This past weekend, I visited the Bay Area for the first time, spending most of my time in SF, but some time in Berkeley and Palo Alto. I've given a bullet-point overview of the places/things that I ate, and my review of each. Hope this helps someone on their next trip!
-Flour+Water (Mission): Nice atmosphere; a little more upscale, but still SF casual. The margherita pizza was good, but a bit alkaline tasting on the bottom of the crust. The lamb tortellini were delicious! The pasta was al dente, the meat was savory, and it had a nice calm level of spice to it.
-Schmidt's (Mission): Had a few good german beers here. Food looked interesting too, but was just here for a drink. Atmosphere had a relaxed feel, and was filled with hipsters (thin, beardless variety).
-Ferry Plaza Market
--Baked good stand (furthest stand towards water and bay bridge): Good small sourdough loaf, great flourless chocolate cookie, good chocolate croissant, and amazing peanut butter cookie sandwich. The peanut butter cookie sandwich had two great peanut butter cookies filled with a peanut butter pastry cream/ganache in the middle.
--Inside market: pistachio and chocolate italian donuts. Both very good.
--Inside market: carnitas empanada - meat was savory but not too fatty. Falling apart inside of great crust.
--Bodega Goat Cheese Farm: Natilla (Peruvian mix of goat cheese, brown sugar, and molasse) was excellent. As was fresh goat cheese.
-Dear Mom (Mission): Dive-y atmosphere with low lighting, foosball table, pinball machines, photo booth, and jukebox. Very busy on a Saturday night, and I was the only male there without a full beard. Friends had lamb burgers and enjoyed them. I had fried chicken bao baos. I added avocado to the bao baos, and loved the textural difference between the crispy chicken and the smooth avocado. The flavors of the sauces were good and strong, and the bun was perfect.
-Taqueria el buen sabor (Mission): Hole-in-the-wall little place. Got the special carnitas burrito, which came with spanish rice, your choice of beans, cheese, guacamole, and carnitas. It was easily the best burrito I've ever had, and I went back for more on my way to the airport last night. They also had chips, but they weren't my style (not much salt, too thick and too deeply fried).
-Tartine Bakery (Mission): Mexican wedding cookies - very buttery and crumbly interior; a bit small. Hazelnut merengues - great flavors and textures. Currant frangipane tart - unlike other frangipane tarts I've had, as it had a crossaint-like base with sliced almonds and jam on top. Very good flavor, but I prefer the type that has a moist almond filling, like marzipan or a bakewell tort. Chocolate rye sea salt - Chocolate and rye came off strongly, in a very good way, but I couldn't taste the rye. Be prepared to wait in a line here. There were about 25 people in line when I got there, and it went by in around 20 minutes.
-Bi-rite Creamery: Peach sorbet - very strong peach flavor, but I got tired of it after a few bites, as I prefer creamy ice cream to sorbet. Strawberry balsamic - an excellent strawberry ice cream, with faint tastes of balsamic. Malted vanilla with peanut brittle and milk chocolate pieces - great combination that tasted like a frozen milkshake, but with fun texture. My favorite of the three.
-Gather (Berkeley): Nice farm-to-table atmosphere, but the interior reminded me somewhat of an upscale university cafeteria for some reason. Got the pork belly, terrine, and olive dishes to share to start. For context, I am not a big fan of pork belly or terrine. Pork belly was better than most I've had before (less fatty, with more flavor) and came with an excellent black lentil side. Terrine plate had a few interesting things to it, but nothing special. Olives were okay, but were all of the same varietal, and had a somewhat sour taste to them. For our meals, we split the sausage and summer squash pizzas. Both were excellent, in very different ways. The sausage was a bit light on the sausage, but the cheesy potato more than made up for that. Lots of strong flavors in that pizza. The squash pizza had a light red sauce with good goat cheese and excellent pesto. Both pizzas had thicker, chewier crusts.
-Calafia (Palo Alto): Went here while visiting Stanford GSB based on a Chowhound recommendation. Unfortunately, was disappointed with the salmon-corn chowder (not enough flavor; way too hot). I did enjoy the minty peas, but they weren't anything special. This may have been my fault in ordering the wrong dishes though.
-Cream (Palo Alto): Went here with a recommendation to get an ice cream cookie sandwich, but upon seeing that their cookies didn't look all that special, got some good chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and had it with fresh berries from the market that I had in the car.
-Rangoon Super Stars (Berkeley): Had awesome palata to dip in coconut chicken curry. Was extremely flavorful, and reminded me of roti canii that I enjoy in Boston. Also got the tea leaf salad, and loved the mix of bold flavors. It was both filling and light, depending on the bite.
So in summary, here are my top 3, for both savory and sweet:
1) Carnitas special burrito from Taqueria el Buen Sabor.
2) Palata with coconut chicken curry from Rangoon Super Stars.
3) Summer squash pizza from Gather.
1) Peanut butter cookie sandwich from Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market stand. Can't recall name of stand, but it was behind the ferry building towards the water/bay bridge corner.
2) Bi-rite Creamery - malted vanilla with peanut brittle and milk chocolate pieces.
3) Natilla from Bodega Goat Cheese Farm.
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