Now that the San Franciscans have finished their spring break in Austin (aka SXSW), it’s time to consider paying our kindred spirit city a visit. Austin Food Magazine recently had the opportunity to check out some of San Francisco’s hotspots, and we have some suggestions for a weekend getaway in the City by the Bay.
WHERE TO STAY:
Walking into Hilton San Francisco Union Square is like entering a small city: there’s a lobby bar, a small convenience store/coffee shop (Herb N’ Kitchen), a massive check-in area and high ceilings that amplify the excited voices emphasizing this is the place to be. Our room on the 42nd floor offered spectacular views from the bay to Nob Hill, a perfect sight to marvel over a glass of wine on the balcony. Despite a location in the thick of things, the room was quiet and peaceful, and we slept soundly on the huge, fluffy bed.
For dinner, we were treated to Urban Tavern, located inside the hotel, where we got to speak Texan with Chef Michael Raub, who previously worked at shuttered Austin eatery Finn & Porter. We should have known we were dealing with someone who knew Texan tastes when we tried the Shaved Brussels Sprout salad, with pomegranate, pistachio, and of course, candied bacon. Pork was the shining star of the night, as our massive pork chop, brined and lightly smoked, had a tantalizing caramelization and incredible flavor. The staff were friendly and accommodating – for example, a girl seated next to us requested, and received, what appeared to be a birthday cheese plate.
After dinner, we headed to Cityscape Bar on the 46th floor, which offers jaw-dropping panoramic views of the city. Pick your favorite vista and settle into the intimate seating to take it all in over snacks and well-executed cocktails – we hear it’s especially stunning to watch the rosy sunset reflected in the skyline.
WHERE TO EAT:
For a brunch Italians wish they had
Though I hesitate to question their judgement on anything food-related, Italians might want to reconsider their coffee-only stance on morning meals, especially after experiencing the brunch offerings at Locanda in The Mission. We started with a heavenly Amaro sticky bun, a not-too-sweet treat with red walnuts and a hint of citrus (the secret ingredient is house-made nocciola liquor), and a side of house-made bacon. Next, the Eggs Carbonara Benedict stole the show: Two delicate poached eggs balanced atop prosciutto cotto and pizza bianca, with a smothering of cacio e pepe hollandaise and a snow of grated cheese. Despite how decadent that sounds (and tasted), the dish was surprisingly not too heavy – though we were grateful for the perfectly dressed lemony arugula salad that came with it.
For a delicious new spot in the Marina
Destined to be a neighborhood staple, this Italian kitchen and wine bar was buzzing when we arrived. Unable to decide between the tempting pasta and the aroma of pizza wafting from the oven, we eventually decided, “Why not both?” and regretted nothing. The margherita pizza had a crisp, chewy crust and milky fresh mozzarella punctuated with fragrant basil – that’ll do, pizza, that’ll do. I chose the straight-out-of-Tuscany campanelle with barolo-braised wild boar sugo and aged pecorino, while my companion opted for the umptuous squid ink bucatini with crab, chili, and sea urchin butter. Both were fantastic – the pasta with classic hearty sugo and salty cheese was perfect remedy for the evening’s drizzle, while the adventurous bucatini stimulated different parts of the palate. The wines on draft were delightfully good – I particularly enjoyed the Harrington “Avventura,” a Montepulciano/Sangiovese blend that accentuated the rich pasta.
For a presidential dining experience
Eating at Twenty Five Lusk is an indulgence fit for a king – or President Obama, who stopped by the locale last July. On a quiet side street in SoMa, this exposed brick open space is home to an impeccable New American restaurant above and trendy lounge below.
It is absolutely imperative to start your meal with champagne and caviar – after all, you are in for a treat tonight. The starter for the accompanying blinis was smuggled over from Russia in a hollowed out Bible, so suffice to say great lengths have been taken to ensure the perfection of this recipe. The subtle flavor and delicate texture of the blini go perfectly with the exquisite burst of caviar and effervescent champagne.
Our second courses consisted of a velvety parsnip soup, and paper-thin scallop sashimi, with kohlrabi, grapefruit, mustard seed oil, tarragon vinaigrette to bring out the fruitiness of the scallop. At this point it is worth noting that while the sommelier expertly paired our meal with excellent wines, my notes on the specifics have been lost to the void, and I can only tell you that you unequivocally must ask for and follow his recommendations.
For our main courses, we spent a full minute of reverent silence after the first bite. My Moulard Duck Breast was a treatment of the meat that others can only aspire to, with perfectly rendered fat and tender succulence, and the accompanying bitter endive, sweet potatoes, and rich pan sauce constructed an elegantly balanced plate. My companion’s meaty ribeye was served with bone marrow hollandaise, and if that doesn’t convince you to make reservations right now, I don’t know what will.
For dessert, we enjoyed our Gingerbeer Cake, with spiced pineapple, caramelized marcona almonds, and silky ice cream. From beginning to end, the meal was a memorable experience, and the perfect finale to a wonderful weekend getaway.