Global Feast : California

Fifth Floor
August 27, 2011

So this was it. Our last meal in the US before we depart to a tiny island without any gourmet food, no nice restaurants, no Italian, no farmer's market all the things we have enjoyed the last two years. To celebrate our special night, we had a reservation at Zuni Cafe. We used to live near Zuni and went there countless times. My Zuni Cafe cookbook is my bible and I have been dreaming about the dinner at Zuni for a long time. And finally when the time came... I had a little nervous breakdown (not because of Zuni but about our departure) and my stomach was so tight. We were exhausted from preparing for the trip (and eating out for the last two weeks) and the reservation was very late at night. So we made a really heartbreaking decision to cancel our reservation at Zuni. At that point, I could not think about food and I even thought about just getting room service. Then my husband suggested to go a few flights down to the Fifth Floor.

We wanted to have a more casual meal so we sat at the lounge instead of dining room. It was quite comfortable and suddenly I started to relax and I realized how hungry I was. By the time we ordered, I had my wits back and we began our final meal.

Amuse bouche

Hamachi Crudo
avocado, plum, yuzu kosho, white shoyu, ponzu, lemon basil, shiso

Heirloom Cucumber Salad
crème frâiche, za’atar , sungold tomatoes, wild herbs, green almonds, black olives

The cucumber dish was my favorite. First of all, it is so beautiful and elegant. It was very creative in the flavor composition with za'atar (Middle Easter spice mix) and wild herbs. Crème frâiche gave a little touch of richness to this very refreshing salad.

Brillat-Savarin Ravioli
chanterelles, sage, brown butter, mizuna, pistou, hazelnuts

The other highlight for me was this super rich ravioli with Brillat-Savarin (French soft cow cheese). It tasted more like a fall dish but it was very comforting for a farewell dinner.

Fallon Hills Ranch Spring Lamb
cauliflower, couscous, argan oil, ras al hanout, strauss yogurt, golden raisins, lamb jus

My husband fell in love with his entree. It was lamb four ways (lamb loin steak, braised lamb tang, lamb sausage and lamb berry); so many different textures and flavors of lamb. Excellent dish.

Corn Crémeux
huckleberry compote, kataifi, milk chew, cilantro, parmesan ice cream

I still regretted we did not make it to Zuni Cafe but at the same time, I am very glad that we tried Fifth Floor. The chef successfully demonstrated his talent for use of exotic items from all over the world to come up very interesting flavors. I really enjoyed my very last meal in the US. It turned out to be the perfect meal at our temporary SF hotel home.

Fifth Floor
2 Fourth Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Within the Hotel Palomar

San Francisco Ferry Building
August 27, 2011

ferry building

The ferry building market place is one of my favorite places in San Francisco. If you are into cooking and food, this is the place to go, and even if you are not, it is still a fun place to see. Many of San Francisco's top artisan food items are there. My favorite ones are always Far West Fungi and Cowgirl Creamery's Artisan Cheese Shop. There are several wonderful eateries including Slanted Door inside.

ferry building inside
Far West Fungi
Stonehouse California Olive Oil
cow girl creamery


Ferry Building Marketplace
One Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94111


Citizen's Band
August 26, 2011

Citizen's Band

My friend took us to her favorite restaurant in SOMA near her studio on Folsom street. Citizen's Band is a real laid back classic American bistro or maybe I have to say an upscale American diner. These categories are getting difficult to define anymore in a constantly changing city like San Francisco.

Citizen's Band table setting
Citizen's Band canning pantry

Their fridge with lots of of preserved foods

picklescorn soup

pickles (right) and summer corn soup with grilled corn and shishito (left)

Arugula SaladMac and Cheese

arugula salad with ricotta salata (left) and mac and cheese with stuck of crispy onion rings on top (right)

fried chicken dinner

fried chicken (left) and summer fruit cobbler (right)

This was a really fun place to dine. A perfect little place for a dinner with good friends. All the food I tasted was great especially my summer corn soup and the gravy for the fried chicken was the bomb.

Citizen's Band
1198 Folsom Street
San Francisco, California 94103

Dynamo Donuts
August 26, 2011

Dynamo Donuts store front

My husband and I visited our good friend and she decided to show us the building where she used to live and we used to work. And allof the sudden, she asked us if we wanted donuts. Not just any typical donuts but really good ones, she said. How could we say no? So here we were at Dynamo Donuts. It is a very charming store front with big kitchen behind. And the sitting area in the back is a really cute backyard bonus.

Dynamo Donuts

cutest backyard

vanilla bean donut

Vanilla Bean Donut : Donut with vanilla bean and orange zest, topped with a vanilla bean glaze

maple glazed bacon apple

Bacon Maple Apple Donut: Studded with bacon and apples sauteed in bacon fat
with a maple glaze topped with crispy bacon

The donuts were very soft and had a great texture. The glaze was not overly sweet or thick, and the salty bacon bits really worked well with the sweet maple glaze. Good stuff.

Dynamo Donuts
2760 24th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110


Tartine Bakery
August 26, 2011

Tartine Bakery

When I left San Francisco in 2002, Tartine Bakery had just opened. I still remember my friend told me about this new bakery and insisted I try their almond croissant. It was shockingly good and I could not believe I had to leave Tartine behind to go to Washington, DC.

Almost 10 years later, I was back to Tartine. First, I was quite shocked but not so surprised to see the huge line of people outside to get into the bakery. The cafe with its small show case and several tables inside was basically the same, but it had transformed into a super trendy bakery. I usually do not like to wait in line but I really had to do it this one time to get to enjoy my favorite almond croissant.

It took about 15 minutes to get in. Not too bad actually. And I think there was an angel above me, I got the last almond croissant for that day!

Tartine showcase
Tartine Bakery
Cafe au lait
Almond croissant

I came all way to Tartine and waited in line for long time for this! Frangipane Croissant (almond croissant).


Another my favorite, Gougère.

It was still as perfect as I remember. I hope I don't have to wait another 10 years.

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero Street
San Francisco, CA 94110


August 25, 2011

Although there are many places where we used to hang out and love to go back to during this trip to San Francisco, it would be a shame not to try some of the new restaurants there. It was hard to choose one but after several discussions, we decided to go to Quince. When I researched, I only heard good things about Quince and the location was perfect because we could stop by one of our favorite bars, Tosca (see below), for an aperitif.

The mood of the restaurant was a little different than I expected. It was amazingly, over-the-top gorgeous. It reminded me of an upscale restaurant in 1950s Hollywood rather than a recession-era North Beach bistro. But the service was fantastic - one of the best servers we ever had - and the food was top notch - and filling!

Amuse bouche :
Smoked eal croquettes (left)
tomato, avocado, and chervil green gazpacho with sardine (right)

First Course
Squash blossom salad with green cherry tomato, fresh cheese and taggiasche olive (left)

Jerusalem artichoke in three preparations with lobster mushroom and garlic chive (right)

I loved the squash blossom salad. The marriage of crunchy fried squash and soft fresh cheese was so perfect with an accent of olive and sliced figs. It is such a simple yet well calculated dish. A very satisfying first course.

Second course
Black olive pappardelle with octopus, corno di torro pepper and sea urchin (left)
Caramelle with listada eggplant, wild nettle and burrata cheese (right)

For the second course, I had a pappardelle dish. Our server explained to me that when they cook the octopus, they put in cork from tempranillo wine. Braising octopus with cork is a traditional way for tenderizing the octopus. I don't think there is scientific proof behind this but the octopus was indeed very tender and really testy.

Main course
Wild halibut with buttered brioche, chanterelle mushroom and smoked pancetta (left)
Liberty duck with mulberry, cocoa nib and foie gras mouse (right)

Unfortunately, I was already maximum full when the main course arrived - just look up at those appetizers! I cleared both of my previous courses and I should have planned and saved myself but they were so good and I could not stop myself. But I tried to eat as much as I could. My selection was halibut and it was flaky and buttery and excellent. I loved the very thin slice of brioche that was on the top of the fish.

Ricotta mousse with Terra Sonoma Farm blackberry and black pepper sable (left)
Banana pound cake with raisin coulis, chocolate nougatine and toasted oat ice cream (right)

The whole course was bit too large for my stomach but they were all prepared beautifully. There is even larger 7-course set, if you can believe it. I don't know how people can eat that.

470 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, California 94133


August 25, 2011

Tosca entrance
Tosca bar
Tosca back room
Tosca's famous coctail
Tosca's negroni

Tosca was always the place for a great pre (or post) dinner cocktail when we lived in San Francisco. They always make my favorite cocktail (the Negroni) just right. It was so happy to be back there. Yum.

Tosca Cafe
242 Columbus Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94133



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Fifth Floor (San Francisco)

San Francisco Ferry Building (San Francisco)

Citizen's Band (San Francisco)

Dynamo Donuts (San Francisco)

Tartine Bakery (San Francisco)

Quince (San Francisco)

Tosca (San Francisco)

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