Sunday, May 22, 2011
San Francisco is tasting pretty good
It’s my first day in San Francisco and it’s a delicious one. Jon and I checked into the Grand Hyatt on Stockton Street, unpacked, washed up and set out to explore. We wandered around and found we are next to Union Square, right smack in the heart of the city’s upscale shopping and dining scene and home to virtually every designer label; Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s. There’s an Apple store, Ferrari (the car) store and what caught my eye was a food shop called Ferrari Fine Foods.
Not at all related to the car, Ferrari Fine Foods has been around since 1911. Started by Annibale Ferrari, it’s on Mission street and run by the grandsom Paul Ferrari. Inside is a to-die-for deli counter with roasted and grilled meats and luscious salads. There are a few bistro tables in front of the large windows but my guess is that it’s mostly for take out gourmet food.
The shelves are stocked with high end extra virgin olive oils, aged balsamic vinegars, imported artisan pasta and hard to find Italian culinary ingredients. Store manager, Vince or ‘Firefox’ as he called himself was behind the deli counter and eager to help. He was wearing animal ears and a bushy tail; he was in costume but it’s not clear what character. Firefox, as he explains, is a fire dancer in the process of developing his stage persona and was working at Ferrari while he was being discovered.
Of course we were only seeing the customer service side to this odd but friendly guy and if his fire dancing skills were anywhere near his customer service skills, he’ll do well - although something tells me he shouldn’t give up his day job just yet.
On the shelf I spotted a magnum bottle of prosecco that was selling for the bargain price of $35 dollars. It was a custom bottle named after the original owner Annibale, cellered in Venuto, Italy just for them and it was sitting there screaming ‘party’! Firefox tells me it’s a beautiful bubbly with citrus and green apple notes and streams of lovely bubbles. It was late in the afternoon, but if we came by earlier tomorrow they’d open a bottle for tasting.
Jon and I left Ferrari empty handed, planning to return to taste the procecco. We were getting hungry. The streets were thick with people, mostly shoppers and we needed help to find a really great restaurant. We ducked into the Westin Hotel and had a brief chat with Frank the concierge. I’ve always found that hotel concierge are your best friend in a new city and you don’t need to stick to the one in your own hotel, any hotel has friendly concierge who’s job it is to help. The trick I’ve found is in the asking.
Jon and I asked for a good seafood restaurant. Now ‘good’ is a relative term but Frank had a sense about us and stayed away from lower end chain restaurants, instead he sent us about 8 blocks away at a place called Anchor & Hope. Knowing it would be difficult to get in on a Saturday evening, Frank called the restaurant. Sure enough they were booked solid but Frank used his influence to score a spot at the bar – we were in!
We found Anchor & Hope in a side alley, a place we would never have ventured. The building was previously used by an auto mechanic shop; it was one large building with most of the rustic elements still intact. The opened ceiling was dotted with skylights, rustic beams and metal duct work. It was bustling, noisy and crowded.
The menu wasn’t at all pretentious or elaborate but reasonable and more than reasonably exciting. We started off with oysters. Wanting a true San Francisco experience we ended up with Canadian oysters. Seated at the bar gave us a front row seat to the work of garmange di partie David Reynolds. David shucked 2 oysters from British Columbia and 2 from New Brunswick, the NB oysters beat the BC hands down with fresh flavours of sea water and brilliantly clean, slithery light oyster while the BC oyster had less juice, a denseness to the oyster with an earthy flavour.
Our server Sarah Wright brought our bread, still in it’s brown paper bag. We opened the bag and found a beautiful artisan baguette. We watched as David prepared our next appetizer, salmon tartar. It was served on a bed of guacamole and topped with subtle salmon roe. We piled it on crisply fried won tons and smeared wasabi over top. It was uber delicious and David was fast becoming my new hero chef.
Dinner was large pieces of cod, lightly battered, fried and served with rosemary and thyme fries. The thick chunks of cod fish, flaky, crisp and cooked to perfection. The rosemary was predominant on the fries which constantly reminded me of chicken (funny how we associate certain flavours). The flavour play was fun and it was the absolute best fish and chips I’ve ever had!