Considering I’ve been traveling for work more days than I’ve been in New York this summer, a lot of my meals have been outside of the city. But who’s to say you can only find good food in the Big Apple? I’m the first to say that New York has the highest number of any city of quality restaurants per square mile, but San Francisco is pretty close behind it. Makes sense that I come from this place!
I was in San Francisco for the Fourth of July, but my days leading up to the holiday were filled with catching up with friends, enjoying the rare occasion of warm weather, working, and OBVIOUSLY eating. I waste no time hitting up my favorites when I come home, and considering I feel so deprived of authentic Mexican food on the East Coast, I almost always make my first meal some kind of Latin fare. I landed in SFO on a beautiful day, I went directly to Tiburon with my friend Sarah and seven others to enjoy the sun at an outdoor table at Guaymas.
I had one of the best chimichangas here growing up. Though the service was abismal (we received most of our food before getting our drinks), they gave us a discount to make up for it, and the food was solid - the California style Latin food I have been craving for so long. Not the best, but definitely the best you can find in the area with a view. After eating quesadillas, empanadas, taco salad, enchiladas, two bowls of guacamole, and loads of other appetizers I can’t remember, I felt like I do every year post Thanksgiving. I definitely got over excited.
The next day after having a delicious lunch at my number one staple, La Boulange (just bought out by Starbucks for $100M) my parents and I celebrated my mom’s birthday at Park Tavern, the restaurant that replaced Moose’s in North Beach. The space is massive, well lit, and has a menu filled with things I wanted to try. Sadly, the things I did try were just not that impressive. They were definitely good, but they didn’t live up to the hype. We started with the crab dip, which was pleasantly heavy on the crab but unfortunately also on the mayo, and I had a buratta and squash blossom salad to start. I had the Kampachi for my main course which was simple but over-salted, so I focused on my mom’s roast chicken, their staple dish. Why, I’m not sure because I find the roast chicken at Costco much more flavorful than this one. We decided to move on and skip dessert so we could enjoy the cupcakes from SuzieCakes that I got for my mom – the special blueberry banana pancake cupcake with maple frosting was amazing!
You’d think I was over eating out at this point…and if you do, you obviously don’t know me well enough. The very next day I met my fellow restaurant lover Sarah at Ozumo, one of my favorite high end sushi spots in the city. And, we saw MC Hammer dining there, so it MUST be good! We ordered just enough food to make us sufficiently full – hamachi avocado salad, seaweed salad, and two special rolls. The Akebono consisted of chopped toro, avocado, asparagus and kaiware wrapped in pickled daikon and tobiko – totally refreshing. The Hamachi Maki, made with hamachi, avocado, cucumber, tempura flakes, jalapeño, and roasted garlic miso sauce, however, was my favorite. I then insisted on ordering dessert since they sounded so delicious – the Chocho Chan, a hot chocolate cake with green tea ice cream, and the Peanut Butter Mousse with gen-mai ice cream. The chocolate cake was over-cooked, and while I see the creativity in the green tea ice cream accompaniment, why not just vanilla? I pose this question to all restaurants: Why get creative with a chocolate cake? Vanilla ice cream is always the way to go. Second best is dulce de leche.
My last memorable meal in SF before the Bellsey family BBQ was an impromptu visit to La Taqueria after Hip Hop class with Gillian in the Mission. I had definitely worked up an appetite doing the tootsie roll, so I ordered as much as I could with the little cash I had. Between a chicken burrito, a chicken taco, and a bean and cheese taco, the chicken burrito was my favorite. A good burrito is mostly about the tortilla. It has to be steamed with a slice of cheese, which La Taqueria does, but they take it up a notch by then grilling the whole burrito once it’s filled. This really seals in the flavor and adds a crispness that I love. Still, though everyone in SF swears by La Taqueria, I will always be a Gordo’s fan. La Taq’s boiled shredded chicken could never compare to the flavorful pollo asada I find at the Geary street location.
The next day was the Fourth of July, where I as expected made my white wine sangria, but with red, white, and blue fruit. Thank God nature accounted for this holiday and made blueberries. I also whipped up a delicious, mayo-free warm potato salad with the help of Jane’s rough recipe of the one she made in Rhode Island and Akhtar’s real-time text message advice. Sauteed red onion, garlic, and bacon along with chopped cornichons, capers, parsley, celery and a mustardy red wine vinaigrette added tons of flavor. And considering my burger was over-done, I really relied on this to soak up the 6 glasses of sangria I had consumed before noon.
Before I knew it, I was back in NY and then back to packing for my trip to my friend Emily’s rental home in Asbury Park, somewhere I’d never visited. I’m really trying to see all that I can on the East Coast while I’ live here, as I’m a total novice when it comes to any of Manhattan’s surrounding areas. Queens is next on my list. Asbury Park is fortunately small enough to explore on a day trip, and considering there aren’t a ton of well known restaurants, our dinner decision didn’t require tons of research. Emily, like me, treats every meal like her last so we ate at one of her favorite brick oven pizza spots off the Boardwalk – Porta. The place was vast but feel-good, sort of like Rosemary’s, and the menu had tons of carbo-loaded food that I wanted to sink my teeth into. Though there was also an outdoor spot with picnic benches exposed through three massive garage doors, we sat at our own private bar alongside the wall. Love having a private bartender and server. Right away, we ordered the homemade mozzarella, the bibb lettuce salad, black tagliatelle with clams, orecchiette with sausage, pesto pizza with string beans and potatoes, and the arugula pizza with mozzarella, tomato, truffle oil, and arugula. I was in a heaven of my favorite foods – bread and cheese, and I loved the creaminess of the clam sauce on the black pasta. Surprisingly, this place turns into a dance club in the later hours, but we opted for the bigger priority of trying pistachio and vanilla-peanut butter ice cream at Eddie Confetti ice cream on the boardwalk. The vanilla-peanut butter was absolutely divine.
And so there goes my food highlights for the past week. Now I sit here, on my couch turned into pull-out bed, eating the first salad of the week. If it weren’t for the side of bread and butter they slipped in the bag I’d be feeling pretty nostalgic.