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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

San Francisco

Tonight I'm going to take you to San Francisco. I have three lesser know restaurants that are medium priced, somewhat funky, with good food. I usually stay at the Marriott (nice beds) and the first restaurant, Annabelle's Bistro & Bar, is just across the street. It looks kind of like a dive from the outside with a big neon sign. But continue in. As you enter, you'll find yourself in front of a long, polished wood bar. There are high tables against the walls. Just behind the bar is the entrance to the restaurant. It's small, maybe 15 tables. The floors are black & white tile and the wait staff is all in black. The kitchen is open at the back. I started with a baby spinach salad topped with walnuts, dried cranberries, apples and blue cheese vinagarette. The menu changes but the last time I was there, I had Scottish salmon on a bed of sautéed spinach and mashed potatoes, topped with a beurre blanc (wine & butter) sauce and onion strings—very nice! Ordered a glass of Whitehall Lane Sauvignon blanc for my wine of the night. I happen to be a nut for crème brulee so that was my dessert. It was a good one.

Next, is First Crush at 101 Cyril Magnin St. It's on a corner but it's easy to miss. You walk in and up a flight of stairs. It's on one of those San Francisco hill streets so the back door is flush with the street, even though you walked up the stairs to enter. It's small, about 12 tables and is a long narrow space, fronted by a bar facing the tables. The walls are burnt orange and shear curtains hang on the floor-to-ceiling windows. Hardwood floors, and wood tables complete the atmosphere.

They offer something that I think is excellent for someone learning about wines—wine flights. If you've never had one, they usually consist of an assortment of three to four 2 oz glasses of different wines. It allows you to sample and develop your tastes for what you like without getting snookered. I chose one consisting of a Pinot blanc, a Riesling, and a gewurtztraminer. The gewurz is slightly sweet, like a Riesling or spätlese but with a touch of spice. I started with a tomato, avocado, and cucumber salad topped with Kalamata olives. Feta cheese was crumbled over the top. For my main course, I had halibut topped with sautéed mushrooms in a tarragon beure blanc sauce. Splurged a bit on dessert. Bread pudding with browned apple compote and rum raisin ice cream—heavenly! Also relaxed with a glass of Lemorton Reserve Calvados.

Last but not least, down by the pier are a ton of seafood restaurants. Virtually all of them are crap—tourist joints that focus more on the experience of S.F. than decent food. However, at pier 7 on the Embarcadero, you'll find the Waterfront Restaurant. It juts out into the bay with big windows for watching the boats and the lights of Berkeley and Oakland. The seafood is superb. Start with grilled pancetta (Italian bacon) wrapped prawns or buttermilk-fried calamari with rock shrimp and a spicy aoli (like a mayonnaise). While they have some good salads, I usually skip them and go straight for the main course. Great, simply grilled fish. My favorites are escolar, ahi tuna, and scallops. Or if you can't decide, try the scallops and prawns. Wine for the night was a Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay Reserve Carneros-Napa Valley, about $50.00 in my wine store at home. Rich and buttery, yet surprisingly light and delicate. Dessert? You guessed it—Crème brulee.

Well, that should give you a taste of San Francisco. I'll be out there in December speaking at the American Society for Cell Biology. If you're around, I'll be at the "W" hotel (Marriott was booked). Give me a call and we'll share a bottle.


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