This post was supposed to be a lot better, and longer. Instead of eating our way through the famous Ferry Building Farmers Market, we spent the time struggling with United Airlines reps who cancelled our flight at the last minute. “But mam, you don’t understand, we need to be there for the Roti Roti Porchetta, and something called Loco Moco, 6 hours from now. I’m a famous food blogger and this is perhaps my last chance for a Loco Moco, whatever that is”. No dice! No Ferry Building Market for us. But we managed, persevered, and even made it to the Ferry building eventually.
Its been 15 years between visits for us. Last time it was the sardines, the wine, and the rise of the female chef. While this time it was the burrito, Carne Cruda and Full House. Yes, this time with Full House obsessed kids who needed to see every FH site including the house, the painted ladies, and famous Stamos arrest sites. The Painted Ladies thing totally fooled me I must say, due to my daily proximity to this scene in Times Square. I just wasn’t expecting buildings. And as I was admiring these beauties, I couldn’t help but shed a tear for the last two goldfish Ziggy Jr and Ziggy Jr Jr who tragically committed suicide while enduring all these Full House hours in that room
San Francisco food scene is undeniably good. Farm to Table concept doesn’t exists here because its pretty much assumed. Chefs enjoying easier access to raw materials and longer seasons. “Its easier to cook here” is what I keep hearing from SF chefs. Its one decent Uzbek away from a town I could actually live in (I kid, I kid. It can also use a few Sri Lankan, Isan, and Georgian). Lets begin our tour…
New York City has anywhere between 5-10 Chinatowns depending on when you read this. On average a Chinatown is added every 4 years, like the World Cup. But none of them are like the San Francisco Chinatown, the oldest in the nation. You got the fun and touristy for a reason Grant Street and the surrounding alleys. And once you feel like you had enough, you can move one block over to Stockton Street where the local Chinese actually shop, perhaps the real Chinatown if you will.
Eastern Bakery is believed to be the oldest bakery in Chinatown. Inside it appears that not much has changed with its ancient feel and boasting of a Bill Clinton visit while he was still president. I love this kind of old school. While the pork buns failed to impress (not many do), the Coffee Crunch cake made up for it and then some. Then there was The Fortune Cookie Factory, which was a revelation of sorts. Eating these babies fresh is like eating lobster in Maine. You can even personalize your Fortune Cookie with notes you can write yourself like “This was not Chicken”. But why on earth in a seemingly family friendly place like this they would feature X-rated fortune cookies.
I wish I could tell you about the wonderful egg tarts of the infamous Golden Gate Bakery but they were on vacation. Apparently they surprise close so much, there’s a website devoted to it. Although the track record of the site screams for another site to tell you if the other site works or not.
Our love affair with everything Piedmont has landed us in Perbacco. A semi-classy, sprawling, corporate joint in the Financial District. They make their own Culatello which is a bonus but the highlights of the Salumi Misti pretty much stopped there. Carne Cruda featuring hazelnuts and quail egg was outstanding. The pillowy Agnolotti dal Plin had that pleasant explosiveness one can expect from Agnolotti, but I couldn’t help but wonder how they taste with plain butter. The Tajarin was eggy and buttery alright but the ragu fell a little flat. The Stracci with the rabbit ragu, peppers and anise was more like it, the star of the pasta course.
Our first wow moment however came the next day, NOPA for brunch. Or what we call, lunch. The more brunch I eat the more foreign the concept gets. NOPA is a sprawling, busy, industrial space that’s efficient and good. And with those famous Painted Ladies practically next door to boot. The soft scrambled with cranberry bean succotash was why I go to California to eat every now and then. The burger was perfection. We know burgers. We got PhDs in burger. This was a good burger. The famous French toast looks like any other French toast in this picture, but I’ve never had anything like it. A lot of work involved to reach such richness levels. Also, these guys don’t mess around with their NOLA like Bloody Marys. The spiciest one I’ve had. NOPA is a screaming buy.
Our last meal turned out to be a doozy. Cockscomb had potential to be strike two. Of things I’m not supposed to Google from work. Camelback mountain somehow became strike one. Playful, inventive menu with an emphasis on buthery stuff. Or in the case of the splendid beef heart tartare, mostly unwanted butcher stuff. Personal relationships with well respected local farms and butchers enables Cockscomb to strive in what appears to be a not so happening location. The grilled cheese sandwich with egg, one their most popular items, was a fine rendition. Calamari stuffed with risotto, came with an “I can’t believe this is not Hummus” chickpea spread. The Bacon Chop, a glorious cut with the pork belly attached, was a revelation of sorts. Juiciness levels I haven’t seen since the college days. From pork chops that is. We liked the Zampini. Nicely spiced pork and fennel sausage with corn and shishito salad. But our favorite perhaps was the simple brilliance of the Culotte, a sirloin cap cooked to medium rare perfection. And when you finish with a rare Panna Cotta that doesn’t suck, you know you are in the right place. Cockscomb – worth googling, worth going out of the way for.