It was nice waking up in the hotel room on this morning. I love that hotel. I guess I have an affinity for it as I stayed there about five years ago and had a special time.
But, no rest for the weary – we had to hit the ground running and get to the farmers’ market at the Ferry Building.
It was a blustery day, drizzly and gray. When we arrived at the market we pretty much bee-lined for the oyster stand. I ordered three on the half shell. And, I have to admit, standing there in the weatheryness, a little groggy, staring at the bay, slurping down those oysters – there was nowhere I would have rather been. It was one of those moments that you know, right then and there, you’ll remember forever. Pretty god-damn great.
After that I hit up Roli Roti for a more substantial lunch. It was delicious. We poked around for a bit, checked out the stalls. I, of course, wanted to buy up some beautiful piece of produce from each and every stall, but I didn’t have a kitchen to race back to to flex in. So I bought a jar of pickled veggies to bring home to Maggie instead.
Then we went on to wander around at the Musée Mécanique, which was just down the way. By the by, anyone exploring San Francisco absolutely must check this spot out. It is great fun.
There was a lot of walking, a lot of wandering, a lot of coffee stops, and then back to the hotel to get ready for our last big night out in the city.
The strangest thing: whenever we looked out the window of our room, the city looked bright and dry. But then every time we walked out the front doors of the hotel, it was gray, blowy and rainy. Mysterious.
We hopped in a cab and set out to have a cocktail prior to dinner at a fun little bar very close to the restaurant. I really dug this bar and would like to return at some point to try the food. Onward. To Quince.
Quince was the only other I-must-eat-here spot in San Francisco other than Chez Panisse for this trip. I had heard raves about the place for years and thought Michael Tusk, who cooked extensively in Europe, and used to work at Stars, Oliveto, and Chez Panisse, had the tastiest morsel of all at La Loves Alex’s Lemonade this past November. I believe it was a quail and chickory salad with quince mostarda.
Quince’s interior was an unexpected delight. For some reason, I had predicted an environment more along the lines of Heirloom, but what I discovered was entirely a surprise. What I walked into was an elegant, formal dining room studded with chandeliers and suited staff, yet modern and hip (God, I hate using that word) with original Thomas Struth and Sally Mann prints. With exposed brick in the back and high ceilings, a large main dining space with peripheral area in the back, a long bar to the side, lounge in front, a private dining room, and a huge 10,000-bottle wine cellar, clearly this is an occasion restaurant. Thankfully, this was one (when isn’t?).
After I ordered my wine and Minty ordered her cocktail, the food began. We were first served our amuse bouche: scoop of diced big eye tuna and a shot of salsify veloute. Beautiful, fresh and inspired.
From there we ordered a few items that seemed a smart cross section of the menu, to share. They instinctively split our plates, which was tremendously generous and kind. The service was impeccable all night, actually.
Then came our Willet Farm Artichoke Salad with farro and burrata. This was a bewitching and graceful dish. The super fresh, creamy burrata worked beautifully with the earthiness of the artichoke and the farro and the crispies on top of it all.
The Delta Crawfish with Sonoma Coast wild mushroom, chickweed and cipollini onion was up next and was also exemplary. Those crawfish were cooked perfectly and were promoted to a surprisingly elegant status, yet maintained true-to their-roots in both presentation and taste.
I am on an extreme pasta kick right now so the Tagliolini with smoked eel and fava beans was an obvious choice. The pasta was done just right and the smoked eel was a creative and welcome companion. The fava element added a nice coarseness to such an otherwise refined dish. I could have eaten my body weight in this one.
And then we were served our Atlantic Cod with celery root, Meyer lemon and black truffle. I’m such a lucky girl to have so much truffle in so little time. And we all know about my current celery root fixation. This was one of those dishes. One of those perfectly composed, well thought out and well executed dishes. This dish was not unlike some of the beautiful photographs hanging on the very walls in front of my eyes that night. It was a piece of art.
I was doubtful that our dessert would rival the previous night’s at Chez Panisse. While they were not to be compared – apples and oranges, if you will – the Meyer Lemon Tart was pornographic in decadence, richness and buttery goodness. And, yet, somehow maintained a refined freshness.
This was my favorite meal on our little journey.
Then we went and closed down a bar with another cute bartender to flirt with. Then there was lunch the next day. Then, after an overwhelmingly delicious coffee, we hit the road.
And, after a long drive (sans speeding ticket) with a beautiful sunset and then horrific weather, I greeted my little family up in the canyon, put on my pine cone jammies, poured a glass of wine, and snuggled into my couch to contemplate how I left my heart in San Fran-Cheesy.