A week ago, Jonah and I got back from a week and a half in California. The real reason for this trip was a work retreat in South Lake Tahoe, but because it was around the time of my sister’s birthday, we extended the trip and made it into a visit. And of course, being Fasslers, my sisters know how to eat very well. We spent a few days in Berkeley (where my sisters both live) before heading to Lake Tahoe, and then a few days in San Francisco staying at a friend’s place (thanks Sheel!) after. Here were some highlights:
My little sister’s one request this trip was to take us to this Laotian/Thai/Vietnamese restaurant. Who were we to say no? The thing to know about eating with Molly is that you should just let her order. She didn’t lead us astray – we had some delicious Laotian sausage, chicken wings, a curry noodle soup with chicken and pig’s blood (not my favorite part of the soup), and, my favorite, some Nom Kao, or deeply fried rice with ground pork, coconut, and sauce, and served with lettuce and mint. And of course, sticky rice.
Ok, I like ice cream. Maybe it runs in my family – my dad has been known to keep sundae fixings in the house, and I think because of him I’ve always had a particular weakness for ice cream. Our first ice cream stop on the trip was Smitten, a neat spot where they churn your ice cream to order with liquid nitrogen, meaning it’s incredibly smooth and custardy. They had some wacky flavors, but we went with salted caramel and the cookie dough with pretzels. Our second ice cream stop was Tara’s, which my sisters had taken me to last time I visited. On this visit, I went with the rooibos ice cream in a black sesame cone – I love the subtle, more grown up flavors they offer. Lastly, once we got into San Francisco, we discovered we were staying only a few blocks from Bi-Rite Creamery. So we got a scoop (I went with a split scoop of chocolate and matcha) and went to sit in Dolores park and enjoy the view.
Once in San Francisco, I knew I wanted to go to Mission Chinese Food. It seems to be kind of a staple, and while some say it’s a little past its prime, it’s definitely a fun stop. Traditional Chinese food with a twist would be the best way to describe the food, and my favorite dish by far was the thrice cooked bacon and rice cakes (which, actually, we got without the bacon so our vegetarian friend could enjoy them as well). I’ll also say that with all of the food and drink we got, we were surprised at how reasonably priced it was – we were stuffed and took home leftovers.
For breakfast, my fellow blogger Michelle of Hummingbird High recommended we hit up Craftsman and Wolves for some incredible baked goods. This gal knows her pastries, so I knew if she recommended something this highly, I had to go. We went for it at breakfast, ordering The Rebel Within (a cheesy muffin with a soft cooked egg in the middle), a chocolate croissant stack, a financier with stone fruit, hazelnut, and sesame, and a classic morning bun. These pastries were damn fine, let me tell you. My favorite was the financier – cakey and moist with this caramelized almost brittle-esque layer of fruit and sesame and hazelnut.
We had a hard time deciding where to eat for our nice dinner out in the city. If I’d had my druthers, I would’ve eaten at AL’s Place, but it wasn’t open either of the nights we were there. So we decided instead to eat at a classic SF restaurant, Zuni Cafe. I’ve read a lot about Zuni (and the cookbook) on both Molly Wizenberg and David Lebovitz‘s blogs, and had always thought it’d be nice to eat there. We got there early and enjoyed a cocktail at the bar before heading to our table where we enjoyed the caesar salad, a tomato salad with burrata, the ricotta gnocchi with lobster mushrooms, roasted quail with spice carrot puree and greens, and for dessert, the lightest, fluffiest flourless chocolate cake I’ve ever had. It was a simple, classic, and stunning meal.
Of course, I had to go to Tartine. The timing worked out perfectly to eat a snack (read: dessert) and pick up a couple loaves of country bread (one for me, one for my baker friend) just before we headed to the airport. The dessert highlight was the lemon cream tart which was buttery, creamy, with the perfect pop of citrus. There’s no other word to describe it other than perfect. The loaves we brought home were HEAVY and may have made our BART car, then airplane, then car home smell like bread. It’s not a bad thing though. It toasted up perfectly and, topped with butter, made a fantastic breakfast the next morning.
Other places we went and enjoyed: Juhu Beach Club (get the small plates and strong cocktails), Kusina Ni Tess (Filipino lunch in downtown SF), KoJa Kitchen (awesome Korean/Japanese lunch in Berkeley – get the kamikaze fries and braised pork KoJa), Southie (sweet lunch spot in Oakland; I liked the fried chicken salad), Outerlands (a great breakfast spot with great service, a beautiful interior, and delicious food).