I knew I hated the term “foodie” the first time I heard it. A foodie is someone who really likes food, well…isn’t that, like, everybody? If you don’t like food aren’t you…dead? My father once told me never to trust a man who doesn’t like dogs. That’s rock-solid advice. It also applies to people who don’t like food. You have to like food for the simple reason that it keeps you alive.
I’ve been to California probably a dozen times in my life but nothing compares to the energy in San Francisco. People there just get it, you know? There are all the trappings of urban life and too-much-money but there’s also nature and culture and an INCREDIBLE food scene. It pains me to say San Francisco has become a little too-aware of how great their food culture is of late, but that can be looked past. For my money, no other city has more quality food per square inch than SFO.
And you know what I like best about San Fran’s “foodie scene?” It’s not fru fru. You can find an astoundingly good empanada as easily as you can a 12-course chef’s menu – that’s the mark of a quality food town. On a particular trip to the Bay Area back in 2011 it hit me. Being a bonafide foodie isn’t about being pretentious. It’s not about knowing the difference between a quail egg and a duck egg. Foodies live to eat: it’s as simple as that. Some people know every pitcher that ever took the mound for the Red Sox, some people would rather miss a flight than an out-of-this-world burrito. This particular trip to San Francisco taught me that I’m nothing if not one of those people.
Here are the best foodie experiences from my last trip to California, hopefully to be replaced by a whole new list sometime soon. Keep on keeping on, San Francisco.
This place. When I die I want to come back as a fly so I can hang out at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market even after hours. The fresh produce out front is great and all but you don’t come for that. You come for the rows and rows of specialty food – stuff you can’t get anywhere else in this country. There’s Recchuiti, by far and away the best chocolate truffles I’ve ever had in my life; there’s Boccalone, a store that sells nothing but fatty, salty cured meat; there’s even Cowgirl Creamery, a artisan cheese shop where you can buy a box of cheeses for lunch to eat outside on the patio (which you should.) The next time I go to San Francisco, this place will be my first stop.
(photo credit: http://www.radiokitchen.net)
Before we even got on the plane my husband (then boyfriend) and I decided we’d pick a bunch of renowned restaurants in different neighborhoods and explore the city by hitting them all up. Dynamo Donut was the first place on my list because, you guys, they sell a Bacon Maple Apple donut. And this was back before bacon was in everything but toothpaste. Dynamo is little more than a window on a side street in the Mission but that window dispenses the best donuts I’ve ever had. There’s a lot of good food in the Mission. This should be in your top three.
(photo credit: SeriousEats.com)
Breakfast has become an obsession for me; I am on a one-woman quest to find out exactly how many ways an egg can be prepared. Dottie’s makes the best breakfast in San Francisco, so I’ve heard, and I’d be hard pressed to argue at this point. We got there at about 7:15am on a Thursday to try and beat the rush and we still had to wait in an endless line. That’s a good sign, food-wise. I had some kind of benedict and Tom had a hash and it was worth every second in that line. I don’t know if Tom would tell you it was worth being late to his business meeting but you know, PRIORITIES.
(photo credit: foodgps.com)
Fisherman’s Wharf is tacky and touristy and everything the locals hate. But if you cut through all the kitsch there’s so much good food, y’all! They’re literally pulling the best stuff out of the water right there in front of you! One of my favorite meals of my life happened somewhere between Pier 8 and 16 at a nondescript crab stand with picnic tables and no napkins. They sold giant crab claws in paper containers and beer. You got a lemon if you were lucky. I’d go back there and scrub the barnacles off their boat if they’d let me have more crab.
Fine dining isn’t usually my jam. I mean, I appreciate sea urchin soup as much as the next guy (which is not at all) but I want my food plentiful and tasty, not “artistically prepared.” But Bottega got it right. After a long, tipsy day of wine tasting all over Napa Valley and the harsh realization that I should have made reservations somewhere we ended up at Bottega on a hope and a prayer. My one special skill is that I’m a master table poacher – finding primo bar real estate is an art – so I scored us two excellent seats at the bar to eat away our buzz. Between the polenta and mushrooms served in a mason jar, the fresh-made pappardelle and the desserts, oh God, the desserts…Bottega has my vote. I left my heart in Napa Valley.
I could go on for days: the creme brulee truck, the In-and-Out Burger, the Thai food! I literally can’t remember a time when I spent more hours simply thinking about food, craving the next meal, plotting out the best cable car to take to score bread fresh from the oven. Who does that?
Foodies. That’s who does that.