Last weekend, in the short breaks between stuffing my face, having serious existential crises regarding this blog (who am I? what do I do? how do I articulate that in 10 seconds?) and tearing through the surprisingly not overrated Freedom, I also explored San Francisco.
As a lifelong East Coast-er who can’t fathom leaving New York City, I’ve never been terribly interested in the left side of this country. To add insult to injury, both Milan and Nila have decamped to the San Francisco area in the past few years, leaving me resentful of the area for stealing some of my closest friends.
But San Francisco’s food scene is something to behold. The emphasis on fresh, local ingredients prepared in creative ways beckoned to me, as did the stories of delicious Chinese, seafood and sourdough bread — oh the bread! I’d heard so much about the San Fran sourdough, tangy with a crisp crust and a soft interior, the perfect foil for California cheeses, seafood chowders from Fisherman’s Wharf, rich, sweet cream butter, Nutella — I had so many plans for this bread. Buoyed by dreams of delicious dinners and luscious lunches, I braved the six-hour flight.*
Mere hours after landing, I found myself at Zuni Cafe, the famed restaurant that just happened to be near where Milan lives. Zuni is known for its succulent roasted whole chicken, made to order every time. Unfortunately, I wasn’t hungry enough to eat the meant-for-two meal by myself, and too hungry to wait the hour for the chicken to be made, so instead, I had short ribs. Melt in your mouth short ribs, served alongside greens and eggplant. The dish was so good I didn’t even notice that I was eating eggplant.
The next morning, Milan took me to another neighborhood favorite, Dottie’s True Blue Cafe. The outside of the restaurant is unremarkable, save for the long line of people waiting to get in to this small restaurant. Because we were eating at 8:30 a.m. on a Friday morning, we only had to wait a half hour (!!!), but by the time we left the place an hour later, the line had already started stretching down the block.
And for good reason — everything was delicious. The jalapeño cornbread was spicy and sweet, the potatoes were perfectly crispy, my poached eggs atop black bean cakes was heavenly and the caramel bread pudding … well, I think you can guess how that went. The best part? They were both quick and generous with coffee.
While FoodBuzz accounted for most of my meals after that, I ended my trip with a taste of Mexican from San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood, a far cry from the California Tortillas and Baja Freshes and Chipotles of my youth.
The food was everything I had hoped for: fresh, flavorful, varied in influence. Sadly, however, I never got my bread. There’s always next time …
*I’ve always been solidly of the opinion that if you’re flying more than 3 hours, you better be going to a different country. Oh the agony of a nonstop flight!