I’m home. And it’s delicious.
For the next three issues, we’ll be eating our way through San Francisco. No meal will be taken for granted.
Here’s one thing I love about San Francisco’s food scene. It’s incredibly easy to be a vegetarian. You don’t have to make a compromise. As I wrote last week, Farmhouse Thai’s vegan Little Lao Set is better than the meat one. At Al’s Place– one of my FAVORITES!– vegetables are front and center and meat is the side dish. And at Turner’s Kitchen, where we had excellent meaty sandwiches, they have just as many incredible vegan ones and apologize that the Frito Pie has beef in it.
At Bi Rite Creamery, they put a notation on the menu if something does include gluten, not if it’s the rare thing that’s gluten free.
The default is that you accommodate everyone, not that vegetarians get one lousy option. And they do it without just throwing Beyond meat everywhere.
There was some concern in foodie circles, before Covid, that the art of the veggie burger was going away thanks to the rise of fake meat. A lot of vegetarians stopped eating meat because they didn’t relish something that mimicked tearing into blood and flesh. I’m not a vegetarian, but I LOVE veggie burgers!!!! And am not a fan of Beyond or Impossible.
I am picky about them though and haven’t consistently found good ones. Universal Cafe has an incredible one, but it’s not always on the menu. I tried the black bean burger at the Exploratorium last week and was disappointed. It was good, but full of Middle-Eastern spices which was not what my mouth was expecting or craving.
If you live anywhere between San Francisco and San Diego and know of a killer veggie burger, I’d love to hear about it.
Meanwhile, what I ate this week:
Monday: Turner’s Kitchen
Turner’s Kitchen is something I wish I’d known about sooner. I have spent a lot of time in San Francisco having sub-par sandwiches. I’ve also spent a lot of time wondering what to grab near Dolores Park. It turns out Turner’s Kitchen was there.
It’s owned by Ken Turner formerly of Zuni’s
. What I love about the sandwiches is the creativity and the unexpectedness. Peach and mint on a turkey sandwich? That’s confusing and just right at the same time. The BLT has brie on it, which I think all BLTs should.
I don’t think I’ve yet found the perfect go-to Turner’s sandwich, but I’m enjoying eating my way through the menu. I was WOWED by the Frito Pie. At just $5, it’s my favorite affordable, quick, complete bite in the Mission right now.
I love versions of comfort food done in the classic style, but with top quality ingredients. That is this Frito Pie. It’s served in the bag of Fritos. It’s got some American cheese in there, because you have to have the oozy melt of American cheese. But the chili and pickled vegetables are homemade and incredible. That would have been fantastic while chasing down two small kids around the park for the last ten years.
Friday: Palm City
I feel bad for Turner’s Kitchen in only one way: Palm City
sort of stole the sandwich thunder this week. Palm City was every single bit as incredible as advertised.
It’s a small wine shop in the Sunset that sells hoagies that everyone has been losing their mind about. And rightly so. Paul had a hoagie au poivre and declared it the best beef sandwich he’s ever eaten in his life. As a Brit, he eats a lot of beef sandwiches.
I had the Italian, which almost everyone recommended. It was one of the best sandwiches I’ve eaten– full stop. The bread, the sauce, the proportions. Just incredible. I had a hard time understanding what makes Palm City so special before going there. And I have a hard time explaining it now that I have. You just have to take a bite of that sandwich for yourself. If you live in California, travel for this sandwich.
We had a blueberry hand pie for dessert, that was the most fruit forward dessert I’ve eaten in a long time. This sounds dumb, but I didn’t know blueberries could taste so blueberry.
I got a delicious chilled red to pair with this, it was a gorgeous day of sunshine with just enough of that ocean breeze. Someone on Yelp said Palm City is a perfect first date, because you can take half that bottle of wine from lunch and stroll through the park or by the ocean. Magic.
I was both glad and sad that Palm City isn’t in the Mission, because I would eat there every day.
The only person to tell me not to order the Italian told me to order the Cauliflower sandwich. I’m intrigued, but I’m not sure I am able to go there and not eat the Italian…
That was only lunch, but I was so physically and spiritually full I didn’t eat for the rest of the day.
The girls and I went to a playdate with a bunch of their friends’ from school and their moms, and it was so lovely. It was at one of those luxe high rises downtown that blow my kids’ minds. We all sat and drank wine and laughed and laughed while the kids ran around like total wild banshees. At one point Evie came over dripping sweat and told me she needed a towel. I didn’t have a towel. She wiped her face with a paper plate one of the moms handed her instead. Summer.
I so deeply and truly love my friends in San Francisco. I am not letting go of these people. I may love them more than the food…
Saturday: Soooooo much food.
We had reservations at Foreign Cinema with our friends, Andy and Andrea. I love Foreign Cinema and have spent countless brunches here, but obviously less so of late. It’s everything perfect about San Francisco dining to me.
“Remember when we used to come here every weekend?” Andrea said. “Did we think we were rich?”
“Remember when I bought a house after Bloody Mary’s here?” I said.
It’s true. I put an offer in on my beloved SF home after FC brunch with A&A.
“I think it got more expensive and more fancy,” I said. Or maybe now I just order more oysters.
“Remember, when you were guaranteed to get in as long as you got here right at 11 am?”
Price and popularity creep, aside, it was incredible as always. The oysters, beausoleils are my fav. They insisted on the prawn cocktail, and I feel a bit off prawn cocktails at the moment. But they were just delicious with the cocktail sauce and fresh grated horseradish and my very very spicy Bloody Mary. A new gold standard of prawn cocktail for sure. (Sorry, Mr. Lyons!) The apricot homemade pop tart. The low and slow scramble with beans, pecorino breadcrumbs, and arugula.
God, I love a good arugula.
For a long time, I didn’t get all the fuss around arugula. And then I met a guy at a dinner party in Berkeley who the host introduced and gushed to me in semi-hushed tones, “HE BROUGHT THE ARUGULA TONIGHT!”
“Is that a thing we now bring to dinner parties?” I thought, looking at my wine.
Only if you are the exclusive arugula provider to Alice Waters. I tell you what, that arugula made me a believer. I am a proud arugula snob. I buy it at Bi Rite, frequently the wasabi arugula. Ahhhh. Pay up for good arugula. You heard it here first. Or at that dinner party or any other East Bay dinner party that guy goes to.
This is what I mean when I say it’s impossible to make a bad meal in San Francisco. We have celebrity-level arugula I just name-dropped. (I sadly forgot the guy’s name. How could I have let that contact go????)
After brunch, we got locked out of our house, but fortunately I was with my friend who has our extra keys. And then Andrea and I headed off for the maker market at Fort Mason, which Andrea has not stopped talking about all summer since they started hosting mini-outside marts every month to support makers in the pandemic.
Buzzed on a gorgeous day and a few drinks (Foreign Cinema now has an espresso martini too! Told you… Everywhere post pandemic!) and a few decades of friendship, we winded through the aisles picking up handmade scarves, artisan ceramics, fresh made jasmine soaps, and matching rings. “One day, when we die, we’ll will these to Eli and Evie!” we cackled to each other like junior high witches.
“I love your friendship!” the woman who sold the rings said.
So do we.
We popped in that Fort Mason futurist lounge for cocktails. I was confused by the menu, shrugged and asked them to bring me something. I was so over stimulated by the whole day. We sat on leather couches across from two other friends with a new puppy.
“How much does he weigh!” I asked. I’ve been asking everyone with a mid-sized dog this question because I am adopting a puppy and can’t figure out how much 25 pounds is, no matter how many times I see a picture of a dog that size.
(He was 20, but looked tall so…?)
We wandered the market more and made our final selections. We talked to every vendor, probably longer than they wanted. I had a rattan teal bag Paul bought me for my Palm Springs life, and we filled it with items for that life, I guess. :(
We popped into another Fort Mason place for champagne and Bavarian pretzels (with cheese- you know it!). The pretzels were delicious. I mean, a random pick up snack. Delicious.
“These are so good!” I said.
“And look at this place,” Andrea said gesturing the the gorgeous industrial design and high ceilings and Bay views. “It doesn’t have to be. It’d be just as successful, if they phoned it in.”
I once read an article calling San Francisco the worst run big city in America, because there is a lot the city doesn’t do because it thinks it’s so awesome it doesn’t have to. TRUE. But the food scene is not one of those things.
We headed home after a while, ordered some take out from China Live (their little Peking duck bites are my fav.; Paul loves the dutch crunch pork buns) and artisanal chocolates we picked up somewhere, and watched the remake of “Blythe Spirit.”
Another in a series of hundreds of perfect California days.
Up next week: Al’s Place, Flour + Water, Ernest, and a quick jaunt through the Midwest. Thanks for reading! Share with a friend! <3