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Jun 21, 2013
The Best of the West Coast (Part 2-San Francisco)
San Francisco is one of those cities people "LOVE". Whenever I mentioned it to a friend or acquaintance, they had nothing but lovely things to say about it. I didn't agree for many years, as on my numerous visits, the weather was always terrible and the food was mediocre. However on this last visit, everything took a turn for the better! It could have been the friends I was visiting just brought a new baby boy into the world or the fact that some other close friends had just relocated to this Northern California destination. Perhaps it was a combination of that and the fantastic food I had this time around, but I also have fallen "In Love" with San Francisco.
Ferry Building is located close to Fisherman's wharf in the Embarcadero area at the foot of Market Street. It's a haven for foodies as they have all the artisan eateries and small businesses all located under one roof. With brands like Blue Bottle Coffee and Sur Le Table all easily accessible, I really didn't want to leave.
Alas, we did have lunch plans so we made our way over to Ferry Plaza Seafood which was conveniently located on the ocean side of the building. On that perfect sunny day, we enthusiastically sat our group of 6 down at a lovely corner table outside overlooking the Bay Bridge and passerby's. The first item on our agenda was to of course order our lunch, as it's easy for a a group of friends who haven't seen each other in w while to get caught up in conversation.
The item that initially stood out to me was Clam Chowder. This menu was a little unusual as it had both New England and Manhattan, most restaurants would serve either one or the other. Although my fellow New Englanders don't acknowledge the red version as an equal to the creamy original, I thought it would be best to get the combination deal. The sweetness of the tomato based soup melded beautifully with the savory white chowder, an exciting balance of flavors. It was served with a side of crusty San Francisco sourdough bread smothered with butter and a dash of sea salt....it was perfection!
As the chowder duo was quite satiating, my friend Carolyn and I decided to share a dish. We went for the Dungeness Crab Tower, layers of sweet crab with grapefruit, avocado, frisee salad, and a grapefruit vinaigrette. It was sweet, salty, tart, and fresh! All the flavor profiles I was looking for in a salad that followed my first course. Leaving us comfortable full, as we had a busy day ahead of us, this proved to be the perfect portion for lunch.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, I have to admit, I was a bit envious of my friend Pete's order. He had the seared ahi tuna salad, with a sesame crust and served rare, my mouth watered at the site of that gorgeous fish. The grains on the fish and coloring showed the quality and grade of this variety. He made a wise choice and even did justice to this dish, as I made him responsible for snapping the photo here. Thanks Pete!
After our delectable lunch, we walked around the Ferry Building a bit more to locate. From my last visit I remember a little bakery by the bame of Boulette Larder in the far right corner of the building that made these cute little treats, for that perfect after meal bite I crave. I can't remeber much of what else they offered, but lucky for me they had these gorgeous little chocolate brownie cookies with sea salt. There was a slight little crust that coated the outside which led to a gooey chocolatey inside finished with the slight crunch of the sea salt....WOW!
Following the Ferry Building, we made our way around the more commercial areas of Fisherman's wharf and even sat to watch the sea lions who lined the docks at the pier. Walking and sightseeing are all part of visiting a city one doesn't live in, and making frequent stops for snacks is another. When we finally made our way back to Inner sunset, we made a stopover at Nopalito located on one of the side street of of Irving.
The idea was just to have a ligth snack before dinner, but the smell of freshly made tortillas made our appetites rumble! We didn't realize what exactly we had stumbled across until we sat down and the gracious waiters greeted and welcomed us warmly. A sustainable organic Mexican kitchen is there tag line, and by the set-up of the operations and demeanor of the staff, it was evident. The kitchen staff were making everything from scratch with products sourced from local markets. It had a reall mom and pop feel to it, but the decor was modern and clean.
Its a shame we only came from a small snack, because the the vibe and food was on point. A couple of us shared the Carne Asada with Nopales and Queso Fresco with a pasilla negro salsa. The taste was authentic and as fresh as could be. The noplaes themselves added so much texture and flavor to the tacos, similar to aspargus with a slightly bitter undertone. Combined with the mild unaged white cheese and the smokey taste of the salsa, it was an explosion of flavors!
Pasion is in every way modern latin cuisine which was a popular type cuisine on this trip. Conveniently located on Irving Street, my hostess with the mostess friend Priya was excited to share with us her favorite neighborhood spot. Spotting it on my early morning walk, it was quaint and cute, as a "local" spot should be. When our group of 6 finally arrived at this independently owned and operated eatery, we were pleased to find a buzz that only the best of restaurants could create.
Smiling faces and tables full of food is what you want to see in a restaurant. As we explored the menu, we found several scrumptious choices, it really as difficult to make a selection. Instead, we saved ourselves the trouble and pretty much ordered a little bit of everything to understand the scope of food we were enjoying.
We started the "Nuevo Latino" meal off with the quientessential ceviche. The menu had five different choices, we opted for the trio including the Tuna, Halibut, Salmon combination...WOW! Each of the ceviches were extremely well seasoned and beautifully presented. But theceviche campechano particularly stood out becuase of the truffled Leche de Tigre We even ordered a side of plantain chips to accompany these tropical treats, which was the perfect vehicle to indulge in this seafood delicacy and also added a little crunch factor.
Our dynamic group all ordered various menu items, all of which were executed well, however, I am highlighting only two. I have noticed that there has been a recent love affair with lamb lately. It is often a featured item on many American restaurant menus over the standard steak dish, and this is very exciting to see. It demonstrates a range of proteins as well as culinary uses and techniques that diversifies the eating experience. The Seco de Cordero or braised lamb shank with a cilantro broth, pickled red onions, and green beans was a hearty serving. Colorful and pretty, it was also accompanied by a chicpea *Tacu Tacu!
*Tacu Tacu is an Afro-Peruvian specialty, usually made with leftover rice and beans, but in this case chicpeas. It is formed into a pancake and then pan fried. Served with a thin slice of steak and fried egg, this was considered a hearty meal for many for the African slaves who were brought over to the region.
The final dish of the evening was the Pescado a lo Macho. This gorgeous medley of shelfish encircled by the whole fried dorado all on top of the yellow garlic cream sauce was a satisfying dish. The contrast of textures and powerful aroma of this seafood dish were all so memorable. Even the sauce, which was described as creamy, was flavorful, but not heavy. It compliemented the rest of the dish beautifully.