Thursday, August 25, 2011

San Francisco: Part 1 - The Food

Last week Mark and I took a trip to San Francisco. Mark was actually heading there for a 2-day seminar and I decided to tag along and explore SF since I'd never been there. Whenever I mentioned to anyone that we were going, their first response always had to do with how amazing the food is in that city. I was really looking forward to some unforgettable meals and I certainly was not disappointed.

On our first night we met up with a few of Mark's co-workers who were heading to a restaurant up in the North Beach area called The Stinking Rose. I had my reservations about going when they told me it was an all-garlic restaurant. I had visions of overly flavored food and was worried about smelling of garlic for the rest of the trip. Thankfully that wasn't the case and the food was actually really tasty. The atmosphere was really fun as well and we ended up having a really delightful evening.

Here's Mark in our booth with the "garlic lady" behind him:

I was completely on my own for the first 2 days from 7am to 6pm, so I used that time to just wander around the city and explore. On my first day out and about I was strolling down Market Street and stumbled upon a restaurant called the Zuni Cafe. The moment I laid eyes on it I knew I wanted to eat there. A big, light-filled space with cozy corner tables, exposed brick and wood details...I seriously stared in the window for a good 5 minutes (it was closed, so don't worry about me looking like a crazy-lady to any diners inside). I immediately texted Mark and told him to look them up and call for reservations. He did and, not surprisingly, was told that they were booked the entire time we were in town, but to come by and try to be on standby. We did just that and were lucky to get a table within 10 minutes in the seat-yourself area by the bar. The food sounded fantastic, with a daily-changing menu offering fresh, local food. Mark had pork tenderloin, I had sea bass. It was beyond delicious.

Here's Mark looking very pleased with our luck of not only getting a table quickly, but having it be right by the window:

This was our appetizer (or what was left of it after we devoured it), roasted peppers with ricotta salata. So good!

On our third night we opted for something entirely different, going back up to North Beach to a place called Cafe Jacqueline. It was a tiny little place that honestly looked a little dumpy when we first walked in: poorly lit, terrible wall color, kind of cheap looking tables. But we had heard it was fantastic and a really unique experience so we hung in there and were definitely not disappointed. Cafe Jacqueline has been around for 33 years and serves nothing but souffle for the main course and dessert. Everything is ordered to share so Mark and I ordered french onion soup, a mushroom and pancetta souffle and a chocolate souffle for dessert. Everything is made to order by Jacqueline herself, a tiny French woman who, we were told, has made every souffle that has left that kitchen for 33 years. Dinner was amazing, so light yet so rich and flavorful. The chocolate souffle had a molten center and was delicious with a hot cup of coffee. I never wanted it to end. By the end of the night Cafe Jacqueline no longer felt chintzy and cheap, but instead had charmed us with its simplicity. I am so glad we gave it a chance.

Here is our chocolate souffle. It was so light that the best way I can describe it is to liken it to eating a cloud. Maybe that's weird, but that's seriously what it was like.

Overall we were very satisfied with our food experience in the city, although there is certainly much more waiting to be tasted on our next trip someday. I for one am looking forward to it!

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