expectations and was removed virtually untouched. The lobster that followed was excellent, the mache tender, and the whole composition well-considered. Still hungry (deux mouclades) I asked the server whether the lobster or the scallops might be prepared more quickly and was persuaded to scallops. Huge, swelled, seared, medium and meaty on a nice brunoise of kabocha squash (I think). Is it just me or is it SF? These, too, were undersalted to my taste, and I found myself progressing dutifully but without interest or appetite through the dish.
Returned to Tadich Grill that night for crab and avocado salad with thousand island dressing and cioppino. I love this place! Like Musso and Frank in LA (but with good food) and ... what's it called?... in Chicago. And I didn't find the staff surly or short or lacking in any other way I was prepared for by some posters on this board. In fact they were engaging and chatty and offered me a glass of (excellent) wine on the house which after a martini and a glass of-- was it Rombauer or Niebaum Coppola? merlot I was obliged to refuse. AND another patron-- who I have to believe is a participant here-- stopped to tell me that I was a 'dead ringer' for the author of (Patricia Untermann's) San Francisco Food Lover's Guide, which I was perusing at the time: 'you could be her daughter'. I've never seen her but can think of no greater compliment than to be likened to a culinary celebrity.
Then today detoured during an East Bay day to Oliveto's where a couple fumbles at the outset (um, we don't serve at the bar... just one?.... yes, of course, just a few minutes....; a menu that actually didn't speak to me.; and my recollection of the much more interesting market I'd just passed from the parking lot persuaded me to change course. Wandering through the market I spied cooked crab at the fish counter and as I was deciding to make lunch of a small container an elderly gentleman walked up and requested a crab. The counterman picked one up, took it to a back counter and carefully cracked each limb. That was it. My best meal so far this trip may be the one I ate in my car in the parking lot. Purell sanitizing hand towels, thank you.
I may be back to Tadich tonight. Can't wait to return in December.

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