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(Long) Trip Report from my last AMAZING SF visit and what to try next??

j
j.jessica.lee Feb 19, 2010 06:50 AM

Hello SF Chowhounders!

Many thanks for your incredible help last time. I had an amazing time in SF and have been itching to get back for some more good eats since then. I will be back for work in March, but am coming out a week early to explore more food/restaurants and just relax after a crazy few months.

So last time, I went to a few places.

TARTINE BAKERY
Oh my goodness.... I had the frangipane croissant, pain au chocolat, bread pudding, passionfruit lime bavarian (which I have since made about 5 times from the cookbook - AMAZING recipe, NEVER fails me!), chocolate eclair, and morning bun. I ADORED the frangipane croissant. It was huge, but amazing. I loved that the outer crust was so "well-done" but that the innards were so buttery, soft, and yet had a nice structure to it. It had chew and substance and the almond filling was just great. I am actually usually more of a pain au chocolat fan, but this one blew the PAC out of the water, though the PAC was by any other standards, incredible! I've had many, many croissants in France and of this style, I would say it definitely competes with the best. The bread pudding was sadly disappointing. Not much flavor there and the fruit seemed to be an afterthought. It was too soggy and as I said, the fruit was meh. The bavarian was really great. Not too sweet. And I would strongly recommend trying to make it at home. It is a little time-cnsuming but TOTALLY worth the time investment. It wows every time and is sure to be a hit. The eclair was GREAT. I usually don't like eclairs that much, but this was amazing, mostly due to the good custard inside and the INCREDIBLE, thick layer of deep, dark, rich chocolate on top. The morning bun was excellent, but definitely paled in comparison to the PAC and frangipane croissant.

That being said, I am DEFINITELY going back to Tartine a few times this trip. It's worth repeating for me.

CRIXA CAKES
WOW, this ranks up there with Tartine. It was AMAZING! I had Fatima's Thighs and a Plum and Custard Kolach. UNBELIEVABLE!!!! The flavors were just perfectly balanced and the pastry work was top-notch. The bun of the kolach was perfectly buttery, soft, pillowy and housed the excellent custard and VERY flavorful and potent plum compote. Fatima's Thighs (hehe) was just delicious as well with the orange blossom water essence and the almonds inside. I want to make it back here as well if possible. I also visited the incomparable Berkeley Bowl right afterwards.

BOB'S DONUTS
I had the yeast glazed, apple fritter, and chocolate custard filled long john. The yeast glazed was probably the best version I've ever had. Of course, I am from the east coast, which doesn't have the donut tradition that the west coast does. The fritter was very good, but not my favorite of the three. The long john was AWESOME. Also want to try to return here! I tried to go to Dynamo, but it was closed the day I went.

BIRITE CREAMERY
I had the salted caramel and mint chocolate chip and had a taste of the honey lavender. SOOOOOOOO amazing. The concentration of flavors and then the texture and richness of the ice cream. DEFINITELY going back.

KOI PALACE
I was only able to try a few dimsum to go from here as I was alone and on the way from the airport. I got the char siu bao, har gow, and one other that I can't remember. They were much much MUCH better than anything you can get here in NYC. So this time I am going to go back with a group of friends and try a big variety.

YANK SING TO GO
Wasn't too taken by this. Probably should have tried the actual restaurant, but didn't have time. It was decent, but I wouldn't return for this.

JAI YUN
We had the $9 lunch and it came with the side dishes which were delicious. The main dish was a DISASTER though. The noodles were WAY too spicy (and I am Korean) - so spicy that I could not taste anything after a few bites. I also enjoy fatty foods, but this was absolutely SWIMMING in oil. I took a few bites and could not finish it. It was by far the most disappointing experience I;ve had in a while. I know many have praised it, so perhaps I went on a very off day.

ACME BREAD (Ferry Building)
I had their (forgot the exact name) cheese bread and foccacia. It was excellent!! Great flavor, good crust, nice chew, and didn't hurt that the cheese was so delicious.

LA BOULANGE DE HAYES
We had a few things from here that were good, but not memorable. I wouldn't run back here.

RECCHIUTI
I had a few things from here and was absolutely blown away by their burnt caramel almonds. I bought two bags as presents and boy were those presents very very well-received! A definite must-try.

BOULETTES LARDER
Salted peanut cookie and rich chocolate cookie with sea salt. Great flavor, very good cookies. Not rushing back here though.

BLUE BOTTLE (both locations)
I ADORED this coffee. Really rich, strong, deep, velvety. Excellent. I prefer sitting down but I didn't really like the Mint Plaza location. I like the vibe at the stand in Hayes Valley, but wish we could sit!

FOUR BARREL
It was awful. Nowhere NEAR the flavor and depth and richness of the coffee at Blue Bottle. Perhaps I caught it on an off day? But I am definitely not going back to check.

FERRY FARMERS MARKET
I had a field day here! I bought a whole bunch of vegetables here and made a farmer's feast for my friend who I was staying with. Standouts were the lobster mushroom from Far West (though ALL the mushrooms were unbelievable - the lobster was just unlike anything I've tried before!) and the stand with about 30 different types of salad greens. The lady there was SO kind and so helpful - I discovered purslane there and have fallen in love. Definitely going back.

MARIN FARMERS MARKET
WOW!!!!!! I loved this too! I tried a barbecued oyster and cedar planked salmon and a crab cake. They were all delicious, though I do slightly prefer my oysters raw. I was leaving the next morning, so I just browsed really and was disappointed not to be able to get anything and cook with it. This time, I will definitely go up and have a ball. I took all my food for lunch that day and drove down to the water by Sausalito and sat in my car (it started raining....) and ate while looking out over the water. It was a magical day.

HOG ISLAND OYSTER HAPPY HOUR
Can't beat the price and the oysters were good, although not the best oysters I've ever had.

THAT BEING SAID, I CANNOT WAIT TO RETURN in just a few weeks!

I am thinking of Koi Palace return visit and of course Tartine, Birite, farmers markets, etc. But I was thinking of trying Manresa or Commis, Aziza, Canteen (brunch - how are those pancakes??), Brenda's for the beignets, Pizzeria Delfina (how does it stack up to Motorino here in New York?), Frances, Spruce, Contigo.... I am also in search of AMAZING seafood. What are your thoughts on these places I mentioned and do you have any other ideas?

Thanks so much!!!!!

  1. j
    j.jessica.lee Mar 4, 2010 01:55 PM

    Gee, thank you to all the SF Chowhounds - you guys are just amazing and very generous with your advice, time, and help!

    I have eaten at a lot of Italian here in NYC - Marea, Scarpetta, Lupa, Motorino (pizza, of course), etc. I am debating between La Ciccia, Incanto, Perbacco, (or any other really amazing Italian). What do you say would provide something that I wouldn't have equal or better access to in New York?

    5 Replies
    1. re: j.jessica.lee
      s
      sugartoof Mar 4, 2010 03:23 PM

      La Ciccia wouldn't qualify as anything our of the ordinary for you. It's similar food to A Voce, and a number of other places.

      Incanto is known for it's offal, rather than it's Italian dishes. I can't think of anyone serving cockscomb salad in NY, and personally, I think that's with good reason. I find the greatest failure at Incanto to be their poor execution of basic cooking, as they hide behind their exotic menu.

      Perbacco would be my preference over the other two, but check the menu first.

      1. re: sugartoof
        j
        j.jessica.lee Mar 4, 2010 03:57 PM

        Thanks, sugartoof, for taking so much time to help me plan a fantastic and sure-to-be-memorable week in SF!

        1. re: j.jessica.lee
          daveena Mar 4, 2010 04:53 PM

          I disagree with sugartoof on these - of the three SF Italian restaurants you named, I think only Perbacco has any real counterpart in Manhattan (it's upscale with a strong Piemontese slant, similar to Alto). La Ciccia is a small, soulful, family-owned Sardinian restaurant. I vaguely remember seeing some Sardinian small plate-type dishes pop up recently in Manhattan, but I'm pretty sure no one in NYC is serving pasta with cured shaved tuna heart right now, and I think that particular dish is a must-eat.

          I've had much better experiences at Incanto than sugartoof has (btw, Casa Mono has a cockscomb dish) - I actually think it's the most similar to Lupa (which is one of my favorite restaurants of all time). It's a great place to test out offal, if you're feeling adventurous, but I think a lot of the basic pasta dishes are great (it, too, has a fabulous cured tuna heart pasta dish).

          1. re: daveena
            s
            sugartoof Mar 4, 2010 05:25 PM

            New York has plenty of Sardinian influence on menus.

            La Ciccia's food is just ok, with pedestrian flavors. If you do go to La Ciccia, be sure to ask which pastas are freshly made in house (only 2 dishes last I asked), and skip the dull cardboard pizzas entirely. I think it sits alongside Incanto in the overhyped department.

            I can't think of anywhere in NY serving the tuna heart dishes though, so I suppose I agree, if that sounds exciting .....

      2. re: j.jessica.lee
        steve h. Mar 12, 2010 07:16 PM

        Incanto gets my vote.

      3. s
        sugartoof Feb 23, 2010 06:54 PM

        It's sounds like you're from NY? ,,,,,, Blue Bottle just opened a NY location in Williamsburg on Berry Street.

        Knowing that, you might try coffee at Sight Glass, or any of the other spots using Verve, or De La Paz beans.

        Humphrey Slocombe is a must try for ice cream, because there's nothing like it yet in NY aside from the outrageously priced Milk Made delivery service. Their focus is on exotic flavors. You might also try Indian ice cream from Bombay on Valencia, which is more of a West Coast thing.

        Dynamo is good, but it's very much in line with Doughnut Plant in NY. Give the apple fritters another try, only this time get one from one of the more generic donut spots. Look for the massive sized, dark colored shredded glob with a hardened crust.

        You really should add a Mexican stop to your list (wouldn't bother with Peruvian though).

        Delfina is really good, in that it's the closest thing to the pies in NY, but you might try the Arizmendi suggestion (which is very unique, with nothing like it in NY) or Gialina. Golden Boy makes a Sicialian that's really good for a greasy square. Liguria is an old timer making focaccio. Speaking of which, the fresh out of the oven bread as well as the bread pudding at Tartine are real standouts which are easy for an out of towner to overlook. Check the website for the bread availability.

        Speaking of which, the flagship Boulangerie location on Pine Street is worth giving them another chance.

        I think you'll like Spruce, and Nopa is another one you should consider. Frances is going to be a different experience as well.

        1. j
          j.jessica.lee Feb 22, 2010 02:26 PM

          For those of you who have been to Manresa, has anyone tried the 3-course for $75? Is it enough food? Is it still representative of Kinch's genius? I heard that Jeremy Fox's wife has returned as pastry chef. Has anyone tried her desserts either before at Manresa or at Ubuntu when she was there?

          6 Replies
          1. re: j.jessica.lee
            m
            ML8000 Feb 22, 2010 04:49 PM

            I think the 4-course prix fixe is now $90. Considering it's on par (or better, imo) then the French Laundry, it's a fair price. I also believe it's "choose from several" in each course option, so the food should be the same but the portions appropriate. The tasting menu is chef's choice and has gone up too but it's still a "bargain" compared to other multi-star places. If you have a chance, I'd just go. I'll keep the hype down but my experience was mind-blowing good. Only issue is it's an 1-hr drive.

            1. re: ML8000
              j
              j.jessica.lee Feb 23, 2010 04:32 AM

              Yes, there is a 4-course for $95 now, I believe. But I heard also about a 3-course for $75. What do you mean by '"choose from several" in each course option'? Is there a way to get to Manresa by BART?

              1. re: j.jessica.lee
                wolfe Feb 23, 2010 06:31 AM

                No!!!!
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6283...

                1. re: j.jessica.lee
                  m
                  mdg Feb 23, 2010 07:14 AM

                  There was a 3-course option at Manresa years ago, but no longer. The 4-course is plenty of food and a great representation of Kinch's cooking. Be sure that someone in your party gets the "Into the vegetable garden..." dish, which is their signature. There's no BART; it's much easier to drive, but Wolfe's link has good information on a transit possibility from bbulkow.

                  Michael

                  1. re: mdg
                    bbulkow Feb 24, 2010 12:22 AM

                    It seems a bit crazy to spend 3 hours on public transit *each way* from the city for a high end meal. If you can afford Manresa you can afford faster and more comfortable transit.

                    Renting a car for, say, $100 would seem like a bargain. But it's certainly true that 511.org and/or Google Transit Planner will get you there, although the previous bus service seems to not operate. The last Caltrain northbound is 10:30 out of San Jose, so you can get a cab from the restaurant to San Jose on the return leg, if a car is just an impossibility.

                  2. re: j.jessica.lee
                    m
                    ML8000 Feb 23, 2010 01:37 PM

                    Each course you can choose from several different dishes.

              2. j
                j.jessica.lee Feb 21, 2010 08:31 PM

                Oops, can't delete it. I meant to ask, "Also what about RN74?"

                2 Replies
                1. re: j.jessica.lee
                  Ruth Lafler Feb 21, 2010 11:20 PM

                  Reports are underwhelming for RN74. I don't remember seeing anything that would make me think people were down on Aziza. IIRC there were some very positive reports last month for Dine About Town.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                    j
                    j.jessica.lee Feb 22, 2010 02:24 PM

                    Thanks, Ruth! I'd just read some posts in which people weren't too happy with Aziza, so I thought that perhaps it was starting to go downhill.

                2. j
                  j.jessica.lee Feb 21, 2010 07:58 PM

                  Does anyone have any suggestions on a dinner for four (with three of my colleagues)? Nothing overly fancy, but something nice and perhaps more representative of things we can't get as well over on the east coast. I had been thinking Aziza, but people seemed down on Aziza recently. Then I was thinking Boulevard, but I hear their desserts are so-so and I love dessert. Then I thought of Ame. Any thoughts on Ame? I'm thinking of doing Canteen for brunch, so I kind of scratched that from the list, but does anyone think dinner is better than brunch? And also what are thoughts on Frances and Quince? What about Delfina? I am in charge of choosing the restaurant and making the reservation for that evening, so I feel pressured to pick a really stellar knockout place and feel responsible for creating a really nice experience for my colleagues. On my own as a solo diner, I wouldn't feel quite as bad about a miss! Thank you!!!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: j.jessica.lee
                    s
                    sfbing Feb 21, 2010 08:14 PM

                    I think Canteen is so different between brunch and dinner, that you can easily do both and not feel that it is repetitive. I prefer dinner, but the dinner menu usually has just 3 selections for each course, and if your colleagues are picky it is possible they would struggle to find something to eat.

                    I like both Quince and Ame but you should check the budget. Personally, I think Quince's apps and pastas are incredible, but the main courses and desserts are just ok. Ame is reminiscent of Jean Georges--last I went, the desserts were quite good.

                    Zuni is quintessentially Californian if you don't want to do Boulevard.

                    Delfina is a safe choice, La Ciccia and Incanto are more interesting. However, Delfina is across from Bi-Rite Creamery.

                    1. re: j.jessica.lee
                      h
                      huberto Feb 23, 2010 06:23 PM

                      a couple other places to consider: range and pesce. range is a bit more hip, pesce a bit more neighborhoody. both excellent food and very good values. neither is too expensive either. the best pork chop i've ever had was at range (tho that's no longer on their menu).

                      if you do end up at pesce, make sure to start with oyster shots. best i've found in the city, and my mouth watered slightly just typing this sentence. you may start with one but will likely order a second round.

                      -h

                      1. re: j.jessica.lee
                        h
                        hungry20 Mar 1, 2010 02:11 PM

                        I would check out Frascati instead of Delfina or Aziza.

                      2. c
                        cwujd1 Feb 19, 2010 10:23 PM

                        I have had the immense pleasure of eating at both Motorino locations within the past year. I don't think you'll be able to meet that standard in the Bay Area. Delfina (and a few others) are very good, but Motorino is another level of the art. And they get to use that unique NYC tap water! The New York Times just called Motorino the best pizza in NY.
                        http://events.nytimes.com/2010/02/17/...

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: cwujd1
                          daveena Feb 20, 2010 09:48 AM

                          I think Pizzaiolo's as good as Motorino (but it's not that easy to get to without a car).

                          1. re: daveena
                            Robert Lauriston Feb 21, 2010 08:07 AM

                            Pizzaiolo is 10 blocks / 3/4 of a mile from MacArthur BART, no big deal for your average New Yorker.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              j
                              j.jessica.lee Feb 21, 2010 08:22 AM

                              Yes, definitely no big deal for us. :)

                              But as we have something comparable in NY, I might use my available meals for something that I really can't get in NYC. Any thoughts in that direction?

                              1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                Robert Lauriston Feb 21, 2010 08:30 AM

                                If you want to check out some only-in-SF pizza, Pauline's or Pizzetta 211. And Little Star is better Chicago-style deep dish than you can get most places.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  j
                                  j.jessica.lee Feb 21, 2010 08:38 AM

                                  Thanks, Robert! I'll try to fit them into the eating schedule if I have time. :) So many amazing places in SF, and as always, not always enough time.

                              2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                daveena Feb 21, 2010 09:45 AM

                                The distance isn't bad, but those first few blocks are quite a bit seedier than just about any neighborhood in Manhattan. Anyway, I guess it's moot, since she's not going to go there.

                                I think the pizza at Arizmendi is uniquely Bay Area and delicious. Sourdough crust, sauceless, it shouldn't even really qualify as pizza, but I (and every other self-identified New York pizza snob I know) love it

                                1. re: daveena
                                  Robert Lauriston Feb 21, 2010 10:20 AM

                                  Arizmendi's pizza isn't quite unique, it's a clone of the Cheese Board's.

                                  Definitely another only-in-the-Bay-Area style.

                          2. h
                            hong_kong_foodie Feb 19, 2010 10:11 PM

                            Koi Palace is definitely a solid HK style Cantonese restaurant by US standards, and there's nothing like it on the East coast. That said, it's far from flawless so you have to know what to order. Dishes that are made pretty well include:

                            (1) #233 Mandolin Hand Roast Squab $15.00
                            (2) #241 Crisp Chicken with Bean Sauce Dip $12.00 for half
                            (3) #666 Chinese Broccoli Stir Fried in Sugar Wine Sauce $14.00
                            (4) #505 Korean Style Beef Short Ribs $16.00
                            (5) #849 Shanghai Style Crab (crab meat with fluffy egg white) $35.00

                            I definitely recommend #5 (it's considered to be one of their signature dishes), and I pulled the # and description straight from their menu on the website: http://koipalace.com/shell.html?page=...

                            FYI, Yank Sing is a place that a lot of non-Chinese love (particularly the business crowd from the financial district) but it is not even on the radar for the folks from Hong Kong where dim sum and Cantonese style food reigns supreme.

                            Also if you're in the mood for Thai, you might want to try Osha Thai for something as simple as shrimp paste fried rice. You can really taste the shrimp paste, and it's close enough to what you find in Bangkok. Just make sure to go to the TENDERLOIN location since all of the other ones are seriously watered down.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: hong_kong_foodie
                              j
                              j.jessica.lee Feb 21, 2010 08:28 AM

                              Thanks! They all sound delicious! What dimsum would you order here? And what do you think of the dungeness crab at PPQ?

                              1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                h
                                hong_kong_foodie Feb 21, 2010 09:19 AM

                                Here are some dim sum dishes that are decent:

                                (1) #345 Steamed Daikon Cake $4.50
                                (2) #347 Crispy Fried Dough Stuffed Rice Rolls $4.50
                                (3) #352 Wild Mushroom Stuffed Filo Threads $4.50
                                (4) #422 Pan Fried Pork Dumplings $4.50 for 4 pieces
                                (5) #376 Coffee Glazed Pork Spareribs $6.90
                                (6) $157 Roast Suckling Pig $18.00
                                (7) #362 Salt and Pepper Squid $5.50
                                (8) #464 Sugar Egg Puff $4.50
                                (9) #645 Baked Pork Chop Over Fried Rice HK Style $14.00

                                The above dishes will feed 4-6 people so order fewer dishes if your party is smaller. (9) in particular is a decent rice dish (not dim sum) to cap off the savory part of your meal (i.e. after the dim sum but before dessert), but it's huge so you want to make sure you have room for it. That said, if you really want to try dim sum, it's probably a better idea to skip out on (9) and order more dim sum dishes.

                                I would definitely recommend (3), (5), and (8), and think the rest are also okay. Just keep in mind that (6) is going to be a good size as well with 10-12 pieces of pork.

                                1. re: hong_kong_foodie
                                  s
                                  sfbing Feb 21, 2010 11:52 AM

                                  I might avoid the Wild Mushroom Filo--we ordered it recently and it was one of the worst dim sum dishes I've had in recent memory. A huge afro of filo dough and no mushrooms anywhere unless you count the drop of mushroom gravy somewhere inside.

                                2. re: j.jessica.lee
                                  Civil Bear Feb 22, 2010 08:34 AM

                                  I'll chime in for PPQ if you don't mind. They have two locations.
                                  PPQ on Irving is more of a Southern Vietnamese Pho place. Excellent Pho, Bun, and rice plates. Very crowded, bright, noisy, and cash only.
                                  PPQ Dungeness Island on Clement is also causal, but more refined (carpeting, white table cloths, etc.). The Peppercorn Crab (Cua Rang Muoi) is my favorite in the City, especially when ordered with the house made garlic noodles.

                                  -----
                                  PPQ Dungeness Island
                                  2332 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                  1. re: Civil Bear
                                    j
                                    j.jessica.lee Feb 22, 2010 02:23 PM

                                    Thanks, Civil Bear. Is mid-March still a good time for the Dungeness crabs? I was raised on Chesapeake Bay crabs - how are these different?

                                    1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                      Civil Bear Feb 22, 2010 03:53 PM

                                      Yes, the local crab season goes through the end of June, so you should be in luck, weather permitting.

                                      Arguments ensue regarding which crab is tastier, but I can say the Dungeness is sweet and relatively firm, and is definitely meatier and easier to get to than its blue crab counterpart.

                                      Perhaps the best way to sample it for the first time would be to just get it cracked, which is nothing more than steamed and dipped in drawn butter. That and a little bit of SF Sourdough is tough to beat.

                                      1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                        bbulkow Feb 24, 2010 12:15 AM

                                        Dungeness is so different from Blue that I dare call them the same food. Dungeness has less character and a far sweeter taste. It's hard to get 'em just steamed on a plate in a restaurant - stopping by a grocery store is most likely to net an actual crab, suitable for a picnic nosh. I arguably state Sourdough is entirely the wrong direction - if you have to prepare them, a light cream sauce and a bed of noodles is superior.

                                        For some reason, crab cakes are on many menus here, if you've had maryland crabcakes, don't give in to curiosity. Blue crab shines in the savory concoction of the crabcake, dungeness doesn't balance out right, and few get the magic right even if they're using Blue.

                                        1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                          daveena Feb 24, 2010 03:21 AM

                                          I think Blue crabs have a denser, meatier, more satisfying texture as well - if you were raised on them, you might find a steamed Dungeness too watery. I agree with bbulkow that they're better as a component of a sauce with with fresh pasta (I like a chili/garlic/tomato/crab shell stock based sauce). I also enjoy them baked (Vietnamese style garlic crab, which you can get at PPQ or La Vie - not a prep I've ever seen on the east coast), or fried. My absolute favoriten prep is Koi Palace's dungeness xiao long bao with the deep fried legs and carapace served alongside it. The crab butter "fritters" (really, just the fried batter with crab butter clinging to it) is one of my favorite things to eat ever.

                                          1. re: daveena
                                            daveena Mar 4, 2010 05:59 PM

                                            Oh, aside from the crab XLB with fried crab legs (#436) at Koi Palace, my favorite dim sum is #357 - the XO Spicy Sauce dumplings. They're soup-filled, like XLB, but with the most fantastic chili-spiked sauce.

                                            1. re: daveena
                                              daveena Mar 12, 2010 06:01 AM

                                              Just realized from reading another of Robert L's posts that it's not the XO Spicy Sauce dumplings I love, it's the XO diced pork and mushroom dumplings (#427). I get the two confused all the time.

                                  2. j
                                    jsaimd Feb 19, 2010 12:13 PM

                                    Any reason you haven't done Mexican here? or Peruvian? I would vote for Poc Chuc or one of the Peruvian places (many are seafood focused). It is different than what you would get in NY. Highly recommend Primavera at the Ferry Building Farmers market too. i really like a lot of their dishes - i have only had a couple of just OK ones.

                                    For ice cream - Humphrey Slocumbe is fun - not as rich as BiRite, but funky flavors.
                                    Chocolate - since you liked Rechuitti - Cocoa Bella has some, but some is shipped from NY! I like Christopher Elbow's infused caramel flavors. NeoCocoa truffles has its fans, although I am not as head over heals about them, and XOX I like (haven't had recently)

                                    29 Replies
                                    1. re: jsaimd
                                      Ruth Lafler Feb 19, 2010 12:57 PM

                                      The best local artisan chocolates I've had recently are Chocolatier Blue on 4th St. in Berkeley. And if you go back to the Marin FM, look out for Barlovento chococolates.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                        j
                                        jsaimd Feb 19, 2010 10:25 PM

                                        I like some of Barlovento's ganache filled truffles but very much dislike the bars. They do best with their bold flavors IMO and natural tastes.

                                        Love Chocolatier Blue. His grapefruit rosemary was wonderful... and have to love Amadei couverture.

                                        1. re: jsaimd
                                          lexdevil Feb 21, 2010 10:44 AM

                                          I think the Barlovento cherry bar is great, but that's because I love the cherries.

                                      2. re: jsaimd
                                        p
                                        phoenikia Feb 19, 2010 01:08 PM

                                        I love Poco Dolce chocolates- pretty easy to find in the Bay area, but impossible to find where I live, so that's a treat for me when I'm in the Bay area ;-)
                                        http://www.pocodolce.com/stores.html

                                        1. re: phoenikia
                                          j
                                          jsaimd Feb 19, 2010 10:27 PM

                                          Love Poco Dolce burnt caramel tiles - finally someone (besides Rechuitti) that isn't afraid of dark caramel. you can find at Whole Foods and Andronico's in the Bay Area (lots of other places too now)

                                        2. re: jsaimd
                                          j
                                          j.jessica.lee Feb 21, 2010 08:21 AM

                                          Well, I heard that the Mexican isn't as good as in L.A. so wanted to concentrate on things that SF does the best. I go to L.A. once a year so I figured I'd get Mexican there. That being said, I heard that SF does some good Central/South American food. Other than Poc Chuc, any other recs?

                                          1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                            Robert Lauriston Feb 21, 2010 08:28 AM

                                            Yucatecan, Peruvian, and Burmese are three cuisines that are more common in SF than post places. Some good discussion about that subject here:

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/521784

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              j
                                              j.jessica.lee Feb 22, 2010 02:22 PM

                                              Thanks for the info, Robert. What is the difference between Yucatecan and Peruvian food? I have been to Lima before and loved the food there, but have never been to the Yucatan peninsula.

                                              1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                                Robert Lauriston Feb 23, 2010 04:37 PM

                                                Not much in common.

                                                http://www.pocchuc.com/menu.html
                                                http://www.mochicasf.com/menu

                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                Xiao Yang Feb 23, 2010 05:43 PM

                                                I don't think SF is going to outdo New York at Peruvian. NYC has around 50,000 Peruvians (not to mention over 100,000 Ecuadorians) and plenty of Peruvian restaurants.

                                                1. re: Xiao Yang
                                                  Robert Lauriston Feb 24, 2010 06:15 AM

                                                  How many NY Peruvian places have cooking at the level of Mochica or La Mar?

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                    s
                                                    sugartoof Feb 24, 2010 07:12 AM

                                                    Mochica isn't really Peruvian is it?

                                                    You might have a point with La Mar, but if you're counting New Latin, there's Degustation, and a long list of other notable places fusing Latin, which could be named. I'd say go for the refined Mexican (Chilanga, Nopalita) instead, but La Mar is a good suggestion.

                                                    1. re: sugartoof
                                                      Robert Lauriston Feb 24, 2010 07:24 AM

                                                      Mochica Peruvian Restaurant is straight-up Peruvian:

                                                      http://www.mochicasf.com/menu

                                                      The few dishes I've had at La Mar were not quite as good as comparable dishes at Mochica. The latter's halibut tiraditos is one of the best dishes I've had in recent years.

                                                      Nuevo Latino / fusion, Bocanova is worth trying.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                        s
                                                        sugartoof Feb 24, 2010 08:12 AM

                                                        The menu is self described as Fusion, and there's a photo on Yelp of a Pork Adobo entree.

                                                        1. re: sugartoof
                                                          Robert Lauriston Feb 24, 2010 08:20 AM

                                                          Chancho adobado is a traditional Peruvian dish.

                                                          Peruvian cuisine is fusion by nature, much like Malaysian, since the cuisines of the highly various immigrant groups have gotten mixed. E.g. tiraditos were adapted from Japanese sashimi, lomo saltado is a local spin on Chinese stir-fry.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                            s
                                                            sugartoof Feb 24, 2010 08:35 AM

                                                            I stand corrected on the Adobo, but you called it "straight Peruvian", linked to a menu clearly labeled "fusion", and now you're saying there is no such thing as "straight Peruvian".

                                                            Bigger point...NY has plenty of strong, comparable Latin fusion offerings.

                                                            1. re: sugartoof
                                                              Robert Lauriston Feb 25, 2010 08:03 AM

                                                              Mochica's the best place I know to get traditional Peruvian dishes such as ceviche, tiradito, chupe, papas a la huancaina, lomo saltado, and anticuchos.

                                                              Nothing I've ordered there has had the slightest whiff of Nuevo Latino or pan-Latin fusion or whatever other trend the Web site's unfortunately use of the word "fusion" might suggest. No miso, no black cod, no short ribs, no mango salsa.

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                t
                                                                trvlcrzy Oct 27, 2013 06:22 PM

                                                                Mo Chica is definitely Peruvian...been to their restaurants in Peru too!

                                                                1. re: trvlcrzy
                                                                  Robert Lauriston Oct 28, 2013 08:54 AM

                                                                  Carlos Altamirano is chef-owner of Mochica, Piqueos, and La Costanera. To my knowledge he has no restaurants in Peru.

                                              3. re: j.jessica.lee
                                                Melanie Wong Feb 21, 2010 08:29 AM

                                                Poc Chuc features Yucatan-style cooking, not easily found in LA. Mexican food lovers from LA come to SF to eat this cuisine.

                                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                  j
                                                  j.jessica.lee Feb 21, 2010 08:37 AM

                                                  Oh, that's very good to know! Thank you, Melanie! What items are your favorites to order here?

                                                  1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                                    Melanie Wong Feb 21, 2010 08:58 AM

                                                    I've had almost everything on the menu and the only things I probably wouldn't order again are the braised lamb and the duck breast, just because they're more french in prep. If you're by yourself, I'd rec the platillo maya (appetizer sampler) and ask what the specials of the day are. That's too much for one person to eat, but the prices are quite low and you'll get to try a lot of different tastes.

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                      j
                                                      j.jessica.lee Feb 21, 2010 07:59 PM

                                                      Thanks Melanie! The platillo maya sounds amazing and the pictures look even better!

                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                        j
                                                        j.jessica.lee Feb 21, 2010 08:01 PM

                                                        Oh yes, and Melanie, what are some of your other absolute favorite places in SF? I've read some of your reports on wineries and such and enjoyed them very much.

                                                      2. re: j.jessica.lee
                                                        Civil Bear Feb 22, 2010 08:48 AM

                                                        I really love the Escabeche de Pavo (Turkey Stew). It's one of those earthy, hearty dishes that make you feel if you were raised on it it (I wasn't), you would be taken home again. I don't know if that makes much sense, but it's a dish I wouldn't eat every day, but get cravings for it every month or so.

                                                        -----
                                                        Poc Chuc
                                                        2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                        1. re: Civil Bear
                                                          grayelf Mar 3, 2010 10:51 PM

                                                          We really loved Poc Chuc and will be returning in March with my parents. We've traveled in the Yucatan and this is good stuff. The flat and rolled corn items are very good here and worth trying, as well as the home-style dishes that Civil Bear enjoys. Excellent value here too. Be sure to make a reservation to get the best service -- you will see what I mean if you go :-).

                                                          1. re: grayelf
                                                            j
                                                            j.jessica.lee Mar 4, 2010 03:20 AM

                                                            Thanks, grayelf! You're also a fellow non-resident who adores SF! And I know you love Canteen. I'm definitely going, but can't decide if for brunch or for dinner. What is dinner like on the nights that are NOT the prix-fixe? What are your highlights/must orders for both brunch and dinner? I can't wait for my trip!! Any other recommendations? Thanks so much!!

                                                            1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                                              grayelf Mar 4, 2010 06:47 AM

                                                              I do love Canteen :-). It's like going to a diner and then getting a gourmet meal served with finesse and pride. Watching the staff's work ballet in the galley style kitchen is a bonus. I love the atmosphere and the setup though some find it a bit cramped (it is small) and rushed (you have 1.5 hours). Because the menu changes so frequently, must orders are general -- I will go for anything that used to have four hooves. Having said that, we've never had a dud here. There is a limited choice each evening even when it is not prix fixe but again I've not had a problem finding something I like (and I am picky!). We love the delectable brioche which comes as part of dinner, and the vanilla souffle is a must order. I think there will be mayhem if that ever falls off the dessert menu.

                                                              As for brunch, that is also worth checking out. Although I usually prefer savoury treats in the a.m., I've been drawn to their sweet stuff here.

                                                              I think dinner is the more quintessential experience (you get to see Chef Leary in action!) and I would do that if you can. They do book up well in advance because it is so small. I can't wait for our March 26 reso (we usually go on the Thursday we arrive but this time that date is a prix fixe so watch out for that if you do decide to go).

                                                              As for other recs, you've gotten so many good ones I can't recall if anyone suggested La Ciccia for some regional Italian fun and hospitality. Also I notice you loved Blue Bottle Hayes Valley apart from the lack of seats. If you haven't been, check out SFMOMA (it is their 75th anniversary this year) and treat yourself to the Blue Bottle there. Their museum blend is very similar to the Hayes Valley one, and the setting is lovely (with chairs!). Try a Gibraltar.

                                                              Have a great trip.

                                                              1. re: grayelf
                                                                j
                                                                j.jessica.lee Mar 4, 2010 01:52 PM

                                                                Thanks so much, grayelf! I'll be sure to write up my trip report once I'm back in late March! Can't wait to try everyone's suggestions!

                                                2. s
                                                  sfbing Feb 19, 2010 09:28 AM

                                                  Canteen is good for brunch or dinner. Not mentioned much on CH, but I really enjoyed my meal at Saison. Fancy food, but quirky and informal. You can wander into the kitchen and watch the guy cook.

                                                  1. JasmineG Feb 19, 2010 09:10 AM

                                                    Canteen is a great brunch, and their big pancake is fantastic, but it's not your traditional stack of pancakes for breakfast. It's always with whatever fruit is seasonal (I was there this weekend and it was with apples, in the late spring it's often strawberries and is often peaches in the summer). Given what you've liked, I think you'd really enjoy Canteen for either brunch or dinner. And all of the places that you're thinking of going for your trip in March are winners (though I haven't been to the latter three, I really want to).

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: JasmineG
                                                      j
                                                      j.jessica.lee Feb 21, 2010 08:20 AM

                                                      Thanks! I have been looking online to get an idea of what else they serve at Canteen for brunch. What DO they usually serve? I know they don't have the same menu all the time, but just wanted an idea. Also, is Canteen better for brunch or for dinner? All I could find online were the set menus for Wed/Thurs. On the other days, what is the dinner menu like?

                                                      1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                                        JasmineG Feb 21, 2010 01:16 PM

                                                        Some of their standard menu items: Benedict, the big pancake, the chupacabra (a shredded pork and black bean hash kind of thing, with eggs on top), and french toast. There's also usually some sort of scrambled egg thing, something more lunch-y, and brioche to share. It's a great brunch. Honestly, I can't tell you whether it's better for brunch or dinner, because I love it for both. The dinner menu changes each week, always very seasonal. If you search for Canteen on this board, you'll find some past reports from dinner there which will give you some guidance about what they serve. It's a great place to go as a solo diner for either meal, the counter is a good place to sit.

                                                        1. re: JasmineG
                                                          j
                                                          j.jessica.lee Feb 21, 2010 08:00 PM

                                                          Thanks JasmineG! I'm definitely going to have to go to Canteen and I think it may have to be for brunch, though I'm still debating... I only wish I were in SF longer. What are some of your other absolute favorite places? I'd love to hear your other recs!

                                                          1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                                            JasmineG Feb 23, 2010 12:21 PM

                                                            I had a fantastic meal at Commis a few months ago, and can't wait to go back (and since it seems like you aren't renting a car, if you're debating between Commis and Manresa, Commis is relatively easy to get to from BART + walking, whereas Manresa is much more of a hike). Aziza might be a good fit for your group dinner foodwise; the only problem is that it's quite a distance from downtown, and that might be a pain for your group. I haven't been to Frances yet, but it's definitely a hot new place, so if that impresses your colleagues, that might be something to think about. I've also had delicious meals at Delfina. RN74 has a great bar, so it might be a better place to go for a glass of wine before dinner than a meal. I hope you have a great visit!

                                                    2. c
                                                      Calvinist Feb 19, 2010 08:56 AM

                                                      FWIW, YANK SING TO GO is nothing like the sit-down experience. It's a steam table for office workers (I worked near-by for 11 years). Love it or not, you can't judge Yank Sing by its take-out outlet.

                                                      1. Ruth Lafler Feb 19, 2010 08:37 AM

                                                        Thanks so much for your report! Was this a different trip than the one you reported on last February? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/594868

                                                        If not, what was the date of your trip? So much of our food is based on what's seasonal, it helps to "calibrate" your comments to know what time of year it was, especially when it comes to farmers markets.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                          j
                                                          j.jessica.lee Feb 19, 2010 08:44 AM

                                                          Well, i was there two different times. One was in February (I went to Marin Farmers Market then) and one was in September (that was the trip in which I really explored the Ferry Market and got the purslane and mushrooms). This time, I will be there in mid-March (next month!)

                                                          1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                                            Ruth Lafler Feb 19, 2010 10:06 AM

                                                            Thanks. As you must have noted, there's a big difference between the farmers market in February and in September. Although I often think that it's more impressive to someone from other climates to see what's available here in February than in September, which is peak harvest season throughout most of North America.

                                                            Yank Sing To Go sucks. I work two blocks from there and both of the times I've gotten stuff from there I've wondered why. One thing I've never tried is ordering "to go" from their regular menu. Can that be done?

                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                              n
                                                              nocharge Feb 19, 2010 01:30 PM

                                                              My girlfriend once ordered stuff from Yank Sing's regular menu to go. At first, they wouldn't let her but we know the manager and he reluctantly let her get away with it. The only thing I ever order from Yank Sing To Go is the chow mein. It's not listed on the menu and has to be ordered as a special. (And, not surprisingly, it's kind of pricey.)

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