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Category Archives: San Francisco

Rather than Panama City Beach, Cancun, South Padre Island, Vegas or any of the popular destinations, I chose the city by the bay as the venue for the last spring break of my 11 year pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Despite the weather (the heavens opened up for the better part of my week in SF), I had a great time in one of my favorite cities in the world. I had hoped to spend a few days in Napa, tour some wineries and dine at TFL. The Laundry would not accommodate a solo diner and the weather was not so good, so I put Napa off for a future visit.
In just 7 days in the city, I went to the Ferry Building 3 times, including the Saturday Farmers’ Market. The Ferry Building is Mecca for any lover of food. The first thing I had to eat on the trip was a porchetta sandwich (with extra crackling!) from RoliRoti, a food truck that parks in front of the building a few days a week. I then went to Boccalone and had a meat cone for dessert. Before leaving I returned to this cured meat paradise and stocked up on nduja, lardo, and a few salumis to take home. There are also stores specializing in cheese, mushrooms, seafood, pork, gourmet donuts, and several other things that I love. In hindsight, I’m regretting only going to the Ferry Building three times.
Like any other trip, I did some thorough research for my meals. I search blogs, yelp, get creative with google and talk to friends that live or have visited where I’m going. Friend and blogger extraordinaire Ono Kine Grindz provided me with some great recommendations once again. My splurge meals were at Commonwealth, Sons and Daughters, and Flour + Water. The first two places were incredible and F+W was a letdown, but not bad. There was a 2 hour wait and the food was very solid, but nothing special. A friend from my Army days, Josh, lives in SF and tends bar at a place on Haight called Hobson’s Choice. I went to visit him at work a couple times and he got me very inebriated. HC specializes in rums and was a really cool bar in a really cool area. We went to a steakhouse for dinner after one of his shifts and had a standard,very good steakhouse experience. It was his pick of restaurant and I avoid steakhouses when traveling because they tend to be the same everywhere. The food was well executed and the company was great. It would not be a San Francisco experience without trying cioppino and the place to go for it is Sotto Mare. I nearly took down a double order by myself and it was beyond good.
I did some non-food related things in the city as well. During a rare window of clear weather, I went to Alcatraz. It was really cool and not at all what I expected. The views were amazing and they have a really nice garden and bird sanctuary. The whole prison thing was interesting too, but I thought “the rock” was more of a place of beauty rather than misery.
On the other sunny day I was in SF, I went to Golden Gate Park. The park is HUGE and I didn’t manage to cover the entire thing, but really enjoyed what I did see. The Japanese Tea Garden was very Japanese and very nice. The Botanical Gardens had plants from all over the world and I really enjoyed my stroll through the grounds. All of the walking made me hungry and I stopped for a ceviche sampler and some cava at Pasion. The chef/owner, son of the owners of the well known Fresca restaurants, was working lunch on a Monday (crazy, right?) and showed me how they make the ceviche to order. It was really, really good and a perfect refreshing snack after a morning of sightseeing.
I spent one of the rainy days in the MOMA. I’m not the most refined art fan and tend to prefer classical stuff over abstract/obscure, but had a good time at the museum. They had a wine exhibition and a sex exhibition going on and I am a big fan of both. There were some things I enjoyed and others, like stacks of newspapers or urinals being passed off as art, that I failed to appreciate the artistic merit of. The museum was perfect for a rainy day and I got to enjoy a Blue Bottle Coffee at the cafe.
My final cultural stop in SF was Haight Ashbury. Decades ago the area transitioned from the birthplace of the hippie movement to a commercialized tourist trap, but it’s still a really cool place to visit. There are countless quirky little shops, many of which don’t sell bongs or t-shirts. I went into the enormous, and enormously cool, Amoeba Records. It would not be a trip to Haight without checking out Hippie Hill. The view from the top was beautiful and the smell was fantastic.
SF is not a cheap place to visit and with my focus on food, I stayed at a hostel to help with my budget. USA Hostels San Francisco was clean, nice, and reminiscent of staying at hostels in Europe.
Despite very moist weather and not being able to make it to TFL, this was a great little vacation. San Francisco is a city like no other in the US. People there take pride in what they do and you can see this attitude in everyone from newspaper salespeople to chefs. The cocktail/mixology scene is on par with the food scene. I was blown away by the creativity and taste of the drinks in SF. This was not my first trip to San Francisco and it definitely won’t be my last. If you haven’t been, go!

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Some people don’t like to travel or go out to eat alone. I don’t mind doing either. You can end up having the meal of your life sitting alone at a restaurant bar far from home. I did at Commonwealth. Located in the Mission district of San Francisco, Commonwealth is one of the hottest new restaurants in a city that is full of outstanding dining establishments. Needless to say, it was high on my list of places to eat while in SF. I made a reservation, but opted to sit at the bar for my meal. This was a decision that would pay off. I ordered the tasting which consisted of 5 courses and wine pairings. The bartender was very friendly and it was early in the evening, so he had time to chat. We talked about food and how it was the driving force behind my trip to his city. The open kitchen was located next to the bar and the bartender went and had a brief conversation with the chef. The chef personally brought out and explained each of the 9 courses I had. The tasting includes 5 courses, which is more than enough food, but I got to try nearly everything on the menu. This is the stuff dreams are made of! The night before I had a spectacular meal at Sons and Daughters, a meal so good that it set an extremely high bar. My experience at Commonwealth exceeded that newly set, yet formidable standard. There was even more imagination and creativity in the dishes and molecular gastronomy was at play, but not to the point of overkill. The chef was a mad scientist with menu development and each dish was executed to perfection. The wines were on the money and enhanced an already great meal. Every bite sung to me and, more than two hours later, I rolled out of Commonwealth a very happy and extremely full person.

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The first dinner of my spring break trip to San Francisco was at Sons and Daughters. Through the magic of Facebook, I was joined by a special guest. Anyone who has succumbed to the pressure and joined the social networking site knows that you end up being friends with people that you went to school with and never really talked to. Due to the proximity of our last names, I sat in front of Lisa in most classes in middle school. We chatted somewhat, but were never really close. I moved before high school and hadn’t seen her in 15 years. We have been ‘friends’ on FB and she turned out to be a really smart, interesting, and lovely person… who happens to live in SF. It was cool meeting her again and we obviously had a lot of catching up to do. Sons and Daughters not only provided a great location for such a meeting, they gave us an outstanding meal. We each did the tasting menu with wine pairings and got to select four options. Our only overlap was the cheese course because we both preferred that over a dessert. This way, we were each able to try 7 dishes and they were all amazing. The flavor combinations were creative without going overboard and every bite was delicious.

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