Range - I asked the folks whose house we stayed at for a recommendation near their house that we could walk to on the night we arrived in the city (in what I believe is called Corona Heights), and they said Range. We didn't know until after we'd gone that it has gotten great reviews and would be recommended by so many people. It's a cozy, well-designed place and we got a table fairly quickly on a Wednesday night. This turned out to be our favorite of a few places I'll broadly group as "California cuisine" - along with Ad Hoc and Chez Panisse. We had delicious salmon and ravioli appetizers - both were delicate, savory, and colorful. Then, because we'd never had so many people recommend roast chicken until we started asking around about SF restaurants, we tried theirs to see what Californian's are doing that others don't seem to be. And the verdict: that was some excellent bird! The skin was crispy and flavorful, the meat was moist and fresh, and it came with a "stuffing" with a chevre-esque cheese, large toasted bread crumbs, and chunks of trumpet mushrooms. Maybe it tasted so good because we didn't build it up too much? But it also set a high bar for the rest of the trip - a bar that frankly, was met less than we'd hoped. (No pics, it was too dark)
guanciale, but the thing that made it so darn good was the panna (Italian for cream). It's crust was perfectly bubbly too, and overall this was one heck of a pie. Our starter was a fresh mozzarella filled with cream called burratta, and it was very good too. Plus, the server was really nice - she explained the health care tax that was on our bill, and gave us some recommendations of other places to try while we were in town. Also, if you have a girlfriend who works at Pizzeria Delfina and you are reading this, she wants you to take her to Chez Pannise.
Omnivore Books - No, Omnivore Books is not a restaurant. But, it will get you as hungry as one, and will inspire you more than lots of restaurants put together. I actually stopped in 3 times during our stay in SF - never quite finding the right time to go and stay for a bit until the last visit. They ship in cookbooks from Britain, and that, along with the owner's excellent taste, leads to an excellent bookstore experience. I love bookstores, and I love food, so this is an amazing combo. We bought a couple gifts for folks we stayed with here, and I am definitely going to be placing orders from them in the future because they had all kinds of cookbooks that I have never seen - and I have haunted darn near every local book store's cookbook shelves.
Thomas Keller place) might redeem themselves. I'd seen the sign before on the website, but had never read what it says above "ad hoc" - "temporary relief from hunger." It took a second to process that, and then it was clear - we were hoping for way more than temporary relief from hunger with a $50 fixed price/fixed menu. If we wanted a temporary relief from hunger we'd eat a granola bar or hot dog or something. Anyway... arriving early, we walked down the street to a wine bar and got a couple of flights. At 5pm (we didn't want to get back to the city too late) we walked back and were seated soon thereafter. One thing was clear from the beginning - we were not going to be lingering at this place for hours. They have plates in front of you and move dishes away very quickly. Our whole meal ended up being an hour and 15 minutes. An iceberg lettuce salad was okay, and was followed by the main course - a strip steak with carmelized onions, greens, and baked then fried potatoes with a chili aioli (or mayo, can't remember). The entree was good. Huge portions. We could have made it at home pretty easily, and hoped for more from a place with a big name national chef. A cheese course came next, and we weren't big fans of how bitter and earthy the soft cheese was. The dessert was a fruit tart on puff pastry - another huge portion, but uninspired. By the end of the day, we were just glad to be going home. It was only okay, and for the second night in a row we couldn't choose our courses and weren't too happy with what was chosen for us.
horchata, a sweet rice-based drink I'd never tried. I noticed a big vat of it at Taqueria Mercado 3 the last time I was there, so I'll be drinking it again soon. The sopa you see in the picture was our favorite choice - it had the most going on with potatoes and chorizo and more. Everything else tasted fresh enough, but just didn't pop. Also, it took us about 30 minutes to get a taco they'd forgotten originally - I asked probably 3 times (it's self seating, but they have staff who come around), and finally went straight to the cooks, who looked at me like I was doing them wrong even though I was nice about it. Oh well, you can't win 'em all.
Remedy - We headed over to Remedy after Tacubaya for a quick coffee at this new spot in Oakland. This was the old stomping ground of the friend we we met for Mexican, and the current stomping ground of the friends we were meeting for Burmese later that evening. Not much to say here except this seems like a hip spot and we were all happy with our drinks - a tea, a chai, and an espresso if I remember correctly. I thought the logo for the coffee brand they carry (Ritual) really stood out too. Remedy seems to be part of the trend of coffee places really taking their brewing seriously - they had a series of Hario drippers set up, and some other nice looking machinery.
Pizzailo - We didn't eat here, although this was one of the places that had been on the recommended list by a few folks. But, we did stop in for some cocktails. Nearly every place we went had craft cocktail options, something that seems to be making its way to Cincinnati slowly but surely. I like a good drink as much as the next guy, but I tend to prefer to spend my dollars on food, not beverage. So, this refreshing orange and whiskey thing I had was notably fun. We sat out back with our friends Mandara and Jake on a rusty old table next to the kitchen garden and a stone's throw from the restaurant's chickens. All the locavore places we've been or heard about, this was a first. I'd love to go back and try the food sometime, it looked very good on our walk-bys.
Marc 49 - Our foursome headed over to Burmese Superstar, but there was a 40 minute wait, so we walked down the street to this wine bar. They were super accommodating, helping us get tables and chairs set up outside. We ordered a bottle of Flying Winemakers, which Jake had had before and everyone was quite happy. There was a little chug needed when the restaurant called to say our table was ready, but I don't think anyone was too disappointed.
some options here. I'm writing this on Saturday night and we very well may be eating dim sum tomorrow.
Humphry Slocombe - This was one of two ice cream places recommended to us - the other is coming shortly. It's ice cream, so to say it's bad would be silly. But, we've had way better. The ice cream was really waxy, and left your palette with a very odd mouthfeel. We won't be heading back.
Philz Coffee - Like the ice cream place above, Philz was a spur of the moment stop. We'd been told this coffee was fantastic and needed a little pick me up. You go up to order, and instead of them saying "what would you like?" they say "what do you like?" They caught on quickly that we hadn't been to Philz before, and apparently the Philz coffee experience is different. "Do you like it dark or light? What do you like about a latte? How sweet do you like your mocha?" I'm not exactly a coffee aficionado, so it caught me off guard a bit - but then my drink came, and it was very, very good. Sarah's was too. With so many different coffees, and so many different people with different likes and dislikes, it makes sense that someone would communicate with you to close the loop.
Dametra - We drove down to meet a long time family friend in Carmel, or officially, Carmel-by-the-Sea. It's about 2.5 hours south of SF and right on the ocean. It gave us an excuse to drive even further down the coast to check out Big Sur, as well as to walk on the beach and see a sea otter playing and dolphins swimming in the distance. And it also gave us a chance to hear Antonio (from the kitchen) singing at Dametra's, a Mediterranean restaurant, as the proprietor played a sitar-esque instrument. And then, later, they sang again! Seriously, the people here were very nice. They went out of their way to thank everyone for coming - it was almost over the top. But, they seemed genuine and so I think everyone appreciated it. Carmel is a very wealthy town, so I have to imagine they're aiming for a big score of a tip every now and then, and hey, I can't blame them! We ordered Monterrey Bay calamari and smoked salmon appetizers, and a Greek platter to share as an entree. It was a ton of food! Everything was better than average, but the people were so nice and there was enough food that it was an experience that made us happy in the end. We'll probably go back if we're in town, if only to be given a hearty handshake and a happy smile.
wrote a while back about trying to ask a sushi place in Cincinnati about the source of their fish. It did not go so well. So, when someone told us about a sustainable sushi place in SF, we were excited. We've been really enjoying sushi, but also getting more and more in tune with the fact that the way we're eating at sushi places is not very good for the ocean at all. I'd say our trips to both SF and Chicago were like looking into the future for Cincinnati - more restaurants can and will source locally and sustainably, and more places will need to be able to answer where they get their products or they'll suffer. That came out sounding kind of mean, but we're killing our planet here so it is about time we get serious about this. For what it's worth, Tataki is the only sustainable sushi place in SF, so those Bay Area folks have some future coming their way as well. And in the future, you will feel great about eating your food. We sure did at Tataki! They have the same sushi guides (download a pocket guide here) that we had just seen and picked up at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the same book we ordered recently on sale too. They tell you where everything comes from, and how it was caught. Oh, and it tasted great too! Definitely spread the word.
Bi-rite Creamery - This is another one of the many excellent food options in the Mission around 18th Street between Dolores and Guerrero (or thereabouts). They also have a grocery across the street where we picked up some delicious peaches. Sarah and I both liked Bi-rite better than Humphry Slocumb, but we also both felt strongly that we are blessed with such awesome ice cream and gelato (Graeter's, Jeni's, Dojo, etc.) in Ohio that we are pampered. So, if its great ice cream you're looking for, we say stay here.
CAM and when you throw some pork belly and bean sprouts and fish cake slices and other goodness on top of those noodles and that broth, good things happen. I just did another google to be sure I wasn't missing Japanese ramen in Cincinnati (it looks like there may be an option in Florence), but in general this is not something that is easily accessible or notable in our town. We went to a couple places that were closed on Tuesday night, and kept looking through the Yelp ramen options as we drove. Halu was the spot we ended up at, and although they aren't really a noodle joint first and foremost, they did have ramen. We ordered a couple of skewers (the yakitori were there specialty) that were tasty, and a bowl of pork and bowl of fried chicken ramen. Both had flavor and depth to the broth that can't be matched by the packets we've been using, but I still like it the way I make it best. No matter, it was great to have some more unique flavors and another restaurant option in SF that we don't have in Cincinnati before we left town.
So those were our SF eats! Now, to get back in the rhythm here in Cincinnati. Here are more pics if you're interested...