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Some Time In THE City

Las Vegas is Sin City, Chicago is the Windy City, Paris is the City of Lights, Los Angles is the City of Angels and Seattle is the Emerald City, but San Francisco is just THE City.

If you have never seen it, comedian and actor Eddie Izzard has a great bit on THE City in his Dressed To Kill performance / DVD, which is actually shot in San Francisco.  It’s incredibly funny!

I was recently in THE City multitasking.  Girlfriend trip, business appointment, husband weekend, and above all else, I was there to eat.  San Francisco (SF) is full of amazing restaurants, fantastic bars and a colorful nightlife.

Just before leaving, we got our August 13 & 20 issue of Newsweek.  101 Best Places to Eat in the World (Chosen by 53 of the Finest Chefs) is the title.  I stuck the copy in my carry on and read it on the plane.

Out of the 14 restaurants in North America given the nod, two are in San Francisco and we ate at one of them.  SPQR is said to have the best pasta in San Francisco according to Elizabeth Falkner, the chef responsible for recommending the restaurant.  Their speciality is ricitta gnudi (gnocchi), which was not on the menu the night we were there, but plenty of other amazing things were.  The name of the restaurant means SenātusPopulusqueRōmānus (“The Senate and People of Rome“) referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic.*  The food used to be primarily Roman when the restaurant first opened, but has since blossomed to include modern Italian fare.

I started with a rather simple but wonderful salad of little gem lettuce with anchovy, pickled shallot and goat’s milk cheddar.  Beautiful and unassuming, all the components of this salad complemented each other nicely.  There was the creaminess of the cheese, the sour from the pickled shallot, the salt and meaty texture of the anchovy and freshness of the lettuce.

Without question I chose pasta as my main entree: white corn agnolotti (a kind of ravioli) with yellow chanterelles and smoked goat cheese. This dish was simply magical!  It’s one of those very special meals that make you glad to be alive and thankful for the amazing experience.

Dessert was just as special.  Usually I go for anything chocolate, but our waitress mentioned this as one of her favorites and so I decided to go with something different.  Steamed semolina pudding with summer berries, mascaot syrup and corn ice cream.  The drizzle of caramel made this truly a heavenly encounter.  My girlfriend, Kirsten got the chocolate dessert and was just as blown away as I was with the pudding.

A unique spot that must not go unmentioned is the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar in the basement of our hotel, The San Francisco Fairmont.  You may remember it featured on such shows as No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain when standing in the middle of the bar he comments “This is like the greatest place in the history of the world.”  While I don’t recommend ordering dinner there, the drinks and the atmosphere are certainly something to write about.  So much so that I made two trips to the Tonga while in SF.  Kirsten and I went one evening and then when Michael was in town we all went for drinks after dinner.  Stiff tropical drinks, mixed young  and old crowd, cheesy 60’s & 70’s band, and Trader Vick’s type decor all make for an interesting and entertaining evening!

On our final evening in SF, Michael and I went to NOPA for dinner.  My brother had hounded me to go and while I had every intention, the nail in the coffin was NOPA (short for north of the panhandle) being mentioned on the SF Chefs Feed (the app is available on iTunes).

We started with a cocktail each and two appetizers: warm goat cheese with pickled beets, frisee and crostini as well as yellow peaches, roasted corn with nardello peppers and wild arugula.  Both were delightful and went extremely well together.  I loved that ample crostini were offered with the goat cheese.  Don’t you just hate it when the plate has more goodies than bread to scoop it all up with?  Twas not the case here!  The combination of the peaches and roasted corn was innovative, seasonal and fresh.  I noticed corn featured a great deal during my meals on this trip.

This turned out to be a pasta trip for me, as I had pasta for at least three meals.  When you are a fan of bolognese and a menu says housemade pappardelle, nine hour bolognese with erbette chard and pecorino . . . you order it!  And I had no complaints.  This was the best kind of refined comfort food.  With the exception of the toothsome pasta, everything else just melted in your mouth.  I finished all but one bite, seriously.  For some silly reason I was saving room for dessert.

Dessert: pavlova – raspberries, rose geranium cream and candied pistachios.  I adore baked meringue and it makes the perfect dish for all sorts of great summer desserts – ice cream, berries, cream, etc.  This too was certainly on par with the rest of the meal.  Creative, in season, and fantastically delicious and flavorful.

Just a note to the couple sitting in the middle of the bar endlessly making out: We all can see you!  Please, after an hour and a half of darn near non-stop tongue tennis – eat or get out!  Oh and GET A ROOM!!!

I really had a great time in SF!  You really can’t beat a two hour flight to such a fantastic, eclectic and international city.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPQR

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