HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
What's your latest food project? Share your adventure
TELL US

4 days to celebrate in San Francisco (and maybe wine country)

c
carli Feb 27, 2011 07:48 PM

I'm turning 50 on Friday (woo hoo, sort of)! My husband and I just booked a last-minute trip to San Francisco to celebrate. We arrive at noon on Thurs and leave late on Sun evening. We've lived in Del Mar (north of San Diego) for the past 7 years but before that we lived in NYC for most of our lives and miss the city and its wonderful food choices...although we also feel very grateful for and continue to be astonished at the fabulous year-round produce and wonderful ingredients that we can enjoy in CA. We're SO excited to be able to spend time in San Francisco, which (with the exception of a few quick business trips) we haven't been able to do until now.

I've spent an hour checking out this board and still can't figure out what to do/where to go so I'm hoping you'll be kind enough to help us figure it out. Here are the basics of our trip and what we like:

We're staying at the Renaissance Stanford Court hotel at 905 California Street and will not have a car but will take public transportation and/or taxis. We love unique, special dining experiences (who doesn't?!) and we're not really into "fine dining" or generally fancy places although if a place is seriously "best in class" then we'd love to go. We do not usually care for French cuisine (although lots of our favorites are French-influenced). No steakhouses or Mexican, please...although we like it, we get enough in San Diego. We like fresh seafood, Japanese, Asian and fresh/local ingredients in general, and lots of different tastes. Anything interesting or unique. My husband likes spicy stuff. We prefer a place that's not super noisy or trendy but don't want anything too stuffy. Hmmm...asking a lot, aren't we?

We're also hoping to go to Napa, Sonoma and/or Anderson Valley for a day and might do that on our last day (Sun)...is it possible to go to a great restaurant, eat something wonderful and visit a nice winery or two before getting back to SFO for our 8:15 flight? Is that realistic, and are there drivers or specific tours/places that would be good for that? This is my first stop for that question, and maybe I need to research that elsewhere?

Also, what is the "best" place to celebrate a special birthday in San Francisco or surrounding area, without regard to price?

Thank you in advance for any advice you can provide, and I apologize in advance that this request is so varied and broad.

  1. JasmineG Feb 27, 2011 08:40 PM

    If you want something special, and like Asian inspired food, you might want to try Benu -- it's a new place by the former chef de cuisine at The French Laundry, and a lot of the food is Asian inspired and fine dining (I haven't been, you should check the reviews on this board and elsewhere). You could also look into Saison or Ame for your special dinner.

    Other good choices for you: Bar Crudo, Sebo, Lers Ros Thai (for your husband's spicy fix, definitely check out threads on this board for favorite things to order), Slanted Door.

    Napa or Sonoma would be tough on your last day, especially with an 8:15 flight -- you could do it, but it would be easier if you rented a car for that day instead of using a driver, just because you'll have all the control over your itinerary. Sonoma might also be easier, just because a lot of Napa wineries require reservations, and for Sonoma it's more casual and will be easier to wing it.

    -----
    Slanted Door
    Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

    The French Laundry
    6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

    Bar Crudo
    655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

    Sebo
    517 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

    Lers Ros Thai
    730 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA

    Saison
    2124 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94110

    Benu
    22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

    3 Replies
    1. re: JasmineG
      c
      carli Mar 7, 2011 07:34 PM

      Jasmine, thanks very much for the suggestions. Had a fantastic weekend and enjoyed some fabulous food. Here's where we ended up -

      Thurs - arrived in mid-afternoon and hotel concierge suggested Tadich Grill because we were craving a simple dungeness crab salad for lunch. Salad had a gigantic amount of fresh crab, good lettuce and yummy dressing. Classic and delicious. That evening we went to Slanted Door. It was warm enough to be outside, looking at the Bay Bridge - magical! Food was very good, not outstanding, but the whole experience hit the spot. Was fun to explore the Ferry Building before dinner I had the yellowfin sashimi and the much-touted crab with cellophane noodles. Hubby had spring rolls and ribs. He liked his more than I liked mine. The flavor of the crab got lost and muddled in with the noodles. The yellowfin was a thick slab with a dab of something on top (can't recall what!) and was tasty enough but fairly unremarkable.

      Fri morning, got up and decided to explore Ferry Bldg again on our way to Telegraph Hill/North Beach. Had a delicious almond croissant at Acme bread (perfect, not too sweet and not overloaded with marzipan as some of them can be) and had a latte at Blue something coffee place (sorry, can't recall name but I think it's well-known). Delicious latte. Had late lunch at The House, where I had the mussels in shrimp broth with some garlic toasts, which I used to sop up every last bit of that incredible sauce. Vowed to come back but, alas, we were never were able to get in!

      That night we got a res at Cotogna, and I would say that was the highlight (food-wise) of the trip. Everything was simple perfection. Even the taste of the butter on the amazing bread was like the most farm fresh deliciousness. I had an antipasti of grilled asparagus (served chilled) with a lemon-y burrata on top that was like pillows of soft dairy freshness. Then I had the gnocchi with crab, peas and light lemon-ish cream sauce. Oh my gosh. I'm still dreaming of that dish. Light and perfect. My husband had the chicken, which he usually doesn't go for but he had a big lunch at The House (can't recall for the life of me what he had) and he wanted something rather simple. The chicken was crispy and moist with a smoky flavor from the wood-burning oven. Served with some wilted spinach and some sort of grain. Great. Dessert was the topper - those little bombolini (like donut holes, as the waitress said) with ricotta and little candied pieces of kumquat in another lemon-y sauce. As it turned out, each of my choices ended up having a hint of citrus, which I really love. Outstanding, simple dinner with some great wine (I had the Gavi, which I loved). Stands out in my mind as one of the best meals I've had in a long time.

      Saturday, we went to the Ferry Building (couldn't keep us out of that place) to check out the farmer's market and had the Ham and Tam sandwich at Cowgirl Creamery for breakfast, which was great. Not over-the-top, but the best ham and cheese on a fresh roll that one could wish for...wonderful ingredients and perfect way to start the day, people-watching, sitting on the deck. Rode bikes over the Golden Gate bridge and found a place in Sausalito past the ferry dock called Spinnaker. Right out of the 70's. Had a hunch it would not be a foodie haven but that was okay because we got a table in the bar area on the window and ordered delicious Bloody Marys. Enjoyed watching a couple seals playing and didn't really care that the food was probably going to be mediocre. Hubby had fish & chips, which he liked a lot, and I had a seared scallop and mussel appetizer that was better than expected. That night, we intended to go to Bar Crudo or Lers Ros Thai, both of which sound great, but we were too tired to go out so we ordered room service (meh) and collapsed.

      Next day was our last one and before heading to the airport, we had a straightforward breakfast at Sears Fine Food (I think that's what it's called), which was fine. My husband liked his Eggs Benedict a lot, and we enjoyed the old-time atmosphere.

      We were sad to leave your great city and are dreaming of coming back for a longer stay next time, but will be sure to make reservations at a few of the places you recommended, as well as revisiting Cotogna and The House. Thanks again!

      -----
      Slanted Door
      Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

      Tadich Grill
      240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

      Bar Crudo
      655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

      Cowgirl Creamery - Petaluma Facility
      105 H St, Petaluma, CA 94952

      Sears Fine Food
      439 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

      Lers Ros Thai
      730 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA

      Cotogna
      490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

      1. re: carli
        Ruth Lafler Mar 8, 2011 06:50 AM

        Thanks for the report -- I'm now dreaming about that gnocchi at Cotogna, too!

        -----
        Cotogna
        490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

        1. re: carli
          ttoommyy Mar 9, 2011 01:00 PM

          Great report. Thanks carli.

          We were recently at Cotogna on a trip to the Bay Area and loved every bite. Each course was excellent as was the service and the atmosphere. I highly recommend Cotogna while in SF.

      Show Hidden Posts