San Francisco Favorites and Dining

egg tarts at Saigon

I’m almost over the nasty whatever-it-was that I picked up riding in the back of the plane, in seat 37E, to be precise, en route to San Francisco. It didn’t help that it’s been freezing cold here (36ºF!), with snow in some of the outlying areas up north. Help came to me via the Kabuki Hot Springs, a mellow Japanese spa in the middle of the city with hot pools, a cold plunge (um, no thanks…), and a blissful steam, which helped cleared my head. I still have a bit of laryngitis, but that’s perhaps a blessing to those around me.

Getting socked with that has kind of put a damper on my energy level, although I’m finally on the mend and trying to visit some of my favorite places, as well as hitting a few of the new spots in town.

apricots and pluots

The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is a true “farmer’s market”, where farmers, cheesemakers, bread bakers, and others bring their wares – including a marvelous collection of dried cherries, apricots, pluots, and any other fruit you can imagine. It’s become quite the attraction and is extremely busy on weekends, and during the week, the restaurants are full at lunchtime with people eating grilled cheese sandwiches from Cowgirl Creamery, sandwiches on locally made charcuterie, and burgers made from sustainable, grass-fed beef. And when you’re done eating, anything left over can go right into the compost bucket.

It’s quite a sight/thrill to be surrounded by tangles of broccolini, bunches of spiky mizuna, lush bundles of dark mustard greens, kale in a rainbow of colors, and a bounty of fruits that even the most jaded Californian (and Parisian) can appreciate.

huevos rancheros

Mijita in the Ferry Plaza building is a must-stop for a morning plate of huevos rancheros and chips, guacamole, and salsa to fuel you for the market, especially on a cold winter (or in San Francisco, even a cold summer) day.

Chips, salsa and guacamole

After a filling breakfast, we hit the stands – front to back – and I was tempted to put multicolored turnips and radishes, heirloom pears, ‘chocolate’ persimmons from Frog Hollow Farms, in my suitcase (and mustard greens, coffee beans, Heath ceramics, and Primavera tamales) but I usually settle for some dried fruit. At the big stand out front, tasting is encouraged (which blew Romain away – he couldn’t believe they were letting folks help themselves – but he quickly got with the program.) I packed up bags of tart, tangy California Blenheim apricots and pluots (a cross between and apricot and a plum), to stash in my suitcase, although I will probably polish those before the end of the week and will return for more before I head back home.

Japanese noodles

After a long, hot soak, with a clearer head, I did my duty as a tour guide to Romain, and took him through the Japan Center (although for some reason, the official name seems to be “Japantown” – does anyone call it that? I kept calling Cesar Chavez Street, “Army Street” – the old name. Which made people look at me funny, like a time relic.) Whether you call it Japantown, or the Japan Center, the restaurants there aren’t necessarily the best examples of fine Japanese dining, but who cares – they’re lively and fun, and being surrounded by shops and throngs of Japanese shoppers, you get a taste of Japan right in the middle of San Francisco. (Two places that are the most happening are Mifune and Osakaya – I prefer Mifune for noodles.) Nijiya supermarket is quite fun to poke around in as is Super Mira.

Japanese housewares

I love hitting the Japanese version of the 99 cent store, Ichiban Kan, then heading across the street to Soko Hardware, which specializes in Japanese housewares and cooking tools.

Food erasers

At Ichiban Kan, there’s lots of furikake, a Japanese seasoning mix with bonito flakes and sometimes wasabi or sesame, or other ingredients. It’s great shaken over rice and vegetables, or tofu, and I grabbed a few flavors.

furikake

Tiny containers are good for storing spices, reusable tote bags are handy to have since San Francisco stores have been seriously curtailing the use of plastic bags (which is terrific), and I picked up miscellaneous kitchen tools.

Years ago I was unofficially adopted by my two Chinese sisters, one of who lives here in San Francisco, who brought up an interesting point, by asking me – “Why, if there are so many Asians, and all the same products are available there, is the Asian food not so good in Europe?” It is a curious question, since the ingredients are there, and there are plenty of Asians (and others) eating in the restaurants. But they’re rarely great. While it’s true that Asian culture is more integrated into the culture of California than elsewhere, if anyone has any thoughts on that, it’d be interesting to hear them.

roast duck at Saigon

So I dive in as much as I can in the Bay Area. Even going across the bridge for great Chinese food, to Richmond, where our favorite place to dine is Saigon.

pea shoots and garlic at Saigon

I tend to avoid brunch (or le brunch in Paris) because I’m not at my best in the morning. But it was fun to run into a couple of readers in this bustling palace of Chinese cooking (in spite of the Vietnamese name.)

chow fun

It’s hard to stay in bed when there’s great dim sum to be had, piles of pea shoots with whole garlic cloves, slippery beef chow fun noodles, roast duck with kumquat sauce, and my favorite, rice steamed in lotus leaves.

geoduck

The live seafood tanks hold fresh local crabs, lobster, and this time, geoduck (which I tend to avoid, and definitely freaked out Romain.) In true Chinese fashion (because I am 弟弟, or “younger brother”) my Chinese sister ordered just about everything on the menu, which means leftovers for days and days and days and days. And I’m not complaining.

Crab and lobster at Saigon

Back in San Francisco, we had a great meal at La Urbana, a somewhat sophisticated Mexican restaurant that also has a kick-you-know-what cocktail list. And the food kicked it as well. What was listed as a “green salad” was a plate of ice-cold gem lettuce leaves, fresh fava beans, and strips of cactus, all bathed in a lightly seasoned, creamy cilantro dressing. It was my favorite dish of the night, although the carne asada (steak) and mole of chicken with fresh blue tortillas were terrific as well. The only drawback is the dark lighting; you can’t see (or photograph) the food, which is gorgeous and you miss the nuances of the various sauces and ingredients on the plates. The food was so good that I wanted to go back for lunch, but it’s dinner-only.

La Palma

A Mexican must-stop for me is La Palma (2884 24th Street), a “Mexica-tessen” where they make their own tortillas, potato chips, and salsas, and have a great selection of Mexican products. I picked up a stack of warm tortillas and some potato chips, as well as what seems like a decades-supply of red pepper flakes. (I didn’t want that much, but it was the smallest bag they had.) So I’m set for red pepper flakes – until 2023.

Fresh tortillas from La Palma

A recent addition that I’d heard about in the Mission, also on 24th street, is Wise Sons Deli. Disappointed with the deli food offerings in California, this team of two fellows from LA started Wise Sons, where sandwiches are piled with hand-sliced pastrami or corned beef.

Wise Sons deli

But there are reuben sandwiches and patty melts, too, although we kept it simple. We got there early before the crowds. We liked our meal, although my one comment is that corned beef (and pastrami) are usually better when thinly sliced, and piled in a sandwich, so they meld together. But the food was great, and the staff was friendly, and I’m thinking I may need to go back before I split, for corned beef hash with their excellent corn rye bread.

sardine toasts at Contigo

Always high up on my places to eat is Contigo, where Brett Emerson cooks up Catalan and Spanish fare, much of it as good – or better – than what I’ve had on its home turf, back in Spain. (He also braved horse milk in Paris with me.)

Contigo

We let him pick out whatever he thought we should eat, which was a good strategy, and we had marinated sardine toasts, deep-fried croquets filled with nutty Spanish ham and warm cheese, finger-friendly mini oxtail burgers with teensy-potato chips, ending with one of the best cups of hot chocolate I’ve had in my life, which was seasoned with precisely the right amount of salt. If you are in the neighborhood, no matter how cold or warm it is, you should definitely stop in for a cup.

quail eggs and chorizo tapas

Speaking of chocolate, on my very first day, I’d made a beeline to visit Dandelion chocolate, the new San Francisco bean-to-bar chocolate maker. I’d met Todd and Elaine, who opened the production facility, when they came on one of my chocolate tours in Paris. So I was incredibly excited to see what they’d created.

Dandelion chocolate

I was a little surprised to see how small-scale their production is – all the beans are sorted by hand, one-by-one, each bean surveyed for faults (insects, freshness, etc), and when I asked if that was really necessary, Todd told me that they did side-by-side tests and found out that it does make a difference in the finished chocolate, rather than just dumping big bags of beans into the machines.

Dandelion Chocolate copy

The machine that roasts the cocoa beans has a cooling tray about the size of an extra-large pizza, and the machine that winnows away the hulls of the beans after they’re roasted, looks a bit like Rube Goldberg conjured it up, but the chocolate is great and they give lots of tours and tastings, making it a must-stop in San Francisco.

Craftsman and Wolves

Just next door is Craftsman and Wolves, a sleek, austere pastry shop that would certainly not be out of place in Paris. However on closer look, croissants are filled with root vegetables and harissa butter, and pâtes de fruit (fruit jellies) are made with “dirty bananas”, tinged with espresso. There are tamer flavors (although I couldn’t taste any harissa in the croissant) such as a chocolate-ganache cake, that, instead of a liquid center, has a surprisingly firm one. And other curiosities are croissants with yuzu, pears, and almond, ginger cookies with smoked molasses, and an attractive lime tart with toasted meringue.

Fog city news

For those who prefer to keep it simple, Fog City News is known for its well-curated selection of fine chocolates from all over the world. There are tablets from Rogue, Ginger Elizabeth, Michel Cluizel (including the rare 99% cacao bars), Rococo, Patric, and lots, lots more. The owner, Adam Smith and his staff at this newsstand, are particularly astute and can discuss chocolate, provide tasting notes, and guide you toward some interesting bars from their vast collection.

Fog city News chocolate

There are hundreds of bars in this shop. And I snagged a few to bring home, along with everything else.

74 comments

  • loved the write-up…also, it will ALWAYS be Army Street to those of us who were here before the name change. :)

  • I would love a bag of those noodles. And an assortment of all of that chocolate. All of these are going on my list of places to visit next time I am in San Fran!

  • Hi Dave…. You always talk about stocking up on local delicacies on your trips and stashing all in your suitcase… Are you required to declare that stuff when you arrive home ….on a customs form ??

  • La Palma!

  • Great post about SF’s spots! I’m a San Francisco native living in NYC, so to see local city spots get the spotlight was especially fun and heartwarming! I was struck with your question about why California seems to have better Asian cuisine than most other Western countries, and I think I may have one idea as to what the reason might be. CA is historically a melting pot of many different cultures; it (and specifically the Bay Area) has been the gate for Asian immigrants to the US for centuries. It is also a home to Mexican cuisine, Spanish influences, and who knows however many other cultures! Unlike countries like France, Italy, Germany, etc., who’s cuisines were more concentrated and established within their borders, CA was an open book. I think this allowed for many different cuisines to flourish in a more prominent, sophisticated way.

  • Dear David.
    It is SOOO nice reading you.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences and good humor.
    I’ll keep all your tips to my next visit to San Francisco , maybe in april.
    And , if someday you decide to come to Rio, i’ll be glad to retribute all your kindness.
    kss
    clarice

  • Great writeup! I love wandering the ferry building at lunchtime and stopping by Fog City news for chocolate, now it looks like I might have a few new spots to seek out!

  • Thank you for the wonderful post. It makes me homesick for the Bay Area. Can’t wait to go home for Christmas and check out some of the new places you mentioned.

    And yes, I still call it the Japan Center.

  • Thanks for all the great tips, David. I’m heading out to SF for Christmas week and now I know a few new places to visit while I’m there. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  • First of all why were you seated in 37 E? Those seats are for common … errr… po folks like me! You should be up front … Like rows 1-5! ;)

    I’m saving this post because I want to visit these places you’ve mentioned here. Plus, I’m kicking myself for missing your visit at Omnivore.

    Enjoy the rest of your stay and safe trip back home.

  • La Urbana has nothing to do with the people from Nopa. They only wish they could be that good.

  • Japantown (or as we sometimes like to call it – J-town) is the neighborhood. The focal point of the neighborhood is, of course Japan Center.

  • Welcome back to the Bay! I’m sorry to miss your reading yesterday. Hope it went well! Great post about all the wonderful foodie delights in the city.
    I was born and raised in the Bay Area and it’s always been Japantown to me but my grandmother lived on Army street when I was young and it’s always Army st. to me. Plan to go to Kabuki Springs in a couple of weeks. Love it!

  • Excellent survey, thank you! I’ve got some notes for the next time we visit the city. After standing in the cold outside the bookshop for an hour or so I headed to the ferry building to meet up with my family. After dinner our toddler wanted to run around outside. Since I could not imagine spending anymore time in that cold, I headed to the Hyatt. I was completely amazed at the lights. Eventually we went up to floor 12 to see how they do it. I was completely entranced. Anyway, if you’re looking for a taste of holiday dazzle, I highly recommend it.

  • Another great post!

    I’ve been sending your SF write ups to my nephew who just moved to the Bay area last month. This will give him some ideas where to get good food. Actually he stood on line last Sunday at Omnivore to get two books (Perfect Scoop) signed for his mother & me. He knows I am a big fan of yours. BTW, I was at the Shakespeare Bookshop book event (Seb Emina) in October. You signed mine & my two nieces’ “Sweet Life in Paris”. We all agreed that was the highlight of our Paris trip.

    Looking forward to read your next post.

  • Yay! Proper dried apricots instead of those squidgy sickly things they have in Europe. I’m off to Australia next month and that will be one of the things in my suitcase coming back to France for sure.

  • There is a pastry shop within Super Mira that is not to be missed. Sweet Stop makes THE legendary Coffee Crunch Cake that we all loved from Blum’s. Hands down, the best cake ever!

  • Sorry I missed the book signing David, I had to work. I really wanted to see you! next time for sure. Happy Holidays!

    xoxo
    Katreece

  • While the Ferry Building Farmers Market is a sight to see, it is the most expensive market in the city. I do not shop there because it is a rip off. I would much rather visit the Civic Center Farmers Market. While not as fancy, the food is just as good and far better priced. Leave the Farmers Market at the Ferry Plaza for the tourists – its overrun with them just as bad as Pier 39.

    • I used to go to the Civic Center market all the time when I lived here and liked it a lot. I guess coming from Paris, the prices at Ferry Plaza for organic, local products doesn’t seem high to me. I also used to work with some of the farmers when I worked in the Bay Area and most of them worked pretty hard, and none were driving fancy cars or anything. But my French partner is shocked at how low prices in the US are in general. It’s a curious comparison.

  • Glad you’re enjoying your trip “home”! It’s been so cold since mid October, and there was actually ice on the sidewalks in Golden Gate park the last few mornings! If you get time while you’re in town, check out Peter Fang’s newer, eponymous, place Fang. Somewhat elevated, certainly more than House of Nanking, and not as traditional, but VERY good. Another favorite of mine is out in the avenues near my house, a teeny, but lovely pizza place called Pizetta 211, between Clement and California. Four tables inside, a menu of 6 pizzas, 3 of which change every 2 weeks, ambiance, and a lovely little wine list. Take Romain on a date!

  • As a Bay Area adopted gal now living in rural brittany, this post made me swoon. I’m back for a visit this christmas and will be hitting the same spots you posted and distributing harissa, milka chocolate, fois gras tins and flageolets to friends and family. I miss Asian food madly, pupusas (past ARMY ST) on mission, korean barbeque and ethiopian food from the East Bay, Little Star Pizza. Dare I bring a jar of kimchee back to France w/ me?!!

  • I’ve been using furikake ever since I saw you use it on your market video making sardine rillettes(I make your version out of canned tuna and it is still delicious) — what a fabulous seasoning, even if it does have a funny sounding name.. :) There is a street in San Antonio that was recently renamed Caesar Chavez…my understanding is that the city council kind of slipped it past us residents….hmmmm…

  • Loved the write up. Sorry I missed you at Omnivore due to jet lag. Curious to find out what Romain thinks of all the stops. :)

    For the record, I still call it Army street as well, since my grandma lived on Army, not Cesar Chavez!

  • I’m bookmarking this post as a reference of so many places I need to try when in San Francisco again! =)

  • You haven’t had a good egg tart until you’ve tried the ones at Golden Gate Bakery–definitely the best I’ve had in the US.

    And if you want real bao, you should try xiao long bao or soup dumplings. Some of the best are those at Shanghai Dumpling King.

    <3 SF!

    • I used to work in an Asian restaurant and we made our own egg tarts, so I have had a good one! : )

      (And I made bao, too!)

  • David
    This is a great list and a terrific piece of writing. The longer I follow you, the more I respect your writing and you good food sense.
    It’s nice to see something that doesn’t bring up the same new “trendsetters” but offers an interesting diversity of restaurants.
    Hope you are enjoying your stay
    Jo Lynne

    • As you know, SF is a pretty conservative town when it comes to dining and food, and anything trendy doesn’t do well or last very long. Nice that quality is still a barometer of success!

  • David, there is one more place that you are missing, a Tartine bakery. They have Bar Tartine also, but start with the bakery. They have the BEST sourdough bread in town, best pastries, best everything. They are unique.

    • I’ve been to Tartine and wrote about it here. And you’re right, the bread is great – although you have to line up in the late afternoon to get it!

      • I read the “Tartine bread” book and tried to recreate the bread at home before I got a chance to try the real thing. Spent a week in SF this September, had two breakfasts in Tartine and never had to wait, probably just got lucky. Their sourdough croissants are amaizing, but then again, you are a Parisian… By the way, I got very close with the bread. Working on their baguettes now. One more thing to impress a Parisian:)

  • Craftsman & Wolves also has a great breakfast muffin with green onions and bacon that has a whole hard boiled egg inside it. SO GOOD. You must try it :)

  • japantown is one of my favorite stops in sf. furikake is great with egg & rice, but try it (if you haven’t yet) on popcorn. a perfect snack for that umami craving.

    thanks for recommending rancho gordo beans, by the way! I picked up some christmas limas on my last visit, and I can’t stop raving about them.

  • Sorry I missed your book signing. Glad you are back in SF. Enjoy all it’s delights while you can. I’m in Sonoma now and loving all this area has on offer. Still love the chocolate of course. It’s everywhere now. But few as good as Paris trip.

    Xoxoxo
    Janet

  • Come to Singapore and Malaysia. I will show you Asian food. And don’t worry, we have dim sum at night so you can be at your best.

    • I’m not exactly keen on doing any more airplane trips, but have always wanted to visit those two countries. Start a Kickstarter campaign to get me there, and perhaps I’ll come! : )

  • Thanks for the great San Francisco news! We frequent East Star Chinese Buffet & Sushi in Webster, TX, about 2 miles from home and half way between downtown Houston and Galveston, and so enjoy their wonderful food! Hope to visit SF again soon and Paris again in 2 1/2 yrs.

  • Welcome home! Hope your entire trip is wonderful and fun.

  • We don’t know each other but I’ve been reading/following/enjoying you for some time now…. enjoy your trip home and thank you for all of your posts/blogs and answered questions! :-) Just fyi I have always enjoyed a nice dinner at Finos on Post St.for good Italian food.. not pretentious and solid. :-)

  • Hi Chef, you didn’t stop by Farm:Table @ Post and Leavenworth for coffee one morning did you???? If you had I would’ve dropped work and chatted with you all morning!!!
    -Charlotte

  • Fun read, David, thank you for so much information, entertainment and food joy. I had to look up the clams and was struck by the following, from your Wikipedia link:

    “Geoducks are one of the longest-living organisms in the animal kingdom. The oldest recorded specimen was 168 years old, but individuals over 100 years old are rare.[7]”

    Enjoy a healthy recovery with your remaining trip.

  • Being a former resident of SF, I was immediately drawn in by the flaky egg custard tarts! I agree with another reader that Golden Gate makes the best. I also love the ones at Far East Bakery,mainly because I love the outside of the shop which belongs to another time.
    Thanks for such a wonderful tour of a place I was lucky to call home for 20 years.
    Sigh.

  • I agree with Henry. “Japantown” is the neighborhood in which “Japan Center” is located. Or, at least, that is what a native San Franciscan who has lived down the hill from Japan Center for 30 years tells me.

  • I love the Ferry Building. If you are staying longer in San Francisco, go back to the Ferry Building area and try:
    – Tapas and cocktails at La Mar, be sure to try the Cholopolitano, their pisco and passion fruit version of a Cosmopolitan, and an assortment of their tapas, all great

    – Roli Roti food truck specializing in rotisserie chicken and porchetta (they are at the market, get their early as they sell out quickly)

  • Fantastic post…your perspective is an excellent guide one can start with. So overdue for a trip to The City.

  • You know what’s so terrible about living less than an hour from SF? You don’t visit because you know it’s there whenever you want to go! There’s so much in between that I am too easily sidetracked. Thanks for motivating me by seeing it through a visitors eyes; I needed that.

  • I’m so bummed about missing your book signing (threw my back out and was couch-bound for most of the weekend).

    If you are going back to the Ferry Building and the Downtown/Financial District, check out Perbacco on California St (btw Front & Battery). It’s Italian using seasonal local ingredients which means the menu changes often. I’m always so impressed with the food every time I dine there. Like that sardine sandwich made with fresh caught fish. Or the goat nduja (house-made) crostini that just melted in my mouth.

    I second that Roli Roti truck at the Ferry Building farmers market and that porchetta sandwich. And yes, go early (like 11am) because that line gets ridiculously long.

  • I hope you head over to Oakland!

  • I have a take on why Asian food in Europe is not that great. Is it possible the Asians making the food have lost the art of cooking Asian food well? Meaning that the secrets their parents/relatives (and the ones before them ) had to cooking great food was lost or not passed on properly. You may have the ingredients for the dish but not necessarily the knowledge of how it’s prepared.

  • Just moved to New Mexico from Oakland (NM has its charms and good food, too). Born and raised in SF.

    It’s called Japantown. Your egg custard photo has me crying, though, because of this: http://bit.ly/1bwakBI. So very, very sad.

  • I have lived in SF for 15+ years now, and i love reading blogs of people that come to visit so i can scoff at the redundancy and feel holier-than-thou for knowing better than to go to some places. (Even though i LOVE playing tourist with people when they come to visit me! and drag them all over kingdom come and back and have eaten some pretty lousy food in the process.)
    Anyway, all my annoying snobbiness aside, it makes my heart happy to read your blog and hear of some new places and to see you visiting places off the beaten track cause they are just plain good, without all the hype. (even though some of them are hypey, as anything within a 3 block radius of 18th and valencia is nutso right now…but totally worth the visit)

    Here is what i have learned: I have walked by Fog City News daily for the last decade and NEVER set foot inside and did not even know they sold chocolate! I have never heard of Saigon in Richmond but it looks delicious.

    So bravo! and thanks! and i hope that the rest of your time getting back to your roots is filled with oysters and cocktails and dim sum and tacos and and and…you get the drift.

    And I am sorry to have missed your book signing, and thank you for the beautiful post about Judy Rodgers. And with that i will wrap up this rambling comment.
    Take care,
    Rachel

  • what is the meringue-y thing with chocolate centre in the photo towards the end? it looks really interesting.

  • Get yourself and cher Romain across that pretty new bridge again and have a Szechuan meal at China Village on Solano in Albany. They recently reopened after a kitchen fire two years ago and the hungry hordes descended immediately because it is without a doubt the best Chinese food in the Bay Area. And closer than Richmond, by the way.

  • Hi David!

    It was nice meeting you at Saigon (I was the girl sitting next to your table)! I wanted to say so much, but I was pretty star struck (haha). I saw you a few years ago at your book signing at Charles Chocolate in Emeryville and have also visited some of your recommended places in Paris via your app. There were so many, it was hard to choose. I want to go back! You are so lucky to live in Paris! But I guess, I have it pretty good here in the Bay too. ;) Thank you so much for the stories and beautiful pictures. Have a safe trip back!

  • Gorgeous pics from your trip West. About the Asian food question, I agree with a previous commenter that the strong Japanese and Chinese food culture in California has to do with when Japanese and Chinese immigrants moved to the area. I think because those two immigrant communities came to the states for work earlier, and because the dominant American culture was simultaneously *also* establishing itself in the newest, most western American territories, that is why the food tradition is better established. So perhaps it’s a combination of immigrants establishing new communities in order to survive and flourish, and California culture not being as codified as in France. I see the same thing in Hawaii, where Japanese food wended its way into Hawaiian food culture and everyone, no matter their ethnic background, calls soy sauce “shoyu.” Anyway, that’s my take! Looking forward to your future travels.

  • David, do you have a few suggestions for restaurants in downtown SF or along the waterfront for a special celebration? Any type of cuisine and perhaps between 30-50 dollar ranger per person. Thanks so much, its our first time in SF.

  • @Gabrielle,

    I work in the downtown/financial district area. Here are my suggestions:

    Kokkari, on Jackson St (btw Front & Battery) – Greek
    Perbacco on California St (btw Front & Battery) – Italian
    Fog City on Battery – American
    MarketBar at the Ferry Building
    Chiaroscuro on Washington St (at Montgomery St) – Italian

    I have not eaten at these places but they are right on the Embarcadero, so the view would be spectacular:

    Epic Roasthouse
    Waterbar

  • It seems that all of my favorite writers come to visit at the most busy times… it’s almost impossible to do much leisurely things this month. I am so sad to have missed you but these photos and your writing is worth all the reasons why I come here to read.

  • David, I have two questions for you and your “sisters.”

    The first thing that caught my eye was the picture of that beautiful little yellow tart you started off with. Having been to San Francisco and other “Little Asia” experiences around the country (and yeah, I was clueless in Hong Kong, too) I wondered how does one spot the GOOD pastries among the dozens of bakeries offering those tiny little tarts? And what are the qualities of the best ones? I think I had bad ones and so I never tried again.

    Second, I saw a pinterest pin today of a “certain well-known Asian restaurateur’s Ginger Scallion Sauce Noodles” with his (MM-FUKU’s) Ginger Scallion sauce. Is there a secret to making that condiment? I had that sauce in Hong Kong and figured if I inadvertently squirted it on my finger, I might just gnaw my hand off! So amazing!

  • Hi David I was so bummed to miss your book signing…we had long standing tickets to Cirque du Soleil at the exact same time! :( But I went home and started baking from your recipes… made the spiced nuts with pretzels and am making the Almond Cake…perfect for these chilly days in SF…my long time favorite in SF is still Mandalay on California…Burmese… have loved their ginger salad since the 80’s! And yes it will always be Army Street! I love your blog and since I do Chic Provence Design Tours (in Provence of course!) am always intrigued by your Chocolate Tours of Paris.. one of these days… :) Safe travels back to Paris and come again soon!
    bisous Kit

  • You may already have been, but if not, make sure you stop by The Ice Cream Bar and soda fountain the next time you are in SF (assuming the weather is warm, but perhaps even if not). They take their ice creams and sodas very seriously. It’s perhaps the best frozen dessert restaurant I’ve been to anywhere (including France and Italy).

  • Hi David. I have a quick question on your recipe for chocolate coconut macaroons. I need to make them gluten free–can I simply omit the flour? I was thinking I could substitute almond meal, but ideally I need to make them nut-free as well so would rather not go that route. Thank you!

    • I’ve not make them without flour but gluten-free people have reported they made them with another ingredient and they turned out well. Almond or another nut meal would probably work, although without trying them, I can’t say with absolute certainty it would work, but it sounds like it would.

  • It seems rebranding and changing names is like a rampant disease, everywhere. Ask people in Naples Florida about the Phil??

  • David, may I put in a good word for the delicious and cozy Heirloom Cafe in the Mission District? I hope you’ll have an opportunity to partake of their mouth-watering cuisine and brilliantly selected wines.

  • Wow, did this piece make me homesick for California. Everything looks drool-worthy, but the Mexican food… Oh, my heart. Sigh.

  • Alex also asked–what is the little sweet which looks like an upscale s’more with chocolate melted in the middle?

  • I think the ‘better Asian food in CA’ may be a result of competition: when you have a critical mass of Asians who can vote with their money, your food needs to be better than your peers… otherwise, you’ll be out of business.

    Straying just a little bit outside of these metro areas, I noticed a big difference. I grew up in San Francisco/San Jose, and when I went to grad school in Santa Barbara, CA, I just couldn’t find the quality of food I was used to. I went on vacation to Hawaii during those school days, and was so happy eating a bowl of ramen that an acquaintance (who stayed in the Bay Area) responded, “It’s just noodles!” Yeah, but you don’t know what ‘noodles’ are like elsewhere.

    • You’re right and I think that’s part of it. When there is a large Asian (or food-centric) community, the standards tend to be higher. Although there are 2 large Asian neighborhoods in Paris. And Paris is filled with those inexpensive “sushis” restaurants that are cheap, and all have the exact same things on the menus for the exact same prices: they’re always full, I think because they’re inexpensive and the food is lowfat for le régime, or diet…although you don’t see Japanese people eating in them. Part of it also may be that Asian food is pretty integrated into our (American) culture, as it is in Australia (which I saw and tasted when I was there) so the standards tend to be higher as people demand it.

  • Enjoyed this article. Four years ago my then teenaged daughter and I traveled to San Francisco to visit family. We stayed in Japan Center and still talk about the noodles we had at Mifune. One of the top meals of my life so far.