Friday, August 14, 2009
San Francisco Highlights: The Snozzberries Taste Like Snozzberries!
[more about panama in a bit. today though, san francisco.]
San Francisco is one of my favorite LA-getaway destinations. I have a few good friends who live in the bay area, and we always have a good time. Catching up on all the time we miss each other, eating and drinking really well (and really, a lot) never fails. This trip was no exception. In town for Jana's baby shower (bebe is a girl! welcome Amalia!), our Bay Area weekend seemed to focus on real flavors: simple preparations of exellent ingredients. Nothing flashy, nothing overdone, just snozzberries tasting like snozzberries.
In a world of grande half-caf low-fat double macchiattos -- two pumps and room for cream -- there I was standing in line, about half an hour, for a simple cup of drip coffee. Ample time to notice that the sign at the produce stall next door described one of their heirloom tomato varieties as 'tomatoey'. Really all we want from a tomato, right? So I guess that's why I was waiting in line -- for the most, well, coffee-y coffee I know: Blue Bottle. It's a humble stall, and there's nothing fancy about their paper cups or the brown bags in which they sell their beans, but the laser focus is on the coffee itself. And what makes coffee-y coffee? Well, organic shade-grown beans, ground and brewed, or sold, within 48 hours of roasting.
I feel like I drank more coffee in a weekend in San Francisco than I do in 2 weeks at home. But there was so much good coffee everywhere, I couldn't help it! And often it was served in Heath Ceramics -- at the courtyard at SFMOMA, at Jana and Juan's cozy table (thanks bridal registry!), and again at her shower. Even the dishes at Chez Panisse (more on that below) were Heath. Once again, sturdy, classic designs and nothing fussy.
The same was true at Pizzeria Delfina (Oh sweet Pizzeria Delfina, with your 4 tiny tables and red Italian tile bathroom, how I love you!).
The pizza that has recently gotten the most attention there is the panna pie, so pared down that it even eschews cheese, opting instead for a decadent pour of heavy cream before going in the oven (balanced with a bit of shaved parmesan once it's out). But when all you've got is cream, excellent crust, and a simple tomato sauce, you can taste freshness. Turns out freshness tastes pretty good.
And then was there Chez Panisse* (I tell you, we go large in San Fran). Nothing showy about this place (so much so that part of me still feels like it was Aidan's parents' house in My Big Fat Greek Wedding -- boring white people food), but still there were some very special flavors going on here: the duck confit's simple presentation belied its flavors: perfectly browned duck skin around tender dark meat, with a fresh kumquat relish, tart and bright, to cut its richness. Same goes for the wild nettle pizza and rhubarb tart. A few ingredients at their freshest (whether tomatoes, coffee, or snozzberries) and solid culinary know-how go a long way.
* Chez Panisse, whose website has gone from homespun to oddly fancy and French in the time between my coming home from San Francisco and right now.