My Heart Belongs to San Francisco
San Francisco, one of the worlds best foodie locations. I was down there on a winning combination of choir tour and family holiday, all the fun of being with your friends with the financial backing of your parents. Although the kitchen facilities in our flat were limited, this was more than made up for by the vast array of exciting restaurants. Ask any foodie and I’m sure they would agree that American supermarkets are heaven, so much choice, so little sense. Who else would think (or be legally allowed) to make apple pie chewing gum, cereal that tastes like peanut butter cups and cheeseburger flavoured chips. However foodie heaven on earth occurs in Whole Foods. I defy any sane person not to stand and stare for a good hour at the mouth-watering cakes, heaped salad bar and hot food stall, genetically perfected fruit and vegetables and un-natural naturally flavoured crisps. I had to stop myself bankrupting my parents with the weighed salad when we went there for lunch and instead opted for a classic smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel. You haven’t tasted a cream cheese bagel till you have had one in San Francisco. I’m afraid you are not allowed anything else but an onion and herb toasted white bagel, lox (smoked salmon and cream cheese mix) and added smoked salmon, simple, yet simply one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted.
Another American staple that England seems to have failed on is Snapple. You can indeed buy Ice tea but it isn’t really ice tea. Ice Tea in England is far too wholesome and fresh. What you really want is additive full, zero-calorie, ice cold, possibly so far from peach-flavour it seems impossible, peach flavoured Snapple. I am serious it is delicious. I just don’t want to know what it is doing to my body. I think it may be partly due to the legal age for drinking in America that I drank quite so much of this stuff (although I’m sure it’s worse for you than alcohol). Every time my parents would be trying a delicious Californian wine the waiter would turn to me and the grown up 20year old would be reduced once again to an underage child and I would say ‘just a Snapple for me please’. The no drinking didn’t affect me that much until we took a family trip to a wine merchant. Here my parents and sister slowly made their way through large tasters of at least 15 different bottles of wine while I swigged my diet coke in the corner and led the tipsy group waywardly home. ‘sigh’ the responsible 20 year old.
To offset the enormous amounts of diet coke and Snapple I appeared to be drinking I gladly followed the choir along to a garlic restaurant. The Stinking Rose. I have never encountered such a bizarre place. Any place where a birthday is celebrated by presenting the lucky person with a stuffed hat in the shape of a garlic clove is a little strange. However the most bizarre thing about this place is that every single dish on the menu has garlic in. Their slogan of ‘we season our garlic with food’ is well matched. There is even the promise of ‘Gilroy’s famous garlic Ice Cream’ that thankfully I didn’t try. Despite my complaints, I do love garlic and the Bagna Calda (Garlic soaking in a hot tub) was amazing. So if you are in the area this is a once in a lifetime experience. http://thestinkingrose.com/# (I would also recommend the Crab – I didn’t have it myself but I ate copious amounts of someone else’s….)
Another gem from San Francisco was a meal I found by the harbour. One Market. It was an amazing find, apparently frequented by businessmen who all drank (like me) large amounts of Ice Tea. While I settled down to my Ice tea, my parents and sister tried the something like $2 martinis, which I would like to add none of them finished.
The menu was, while not cheap, not too expensive and absolutely delicious! Highlights included my beautiful Mahi Mahi seared fish with a side order of the most amazing roasted pumpkin, and my sisters beautiful watercress soup, very simple but lovely. However the pinnacle of the lunch (and possibly of my eating out experience) was the dessert. They kindly offered mini desserts which was understandable for most people following a large three course meal, so of course I had 3 of them. Being America (where no-one knowingly serves too little) mini was a relative term, but they were amazing.
The first was a lovely lemon cheesecake, inverted with the graham cracker crumbs on the outside and it melted in the mouth. The second was assorted crème brulee, classic and coffee, very good but nothing compared to the final flourish. A warm pecan pie, scattered with caramelised bacon (WOW) and topped with creamy bourbon ice cream – of course I had to try and make it when I got home and I advise you to do the same, it is Epic. As expected I licked the plate clean. http://www.onemarket.com
As I said before I appreciate lots of things the Americans give us foodwise. While their diets may be one of the worst for local, seasonal, wholesome cuisine, it is undoubtedly brought us some gems. Frozen yoghurt is now cautiously making its way over to the UK but in America it is a staple of every street corner (possibly this is also to do with the better weather they have over there). It tastes a little like Mr Whippy ice creams you get in ice cream vans, but you feel much more virtuous eating it. So much so that you can guilt free treat yourself to all the cheesecake bites, oreos, m and ms and peanut butter cups you like. Frozen yoghurt is my favourite type of health food.
While in America, despite the limited kitchen, I couldn’t resist cooking something. So when a friend of ours mentioned the quintessentially American S’more, I had a go at recreating a version. I melted butter in our microwave and mixed in mashed up graham crackers. I pressed this into a tin and froze for 20mins (my time was limited). Then I topped with marshmallows and placed in the oven on high until the marshmallow started to brown. Meanwhile I melted Nestle chocolate chips, a pinch of salt and lots of butter (I think this is the secret), and topped it before putting it all back in the freezer. Lets just say I had multiple compliments and they were hard to put down, s’morish…..
On our final day in San Francisco we visited the famous Ferry Market. It is worth a visit. Lots of tasters, meat, cheese, gluten free bakes, I even tried an oyster. However we really headed there with one place in mind, Boulette’s larder. Our host, who lived there, was a regular and had mentioned we were coming http://www.bouletteslarder.comBoulette was a dog. She slept under the table (I have since been told she died ), a huge matted dog with dreadlocks all over, even covering her eyes. Her owners are two brilliant chefs who cook local and seasonal produce (I apologise to her for the above generalisation about Americans), Amaryll Schwertner and Lori Regis. We arrived, and were immediately treated to two extra
courses in addition to the main we actually ordered and paid for thanks to the recommendation from our friend. The first was a simple salad of fresh herbs with homemade mozzarella style cheese. Now I am not normally a fan of cheese, and I especially dislike raw mozzarella but this was soft, creamy and delicate, not chewy. The next course I would love to recreate. A perfectly poached egg in a Parmesan sauce/soup with a single caramelized roasted parsnip on top. I then chose to have the chicken, simply roasted with roasted vegetables. I wish I could recommend you choose that but the menu changes so regularly I can only tell you to go with what Amaryll recommends! Finally we were sent off to the airport in style, with a small box full of homemade biscuits which I’m sure I don’t need to tell you were buttery, melting in the mouth and saved me from the limp offering that was my supper on the flight home.