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my little touristy trip report

Ferry Building: what a farmer's market! The Saturday AM scene was great; I enjoyed lots of samples, gawked at gorgeous produce, bought some St. Benedict's yogurt, and laughed at the $2/each oysters (my local oysters run 25 cents/ea at happy hour). Stood in line (just 2 or 3 people long) for Blue Bottle coffee; macchiato & cappucino were Rome-worthy (my personal coffee standard, set at Tazza D'oro & Sant'Eustachio). The building itself was fun, too--loved the food stalls & bookstore, but found the gardening/decor/herb stores rather boring. The place needs a good, comprehensive spice merchant, don'cha think? Tacos at Mijita were tasty, big enough to split into two, but not earth shattering. A duck & fig jam sandwich & garlic chips from Lulu Petite was a great choice for the ferry to Alcatraz--it beat the boat food by a mile. Recchuiti chocolates were good, but I preferred the diverse selection at CocoBella a short walk away (Amedei bars!)

Zuni Cafe: gnocchi, roasted rabbit w/veggies & mashed potatoes, duck breast w/roasted sweet potatoes & broccoli. Tasted DCs' roasted chicken & bread salad. All were excellent...I can see why this place is a perennial favorite--relaxed, flattering lighting, attentive service, and solid, easy-to-like food.

Dim sum: City View on Commercial; bustling, packed to the gills right around Chinese New Year with people. Tasty, hot, fresh, and frequent offerings came streaming out of the kitchen--their sticky rice in lotus leaf was especially delicious. CV is spacious, multi-level, and it has friendly, efficient service. Servers answered my dumb questions with a smile.

Red Blossom Tea on Grant: Peter & Alice rock. Go listen & learn from them; I ended up with a great selection of teas, cups, and accessories.

In & Out Burger: after hearing the hype, all I have to say is, Eh. It was a better than average fast food burger, but nothing more. More about the lettuce and tomato than the standard-issue skimpy fast food patty (I know they grind their own beef, etc, but it was still a paper-thin excuse for a burger). Actually, the fries vastly outshone the burger.

Chez Panisse: lunch was fun--salad w/goat cheese, pizetta w/anchovies & red onion, a chicken paillard w/potatoes, spaghetti carbonara. All was well until an obnoxious guy sat down at the next table: too much cologne, for starters. Then he accosted the waiter: what happened to Laura Chenel? Why no LC goat cheese on the menu? He took umbrage at the waiter's characterization of the changes in LC ownership/management, began berating the poor guy, and demanded to see the chef. Mind you, I'm all of eight inches away from M'sieu Unhappiness, trying to have a nice lunch. Turns out he is somehow affiliated with the French corporation that purchased LC a while back and is annoyed that CP no longer uses their products. Every time the waiter returned to his table, he started in again. To the server's credit, he brought us some marinated olives and asked if we were comfortable with the situation. I got to listen to the whole friggin' story AGAIN when the manager came over. Sigh. What a pill. And our lovely server brought us a complimentary bowl of tangerines & dates and apologized profusely for the boor next door. Thanks to M'sieu, I'll never buy LC goat cheese (high end or mass market), but I do have a story to go along with my CP lunch.

Tadich: char-broiled halibut topped with dungeness crab, fried prawns, long branch fries. What a great old place; old-school service & menu...worth the short wait on a Friday night (no reservations). Next time I'd opt for the shoestring fries and the cioppino.

Also went to Lori's Diner (basic diner food), Quince (see separate post), Naan-n-Curry (great breads, so-so to decent curries/dal, though if I lived near one I'd probably eat the breads frequently), the Tonga Room (skip it), Cafe Roma, bought coffee at Graffeo's, and otherwise snacked our way through lovely San Francisco.

The surprise of the trip was the quality of the food at Sutro's at the Cliff House; we went for the sunset & sat in the bar, not really expecting to dine well at all. Interesting cocktails & better-than-average food, including an excellent burger (though $16, it was worth it) and a nice tuna sashimi w/avocado. I'd go back in a heartbeat--that view would make cardboard taste good, so it was great to have good food AND a view.

Thanks, SF hounds, for your suggestions, and I'm already looking forward to a return trip.

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  1. Thanks for the report! Halibut topped with dungeness crab sounds like the perfect San Francisco seafood dish. BTW, Happy Hour oysters are usually $1 (still not 25 cents, though). How nice that CP was so sensitive to the boorishness of your neighbor -- most restaurants wouldn't comp you stuff for a situation that they didn't cause.

    1. to be fair one only goes to the Tonga for 1 (one) and one drink only until the rain cycles through and then gets the heck out. I've found ducking out of the Easter midnight mass sermon across the square at Grace Cathedral to be the perfect opportunity. and if they're doing mass baptisims, the Big Four in the Huntington is closer if you need to duck again.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hill food

        I did stay for just one drink & to see the rain, but was otherwise unmoved. I truly expected more cheese, though I can see it as a great alternative to midnight mass!

      2. Great report. Boulette's LArder in the Ferry Building has an excellent spice collection. On a future visit, I'd opt for Mexican from the Primavera stand at the Sat FB market over Mijita. Just look for the stall with the enormous line.

        Agree with you 100% on In and Out. I loved it when I was in High School and Burger King was my point of reference.

        Love the Chez story. And Chez is right on in replacing Laura Chenel goat cheese with Andante. Not only does Andante epitomize the local/sustainable/small-production/artisan model, but their cheese tastes better than LC.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          I liked the Andante cheese, too. I poked my head into Boulette, but it was jam-packed every time I visited, so I didn't really get to browse.

        2. CocoBella - a short walk from the Farmer's Market? I'm only aware of their store on Union Street in the Marina. Do they have a booth at the Farmer's Market?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Bay Gelldawg

            They have a location in the Westfield SF Centre...

            1. re: Husky

              Yes, that's the one. I couldn't remember the name of the shopping mall, but the CB is located on the street level, near the Bloomingdale's entrance. Nice to have such a variety of chocolates from different makers; I tend to like one or two particular chocolates from certain makers, so it was nice to get such a variety in one shop. CB also has hot chocolate, but I didn't try it (too stuffed full of other good things).

          2. Agree about the spices though there are bits here and there. Tierra has the best chipotle powder I've ever tried. Rancho Gordo sells a few, but haven't tried them. There's a few at Boulette's ... etc. The new Oxbow Market in Napa has WholeSpice ,which would be a great at Ferry Plaza. I'm currently loving this spice vendor, the best so far in the Bay Area.

            So true about In-N-Out.

            I'm with you on Naan-n-Curry. Love the bread, but thats about it.

            Glad the Cliff House was good for you. Visitors seem to like it but seeing you are a Chowound of the highest order, a good report is surprising. I still wouldn't go again. I do like the popovers at the bistro though. Maybe next time for a view you can try the new Waterbr or Epic Roasthouse. I have hopes for them considering the bay view. Epic's burger is $20 - $25 bucks though.

            How'd you like the Graffeo? Did you get light or dark roast?

            -----
            Zuni Cafe
            1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

            Tadich Grill
            240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            Chez Panisse
            1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

            Sutro's at The Cliff House
            1090 Point Lobos Ave., San Francisco, CA 94121

            City View Restaurant
            662 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            In-N-Out Burger
            333 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

            Red Blossom Tea Company
            831 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108

            Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
            One Ferry Building, 200 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

            6 Replies
            1. re: rworange

              Dark roast at Graffeo's, and the guy behind the counter rolled his eyes when we asked to have it ground. In our defense, we go through it very quickly. It's a little darker than I like, but overall pretty good. Something like $15/pound, IIRC. Definitely not as smooth as the Blue Bottle, but it's comparing apples to oranges, as the BB was clearly not deeply roasted.

              1. re: Hungry Celeste

                No defense required, it's what you wanted and ordered, his opinion is unwanted and immaterial.

                don't you just hate coffee/food snobs? it's one thing to seek and share info on the best, but quite another to comment on the choices of others - gee maybe my grinder at home is broken or I spend too much on premium roasts to afford one or maybe it's just none of your darn business why I want it ground, Mr. PhD in 12th c. English Lit....

                </cranky>

                1. re: hill food

                  I hope they don't have someone new at Graffeo because in the decades I've been buying Graffeo, the first question after choosing my bean has been "would you like that ground?", followed by "what type of pot do you have and what kind of grind". I've had a lot of discussions there about my coffee maker of the moment and getting the best grind. The grinder is right in front next to the scale. It is part of the reason that shop smells so wonderful ... fresh ground coffee.

                  I'm going to have to stop by next time in in SF because there will be a serious battle there if I get ANY attitude ... to the point of writing the company after making a fuss in the shop.

                  The Graffeo dark roast remains my favorite coffee ... sheesh, now i have a craving for it ... but it is not that kind of coffee that can give itself that type of pretension.

                  I hope it was just someone filling in while the real coffee guys were out to lunch or something.

                2. re: Hungry Celeste

                  I always get it ground at Graffeo except when buying some to bring to NY for my daughter, and they never flinch, even when I ask for the "Mr. Coffee" grind. In my opinion, those old guys are the opposite of coffee snobs and tolerant of everyone. There's one woman, an old customer, who asks for stuff like "85 percent decaf and 15 percent regular this time," and gets service with a smilte.

                  Soiuds like you might have been projecting your own feelings of guilt into it ;-)

                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                    Ha! Clearly you don't know me if you think I could possibly have any food-related guilt whatsoever.

                3. "The place needs a good, comprehensive spice merchant, don'cha think? "

                  If I hadn't figured out you were in N.O.L.A., I would have guessed you were thinking of Les Douceurs du Marché at Montreal's Atwater Market (which to me the FB Marketplace resembles a lot). Maybe there's something about the Acadian culture shared by LA and PQ that puts an emphasis on spices.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                    Yes, we like our blends, shakes, and sprinkles. I'm fairly certain that Louisiana below the 30th parallel runs on Tony Chachere's creole seasoning in the green can, or Bayou Bang, or any of the various blends peddled by every other chef & cook in the 'hood. Layers and layers of flavor are appreciated in south LA.

                    1. re: Xiao Yang

                      You picked some good spots Celeste and the ferry building is always fun..next time at the FB check out the Fatted Calf Charcuterie..since I don't make it to Frisco often I load up my cooler for the 3 hour drive back north and stock my freezer..
                      I tend to disagree about IN-N-OUT..I really like it for a chain burger place..simple,clean,cheap and cooked to order..its been 30 years since I've eaten at any other fast food place..it's to bad that the closest one is a 2hour drive from me but I make a point to stop at least 3 times a year..I'm a picky retired chef but for some reason find it good comfort food for on the run..
                      cheers

                    2. Just remembered that I also had a cheese sandwich from Acme (a steal at $5, baguette w/Mt. Tam etc) as well as plain croissants & a pain au chocolat; all were uniformly excellent. Also had a cheese bun/roll from the Cheeseboard in Berkeley (tasty but tough/too chewy). Tried one of their "berkeley buns" with curry & onions, but it was borderline terrible (caveat: it was at least 12 hours old by the time we tried it). Peeked into a multi-ethnic food shop (pretty close to the BART entrance, even-numbered side of the street) along Shattuck--looked like some sort of cooperative venture offering tacos, indian food, kebabs, etc. The very friendly proprietors offered me tastes, but I was headed to Chez P, so I declined.

                      1. Thank you for the delicious report! You are making me HUNGRY, as well as longing for San Francisco!