First time in SF - my experience - long
I read the boards and talked to friends and planned our weekend (Sept 19 - Sept 22, 2008) accordingly. Here was our experience:
Dim Sum at Yank Sing - yes, it was pricey, but we were somewhat prepared for this having read the boards. It was quite enjoyable although we likely ended up with too much food and an overabundance of dumplings. One particular waitress descended upon us very quickly as we sat down and in a blink we somehow had agreed to 3 steamers of dumplings. The soup dumplings were the favorite by far. They were literally molten inside when brought to us but slightly sizzled tongues were worth it. We also had shu mai, shrimp dumplings, Szechuan chicken, shrimp toasts, spring rolls, sesame balls, and duck. We could have done without the shrimp toasts and sesame balls. I expected the sesame balls to be warm and they were not and the shrimp toasts were so so - kind of bland and chewy and large and greasy. Our whole experience seemed to go quite quickly and I doubt we were there but half an hour - and there it was, a $70 check! Oh well. We are dim sum novices and I still feel this was a great experience. For other beginners: I would suggest reading the boards and seeking out items and not just being tempted to take anything that passes by.
Dinner at Slanted Door- Jet lagged, we still found energy to drag ourselves to SD for a 9:15 res. Thankfully, we were seated early. For some reason, I thought SD was a bit more formal. We surely were not out of place in a little black dress and sport coat, but it seems nice jeans would have been fine as well. The setting and view were nice. Tables are a bit close. We ordered a yellow tail appetizer, Sheking beef, and oven roasted halibut. The yellowtail was interesting, coated in crispy shallots and a tart component. The Sheking beef was good and I can see why it is popular - nice flavors, good meat, hints of sweetness from the onions. The beef was very rare, which I love. The onions and greens served with it had wonderful caramelization but were still crunchy. Addicting. The halibut was cooked nicely but nothing mind blowing. I feel that you could take a large group here and everyone would enjoy it - the cuisine was different but not too different. I am not sure I would rush back but it was surely enjoyable. The only complaint was that our entrees came out at least 5 minutes apart. We were unsure if this was normal - we were in fact somewhat sharing both and it appeared other tables were doing the same - however we never specified this and each had seemingly placed our own order. This is a big turn off in my book.
Breakfast/Lunch at Ferry Building Farmers' Market - Wow oh wow. This may have been the highlight of our trip. We were staying in the Financial District and encountered sleepy streets and closed (!) Starbucks as we made our way to the Ferry Building on foot Saturday morning. Nowhere near discouraged, we carried on and there it was - bustling, crowded, flowers, veggies, food. We started with Blue Bottle coffee. Very dark, very strong - I had no idea until I got to the front of the line that each cup was individually prepared. Again, very strong but drinkable in a way only good roasted coffee is. We also sampled a porchetta sandwich from Roti Roti (sp?) which the BF proclaimed 'the best sandwich ever'. I was expecting something more like pulled pork but this was a slice of stuffed tenderloin, chock full of fennel and other spices, topped with greens and caramelized onions on a nice chewy roll (which had been cut and gently rubbed in the pork juices of course). We then moved through the market sampling cheeses, dried fruit, hummus, melons, tomatoes, fresh figs. Everything was superb and fresh. We ended the trip with some pistachio gelato from Ciao Bella, inside the building. Really, don't miss this market if you have a Saturday morning free.
Lunch at Pete's Tavern - I had a rabid college football fan on my hands and so agreed to this unorthodox and unpleasant means of spending an afternoon in a unknown city - parked in a dark bar watching a plasma TV. The 'fan' ordered a brisket sandwich - it was covered in a sweet/liquid smoke BBQ sauce - eh. The fries were crispy though, the beer cold, and lo and behold, the bar had hummus as an appetizer. I ordered it and was pleasantly surprised. It came with gently grilled pita bread, carrots, celery, olives, roma tomatoes, and hot peppers. Everything tasted fresh. Overall, Pete's Tavern was certainly clean, large, and housed an attentive staff.
Golden Gate Bakery - ordered one custard tart. It was warm and very eggy. I devoured it. Definitely worth $1.15.
Dinner at L'Osteria del Forno - I so wanted to be in love with this place. We arrived around 6:30 on Saturday evening. We waited maybe 20 minutes for a table. We ordered roasted peppers as an appetizer. I found the complimentary foccacia and roasted peppers so so - I have had better. We then ordered a prosciutto and arugula pizza. The ingredients were quality but I couldn’t help but think I could surely get a similar pizza in other places up and down Columbus. I wish we would have tried the roast of the day or a baked pasta. A charming place and the prices are right - I just was not overly impressed.
Breakfast at Pete's Coffee - Had a really tasty pumpkin ginger muffin and Rubois tea. We do not have Pete's Coffee franchises in our city. I was pleased that the muffin was not overly sweet.
Napa - Visited the following wineries - Domaine Chandon, Pine Ridge, Stag's Leap, Del Dotto, Cakebread, Duckhorn - We did a barrel to bottle tasting at Pine Ridge and were somehow the only two in the tour - I don't think this is customary but maybe I am wrong. This was the highlight of the day for me - the caverns were lovely and the wine solid, a wonderful once in a lifetime moment. The only winery we were not overly impressed with was Stag's Leap. It was nearly impossible to engage (some of) those pouring tastes in any type of conversation and we felt a bit hurried along. We grabbed sandwiches at Oakville Grocery mid day - fine ingredients and very large sandwiches - we could have split one. We stopped at Taylor's Refresher on the way home and it did not disappoint. The ahi burger we split was rare with a crunchy gingery slaw and the sweet potato fries were crisp and succulent - although I am sure the amount of wine in my system augmented my extreme enjoyment of this meal.
Dinner at the Thirsty Bear - After a long day in Napa, a quick jaunt across the street (we stayed at the W) to the Thirsty Bear was all we could manage. We ordered a cheese plate, patatas bravas, and paella valencia. I am not sure how authentic everything was but it tasted good. The paella was somewhat spicy and a bit 'wet' - I did not mind this though and we happily munched our way through nearly the whole dish. A live flamenco style dancing performance took place in the middle of the room - it was an enjoyable evening and if you are staying at the W Hotel (or anywhere close by), this is a great option for a late dinner.
Breakfast at Dottie's True Blue Café - We arrived around 8:30 am on Monday morning and there was already a wait. (Ok, it was only one person, but still). Very quirky décor, seemed like a mix of locals and tourists. I ordered the French toast. I am not sure exactly what type of bread it was made from but it was dense and fluffy at the same time and was served with pure maple syrup - as breakfast treats should be!! I ate nearly the whole plate. The BF's eggs and potatoes were well cooked and seasoned and he enjoyed the dill bread toast. The specials looked intriguing - zucchini bread French toast, chorizo omelettes, gruyere and onion tarts…we just simply had begun to feel the effects of gorging all weekend and were perhaps seeking out some more streamlined (I certainly can't use the word healthy!) options, hence our dismissal of the specials. They sounded amazing though! By the time we left around 9:15, there was a line about fifteen deep. Not sure I would wait that long for this place but it was certainly worth our ten minute wait.
re: Dave MP
We are heading back for one of our much anticipated twice-annual visits in November, and wanted to thank you for the Dottie's update. We have tried to go several times and always fled the huge lineups. Will put it on the dining schedule for Monday or Tuesday am this time per your advice... unless it's closed Tuesday... why is that ringing a faint bell?
Nice report, thanks. Dottie's has been on my SF list for quite some time and I think we will have to go there on our next visit. Last time we went to the Ferry Building we just had coffee since we were planning on lunch in Chinatown. But all the food offerings were so tempting and looked wonderful, will have to do what you did, pick someplace and have a meal then do some sampling.