Friday, October 24, 2008

San Fran-Fucking-Cisco

bridgeI love San Francisco. I feel like I could live there. If I didn’t already live in the greatest city on the planet, a move might be imminent. As is, I give myself five years before the lure of The West is too profound to ignore. Ideally, I’d be bi-coastal.

The thing is, I’ve never lived inside of, or even close to, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping natural beauty, and I want to. I want to live somewhere that is more connected to the land than NYC could ever be. Don’t get me wrong, I refuse to trade in a dizzying restaurant scene, the politics of the Urban Elite, or the guilt-assuaging convenience of a city run on public transportation, for a spacious apartment on a hill, but the great thing about San Fran is, I don’t have to. It’s got it all. And I’ve been known to want it all. Including the single most impressive farmers’ market spread I’ve ever encountered.

I’m gonna say it, and it ain’t gonna be popular ‘round these parts, BUT, in my humble opinion, the food in San Francisco is better than the food in New York. I’m not talking about restaurants, I’m not talking about scenes or experiences, I’m strictly talking food. And what that really amounts to is produce and proteins, both of which are in a league of their own out west. (Don’t get me started on the wines. Thomas Keller and I share a love of Red Zin that is beyond.)

mushroomsIt’s not shocking really, food and wine taste better in Cali because food and wine are grown in Cali. The Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market is as exceptional as it is because the climate allows for an abundant harvest that is unmatched anywhere else in The Lower 48 (that, plus the fact you can actually eat a meal while wandering through the farmers’ stalls…for some absurd reason that only underscores the inadequacies of the markets back east, prepared foods are illegal to sell at the Greenmarkets in New York). Anywho, food might prompt me to move west someday, but it was my Papa who prompted me to vacation with him in San Francisco last August.

And so we did. We crammed a lifetime of memories into a weeklong stay at the St. Regis Hotel. We dined every night and almost never had a reservation. With the exception of a weekend drive through the Russian River Valley and a planned pit-stop at Charlie Palmer’s exquisite Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, our daily strategy was to take BART to a new neighborhood in San Fran and explore it head-to-toe before deciding on a dinner destination. Adventuring in this way, we found ourselves at both Michael Mina’s and Mel’s Drive-In on Union Square, walking through The Slanted Door in the northeast corner of the restored Ferry Building across from The Embarcadero, taking the ferry to Sausalito to dine on oysters at Fish, stumbling into Terzo in Cow Hollow after watching a Bills game in a sports bar in Pacific Heights, where someone recommended we try Nopa on Divisadero the next night (we did!), and finally, seated contentedly at a bar in The Mission for a four-course meal and perfect negronis at Range. Not once was I disappointed. And I don’t suffer from low expectations.

meatBut the truly serendipitous experience was the party we limbo-ed into after walking back from Range on a Sunday night. We passed a half closed security gate at what turned out to be a warehouse-style, Mission sculpture studio and asked what all the hubbub was about (read: live music and loud voices sounding like they were having a grand old time). When we learned it was a private party in celebration of the wood-burning pizza ovens that were built in the space for the Slow Food Nation festival that was about to commence, my eyes widened, my Dad got us invited, and we did back-bends under the gate to gain entrance. Hands down, it was the best anti-restaurant experience I’ve had. Everything about it felt sincere (Californians are so fucking nice, especially to blonde chefs from New York!), but what was remarkable, once again, was the food. Andrew Mariani (SCRIBEwinery), Chris Kronner (Serpentine, Slow Club), Nico Monday (Chez Panisse), and Anthony Strong (Pizzeria Delfina) presided over a slow feast of heirloom tomatoes, wood-fired pizzas, roasted poblanos, ratatouille, cucumber and beet salad, just-baked, sardine-topped, Tartine panzanella, wood-fired wild salmon, roasted potatoes, peaches and arugula, a whole slow-roasted goat, nectarine upside down cake and Bi-Rite Creamery Vanilla Bean ice cream cones. As the chefs de-virginized the ovens, guests toasted a veritable Who’s Who of Bay Area foodies including Slow Food Nations’s mother hen, Alice Waters. For a traveling New York foodie such as myself, it was bliss.

slow-clubThe ovens weren’t the only ones to get lucky that night. In addition to meeting what seemed like every important person in food, wine and farming in San Fran, I also met myself a genuine cowboy. A metrosexual in a suit he was not; this is a man who works with his hands and knew what to do with them. As the party wound down, he and I helped our hosts load pickup trucks with chairs and return them to their restaurant homes. Before I knew it, dawn was encroaching and I found myself in what one chef described as “the Meatpacking District—seven years ago.” This up-and-coming neighborhood curiously termed “The Dogpatch” is home to Serpentine, Slow Club, and little else. As the sun began to yawn its way into day, the Dogpatch had the feel of a ghost town Hollywood set. To my east coast eyes, it looked like a completely foreign landscape. Withered signs of old world life blended among ultra-modern steel and concrete design; I half expected tumbleweed to come rattling down the deserted street, but instead, the clickedy-clack of a pair of cowboy boots came up behind me. He was offering me a cheeseburger. Chef Kronner was behind the stove cooking up the perfect hangover prevention medicine, and the cowboy and I rode off into the sunrise beef and buns in hand.

We saw a lot more of each other that trip. My dad approved. The cowboy took me to a secret speakeasy wine bar behind Zuni Café and we road his motorcycle around town, in search of hilltop vistas from which to set our sights on that famous bridge which actually is not at all gold. The cowboy may not put the saint in San, but he absolutely put the fucking in Frisco!

  

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Leave a Comment



















Home | About | The Dinner Belle | Recipes & Cookbooks | Press | Contact | Subscribe | RSS | Archives
Copyright © Kimberly Belle.  All rights reserved.