It would be silly to say that I too have left my heart in San Francisco considering I feel like such a Southern California boy these days. But every time I go back it reminds me how much I love that place. Memories and experiences–some great, some I'd rather forget–come flooding back to me, instantly transporting me back to the years I spent struggling to pay my rent yet loving every minute of the delicious struggle.
This past visit, although short, reminded me of the magic that I fell in love with the very first time I set foot in that zany city. I was there for a series of meetings, a schedule that would put me in San Francisco for for exactly 24 hours (ok, well, 24.56 hours if you want to split hairs.) And because I don't make it up as much as I'd like I was determined to cram as much food into my short window as humanly possible. Consider it a gustatory race, if you will, a competition with myself in which I was clearly the victor. Damn, for once I won something!
I have neither the writing skills nor the vocabulary to say how amazing San Francisco is. But you already knew that. I mean, nothing I could say could really ever convey how freaking fantastic the food is. And I'm not just talking restaurants, but the culture, environment and the connection. So I won't even try. I'd fail miserably.
My first few hours were spent in meetings, and as much as I engaged in the topic of media buys and grand openings and the value of radio versus print versus versus online advertising, all I could think of was getting out as soon as possible and eating. Should I fake a stomach ache so I could skip out early? No, that's dishonest. How about stare at my watch, sending out invisible signals that I had absorbed as much info as I could and that it was time to bolt for the door? No, I had a job to do. And I did it. But you better believe the second the last meeting was over I ran for the door and hightailed it to dinner.
The meetings went well. I had a nice tour of the new (wait, old) San Francisco Emporium building at 5th and Market, still currently under construction. But when it opens in September it will be quite a stunning place. The 19th century dome on top of the building was lifted and moved last year and just thinking about the logistics of that gives me a headache. No small feat, for sure!
After a day of meetings I met with two of my best friends who put me to shame when it comes to culinary achievements. Wade, a Whole Foods Market veteran and his partner Paul, of the Paul Marcus Wine Shop
in Oakland, travel the world eating and tasting and no I am not bitter and do not feel sorry for them one bit and I am certainly not jealous hell no that's not like me I could never and I wish them the best even if Paul says it's hell spending a month winetasting in France oh poor guy my heart goes out to him blah blah blah blah blah.
Whew! That felt good! Where was I? Oh yes, dinner. I suppose it's Los Angeles' sad representation of Spanish food that always pushes me towards tapas when I travel and this trip was no exception. I've wanted to try Bocadillos
(710 Montgomery Street) for some time and get my urban Spanish fix in an attempt to recapture the long dinners I shared with Paul and Wade when we were all in Spain a few years ago. While Bocadillos didn't have a heavy fog of cigarette smoke and hams hanging from the ceiling like many tapas bars in Spain, it did offer some pretty delicious bites, a nice wine list, and the opportunity to sit and catch up without feeling rushed. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed this sensation in an American restaurant.
Note to self: next time skip everything else and just order one metric ton of Prawns A La Plancha with garlic and lemon confit. Oh jesus.
One of the best parts of my job involves a constant absorption of media, food, trends, tastes and ideas. It's what we do as marketers, and it's the part that makes the long hours worth it. This means that I can unashamedly eat 6 meals a day for the sake of work, snack in between, and when that lady sitting next to me looks at me like I represent everything wrong with American diets, well, I can just smile, knowing I'm doing a good job. Bitch.
Tartine. Oh Tartine Tartine Tartine Tartine Tartine. Based on Amy's
recommendation I found myself in the Mission Tuesday morning, just up the street from my old apartment. And I'm kind of glad Tartine wasn't open when I lived there. I'm a chubby guy and Tartine would have easily pushed me into the obese category. Was the line trailing out the door a sign of things to come? Would there be anything in that bakery I wouldn't enjoy? Is it wrong to want to find an apartment and move back just because of this place? Oh, all the questions. But what I do know is that Tartine lives up to its buzz. I just love when someone does something right. It was a perfect experience. Not particularly precious or over the top as San Francisco is prone to doing, it's just a great bakery. 'Nuff said.
After breakfast (well, enough for a week's worth of breakfasts) I headed to the Ferry Building. The shops were just opening but Tuesday was Farmer's Market day. It was painful to be among such amazing produce and know that I couldn't load my bag with the freshest and tastiest fruits and vegetables. I mean, well, yes, I could, but then I'd be boarding a plane and knocking over people with artichokes and turnips and snap peas and flowers. Come to think of it, that'd be kind of funny. Of course I couldn't help myself and snatched up every organic Sorrento lemon I could find. Carrying 6 lbs of lemons around all day isn't exactly comfortable but I'm sure glad I did it. Who doesn't love lemons?
Because I was there for work and traveling with colleages we spent the next few hours cabbing it around town checking out grocery stores. Some nice, some incredibly not-so-nice, I alternated between making notes and checking my watch. I wanted so badly to fast forward to lunch so I could eat again. Remember, I was a man on a mission, and I was going to make it back to Taylor's if it was the last thing I did.
Taylor's Refresher was founded in St. Helena, California in 1949 and was recently named the 2006 America's Classics Restaurant Winner by the James Beard Foundation. Taylor's is the ultimate burger joint and it's hard to pass up the opportunity to indulge in a burger and shake. With a glass of wine. Or three. And fries. And onion rings. And a beer. Sure, this new shiny location doesn't have the same charm as the original one, but that doesn't matter when the food is just as good. I could cry right now.
After lunch I had one last stroll through the Ferry Building, making sure I stocked up on some sweets for the ride home.
I'm looking forward to spending more time on a regular basis in one of my favorite food cities. My doctor probably won't think it's the best idea, but you only live once and there's just too many heavenly bites in San Francisco.
I mean, somebody's gotta eat it, right?
Online:Tartine Taylor's Refresher Bocadillos Miette Bakery Ferry Building