October 23, 2007

San Francisco

We arrived in San Francisco later than expected due to airline delays, but got met at the airport by Sarah, and immediately whisked to the B&B we were staying at. This is the second time I've stayed at "The Parsonage" at Haight and Laguna, and it continues to delight. We had the garden room, which is tucked under the stairs and has a private entrance and a sofa bed - both very convenient for us and our friends.

After freshening up we caught a cab to Quince - one of our favorite restaurants in San Francisco, and in my opinion the best pasta in the Bay Area. I see that the latest Michelin guide has awarded it one star, so it's likely to be even harder to get in from now on. Ah well. It was too dark to take photos without a flash, and too nice to disturb everyone else so there are no photos. Rather than the tasting menu, since there were three of us we each ordered three courses from the menu and shared. I ordered a couple of half bottles of wine, and life was good.

The next morning I had an 8am meeting for work, but arranged to meet Debbie and Sarah for breakfast at Tartine Bakery. Our hope being that early morning during the week might be less crazed than the weekend madhouse. It was less crazed, but there was still a sizeable line and a small wait for a seat. I've already posted a million photos of Tartine, so this time concentrated on just enjoying the food. Debbie got the ham and cheese croissant, Sarah a chocolate pudding, and I had a morning bun. The same thing we always get. I joked to Debbie that she was in a rut, even though she hadn't been to Tartine in almost nine months. She in return said that since it had been so long, and since the croissant was so perfect that she wasn't going to share! Fortunately for me she relented. I may not forgive Mark Bittman for writing about Tartine, but I have to admit I agree - it's one of the best bakeries in the US - and it would be hard not to write about it.

For dinner that evening, we went to our friend Eric Gower's house and he cooked for us. Eric's an amazing cook and writer who lived with us for what seems like hardly any time but I think was actually 18 months. He's written a couple of great cookbooks, and I love shooting his food.

The next morning we walked by my favorite coffee place - Blue Bottle Coffee - for a couple of double ristretto cafe macchiatos. I do miss that level of fanatic devotion to the production of a perfect shot of espresso. I know for certain that it exists in other places, because I've found it in places like Seattle and New York, but it's hard to find! Anyway, after a bit of coffee heaven we wandered over to Polk to our friend Brenda's new place "Brenda's French Soul Food" a creole diner serving Brenda's personal mix of french and creole. When I met Brenda she was cooking at Cafe Claude in a postage stamp sized kitchen with almost no equipment. In that environment she turned out amazing french and now with a real kitchen she's amazing. We had beignets, french toast, an open face bacon and egg tartine sandwich, and a side of amazing grits - deep corn flavor with a touch of dairy richness that was irresistable - I was stuffed but we finished all of the grits. (Meredith Brody seems to like it too. I knew I liked her...)

I got some work done in our San Francisco office, then caught the shuttle down to Mountain View where I had more meetings - including lunch at Pinxto with Sarah, Sarah, and Patti. Pinxto is Google's "tapas" cafe, and it is consistently excellent (even if the tapas aren't always Basque, as would be implied by the name.) Then met Lori on Caltrain then off with Debbie to Sens, in the Embarcadero Center where Lori's friend Shuna is the pastry chef.

The next day I took off for Truckee to see my family, while Debbie hung out in San Francisco with her sister. Then it was off to Tokyo!
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