Monday, August 24, 2009

San Francisco, Part the Second

Go here to read Part One of my San Francisco adventures.

I finally got around to tackling the organization of all the photos I took in San Francisco and LA, thanks to my first day to myself alone in my house in what seems like forever. I had an immense blast on my trip, but I think it says something about how happy I am in Portland that I was surprised with a bit of homesickness by day six or seven.

There's so much going on right now that I want to talk about, including officially starting at my new job last week, but I want to devote a good blog post to that topic so it'll have to wait. Suffice it to say I'm really enjoying being busy again, though my body can definitely feel the effects of eating three rounded meals a day for a week, rather than grazing intermittently and then snarfing down a cold sandwich as fast as I can while standing over a garbage can. I have vacation padding going on for sure.

Onwards, San Francisco!

My solo meal at Coi Restaurant was an incredible, mind-blowing experience that I'm having terrible difficulty summing up in written words.

Coi dining room

Despite being (or maybe because of the fact that I was) the only solo diner in the restaurant and the youngest by at least 10 years, everyone from the host, my server, the sommelier and Daniel Patterson himself was incredibly warm and generous. In fact, I received a few extra courses and glasses that I didn't order. Maybe I'll barrage you with descriptors and photos a post or two down the road, but for now I'll say this dish changed my life:

California caviar, traditional garnishes
soft-cooked egg, creme fraiche, chives, caviar and brioche

Listed on the menu as "California caviar, traditional garnishes," taking my first bite of this resulted in an overwhelming visceral response that I've never had before. The sweetness of the egg, white and yolk almost the same velvety consistency, the salty crunch of the brioche, the tartness of the creme fraiche and the briny popping of the caviar... it was almost too much, and in the best way possible. I took a lot of notes during my dinner, and of the egg I wrote, "Egg - 63 degrees C - 45 min to 1 hr, circulator in shell. FREAKING OUT. NEAR TEARS." It's true, I nearly cried. And then I blessed Daniel Patterson with a verbal-diarrhea-like spout of praise for his egg. Poor dude was just trying to deliver the next course and got showered with all sorts of "I just have to tell you that, well, the egg I just ate? OHMYGOD. Amazing. I don't even know what to say, I've never had an egg like that in my life!" Etcera etcera yammer yammer.

At the end of the meal, even though I was clearly crazy and couldn't stop yammering, they let me in the kitchen!

Coi kitchen
That's a clean-ass kitchen

Sarah, my server, introduced me to all the cooks as "a fellow cook from Portland" and they warmed up right away. The cooks were super-nice and the guy with the beard (sous chef maybe?) explained all the stations to me and how they recently redid the middle line, general nerdy cook chat. Soooo awesome. I cabbed it home, riding on a cook nerd high.

One thing I garnered from this trip, especially during all my solo time in SF, was how much the cook brotherhood/sisterhood carries over from city to city. There was tremendous respect for what's going on in Portland, culinarily speaking, and I had some awesome resources thanks to Chad, Richie, Matt, Mike (my gracious host in SF) and every server and bartender I met in SF.

The next morning I woke up determined to make it a four meal day. Breakfast at Tartine was a great start, and totally worth the 20 minute wait in a line out the door:

Tartine goodies
Hello, morning bun and ham and cheese croissant!

A relaxing morning spent perusing the sidewalk traffic on the Mission, and then I met Mike downtown at Katana Ya for shio ramen with BBQ pork:

Shio with BBQ pork at Katana-Ya
love me some noodles

and then spent the afternoon wandering around Golden Gate Park:

look! I found hippies!

because I felt like it

Can I just say that having an iPhone makes traveling alone the best thing ever? I had a little too much fun getting lost in the jungle-like backwoods trails of Golden Gate Park and thanks to the GPS made my way out with nary a scratch, found the best transit route to my dinner destination and hopped the bus back to the Mission in half an hour's time.

My destination? Early dinner at Delfina:

Calamari and white beans? Yes please!

I sat solo at the bar without a reservation and must have gotten there at just the right time because 10 minutes after I was seated the house was packed. I got a primo seat next to the kitchen and watched four women rock the hot line:

Delfina kitchen
I love this shit

...while I chatted with the friendliest bartender ever, talking about Portland and cooking and whatnot. She surprised me with a plate of house-cured anchovies, courtesy of the kitchen. Definitely a great little meal.

A post-Delfina trip to Bi-Rite Creamery resulted in a marvelous scoop of Ricanelas: cinnamon ice cream with Snickerdoodle cookie crumbles (!!!). Their other much-touted flavors, the salty caramel in particular, proved less than impressive. I've been spoiled by this guy's ice cream for too long now, and he sets the standard by which I judge all mint chip, salty caramel and butter pecan flavors. I have yet to meet its equal.

Then Mike and I met Matt at Nopa for a highly anticipated late-night meal:

Nopa pork chop
Mike repping East coast style, ready to devour the Nopa pork chop

I was still sated from dinner number one, but between the three of us we handled some flatbread, olive oil poached tuna, corn, tagine and pork chop nicely. That pork chop especially rocked my world. I only wished that I had been hungry enough to devour what looked like an awesome burger, and I also regret not saying hello to the kitchen. By the time we were done, however, I was suffering some major food coma and the kitchen was in full clean-up/shut-down mode. Next time, I promise!

I slept off the food coma and after a solid 5.5 hours of sleep crawled my way up and at 'em to the Ferry Plaza Saturday Farmer's Market:


Though the place was already bustling, I arrived early enough to beat the crazy tourist contingency and wandered the stalls for about an hour before I started to get claustrophobic. Fortunately I found respite on this "public viewing" platform that sits above the ferry pier itself. Not too many people seem to know about it, as it was practically empty:

Did I mention the weather was stunningly gorgeous during my entire trip?

I sat under the sun, looking out on the water and over the stalls of the market, and enjoyed my last few hours in San Francisco. I closed the book with porchetta from Il Cane Rosso, packed my belongings, and BART-ed my way to SFO...but not before grabbing some goodies for the flight to LAX:

best in-flight snacks ever
Fuck yeah, chicharrones and peach/nectarine!

I hope to make it back to the city before the end of the year. I was worried four days on my own would be too much time, but it turned out instead to not be enough. Nicely done, San Francisco; you have a lovely city and you definitely lived up to the hype.

next stop, Los Angeles!


Mike said...

Hey... I'm really glad you enjoyed SF as much as I did... I just loved reading through your post even more because my 5 day trip to SF, i did on my own as well... And I sat in the same exact seat at Coi! hehe...

And yes... my iPhone totally saved me a few times while I was out there...

Take care.

Sweet J said...

I'm going to SF with YOU next time!! Holy crap... and I bet we would've found good places to eat if I had an iPhone...

Ingrid said...

Mike: Thanks for reading! SF and iPhones rule.

Sweet J: For me finding good places to eat was less the fact I had an iPhone and more a matter of pestering people who live in SF and/or work in the industry there ;).

BTW, do I know either of you?

Mike said...


Don't know you at all... I was the person that emailed you a while back though with the pics and places to head while you went to SF :)

not sure how I came across your blog but i'm guessing richie/twitter/chicharrones/hotfoodporn were involved in me finding your blog somehow...

dds said...

If you ever find the time and energy, I place my vote for you to fill in the blanks with the details and notes on all the meals you can remember. Living vicariously through your chef perspective is great, especially in a town I USED to know so well.