Tuesday, April 12, 2011
The best thing about being from San Francisco is that no matter where I travel, I always have an excuse to return to one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
This week I made my semi-annual pilgrimage to the City by the Bay to see family and friends, eat amazing food, do a bit of shopping, and get my local culture fix. After an 11-hour flight from London, I stumbled off the plane with a jet lagged smile on my face and got ready for eight days of visiting San Francisco.
As usual, the highlight of my trip was the food. Having traveled and eaten all over the world, I still rank San Francisco at the top of my list for all things culinary. Throughout my time in California, I was able to revisit a number of my favorite San Francisco restaurants and try a few new ones as well.
My biggest priorities were staples like Zushi Puzzle, where chef Roger rolled up some amazing food for my family and friends. Everything from the mouth-watering live scallop to the impossibly large Salesforce Roll was delicious, and not a single grain of rice was left on the table by the time the meal ended.
Other tried and true San Francisco restaurants that I went to included local Marina favorites like Blue Barn Gourmet, Nectar Wine Lounge, Pluto’s, and Pacific Catch. These were in addition to nearby Cow Hollow restaurants like Umami, where my cousins and I took advantage of the happy hour sushi specials.
Further afield, I had great meals with friends from college at the classic Zuni Cafe on Market Street and the picturesque Cafe Divine in Washington Square. They were followed by my childhood favorite, Chevys Fresh Mex, in Mountain View.
I’m so fanatical about my top San Francisco restaurants that I rarely try new places when I visit. However, occasionally I force myself to branch out at least once. This time my former neighbor took me to a burger place on Union Street called Roam, where I had an amazingly good veggie burger that I could hardly believe was meat-free. I made a note to add it to the list for next time.
I didn’t just eat at restaurants, though. Some of my favorite culinary destinations in San Francisco are the farmers’ markets. Unlike their counterparts in cities like London and Paris, San Francisco’s farmers’ markets only offer produce that is locally grown. Meeting farmers from up and down the state and trying California-grown food was one of the best parts about visiting the city.
On Sunday I had the opportunity to visit the new Fort Mason Farmers’ Market. While small, it had great fruit, vegetables, fish, and prepared food on offer, all of which made me wish the market had been there when I lived nearby.
I also visited the best farmers’ market in San Francisco, the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. I met a friend there on Saturday morning and beelined for the Primavera stand, where I ordered my favorite dish, the chilaquiles. My plate was empty about ten seconds later. Had I not been in a public place, I probably would have licked it clean.
Stuffed, we stopped by Miette, the lovely bakery in the Ferry Building, and picked up a beautiful cake. My friend bought some goodies at Stonehouse California Olive Oil and Recchiuti Confections, a chocolate shop with mouth-watering merchandise.
But the Ferry Building wasn’t the only place I went shopping in San Francisco. I also made the rounds to pick up clothing from the city’s many stores near Union Square. From cashmere sweaters at J. Crew to sundresses at Banana Republic, I got my shopping fix.
Back in my old neighborhood, I hit up new boutiques like Heritage Row on Chestnut Street, where I bought two great tops. I also ventured over the hill to Pacific Heights, where I browsed at Marc Jacobs and visited my favorite interior shop, Nest, to buy gifts.
My clothing excursions weren’t limited to shopping trips, though. They also extended to the cultural realm. My mother and I went to the Pulp Fashion exhibition at the Legion of Honor museum, where we saw Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave’s amazing paper replicas of historic gowns and costumes.
Inspired by her work with fashion, we then went to the de Young museum to see the Balenciaga and Spain exhibition, which had a remarkable array of the designer’s work on display.
In a third effort to infuse some culture into my trip, my mother and I also went to the ballet. Founded in 1933, the San Francisco Ballet is America’s oldest professional ballet company. Its home in the War Memorial Opera House has been a favorite destination of mine since I first danced as a child, and I was excited to go back.
This week’s performance consisted of the Ballet Russes’ classic Petrouchka, as well as a newer ballet called Underskin and a world premiere called Number Nine. I have loved the Ballets Russes since I was in college, and enjoyed seeing Petrouchka for the first time. The other two ballets were surprisingly good as well, and I left feeling tempted to dust off my pointe shoes and start dancing again.
Having spent so much time on culture, shopping, and eating, I barely had time for sightseeing in San Francisco. The one place I did go was the Palace of Fine Arts, a beautiful structure built for the city’s 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition.
The Palace of Fine Arts was one of my favorite places to read a book on a sunny afternoon when I lived in the city, and I was delighted to discover that the seemingly interminable renovations to the lawns, gardens, and walkways had been completed. The area looked beautiful, and I wished I could stay longer to enjoy it.
But it was time to say good-bye. As always, my time visiting San Francisco restaurants, shops, and cultural attractions was too short, and I left without getting to see and do (and eat!) everything on my list. But I guess that’s the good thing about being from the City by the Bay. No matter where I travel in the next six months, I know I will be back home in not too long.
In the meantime, I will work up an appetite, discard some of my wardrobe, and get excited for future cultural events like the upcoming Picasso exhibition at the de Young in San Francisco.