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Trip Report Part 1--The San Francisco Treat (Chaya Brasserie, Farmers Market, The Plant, and Quince)

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After months of hotel, restaurant, and sight research, part 1 of our trip is just concluding---San Francisco. We spent a wonderful 2 nights at the Hotel Vitale on the Embarcadero in a room overlooking the water, Ferry Building and the hotel restaurant, Americano's, bustling outdoor patio scene. We are very happy with our hotel choice.

We arrived late Friday afternoon, and had just enough time to freshen up before heading to an early happy hour/dinner before the Alcatraz night tour. I spent a considerable time researching the best options for nearby happy hours starting as early as 4:30, and selected Chaya Brasserie right by the hotel. It worked out very well. We scored a front table in the bar along the window, allowing us to sit side by side and watch the water and the world go by. We had a couple of well made cocktails, and numerous tasty appetizers including spicy ahi tuna on rice cakes (our favorite), salmon tartare, tenderloin skewers, short rib crostini, and a dragon roll. Nice atmosphere, lively happy hour scene, tasty food, and decent service, Chaya was a good choice. We headed by foot to the Pier for the Alcatraz tour which was an interesting and enjoyable way to spend our first evening. Very eery at night as the sun descends, especially with all the very vocal (and huge) seagulls constantly screaming.

Saturday morning (my husband's birthday!) we hopped across the street to the Ferry Building Farmers Market and headed directly to Blue Bottle for a nice cup of coffee. He tried the famous Roli Roti Porchatta sandwich which he liked a lot (I liked my bite too). And for a special treat for the birthday boy who is a 1st timer in Sf -- the owner fed him a big chunk of crispy pork skin; a very nice gesture. We also sampled a chocolate brownie from another outside vendor, which was good but nothing exceptional. We had a great morning wandering around and exploring all the outdoor goodies and the shops inside that I've been reading about for so many weeks. A truly enjoyable morning.

In the afternoon we tried to take the cable cars from Market to Hyde but the cars were out of service so we ended up on a shuttle to another cable car location, which got us on the wrong cable car route and we inadvertently wound up on Fisherman's Wharf. I had no intention of us visiting the Wharf, but it turned out to be a happy accident as we enjoyed wandering around and just taking in the touristy carnival-like atmosphere for a little while. After that, we stopped into The Plant for lunch, where I got a very tasty, fresh, and healthy salad with a tangy lime dressing and shredded chicken which perfectly fit the bill. Still, I cannot recommend this restaurant based on our experience as the service was very slow and poor. The staff was pleasant enough, but my salad took forever, and still came before our drinks...and the salad came wrong. While they got me a correct salad, my tea(pot) came, but I waited 10 minutes for a cup from which to drink it. To add insult to injury, when the bill came, they had charged me for 2 salads. More waiting while the bill was corrected. Late afternoon, I sent my husband off for a birthday foot massage at the hotel (called the "San Francisco Treat") while I did a little cardio at the gym. We then spent a spontaneous and excellent "happy hour" on the banquette in our hotel room overlooking the Embarcadero, drinking wine, and watching the bustling (official) happy hour below on the Americano patio, the boats moving across the Bay, and the joggers and dog walkers traveling the streets.

And then, finally, an outstanding birthday dinner at Quince. I spent a ton of time selecting this restaurant, and we are both glad I did. We found the ambiance to be Beautiful, elegant, and sophisticated, but not stuffy. The service was spot on--friendly, helpful, professional, attentive but not overbearing. Cocktails are mixed tableside, a fun and interesting touch which we have never seen. I enjoyed my Widow's Kiss, made with a smoky calvados and yellow chartreuse. We enjoyed some Champagne and wine, but i did not focus on details aside from taste. The food was wonderful, and the chef sent out numerous amuse bouches which all entailed interesting flavors and textures such as basil Madelines, a fruit/almond/cucumber gazpacho shooter, halibut ceviche (excellent), petit fours, etc. There were 2 breads brought around--a buckwheat roll which was nice, and a sea salt and rosemary white roll which was soft and sweet and out of this world. We both loved our starter courses, the charred octopus which was perfectly textured, and the tomato/mozzarella/prociutto dish which was melt in your mouth delicious. We both enjoyed the silky and tasty tagliatelle with plump clams, meyer lemon, olive oil and black garlic which imparted a delicious sweet flavor to the dish. We shared the Dover Sole with lobster mushrooms, spinach and earthy little potatoes, which was light and flavorful all at once. Dessert for me was a blackberry "bomba" sorbet with basil vanilla ice cream, cartelized meringue, and red verjus which was a highlight for me, with the crunchy meringue "flower" and especially the vibrant basil taste. My husband had the chocolate parfait with dark chocolate ice cream, strawberry and pistachio which he enjoyed. We had a truly lovely experience at Quince and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a special and romantic night out.

And today, we are on to Part 2--Napa. More later!
A thanks to all who helped me with my selections. :)

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  1. Thanks for reporting back! Here's the pre-trip discussion.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/851686

    1. Thank you for reporting back. Great descriptions. Looking forward to hearing about your Napa trip!

      1. Nice report! And I'm stealing your idea to do happy hour before the nighttime Alcatraz tour -- I've been trying to figure out how to do it without missing a dining opportunity or eating dinner really late. Perfect solution.

        1. I am glad chaya worked out. You got it the right way, great spot along the water for drinks that's not touristy.

          I will stop recommending the plant, I had only been there for a private event and kind of liked the food but had not experienced the service.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bbulkow

            Thanks everyone! I never mind changing things up and having a really early dinner to better accommodate a plan, but in this case the plan worked especially well since we had just gotten off the plane, eager to start our vacation, not to mention the fact that our bodies were operating on East Coast time.
            A great start to the Napa portion of our trip! I will report soon.
            Have a great day.