Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen in San Francisco – Part 2
The area occupied by San Francisco is not very large but there is a very high population density. Still, when you are walking up and down the seemingly endless hilly streets it feels like you are walking forever. We quickly became pros at catching the bus and ending up very near our actual destination and so we found the transit system(s) very efficient. On the Saturday of our trip our destination was the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. I had heard about Karl, the famous bay area fog, but so far every view of the bay that we had was outstanding during our trip. I was beginning to wonder where Karl had gone…We spent a fair amount of time walking the bridge and admiring the architecture and beautiful views before we decided to wander around in the nearby Presidio park. I guess I really wasn’t prepared for how large it was and it took us a while to figure out the best way to get back to our hotel. What really amazed me about the park was that the area we hiked through was predominantly Eucalyptus trees. The early morning rains had congregated on the leaves, releasing the scent that had me immediately transformed back to Australia. Sometimes, even on holidays, it’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle and just enjoy nature.
Once we were nearly back at our hotel room we decided that with all the walking we had done we deserved a special treat so we made a small detour to see if Mr. Holmes Bakehouse was open. We were out of luck though, because it was 4 pm and there was the dreaded ‘sold out, see you tomorrow Holmies’ sign on the door. I think we spent the rest of the day in our room, then went out for a quick bite later that evening.
The next day (Easter Sunday) we awoke well rested with a new found energy. Since it was pretty early I begged hubby to wait in the cruffin line at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse…and he did! My queue hating husband agreed to wait over an hour to buy me a cruffin. It may be true that this cruffin fad has become really hyped up in the last couple of months with the break in and subsequent theft of resident baker Ry Stephen‘s coveted recipe book. Even with all the hype, there’s no denying that the cruffin (and everything else sold at Mr. Holmes Bakeshop) is a work of pastry perfection.
We enjoyed the pastries in our room then caught the cable car to Easter Sunday service at the old St. Mary’s Cathedral right on the edge of Chinatown. The church is quite something and was one of the few buildings to survive the 1906 earthquake and devastating fires. I was a bit worried that we would have a difficult time finding restaurants open on Easter Sunday and so I planned for us to visit the R & G Lounge as suggested by Anthony Bourdain right there in Chinatown.
Of course we had to have the famous salt and pepper crab dish. I found that it was extremely greasy and salty with very little pepper flavour. I was disappointed with the whole lunch except for the vegetable and fungi dish which contained seven different types of fungi. I think I was just happy to see vegetables for a change. I felt a bit guilty about all the deep fried food we had eaten but since we spent the rest of the afternoon walking to, around, and from Fisherman’s Wharf…I wasn’t too stressed about it.
Kid number one had mentioned that he really wanted to go the to the Aquarium of the Bay so we made that our afternoon activity. We also stayed for quite some time at Pier 39, mesmerized by the Sea Lions that lounged around on the floating docks.
A quick snack of Dungeness Crab cocktail and a delicious Perfect Hibiscus Margarita (which had just won the Bay Area cocktail competition) at Fog Harbor Fish House and we were ready to tour the Aquarium. I am always enchanted by seahorses and jellyfish while kid number one was super excited to see an octopus. In all, it was a lovely Easter Sunday and the grand finale was our reservation at Bar Tartine. We didn’t have time to go back to our hotel and get my big girl camera so cell phone photos would have to do. I apologize in advance as they keep the restaurant quite dark, the photos are of really poor quality and do not do justice to the dishes we were served.
I read the entire Bar Tartine cook book before we left on our trip and was amazed at the ingenuity and innovative techniques. The restaurant prepares the whole menu from scratch, including the ‘soda’. When kid number one tried to order a coca cola, the server suggested their house made tarragon whey soda and he was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was. I enjoyed my rhubarb and bronze fennel cocktail as well. I would never have thought to mix rhubarb and fennel. It was at Bar Tartine where hubby and I first enjoyed Moonlight Brewing ‘Death and Taxes’ CA Black Lager. From then on whenever we saw it on a menu, it was a ‘must order’. We didn’t do the tasting menu but picked some of the dishes to share between the three of us, beginning with some delicious Sprouted Einkorn Bread with Cultured Sunchoke & Sunchoke Oil. The boys tried the pickled pork sausage and buckwheat but were not impressed by the coarse texture and odd flavour of the sausage. Then, we had the best Beef Tartare I have ever had. It absolutely blew my mind for taste and texture. It was served on toast, with tonnato sauce and bottarga. The next dish was our favourite (or close second…and I am thinking of the octopus dish from Contigo here) but yet it seemed so simple. Humble roasted and smoked potatoes which were given a final quick fry for crispness and served with black garlic and ramp mayonnaise. The beet salad with sorrel, marjoram, and feta was a fresh tasting herby take on a regular beets and greens salad, and the sorrel really made the dish. We did also order the sprouted lentil croquettes with kefir and yoghurt (not pictured; all house made) which we all adored despite there being no meat involved. Our only disappointment was the pork belly (top right). The snap peas, carrots, and mung bean sprouts were outstanding but the star of the show was poorly flavoured, had a weird grey tinge to it, and was so underdone that we couldn’t even cut it. It wasn’t appetizing at all. Since all our dishes were quite small and mostly vegetable based we had room to end the evening on a sweet note. The nut stuffed dates with house lemon grass yoghurt were perfect.
We took a taxi back to the hotel, fully satiated and ready for a long snooze. If you visit San Francisco I highly recommend Bar Tartine for the full SF ‘experience’.