San Francisco – Welge Travel Report for November 2017 trip. Because of its length we have divided this report in two. Part One
Culture & Cuisine
Transportation: This is your site to navigate your way around the city (http://www.sftravel.com/article/how-get-around-san-francisco-transportation-basics)
TAXIS - The drivers we encountered were 90% well educated, immigrants from around the world. We shared experiences and had lively discussions with all of them. The 10% who were local were familiar with the city, its restaurants and interested in its culture.
Friday, November 10
Sharon’s livery service picked us up and delivered us to PHL Airport, and then Virgin American took us to SFO. Super shuttle brought us to the Chancellor Hotel – 433 Powell St, located on Union Square. The Chancellor provided a nice room in a great location.
Rest, drinks and taxi to Tosca – 242 Columbus Ave, 415-986-9651.
Bon appétit – May 14, 2013 by Mickey Rapkin
“Imagine a bar where the mayor of San Francisco would chat up Sean Penn and Christopher Hitchens until four in the morning. Or where the owner would leave the keys with the drummer from Metallica—and tell him to lock up when he’s finished. That was Tosca Cafe, a North Beach staple that has been a dimly lit home to everyone from the Beats to Rudolph Nureyev to…Kid Rock?
There was no velvet rope, no bottle service—just some ripped-up red vinyl booths and a jukebox playing opera and a vintage espresso machine that barely heated water anymore. Nobody cared if you smoked. Nobody hounded you to pay your tab on time. The only rule: Don’t bother anyone.”
“Due to an ongoing legal dispute, Tosca Cafe, a San Francisco institution since it opened in 1919, was served with an eviction notice from its landlord, notorious strip club magnate Roger Forbes. However, the bar was saved by a surprise benefactor—a move reportedly spearheaded by actor Sean Penn.
After reading about the possible closure, Penn, a longtime patron of the bar, reportedly phoned restaurateur Ken Friedman, who opened New York hotspot The Spotted Pig with Michelin-starred chef April Bloomfield back in 2004.
Soon after, Friedman and Bloomfield inked a 10-month lease on the bar, with Bloomfield on-hand as executive chef.”
We had a great table, informed service and really good food. I had the petrale sole with broccoli rabe and Dorothy had the halibut with broccoli rabe. Our wine was a ’15 Sesti Rosso di Montalcino.
Made ressies to return Thursday @ 7:30. GM Laurent Ertle was very professional and the service could not have been better. The Men’s room was lined with Warhols.
Saturday, November 11, 2017
We walked to the Ferry Building
for breakfast at Frog Hollow Farm.
A jazz band was on hand.
The Farmer’s Market was a Wow! Unbelievable food offerings. Lots of restaurateurs buying local vegetables, meats, seafood, cheeses and many special culinary items.
The lady in the blue jacket is my buddy Alice Waters.
Many street vendors lined the access to The Ferry Building. At one of them I bought a Route 66 short sleeve shirt. I’m from Litchfield, Il whose claim to fame was being located on – you guessed it! Eat your heart out Doug!
On the way back we stopped at Gumps where Dorothy did some price comparison for her garden club’s silent auction at their Holiday party. Gumps was decorated for the season.
We walked back to the hotel and then to lunch at Matador – 679 Sutter St that was 3 blocks away – 2 glasses of Malbec and 2 taco orders. Very good. No history.
After lunch we visited SFA. Lots of beautiful clothes. SFA was also decorated.
Then we went across the street to DFW where I bought a pair of Cole Haan shoes.
Dinner was at Kokari – 200 Jackson St, 415-981-0983
“Legendary Kokkari is the site where Orion, son of the Greek god Poseidon, fell in love with the daughter of the King of Chios. For her love, Orion foraged the island for wild game and seafood to prepare elaborate banquets: Cuisine fit for the gods.”
We started with the grilled octopus. Dee had the Kotopoulo Souvlas (roasted chicken) and I had the moussaka. Our wine was the Nostos Red from Crete. Dee loved this place, me not so much.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Breakfast was next door at Sears Fine Foods – B,L,D: Daily, 439 Powell St, 415-986-0700
“Sears was founded in 1938 by Hilbur and Ben Sears. Ben Sears was a retired circus clown, who over the years, built a reputation for serving Swedish pancakes made from a recipe inherited from his wife’s Swedish family.
By the early ’50s, Sears was purchased by Mrs. Quita Benner. When Mrs. Benner bought the restaurant from Hilbur and Ben, she left the name and the menu intact and continued with the tradition already established by the Sears family.
The original location for Sears Fine Food was on the 500 block of Powell Street. It then seated approximately 70 people, having about 16 tables. Sears was celebrated for the novelty of its Cadillac waiting room; the owners used to park two pink Cadillac’s in front with the heaters and radios on to shelter the waiting crowds.
Over the years, the popularity of Sears continued to increase and Mrs. Brenner, with the help of her son-in-law, Al Boyajian, knew that they would have to find a larger building to accommodate all of their customers.
In 1964, Al Boyajian convinced his in-laws to purchase the building at 439 Powell Street, about a half block down from the original location. Al and his son, Lee, worked together maintaining the standard of the prior years. The third generation Lee Boyajian, and his wife Joanie, carried on the family tradition of a world-famous San Francisco institution, Sears Fine Food, until it shut its doors on Christmas 2003.
When the nearby Loris Diner learned that the beloved San Francisco tradition, Sears Fine Food was closing, they decided to do their best to save the institution and keep the 18 Swedish pancakes coming. After extensive renovations, Sears Fine Food re-opened its doors in August of 2004 to the delight of locals and visitors throughout the world.”
We were given the best window table by accident or timing and shared a small stack of their famous pancakes with blueberries. Service was excellent.
Our next event was a bus ride to Cow Hollow via Union Street and a walkabout there. Since it was Sunday the shops didn’t open until 11 AM.
The area didn’t have the vibrancy it had the last time we visited, nor did it have our favorite restaurant Beetlenut, so rather than hang around we boarded another bus for Chinatown. The views on this bus route are spectacular.
We had lunch reservations at the famous R & G Lounge – 631 Kearney St., 415-552-4055.
“Historically, Chinese food in San Francisco has been largely influenced by one dominant style. “Back in the 1850s — and for over 100 years — the food was crafted by people coming from the Guangdong province, popularly known as Cantonese.
The best rendition of Cantonese cooking can be found at R&G Lounge, which has been packing in Chinese families around Lazy Susans for every kind of celebration since 1985”
The R & G had been highly recommended to us by Seth & Karen who are fellow travelers to San Miguel de Allende.
If you go make sure you are seated on the 2nd floor. We were on time and seated at a deuce in a large room soon to be filled with Chinese. We were the only non-Chinese there.
Lots of families were ordering multiple courses and paying with crisp Franklins.
We each had the hot n sour soup and shared the Peking Duck. Beer was popular, but we enjoyed a glass of Murphy-Goode Pinot Noir. Delicious!
Our walk back to our hotel included Maiden Lane window shopping with a few stops.
Dinner was at delfina – 3621 18th St, 415-552-4055.
“When Craig and Annie Stoll maxed out their credit cards to open this still superb Italian restaurant, they kick-started a new area of the Mission. This encouraged dozens of aspiring chefs to take a chance, turning the Mission into San Francisco's epicenter for innovative dining.”
Delfina is a happening neighborhood joint. Our affable waiter, Grant, told us about the specials and presented the wine list. The least costly wine on the menu happened to be one of our favs – ’12 Nero d’Avola.
Grant had never heard of it but it was perfect with Dee’s tagliatelli and my duck ragu spaghettini with sea urchin.
Monday, November 13, 2017
Breakfast was at Frog Hollow Farm at The Ferry Building.
Followed by a bus ride to 3rd Street and a short walk to SFMOMA. Here are some of their sculptures:
An ongoing exhibition on the 6th floor features – “German artists emerging after 1960 exploring the postwar landscape—situated between recent disaster and rising prosperity—with a combination of skepticism, uncertainty, and excitement to begin anew.
This exhibition features single-artist galleries devoted to leading German artists such as Georg Baselitz, Katharina Fritsch, Anselm Kiefer, Imi Knoebel, Sigmar Polke, and Gerhard Richter.
Showcasing the span of entire careers or significant artistic phases, the installation offers unparalleled insight into these artists’ development.”
During our tour of this impressive museum we stopped to have lunch in their dining room In Situ.
“Corey Lee is known for serving wildly creative, intricate (and expensive) tasting menu fare at his Michelin-starred restaurant Benu, he’s taken a very different approach at In Situ: He’s replicating dishes from some of the world’s best-known chefs, from David Chang to René Redzepi.
Shamelessly ripping off other restaurant’s dishes may seem like a head-scratching concept for a restaurant, but Lee attributes each dish to its creator on the menu, and even traveled around the globe to visit or otherwise corresponded with each chef in order to properly replicate their food.”
Dorothy ordered the Smoked confit pig jowl – shaved sea scallop, shitake, juniper, Jerusalem artichoke leaves and a glass of Lang & Reed Chenin Blanc
And I ordered the Butter chicken wings – sourdough naan, pappadam, green chutney, gravy and a glass of Root Down Sangiovese.
The chicken wings are on the left. They were quite popular and it was lots of fun watching everyone’s reaction when served.
Dinner was at the eclectic, popular nopa – 560 Divisadero St, 415-864-8643
“The opening of Nopa shows how one restaurant can define a neighborhood. Located in a former bank building at Divisadero and Hayes, this California-inspired restaurant made the decision to open late and became the gathering place for the restaurant industry.”
We were seated upstairs where it was a little quieter, but the place was hot. Brad brought us the menu (small) and the wine list (big) and we ordered a ’14 Foradori Teroldego.
We shared an order of smoked trout – faro, beet, hummus, almonds, grapes & roe.
I had the pappardelle – nine hour Bolognese, butternut squash, spinach & parmesan and Dorothy had a burger with gruyere and pickled onions.
Tuesday November 14, 2017
On a bright, sunny day we decided to take a ferry ride to Sausalito. We boarded a bus on Market Street to the Ferry Building
where we had a small bite at Frog Hollow and climbed aboard the Golden Gate Ferry.
Sausalito is charming with a few nice shops and over priced restaurants. This park is near the ferry terminal and the center of town.
Dorothy managed to find a shop with a pair of red boots that she had to have and while there asked about dining.
The sales lady had a recommendation – The Seafood Peddler – 303 Johnson St, 2nd Floor, 415-332-1492.
“The Seafood Peddler features views of San Francisco, Angel Island, Mt. Tamalpais and the bayside communities of Belvedere and Tiburon.”
I had found this dining location in the 80’s but hadn’t been back since 1987. Who knows how many owners and different names it has had since then, but right now it is the best place to dine in Sausalito.
Here is the view:
We started with a Caesar Salad. I had the calamari and Dee had the fish & chips. We enjoyed a bottle of DeLoach chardonnay. We had dined with the DeLoachs at a wine tasting on a prior trip.
After lunch we continued our walk about town and we were impressed with this imposing, fearless gull.
Dinner was at another WTR favorite – Cotogna – 490 Pacific Ave, 415-775-8508
“Rebounding from a recession, many talented chefs began to venture out on their own to open small personal restaurants. The seeds of yet another fine dining extravaganza were planted when Michael and Lindsay Tusk opened the Italian-inspired Quince in Pacific Heights. The casually elegant dining room, now home to Octavia, showcased Michael's mastery of pasta. In 2009, they moved to a new location in Jackson Square and opened a much grander version of Quince and, a year later, the more casual Cotogna next door.”
Dorothy ordered the butternut ravioli and I, as a creature of habit, ordered the sopressata pizza.
We chose a ‘14 Masi, Valopolicella Classico, “Bonacosta” Veneto for our wine, but they had served their last bottle just before our arrival. The somm, Stephen, came to our table and he suggested we try the ’16 Manicor Schiava.
After we finished our meal and settled our check Stephen returned and we discussed wine, specifically amarone della valpolicella classico, which was not on the menu. Stephen insisted that we have the house made gelato with chocolate sauce. It was, in a word, wonderful.
We went outside to hail a taxi and Stephen told us that he would call a taxi for us because the restaurant was off the taxi track.
We had a further conversation about dining and I suggested that he would like to read “A Really Big Lunch” (37 courses, but only 13 wines) by Jim Harrison who, on occasion, had written a column for Kermit Lynch’s monthly wine brochure.
We talked about earlier dining experiences at Quince the parent of Cotogna. Stephen asked if we had seen the new Quince and I said we had not. We walked next door to Quince and it is a wow – 3 Michelin stars and perfect ambience. On the way out we were presented with cups of hot chocolate.
Another taxi was called and we returned to our hotel.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Our primary cultural experience today was the Asian Art Museum – Tu-Su: 10-5, 415-581-3560
Their mission is to lead a diverse global audience in discovering the unique material, aesthetic, and intellectual achievements of Asian art and culture.
We saw a terrific exhibit Couture Korea that runs through February 4, 2018.
“Couture Korea showcases historical Korean fashion and its modern reinterpretations at a moment when young Seoul-based designers are making the leap to the global stage and international haute couture is finding inspiration in Korean art and culture.”
With more than 120 works, the exhibition considers fashion as an enduring expression of social and cultural values.”
WTR strongly recommends visiting the Asian Art Museum when you are in San Francisco.
Lunch was at the iconical Zuni – L & D: Tu-Su, 415-552-2522
“While the restaurant opened in 1979 with Southwestern and Mexican food, it wasn't until Judy Rodgers' 1987 arrival that Zuni took a shift toward the Euro-centric menu it still has.
Rodgers launched a national phenomenon by adding a wood-burning brick oven and producing a roast chicken that has shown up on menus from coast to coast. Today the restaurant thrives under Rebecca Boice, who worked with Rodgers from 2002 to 2012, returning to Zuni after Rodgers' death in 2013. This restaurant, which won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in America, truly defines the San Francisco sensibility.”
Dee had the sage pork sausage with roasted delicata squash, Brussels sprouts, red wine-braised lentils and argula with a glass of ’16 Quarry Vineyards chenin blanc.
I had the Pio Tosini prosciutto di Parma with grilled leeks, chopped egg, capers and red veined sorrel with a glass of ’16 Poe Wines Rose.
Dinner was at Mathilde French Bistro – 315 5th St, 415-546-6128.
Bob, the concierge from the Kensington Park, had recommended Le Charm to me.
“Before opening Le Charm, Lina Yew attended the California Culinary Academy, then worked in a kitchen in Paris and as a pastry chef at Lower Nob Hill's Fleur de Lys.
She credits her former boss, Fleur de Lys chef-owner Hubert Keller, for helping to put the bistro on the map. When Keller was asked about his favorite local eatery, his answer was Le Charm. The Chronical followed up with a glowing review, and Le Charm began to attract new customers.”
Then Le Charm became Mathilde.
Mathilde has been rediscovered and become a techie hangout.
Dorothy had the seared trout, toasted almonds, lemon butter sauce and pommes Dauphines.
I had the duck leg confit, pommes landaise with garlic and bacon. I have this every time we have dined here. It’s delicious. We enjoyed a ’12 Haut Poitou Loire Valley Red.
Dessert was an apple tarte tatin a la mode and an after dinner drink. On Thursdays they have live music.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Rain finally caught up with us. When plotting out our activities for today we decided to try and book lunch at Boulevard – One Mission St, 415-543-6084.
“Chef Nancy Oakes grew up in Northern California and began her restaurant career in San Francisco as a hostess, first at the popular Carnelian Room, and later at Alexis Restaurant on Nob Hill.
In 1993, Chef Oakes opened Boulevard Restaurant with Pat Kuleto. This celebrated establishment has earned Chef Oakes numerous local, national and international accolades, nominations and awards; including Zagat’s San Francisco Bay Area’s Most Popular Restaurant, the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in California 2001 and Outstanding Restaurant in the United States 2012, as well as the Filiale des Etats-Unis in France.”
It’s usually impossible to get in on short notice, but we got lucky.
The desk was very friendly and escorted us to a nice table. We began with mixed greens and a bottle of ’12 Atrea Viognier/Roussane.
Following this Dorothy had the charred Mediterranean octopus tostado, mole verde, blue corn tortilla, avocado crema and I had the crispy Monterey calamari, salsa verde and garlic aioli.
We returned to Tosca for dinner and Laurent seated us at the same table, but this time we switched seats so I was facing the kitchen.
We started with the pressed pig tails, which must be an acquired taste. Dee had the grilled hanger steak, pickled cherry bomb peppers, Italian butter beans, green coriander chermoula and I had the Mt. Lassen trout, brassica rapa, chimichurri black mint, bronze fennel fronds.
Our wine was the ’14 Langhe Nebblio.
We enjoyed a conversation with the “head chef” Josh Even who told us they average 120 covers nightly. Here’s Josh at the pass.
Back to Philadelphia.
Sign on and share welgetravelreport.com for unbiased, worldwide destination guides and sign up to receive free WTR’s lagniappes and Agora Reports.
The Welge Travel Report™ (WTR) features information on worldwide destinations: what to see (museums, botanical gardens, points of interest, dining and places you just don’t want to miss).
WTR Google destination maps are on each Welge Travel Report city guide’s worldwide.
Share our report with anyone you think would enjoy it.
Dick & Dorothy Tumi Welge
Welge Travel Report™ (http://www.welgetravelreport.com) for people who enjoy cultural activities and dining.