Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Chez Panisse

 “Slow Food reminds us of the importance of knowing where our food comes from. When we understand the connection between the food on our table and the field where it grows, our everyday meals can anchor us to nature and the place where we live.” Alice Waters

This is the culinary philosophy of Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse and Vice President of the US Slow Food Movement. While a student at Berkeley in the 1960s Alice lived abroad in France where she learned how to cook local ingredients fresh from the market. In 1971 she opened Chez Panisse and essentially pioneered California cuisine which is based on local, seasonal, organic, and sustainably grown foods.

As a chef, author, activist, and advocate of school lunch reform, she was awarded Restaurant Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement award in 2007. In 2001 Chez Panisse was named best restaurant in America by Gourmet magazine and since then has been labeled one of the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” (2002-2008).   “good, clean, and fair food for all”

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lefty O'Doul's

Lefty O'Doul's is a San Francisco landmark! Located downtown on Geary street, it offers "the best deal on the Square", Union Square that is. Its original owner, Lefty O'Doul, was one of the most successful American Major League baseball players of all time with the highest batting average of any National League player. After the Second World War, O'Doul was instrumental in establishing professional baseball in Japan.

A San Francisco native, O'Doul opened his restaurant in 1958 so that his family, friends, and fans could have a place to hang out and eat a good old fashioned meal. His friends included other star baseball players, like Babe Ruth and Joe Di Maggio - these pals and many other sports stars, celebrities, entertainers, and famous leaders visited the restaurant over the years. The walls are crowded with baseball memorabilia, rare photos and historic articles.

The menu includes "hearty all American food" with traditional favorities such as prime rib, cabbage rolls, roast turkey with all the trimmings, corned beef and cabbage, spaghetti, and macaroni and cheese, to name but a few. Breakfast is a popular time as is the dinner hour which features a piano bar. Dishes are piled high with enormous helpings, and the beer menu is extensive and international.

There is nothing pretentious about Lefty O'Doul's Restaurant. Although the food is mediocre, the atmosphere is down to earth, the staff are friendly, and the memorabilia is fascinating. This place will always be popular with families, baseball fans, locals, and tourists who want to experience a piece of San Francisco's colorful past. A big thank you to John, the manager, for sharing some entertaining anecdotes with us about Lefty O'Doul.
333Geary Street
San Francisco
Mon-Sun  7:00 a.m.-2:00 a.m.

Friday, September 6, 2013

San Francisco Farmers Market

Located at the iconic Ferry Building on the waterfront, San Francisco's Farmer's Market is one of the best regarded markets in the country. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday approx 25,000 visitors (including chefs, foodies, and locals) make their way to the Ferry Plaza to savour delicious artisanal prepared foods and to purchase fresh farm produce - most of which is organic.

The market is operated by CUESA, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture. Open three days a week,  the largest market is held on Saturdays in the front of the newly renovated Ferry Building and at the back of the Plaza facing the Bay where you can catch the ferry to Sausalito or Alcatraz.


An appetizing array of artisanal specialties - oils, vinegars, sauces, breads, cheeses, cakes, jams - are offered throughout the market. Other items include farm fresh eggs, flowers, veggies, fruits, meats, fish, and herbs.

Inside the Ferry Building itself are shops, stalls and restaurants. We visited the Thursday market which specializes in street food like grilled meats, wood fired pizza, and Mexican food.

After a delicious snack of pizza and just ripe figs, we felt adventurous, so we took the ferry across a white capped bay to the picturesque city of Sausalito...

Ferry Plaza Farmer's Mkt
Tues 10-2
Thurs 10-2
Sat 8-2

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Boudin Bakery

"Original San Francisco Sourdough French Bread"

Famous for its signature sourdough bread, this bakery was established in 1849 by Isidore Boudin, a baker from Burgundy, France. Boudin came from a long line of master bakers, and when he arrived in San Francisco at the start of the Gold Rush, he began his business using classic French techniques to make the traditional sourdough bread that became so popular with the miners at that time.

Apparently, the bakery uses the same yeast from the "original mother dough" that has been nurtured for over 150 years.

The original location of Boudin Bakery is at 10th/Geary Boulevard but there are over thirty branches located throughout California, including one at Fisherman's Wharf.

Included at the wharf location is a marketplace, museum, demonstration bakery, and bistro. The Bistro Boudin offers a variety of fish, seafood, chicken, pasta and pizza dishes as well as a good wine list. Despite its touristy location, the restaurant is worth visiting especially, the locals say, at festive occasions such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. The Bistro also has an Oyster Bar and Happy Hour every Friday from 4-6 p.m. Their clam chowder is supposed to be the tastiest in town.

Boudin Bakery

Scoma's in Sausalito

Scoma's is a local treasure! Located right on the Sausalito waterfront overlooking San Francisco, Tiburon, and Angel Island, Scoma's has been family owned for over 44 years. Opened in 1969,this charming seafood restaurant was a joint venture between the Scoma and the Gotti families, both well known in the San Francisco restaurant industry.

The building itself is a heritage landmark and is included on the national register of historic buildings; during the 19th century, this picturesque Victorian building used to offer a busy tugboat/ferry service to the mainland.

Nowadays Scoma's is popular with both locals and visitors. With its romantic setting and lovely sea views, the restaurant is the perfect place to go for fresh seafood, creatively and beautifully prepared. A table outside is lovely on a sunny day, but even in the fog, every table inside has a view.

After a breezy ferry ride and a brisk walk along the front, we were delighted to discover this romantic Italian restaurant. Luckily for me, Sand Dabs (a sweeter and smaller version of sole) was in season and I was able to enjoy one of my favorite fish dishes.

My husband had the Fish Tacos which were also insanely good.

Scoma's of Sausalito
588 Bridgeway

The Cliff House Restaurant

Since 1863, the Cliff House has been a beloved San Francisco landmark at which prominent families in the Bay Area, including the Stanfords, Hearsts, Hopkins, and Fairmonts used to dine. In 1896, the Cliff House was owned by millionaire and mayor of San Francisco, Adolph Sutro, who also built the Sutro Baths below the restaurant. At this time, the Sutro Baths were classified as the largest indoor swimming pool complex in the world with one freshwater pool and six saltwater pools, all of varying temperatures.

After twice being destroyed by fire, the restaurant was rebuilt in 1910 by Sutro's daughter in the neoclassic style building that remains today. The present day owners, the Hountalas Familily, restored the structure with the help of the National Park Service; because of this joint venture, the structure contains a stunning restaurant with floor to ceiling panoramic views of the ocean as well as historical architectural elements which elegantly combine past and present.

As the only ocean-front restaurant in San Francisco, the Cliff House has spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, Marin County and San Francisco Bay. The main dining area, Sutro's, offers an award winning wine list and a delectable array of California style cuisine for lunch and dinner. Head Chef, Kevin Weber, prides himself on ingredients that are fresh, organic, local, seasonal, and sustainable.

This passion for healthy homegrown food is also reflected in the General Manager, Ralph Burgin, who lovingly cultivates over one thousand varieties of heirloom tomatoes on his farm in Sonoma; these flavorful tomatoes are featured in their summer specialties.

Our lunch dishes included a visually appealing appetizer made from fresh heirloom tomatoes and watermelon served beside a classic cheese and tomato tart, the Cliff House Louie (a very generous portion of fresh Dungeness Crab), the fresh local Rock Cod (so fresh and simple and yet so delicious), and of course, dessert.

We savoured two classics with a twist: a Bruleed Vanilla Pearl Tapioca with fresh berries which was a very modern take on a traditional favorite, and a Frozen Lemon Souffle served with blueberries, aged balsamic, lemon curd, and a citrus shortbread cookie.

All in all, our meal was sumptuous in both flavor and view. There was only one thing to do after such a lovely lunch, and that was to stroll hand in hand along Ocean Beach which curves beyond the Cliff House for miles and miles. It was the fitting end to a wonderful afternoon.

The Cliff House Restaurant
1090 Point Lobos
San Francisco