Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Last of San Francisco

In San Francisco it's seems impossible to turn a corner and not discover some intriguing place selling some sort of food, beverage or grocery item. It would be impossible to list them all, but I did want to try and name a few highlights that I found and wished I could have explored more.

In no particular order here are some of my own personal highlights:

City Beer a little place on Folsom that had a bustling crowd the night I went in with tastings going and a vast selection of beers from all over, but with a particular emphasis on local ones it was like walking into a party. The highlight for me was how reasonably priced so much of it was.

One night on my way to Fire Fly restaurant in the Noe Valley I walked by the very bright and bustling Lahore Karahi a Pakistan Indian restaurant on O'Ferrell street near my hotel, just blocks from Union Square. With an open kitchen and nothing that you would call decor, a TV showing old black and white Bollywood the place may very well have been in Lahore!

The walls were filled with rave reviews from every possible web site and publication and all the tables were pretty much packed.

It called me in with the wonderful scent of spices and the appeal of a damn fine and incredibly cheap meal. I had Lamb Vindaloo which was the best I have ever eaten, it actually had chopped fresh coriander in it and lots of seeds which when I ask was told they were from bell peppers (I would have thought hot peppers) so the base for the Vindaloo was in part stewed peppers with lots of crunchy coriander seeds. The Lamb was tender and the heat of the dish was just right. The waiter asked me if I wanted it medium or spicy, I said spicy, which it was yet it was still complex not just chili pepper hot which can happen with Vindaloo. Bread, rice, Pappadom (the coriander sauce on the table was nothing like it is here in NYC, creamy with an intense coriander flavor and a real kick of heat) a side of mango chutney tax and tip the meal cost $14.

One of the things about San Francisco and Berkeley is their assumed dedication to quality, local and organic ingredients, it seemed to me on almost every menu was a a note about where the ingredients came from. At the Ferry Building there is a burger joint called Taylors: Automatic Refresher, the first thing on their menu is the word BURGERS underneath which is this statement:

We use humanely raised Niman Ranch beef, all natural, vegetarian fed, no antibiotic or added growth hormones (cooked medium well; a little pink inside when served).

On the back of the menu in the far corner it says:

This menu is printed on recycled paper.
A Burger is $6.99, Fries $2.69 and you can get a bottle of Main Street Merlot for $15.

My kind of place.

Similarly Kurt and I went to the new California Academy of Science over lunch we were told by one of the counter people that all the restaurants in the building were certified organic. I had
Chicken Pho (pictured below) it was a little on the bland side, but they had Sirichi to add to help perk it up. Kurt had a Goulash which was not as cook to falling apart tenderness as it should have been. Still all things considered the food was of high quality, the selection vast and interesting and the dedication to quality local and organic ingredients again given ultimate priority.

The last place I want to mention is 2223 on Market Street in the Castro. Before I go on I have to say the website for this place is a mystery to me, it has annoying disco music, voice overs and images that do no justice to the space, which the night I went was quiet, warm and cosy.

Kurt and I went the first night I was in town, and I had a pizza that blew my mind, everything about it was perfect. Figs, Pancetta and Gorgonzola with a pile of arugula on top. The crust was chewy, traditional pizza crust with that wonderful, warm white bread taste, the cheese had only a slight hint of blue but was mostly just sharp and creamy, the highlight was the figs, soft and warm from the oven and bursting with sweet ambrosial fig flavor. It was so big and rich I took it home so for $14 it provided two meals.

Every time I go someplace that grows figs I realize how shitty they are here in New York, where to my taste buds they never really taste right, they are always a disappointment, yet when I go to Spain, Italy or California they are this brilliant revelation.

Again here is this nice local neighborhood restaurant with another statement on their menu about the local and organic nature of their ingredients.

San Francisco isn't as big as New York and they may not have the diversity we do, but for consistency and quality of food it is hard to beat. In New York it is easy to over pay for uninspired, boring, low quality food.

In order to find a place that prioritizes local and organic you have to look and then you have to play 20 questions with the waiters because some of our best places here still do things like make desserts with high fructose corn syrup or beef suet or worse lard.

But I digress, ultimately if you enjoy eating it is worth while to spend a week in this food mecca and eat till your heart's content and your wallet is empty.

Maybe the best pizza I have ever had!

1 comment:

Kurt Brown said...

SF misses ya already. It says "Come back soon Mark! And don't forget your hoodie!"

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