Restaurants & Bars

First time in San Francisco-Report extremely LONG

Soleil | Apr 1, 200511:58 AM     3

Trip report from a DC chowhound 8days 7nights in SF

Thanks for all the suggestions I found on this board! You all are great!

Landed at SFO on St. Patrick’s Day early enough to stow my luggage and grab lunch. I was with colleagues (this was a business trip) and they were staying at Union Square (Westin St. Francis) so we ended up at Scala’s Bistro for lunch. We ate at a high top table in the bar area. I ordered an anchor steam beer on draft and grilled octopus with Yukon Gold Potatoes, Haricot Verts and Salsa Verde as an appetizer. Very tasty but a bit large of a serving for one. I would have preferred more of the delicious green beans (haricot verts) and a few less grilled octopus, though delicious it was a bit much. The potatoes were yummy buttery tasting. For my entrée I ordered the tricolore salad with Arugula, Radicchio, Endive, Lemon Vinaigrette, and Shaved Parmesan. It was fine but not very exciting. I think we were seated next to a table with one of the managers dining with her family. She greeted many who entered the restaurant.

Hotel Vitale
I checked into my hotel, the new Hotel Vitale. My room unfortunately looked out onto the interior courtyard (code for an unuseable interior area filled with all the utilities and air-conditioning shaft.) If I stood in the very corner of my room near the window, I could see a portal through which I could see the tops of palm trees. To the hotel’s credit, they say that the interior area will eventually be landscaped. Other rooms have gorgeous views of the bay bridge and the Ferry Market Building. The hotel had just opened March 9 and I was there March 17-24. Clearly, they were still in the opening phase and many things were still being improved upon. But I loved the Hotel and would definitely return. The bell staff, front desk staff, concierge and spa staff were all wonderful.
Two food related perks: the hotel provides a booklet written especially for the hotel on the surrounding neighborhood including restaurants and food stops; also every room contains a copy of Patricia Unterman's San Francisco Food Lover's Guide, 4th Edition as a reference for your stay. Another non food perk of the hotel is complimentary yoga class every morning. As a novice to yoga I found these classes great. There were others in the class who seemed more veteran and they also seemed to like it. The view from the 8th floor room where the yoga takes place is really nice and I am told in warmer weather the classes will be outside. Onto the food-I didn’t eat at Americano. The first few days I was there was limited service and several of the other days large parties appeared to have take over vast portions of the lounge and restaurant. I did have drinks in the bar several times. They have a page of signature drinks. Most of which looked good. I tried the Americano cocktail with campari and sweet vermouth and orange –it was a little bitter for my taste. I also tried a special fruit style martini it was very good.

Taylor’s Refresher:
Thursday night I had the Anchor Steam porter on draft and a special, corn beef and cabbage stew. Nice and hot with big chunks of corn beef and cabbage that just melted in my mouth. It was just what I wanted.
Friday morning: Coffee at Peet’s at the Ferry Building and a hot cross roll and a sourdough roll at Acme bread company. Perfect. I loved the hot cross roll –no icing but just the right amount of dried fruit. Sourdough was also quite good. I ordered an americano at Peet’s (not on their menu) but that’s all I drink coffee wise. It was good and strong.

Friday lunch: Met my colleagues and we had lunch at Blue in the Castro district. I ordered a Lagunitas IPA (in a bottle) and a spinach salad with grilled chicken. Good amounts of spinach and chicken but I forgot to order the dressing on the side and it was a bit drenched for my taste.

Friday night:
Beach Blanket Babylon—it was a total hoot. Some good singers and the hats were outrageous. No food to speak of but I had a couple of local brews.

Italian restaurant in North Beach: Trattoria Pinnochio: I ordered Spaghetti Primavera Sophia consisting of lots of fresh sautéed seasonal vegetables in a garlic tomato sauce. We had been walking past and got pulled in by the outdoor greeter and convinced to try it because my colleague said he loved gnocchi and they said they made the best. I tried a bite of my colleague’s gnocchi and it was great very light and flavorful! My spaghetti was fine but the veggies were the star. Yum!

Ferry Market for the Farmers Market (P.S. Hotel Vitale will provide guests with a bag to gather all your market finds—I didn’t find that out until I returned loaded down) It was overcast so it wasn’t very crowded. Minimal lines for anything. I expected something bigger but it was still very colorful and fun.

First stop Blue Bottle coffee- Good drip coffee. I enjoyed it. Also bought a half -pound of the Hayes Valley Espresso fresh roasted beans. We have been having the coffee at home now that I have returned and I really like it. This ended up being one of the gifts for my husband and he loves it because it so strong without tasting burnt.

Nick Sciabica and Sons for olive oil. Loved talking to the producer who said that his family has been making olive oil for generations. While I was there a customer came and bought up huge bottles of their vintage reserve. I ended up with several sampler packs so I could try the different flavors.

Capn Mike’s Holy Smoke for smoked salmon and salmon jerky. It looked delicious and I was able to store it in the Americano refrigerator until I went home.

Marshall’s farm for honey. I bought the SF Bay area Beekeeper’s Blend and some honey sticks. The honey sticks are 22 fruit flavored honeys in a straw. Flavors include Cherry, Raspberry, Cinnamon, Strawberry, Orange, Peach, Lemon, Banana, Lime, Apple, Blueberry, Peppermint, Grape, Root Beer, Chocolate, Watermelon, Licorice, Pina Colada & Natural. My kids really like them so far.

Frog Hollow Farm for peach chutney. It looked and tasted wonderful and had a great smoky taste with a little kick of ginger and chile.

I bought chile jam from Tierra Vegetables and a Mole mix. I love very spicy things and was intrigued by the different combinations of peppers and jam. Since my husband is not such a big fan I grabbed the C.Chinense version for me -A blend of the habanero type chiles. And the Farm Blend version –milder with red and green chiles for him. I have since tried the c. Chinense and I can report that although very spicy the flavors blend well together and really make a sandwich!

I also got a wonderful huge asian pear from one of the stands right across from Sur la Table. It was amazing! It tasted great and I have never seen anything so huge.
I also grabbed a doughnut muffin from the Downtown bakery and a squash turnover from the bakery stand set up right inside the door at Frog Hollow Farm and took both back to my hotel room to enjoy with a big cup of Peet’s Americano. It had been several hours --I needed another caffeine boost.

I also treated myself to a bunch of freesia at the flower stand on the corner near Sur La Table, my hotel room needed a bit of fresh color.

On Saturday, I also saw one of the staff from Americano heading into the kitchen earlier in the day with what looked like bread and produce from the farmers market at the Ferry Building.

Dinner: Colleague’s choice-- they had very fond memories of Bistro Clovis: appetizer was amazing spring pea soup. Really tasted of fresh green peas. I loved it. My entrée was salmon baked in puff pastry with a broth. It was very moist and tender and flavorful. My colleagues were very excited about ordering rose wine. So that’s what we got. Would not have been my choice but it was fine. Colleague ordered snails and the rack of lamb. Second colleague ordered lobster dumplings and steak. I lived in France in the 80’s and the atmosphere and food did remind very much of the small bistros in smaller towns in France. We all split a decadent crème brulee.

Peet’s for an Americano.
Lunch at the Thirsty Bear Brewing Co. for an appetizer I ordered the ensalada mixta : Mixed greens, sherry mustard vinaigrette, & candied walnuts & Mirablue cheese and the entrée was Grilled Black Sausage with White bean ragout, mustard aioli, paprika onion rings and I tried Brown bear ale on draft then four sampler sizes of the Koslov stout, meyer’s esb, golden vanilla and Valencia wheat. I really enjoyed the brown bear ale and also the Valencia Wheat. I thought the golden vanilla tasted too much like vanilla which I don’t associate with beer.
Had to go to a business reception Sunday night at Fort Mason.

Peet’s for an americano
Drinks at Americano’s lounge.
Aqua for dinner: Stunningly expensive. The look is modern and cozy at the same time. We had a drink at the bar while waiting for our table. The service was excellent. We started with a gift from the chef an amuse bouche it was delicious but I can’t describe it. I began with Scallops and asparagus The 3 scallops were wonderful and the 6 spears of asparagus were fantastic. I am a huge asparagus fan and these asparagus just melted in my mouth and tasted very green and like asparagus should. I loved the portion size. We were told that we could order certain entrees from the chef’s tasting menu so I chose for my entrée the sturgeon. It was 4 pieces of perfectly cooked sturgeon with a morel sauce poured over it at the table. It was really good. I can almost still taste it. For dessert, we were pretty full but we shared a cheese plate which was great (3 slices of cheese— If I remember correctly we had Tomme de Chèvre:Goat's milk, unpasteurized, firm aged cheese Produced in Poitou, France; Cana de Oveja Sheep's milk, soft, buttery & crumbly
Produced in Murcia, Spain and Bayley Hazen Blue Cow's milk, pasteurized, semi-firm Blue Cheese Produced in Vermont) and I got a decaf espresso. Definitely worth it!

Peet’s for an Americano
Then I decided that afternoon to go for a walk out to find some chocolate.

XOX Truffles in North Beach for earl grey truffles and French roast truffles. I bought 20 a piece and they came packaged in little take out Chinese containers one for each flavor. I love the tiny pieces and how each one is so rich you just need one to get a good hit of chocolate.

Scharffenberger chocolates at Ferry market building. I got a mixed bag of flavors. I recently tried Sam Adams chocolate Bock and wanted to find the chocolates used in the beer so I could try them together. The sales staff weren’t sure so I opted for a mix.

See’s candy at the Embarcadero Center: My friends at home are hooked on butterscotch squares and I wanted to try the spring bon bons. I also bought some easter candy hollow eggs to give to my kids from the easter bunny.

Recchuiti Confections at Ferry market Building. I tried the caramel du sel. It was intriguing but I opted to buy their green box (chocolates with herb flavors) and a box of dark chocolate paques to bring to Easter dinner. Those were unbelievably good.

Dinner: Taylor’s Refresher again at Ferry market : I wanted fish tacos and Mijita was closed already. I enjoyed the fish tacos and the side of sweet potato fries. I also got a lunatic lager (good foil for the tacos).

Wednesday: Ferry Market for breakfast: Peet’s for an Americano /Acme Bread Company for a croissant –very flaky and buttery/ Frog Hollow Farms for a leek and mushroom turnover still warm-yum. I also bought a loaf of pain au levain to take back home. It was great!

Lunch: Tadich Grill : I loved the whole thing! Definitely one of the high points of my trip. I went at 11:30 by myself and sat at the long counter. I loved all the servers in long white coats and aprons. It was an overcast cool, threatening rain day which made it perfect for cioppino. Absolutely the best dish I had my whole trip. Filled with huge pieces of fish, shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops and a great broth. It just made me feel good. It was perfect.

After that, I took a tour of Anchor Steam brewery. Cute tour and fun to sample the beers. I ended up buying a couple of pint classes to bring home for my husband and some coasters.

Dinner: I had been craving sushi all trip. So I asked the concierge for a recommendation since Kyo-ya was closed. He suggested Ozumo. I wish that Kyo-ya had been open. I sat at the Sushi bar and ordered omikaze and a sake sampler of unpasteurized sakes (hard to find in DC). The sushi chef working my side of the bar was pretty new and clearly working under the direction of a more senior chef working nearby. He was trying very hard but seemed to be struggling to keep up with the orders. I told him I was adventurous and asked for the best he could do within a certain price limit. While all the sushi was fresh and tasted fine—it was boring. When asked his favorite sushi roll he said “California”. My favorite thing was actually the starter of asian veggies. The waitress was also excellent and seemed to be juggling all the orders extremely well. She also spoke Japanese with what seemed to be fluency. I had sashimi-- standard fare including tuna and salmon. nigiri was also pretty standard and a dragon roll. I strolled back to my hotel to have an Irish Coffee in the Americano lounge.

Also as a side note I loved walking in SF, and jogging along the embarcadero. Working out at the YMCA with a wonderful view of the bay bridge. Shopping at Macy’s at Union Square and for toys at Jeffrey’s Toys on Market. Riding the California Street Cable car –less crowded but still scenic. Thanks to all the SF chowhounds that helped make my trip a success. There are many places I didn’t get to try and I look forward to returning in the near future. Next time I will bring my family!

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