Just like that, the family wedding and weekend trip to SF/Napa came to an end and just like that, four days and three nights went by. In my ambitious days, that’s like 12 meals but with three wedding events and a toddler in tow, we squeezed in just nine. However, some of it was so good that I leave wanting more and eager to return. Which is the way it always is (wanting more) with regards to visiting San Francisco.
When my cousin, Alan, and I were trip planning, I mentioned I had wanted to try Sushiritto but hadn’t on my past two trips (that they close at 4 pm doesn’t help) and he groaned and told me our cousin, Karin, had also raved about the chain. In fact, I think it was Karin’s sister, Meg, who added that Karin thinks having Sushiritto alone is worth the trip to SF. So my mere curiosity was really amplified!
The summer and fall of 2016 is when poke and sushi burritos finally hit Toronto and Vancouver. But I had to go to “the source”. We were heading towards the Union Square location from from our temporary abode at swanky W San Francisco when I thought to check if there wasn’t another location in the SoMa area and there was! Good thing, because we were close to the SoMa location and would have more time to eat before their 4 p.m. closing time.
I wanted raw fish so that narrowed down our choices to Satori and Geisha’s Kiss and since Satori was sold out, our hand was forced. Most pleasantly so – chunks of fresh yellowfin tuna and tamago with crunchy lotus chips and Namasu cucumbers and loaded with flavour from the peppers, ginger guacamole, yuzu, tobiko and sesame white soya (sauce). I thought the combination was perfection.
Rather than overloading and having a burrito each, we shared one burrito and an order of Lava Nachos, supposedly in limited supply so it was surprisingly available at 3 p.m. Alan had described to me how we got high quality tuna in the burrito but the sliced and diced small pieces of tuna in the nachos might not only be consist of odds and ends cuts but be more vulnerable to spoilage and contamination. That ruined it a little for me. While the cheese and tuna worked for Alan, it did not quite as much for me. I would have been happy with my own burrito!
Hops & Hominy (SF)
Since we were wrapping up our Sushiritto late lunch/pre-dinner snack at 4 p.m., Alan wasn’t ready to go for dinner at Liho Liho Yacht Club right when they opened at 5 p.m. When we arrive at 6 or 6:30 after traipsing through Chinatown (Alan’s first time and of course Golden Gate Bakery was not open but was possibly open earlier??), Union Square and Uniqlo, we were informed there was a 3-3.5 hour wait. They are not open on Sundays, the next day I would be back in the city. Darn.
So, I navigated us towards Super Duper Burgers and Yelped the restaurants we saw along the way. None of them had more than 3.5 stars and we recalled the sweet and hip looking spot at the end of a short lane called Hops & Hominy and they have a 4-star Yelp rating. Sounded promising. To be seated in the main dining room was too long a wait so we agreed to be seated in their next-door bistro, The Burrow, and Alan had a drink in the main dining room’s bar and I fed E some baby food before plying him with some of Hops & Hominy food.
Some freshly baked cornbread with whipped cream started us off. We ordered the tomato and melon salad that was really heavy-handed on the dressing. Our other vegetarian appetizer was the fried beans which were wonderfully crunchy with the batter they used but a strange combination of tart and saucy and topped with strawberries. For our mains, we agreed on two items because it didn’t seem like a place where the portions were so big that we had to share one entree. The octopus over fava beans wasn’t executed quite right where the beans were flour-y and the octopus might have been too tender. The lamb cheeks with root vegetables was tastier. Alan was so disappointed as he really wanted to like the place.
After an early morning spent exploring the amenities of our cool hotel (FIT Gym! Bliss Spa! Lumina!) and feeding E his breakfast in the lobby aka Living Room, Alan was awake and suggested going to Tartine. I visited Tartine when I went to SF solo in 2013 and my co-worker, Andrea, had suggested b.patisserie but Alan told me that Tartine’s new 5,000 square-foot manufacturing space had opened just two days before and we wouldn’t have to worry about queuing for ages and not having a place to eat. And I should have known, too, that it is a completely different Tartine experience with my cousin!
We deliberated what to order from what was listed on the form and based on what was listed on a clipboard they were out of. No more chocolate tea cake? Darn. Wait, it’s back. And a last minute change because they no longer had pepperoni scone. We completely filled our two-top with food. What a great breakfast.
We started off with the hot food: a coddled egg because Alan is fancy like that and the porchetta breakfast sandwich he added to our order at the last moment and thank goodness for that! I remarked that coddled egg was the best “sauce” for toast – I need to make it at home. And Alan commented that the breakfast sandwich was just ridiculously and inappropriately tasty. I would have avoided it because of porchetta but it was so good with most excellent buttery bun, really good porchetta (beats any ham) and a fried egg. Then we moved on to the nectarine ricotta toast that we saw as soon as we walked in on someone else’s table and Alan knew it was good. I still liked the savoury sandwich more but it was very fine “dessert” to our breakfast.
We took the arugula hazelnut danish and chocolate tea cake to eat later with the best of intentions but only got around to it the next day. The tea cake was still great while the pastry didn’t fare as well. Shame.
Whee, traveling with Alan meant that I got to go to Oakland. Even without E around, NPY wouldn’t go near Oakland, possibly not during the day and definitely not in the evening. Alan didn’t quite know what to make of my obsession to go to Homeroom or its claim to fame but rolled with it.
We decided to up our vegetable intake so we split one mac ‘n’ cheese. Which we all know is really filling if you had one whole one to dig into alone. I selected the Gilroy Garlic because it has the basics and incidentally is their best-seller, according to their menu. And we agreed to have cauliflower which was wonderfully spicy and roasted Brussel sprouts. Alan was surprised and actually found it good. Well, I know a thing or two! (And that’s about it.)
In N Out Burger (Santa Rosa)
After lunch at Homeroom, we head to Napa Valley (Calistoga, actually) where we were joining our family for a rehearsal “dinner” which was actually a barbecue. Alan had already decided to swing by the In N Out Burger near our hotel in Santa Rosa so he saved some room for it. We consulted this extensive – but organized – secret menu. We ordered our burgers Animal Style because I had not tried it before. It turns out I don’t really enjoy their spread in which I can taste the ketchup too clearly. The Well Done fries were not but I enjoyed my portion of a large Neopolitan shake Cut-In-Half.
Now, I know. Next time I’m at In N Out Burger, I want a Mustard Grilled Protein Style burger with Chopped Chilis. Maybe Animal Style fries (despite my aversion to ketchup). And a Black & White shake. NPY will want an Animal Style Extra Toasted . And a Rootbeer Float.
Sandman Santa Rosa (Santa Rosa)
E and I checked out the free Continental breakfast our hotel offered and this is what we ate. He made it through all of the cold boiled egg, that non-plain pink yogurt and a couple strips of toast. Oh, and they had whole milk which was a boon for us. I made a plain waffle which was non-fabulous. Alan had the pumpkin spice waffle with cream cheese which goes to show you how much smarter he is.
On Saturday, C & E were finally married after 12 years of courtship. At SSS Ranch (pronounced “Triple S”), they were married under a great oak tree which was both scenic and a built-in shield from the sun. Then we were on the terrace enjoying cocktails, lemonade and hors d’oeuvres which I learned (from IG posts that had the wedding hashtag) are by Sonoma-based the girl & the fig. No wonder the appearance of figs on the menu!
I can’t remember all the hors d’oeuvres – I know, I’m so disappointed – but what I do remember were the crab cakes topped with smoked paprika aioli, ground lamb kebabs topped with tzatziki on a skewer and crispy pork belly with peach mostarda.
Then we sat down at long tables for dinner which started off with a tomato & watermelon salad. Another melon and tomato salad but this one was better, with simple flavours like black pepper, chevre and garden herb vinaigrette. My entree of choice was the duck, a breast sitting on soft polenta and garnished with wild arugula, fresh figs, and smoked fig jus.
Charles Krug (St. Helena)
After a casual brunch and our third visit to SSS Ranch, we finally visited some wineries. Personally, I would have been as happy heading back to SF and picking up the food I hadn’t yet tried like Bi-Rite Creamery, Bob’s Donuts… but it wasn’t a secret that Alan’s Napa holiday wasn’t quite right or complete without visiting some wineries!
We stopped at Charles Krug where Alan’s old boss was setting up for Cochon Heritage Fire (“3500 pounds of whole animals cooked over live fires by fifty top chefs with tons of premium wines”). Alan visited his old boss and then we did a tasting, a Classic for me and Private/Reserve/Library one for him so that we could taste 10 wines in total. We ordered a mushroom pesto bechamel wood-fired pizza which they promoted with their Pizza on the Lawn promo.
Alan was chatting while at the tasting bar (I was seated at a table and entertained E) and she recommended we check out Hall and Whitehall. They were not far away and delightful to visit. Hall is modern with ironic artwork and nice grounds to visit. Whitehall was cozy and we stayed indoors and walked around.
Bouchon Bakery (Yountville)
There is always a line at Bouchon, the ladies at Whitehall told us, so they must be doing something right. My first taste of Bouchon Bakery was in New York and I’ve seen the one in Vegas, but there is so much else to eat, so what’s the deal with it in Yountville? Because that’s where it started! So we queued for about half an hour and then placed an order proportional to our hunger level and waiting time, hah. I ordered a strawberry almond croissant because how often do you see strawberry in a croissant, and a small ice salted caramel latte. Alan ordered a sandwich, pain au chocolate, a chocolate cork cake, a “Nutella” macaron and large salted caramel latte. While I didn’t eat at nearly as many places as I wanted to, this was a delicious cap to the trip.