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ABALONE IN SAN FRAN

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We will be visiting SF in early September. Is there
any place to get Abalone? We had it several years ago
on an earlier visit. How about a place to buy a good
picnic lunch? We will be going on to Sonoma. What is
the "not to miss" food experience in that area?

Thanks

Paul

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  1. Can’t give you restaurant name, but be warned that the
    only abalone you’re likely to find is farm-raised Red
    Abalone. It’s not bad, but the mollusks are harvested
    when they’re about 3 inches across, so you won’t find a
    big abalone steak like the ones I ate growing up in the
    northwest. Here in Portland, Jake’s serves it when it
    can get it, but they give you a huge mound of mashed
    potatoes (I think to hide the fact that what you’re
    paying almost $35 for--a pretty steep tariff here in
    still-affordable restaurant land--is so damned small)
    and they smother the shellfish with a sauce of sauteed
    onions and sweet peppers.

    When I was a kid and the family would come up to
    Portland, we always ate at a little place called the
    Crab Bowl (long gone now), a classic fried seafood
    joint in the best sense--not greasy, impeccably fresh
    seafood, always a line at the door. I always ordered
    abalone and got 2-3 steaks that seem now to have been
    about 6 inches across. Lightly breaded and fried, they
    were heaven. Of course, even then they cost more, about
    $6.95 as opposed to almost everything else on the menu
    at about $3.95. Finally my father would decree, as we
    sat down in one of the plywood booths and opened the
    menu, “You can have anything you want...except
    abalone.”

    Good eating.

    Jim

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jim Dixon

      Abalone have been decimated in California, and there
      are now very strict limits on harvesting them; hence,
      they are hard to find and very expensive when you find
      them. (Sounds like it's not quite as bad up in
      Oregon.)

      There's a guy named Luc who is raising abalone up in
      the Tomales Bay area; he shares space with Hog Island
      Oyster Co., so if you call them (415-663-9218) they
      could put you in touch with him. He's very friendly
      and pleasant, and I'm sure he would be happy to talk
      abalone with you.

      Good luck!

      1. re: Tom Hilton

        Although this is most likely NOT what you're looking
        for, dried abalone can be found in abundance in
        numerous dried-food stores in Chinatown. The cost,
        however, can be quite prohibitive: up to $800+ per
        pound! I've only ever had abalone in China, and it
        was only mediocre. I would be interested in trying it
        again for the sake of comparison. So if you do indeed
        find some, please post it here, as I would very much
        like to give it a try.