Donuts! Now there’s a new concept.
Actually there’s nothing new about donuts, and places like Krispy Kreme have come, and (almost) gone. But tucked away in a sunny corner of 24th Street in the Mission is the Dynamo Donut & Coffee shop.
I feel like I deserve a majority of the credit (or blame…depending on how you look at it) for the cupcake craze. I was eating them decades ago, when no one gave them a second thought. And now, as someone who teaches baking told me, making and selling cupcakes in America is like printing money.
I’m not much for trendy foods, but for some reason, mid-day yesterday, right in the middle of my Japanese bento box lunch of chicken katsu and seaweed salad, I was seized with the overwhelming desire for a cupcake.
Stop the presses!
Although I think in this day and age of online publishing, what do we now say—stop the downloading? Somehow, that doesn’t have the same sense of urgency to it.
Still, this is important.
I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but my search for the perfect burger was not to be resolved in Paris.
The first time I ever really tasted chocolate, it was from a man I’d met in a dark alley. Actually, it wasn’t really a dark alley, but in a barren parking lot in a scruffy section of San Francisco.
I had taken a tour of an industrial bakery with a group of local baking enthusiasts, and afterward, a strange man sided up to me, pulled a wad of crumpled up foil out of his jacket pocket, and asked me if I wanted a taste.
Recoiling a bit, when he opened the crinkly foil, in the middle was a small nugget of something dark, sticky, and melted. When I stuck my finger in, then put it in my mouth, there was an explosion of flavor: dark and roasty, only slightly sweet, and very rich. It was pure chocolate, but unlike any other that I’d tasted before. I thought it was delicious.
He told me that he was going to start a chocolate company and make chocolate like this in small batches.
I thought he was insane.
I was trying to explain to a French friend what a ‘foodie’ is, and he was looking at me like I was nuts. I guess when you live in a country that’s full of people that live to eat, the concept of people not into eating is a bit odd.
So, for lack of a better introduction, here are my ‘foodie’ addresses for places that I visited and good things that I tasted while in San Francisco:
When someone handed me an unusually heavy sack emblazoned with the name ‘Charles Chocolates‘ on it, I wanted to run home with in and dive right in! I’ve been jealous reading reports of Chuck Siegel’s magnificent confections from other bloggers and let me tell you: Chuck’s chocolate are worth the wait.
My hands-down favorites were the Triple Chocolate Almonds; California almonds roasted and enrobed in both milk and dark chocolate. Superb! There was a stack of tablets of chocolate in there too, flavored with caramelized rice and candied ginger that I’ve schlepped back to Paris to share.
But the most stunning were two heavy boxes, crafted entirely of chocolate, and filled with a luscious selection of Chuck’s best and more dazzling creations. One was his Tea Collection with tea-scented chocolates (think Osmanthus blossoms and charcoal-fired Oolong tea), while the other had such diverse tastes as passion fruit and salted peanut butter. They were so good, you’ll want to eat the box. Luckily you can.
Westfield San Francisco Center
3rd Floor, Bloomingdale’s side
This is my must-stop restaurant when I come to San Francisco. The problem is, I can never get in. Luckily my good pals came to the rescue and we dined like celebrities (like Jake Gyllenhall, who was seated across the dining room, unnoticed by everyone but us. I thought Joy was going to drop her kid right then and there.)
Starting with marinated sardines, moving on to heaping bowls of pasta, then finishing with perhaps the best version of Panna Cotta I’ve ever had, it’s hard to have less than a stellar meal at Delfina.
And having charming, if distracted, company…and Jake Gyllenhall to look at, certainly doesn’t hurt either.
3621 18th Street
San Francisco, CA
This is my newest must-stop restaurant in San Francisco (I’m allowed a couple…aren’t I?) And by the looks of things, I’m not alone. Laurence Jossel paid his dues at some of the best dining spots in the city before opening Nopa and he’s got a winner on his hands. In a formerly dicey area (my old neighborhood), diners and chefs from other restaurants now come from all over to gather at the large table to share dinner, or to cozy up in a booth. (Warning: The noise level can be daunting. Request upstairs if you want some calm.)
How can you not love starting a meal with a frosty martini alongside perfectly-salted, hyper-crispy French fries with harissa dipping sauce ending with a bowl of sugared donut holes? Nopa makes me almost want to move back to San Francisco. If I could only persuade Laurence to open in Paris…*sigh*
560 Divisadero Street
San Francisco, CA
I’m sure I’m not the only one anxiously awaiting Elizabeth Falkner’s upcoming book, Demolition Desserts. But for those of us who’ve been enjoying Elizabeth’s desserts for years, we’ve been relishing her tasty treats at Citizen Cake.
(Disclaimer: I have a major crush on Elizabeth Falkner for years.)
Merci beaucoup to the swarm of folks that showed up for my booksigning and ice cream tasting at Fog City News yesterday. I hadn’t been in the store in some time and was not only thrilled to see the most unusual and creative selection of chocolate tablets that’s ever been collected in one place, but it was great to meet those of you who stopped by for a scoop and to have your book inscribed by yours truly.
I left with a nice selection of bars myself, including a few from local favorites E. Guittard and some unusual tastes to sample as well. How about a chocolate bar seasoned with pink Himalayan salt and caramel and another one with bananas and ginger, both from Coppeneur in Germany? Can’t wait to try those.
(Although I don’t know who that goofy-looking guy in the photos is…)
You can find good Vietnamese food in Paris, and there are a couple of nice addresses for Chinese food as well, but if there’s a good Korean bbq in the City of Light, that kalbi has yet to singe my lips.
When I come back to San Francisco, people ask me if I’m interested in trying the newest, hottest, most au courant restaurants in town. In general, I bypass those places and make a beeline for the ethnic joints when in town. And one of the best Korean bbq’s in San Francisco is located across from the Japan Center: Korea House.
Hike upstairs into a large dining room, and slide into a booth equipped with a coal-fired grill. Seconds after you place your order, the waitress reappears with a multitude of tiny bowls filled with everything from spicy-red kimchi to cubes of quivering agar-agar jelly. I’ve learned if you have any Korean friends, it’s definitely good to invite them along, since you’re liable to get a few extra banchan that you might not normally be offered.
I am such an idiot. I won’t tell you who, but years back, someone with a thriving restaurant on 18th Street in San Francisco alerted me to a great business opportunity nearby. Food-related, of course. I passed, and now the area is the culinary destination in the Bay Area.
(Aside from the taqueria on Church Street across from the Afeway…)
Although I missed the proverbial boat, I’m glad to see the smart folks at Bi-Rite Creamery scooping up some excellent ice cream in that neighborhood. I sampled just about all of them, from the fruity Cherry-Almond to the most curious Soy Chocolate. There’s a seductive Salted Caramel and a Butter Pecan as well. But my absolute, hands-down favorite scoop was the Mint Chip. Flavored with organic mint oil, it’s a big dose of refreshingly cool mint with big, honkin’ chunks of housemade chocolate chards. Think the best kind of Girl Scout cookies all mashed together and piled in a cone. Yum!
3692 18th Street
San Francisco, CA
(For those who can’t make it to Bi-Rite Creamery, their most popular recipes can be found in their book, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones.)