Because sometimes B2S needs to find natural and culinary inspiration on the west coast…
I spent last week in San Francisco, hosted by my dear friend + Ithaca partner in crime, Alali.* In the city itself, there were three missions: hit up Tartine Bakery, dine at AL’s Place and spend afternoons lazing and writing in all of the cafés. Check, check, check. Tartine Bakery was as delightful and their sandwiches as delicious as I expected. Spanophile that I am, I ordered a hot pressed sandwich with Pecorino sheep cheese and Marcona almonds crushed with olive oil, lemon and sage. It was massive and made me feel a little ill afterward because dammit I couldn’t stop eating it. But I got in line at 11:30AM to get that sandwich and wasn’t about to waste it. (Life goal: to bake the Tartine Country Bread that spans 38 pages of the Tartine Bread cookbook.)
Then there was AL’s Place. The AL’s Place that Bon Appetit voted the best new restaurant in the US of A. Another line situation. (Side note: SF, what’s up with the reservations madness? Everywhere seems to be perpetually booked.) We arrived as rogue walk-ins at 8:40ish and didn’t sit until after 10. But again, absolutely worth it. Both for the food and for the direct view into the open kitchen, with Chef Aaron London (get it: AL), in his top-knotted glory, at the helm. The star dishes were veggie-forward, like the pear curry, black lime-cod, persimmon and blistered squash. The cod was excellent – cut thin so it looked like a sliced portobello mushroom, with a delicate taste enlivened by the citrus-y curry. Unspoken restaurant rules would normally prohibit me from ordering two squash dishes, but heeding the recommendation from our waitress, we also went for the winter squash, with grilled apple and kale, currant soffritto, burrata and quince vinegar – whoa. Chef Aaron and crew are doing something special with that squash. It’s somewhere between grilled and fried and has the texture, natural sweetness and saltiness of a fried plantain. Pretty blown away. Not to mention, everyone from the hostess to the wait staff is friendly, chill and wears no hint of “yea, we’re the best new restaurant in the country“.**
Like I said, I did a lot of café writing too, especially in Haus Coffee in the Mission, and especially for the magazine I’m writing for, DV8 Magazine, a new publication dedicated to covering the upstate scene – culture, food, and the inspiring creators who have made upstate NY their full-time homes.
Come weekend, we set out on a sweet road trip up State Route 1, listening to Paul Simon and this song while winding along the Pacific coastline. We rented an artist’s cabin via airbnb in Little River (replete with a separate tiny house for painting, with a grand window overlooking the property) and made friends with a local kitty.
The moment I leave you, San Francisco, I already want to plan my next visit. Rested, rejuvenated, inspired, I’m Back 2 New York. Vamos.
* Thanks to you, ADJ. xoxox
**I have no food photos from Al’s Place because it’s not my thing to take dinner snaps at restaurants. Night photos generally suck and it takes away from the dining experience for all.