Monday, October 10, 2011

San Francisco Food : Day 2

Day 2 in San Francisco started at 3am local time for me & all that was going around in my head was a Faithless song... I can't get no sleep. So I sat on the sofa watching downloaded TV and eventually watched the sky change from dark to dawn brightness while The Hubs slept his merry little head off next door.  Oh, the injustice of it all...

Yesterday we went to Pier 39 and I found a market stall selling some of the most enormous fruit I've ever encountered - and it was all locally grown.  Naturally some had to be bought and as it turned out, we came back just when it was all reduced to clear.  This meant a feast of fruit for breakfast for less than $10 - probably the healthiest meal we would have all week when combined with some lovely organic yoghurt from the clean-living deli around the corner...

Very fresh and gigantic California Nectarines and Strawberries

After this healthy start (the 'Mericans call it "healthful" and I hate that word), we stopped at a deli on the way to Pier 33 to grab some sandwiches - we were off to Alcatraz and they don't have a restaurant on the island!  Two giant turkey salad sandwiches later and we were all set.  We forgot to take a photo because we were too busy scoffing, but they were delicious.  Here's Alcatraz & the prison kitchen by way of scant compensation.

After our Alcatraz visit, we wandered down to Fishermans Wharf where I knew the famous Boudin sourdough bakery was located.  You could smell it in every direction and I sneaked a peak at the back of the building, following Donal Skehan's tip to take photos first, ask for permission later!

But we didn't have all day to dally around the shops - dinner at Chez Panisse had been booked ages ago and I for one wasn't intending to be late!  It's about 30 minutes away by taxi in Berkeley - yes, I know we could have used public transport and saved a few quid, but we would have to trek to the BART from our hilltop apartment and then get a taxi from Berkeley to the restaurant and I was wearing heels.  How could you ask me to do that???  Chez Panisse is so unobtrusive, the taxi driver drove past it!  It's on Shattuck Avenue, nestled away behind lots of trees and greenery with the main restaurant downstairs (where they offer a fixed menu) and the cafe upstairs where you can choose from the more expansive menu and wine comes by the glass - a bonus for me as The Hubs doesn't drink wine.  I'll apologise in advance for the poor quality photos - the lighting was dreadful at our table in the restaurant and I was forced to resort to the dreaded camera flash

This is the small but perfectly formed exterior

 The food menu.  Where to start...

 Beautifully selected wines and beers to keep us both happy

 Pretty glasses & table lights

As usual, we negotiated our starter (or appetizer as the n'Americans call it).  I love green beans so this was a very easy choice.  Hubs chose the rocket which surprised me as he doesn't like olives... just like me.  However his plate was beautiful, with peppery little radishes, very crunchy toast with a rough olive paste and incredibly fresh rocket.  My salad was perfect and I really begrudged having to share - the green beans were perfechtly blanched and refreshed, the hazelnuts were really beautifully roasted (I kept picking the little toasty nuggets up with my fingers to munch upon) and super sweet grape tomatoes made this a perfect light starter.

Cannard Farm Rocket with Cucumbers, Preserved Lemons & Green Olive toast
Green Bean, Tomato & Hazelnut salad with Creme Fraiche

Again, some negotiation prevailed when it came to main courses (or entrees) - being a fervent non-veggie, I wanted meat or fish which automatically eliminated the Rigatoni and Pizza.  The non-pepper and olive loving part of me also crossed off the Clams and Lamb Shoulder.  That left the Halibut or Chicken.  I love Halibut so claimed it quickly before The Hubs rumbled my tactics - luckily he chose the Chicken.  Did I mention that I have a 100% success rate on guessing what he's going to order?  My halibut was tender and perfectly cooked, with a lovely spiced undertone from the rub and the chard.  The evil coriander was removed and discarded before it contaminated my delicate palate - yes I am a coriander hater - as is The Hubs as we discovered later on in the trip.  His chicken was juicy, tasted of bird and the squash blossoms & corn kept disappearing over to my side of the table, such were their deliciousness.

Grilled Riverdog Chicken Breast with corn, chanterelle mushrooms & fried squash blossoms
Northern Halibut with Indian spices, yoghurt, chard & Sungold tomatoes

After an age and some very good wine (Prosecco di Conegliano, followed by Corbieres Rose) for me and Lunatic Lager for himself, we eventually decided on dessert.  I called shotgun and demanded the Coffee-Chocolate Icecream with bittersweet chocolate sauce.  The Hubs had the apple and raspberry crisp (crumble in our parlance).

 I very begrudgingly shared my dessert with him, the icecream and sauce were on the undersweet side which worked beautifully - although we both agreed that my Chocolate Sable Biscuits were lighter and more buttery than the Chez Panisse offering on my plate.  His Crisp was sweet, crunchy and tart all in the same mouthful, perfectly offset by the rich and creamy vanilla icecream.  At this stage, he admitted defeat, but I needed some caffeine to keep me awake for the drive home, so ordered a Mocha which arrived in a glass, looking not unlike a pint of Guinness.  It was a little too rich for me, so I admitted defeat halfway through and called for the bill which came to $160 incl. auto service charge.

Cannard Farm Apple and Raspberry Crisp with vanilla ice cream
Chocolate-Coffee ice cream with bittersweet chocolate sauce

Mocha, masquerading as a pint of plain...

So, what did we think?  Chez Panisse was very lovely, with charming if over-stretched waiting staff and we felt that we had to battle for attention at times.  We did have to wait for our table (which was booked in advance) and felt that we were more a number than a customer in the grand scale of things.  But it was a special experience and the love of local food was clearly evident in the menu and on our plate.


  1. Looks fab!1 I hate coriander too!!!!

  2. Sounds like quite an experience, and yes, that mocha looks reallllly chocolately! Thanks for sharing Aoife. I was envious of your whole trip, lovely! x

  3. Glad you all liked it - there's plenty more to come (once I get my act together...)