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48 Hours in San Francisco

12 Apr

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Traveling to San Francisco feels like revisiting a childhood home. I see my favorite nooks in the house and relive wonderful memories, but I also observe details that I  overlooked before. My parents brought me to San Francisco five years ago, and from the moment I set foot on Market Street, I felt the city’s dynamic and creative energy. I immediately fell in love with the charming architecture, eclectic shops and art galleries, and the incredible culinary scene.

This past weekend, my family and I returned to our usual spots while also exploring unfamiliar areas such as Pacific Heights and North Beach. All of our meals were outstanding; I have shared a glimpse into my foodie adventures here.

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We began Friday morning with breakfast at The Mill, a bustling cafe and bakery located in a quaint neighborhood. The Mill has gained national recognition for its “hipster toast,” thick slices of freshly-baked bread, toasted until golden and crusty, then slathered with a variety of house-made spreads. Every component of this toast is outstanding, elevating a staple item into something note-worthy. I particularly enjoyed the country bread topped with butter, honey, flecks of rosemary, and a sprinkling of sea salt. With high ceilings and airy table seating, The Mill provides a comfortable environment to work or to just chat with friends.

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For lunch, we headed to The Slanted Door, an upscale Vietnamese restaurant located inside the Ferry Building. Eating here has become a treasured family tradition that I look forward to every year.

I appreciate The Slanted Door’s modern approach to classic Vietnamese cuisine, crafting fresh, boldly-flavored dishes. Think raw California yellowtail garnished with crispy shallots, thai basil, and tangy lime juice. The caramelized claypot catfish, silky fish filets surrounded by sweet sliced onions, ginger, and cilantro, all encased in a luxurious sauce, may be one of the best things I have ever eaten.

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As much as we adore The Slanted Door, we have never eaten dessert there. The Ferry Building hosts an array of artisanal vendors, including small-batch chocolate makers, ice cream shops using local dairy, and a pristine French bakery named Miette.

Even if you do not have a sweet tooth, the bakery’s impeccable display of packaged candies, cookies, and confections will grab your attention. While you cannot go wrong with any of these products, I highly recommend sampling the acclaimed French macarons. Miette uses all-natural ingredients and refined flavors for its macarons; simple vanilla will always be my favorite.

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Spring blooms and San Francisco’s distinctive townhouses.

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Clockwise from left: chocolate kouign amann, blueberry-banana scone, raspberry-almond croissant, and original kouign amann.

On Saturday morning, we treated ourselves to coffee and pastries at the beautiful B. Patisserie in Pacific Heights. Belinda Leong, pastry chef and owner, contributed a kouign amann recipe to the April issue of Bon Appétit. After reading the story, I had to taste the flaky, buttery pastries in person. The rose-shaped creation contains more than one hundred layers of caramelized dough and a gooey, custard-like center. Other notable items include the raspberry-almond croissant and passion fruit brioche. I have always admired traditional French baking, but Leong’s innovative, expertly-executed take on the classics makes B. Patisserie a true standout.

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Vibrant spring flowers at Bi-Rite Market.

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After such an indulgent breakfast, we craved a light lunch. Greens Restaurant, a San Francisco institution, serves healthful vegetarian cuisine. While many meatless restaurants can be trendy and unsatisfying, Greens offers wholesome, approachable food. I loved my warm spinach and artichoke salad, topped with parmesan shavings, toasted pine nuts, and a perfectly poached egg. My sister’s cauliflower and feta cheese omelette was fluffy and moist, complemented by crispy roasted potatoes. Greens is an ideal venue for a laid-back meal with family.



Linzer Blitz Torte and a Bookstore for Foodies

24 Nov

Every home baker knows the agony of choosing the right recipe. You scour your cookbook collection, search the archives of your favorite blogs, and ponder back and forth until you’re thoroughly exhausted. I often wish for one trustworthy source where I can find simple, sophisticated desserts for every occasion. I found just the thing I was looking for last weekend at Omnivore Books in San Francisco. 

Hundreds of books about food and drink line the shelves of Omnivore Books in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood. I could spend an entire day in there, drooling over photos, fantasizing about restaurants and bakeries I want to visit, mentally marking all the recipes I want to make. There are vintage cookbooks with torn spines and retro covers, cookbooks in foreign languages, and cookbooks signed by chefs and bloggers. 

I went to Omnivore without a particular book in mind, but knew I wanted to purchase one as a souvenir. I asked an employee for a recommendation and she suggested Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich. Medrich, author of the highly acclaimed Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, filled this book with quick, effortlessly elegant recipes. After flipping through the first few pages, I knew this was the perfect book for me: a girl who loves to bake refined desserts but doesn’t have time to spend hours poring over the kitchen counter. 

Every item in this book appealed to me, but I chose two cold-weather options to bring to my family’s Thanksgiving celebration. One of them was this Linzer Blitz Torte made with a buttery, almond crust, layered with raspberry preserves, and spiced with fragrant ground cloves and cinnamon. This torte was easy to put together, delicious, and beautiful- one of the best baked goods I have ever made. You could replace the raspberry preserves with apricot, lemon, or fig jam; the dough would complement whichever fruit you prefer. I received rave reviews from everyone who tried it, and am thrilled that my pursuit for a go-to recipe source is over. If you are a Northern California native or in SF for a few days, definitely stop by at Omnivore Books. It is a quaint, charming shop chock full of wonderful foodie finds. 

Recipe courtesy of Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts

3/4 cup whole raw almonds or hazelnuts, or a combination 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
1/4 tsp salt 
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp ground cloves 
11 tblsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks and slightly softened 
1 large egg yolk 
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon 
Grated zest of 1/2 orange 
1/4 tsp pure almond extract 
2/3 cup raspberry or blackberry preserves 

1. Combine the almonds, flour, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cloves in the food processor and pulse until the almonds are finely ground. Add the butter, egg yolk, grated lemon and orange zests, and almond extract and process until the dough comes together. Scrape the butter from the bottom of the processor to help distribute evenly. 
2. Measure 1/4 cup of the dough and shape it into a ball. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it. Grease the sides of a 9 x 2″ cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Press the remaining dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. 
3. To bake the torte, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the preserves evenly over the dough, leaving a scant 1/2-inch border all around. Using the largest holes of a grater, grate the chilled reserved dough over the jam (or cut the dough into matchsticks and scatter them over the jam). 
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Tent the torte loosely with foil and bake for 10-15 minutes longer, until it is a deep golden brown. 
5. Cool the torte in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides to release the torte. Let it cool completely. Invert the torte onto a plate and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar, if desired. 

Omnivore Books On Food 
3885 Cesar Chavez St. 
San Francisco, CA 94131
(415) 282 4712 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 
Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday, 12 – 5 p.m. 

San Francisco Gourmet Chocolate Tour

2 Aug
A wide array of chocolates fill the display case at Swiss chocolatier, Teuscher. 

Last weekend, my sister Lena and I embarked upon a three-hour gourmet chocolate walk around the beautiful city of San Francisco, where we sampled chocolates from some of the world’s finest chocolate purveyors. 

Our journey began at The Ferry Building, where we learned proper chocolate tasting technique and tested our skills at our first stop:  Scharffen Berger. Of the bars we sampled, my personal favorite was the dark chocolate with sea salt. We then moved on to La Cocina, a business incubator that provides young entrepreneurs with commercial kitchen space and technical advice. The kiosk we visited sells products engineered by many of the students in the program, including a wide array of hand-crafted chocolate confections. My favorite item from La Cocina is the cinnamon truffle: a silky smooth chocolate ganache interior coated in an additional layer of chocolate and dusted with spicy Vietnamese cinnamon. Our third destination, Recchiuti, offers Parisian-inspired chocolates handmade in San Francisco. As someone who prefers rich, unhindered chocolate flavor over fruity and herbal concoctions, I was completely blown away by the jasmine tea truffle. 

 Scharffen Berger’s giant chocolate chunk cookie is to die for. Paper thin and crispy, blotted with pieces of the classic 70% cacao bar. 

We then walked a few blocks over to Fog City News, San Francisco’s most plentiful newsstand and candy store. Not only does Fog City offer an extensive selection of magazines, newspapers, and periodicals, but it boasts one of the largest chocolate collections in the country. We really saved the best for last, though, as we concluded the tour at Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland and CocoaBellaBiting into Teuscher’s Champagne Truffle is chocolate heaven: a thin chocolate shell dusted with confectioner’s sugar surrounds a center of creamy chocolate ganache and Dom Perignon champagne cream. CocoaBella is a gourmet chocolate carrier, sourcing its products from the world’s acclaimed chocolate artisans. The store is divided into two sides: North America and Europe. The European chocolates contain traditional flavor pairings and simple presentation whereas the North American offerings are more adventurous, including options such as a cayenne spiced truffle and a bleu cheese truffle. 

Aside from all the taste-testing, I learned quite a bit about the history of chocolate, chocolate composition, and even the political controversies surrounding chocolate production. It was also a pleasure to chat with the other foodies on the tour and to analyze the different items we sampled. Whether you are a chocolate lover or a curious foodie (or both!), this gourmet chocolate tour is a real treat. 

Best of the Bay, Part I: The Slanted Door

20 Dec
Wild California uni (sea urchin) with black tobiko, avocado, and strings of cucumber.
Moist daikon rice cakes with shitake mushrooms and scallions.
Cellophane noodles tossed with soft dungeness crab meat, scallions, and cilantro.

          I have visited San Francisco an handful of times and cannot begin to explain what makes this place so special. What I can say, however, is that one experience three years ago marked the start of my love affair with the vibrant city. That was the moment I sat down for lunch at The Slanted Door

          Since my first trip, I have returned on a number of occasions. With each new visit, I come to The Slanted Door to remember where it all began. Serving modern Vietnamese cuisine, this Michelin recommended restaurant blows me away every time. You cannot go wrong with any option on the menu as every dish contains bold flavors that come to life in your mouth. Some of my favorite items include the daikon rice cakes, the shaking beef, and the clay pot catfish. Juicy, tossed with fragrant cilantro, ginger, and Thai chilies, and caramelized to perfection, the catfish is a must. In addition, the polished wood tables, floor length windows looking out into the bay, and clean, minimalistic decor create a comfortable ambience. If you are an adventurous traveler with a passion for food, The Slanted Door is just the place to start your memorable journey in San Francisco.