San Francisco, CA

david

After a couple of too-lengthy flights, I finally landed in San Francisco. I arrived with a full agenda of things to do, and fortunately got all the not-so-fun stuff completely out of the way by the end of Day #2.

So now I have nothing to do for a whole week here—except eat!

ferryplazaoysters

You’d never know I wasn’t in Paris anymore by the platter of fruits de mer served up at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. Except, of course, for the bottles of hot sauce on the tables, which I guess people squirt over their squiggly bivalves. It’s not my thing, but since in my absence, America has become a land of mavericks, I kept my trap shut.

I roamed the market, admiring all the absolutely gorgeous and unusual produce, like frosty-looking pluots and Kadota figs. When I was a baker here, I nicknamed them Carol Kadota’s, after one of San Francisco’s most colorful characters, Carol Doda. And I couldn’t resist copping a feel of the dewy little orbs.

The samples at the market are free and abundant, which surprised me a bit, since in my absence, I also noticed an overabundance of products to sanitize everything from grocery cart handles to detoxing your baby’s feet.

pluots

Deciding where to eat proved the biggest challenge. Although I wandered through Mijita, and even though my pal Lisa was blending up some awfully good-looking margarita’s behind the counter, after wolfing down three burritos in the past two days (don’t ask me how I did it…), we decided to hit Taylor’s Automatic Refresher, and put in our order for two burgers, I asked for mine without sauce, thank you very much. I have a major dislike for those mayo-based burger sauces that Californians like on their burgers, something that seriously shocked me when I moved here in 1983. Yuck! I mean, who really wants to spread a thick, viscous emulsion of egg yolks and oil on a nice, crusty patty of char-broiled beef? I’ll take a pass.

taylors

But being in America doesn’t guarantee a good burger and maybe the Californians know better than me and need that sauce: my hamburger could’ve used something to moisten ‘er up.

burger

And what is up with those yellow, egg-based buns?

Honestly. I’m heading to Joe’s Cable Car Restaurant once this week (at least…), since I’ve almost had my fill of burritos. Although the carnitas burrito at Pancho Villa Taqueria almost made me want to cry it was so good. Having a icy horchato and a big basket of just-fried chips didn’t hurt those salty tears from welling up my eyes, either.

tartine

As any highly-intelligent person knows, the most important part of any meal is the dessert.

Heading over the Tartine to meet a friend, the line snaked out the door, and the not-in-a-hurry young man behind the counter wasn’t doing much to keep it moving along. Considering I live in the land where people aren’t known for their speed or their efficiency, with the slippery dollar and the economy teetering on borrowing even more money to keep things afloat, (…um…if you can’t pay your credit card bills, I don’t know if it’s such a great idea to borrow more money to pay them off. But what do I know? I’m just a cookie-baker, and not much of a maverick…) I found myself pining for the fast-moving women at my local bakery, who take care of the long lines with rapid-fire efficiency. I’m normally out the door and ripping the end off of my baguette less than a minute after I join the end of the line that’s poking out the door as well.

Although I lost count of exactly how many minutes later, I eventually walked away with a jumbo, wafer-thin chocolate chip cookie and a moist, chocolate Friand, a round mouthful of ganache-covered cake, a perfect little bite of chocolate. The double espresso was good, too.

birite

Unfortunately as I went to focus my lens, the whole outer ring decided it had had enough of my manhandling and my shots started getting fuzzier and fuzzier as the ring loosened and slipped around, ignoring my pleas to keep things in focus. I learned this week that not keeping things in focus is another sign of a being a maverick, so I guess I shouldn’t complain, and just shrug it off with a wink and a smile.

With my only lens limping along on it’s last legs, I headed across the street to Bi-Rite Creamery, where I met up with some of you, who’d braved parking in the worse neighborhood in the city just to come and say hi to me.

And I’m sure the free scoop of ice cream everyone got who stopped by had nothing to do with it, either ; )

Categories:

Dining & Travel, USA

50 comments

  • Welcome home! :) Looking forward to seeing you.

  • David, I’m sure that you’re doing a bunch of “mavericky” things and being all maverick on everyone out there. If you happen to see SP on her Main Street tour, make sure to give her a homemade pie from both of us.

    I love Pancho Villa’s steak and shrimp burritos….OMG. I think I ate 2 or 6 of them in July.

  • David,

    If after your dry California burger (they put avocados on burgers, so what do they know?) you are still craving the truly sublime, check out the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park when you’re on the NYC leg of your trip. Order the “double shack”, and down it with a creamy, custardy, vanilla milkshake (or if you’re lucky enough to be there on a day they have it, get the salted caramel milkshake). Go hungry, and prepare yourself – the line WILL snake halfway through the park, and you will likely wait an hour to get to order – consider every minute waiting…making friends and taking to your neighbors in line…anticipating…as an appetizer! It’s worth the wait. :)

  • PS, you’re in a great place to break a lens…stock up on electronics!!!

  • Burgers, burritos, electronics…You sound like a regular old Joe-sixpack, David. ;)

  • David: It was wonderful meeting you yesterday and getting my very own copy of the best ice cream book available (I wish I’d realized that when I bought the others…). I hope you’re able to make these visits regularly–San Francisco misses you.

  • Welcome back to the Bay Area. Any chance to visit Palo Alto area? By the way, I bought the book “A Platter Of Fig” by David Tanis (your post on Sept. 27) I love it! Now I am considering of buying Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, The River Cottage Meat Book. Thank you for mentioning all of this cookbook.

  • Hey, at least that hot sauce is Tapatio brand. Give it a try sometime, it’s nowhere near as sour as most hot sauces or tabascos are.

  • Hi David, glad you are having a good time eating. Even if some of it isn’t all that good. I hate that mayo stuff too!!

  • Oh..I forgot about this..you experienced the dry burger that’s been foisted on us at burger joints (almost) everywhere, but especially where tourists flock. The safety police have deemed even medium done hamburgers to be a health risk. Most places absolutely cook the goods right out of them now..it’s been terrible. Sometimes they will ask your preference, but sometimes they were just being polite, so you get what you get!.

    I suggest you go to your favorite butcher and have them make up patties using your favorite meat blend and have them flash freeze them and ship them, overnight, in freezer packaging back to Paris the day you leave, if that’s possible. Then you can do them your way. Oh..and don’t forget the Wonder Buns! Otherwise, buddy up to a local friend with a grill and snarf down your fill here; a best option.

  • You sound pretty busy but you might want to visit Kukje Supermarket just south of SF for all good things Korean.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/kukje-super-market-daly-city

  • Oh man, all your talk of San Francisco eating makes me even more homesick. Joe’s Cable Car, by the way, is a great choice–their burgers are amazing! I also like how Joe himself is usually there and he’ll always come by to say hi. Not enough owners like him anymore.

    If I might make a suggestion, hit up San Tung Restaurant on Irving Street for some of the BEST northern Chinese food. Their dry fried chicken and noodles in peanut sauce are something to die for, if you’ve got the time to spend (service is a bit slow, to say the least). Just thinking about it makes me hungry….

  • May I humbly suggest you check out La Bamba Taqueria in Richmond near El Cerrito. I promise you, there is no other place on this planet to get carnitas. And besides, you can always stop at Ranch 99 on your way back, and if you are lucky they will have some fresh mangosteens for you!

  • You should have posted a proposed list of meals. Taylor’s would have been voted down as curb appeal doesn’t mean good food. It’s hard to find a good burger. I like El Taco Zamarano on Foothill in east Oakland. The Hell’s Angels headquarters across the street makes it safe. Very good carnitas and homemade tortillas.

  • How do you stay so thin and eat so much? Good genes right? lol
    So unfair.

  • Well, don’cha know we’re all just a nation of mavericks now and lookin’ to change this great nation of ours… My bran’ new iMac just two months old already blew a memory card, so I’m feelin’ for your liberal technology pains don’cha know…

  • Dessert IS the most important part of the meal. You are Wyle E. Coyote….Sheer Genius!

  • Thanks for the autograph and the lovely conversation yesterday. Can’t wait til I can make some more of your Vietnamese Coffee ice cream…

  • You had me at “horchata”.

    (You’re totally making me miss San Francisco, too.)

  • I love your blog, wish my budget would allow for a trip to Paris, but after my recent trip to the Bay Area (from Australia) and the declining Aussie dollar it won’t be happening for a while. Sigh. But I know what you mean about the burgers, and it’s not just in California, same thing happened in Colorado on the same trip. The thing that surprised me though was every single waiter asking me how I’d like my burger done — um cooked?? I do wonder what I would have got if I’d asked for it medium-rare!

  • And here I thought that whole mayo-on-burgers was a Midwest thing. Lived in Indy town over a decade and never got used to it. Mustard, pickle, sure– but more fatty
    goop?
    I confess that people from my hometown of Buffalo NY do put hot sauce on fried or steamed clams though. And we have the definitive roast beef sandwich, a Beef on Weck. Don’t try one in NYC, it will suck. They do most things better there but not this.
    Have a good time stateside, David, I’ll be reading your adventures with relish. Dill.

  • Hi David,

    I visited San Francisco this summer with my family. I am sad to say that I didn’t get a chance to go to Taqueria Pancho Villa, but it was very well recommended by a woman I met at this jam making class I went to.

    I was hoping to go to your appearance at City Bakery, but unfortunately I have work :( Maybe next time I hope?

    P.S. This is my first comment, but I love your blog!

  • hah! You caught French-fever and you’re never going back!

  • Any chance you’ll be in Berkeley?? I’ll totally get you a scoop over at Ciao Bella at the Epicurious Garden!

  • David. Call me, please. BTW, that French site is boulangerie.net. weird, very French.

  • Christina: Unfortunately there’s not much about me that resembles a 6-pack. Especially after eating all those burritos!

    Jennifer: Was in Berkeley, at Ici, last year. Thought it was time to give SF a chance.

    Alexandra: Pancho Villa is a must. I may have to go back at least once more, just to get those carnitas. Yum!

    Curmudgeon: Yes, Taylor’s was a bit of a let-down, but the taqueria sounds better. Will put it on my list..

    Matt’s Kitchen: Lol!! : )

    Andrew: Nice to meet you and hope you enjoy the book!

  • Welcome to The Bay Area – and All of California.
    I hope that you have many wonderful, glorious, health, and happy trips home.
    With enormous and painfilled regret — I’m leaving l’m leaving forever!

  • Oh David! I am tearing up just thinking about the burritos…. I feel a Mexican dinner coming on.

    Have a great trip!

  • OMG you are drinking that Starbucks from California.

    I happen to like Starbucks – 2.5 pump short White Chocolate mocha.

  • David, you must have been leaving Paris as I was hurtling through the countryside on my train to get there. Enjoy SF! I was there a few months back, and while I did not get to Tartine, I certainly enjoyed the food.

  • Welcome back, You can’t be in SF or you wouldn’t have stopped at Starbuck’s when there are so many other great coffee shops.

    Where’s your fact checker? It’s Carol Doda not Carol Dota. Guess you were thinking of ta-ta, not da-da !

    Enjoy

  • I had my (now beat up) Perfect Scoop in hand for you to sign and I was even kinda hyper about toddling the 2 blocks over to Bi-Rite to meet you, then Bammo! Sick pet and trip to the kitty hospital. Bummer.

  • I can’t stand mayo. My favorite condiment to put on a burger is barbecue sauce. When I make them at home, I also put a little gorgonzola and provolone on the patty, and top with fresh spinach, tomato, and grilled onions and mushrooms. Best. Burger. Ever. I receive many compliments on them.

  • Dona Tomas on 4th street in Berkeley does an interesting Northern California take on the taqueria (more fresh ingredients and no lard for most items). If you cannot make it over there you should try to pick up a copy of their cookbook. We find that even in Singapore we are able to reproduce their style of food faithfully even without a mexicatessen anywhere on the island for ingredient shopping.

  • So David, between Ici and Bi-Rite, which do you prefer? I love love love Ici, but have never been to Bi-Rite. Pros, cons?

  • David, it was great meeting you on Saturday. I’ve already compiled a list of recipes I want to try from your book. My son was really excited when I got home and showed him what wonderful things we’d be making.

    It was my first time at Bi-Rite Creamery and I enjoyed the roasted banana ice cream, it was wonderful. I will definitely be heading back there the next time I’m in the City.

  • Well, I was all excited about visiting Bi-Rite the next time we head back to our hometown, since they offer Chocolate Soy. (I am one of those unfortunate souls who cannot eat milk products without getting horribly sick to my stomach.) But then I checked out the ingredient list: whereas all the other ice creams have “organic sugar” and lots of other yummy ingredients, the soy cream includes “trimoline” and “canola oil.” Canola oil? WTF? Is it really that hard to make a delicious non-dairy ice cream without adding oil and inverted sugar syrup? Yuck. I would be eternally grateful if you were to find a good recipe (or shop) and post it. Then again, never mind… if I was (like you) able to eat real ice cream, I wouldn’t waste my time schlepping around the non-dairy stuff!

    Have fun in S.F.!

  • Pleasure to meet you this weekend.

  • Aargh – so wish I would have had a chance to stop by and say hi when you were at Bi-Rite on Saturday! Any other “appearances” while you’re here?? Glad you’re catching up and eating your way through SF (dry burgers and all). Have a “super bon” time!

    ~Diane (Chocolate Paris 5/08)

  • My best friend in high school used to drive this rusting deathtrap of a Ford Maverick. Primer gray with lots of Bondo and baling wire, the least sexy car you’ve ever seen in your life. It was a genuine embarassment and a laughingstock. We used to dread riding in it because it was impossible to feign any sort of cool when you pulled up in such a heap.

    I’ve been thinking about that car this week whenever I’ve heard that fresh-faced fool proclaim, “We’re the mavericks!” Maybe you actually are, Sarah dear. Maybe you are. Everything old is new again.

    Whenever I’m in the SF I try to get a cappucino from the Blue Bottle Coffee Company. You probably noticed their booth at the Ferry Terminal market with its queue reminiscent of Soviet bread lines. I’m not sure the coffee is THAT good, but it’s pretty damn good. I skip the line at the market and drop into their café by the old US Mint just off of Mission between 5th & 6th, or better yet, from their little garage kiosk in Hayes Valley – on Linden, the half-street-half-alley between Hayes and Fell at Gough.

  • Dave, it seems you know all the good spots for croissants, macarons, and delicious gourmet food but not for burgers hehe!

    I remember my first car was a ’72 Maverick and the radiator had rusted to a very bright orange. Then one day while filling up with gas before work, the front sort of exploded and a geyser of rusty orange water squirted the car in front of me. How embarrassing! but true to it’s name till the end.

  • I love your website… it is one of my “Favorites”, and I browse through the info all the time. Thanks for doing what you do, and supporting all us other “Foodies!”
    Visit Portland Oregon Soon!!!
    Cheers,
    Brock

  • Joanne: Are you saying I’m old and rusty? ; )

    Christina: I wish I was a 6-pack kinda guy. All this ice cream and I don’t think that’s possible.

    Sam: It seems everyone in California has their own favorite taqueria. I wish I had a blog that allowed me to visit each one and write about it. And I had to choose Paris instead.

    Susan: I had a lovely medium-rare, juicy burger yesterday and will write about it soon.

    Beau: Same to you, too! : )

  • NOT calling you old and rusty! — on the other hand– hasn’t the media foisted the label of Maverick on McCain?

  • Oooh nice shot at SP, love it! Those mavericks need to get over themselves. Wish I could enjoy all these eats in San Francisco! I have never been there.

  • UGH! i hate mayo on my burgers and most sandwiches myself. i ask for mustard. yellow or dijon.

  • The thing about burritos is there are as many subtypes as there are ways to skin a cat, and everyone has their own favorite. It’s better to go back to Pancho Villa if you love it than to worry about experiencing someone else’s uber burrito.

    That said, if you go to Pancho Villa in the evening, you can bribe the strolling mariachis to play Guadalajara, much to the chagrin of everybody around you. It definitely makes the carnitas just a bit more savory ;-)

    Also, thanks for signing my book and a book for my friend–as well as the recommendation for the malted milk ice cream! Combined with the coffee toffee ice cream and–natch–a drizzle of fudge sauce, I was darned tootin’ happy.

    On the burger front: I like mine grilled, and I find the best classic American-style burger, made with Niman ranch beef, can be found at Burgermeister. They usually honor my request for medium rare or rare. Joe’s Cable Car is a good burger, especially with their house-ground, house-aged beef, but it’s griddled. I prefer to have the grease drip off while the meat grills, so I can add grease back on with mayo!

    If you’re in need of a croissant or any sort of classic French goute, pop by the San Francisco Baking Institute’s outlet, Thorough Bread and Pastry. Caramel napoleons, babas au rhum, pain au chocolate, perfect baguettes, etc. It’s at 248 Church between Market & 15th.

  • I guess you didn’t catch up with Sando while you are there? I know he’s in NYC this week. Have you seen his new book?

  • God, I know what you mean about those egg-based bread rolls. They’re horrible.
    Just found your blog after seeing you on TV last night (Discovery Channel? Nat Geo? sorry, can’t remember which one). Was interested to see another expat with a blog (I’m British-American but living in Bangkok, Thailand). Your blog looked fascinating and I was happy to see, upon reading it, that it is. I have you bookmarked and will be checking back often.

  • After months of reading about delights abroad, I am so happy to see some of your Bay Area favorites. Will be making a trip to them all very soon. Thanks for sharing!