A few weeks ago, Scott and I met some friends in San Francisco for the weekend. Originally, I had planned to choose one restaurant from our trip to discuss in detail, course-by-course per the yooj; however, there was just too much good food going around all weekend to only give one place the spotlight. Since I would never want to cheat you out of glorious food-shots, I am opting for an overview of the whole shebang.
Scott and I arrived in San Fran (or ‘Frisco’ as my dad would say) earlier than our travel buddies so we started off our Friday solo. The first order of business was a trip to the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market for breakfast. The last time we were here, we showed up too late in the afternoon to really get the most out of the market. I’m telling you the line for Roli Roti was about 50 people too long for my stomach’s liking. This time, we got there nice and early (around 9 AM) and spotted a SHORT line at Roli Roti. We shared the porchetta sandwich. — Where ever you are right now, please take a deep breath and a moment to s-l-o-w-l-y read this next sentence: pork loin rolled into the pork belly with crispy skin on.
Can I get a —
Oh yes. This puppy was garnished with onion marmalade and arugula. The bread had a nice crunch on the outside and was soft on the inside. The pork was salty, sweet, rich and oh-so-tasty. Every once in a while you’d get a bite of the crispy skin and it was like finding bacon. Or gold, really. The onion marmalade was a great, sweet and savory addition.
No Regretts would never condone sharing ONE sandwich for breakfast and calling it a day, so naturally we had to share another sandwich. We hit up Il Cane Rosso inside the Ferry Building for our second installment of breakfast. Here, we ordered the olive oil fried egg sandwich with baccalone pancetta, aged provolone and sweet onion butter. When they say a picture is worth a thousand words, this is what they mean:
Just look at that bread. Ugh. Take me back! The bread was very light and soft and had a sweet taste – perfect for soaking up all of that drippy egg yolk.
After breakfast bliss, we met up with our compadres and biked the Golden Gate to Sausalito. As an aside, I would not recommend this activity during Fleet Week. This comes from experience. Despite the crowds, the ride was as picturesque as hoped for and Sausalito was quaint and charming. We quenched our thirst with a glass of pinot gris and ferried it back to San Fran.
Our 9 PM dinner res found us at SPQR. This came by way of recommendation and did not disappoint. We shared 4 pasta dishes, all of which were amazing. My two favorites were the spaghetti and the beet and red wine risotto.
The spaghetti was served with guanciale, black pepper, brussels sprouts and parmesan. I think the consensus at the table was that this dish was good, but that it was “just spaghetti”. No fireworks. Not a show stopper. I, however, thought this dish was quite divine. There is something to be said about an extremely well done, simple dish. I have eaten at Tom Colicchio’s Craft in New York City where they focus on preparing fairly common things very well. Upon asking the server what he would recommend on the menu at Craft, he raved about the snow peas. Snow peas? Are you serious? Indeed he was. The snow peas looked so typical lying there on the plate, but once in your mouth, an entire garden of freshness came to life with the slightest touch of horseradish. For me, this is similar to the spaghetti at SPQR. The noodles were aldente, providing a perfect, slightly chewy texture. The accompaniments were subtle and complimentary allowing the skill in the preparation of the pasta to shine.
Since I’ve already thrown out one cliché in this post, what’s another going to hurt? So when they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, THIS is what they mean:
That doesn’t just look ugly, it almost looks gross. Whaddya think? Fortunately, looks aren’t everything! Dishes with red wine and butter incorporated into them have this depth, this richness that I can’t do justice to. It’s like your long-lost Italian grandmother giving you a huge hug. You feel so comforted and loved with every mouthful. The earthiness of the beets didn’t come through strong to me, but I think it probably mellowed out the richness of the red wine. The egg added an extra creamy texture while the crispy pork provided a great textural contrast.
Bellies full and happy, we made our way back to the hotel and crashed. The next morning we were up bright and early to be ready for our day long wine tour. On our ferry ride to San Fran, a gentleman had mentioned a breakfast place to us that he actually schedules his work meetings around. He raved so much about the oatmeal there that we had to check it out. I mean, who raves about oatmeal when there’s eggs benedict to be had?
Scott and I ran over to The Grove to grab the oatmeal-s. $8.00 for oatmeal?! This better be good. We finally got our to-go bag and – UGH – holy heavy oatmeal! It wasn’t the oatmeal that was so heavy though; there were HUGE boxes of fresh-cut fruit for each oatmeal order! I’m talking enough bananas, blueberries, strawberries and raisins to feed an army of hungry kindergarteners. The oatmeal was also steel-cut, which is not only healthy for you but also has a bid more texture because the oats haven’t been rolled. You get a little extra pop or bounce in every spoonful.
After our healthy and hearty breakfast, we boarded our shuttle for wine country. We went with Great Pacific Wine Tours for a whopping $95 a person. We didn’t get an abundance of wine education but we did get plenty of tastings, transportation and lunch all included in our package. I’d recommend it for any first-time wine country explorers that don’t have enough people in their party to make hiring a limo economical.
We tasted wines at all three places and got a little education on the bubbly at Domain Chandon. Wine country was breathtaking!
After wine tasting we had ambitious plans to dine at Delfina. As tired as we were, we could not pass up the opportunity to eat some more amazing Italian food. Scott and I had first tried Delfina last August and we were blown away. Specifically, the grilled calamari stand out in my mind as being incredibly fresh and delicious. This time it wasn’t the calamari that took the cake, but the Berkshire Pork Spareribs.
The spareribs were cooked so well that the boundary between meat and fat was nearly non-existent and the tender, rich, semi-sweet pork fell cleanly off the bone. We also shared olive oil mashed potatoes, roasted chicken, tagliatelle and some amazing spaghetti with plum tomatoes. Unfortunately, the meal this time around did not quite match the impeccable expectations that we had conjured up in our heads, but it was still fantastic.
All in all, we had a wonderful time eating our way around San Francisco. If you’re taking a trip to the West Coast anytime soon, I would whole heartedly recommend heading to the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building and dining at SPQR, Delfina and The Grove. Also, track down a Blue Bottle Coffee shop while you’re there. You’ll be glad you did.