Sunday, March 15, 2009

How I Spent My Spring Break: Culinary Tour of the San Francisco Bay Area

I had a pretty ambitious food itinerary before the start of the trip, but alas, found that my stomach couldn't really do four meals a day. Here is the food I did manage to fit in, so to speak.

Sunday, March 8th
Late lunch with April at Vik's in Berkeley. I had the bhatura cholle with idli sambar. April had the dahi batata puri, little puffed up dumplings served cold. Dessert was gulab jamun, mango kurfi, and some nutty thing. The idli and gulab jamun were only okay (Karthik's mom's idli is much better), but I loved the fluffiness of my bhatura cholle. Menu here.

Dinner was a Berkeley classic, one of Intermezzo's giant salads (still only $6.25!). Giant bowl of greens, hard boiled egg, avocado, garbanzo beans, red kidney beans, sprouts, and carrots, with a giant hunk of homemade wheat bread. Still delicious and filling.

Monday, March 9th
I was going to the California Academy of Sciences, so I just grabbed some coffee and a chocolate croissant at Tully's before making my way to Golden Gate Park.

After 3 hours at the Academy and getting lost for another half hour in Golden Gate Park, I finally made it to the Mission for a very late lunch at El Toro, where I had a burrito especial with carne asada, FREE chips, and many different kinds of salsa. And because it was happy hour time, a Negra Modelo for $2! Unfortunately, this was my only taqueria visit this trip (I wanted to go Cancun and about a half dozen other ones, including Papalote on 24th with the great mole sauce).

Burrito and beer in the sun.

After napping briefly at Dolores Park, I met Angelin and Kevan at Tartine for an afternoon pastry snack. I had a frangipane tart (they were out of the banana cream tarts, alas) with a coconut macaroon. The tart was not as good as I remembered it, but the macaroon was 3 bites of deliciousness. Unfortunately, I forgot that Tartine doesn't bake their bread on Mondays, so I couldn't get a loaf of my favorite, the olive oil with herbs de provence.

For dinner, I met up with Adam at Delfina Pizzeria where we had the roasted spicy cauliflower (OMG SO GOOD), the Margherita pizza, the Broccoli Raab pizza, and a bottle of wine. I'm glad to report that Delfina's quality is still fantastic and the wait just as long, but they've added more tables outside.

Tuesday, March 10th
I went to the Ferry Building Farmers' Market in the morning where I bought a lot of fresh and dried fruit (I was on a "P" kick, so I got pluots, persimmons, and pears). For lunch, I had a freshly grilled burger from the Prather Ranch Co. stand and then a yummy rissoto tartlet from Frog Hollow Harms.

In front of the Ferry Building.

Dinner was at Suppenkueche with Shinyung and Jeff and Ashton. For appetizers, we got the potato pancakes and the German salad (mit lots of delicious beets). I had the Jaegerschnitzel with spaetzle (which isn't as cheesy as Elliott's) with Koelsch and Koestritzer. For dessert, Ashton and I wandered back to the Mission to Bi-Rite Creamery (where Obama has visited apparently). We split a cup of ginger and butter pecan. Mmmmm.

Wednesday, March 11th
Lunch wasn't anywhere special, just Cafe Roma in Elmwood, but even their basic sandwich of grilled eggplant and red bell peppers on focaccia was probably better than most food in Boston.

Dinner, for which I'd been saving myself, was at the Chez Panisse Cafe with April. It was actually my first time eating upstairs; Elliott and I spent two anniversary dinners at the downstairs restaurant. April and I split a bottle of Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay, which was recommended by the bartender. She got the steelhead salmon, and I got the prix fixe, which was a great deal for only $26. I had a green salad, an absolutely delicious pasta dish of bucatini con sarde (with anchovies, sardines, and bread crumbs), and a dessert of tangerine sherbet with candied kumquats and an almond tuile. Cafe menu here, though it changes weekly.

Blurry picture of our wine.

Thursday, March 12th
My last day (sniff) in the East Bay started with brunch with Angeline at the Rockridge Cafe, which serves great diner food. My scrambled eggs had bell peppers and potatoes cooked right in, and the fresh baked currant scone was quite good.

I then walked down to the Berkeley Bowl, where I nearly started crying in the midst of all the wonderful fruit and vegetables on display.

Mangoes and pineapples, oh my!

Don't the mandarin kumquats (larger cousins of the normal kumquat) look delicious? Though the cherimoyas are a bit bruised.

For more quintessential Berkeley food, I had some frozen yogurt at Yogurt Park (chocolate and strawberry with chocolate sprinkles) and then a brat at Top Dog.

For my very last meal in the Bay Area, I chose Gregoire's, which my dinner companions, Jesse, Angelin, and Kevan had never been to. We all shared some potato puffs before the entrees, which were fantastic, every single one of them. I loved my choice of pork shoulder (which also made me feel better about not ordering the pork at Chez Panisse) with honey and Fuji apples.

Angelin's buttermilk fried chicken, in Gregoire's classic corrugated cardboard take-out container.

I wish I could have fit in more restaurants (like Cheeseboard and the Slanted Door and Millennium and Zuni, etc.) and maybe a trip to Napa (and a return visit to Ad Hoc), but I think that I did a pretty good job of eating my way through the Bay Area.