You know how everyone says San Francisco is so low-key and relaxed? How you people out there are all about the lifestyle? Well, I think I might have shown up in the wrong city when we headed there last week for a few work-related events — including that visit to Pixar and a Dinner: A Love Story reading at Omnivore. Because our four-and-a-half day trip seemed to be the opposite of laid-back. Do not take this to mean that I didn’t have the best time ever — all I’m saying is that in a town like SF, there is so much pressure to eat well, that every mediocre bite of food felt like some sort of colossal failure on my end. I had a long list of you-must-go-here directives in my inbox and on facebook, and, perhaps most exciting, a customized San Francisco itinerary for my family from Yolanda Edwards of Travels with Clara. (You know by now: When Yolanda talks, people listen.) So the long weekend was spent, doing what this neurotic New Yorker does every other day of her life: Crossing things off lists. And then, of course, making one of her own. Now that I think about it, maybe the problem is not with San Francisco? Anyway, here are my top 10 favorite food moments from the weekend.
(Picture Above: One of those quizzes turned keepsakes that I made with the girls on the plane home.)
#1. Smitten Ice Cream. There were warring emails about Bi-Rite vs. Smitten, but it just so happened we were in the neighborhood so stopped by Smitten. They use liquid nitrogen to custom-blend each bowl in front of your eyes. Because the ice cream has no time to melt and then refreeze, this means there is not a single ice crystal to be found, resulting in the creamiest mint chip I’ve ever eaten. Abby was wary (ice cream shop or witches lab?) until she tried a bite.
#2 Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes from Plow may not have been on the girls’ list, but they were right at the top of mine. Along with those potatoes fried in rice bran oil that Yolanda told us all about. We took advantage of our jetlag and showed up at the Potrero Hill spot almost as soon as they opened their doors. By the time we left around 8:15, there was a line around the corner.
#3. Miette I do not have girly girls, but even they could not resist the pull of pastels and polka dots at the famous temple of sweets. How could I get away with not going here a zillion times? My kids chose the sour patch stars one day and little candy covered chocolates the next. These are bags of mini cookies.
#4. As Yolanda said, March in Pacific Heights “is the kitchen store of all kitchen stores.” I agree and loved it even more when I saw that right next door was Sue Fisher King. I wanted everything in the store — especially the ceramics and linens — but ended up with four votives. The girls got to pick their favorites.
#5 The Cereal Bar at Pixar. There were a lot of things that stayed with me after reading Anthony Lane’s story on Pixar, the most desirable workspace in the universe, but what stuck with me the most was the free favorite cereals on tap all day long. Needless to say, on our office tour, we made sure to stop there first. (Phoebe went with Cheerios; Abby with Cinnamon Toast Crunch.) Do whatever you have to do to befriend someone at Pixar so you are allowed to enter!
#6. Omnivore, naturally — the cookbook store in Noe Valley where I was lucky enough to read from Dinner: A Love Story. Thanks Celia, Kate, Samantha, Whitney, Emily, Anna, Jen, Paul, and Brooke for stopping by. (And Phyllis and Amanda! You were both there in spirit.) And btw, how lucky are you all to have this place in your neighborhood?
#7. Pork Taco at La Taqueria. I don’t think I have to explain this one — La Taq was on every single person’s list so going there was non-negotiable. (Well, so was Blue Bottle Coffee but there better be a sack of diamonds at the bottom of every cup to make me wait on those lines for it.) Next time I think I’ll spend more time exploring the Mission and less time watching my whole family go into some sort of catatonic state over how delicious the tacos were here. We supplemented with two agua frescas: one mango, one cantalope.
#8 Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building. We went on Saturday morning and spent half my book advance on peaches, agua frescas, a smoked albin0 salmon, tomatoes, and apricots. You know, just in case we needed a snack to hold us over between the lemon ricotta pancakes and the pork tacos.
#9. Zuni, we were too busy drinking Negronis to take photos of the famous chicken. But rest assured, it was ordered, consumed, and revered appropriately.
#10. Dinner at My Friend Anna’s On Friday we drove ourselves crazy trying to secure reservations for all those must-eat places — Mission Chinese, Delfina, Canteen, State Bird Provisions, Bar Tartine, Il Cane Rosso — but ended up at my friend Anna’s house. Anna is a born-and-bred New Yorker and we worked together at Cookie before she was transplanted to SF four years ago with her husband. We drank some Gruner, sat in her beautiful Noe Valley apartment, fawned over their view of the Mission, caught up on each other’s families, and ate pizzas straight out of their delivery boxes at the dining room table. It think it was my most favorite night of the week.
Thanks SF friends for all your advice! Feel free to add more in comments below to help future visitors.