The Great Escape....Part 1!
On our quick 3 day getaway to the SF/Oaktown area, there was lots on my mind. Lots of food. Lots of drink. You know, the usual. So upon arriving at w's sis Jane's pad for a quick drop of stuff, we immediately headed out to "the best dim sum you'll ever have" according to the Chan sisters. Always eager to have the best of anything and famished from an early a.m. exit from PDX I walked through the door of East Ocean Seafood Restaurant (1713 Webster Street) in Alameda in a state of high anticipation. Let's see, what is the best way to say this...."incredible" comes to mind..."mind-blowing" wouldn't be bad..."fucking awesome" certainly. This place rocked, and there is nothing in Portland that can touch it. We stuffed ourselves, dish after dish arriving at the table, each one seemingly better than the last, finally finishing the meal with these incredible baked egg custard buns, crispy on top with sweet pastry dough surrounding this decadently delicious coconut tinged egg custard...god, thinking about it now makes me want to beeline back. And all that for the insanely low price of $35...for all of us! If you're down in SF, you HAVE to make the trip across the Bay Bridge and get some of this goodness!!
Part 2....Chasing a legend!
Ya know how sometimes you just have to go someplace you've always heard about? Last night was one of those gastronomic pilgrimages. Two words: Alice Waters. Two more: Chez Panisse. Okay, two more since we couldn't get reservations at Panisse: Café Fanny. Which isn't a bad way to settle, especially since lots of my PDX food pals have said they actually prefer the more casual ambience of the upstairs CF over the more formal prix fixe style CP. So anyway, w and I made the trip there on our Bay area sojourn, along with her sis Jane and her friend Peter. We had a couple of cocktails along the way, just to get in the right frame of mind. We enter the hallowed portal of CP and walk upstairs to Fanny, passing loads of people waiting for their downstairs tables at Panisse. We were seated right on time amid the bustle. Had some great apps, a bottle of Kerner, which is a super crisp northern Italian white. It went perfectly with our trio of apps, the highlight of which was the local Cannard Farm figs with jamon serrano. I had brought along a bottle of 2002 St. Innocent "Willamette Valley" Pinot Noir, which was opened and ready for our entrees arrival. And you know, they were really good. All the food here was really good. But when I come to a place like this, I have to admit to wanting more than really good. I don't know if it shows that maybe they need to ramp up the creative level here, or if we just eat so well in Portland now that it takes more to impress. Probably a little of both. But when we're shelling out pretty serious dough for a meal, all of us were hoping for more. Here's some pics from the night (again, click on any picture to enlarge)...
The dining room at Fanny.
The café menu.
Part 3....Sublime pleasure!
This is the deal on a super sunny, warm SF day....pre-noon fresh oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company in the Ferry Building overlooking SF Bay. I love the Ferry Building and the mecca of food it has become. The views across the water are fabulous, the Hog Island oysters fresh and briny.
w and I tucked in to the Hog Island dozen.....six each of their Sweetwaters and Atlantics, plus an added half dozen creamy, sweet Kumamotos that were amazing. Add a couple of glasses of vin blanc and we were set!
Yum! Fresh tomatoes, plums, & pears at the Ferry Building markets.
Part 4....Bring it on!
One of the most highly regarded restaurants in the SF dining scene is Delfina (3621 18th Street). For years it has been a regular stop for people in the local food biz, and has satisfied hordes of "discriminating" palates for years. We made this our Saturday stop after a long afternoon of wandering around town, browsing, relaxing and having a wonderful afternoon snack at Frjtz, which I think is a great, slightly gritty little joint in Hayes Valley.
They also have a spot near Ghirardelli square, but this tight, cramped spot is right up my alley. Sitting out back on their patio with some great fries and amazing dipping sauces, a delicious salad, and a cold Chimay was the perfect afternoon refresher!
Okay, so then on to Delfina, where we once again hooked up with Jane and Peter. To cut to the chase, we had an exceptionally good meal. Better than Café Fanny. In fact Jane was threatening to weep on several occasions! Our starters of fresh-stretched mozzarella with caponata and tomato crostini and a soul satisfying salt cod mantecato with house made flat bread were heavenly, especially washed down with a crisp chioretto rosé from Italy. Oh yeah, we also had a dish of creamy polenta with fontina that made Peter (and the rest of us) very happy. I have a funny feeling this paragon of Italian comfort food may make its way to his dinner table soon! We shared a wonderful salad and an amazing plate of rosemary tagliatelli with duck giblets and aged balsamico that was a sensual treat...we all LOVED this! Our fabulous waitress, who was fresh, funny, and very attentive popped the cork on a bottle of 1998 Ugo Lequio "Gallina" Barbaresco that I brought along. This was awesome nebbiolo, still fairly young and just starting to reveal its greatness. Man, it was so good! The entrée highlights were a Niman Ranch flatiron steak that w and Jane had, and Peter's Wolfe Ranch quail. My roasted chicken wasn't in the least bit disappointing either. And then we had to have a couple of desserts. What were they? I hate to say I can't remember right now, but they were excellent, especially with a sweetly fizzy glass of moscato d'asti to wash them down. With very full tummies we meandered to the car for the cross bay trip home and a welcome night in bed.
The ethereally good duck tagliatelle!
Part 5....So this is what heaven looks like!
We woke up to a brilliantly sunny, warm morning. So nice when you know it's pouring down rain back in PDX. After a morning walk with coffee and delicious pastry, the ever-present subject of what to eat next was foremost on our minds. After two nights of pretty intense dining, it was time to get our casual grub on, and Jane had the perfect thing on her mind. There's a street in Oakland called International Boulevard, aka the "Comida Corridor" that is crowded with a mind bending number of taco stops. You may or may not know about my taqueria/taco truck addiction. It's there, I admit it, so it's not a problem! And apparently Jane shares this same lust, because she took us on a tour of some killer chow. She led us on this carnitas crawl on a beautiful 75 degree afternoon. We stuffed ourselves, spending at most $1.25 a pop for these awesome taste treats. Below a couple of shots of true bliss!
Clockwise from top left: the Chan sisters awaiting fish taco nirvana at Tacqueria Sinaloa; your intrepid eater digging into and digging the stupidly good carnitas at our favorite stop, El Grullo; the line at Mariscos La Costa.
Nothing to do after this but lounge around Jane's pad with a magical, never-ending shaker of pomegranate cosmos, having a bit of social intercourse until it was time to head to the airport.
Wow....All in all a great trip. beautiful weather, mostly stupendous food and most excellent company. My favorite food pick was East Ocean. I can't wait to get back. w and Jane thought Delfina really hit it, and of course the Monday afternoon taco spree was right in my wheelhouse. Major props to Jane for being a perfect tour guide and host....I can't wait to see what happens next trip!!