Well, it took me four posts to tell you about everything I ate on my trip. When you plan vacations around where you can eat and drink, your meals tend to dominate your travelling. Washington, Oregon and Northern California were filled with great food, but San Francisco was my favorite.
When you only have basically a day and a half in San Francisco, what would be the top of your list for places to eat? I didn’t even have to think about it. Hog Island Oysters, Chinatown and Cockscomb restaurant.
The last time I was in San Francisco a few years back, I wanted to hit Hog Island Oysters but didn’t get time. This time, that was the first place we went after surrendering our rental car and checking in the hotel. It’s right in the Ferry Plaza Market building, which is worth a visit on its own. Inside isn’t as big as you’d think for a city the size of San Francisco, but it’s a market filled with stalls and stalls of food items–both prepared and packaged. Outside, booths set up selling all kinds of crafty wares, fresh vegetables and fruit, and flowers.
There was a line for Hog Island Oysters, but it moved pretty fast. It was worth the wait.
Hog Island Oysters are raised just a few miles north of San Francisco. Incidentally, they also have a location in the Oxbow Public Market in Napa. Also inside Ferry Market Plaza, you’ll want to check out Blue Bottle Coffee. It was the best coffee I had the whole trip–No lie. Grab a dried sausage to take home, from Boccalone, too.
“The next time I’m in San Francisco…” I said that on this trip plenty. I’m going to stay in Saulsalito. And I’m going to eat at the Slanted Door, the Vietnamese place in the Ferry Plaza Market. Next time.
That night, we had reservations at Cockscomb. The last time I was in San Francisco in 2010, I wanted to go to Chris Cosentino‘s restaurant, Incanto, but didn’t make it. I have been a fan of his since he was a finalist on The Next Iron Chef a few years before that. His focus has always been on offal, or the forgotten organ meats. Incanto had more of a rustic Italian flavor, but the dishes often featured offal. It closed a few years ago, and he opened Cockscomb, which celebrates offal front and center with simple, seasonal dishes. When I got the reservation, I asked to sit at the counter facing the open kitchen rather than a table so I could watch the magic. They sat us right beside the waiters’ service station, which some people might have been disappointed with, but not me. It just gave me the opportunity to talk to all the waiters as they came up to wait on a meal to come out of the kitchen. I asked them a million questions. It was fascinating.
I was leaning toward the tartare for an appetizer, but a salad made with lamb heart and zucchini was on special, and I watched a couple of them come out of the kitchen while we were waiting to order. It looked awesome, so we ordered that for a starter. The chef told me (yes, we pretty much talked to him the whole time we were there) that one day a guy came in with a bag of lamb hearts and was like “Do you guys want these?” They told him to bring all he gets.
Calf’s liver–which I make all the time now that I get a half a beef–was on the menu, and I ordered it. Mostly I was intrigued and wanted some inspiration for making what I have in the freezer. I certainly got it. It had a cream sauce with sauted chanterelles.
As it got busier, Chris Cosentino himself came over to supervise the dishes coming out of the kitchen–and stood right by me! As my calf’s liver was coming up, he said to the waiter who was waiting at the station “That’s a f**king amazing meal right there.” I turned and said “That’s mine,” and fist bumped him! He said that people don’t order it off the menu, they only sell it when it’s on special. I told him about getting the half a beef, and that I wanted to figure out a different way to make the packages of liver that I have. He told me how they make it, and I cannot wait to try it. He asked where we were from, and we told him, fully expecting a blank nod or some comment about Virginia, since that had been happening the whole trip. But he said “I love West Virginia! I used to ride my bike at Snowshoe!”
It was the best meal of my life. The food was fabulous, but getting the attention we got from the kitchen staff–and Chris Cosentino himself–made it amazing! I asked the kitchen staff and waiters so many questions, I was afraid I was bugging them while they tried to work, but they were nothing but friendly to me. The sous chef even gave us a free sample of the beef heart tartare after we asked about it, and told him that we had three beef hearts in our freezer. That’s something else I’m itching to try to recreate now, too.
The next day, we ventured to Chinatown. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in North America, and it’s a feast for the eyes. I could have walked around all day, just galking at the wares in the windows of the stores.
We went to Hunan Home for lunch, which was one of the top-rated places to eat on Yelp. It was outstanding. And cheap. I had the best hot and sour soup I’ve ever had.
We had an 8 pm flight, so we wandered around Chinatown a little longer, and then down a couple blocks to Comstock Saloon for happy hour. This place is on all those lists of places to see/drink at in San Francisco. It’s the oldest bar in San Francisco. It actually was called something else, but it was sold and they changed the name a few years ago–I think that still counts since it’s basically unchanged since 1907 when it opened.
It’s in the old “red light district” in North Beach, which isn’t really a red light district anymore. The Condor Club is still there, but it’s heyday is long behind it. It’s a famous night club–I’ll leave it at that. Click the link to the wikipedia page, if you’re interested in sorted history.The bartenders are well versed in cocktail culture and know how to make all the classic cocktails well. The happy hour special is called a “boot to the head”, which is a shot of Four Roses bourbon and a shorty of Anchor Steam, the local beer, both for $7.
It was the perfect way to close out the trip to San Francisco before we headed to the airport for our “red eye” back East.