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help an LA hound design a culinary weekend in SF/Bay area 2/15-2/18

hi guys,

its been a while but i'm going back up to the bay area for some food and friends.
any expertise would be appreciated.

typically my diet consists of those hardcore authentic ghetto ethnic hole in the walls but i feel like i've got a lot of that covered in LA and might want to focus more on fine dining, unless there are some specific specialty houses of stuff i can't get in LA.
i don't want to turn this into an LA vs SF debate please. (i know some of you already have your fingers on the trigger.)
this is a list of what is typical of what i like in LA.

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/313050

i guess the things that would be ideal would be a nice fine dining restaurant that offers a prix fixe menu on a specific day of the week or offers good value. for example, in LA i would eat at lucques for 3 course sunday supper for 40 bux or perhaps josie for their wednesday prix fixe. i'm not super obsessed with the michelin starred style of dining. i dont care about flatware and quality of china. and i typically like to eat at the bar and chat with the bartender or sommelier and sneak tastes of whatever is being poured and have appetizers.

i'm thinking to spend an afternoon at the ferry building for oysters and clam chowder. check out the olafur eliasson show at sfmoma, see whats up at the yerba buena. if you have any other art/film/music cultural events that are going down im up for those recs too..

thanks in advance!

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  1. High-end places here might be less different from what you get in LA than informal mid-priced places with great food.

    This post has most of my tips:

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/48461...

    1. Hey modernist

      I can't think of a fine dining restaurant that offers a value prix-fixe menu, but fancy food isn't really our forte, anyway. I think we do best at upscale-ish food in downscale settings. Anyway, I don't know which restaurants you've been to up here and liked, but I'll offer up a few of my favorites...
      Most of my favorite restaurants in SF have bar dining - Bar Crudo (delicious raw fish preparations drawing from Italian, Peruvian, and Japanese influences), Bar Tartine (Cal-Mediterranean), Incanto (offal-heavy Cal-Ital - get the spaghettini with cured tuna heart), and Canteen (Cal). Oh, Canteen has prix-fixe Tuesday night dinners that have gotten raves.
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/415642
      Aziza (Cal-Moroccan) and A16 (Neapolitan) also have bar dining. Actually, while I was looking for that Canteen thread, I found this one on bar dining, with a lot of good recs: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/377009
      Also, if you haven't been to Chez Panisse, it's definitely worth the BART ride to Berkeley (I think it's a 9-block walk from BART). I've only been to the cafe upstairs, and I love it - I've heard enough people reporting disappointment in the downstairs restaurant to stick to the cafe.

      LA Board's been good to me, so I hope we can reciprocate in kind. Hope you eat well while you're here, and I'm looking forward to your report!

      2 Replies
      1. re: daveena

        Chez Panisse Cafe usually has a prix-fixe option, which is the only way I've been able to afford to eat at the place. I'm near-certain that by paying a little more and ordering off the a la carte menu, you can have a much better meal, but if it's the only feasible option, it's a good one.

        1. re: bradluen

          The prix-fixe menu upstairs at Chez Panisse Cafe's usually just a few bucks cheaper than ordering the same three dishes a la carte.

          Downstairs, it's prix fixe every night. Monday's a relative bargain, three courses for $55 vs. four or five courses for $65 or $85 the rest of the week.

      2. thanks,
        i just read this insane thread for the most part and i think it covered a lot of ground.

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/458816

        i've been to a lot of the standards.. zuni cafe, chez panisse upstairs, north beachy places, ferry building.

        right now it looks like i'll be hitting ad hoc for dinner after some wine tasting...maybe bouchon for lunch beforehand?

        perhaps do some oyster tasting at some farms in the tomales bay and hit a dinner at cyrus (if i can find the company). tips on the farms?

        SF day: go to the museums, oysters at hog island, try some chowder at crudo.
        maybe dinner at ilcanto or pizzaiolo. seafood at swann oyster depot for lunch.

        cheese from cheese board and bread from acme bread.

        i saw firefly has a 3 course prix fixe for 35 dollars sunday through thursday is this a decent choice?

        oh yeah, parking tips in san francisco? weekends on monday (public holiday) might be a little less cut throat right? or even free?

        7 Replies
        1. re: modernist

          Since you have to pass through the East Bay on the way up to Napa, think about getting breakfast at Oliveto (couple of raves for the egg and pancetta pizza recently), some salumi from Pasta Shop next door (large selection of Fra'mani, as well as other purveyors), bread from Acme (or La Farine, just up the street from Oliveto and Pasta Shop - great baguettes, and I remember reading good reviews of their morning buns), and cheese and more carbs from Cheeseboard (I'm partial to the cheese scone, which is only available on certain days). Haul it up to Napa and have a nice picnic somewhere.

          Note: Pizzaiolo is in Oakland. Since you have P. Mozza, I probably wouldn't go out of my way to go there (I think the pizzas are on par with but not better than the ones at P. Mozza. Morton the Mousse thinks P. Mozza's are superior.) If you do happen to end up in the East Bay a second day, do a vodka tasting at Hangar One in Alameda.

          From what I've read about Firefly, it sounds like a nice neighborhood place, not a destination restaurant.

          1. re: daveena

            It's not a given that one would pass through the East Bay on the way to Napa from San Francisco. A lot of people would take the more scenic route via the Golden Gate Bridge.

            1. re: Xiao Yang

              Good point. "Have to" was an overstatement, but given OP's interest in going to Acme and Cheeseboard, passing through the East Bay first would integrate those two stops the most smoothly into his itinerary.

              1. re: daveena

                Definitely, if he does them on the same day. On the other hand, he was talking about lunch at Bouchon. I personally like the trip from SF to Napa via GG Bridge, Sonoma (town) and the Trinity Rd./Oakville Grade Rd., which hits Highway 29 just north of Yountville.

          2. re: modernist

            Firefly's prices are moderate so the $35 prix fixe isn't a whole lot cheaper than just ordering appetizer, entree, and dessert a la carte.

            Driving is a pain in most parts of San Francisco.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              thanks, i've scratched that one off the list

              1. re: modernist

                Some of my favorite informal midpriced places with fabulous food:

                A Cote (Oakland) - Cal-French/Italian small plates
                A16 - traditional southern Italian, Neapolitan pizza
                Aziza - Cal-Moroccan
                Cesar (Oakland) - Cal-Spanish tapas
                Dopo (Oakland) - Cal-Italian
                Incanto - Cal-Italian
                Jai Yun - Shanghai prix-fixe
                La Ciccia - traditional Sardinian
                Mochica - upscale Peruvian
                Pizzaiolo (Oakland) - Cal-Italian
                SPQR - Cal-Roman

                Dopo and SPQR don't take reservations so probably not great for a tight schedule.

          3. Canteen does a prix fixe Tuesday night dinner, you would likely love that place, even on an off day.

            1 Reply
            1. tentative itinerary:

              one day: ad hoc (dinner) and bouchon (lunch) bookending wine tasting.

              another day: swann oyster depot (lunch)
              bar crudo for seafood chowder (afternoon snack)
              hog island oyster company for monday happy hour 5-7 (snacks/drinks)
              chez panisse (dinner - but might substitute this out for something else as i've eaten here before
              is weekend parking going to be an issue here?

              another day: oyster tasting in tomales bay (i've never done this before. any tips or threads on this? is it hard to learn to shuck? or can they do it for you?
              picnic with bread from acme and cheese from cheese board
              dinner at cyrus

              hangar one vodka tasting in there somewhere

              8 Replies
              1. re: modernist

                I'd skip Swan if you're doing Bar Crudo and Hog Island. If you do go to Swan, stick with the raw bar and don't order the canned chowder.

                1. re: modernist

                  Maybe if Scotty can beam you from place to place. There is no room for Hanger One. When do you get to the Cheese Board between HIOC happy hour and Chez Panisse? And who is the designated driver with all this wine tasting and happy houring?

                  1. re: wolfe

                    yeah i think im gonna whittle away some of the oyster madness. maybe skip hog island all together as i've been there several times and am going back merely for traditions' sack...

                    i was thinking dungeness crab at a vietnamese place.
                    someone else also mentioned The Marshall Store in half moon bay for baked oysters. hopefully it doesnt rain!

                    im also thinking of substituting bouchon lunch for something non thomas keller...

                    1. re: modernist

                      I love La Vie for Vietnamese crab - other people strongly recommend PPQ and Lotus Garden (I haven't been to either to compare).

                      I always find that I don't want to break for a long, sit-down lunch when I'm wine tasting - I either bring picnic supplies (again, if you do want to swing by Cheeseboard and Acme, it makes the most geographical sense to do it the morning you head up to Napa - actually, Cheeseboard has some pretty good breakfast pastries too - I love the very simple oatmeal scone), or I get an ahi tuna burger at Taylor's Refresher (very divided opinions on Taylor's Refresher, but I always enjoy my meals there).

                      Do a full dinner at Bar Crudo - the seafood chowder's great, but so are the crudo.

                      I'll also reiterate the recommendation to do dinner at Canteen - even if you can't go on a Tuesday night, it's not very expensive, and it's really excellent food in a very funky, low-key environment (used to be the coffee shop of a budget hotel).

                      1. re: daveena

                        Another thing, Canteen is also excellent for a solo diner, the seats at the counter are very fun. And I agree to do a full dinner at Bar Crudo.

                        Ubuntu has gotten great reports of late, so if you're looking for something different for lunch up in Wine Country, I'd try there, and then Ad Hoc for dinner.

                      2. re: modernist

                        Redd for lunch will be a good substitution, it's also located in Yountville. Further north is Taylor's Refresher in St. Helena. and further north in Calistoga is Solbar.

                    2. re: modernist

                      Bar Crudo is only open at dinnertime, so that won't work as an afternoon snack, but as daveena said, you may want to devote a whole meal to it. (At any rate, I find the seafood chowder to be quite rich for just a snack! Very tasty though.) The arctic char crudo is also often a favorite.

                      1. re: modernist

                        Tomales Bay: they can shuck or just sell you a bucket and a knife and sauces. it's not hard, just don't be all shaky hungover or you could lose a finger. personally I like to use a screwdriver (I meant the tool but maybe the drink as well, what the heck). just find the most obvious entry point and jimmy it open with a rocking motion. but shucking on the beach can be a sandy mess.