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Archive for September, 2006

Sorry for the food writing break (not a good thing in terms of remembering things, but I have a few journal notes to help me). Back to our trip to San Francisco and all the great food we ate!

Monday morning we ate at the hotel breakfast buffet and then a bit later we went to the SF Museum of Modern Art. It wasn’t too large so we were able to see pretty much everything in the museum in a few hours. We wanted to get up to Chinatown for a 1:30pm SF City Guide tour and had very little time for lunch so we grabbed a chicken panini to split in the museum cafe and sat down outside and quickly ate it (nothing great, but we needed quick sustenance). The walking tour was very interesting but long and a bit tiring after walking around a museum all morning so we were tired and hungry by the time it ended. We walked to Citizen Cupcake and got 2 cupcakes to go, their Signature Chococupcake (kind of like a gourmet Hostess cupcake, chocolate with white cream inside and chocolate frosting) and a Moka Choka (chocolate cake with coffee cream inside and espresso icing). We brought them back to the hotel and split them. They were both good but the Moka Choka definitely was the best!

That evening we went to Chinatown for dinner. There is a cult favorite in Chinatown called House of Nanking which usually has lines outside, but next door is a small place called Chef Jia’s which pops up in some guides and reviews as a good alternative. We were really tired and had no desire to stand on line so went to Chef Jia’s. We started with vegetable dumplings, stuffed very fatly with a real assortment of vegetables (nothing like any vegetable dumpling I’ve gotten in the Philadelphia area). We ordered two entrees (honey chili chicken and Five Spice Duck) and some brown rice. The honey chili chicken was pieces of chicken battered and fried with this sweet and spicy hot sauce. We don’t normally get that type of thing (the fried/sweet combo) but it was always mentioned in the reviews we read so we decided to try it. Oh my, it was really tasty, just the right combination of sweet and hot. A. had been noticing the smell of Five Spice around Chinatown and craving it so we got the Five Spice Duck. It was duck meat on the bone, cut into smallish pieces. Some pieces were fatty, as duck can be, but it tasted very good.

We walked around North Beach a while, stopping at the City Lights Bookstore (the infamous Beat hangout where Allen Ginsberg read Howl) and got a volume of poetry edited by the owner of the bookstore and a couple small volumes of contemporary SF writers. Then we wandered around and stopped at Cafe Greco for dessert. We got a piece of Tartufo (a chocolate cake) and Sacripantina cake (soaked in Marsala, really good!) and a hot chai (for me) and a pomegranate Italian soda (for A.) and ate/drank them outside at a small sidewalk table. While every Italian bakery makes their own versions the links have a pretty close description of what we ate. We waddled to the bus stop and went back to the hotel quite stuffed!

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The Ancient Pyramids

A.’s mom told us a cute story about Z. this morning that took place while A. and I were in SF and Z. was staying with them. It had been A.’s father’s 77th birthday the day before and he was talking to his 16 year old grandson on the phone who had called to wish him a Happy Birthday. He asked how old he was and when told 77 he said “Wow, that’s ancient”. When A.’s father was relaying this story to his other son during dinner the next evening Z. said “77 is not ancient! The pyramids are ancient, dinosaurs are ancient, but 77 is just old!”

So there you have it, Grandpa is just plain old 🙂

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Day Two

Our hotel stay included a continental breakfast buffet each morning in the hotel restaurant. It had a wide assortment (with the same choices each day) of food including mini scones and mini croissants, various quick breads and coffee cakes, cereal, yogurt, fruit, toast, slices of ham and slices of cheese, hard boiled eggs, juice, ice water, coffee and tea. We woke up pretty early that morning and our brunch reservations weren’t until noon so we went to the breakfast buffet in the hotel to eat a light breakfast. I made a little ham and cheese sandwich with the croissant and had some cantaloupe, the mini scone and green tea. It was just right.

After a short visit back to our hotel room we took the bus to the Ft. Mason/Marina area of SF. Actually we got off the bus a ways before Ft. Mason and walked the waterside walkway to the Ft. Mason pier area. We had at least 2 hours before our reservation so walked the windy walkway past the restaurant towards the Golden Gate Bridge and Presidio park area. We found wild fennel and nasturtium growing all along the pathways by the water. It was foggy so you could only see the bottom of the bridge (it was interesting how the fog made a distinct line). We didn’t quite make it to the Presidio, but got close and then turned around and went back to Ft. Mason and hung out on the pier till it was time for our brunch reservation. We had made reservations at Greens Restaurant, a famous vegetarian restaurant (I’ve had all the cookbooks for years, the recipes have always been very interesting and good) run by Chef Annie Somerville.

They led us to this perfect table for two right up against the huge windows that overlook the boats in the Marina, the Golden Gate Bridge and bay, and the Marina neighborhood. About halfway through our brunch the sun came out and the sky was blue, although much of the Golden Gate Bridge was still in fog. We were quite hungry and a bit chilly from our walk before getting to the restaurant so we started with hot chai lattes and a scone and a piece of huckleberry coffee cake. I ordered an egg, asparagus and fromage blanc dish with a square of puff pastry on the bottom and the top . The flavoring of the dish was delicate and quite good. A. ordered a frittata that had cheese, vegetables and Italian seasonings in it with potatoes on the side, but neither of us can remember exactly what was in it. I do remember that it was very tasty. We decided to have some decaf coffee and split a slice of cheesecake for dessert. The cheesecake was so good, it was creamy and wasn’t too sweet and you could taste that there was cream cheese in it (I love cheesecake but there’s nothing worse than a too sweet cheesecake which unfortunately most cheesecakes tend to be).

We waddled out of there and walked back towards the bus stop and past it to another bus stop that would bring us to Pacific Heights. We joined a walking tour given by a SF City Guides volunteer called Victorian SF. These walking tours were great, they are run through the Public Library and all the tour guides are volunteers. You learn a lot of local history and tidbits on these tours, and in fact every tour we took that week (we took 4) had at least a couple of locals taking it. After the tour we stopped at the Pacific Heights Whole Foods and bought some water to take back to our hotel room (much cheaper than the mini bar bottled water).

We took the California cablecar line back to our hotel, dropped off our water, called Z. to say hi before she went to sleep (she was at her grandparents house with our kitten Calvin while we were gone) and then got on a bus to North Beach. There we went to this little hole in the wall pizza place called Golden Boy Pizza and each got a square of Sicilian pizza to go (mine plain, A.’s pepperoni). We ate it while we walked to our next SF City Guides tour called North Beach at Night. The pizza was tasty but it gave me heartburn/reflux which pretty much stayed with me the rest of the trip so this was the beginning of the Pepcid/Tums routine for me.

After the tour was over we took the bus back to the hotel and collapsed in bed, it was a long day!

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Day One

A. and I got back from a weeklong trip to San Francisco a week ago. It was our first vacation alone together since before Z. was born. We had an incredible time, seeing everything we could possibly see, exploring the city (the whole city, not just the areas that tourists go) and eating the most amazing food. I thought I’d use my blog to write up a food diary of our trip. We had a lot of restaurants and bakeries that we knew beforehand that we wanted to visit, and also found a lot of places while we were there. We ate a lot (and I had to take Pepcid and Tums round the clock to keep up since I don’t eat anything close to this way normally) but we did so much walking up and down those famous SF hills that it kept the weight gain down to a couple of pounds.

We flew out on Saturday morning and got there by mid-afternoon SF time (our flight was late). We took an airport shuttle van to our hotel, The Orchard Hotel, a small boutique hotel on Bush Street near Powell, at the bottom of Nob Hill/the top of Union Square. Having never been to SF before I did my best to try and figure out a good location with the help of the internet and I think this worked out well. We bought 7 day public transit passes and were within a short walk of many buses, cablecars, subways and streetcars.

So after checking into our hotel and quickly unpacking we went out and walked downhill towards Stockton and Market Streets to the 3rd floor of the Virgin Records store to Citizen Cupcake (owned by the Citizen Cake people). We had gotten up very early that morning and had eaten very little all day and at this point is was about 7pm Eastern time, so we were both hungry. We shared a Lemania (a lemon buttermilk cupcake filled with lime curd and topped with lemon zest frosting) and Carrot cupcake (traditional carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, but done very well) and iced tea. They were small, expensive (close to $4 a cupcake) but very good, especially the Lemania which had the perfect blend of filling, cake and frosting. They offer about 3 different cupcakes each day from their 10 or so cupcake menu. We were able to get back one other day later in the week to try some different cupcakes.

We had made reservations online (opentable.com) for dinner that evening and brunch the next morning before leaving home. During our stay we used the hotel’s front desk laptop to make other restaurant reservations. It was very easy and I found it much nicer to be able to look up the restaurant, see what times were available, click on it and be done with it rather than calling so we did that most of the time. That evening we had reservations at Cafe Claude, a French Bistro with live music a couple of blocks from our hotel.

We arrived a bit early so the French hostess sat us at the bar and the French bartender served us drinks while we waited for our table. We were seated by the time of our reservation which was also the time that the jazz trio began playing. The restaurant is small so the trio, which was at the other end of the bar, was in the same room as us, but the music was not too loud and we were able to have a conversation together (and also with the people next to us) quite easily. Cafe Claude also has outdoor seating on the sidewalk, complete with heaters, but we preferred eating inside.

With help from the people who sat to the side of us, who gave us their recommendations of what was good, we ordered from our French waiter. We split a Maison (house) salad, which had this wonderful mustard chive vinaigrette, which gave the soft butter lettuce a nice bite. Then we split the Pate Provencal, a pork pate with red bell peppers, olives and herbes de Provence, oh yum! A. ordered the Coq Au Vin, which had the most wonderful sauce reduction, very, very good. I decided to go with the onion soup. I should preface this food writing with the fact that while I love food and eat many different kinds of foods, in the protein area I get picky. I don’t like fish or seafood and don’t care much for lamb or most game meats like venison (and only like some preparations of duck) and because of the endometrial cancer I usually avoid soy products (the estrogen effects). So going to certain kinds of restaurants, like this, can limit the menu choices for me since many restaurants are heavy on the fish and seafood dishes. I wasn’t in the mood for beef or pork (the pate was enough meat), and didn’t want to order the Coq Au Vin, so thought the soup would work out well, and it did. Also, A. is the wine drinker, so I don’t remember the names of any of the wines we drank during our trip. I do know he ordered a French red wine at the bar and it was good so I finished the last third of his glass while he ordered a new glass of the same wine. For dessert A. ordered the Tarte Tartin (upside down apple tart with caramel sauce and whipped cream) and I ordered the Moelleux au Chocolat along with some very strong decaf coffee (but very good) and the French owner of the restaurant brought our desserts to us and chatted briefly with us. Andy’s dessert was good, but mine was incredible. It was a “soft chocolate cake” in a dish with a tiny side pitcher of creme anglais to pour over it. The chocolate cake was heavenly, it kind of reminded me of the inside of a really good but not cooked all the way through brownie, soft, dark and luscious, not too sweet but infused with chocolate flavor. The creme anglais was a nice contrast to the chocolate. Needless to say were VERY full when we left there and were kind of glad we had to walk uphill to get back to the hotel.

I will continue the culinary tour of SF day by day as I get a chance in the coming week.

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