What now seems like forever ago, I took a road trip to San Francisco. I’ve only been home a week, but it feels like months. Strange how road trips & vacations can do that to your perspective. Of course I still haven’t unpacked, because that would mean it was over. I am not ready for it to be over, yet.
I love San Francisco. I could totally live there. The more I think about it, the more I want to head down the coast with all my kit & kaboodle & just stay. I love how it’s on the edge, but in the middle. You can drive to an awful lot of places in under 12 hours from San Francisco. I love that.
My week in the City by the Bay included blue skies and sunshine, sea lions and sourdough, sea breezes and stacks of serendipity. There were some breakfasts involved too.
Bob the Potter, who lives in the South of France, has a cat named Zazie. Consequently, on discovering a tiny little French restaurant of the same name in Cole Valley, I felt compelled to eat breakfast there.
Charming down to the very last wooden chair and the French music wafting down over the spiral staircase, this place is a Francophile heaven. The servers (one of whom I suspect was the owner) were about as friendly as you can imagine anyone to be. I felt like I was sitting in my own kitchen at home. Well, except that I don’t have a spiral staircase in my kitchen. Or chanteurs francais crooning in the background. Plus, I have to do my own cooking. OK, so there’s really not many similarities, so let’s just say I felt very comfortable. So comfortable I didn’t want to leave.
Sarah Jane asked me, “Are you going to be 1 or 2 people this morning?” After a few seconds thought I replied, “Er, I think I’ll just be 1.” You know you’re in a comfortable place when the server happily invites both your alter egos to the table.
Scrambled Eggs Fontainbleau: with portobellos, shiitake, porcinis, spinach, fontina ($11). Three-egg, free-range awesomeness on a plate. I immediately fell in love with the teapot. Will you look at the handle on that thing? I want one. PS. Bob the Potter – get a load of those painted plates!
I love places that use fresh stuff. Like lemons. That used to grow on trees.
The best bit? They let you swap out the potatoes for salad and the toast for fruit. I think this should be mandatory in all breakfast joints. I left feeling like Superwoman instead of an over-stuffed slug.
Another day I found myself 4th in line at Brenda’s French Soul Food on Polk Street in the Civic Center. Mais oui! More French food. First in line was a delightful lady lawyer from Ha’waii. We got chatting. Turns out she likes food. A lot. And photographs it. And posts it here.
I figured she must know something I didn’t if she knew to be first in line at Brenda’s. Turns out she has a son in school in San Francisco, so she visits often. Said son, incidentally, plays in a band called Wild Son. It’s amazing who you can meet when you go out to breakfast.
The line was half way down the street when they opened up the door. I took the tiny table next to my new breakfast buddy and we exchanged notes on life, the universe and pretty much everything. Well, as much as you can get through in an hour between mouthfuls of oysters and grits.
Shrimp & Grits – Sautéed shrimp, cheddar grits, spicy tomato-bacon gravy ($12). Not being a huge grits fan – not really even understanding grits – I decided not to go there, but the aroma was amazing. I think my new friend thought I was angling for some as I kept mentioning how good it smelt. The verdict? It tasted as good as the tantalizing smell suggested that it would.
When in San Francisco, eat seafood, that’s what I say. Since I’d already downed crab and shrimp for breakfast this week, I headed straight for another Brenda’s house favorite – The Hangtown Fry – Crispy oyster, bacon & scallion scramble ($11). Yes, oysters for breakfast. I’d never eaten oysters before, but after my experience in Ballard a few weeks back, and dreaming about The Oyster Dude since then, I was up for oysters anytime. And anyway, they were crispy and deep-fried. Plus they had bacon with them. How could they *not* be good?
There was still a line by the time we left. Great food, unpretentious surroundings, great service. If you decide to go, go early, or be ready to wait. It’s all good at Brenda’s.
Only in San Francisco do you get your Scramble served in a sourdough bread bowl. I suppose I should have expected it from Boudin Bakery since they did create the whole sourdough thing to begin with. If you go to the Boudin Bakery by Fisherman’s Wharf you can see a few loaves of bread around the place.
And, if you go to their Cafe on Pier 39, you can get just about anything in a sourdough bread bowl. Including your breakfast scramble. Sadly, the service was atrocious (not to mention rude), the scramble was average and it was all served up on a paper plate with compostable utensils. However…I HAVE EATEN BREAKFAST OUT OF A SOURDOUGH BREAD BOWL! IN SAN FRANCISCO!! Yay :-) The amount of carbs that came on that paper plate was astounding. I just ate the scramble. I did not want to have to nap at 7:30 in the morning.
Since 3 eggs and a handful of peppers won’t keep me going for longer than about 27 minutes, I needed to track down breakfast #2. Hey, I had a lot of sightseeing and shooting to accomplish. Luckily, just around the corner, further down on Pier 39 is The Crepe Cafe. Their Breakfast Plus Crepe came stuffed with turkey, eggs, cheese and I-don’t-remember-what-else.
I do remember that it was a jolly fine crêpe, and that the turkey was real turkey. It was delicious. I would most certainly go there again, despite that it was also served on a paper plate with compostable utensils. I get the feeling that either tourists can’t be trusted with real plates or that somehow tourists are not deemed worthy. There is seriously limited seating at The Crepe Cafe and they don’t advertise their hours so it’s hard to know when to show up. Other than that – they make a mean crêpe. And the store is adorable.
Fisherman’s Wharf, if you’ve never been to San Francisco, is Tourist Central.
Trams and cable cars, beaches and piers. Plus lots of sourdough bread and lobsters, an awful lot of water and sea lions by the dozen. And poppies. You can’t forget the poppies.
A tourist trap it may be, but it’s full of iconic things that just help make Fog City the fascinating city that it is.
I got a kick out of being a tourist on warm, sunny afternoons. Watching the restaurants sell shrimp tacos on the pier, sipping a drink at a sidewalk café, strolling on the beach watching the swimmers in the bay. Listening to the sea lions yelling at each other, eating fish and chips, riding on the cable cars. Looking for crabs on the rocky shore, drinking hot chocolate in Ghirardelli Square, gazing out over the harbor at the boats bobbing gently on the water.
I could totally live here.