The view from the top of Twin Peaks overlooking the City
I should point out that we didn't have any breakfast that morning, as we were waiting to hear from my friend Heidi about a meet-up time. As usual, things happened at the last minute so we decided to grab a quick lunch before we met up. I had heard from numerous sources that a fine diner called Mo's (1322 Grant St) was just down the street from our lovely little apartment in North Beach and so it came to pass that we found ourselves in a busy, bustling and friendly lunchtime room with the smell of burgers wafting from the griddle and bottomless lemonades to cool us down (it was in the 90's and we were rather warm!)
Mo's is well known in the area as a fabulous place for weekend brunch, with long lines out the door and food that's worth the wait. Luckily it was relatively quiet on Wednesday lunchtime so we had no problem finding a table or placing an order for their juicy charcoal grilled burgers.
Stuffed full of burgers, it was time to waddle down the hills of North Beach to catch a MUNI train to West Portal to meet up with our friend Heidi & her sister Nancy. Heidi used to be my next door neighbour but moved back home to SF 6 years ago where jobs were better. I hadn't seen her in almost 3 years and it was like we had only met the day before. I had brought her a goodybag full of stuff from home that she and the family missed, so she was like a child at Christmas delving through the crisps, chocolate and her own personal favourite, Battenburg Cake! They threw us into the back of Nancy's car & drove us around the city - being SF natives, they knew the places we wouldn't have seen by ourselves. It was one of the funniest road trips I've ever been on.
Eventually we had to say our goodbyes in Union Square, so they drove home while we hopped on a cable car to bring us down to the Waterfront for a quick run around Ghirardelli Square to pick up some chocolate before heading back to the apartment to get ready for our final dinner in San Francisco.
Images courtesy of Frances
I had heard wonderful things about a restaurant over in the Castro district called Frances. Headed by chef Melissa Perillo, this small but perfectly formed establishment has been winning every accolade & award going, including a Michelin star. We were lucky to get a reservation by all accounts and I can confirm that it's definitely worth a visit. The menu changes daily, depending on what's freshest and best, but some items remain a staple like the bacon beignets and panisse frites (more about these later). The room is narrow and noisy, with the kitchen tucked away at the back but it's busy and buzzy with very friendly and efficient wait staff who clearly enjoy their job and ensure that every customer leaves Frances feeling happy.
Frances splits their menu into five sections : Bouchées, Appetisers, Entrées, Sides and Dessert. This is a whole lot of food and
I knew we wouldn't be able to eat something from every section.
So we started with two bouchées - Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets - little
doughnuts studded with smoked bacon and served with a maple and chive creme
fraiche dipping sauce, and Panisse Frites - crispy chickpea fritters with a lemon
and black olive aioli. Two words to describe these... fried yumminess. They
would make amazing standalone bar food as they'd give appropriate booze soakage.
I had a shot of the house cocktail - they basically juice whatever they find at the
market, spike it with booze & it's $3 a shot. Their wine policy is great for those
who don't want to drink a full bottle like me (Hubs was drinking beer) - the house
wine is served in 12oz pitchers with markings along the bottle, each mark
representing 1oz, and they charge $1 per ounce, so no pressure to finish it off.
We skipped appetisers and moved straight to entrées and sides - I had the Five Dot
Ranch Bavette Steak with Mission Fig, Chanterelles, Gnocchi & sauce Bordelaise.
Hubs chose the Chicken with crisp Polenta, grilled Cippolini, Kale and La Quercia
Guanciale. My steak came out thinly sliced and beautifully rare on a bed of earthy
chanterelles, little nuggets of gnocchi and pancetta and some figs strewn through
the plate. Hubs' chicken was also sliced and served on polenta, onions, kale and
salty, memorable guanciale. We ordered a side of Shelling Bean Ragout but didn't
really eat it as it was so at odds with our mains, so left it in the bowl.
Despite being stuffed, we decided to have dessert anyway. Chocolate Almond
Clafoutis with caramelized banana, burnt caramel & salted caramel icecream, and
Cornmeal Brown Butter Friand with roasted peach, blackberries and creme fraiche
to be shared. Yes, that's a birthday candle on my plate. Yes, I was mortified. But
I soon overcame my embarrassment at people at all the other tables gapwing &
pointing and ate my dessert. Oh it was glorious. I managed to eat at least half of
the Hubs' Friand while only doling out miserly spoonfuls of my Clafoutis to him.
That takes years of practice...
We paid the bill - which was about $150 including tax and tip - and tottered into a
taxi back to our apartment. It was our last night in San Francisco and we still had
to pack up and get ready for an early start the next day. Las Vegas & NYC still