Eating My Way through San Francisco in 24 hours

07/13/2010 04:22 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I had to drop my brother off at nerd camp a few weeks back (it's technically a "gaming academy" at Stanford, but really, "academy"? That's about as legitimate sounding as Costanza's "Human Fund." He swears he learned some coding, but by the looks of his unbrushed teeth and the scruffy beard-like mass clinging to his chin, I have a feeling there was more gaming than academy-ing). I gave him a hug and a kiss, both of which mildly embarrassed him, and made my exit, leaving him to chatter away with his bunk-mate about WOW, and the internets, and whatever else those crazy kids are up to today. The boyfriend was in tow, and since we were already up in Stanford, we decided to make the most of our day and a bit in Nor Cal. We headed to San Francisco, and hit the city hard.

Northern California gives me massive "the grass is always greener" yearnings. I have multiple fantasy retirement scenarios, and the current front runner is owning a few acres in Sonoma and a little goat herd, where I make goat cheese in the morning and homebrew in the afternoon. I fully invest in the salt and pepper look, and my husband and I listen to The Adventures of Philip Marlowe in the evenings. Granted, I would also love to be a prickly Auntie Mame-style old lady, with a crazy vintage clothing collection and really big sunglasses, who reads a book every week and is eating her way across the world. Maybe I can reconcile both? We'll see. I'll report back in 50 years.
Somewhere at the start of that thought was Northern California. I love it up there. The food, the people, the architecture. So with 24 hours to pack it in, here's what I did:
Day 1:
Dinner at Bar Crudo. I forgot my camera, lamentably, but let me report that the food was outstanding, with possibly the best chowder I've ever had. And I had a mild cold, so my palette was only running on half cylinders, which says something about the quality of the soup. It was a perfect blend of a boullibaise and new england chowder, with a hint of tomato, bacon, and a lovely spicy back bone. The chunks of fish, clams, and other flotsam and jetsam were perfectly cooked, and the variety of raw fish (ceviche, sashimi, etc.) were all bright, focussed, and gone in two bites.
Day 2:
Breakfast: Dim Sum at Good Mang Kok Bakery. Our other favorite Dim Sum spot, Yong Kee, was closed on Monday, so I scrambled for a second option. The pork baos were flavorful, but needed a little soy sauce for the bread, and the vegetable shu mai were delicious. We got much more than we could've hoped to eat, and it cost under $5, so you can't beat that.

Lunch: The Ferry Building. If you have a limited time but want to hit the best San Francisco has to offer, just head to the Ferry Building. Right on the water, it houses numerous artisanal food shops, from Hog Island Oysters to Blue Bottle Coffee. Still full from our dim sum binge, we made room for a little more.
New Orleans Iced Coffee from Blue bottle, not too sweet and with a hint of chicory.
The bags I took home with me... Bright and briny sweetwaters.
The always delicious kumamotos.
Briny and minerally Virginicas. Perfect with a summer rose.
Afternoon Beer: We walked along the Embarcadero to reach 21st Amendment Brewery. I sipped on my Hell or High Watermelon Wheat and Peter on his Wheatness Protection Program while watching the world cup. The beer was light, tasty, not too sweet, and well punned.
Dinner: Nopa. We got there very early, so we snacked at the bar and drank an earthy and delicious Marsanny Rose from Joseph Roty, and a very dry Reisling from the Mittelrhein region. The fried chickpeas were addictive, and that was the best damn porkchop ever. Cooked until just pink in the center, and piled high with pluot chutney. Yum!
Some fish and chips... The look I give Peter after he steals my camera. A little amuse bouche of pluots, yogurt, and dill.
Bacon flatbread, obviously amazing!
A baked egg in smoked tomato sauce. What I would give to have this be in regular rotation for breakfast.
The thickest, juiciest pork chop I've ever had.
A few castel vetranos snuck onto the plate.
Lemon verbana ice cream with fresh strawberries and chartreuse cake.
A chocolate cherry semi freddo.

For more articles like this one, check out Claire's blog The Kitchy Kitchen.