San Francisco

tartinecroissantMy first day in San Francisco—and much of my whole trip—was rainy. But despite the unusually rainy weather, the best part of my first day was having breakfast at Tartine Bakery. Located in the Mission District, Tartine has been a neighborhood standby since it was opened by the husband and wife team of Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt in 2002.

Both trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and traveled throughout France before settling in Northern California. Prueitt is the pastry chef and Robertson is the baker. You can find Robertson baking daily at the bakery and Prueitt running the sister restaurant Bar Tartine, which is just a street away.

Every morning at the bakery is a busy one. There is always a steady line wrapping outside the doors rain or shine, literally. Two weeks ago I stood in line with my friends under umbrellas to taste Tartine's sweet confections. The smell wafting from within was enough to convince any one of us to patiently wait for a morning bite and a cup of Joe.

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redrumsign.jpgRedrum Burger in Davis, CA sits catty-corner to an In-N-Out Burger just off the freeway. Redrum was there long before In-N-Out and judging from the line at lunch time on a recent Thursday, they will be there for a while longer. Originally called Murder Burger when it was established in 1986, Murder changed to Redrum (murder spelled backwards) when a contest determined the winning name in 2001.

The place feels a little shabby when you walk in, but it seems comfortable like an old sweatshirt. I went to the counter to choose between burgers. 1/4 lb. $4.29, 1/3 lb. $5.49, 1 lb. $11.49 or my choice 1/2 lb. $6.49. They have Buffalo too. The burger comes with cheese, mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. I ordered fries ($1.49), onion rings ($4.99) and on the recommendation of the counter-minder a strawberry shake ($3.99). They have various combo specials to save you money. “Twelve minutes”, he told me when he handed me my change.

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ImageSpork in San Francisco is my new favorite restaurant. Pat and I went there for dinner after a lovely day in the Mission, checking out all the vintage stores and eating Dymano Donuts. Spork is a place serving old-school classics in a new-school fashion. They have sustainable-this and local-that versions of slow-food takes on old classics. And despite the political correctness of their offerings, everything tastes like it was pan-fried in lard in a steel skillet by my grandmother. That's a very good thing!

The In-Side-Out Burger ($14) screamed "eat me" from the menu. The beef is fresh from Sun Marin Farms. Two patties griddle-fried, peppery and crispy on the outside. Moist and pink on the inside. The concoction towers over the plate. It is a stack of ingredients as follows starting at the plate: Butter lettuce, tomato slice, beef patty, bun circle, special sauce, beef patty, tillamook chedder and a grilled onion topping so sweet it could be applesauce. The special sauce reminded me of the spicy thousand-island type I make at home, only no islands. You have to eat this with a fork and knife, but it doesn't diminish the burger experience.

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comforts1.jpg I keep trying to figure out why the Chinese Chicken Salad served at ‘Comforts Cafe’ is so uniquely spectacular.  Well, first: as we’ve all infused, everything is location, location, location.  And this chicken salad lives in a fabulous spot in a dreamy, mythic redwood-filled community. ‘Comforts’  is a very aptly-named, truly comfortable, small but open hang-in, hang-out,  take-out restaurant on a small main street in the small northern California town of San Anselmo. It boasts daily, wonderfully creative specials including a brilliantly, non-greasily sautéed Chicken Okasan, innovative egg breakfast dishes with fresh local seafood and Sonoma jack cheese and veggies.

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SFanchovyOne of the nice perks of writing about food is being invited to restaurants and even getting to preview ones that have not yet opened. While busy writing the cookbook I have taken some breaks to see what's going on around town. Here are some highlights:

Hog Island Oyster Co. Bar has long been one of my favorite little hideaways at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza. Tucked away in an awkward spot, it had fantastic views of the Bay Bridge and soul soothing clam chowder, not to mention an always stellar range of oysters on the half shell. The space is certainly not awkward any longer. Now that the oyster bar has taken over the adjacent spot, it’s a spacious and nicely unified expanse with two bars and plenty of outdoor seating. The menu is larger too.

My picks are still the classic clam chowder that has no flour so it’s rich and creamy, not goopy, and the white anchovies. Served with piquillo pepper aioli, chopped eggs and green herb sauce on baguette slices, the anchovies are are bright and juicy, nothing like what you get out of a can. In case you didn't know, Hog Island was founded by two marine biologists who are passionate about the future of sustainable seafood.

San Francisco Ferry Building, #11A, San Francisco 

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