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Jan 14, 2009 09:18 PM

tastes for virgin palettes

my fiance and i are not big "foodies" but wanting a great "experience" for valentines day. we want our meal to be our whole evening. a grand event, if you will. :-)

we love the idea of amuse bouche...little tastes...and ideally a pre-set menu selection to really take the guess work out of it ( and stress?) to help steer us through uncharted territories..... even one step better would be wine pairings too!

again...this is our first big experience into "top chef"-esque food

one stipulation (that im sure will be a big deal breaker)...we both *hate* seafood.
(wah. wah. wa. waaaaaaaaaaah)

any suggestions any where in the bay...we're in from central valley...all the way to the city. any hint would help!!! thanks!

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  1. i'm assuming you know what you are getting into price-wise. Also, some restaurants up the price of menus on Valentine's day.

    Here's the list is SF

    You might consider instead of San Francisco,, going to Manresa in Los Gatos. Visitors to SF are usually directed to the long drive to Los Gatos Since you are driving from Stockton, then it would mean an hour less drive for you.

    In the first link with the SF spots, if you click on the restaurant name it will take you to a screen that will have the restaurant website and linked reports. They will look like the Manresa link I provided.

    Many of these places also have prix-fixe menus which is not the same as a tasting menu where the food is at the chef's whim. However, when you make reservations just tell them you don't want seafood. They will accomodate a request like that. However, keep it simple.. Don't give them a laundry list of things you won't eat. No seafood is fine, but no seafood and no brussel sprouts and no duck and no ... you get the idea. Besides, most are just tastes and the chefs do some creative stuff so it might be difficult to recognize that you are eating a brussel sprout.

    In the city, my favorite tasting menu is at the Dining Room at the Ritz Carleton. If money is no object you can get a room there also and be able to just stroll back to your room after dinner. The Chef, Ron Siegel, won an Iron Chef Japan competition.

    COI is very experimental. As mentioned lots of people document their meals with lots of photos. There is a particularily good report on COI. Here's a direct link to the blog with photos which will give you an idea if COI is too much for a first experience

    That blogger also covers some of the other restaurants

    Hope you report back about where you ate and how you liked it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      The menu at the Ritz and Siegel's style of cooking tends to include seafood components in a lot of dishes -- that's one of the things that's discouraged me from trying it -- so I wouldn't recommend it. I will say, however, that if you go in with an open mind, you might find that you do enjoy some forms of well-prepared seafood, and if it's a small tasting-menu serving, you won't be overwhelmed by it. One way to become more of a foodie is to be willing to try things you think you won't like. I periodically try things I don't like, and sometimes I find they've grown on me. I think Coi might be a bit too experimental for a self-described beginning foodie. This might be a good occasion for Gary Danko -- sure a lot of people think that it's in a little bit of a rut, but for someone who's never had a tasting menu before, it might be a good place to start.

      1. re: rworange

        Coi is not "very experimental" It is Chez Panisse brought into the 21st century. The focus is on fresh local ingredients, not weird transformations. It seems strange that folks are cautioned away from our best restaurants supposedly serving the most refined and delicious food on the planet. The first time I ever had "high cusisine" I was in my 30s (it was at The French Restaurant in the Omni Hotel in Atlanta). I wasn't upset, I was delighted and transported to another plane of food existence. People should eat the best as soon as they can.

        All of that aside, I think Gary Danko is a good recommendation.

        1. re: Paul H

          I initially thought that Danko was a good idea, but can anyone really say that is a tasting menu? Really it is a prix-fixe where you select what you want off the menu. Sure it is safe. Sure you will get the amuse etc ... but tasting menu ... really?

          I know the word experimental wasn't the best in terms of COI, but it was late and I couldn't think of a better one. Still a place where you have to spray on perfume to take a bite of a dish doesn't fall into your ordinary eating experience.

          Yes, I considered the seafood thing at the Ritz but they also had that all beef tasting menu a while back though not currently so it wouldn't hurt to ask if they could do substitutions on the seafood courses.

          Which reminds me, all of these places have wine pairings. The Dining Room had one of the best in my life ... and that champagne cart is a bonus.

      2. If you go to a top restaurant, you'll like the seafood--trust me. I understand, I go out in the Valley for work a lot, and if that was the seafood I was eating, I'd hate it too. Try one course in a top place and you'll realize the difference. I'd be willing to bet at a place like Michael Mina or Aqua you could eat a full meal of seafood and love it. Most restaurants make lousy seafood, though so I definitely empathize.