The America's Cup
is the epitome of sailing. Not only is it the oldest international sporting trophy, but one that attracts the best of the best, with sailors such as Dennis Connor and Ted Turner racing for the honor of winning the Cup. As a sailor, having owned boats and sailed for pleasure as well as racing in many “Wet Wednesdays” as well as several of the Newport to Ensenada races, the top race on the West Coast, against boats owned by people such as Roy Disney, going to see the America's Cup race was always a dream of mine. From September 17 to September 25, the race was held in San Francisco Bay. It was the first time spectators on the shore could actually see the race. Wearing my “Team Oracle
” jacket, I watched Team USA race against Team New Zealand
. Amazing is not even close to describing the race and standing at the finish line to watch the boats cross was a dream come true. When Oracle won the Cup, I knew I had witnessed history being made.
These were all taken from my vantage point at the finish line, the first time spectators have been able to watch the races from dry land in it's history. Look at the spray---these boats are SAILING at 51 miles per hour!
With plenty of time between races, there was plenty of time to sample the delights of San Francisco, one of the best cities to find delicious food of all types. Fresh seafood, gourmet dinners, diners and more can be found just a walk or trolley car ride away.
Chinatown, Japantown and Little Italy transport you to foreign lands, while old time restaurants such as Lefty O'Doul's and John's Grill are a bit of history. Drinks at the Buena Vista, the place that invented the Irish Coffee are a must, as well as a visit to the Starlight Room
, high above the city on top of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, where you can get a cocktail, great appetizers and a panoramic view of the entire city. Add to that the Ferry Building
, chock full of restaurants, farmer's markets, produce, fresh seafood and many other types of culinary specialties and you have a veritable cornucopia of places to eat and buy delicious goods.
Join me now for some of the highlights of dining in San Francisco, as we celebrate the victory of Team USA in the America's Cup.
Sears Fine Food Sears Fine Food
has been around since 1938, right on the cable car route on Powell Street across from the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. This was a must go on my son and his girlfriend's list. Although Sears serves lunch and dinner, it is most famous for their breakfasts, including their signature Swedish pancakes. These pancakes are exceptional, light and fluffy and served with warm maple syrup, sausage or bacon and whipped butter.
Lingonberry sauce is available for those who want a real taste of Sweden. Other dishes include a Smoked Salmon Benedict, a delicious take on Eggs Benedict.
Also on the menu is a tasty Southern Corned Beef Hash and Eggs.
There is usually a line to get in, however it moves fast since Sears has a dining area in the basement as well as the main dining area. Tourists love the place--this couple shooting their food was from Germany.
Another option is breakfast at the bar, a nice way for a couple or single diner to enjoy their breakfast. Sear's Fine Food 439 Powell Street San Francisco, CA 94102 Tel (415)986-0700 www.searsfinefood.com
Mara's Italian Pastry
Little Italy is an integral part of San Francisco history, home to generations of Italian fishermen who created cioppino, the delicious seafood soup. Walking down Columbus Avenue just past the City Lights Bookstore, where Lawrence Ferlinghetti played an integral part in the Beat Generation with many famous poets and authors doing readings there. As you walk down Columbus, there are several outdoor dining places, with regulars sitting and speaking Italian. A few blocks down from City Lights is Mara's Italian Pastry, a small bakery with tables for enjoying their pastries. The bakery is owned by a family that originally came from Calabria, Italy, so there is no question about it's authenticity. Mara's has a nice selection of fresh Italian pastries. The biscotti comes in several flavors, with a nice crunch and marvelous aroma. The cannoli is freshly made, the outside still warm and crispy while the cream inside is cool and refreshing. Breakfast is perfect there, with a cup of good coffee and a few of the pastries.
Take a few biscotti to go for a snack later and you are set.
This is one of the places I went with our esteemed Roadfood friend, love2bake. She ordered cannoli for herself and several biscotti. It was nice to sit at the table out
front, enjoying the people watching and listening to conversations, mainly in Italian, as people walked by. At the end, love2bake took pastries home, but she will have to tell us if they made it that far! Mara's Italian Pastry 503 Columbus Ave. San Francisco, CA 94133 Tel (415) 397-9435
L'Osteria del Forno
Started by two Italian women from Varese and Bologna in 1990, L'Osteria del Forno
is a must go place. It is a small restaurant, with little more than a dozen tables. There is always a wait, but it is worth it. The menu includes appetizers such as bresaola, thin slices of air cured beef served with white truffle oil and porcini mushrooms, a delicious combination of flavors with a marvelous aroma from the truffle oil.
The pizza is a thin, Neapolitan style pizza, with a nice crunch to the crust and toppings that ore fresh and delicious. The vegetarian pizza includes mushrooms, onions and zucchini, on a tomato sauce base with mozzarella cheese.
Other choices include the traditional Margherita pizza and others with toppings such as sausage, anchovies and artichoke hearts. For main dishes they specialize in oven baked pastas and other items baked in their oven. One of the best dishes if it is available as a daily special is the roast pork, cooked the traditional Italian way, braised in milk with fresh herbs. The pork is tender with a nice taste and is served with either roasted potatoes or a mixed green salad. One of the best entrees is the Spiedino di Agnello, a plate of skewered lamb marinated in ginger, rosemary and garlic. It presents lamb at it's best, with a nice crust from the marinade providing great flavor and texture to the lamb.
This restaurant is a must go place, with delicious food and an atmosphere that makes you feel like you are dining at a cafe in Rome. L'Osteria del Forno 519 Columbus Ave. San Francisco, CA 94133 Tel (415) 982-1124 www.losteriadelforno.com
Another San Francisco institution, Tommy's Joynt
has been owned by the same family since 1947. This is an old time place with an excellent bar.
Besides the full bar, local beers are featured from many microbreweries in the Bay Area. It is nice to sit at the bar with a cold beer and enjoy the ambiance that is uniquely San Francisco. Service is cafeteria style, where you wait in a line to order food from the cooks.
Meats are carved fresh in front of you for your meal and are served either as sandwiches or platters. Roast beef, their famous turkey, beef brisket and ham are some of the carved to order items available. Other items, like their buffalo stew and buffalo are freshly made and ready to serve. Daily specials are available, with items such as a ground chuck steak sandwich with sauteed onions on a sourdough roll, roast chicken, filet of salmon and burgundy beef. For those who desire something different, braised oxtails are a Monday special. On Thursdays and Sundays, braised lamb shanks make an appearance. These lamb shanks are meaty and tender with a delicious sauce. The same dish at an “upscale” restaurant can easily cost two to three times as much, while tasting no better.
Another winner is the beef dip sandwich, a pile of sliced to order roast beef with the sourdough roll dipped in the delicious house-made au jus. Tommy's is well worth a trip, both for the food and the old time San Francisco atmosphere.
I first met fellow RF'er love2bake here for lunch. The beer at the bar was excellent, having come from local breweries. It was a nice place to sit, exuding the atmosphere of San Francisco in the 40's. I could see Sam Spade or Harry Callahan nursing a drink at the bar. I am passionate about lamb shanks, while love2bake thought the beef dip sandwich looked good, so we each got what we wanted and compared notes.
I really enjoyed the lamb shanks which had a taste of lamb and herbs with a delicious gravy. Her sandwich looked really good, although I will allow her to comment further on it. We ordered a piece of slab apple pie, tasty and fresh. Tommy's Joynt 1101 Geary Blvd. San Francisco, CA 94109 Tel 415-775-4216 www.tommysjoynt.com
Yummy B.B.Q. Kitchen
San Francisco has many bakeries and delis concentrated in Chinatown. The best way to find what is good is to just walk the streets, glancing in to see what is on display, how busy it is and whether the guests look predominately like tourists or locals. From the roast pork and the ducks hanging in the window, it is easy to see what the Yummy B.B.Q. Kitchen specializes in.
The gentleman cutting the meats is very personable and enjoys talking about the different kinds of meat that they sell. The dim sum are much better than the other nearby places. Shu mai, the pork filled dumpling, is rich and flavorful, encased in a light and tender wrapper. Har gow is a shrimp filled dumpling. Unlike some places that grind the shrimp into a paste for them, they mix the ground shrimp with some chopped shrimp for a texture treat. The dumplings are fresh and delightful.
The Chinese sausage roll is a rice roll studded with pieces of Chinese sausage. It makes an excellent, filling breakfast dim sum.
Also available are BBQ pork buns and many other types of dim sum. The roast pork is exceptional as is the barbecued cha siu pork.
Both have the richness in flavor that is expected, with the tender meat cooked perfectly. With the roast pork, carved off a whole pig in a cabinet, a must is to get some of the crispy skin.
This skin is not greasy, but has a satisfying crunch to it and intense flavor. Yummy B.B.Q. Kitchen does their food right and they are well worth seeing out. Yummy B.B.Q. Kitchen 683 Broadway San Francisco, CA 94133 Tel (415) 421-2015 You's Dim Sum You's Dim Sum was just about next to Yummy BBQ Kitchen. That means it was literally next door to my hotel, which was two doors right from the dim sum place and three doors left from the start of Little Italy. A great walking area! You's had decent dim sum, some excellent and some only alright. The steamed har gow was ok but the shui mai was excellent. Other items were so so and they were not really that helpful----certainly not as friendly as Yummy BBQ. They do supply dim sum for many restaurants, so I think that's their primary job and don't need to work with [even knowledgable] tourists, only the locals who are Chinese. I did enjoy watching the woman make dim sum in the back.
They had a good selection but not the duck or fresh roast pork that they had next door. It's worth a try, just for variety during an extended stay in San Francisco.
You's Dim Sum
San Francisco, CA 94133
Tel: (415) 788-7028 Bund Shanghai Restaurant
Several times I asked Chinese in the area where they enjoyed eating and the answer always seemed to be Bund Shanghai Restaurant. They are famous for their Shanghai Soup Dumplings, the wrappers enclosing a ball of meat surrounded by an aspic, a gelatin based concoction that, when the dumplings are heated, becomes a layer of soup inside the dumpling. The characteristic squirt of hot liquid from these dumplings sets them apart from all other types. Bund's version come with a dipping sauce topped with fresh ginger. It really is a sensational flavor combination. The Shanghai duck is roasted perfectly, with crispy skin and tender meat. Accompanying it is shrimp crackers and a delicious dipping sauce. Another exceptional dish is the Mongolian Lamb. This is a far cry from the Mongolian beef served at numerous Chinese restaurants. The tender lamb is not overpowered by the cooking sauce or the fresh scallions that are cooked with it. Instead, the lamb flavor comes to the forefront, with the kick of the peppers adding a nice spiciness to it while still allowing the lamb to shine. For vegetarians, there are several nice dish choices. The Baby Bok Choy with Garlic is exactly what is sounds like, with whole cloves of garlic wok-fried along with the slightly steamed bok choy. For garlic fans, this is an excellent dish. The whole garlic cloves melt in your mouth with a burst of flavor. This is highly recommended for a different Chinese food experience, especially since Shanghai food is not common in the U.S. Service is excellent and they are more than willing to describe dishes and make suggestions. Pricing is reasonable, well below the tourist spots, but the flavors and service far exceed that found in most of the touristy places. Bund Shanghai Restaurant 640 Jackson St. San Francisco, CA 94133 Tel (415) 982-0618 www.bundshanghaisf.com
Incanto is the creation of Mark Pastore and Chef Chris Cosentino, who also has created Boccalone in the Ferry Building. Chef Cosentino achieved a measure of celebrity on Food Network shows but eschewed TV fame for the joy of getting back into his kitchen to create culinary masterpieces. There, he creates marvelous taste combinations in a wonderful atmosphere of music and art. Incanto takes a whimsical approach to fine dining, with a “mystery flight” of wine available to test the wine lover's knowledge. The flight of wine has custom tabs around the base of each glass, with the writing hidden that shows what each glass is.
The challenge is for the drinker to identify the types of wine before they look
.It is a fun way to start the meal. The beginnings show Chef Cosentino's talent for taking basic items and elevating them. A plate of house-marinated olives combines several types, with their briny goodness making it hard to stop eating them.
An heirloom tomato plate combines fresh red and green tomatoes with fresh strawberries, goat cheese and basil.
The breads themselves are excellent, with a variety of soft breads as well as delicious breadsticks all accompanied by a delicious tapenade.
The menu can change daily, so there is always something new to try. The petrale sole was a local fish, cooked delicately with some manila clams and a delicious broth. Herbs, fava beans and tomatoes completed the plate which was reminiscent of a bouillabaisse but much more refined. The sole fillets were perfectly cooked, flaky and delicious, with the skin adding a bonus of flavor.
The lamb plate was exceptional, with not only rare lamb but also a lamb sausage for a flavor contrast. Capers adding a nice tangy complement to the dish.
An excellent side order with this was the green beans with peppers, the fresh green and yellow beans sauteed with shisito and jalapeno peppers which added a nice amount of heat.
Roast chicken was nicely done with the skin crisp and the meat juicy.
Desserts were excellent, featuring a pistachio olive oil cake with roasted strawberries and sorrel cream, a sweet but well-balanced dessert.
Overall, both the food and the service was excellent, with the wait staff extremely knowledgable about the menu and striving to keep the guests happy. Alex and Michael met Chef Chris Cosentino and had an excellent talk with him.
A top recommendation for a fine night out and a perfect example of a restaurant where the chef really cares about his food. Incanto 1550 Church St. San Francisco, CA 94131 Tel (415) 641-4500 www.incanto.biz Boccalone
Boccalone is in the Ferry buiding, the big place that not only provides transportation across the bay and serves as a trolley and bus stop, but provides an indoor marketplace that has a multitude of gourmet shops including oysters, fungi/mushrooms, farm to home produce, artisan cheeses, choclates and more. Farmer's markets are held outside several days a week, as are art, clothes and souvenir sales booths. Boccalone is another project of Chef Chris Cosentino from Incanto. He leaves no doubt of what boccalone is because of the foldins sign out front; "We Sell Salted Pig Partts". That's pretty much it, but what salted pig parts! Fresh cured salame, Italian sausage, Proscuitto, Cutto, Mortadella, and more, for sale by themselves, on sandwichiches or as part of salumi platters. Pates are also available. To say the salame is excellent is to not even scratch the surface. You can see them hanging in the case, looking like a shop in Italy. It's a worthwhile stop, whether for a sandwich, lunch or just something to take out for a picnic or home. This man knows his way around cured meat! Needless to say, the trip was great. Michael, Aexandra and I all ate some delicious food and saw some neat places. They marked Alcatraz and meeting chris Cosentino off their bucket list, and I marked watching an America's Cup race in person off of mine. For those of you who know my sailing history, you understand why this waas so important to me. Please understand that this barely scratches the surface of the places I went to on this trip and others-----Hog Island Oyster Company, John's Grill, the Gueana vista, Gold Dust Lounge and Swan Oyter Depot are just a few of the places that I enjoy but just couldn't fit in this time. And thaks to love2bake for meeting me-----it was certainly fun to share some roadfood and talk with you. What a great, delicious trip!
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