For the uninitiated, an It's-It is a San Francisco original that is available only at select places along the west coast. Having both grown up on the west coast and having an insatiable sweet tooth, you better believe I know almost all the chocolatiers, ice cream parlors and sweets they have to offer.
An It's-It is an ice cream sandwich, available in three flavors - Vanilla, Chocolate and Mint. They ice cream is sandwiched between two large (~3" diameter) oatmeal cookies, all of which is coated by chocolate... hmmm
In the Bay Area, they are available in nearly every convenience store, however as you get further from the Bay Area, they become harder and harder to find. If you have a sweet tooth, or it is a hot day, I recommend trying one.
Californians are crazy about sourdough. The SF Forty-Niner Football team mascot is Sourdough Sam. But, sourdough is an acquired taste, where the novice is likely to be confused by the craze. When, I lived in Saudi Arabia, where good date bread comes direct from the baker's oven, I got a hankering for sourdough. I found a "sourdough" baguette at a grocery, which was crusty all right but not really sour. I've never found quality sourdough in Europe either. It seems that this slow expanding yeast has been replaced worldwide with faster rising milder yeasts that blow fewer dough bubbles.
A baguette from Paris or New York resembles one from San Francisco, but the tangy--zero sweet--flavor of a sourdough loaf is unique. Some claim the city's foggy climate fosters the yeast culture, but I personally believe that the more restrained use of bread within a diet low on sugars or fats, and high on red wine, fosters this culinary staple. A great appetizer is simply a basket of sourdough, a little virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for sopping, and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Sourdough is hand-formed into long, round or oblong loaves, rolls, and even pancakes. Skip the stack of fluffy flapjacks topped with corn syrup at I-Hop, try a plate of misshapen bubble-pocked silver dollar sized sourdough slices topped with Grade A Maple Syrup. Unlike other breads, sourdough is often preferred dried and crusty. Leave the bread on the counter. I do prefer mine fresh and doughy, with a softer crust. For lunch prosciutto or jamon serrano, fresh sliced tomato, basil leaves, garlic, and balsamic vinegar atop a thick slice of Extra Sourdough, sometimes toasted, is my personal favorite. Sourdough meets all fine pate', cheezes, and mustards.
Available throughout California (see link), the bread's sour flavor is the quality control taste test. Homemakers should buy several packages of Gold Rush dry soughdough yeast, also widely available. Keeping a yeast culture is cheap and easy.
1633 Haight Street
Formerly Persian Aub Zam Zam, is a throwback bar specializing in martinis.
The deal with this place is that the now dead owner of the place was nuts and EVERYONE in the city has a story. First things first: it was hardly open, and I mean like maybe 20 hours a month. Next important issue: he threw out 99% of the poor souls who were in need of drink. He ONLY served Martini’s you see, even though there was a full bar. And if you dared ask what kind, or can I have a beer, you were screamed at to leave right away.
In 12 years I have been to Zam Zams only one time before this year. And here is why:
My pal and I walked in and sat down at the bar. I was warned that I should ONLY order a Martini. So I, as nicely as I could, said: “What kind of martinis do you have?” To that I was told to GET OUT!
I plan on doing a short film on this place, with short interviews. Because even standing out side smoking a cigarette, you can hear people as they walk by going: “Of my god, that’s the place with that crazy guy! I can’t believe its open!” However, they don’t know it’s under new management, so they dare not go in.
Leave your story as a comment, you never know, you could be featured in a short!
Stepping into the Zam Zam is essentially stepping into the Casbar, circa World War II. Minarets, gothic windows and a resplendent Persian painting behind the bar makes the place seem like something that Lawrence of Arabia would stumble into after riding his camel all day. The beautiful wooden semi-circular bar hearkens back to the 1930s and is stocked with fine liquor, while the jukebox (filled with Frank, Ella, Louis and their ilk) plays nothing after 1955.” A classic review off the web, but it’s exactly true.
It may be that a City Ordinance requires that one should never loose sight of at least two Starbucks no matter where one stands in the City. The City is blessed with numerous coffee houses, many have free wireless internet access. Almost every neighborhood is well served.
But before running to that familiar green sign, check out some of the local independent places. The local places often serve superior coffee and many offer organic coffee as well. One of the best ways to get a feel for the distinct San Francisco neighborhoods is to hang out in their local coffee houses.
It is more difficult to find independents in some areas like the Financial District, but no worries, several chains are well represented there. Some common chains found in the City include Tully's and Pete's. San Francisco is a great place to get caffeinated!
This bakery has been in Japantown neighborhood for decades. Their cakes (Coffee Crunch, Strawberry Cake.. to name a few) are simply delicious.
At $2.95 a piece they disappear very fast, better come in the morning. :-) You can also buy a whole cake ($25) which will satisfy about 15 people.
These cakes are made fresh and do not last long. Probably up to only 10 hours in the fridge.
NOTE: Pay with check or cash, no cards are accepted. The place closes as soon as the last cake is sold. It is located in the Super Mira market. Turn right as soon as you enter and you`ll see it.
If going from downtown, take:
- bus #1 and get off at Sacramento/Buchannan. Go few blocks down South until you reach Sutter/Buchannan intersection. Turn left.
- or bus #3 and get off at Sutter/Buchannan. It will be on your right hand side.
A real San Francisco TREAT !
There's nothing like chowder, fresh crab and a bottle of Chardonnay for lunch.
The central California Dungeness crab season starts Nov. 15th.
Once the fishermen's price per pound ($1.75 a pound in 2005) is agreed to about 100 boats from Bodega Bay to Half Moon Bay go out to sea.
The cooked crabs were selling at stands for an average of $6.75 a pound.
They run about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds to 3-pounds.
As a tourist or local you can line up for a Dungeness fix by 10 a.m. each morning.
The local Dungeness isn't as salty as the blue crabs of the Atlantic seaboard.
We natives don't want to pay $5.95 or $6.95 a pound. One option is to buy crabs straight from a boat.
We had fresh crabs from the north (Washington and Canada). The only difference was the cost. The northern crabs were more expensive.
To me, the local crabs are a little sweeter.
The rules in place for crabbers include size restrictions, sex limits (catching males only), season, and rules on method of catch. These rules make sure we don't fish them out of existence.
Crab pots used to catch them are, by requirement, woven with circular holes big enough for the non-mature crabs to escape.
At home we put a live crab in a pot of cold water and bring that water to just under 100 degrees--about human body temperature. Crabs and lobsters slaughtered this way die quickly and easily without showing distress. The meat remains uncooked by this method, and you can continue with dressing (separating the meat from the innards) the crab and then stir-frying it.
Most Chinese markets with in-house tanks for live crab will dress the crab at no extra charge. It's not a bad choice, especially because these markets often have the the best prices for crab.
A popular place for locals is 99 Ranch, the Taiwan-based supermarket chain, in nearby Daly City.
I’m a big proponent of trying local food and drink and beer falls nicely into the latter category. San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing was at the forefront of the microbrew phenomenon that started in the mid-80s. Northern California has been a stalwart advocate throughout the years and there are numerous great small breweries in the bay area and farther a field. With great multi-tap bars like the Toronado in town, you can sample lots of them without even leaving the city limits. Sierra Nevada has become popular throughout the country but you don’t find their seasonals very often and I was happy to get to sample their Oktoberfest beer. While it is nice to visit brewpubs personally, many small breweries don’t even have their own taprooms so getting to sample their beers so easily is a real plus. Anchor Brewing runs a great tour weekdays only and must be reserved well in advance. I've done lots of tours and this one in 1994, and it's one of the best. It's a beautiful brewery with great beers, and best thing is over an hour of unlimited beers to sample!
Though Irish coffee was not invented at the Buena Vista Restaurant in San Francisco, the pub no doubt made the drink popular in the States. They also know how to market an admitted good thing. The hot drink that consists of cubed sugar, coffee, Irish whiskey and clotted cream is a perfect complement to the city’s foggy climate. But what makes it so popular I believe is the show the bartenders put on making one! After vigorously chopping up the sugar in the piping hot coffee, they pour the whiskey in from an absurd height into multiple glasses before floating the majestic cream on top. It’s very tasty and a must when in S.F. The Buena Vista is perhaps the most expensive place to have one but also probably the most atmospheric one too. Worth the splurge.
It is a San Francisco custom to go out to brunch on the weekend - particularly Sunday. Many places that just do dinner during the week will be open on the weekends early for the brunch crowd. Some neighborhoods get practically overrun, and it's not at all uncommon to wait over half an hour for a table.
Since alot of this is "morning after" action - leftover from the night before - the crowds don't usually show up before 10:30. If you're just looking to get something to eat in the morning on the weekend, you might want to get there early to avoid the rush.
The place on the left is the Pork Store on Haight & Ashbury. Great always but crazy on the weekends!
The Palace Hotel is "Old San Francisco." One of the first luxury hotels in the city, it was built in 1875 and rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake.
The Garden Court at the hotel follows an old line tradition brought over generations ago from Europe. Every Saturday afternoon, tea, crumpets and cucumber and watercress sandwiches (and a few other things) are served from 2 - 4pm.
The Garden Court, with its polished marble and crystal chandeliers, is amazing. That alone is worth a look see.
Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco is seafood lovers' heaven. This place is amazing. Fresh seafood straight from the sea right into the boiling water, fryer, and cocktails. Crabs, lobsters, clams, shrimp, etc., you name it, in large quantities for you to enjoy. Also have delicious, freshly made clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.
This salad owes its name to the delicate meat of the "Dungeness Crabs" which is caught at the North West coast of America.
You're able to buy the Dunegeness Crabs at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. They're displayed in lot's of ice cubes. If you buy a crab you'll ussually get it with a cup of spicy Louis dressing.
For the entire receipe see the travelogues!