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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. re: JasmineG

              coming back down monday night

            2. 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.

                      2. I agree - don't miss Canteen. It's fantastic. They also serve a great weekend brunch if you can't do dinner.

                        Enjoy your trip!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: sfcitygirl

                          is it typical brunch food or something out of the ordinary?

                          1. re: modernist

                            The last time I had brunch at Canteen, I had sole and shrimp quenelles, and a lovely juicy quail with white beans... at 10:30 in the morning... they do offer some standard brunch dishes, but they also have the more ambitious lunch dishes available.

                        2. ok guys.
                          here is the revised itinerary, with actual drive times and routes considered,

                          saturday, pick up friend from san leandro:
                          CHEESE BOARD and ACME BREAD for kick starting the road trip
                          head up and taste a couple wines and then lunch at BOUCHON, taste more wines dinner at AD HOC

                          sunday:
                          CANTEEN for brunch
                          SFMOMA
                          dinner at either INCANTO or CRUDO depending on my cousins choice
                          woops CRUDO closed on sunday.

                          monday:
                          OLIVETO breakfast (if i stay with a friend in oakland)
                          oyster adventure at HOGS ISLAND and THE MARSHALL STORE
                          dinner at PPQ for vietnamese dungeness crab.
                          hang with friend in SANTA CRUZ on way down then get home really really late if not going straight into a 6am call time

                          if you can suggest cultural or nature activity things to do inbetween meals, i'm all ears.

                          30 Replies
                          1. re: modernist

                            Driving up to Hogs Island and Marshall takes a long time. Then south to Santa Cruz and back to LA in the same day????

                            1. re: Glencora

                              Seriously. That is really, really ... really ambitious.

                              Dinner in SF and THEN Santa Cruz ??? Shoot me. Driving down to Santa Cruz in the dark ... you must really, really like your friend. You are driving to LA?

                              I'd check to see if Hog Island and Marshall store is open on Monday.

                            2. re: modernist

                              Saturday and Sunday look good.

                              Speaking as someone who needs sleep, your Monday looks completely insane to me. But, going on the assumption that you have dinner at 6, finish at 7, have extraordinary luck with traffic (remember that PPQ is pretty far from the freeway) and get to Santa Cruz by 9, hang out with your friend for an hour... then you're so far from the 5 I guess it takes more sense to take 101 all the way down, which I've never done... it still doesn't look good. I'd get oysters, hike around Mt. Tam a bit, then start heading south around 3 or 4. It would probably be better to meet up with your friend in the South Bay somewhere, just so you don't get so far from the 5.

                              1. re: daveena

                                I think it is even worse than daveena thinks...No way you can get from PPG to the freeway and then down to Santa Cruz in two hours...on an Monday night. There is just NO WAY. If you leave PPQ at seven, you will get to Santa Cruz more like 9:30 or even ten if the traffic is really bad (and better hope it isn't raining or bad weather, in which case the roads to SC can be downright dangerous!), so basically you'll be pushing it to get to LA by six am even assuming you don't spend much time hanging with your friend (because you either have to cut over to 5 which will take a while, or take 101, which does sort of make sense, but which takes longer than 5!)

                                If you insist on this insanity, and it is insane, at least go to Lotus Garden instead of PPQ, it is closer to the freeway. Though come to think of it, no, I think LG is closed Mondays....(better check to make sure PPQ is open for that matter).

                                You either need to forget Marshal, or forget Santa Cruz. As rw says, just shoot me.

                                1. re: susancinsf

                                  PPQ is open Mondays and closed Tuesdays like most Asian restautants (Lotus Garden is an oddball in that respect).

                                  Actually, it's a pretty straight shot from PPQ down 25th Ave and Highway 1 to 280, traffic permitting. In light traffic (definitely not a given) the OP can really haul ass down 280 and 2hrs to SC would be pretty easily attainable.

                                  But as Dandy Dom Meredith liked to say, "When 'if's' and 'but's' are candy and nuts, it'll be Christmas every day.

                                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                                    I was assuming one might take that route, but I've never seen light traffic on that stretch before 280 on a weeknight. (assuming it really is only seven pm. If it is much later than seven pm, yes, there might not be traffic there, but then OP has a problem getting to LA by six am anyway....

                                    oh, but wait, that Monday is a holiday. Which may mean heavier traffic coming home from weekends away, or may mean lighter traffic. It WILL mean more traffic coming from Marshall to PPQ however, no question (end of a three day holiday weekend and all that, the GG bridge gets crowded...)

                                    And yes, one can haul ass on 280, but it is the stretch before you get to 280, and then the going over the hill on 17 from 280 that will be the problem, not 280 itself. Especially if it is raining (which will also make the traffic worse coming down 25th Ave)(note to OP: don't be misled into thinking that just because it is called "Highway One" that it is a real LA style Freeway until you hit 280).

                                    Not to mention the fact that Santa Cruz itself can be remarkably time-consuming to get around relative to its size, depending on where friend lives down there.

                                    but it doesn't matter: because after breakfast at Oliveto and going to Marshall and coming back, it is insane to think one would leave the city by seven pm on the last day of a holiday weekend.

                                    and even if OP does get to Santa Cruz by nine pm, OP had better leave Santa Cruz by ten pm to be assured of getting to LA by six am by some obligation there. Sure, I've done it in six hours from Oakland on five (fastest I've ever done it on 101 is eight hours) but remember that OP has to cross over the pass on 156 to get to 5, and when I've done it in six I hadn't been eating all day and then driving all night! (again, traffic on 5 is likely to be somewhat heavier than normal at the end of a holiday weekend).

                                    Sorry, it is just crazy to even give the OP even the slightest bit of encouragement on this one. It just plain isn't safe. and the OP can get the same oysters at the Ferry Building Hog Island anyway. (as for admiring or doing something in nature, well, that requires more time than the OP clearly wants to spend....)

                                    So, for Monday, I'd suggest lunch at Hog Island (in the Ferry Building;not in Marshall), perhaps with the friend from Santa Cruz, or at PPQ (also open for lunch) and then head home....or try Vietnamese crab at one of the San Jose places if friend from Santa Cruz cant come all the way to SF...If one must have both oysters and crab, perhaps an early lunch at one and a late lunch at the other.

                                    By the way, to answer part of an earlier question, both the FB location and the farm Hog Island are open Mondays. Don't know about the Marshall store.

                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                      I agree with you on the insanity of it all, but the OP is a Los Angeleno, born with wheels for legs.

                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                        SC traffic is weird in how sometimes it's hard to figure out how to leave town if not using the 17 (and I'm generally good with maps)

                                2. re: modernist

                                  I reiterate what I said above.
                                  Maybe if Scotty can beam you from place to place.

                                  1. re: modernist

                                    Given your adventurous spirit I suggest visiting Yosemite.

                                    1. re: modernist

                                      I'd trade out Bouchon for Ubuntu. Bouchon is good, but they're serving solid bistro food. Nothing unique, nothing you can't find in LA, and also fairly heavy considering that you'll be eating at gut-busting Ad Hoc that evening. Ubuntu, on the other hand, is a truly memorable and one of a kind experience. The cauliflower dish quite literally blew my mind and baffled my mouth. And I'm an avowed meat eater. Plus, you can easily have a light lunch at Ubuntu so you'll have plenty of appetite for Ad Hoc. Just don't bother ordering dessert at Ubuntu. If you're jonesing for sweets, drop by the Oxbow Public Market for some Three Twins Ice Cream. For that matter, dessert at Ad Hoc is a low point as well.

                                      Also, note that the wait at Cheeseboard on a Saturday can be up to 30 minutes. It's a great shop, and worth the time IMO, but if you have a tight schedule to follow be sure to arrive close to opening. If you're running short on time, don't just buy bread at Cheeseboard and skip Acme. Acme is pretty fast, easy parking, and on the way to the freeway. And the bread is soooo much better.

                                      I agree wholeheartedly with everyone else that you're Monday itinerary is insane and sounds miserable. Unless that friend gave you a kidney or bailed you out of prison, I'd skip the Santa Cruz detour and stick to the 5. The 101 will literally add 2-4 hours to your driving time, and that doesn't include time spent hanging out. Perhaps your friend could come up to the city to meet you on Sunday?

                                      www.ubuntunapa.com

                                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                        wow!

                                        i guess poor traffic decisions is what really gets people riled up!
                                        well, i appreciate the advice...
                                        maybe i'll entice my friend to come up to sf with promises of free food and booze. yeah, i was literally planning on rolling in straight to work, but that sounds painful even to me.

                                        the LA boards are always warning out of towners about traffic, but this is way more intense!

                                        and i agree about bouchon to a certain degree. i can always go to bouchon in vegas! (i know... what an LA way to look at things!)

                                        i'll consider ubuntu for sure...when in rome!

                                        1. re: modernist

                                          Well, in our discussion of traffic, given how important traffic is in LA, we may not have communicated the real point. In all fairness, it isn't just or really even primarily the traffic. It is the fact that many of the roads you will be on will be slow going even if there is absolutely NO traffic, due to stop lights on 'highways', curves, drop-offs, and even potential for snow and ice going to Santa Cruz and over the Pacheco Pass... (though looks like next weekend will be nice)...so at least for me, I just don't understand the point of driving like a bat out of hell to go to Marshall when you can get the same oysters in San Francisco. There is a point to going to Marshall as a visitor, but it is to slooowwwww down and take it easy and enjoy the view and perhaps a hike with those oysters, and that you won't be able to do with the schedule you'd proposed.

                                          I mean, it isn't like you live half a world away and can never come back...

                                          While I haven't been to ubuntu yet, I definitely would choose it over Bouchon, coming from LA.

                                          1. re: modernist

                                            Just an addition to what m.mousse said about wait at Cheeseboard. Traffic will be a factor on the way to Napa given its a holiday weekend. You really want time to enjoy visiting the different wineries. Last summer, for the first time in 15 yrs. we decided to take the East Bay route to Napa instead of GG bridge from Peninsula; however, the 80 corridor was brutal. Moral: Leave Early!!!

                                            http://cheeseboardcollective.coop/ind...

                                            1. re: ceekskat

                                              I wouldn't worry too much about the traffic on 80 on a Saturday morning. For the holiday, most people will have left Friday night. Usually Saturday, except for the exits immediatly around Berkeley are reasonable.

                                              Should traffic be bad when you get on 80, on the bridge pay at the far right toll booth and take that immediate exit which puts you directly on 29. You wind up going through the small town of Vallejo. Sometimes the connecting highwy from 80 to 29 gets backed up, but usually during the summer when the amusement park is open.

                                              There's a lot of mom and pops in vallejo with Mexican, Filipino, etc food. That doesn't seem to be your focus but ask if interested.
                                              s
                                              BTW, the least expensive gas in the East and North Bay is in Vallejo, especially the station at the corner of 29 (Sonoma Ave) and Tennessee.

                                            2. re: modernist

                                              Well, speaking as a hound who lives in Santa Cruz, it wouldn't take much to get me to drive to SF for a meal and booze (even if I had to pay for it myself!). If your friend is willing to come to you, then I would def. skip SC since it will be dark when you arrive and the food scene is no comparison. Come to SC when you have time to hang out at the beach, go on some hikes, check out the farmer's markets, see all the quirky people downtown, etc....

                                              The drive to SC from SF isn't really that bad as long as it's not pouring down rain. I've made it from SF in 75-90 min. in the past in light to moderate traffic. The 17 is really not that bad at night, but I guess I'm used to it. Regardless, I agree w/ others that cramming all that into one day isn't that wise or fun, so modifications are in order.

                                              I agree that you should prioritize Ubuntu over Bouchon. I haven't been to Ubuntu, but it sounds fantastic and unique. Bouchon was tasty and enjoyable, but you're already going to another Keller establishment.

                                              Just in case you're interested, I've linked my Napa reports which does include a report and photos on Bouchon. Have fun, drive safe, and let us know how it all turns out!

                                              Day1: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/413928
                                              Day 2: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/414586
                                              Day 3: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/418681

                                              1. re: Carb Lover

                                                great posts!

                                            3. re: Morton the Mousse

                                              ok,

                                              i think i'll hit ubuntu. that sounds good.
                                              and perhaps just hit acme and not cheese board at all... what else can i get at acme besides just bread?

                                              cheeseboard all i know is that they have cheese and pizza... anything else?

                                              planning this has been pretty fun thanks to you guys, so i'll probably make a few more trips soon to eat more food and perhaps edit this trip a bit...

                                              1. re: modernist

                                                Saturday mornings Acme has its biggest selection of snack-type items: ham and cheese turnovers, Gruyere cheese rolls, apple tarts. If you're heading to Napa you might stop by Oxbow Public Market's cheese shop, you could get some Fatted Calf goodies there too.

                                                Cheese Board is a world-class cheese shop with a third-rate (by local standards) bread bakery. Some of their pastries are good but none are worth a trip. Monday through Friday mornings they have coffee. The pizza is good in an eccentric way but there are lots of other great pizzas around, and anyway they don't start serving until noon.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  perfect info... i love a good cheese store and its always fun to see and taste new things, but i think a quick stop into acme is perhaps whats in order...

                                                  1. re: modernist

                                                    Cheeseboard's bakery is only third-rate by some people's standards.

                                                    No less than Jim Leff (Chowhound founder) liked the one of the scones quite a lot (he was talking Arizmendi, an offshoot, but same scone) ...
                                                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/40471

                                                    "The corn scones are SO corny...i want all my scones from now on to taste like corn. and yet they're still somehow deeply sconey. "

                                                    Jonathan Gold was a fan of Cheeseboard baguettes.
                                                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/25708...

                                                    "Acme is in fact the best bread bakery in Northern California, but the best baguettes, are at the Cheese Board up on Shattuck. Amazing baguettes, superlight, crisp,almost alive"

                                                    While that is an old, old post, IMO the baguettes haven't changed and I prefer them to Acme. .

                                                    One of the Bay Area's top (if not the top) pastry chef's has this to say of Cheeseboard bread ...
                                                    http://eggbeater.typepad.com/shuna/in...

                                                    "Living where I am now, though, has me just a moment's walking distance from the 39 year old Cheeseboard Collective. Home of perhaps the best daily-changing whole wheat breads and an assortment of other scrumptious rolls and loaves ... Tuck that baguette under your arm or sit down with some toast and jam"

                                                    Not that pulling up names means much, but some people I respect food-wise and whose tastes often match mine don't consider Cheeseboard breads third rate. Everyone has different tastes though.

                                                    IMO, the cheddar cheese rolls are far superior to Acme.

                                                    I think Cheeseboard has consistantly maintained the quality of their bakery.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      I really like the Cheeseboard fresh from the oven baguettes which are impossible to resist while in the line to the register. Imagine my embarrassment as I handed the half eaten loaf to the clerk when I discovered it was sold by the pound.

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        Some of Cheese Board's pastries are good. Any bread tastes great when it's hot out of the oven.

                                                        I've done head-to-head comparisons. Acme rustic sweet baguette or pain d'epis (same dough in different shapes), purchased at the bakery, has a crunchy crust and a light, stretchy crumb. Cheese Board's baguette has a heavy, mealy crumb and the crust is hard and chewy.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          A statement that strong should be preceeded by IMO or a recognition of the past discussions on this board about different opinions of Cheeseboard breads.

                                                          For example, I have also done head-to-head comparisons (probably after the last discussion on this board) and find the Acme baguette bland and tasteless next to Cheeseboard and I find Gold's description of Cheeseboard's baguette spot-on to this day. Neither was hot out of the oven. My S/O polished off the rest of the Cheeseboard baguette and left the Acme baguette to me.

                                                          As I said, just different tastes. Not that I don't love other Acme items, the baguette is just not as good to me as Cheeseboard's.

                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                            Preferences also reflect what people do with the bread. I use it like the French and Italians do--it's an element of the meal and not meant to draw attention to itself. It's depressing to have great cheese with anything but Acme or Tartine.

                                                            I think the collective organization at Cheese Board is great for the cheese shop, since everybody's an owner so they all have more incentive to care for the cheese than, for example, somebody working at Whole Foods.

                                                            I think the capitalist nature of Acme is better for bread. Steve Sullivan is a passionate artisan and is obsessed with getting the best-quality flours. He has significantly improved the baguettes in recent years. Do they even make the non-"rustic" ones for supermarkets any more?

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              Interesting. That might explain why the bread at Chapeau is so mediocre and forgetable. It's supposed to be like that. Don't know where they get it though. Yeah, I did my comparison in the last year. Still like Cheeseboard more.

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                Thanks for the rundown on the politics of cheese vs. bread. If Steve Sullivan is a capitalist, however, why is he charging such proletarian prices for his breads when he coild be getting quite a bit more?

                                                                1. re: Xiao Yang

                                                                  The artisanal bread market's quite competitive in the Bay Area. I don't think Acme could charge much more without losing price-sensitive customers to Grace and other inferior bakeries.

                                                                  Sullivan's an artisan first and foremost. He's more interested in keeping quality as high as possible than in maximizing profits, which is why he hasn't expanded as much as Grace et al.

                                                                  Relevant historical note: Sullivan got his start when the Cheese Board couldn't meet Chez Panisse's demand.

                                                                  http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage...

                                                    2. re: modernist

                                                      I have not been to Ubuntu yet, and really do want to go. That said, I would not nix Bouchon...a friend and I did a Keller weekend in December, where we ate at FL, Bouchon (twice), Ad Hoc, and visited the bakery several times too. There were many food benchmarks set that weekend, but of all the things we ate Bouchon's quiche was the most memorable dish. It's ethereal, and something that I will never want to visit Napa without having. If you eat this, you will come to the conclusion that either a) other restaurants lie when they say they have "quiche", because they really have scrambled egg pie; or b) this quiche needs to be named something else. Coincidentally, the same friend and I are trying to pull off a day trip on Saturday to have lunch at Bouchon and dinner at Ad Hoc; Ubuntu will just have to wait.

                                                      Acme/Cheeseboard: I quite like products from both places. For Acme, I love the Levain (I was told this is what they serve at CP Cafe), and their "sweet breads" (cranberry/walnut, pumpkin rolls, etc.). I have not been hooked in by their savory breads yet. Cheeseboard is a great place as well (and fittingly have great cheese breads), but I think both get trumped by Tartine Bakery. They only make one base style of bread, with ingredient twists to that base, but their bread is my favorite bread ever (more than Acme, Cheeseboard/Arizmendi, Della Fattoria; Weaver St. Mkt or Guglhupf in NC; Amys in NY; Breadline in DC). I don't like to discriminate between the sesame, date/hazlenut, and olive/herb, so I get them all whenever I can (available after 5 pm). I'll admit that it might be unfair b/c you can get Tartine's bread hot and fresh whereas other bakeries don't really give you that chance, but that's not Tartine's fault. Their bread pudding is a revelation (especially when hot), and their morning buns are to die for. Actually, the only things I've tried that I have ever been underwhelmed about there were their yogurt/granola, and their "quiche". This is not to say that either are bad, but just that they were slightly more ordinary than the other Tartine goodies I've tried.

                                                      I love Incanto too, and found the quality of their offal to be on par with St. John in London. Canteen is great, I wonder do they serve the vanilla souffle during brunch?

                                                      1. re: justtryit

                                                        Canteen does not serve the vanilla souffle during brunch, but they usually offer a dessert of some sort.

                                                2. the roundup can be found here:
                                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/491294

                                                  thanks everyone!