Thursday, May 5, 2016

U.S. Adventures: San Francisco, Spring 2016- Vol. I

Recently, the family and I went to San Francisco for Spring Break. We did so much eating…it’s hard to imagine writing about it all. But I will, because surely someone out there is interested in SF, and because, well; it’s my blog and kind of my food scrapbook.

We had a direct flight that landed at 8:00 am SF time, which was 11:00 Indy time and by the time we got to the City, we were starving. But it was the morning. But we wanted lunch. And to avoid the crowds eating breakfast on a Saturday morning, so what did we do? Dim sum! At 10:00, which was 1:00 our time. Perfect.

Yank Sing is my favorite dim sum in SF I think. Certainly it is not the cheapest, but man, they know how to fry things up. This was the kids’ first real experience with it and they loved it. They loved that the carts were out and about immediately (did I mention we were starving?) and they loved the food.

Hubby and I always order the shrimp dumplings ($7.15) and the shrimp and chive dumplings ($5.95) as well as the fried spring rolls ($11) and the fried shrimp ($13.15). As usual, all of those things delighted. I am a firm believer in mixing crunchy with steamed. Because we had two additional (hungry) people with us this time, we also had the potstickers ($11), which were a favorite with the kids and the pork buns ($5.50), also a favorite with the hubby. We had these interesting dumplings filled with soup, which I had never seen before—they tasted good but were challenging to eat (imagine soup squirting out of your mouth when you took a bite).  We also had the fried crab claws and the Peking duck bun, neither of which were a big hit-the crab was a little bready and the Peking duck a little bland.  Overall, this is the kind of place that makes me long for San Francisco. Quality dim sum with carts constantly being pushed around. There are many such places in the bay area; I wish we had one in Indy.

With some time to kill until we could check into our flat, we also hit Craftsman and Wolves to pick up some pastries and goodies for future breakfasts. My daughter had seen it on the Food Network and had added it to the list. The pastries are gorgeous and the Asiago bun filled with a runny egg made me happy. We also got a lovely loaf of bread we ate all week.

The first two evenings we ate with friends. The second night in Berkeley at a place called Ippuku. This place was a trip. It is a Japanese restaurant, but specializing more in the grilled robata style dishes. Oh yeah, also chicken tartare. As much as I love almost every tartare, I passed on this one. (Dishes averaged between $7-15 depending on what they were, we had about 12 for the 4 of us). The grilled items were perfectly charred without being chewy.

The grilled chicken thighs and chicken livers were probably a couple of my favorites—simple but delicious. Their version of the fancy onion pancake was also really, really good. Loved the bonito flakes on top that gave the dish a little movement. It was a rich version of an onion cake—it had more gooey batter-type taste than most. I also had ginkgo nuts for the first time. They look very cool—almost like teeny eggs you have to pull out of the shell. They were a nice thing to snack on while waiting for the next course. One of the last things that we had was a beef dish that was simple but was so, so good. We had lots of other interesting things—uni, a whole squid, some fried chicken, blistered shishitos, some grilled whole sardines and even some ramen. They were all fun, but not as good as the things I mentioned first. The atmosphere here is cool too, it has a dark, hip vibe. You have to take off your shoes and sit at tables sunken into the ground. You sort of feel like you’re in a secret club or something.

Our next lunch was at Perbacco—my daughter’s choice. We went there on our last trip and it was her favorite meal ever, because she loved loved their gnocchi ($20), so she requested a return visit. We enjoyed ourselves, and the garlic/potato gnocchi with green garlic, chanterelles and asparagus was very good (we ended up with two orders of it), but everything else we had was fine, but not as amazing. I had a tuna crudo and hubby a pappardelle with short rib ragu ($21). The bread service here is delicious though. And it made my daughter’s trip to get to come back—she has dreamed about their gnocchi for years. Too bad the server was not as friendly to my kids, like our last visit, which had added to the charm last time.

I was excited to take the kids to The Slanted Door for dinner. This is a place hubby and I began eating at when it was a tiny place in the Mission. Now it is a jam-packed huge restaurant right under the Bay Bridge in the Ferry Building. And even with its massive success, it is still outstanding. Pretty much everything we had was great.  Both of our appetizers, tuna tartare with rice paper crackers ($18) and the Dungeness crab soup with mushrooms and light airy egg strands ($8) were delicious. I have their cookbook—I need to make this soup.

You can’t go and not order the Shaking Beef ($38). It’s filet that’s been cubed and stir fried with this delicious lime sauce and served with red onions and watercress. I have tried to make this one from the cookbook, and it just never turns out as good. Everyone loved this and honestly, we should have gotten two orders. The cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab, green onion and sesame ($22) are also totally worth ordering—a great accompaniment to the beef. Light but with that depth from sesame oil. The bok choy was also a nice veggie addition to the meal. Everyone enjoyed it. We also had the clay pot chicken ($22), which was the least favorite. It just couldn’t compare to the other stuff. We also had dessert and the kids’ confection plate ($10), which was topped off with a large cone of cotton candy was a favorite. They made sure that nothing would harm my nut-allergic son as well, which I appreciated. The churros ($10) hubby and I ordered were kind of meh. The view out the window of the bridge, which is now lit up with all kinds of cool changing lights is awesome.

The final meal I’ll touch on here was a nice lunch I had with my old boss and his wife in Oakland. It was the cutest little wine bar in the middle of downtown Oakland called Downtown Wine Merchants. Naturally, there was wine (you gotta appreciate a pretty flight of white, rose and red), but we also had some tasty small plates. Loved the cheese and charcuterie boards ($15 each) and the cheesy spaetzle ($10). They also made interesting flatbreads—the one we had was a special with squash blossoms. The interior of this place and the friendliness of the people running it are what really made this place. And catching up with old friends.

Ok, so I am only through a few of the days of our trip so far, so prepare for at least one more SF post! Ok, maybe two. 


  1. So where does one get dim sum in central Indiana?

    1. yes, both have dim sum, neither have the true dim sum carts sadly... I assume they just don't have the business for it.

  2. Dim sum is served at Szechwan Garden and Lucky Lou off West 38th and Lafayette. Your pics made me sooo hungery. Thanks for posting. We skipped Slanted Door and went to the sister Out the Door on Bush St and ate ourselves crazy!!

    1. YES! My day has finally come! I live in the SF Bay area, but I've been reading your blog for a long while because I enjoy your writing and photos.

      Soup dumplings are great, I'm glad you got to try them. You can either bite them in half like you did, or nibble off a corner, drink it, then eat the rest. (I'm a nibbler.)

      Looking forward to the next post! :)

    2. Thanks Thistle!

      Are you originally from Indy? I will get on writing the next installments! Glad you are enjoying them!

    3. Nope, I just found your blog by random, I've never been there. I enjoy all sorts of food blogs from all areas though, so I added you to my bookmarks right away. There were a couple Indy food blogs I followed, but the others seem to have stopped updating. I'm glad yours is still active, I really do enjoy it. :)