Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Inside Tips of San Francsico
We’re staying at the Grand Hyatt on Stockton Street. Jon and I are here for a US travel conference called Pow Wow. It’s the largest travel conference in North America and when travel people set out to have an annual conference, you can bet they pull out all the stops to put on a great show – they do an amazing job of it.
Tonight we decided we wanted to experience San Francisco like the locals so we went to the concierge. She pointed us to a side alley of restaurants just a few blocks away. The alley is called Belden Place and it’s just off Bush. In between the Hyatt and restaurant row was Chinatown and so we walked through it. The street was colourful with stores overflowing with bling, brilliantly coloured lanterns hanging across the streets and beautiful buildings painted in bright colours.
Our recommended restaurant was Plouf, a French inspired bistro with a reputation for fresh, amazing seafood. We walked into the alley and passed a number of restaurants, Brindisi, Café Tiramisu, Café de la Presse, B44 and Plouf. The alley was full of small tables and chairs with diners sipping from large wine glasses and waiters busily scurrying around with large and small plate of food. It was more casual and organic than trendy; it was more European than San Francisco.
Like Europe, all of the menus were displayed at the front so we could read them and we did. Instead of Plouf, we were drawn to the Spanish influence of B44. A menus of tapas and unlike the cool, light flavours of seafood, we were seduced by the warm, savoury Catalan-style dishes. It was a cool night and we dined outside under the heaters on Ceviche and Sauteed Aqua Gem Clams with chorizo Rioja, Anchor steam beer over baby white beans. We sipped on Spanish wine and ordered more tapas; Warm Octopus with fingerling potatoes and pimenton oil and Gambas al a jillo, White Gulf of Mexico Shrimp with sauteed garlic and adobo.
The seating in B44 is quite tight which lead to great conversations with people on either side. There was the couple from the Silicon Valley who come into the city for great food. Charlene Yiju Han and her husband love to dine out and her husband tell us she’s also a great cook – there’s nothing Charlene has ever made that he didn’t like. They recommended a great little restaurant in Chinatown called R & G Lounge and there we must try the deep fried crab. Then there was the little restaurant on the pier with the best oysters in the entire city; Swan Oyster Depot, it’s where all the local go and be prepared to wait because there’s usually a long wait time, but the oysters are the freshest and the cheapest. For the best Vietnamese cuisine we should go to the Slanted Door.
On the other side of our table was the University of California student who just graduated and her friend was from Seattle, Washington who was in to help her move back home. She only had 3 more days in San Francisco and while she was excited to embark on the beginning of the rest of her life, it was a bitter sweet dinner celebration as she was leaving San Francisco, a city she’d fallen in love with. These young ladies recommended the Mission District. They describe it as having a restaurant or food shop every 10-feet. There was a bakery called Tartine that was famous for they’re morning buns. They said they were one of those things you have to eat before you die, then there was Delfina food shop, Pizzeria Delfina for the most amazing thin crust, wood fire oven in the city and Monks Kettle on 16th and Valencia who have 200 different craft beers available and 30 of them on draft, but it was their pretzels they raved about most. Then they talked of Bi-Rite and their sustainability philosophies - ok we were going to the Mission District tomorrow.
After we’d all finished our dinner, our server, Geronimo came by and wished me a happy birthday – it just so happened to be my birthday! He had no idea, it was just something he said! He brought a Spanish version of crème caramel with a candle in it and 2 glasses of cava – yum!