Midwest Hound Reports Back (long)
First of all, thanks to all of you SF hounds who regularly post. This appears to be one of the most active boards on Chowhound and I got lots of good ideas from you all.
My trip was business followed by pleasure, and for the first part, I was based at Travis AFB. The first night I went with colleagues to the Athenian Grill in Suisun City; a place recommended by another colleague. I was not impressed - very so-so Greek food in my opinion. The Greek salad was tired, the moussaka had too much ground beef and bechamel and not enough eggplant for my taste. It was inexpensive ($25 per person with one glass of wine, tax, and tip), but not worth returning.
Since the local hounds recommended traveling to the Napa valley for good food in the Fairfield area, that's what we did the next night. Dinner at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St Helena was very good. We started with a couple of the Oysters Pablo each, then I had the piquillo peppers stuffed with braised chopped beef and my dining companion had the goat cheese ravioli in olive sauce (both small plates). We shared tastes, and both dishes were well executed. Next, I had the papaya and avocado salad, and my friend had the salad with Ahi tuna. The papaya salad was good, although a fairly small portion. The salad with tuna was a much more generous portion. We shared the strawberry shortcake for dessert, and it was good, but was more of a cream puff than a shortcake. With wine, tax, and tip, dinner for two was about $140.
The next night we went to Ad Hoc in Yountville, since we thought that might be our only opportunity to eat Thomas Keller's food. Note that some posts on Chowhound indicate that Ad Hoc doesn't take reservations, but they now do so. They're closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, however. The evening started with cannelini bean soup with chunks of applewood smoked bacon and escarole. Very tasty. The main course was pan roasted chicken with mushroom medley and mushroom risotto. I think there were criminis, beech, hen of the woods, and one other type of mushroom in the mix. It was absolutely wonderful! Next course was 5 year old cheddar, served with wildflower honey and toasted walnuts. Yum! Dessert was the best panna cotta I've ever had; it was vanilla with bluberry compote and the texture was perfect, shimmering on the plate. Dinner was $45 per person, without drinks. With a bottle of wine shared between us, and coffee, tax and tip, it was $95 a person.
Friday I moved on the pleasure part of the trip (not that the dinners in the Napa Valley weren't pleasurable, but Friday work was over and my sweet hubby flew in to SFO). We ate a late lunch at Tadich Grill, and the cioppino was everything I'd hoped it would be. My DH had the panfried sand dabs, and he liked that, but he loved my fish stew! Friday evening we stopped by Bacar, and nibbled on the house chacouterie platter, but were too full from lunch for anything heavier. Loved Bacar, by the way; good wine flights and nice ambiance.
Saturday morning at the Ferry Bldg Farmer's Market was all that, and more. Chocolate croissants from Acme Bread and Cafe Mocha from Blue Bottle, fresh figs and Point Reyes Blue from Cowgirl Creamery, a Fleur de Sol chocolate covered caramel from the place inside, these were a few of my favorite things...
Saturday night was dinner at Incanto. We weren't crazy about the sardine and fennel salad (the sardines were a bit mushy and fishy tasty) but the handkerchief pasta with pork ragu was very good. I like the ragu I make better, but the pasta was silky and perfect. My DH had the quail, and I had the lamb's neck, and both were truly excellent. Loved the wine list, too, with many unusual choices, including a Franciacorta (Italy's answer to Champagne) by the glass. We shared a bottle of Refrosco from Fruili, and left happy (although about $200 poorer, after dinner, wine, tax, and tip).
Sunday we walked around Chinatown, and ate at Gold Mountain. It was OK, but nothing spectacular. Although there's only one really good dim sum place in Cincinnati, many of the dishes there (Pacific Moon) are as good or better than what we had at Gold Mountain (sui mai, for instance). It was interesting to be the only gajin at the table, though ;-) A warm custard tart from Golden Gate Bakery was outstanding a bit later that day.
Dinner Sunday night was at the Slanted Door. I know the folks on this board have mixed reactions to the Slanted Door, however, I'm now a true believer. We started with the green papaya salad and the shrimp and jicama soft rolls. Both were fantastic! Loved the wine list, too, and found wonderful by the glass choices for each course. Our mains were the shaking beef and the sesame crusted yellow fin tuna. Again, absolutely perfect. Everything was fresh, delicious, beautifully presented, and just wonderful. No room for dessert, but we shared a glass of the 25 year old Calvodos instead. The menu said it was a 1.5 ounce pour, but our wonderful waitress asked that it be poured into two glasses as we were sharing, and it appeared we each got about that amount.
This was our first trip to San Francisco, but it won't be our last. What a beautiful, friendly town, and the food was wonderful! Thanks again, folks.
Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I've been reading about it for years (since before they moved), and knew I wanted to try it, and am quite glad I did. Part of my desire to go was the wine list, but the food will bring me back. It's in the back of the Ferry Building, and has a good view of the water. Service was excellent, too. Have fun!