April 27, 2009

A Golden Gate

San Francisco, California

My Favorites Around the City – San Francisco Part One

Over the last few months, during my lull in traveling, I have had the opportunity to write about several of my favorite restaurants here in San Francisco. In the next few posts I have decided to continue sharing my favorite places – both simple and extravagant.

For me the perfect day in San Francisco is spent relaxing, walking around, and enjoying the city. The Mission District is, in my opinion, the best place to do this. The crazy, eclectic blend of shops, restaurants, and sites in this area are perfect for me! From clothing and furniture to coffee shops and wine bars to parks this is where most of my favorite places are located.

The perfect start to a day in the Mission District begins with breakfast at Boogaloos. At the corner of Valencia and 22nd Streets, this funky cafe serves fabulous breakfasts. Hearty ingredients – eggs, cheese, salsa, chorizo, polenta, plantains, potatoes, biscuits, and pancakes – are served with excellent coffee, creamy hot chocolate, or fresh juices.

Eight blocks north a small women's clothing shop on 16th Street has become my favorite place for dresses and other cute clothes. Sunhee Moon is a local San Francisco designer with two stores – one here and another on Fillmore Street. The designer's classic and simple designs and rich, basic colors are beautiful!

Between breakfast and my favorite clothing shop Valencia Street is a vibrant place to stroll, shop, or watch people. After walking around, it's time to relax in the park. San Francisco is a vibrant and diverse city and there is no place this is more apparent than in Mission Dolores Park on sunny afternoons. This long grassy hillside is a few blocks west of Valencia Street, bordered by 18th, Dolores, 20th, and Church Streets. Hundreds of people come here to leave the bounds of their small apartments and relax. On warm weekend afternoons the grass is hidden beneath people from all walks of life sitting on blankets, chairs, and mats – all enjoying the sunshine.

On Mission Street, back down near 20th Street, is Cha Cha Cha, a tapas restaurant and bar. Reasonably priced, the atmosphere here is fun and casual. The food is excellent and is, for the most part, served as small plates. My favorites are fried platanos maduros, sauteed mushrooms, fried new potatoes, Spanish rice and black beans, and sangria. A great place for a fun and yummy evening!
More San Francisco favorites to come in future posts!

April 10, 2009

From Spain to China – via San Francisco

Dire situations often lead to opportunities. The recent global economic crisis has led to the closing of many shops, cafes, and other businesses around my city. My own small neighborhood of Potrero Hill has seen the doors close on a restaurant and a shoe store.

Other establishments are most likely seeing a drastic a decrease in revenue. Across San Franisco this pattern is repeated. And I am sure the same is repeating itself throughout the rest of the state of California and beyond.

But, a new pattern is also emerging – opportunity. Each closed shop or business creates space for a new venture. Samovar's Tea Lounge, one of my favorite places to relax, has opened a third cafe in Hayes Valley. My favorite pizzeria, Delfina, has opened a new location Pacific Heights. And in other empty store fronts new shops and cafes are opening.

Two of these new restaurants that I recently had the opportunity to try are Contigo in Noe Valley and Heavens Dog in SOMA.

Contigo is a Spanish and Catalan restaurant on Castro Street. I had dinner here with my husband, Jonathan, about a week ago. The restaurant is modern and clean with bright colors and wood accents. We shared wine, a chicory salad, cheese, and patatas bravas. In addition, Jonathan enjoyed some Jamon Iberico de Bellota. Then for dessert we had some fabulous and creamy chocolate caliente con churros. Dinner was great – very yummy food.

And the chocolate and churros were perfect – rich, light, and crispy with cinnamon! A perfect conclusion to a great meal!

This week I met a friend for dinner at Heavens Dog. The dog is a new restaurant and bar situated on a rather rundown block of Mission Street. The restaurant is next to the San Francisco Federal Building in the shiny new SOMA Grand Condominiums – but across the street and to the left and right vacant buildings with shuttered windows fill the street.

Inside, Heavens Dog is a relaxing space – muted walls with paintings of its namesake animal, wood accents, candles, and red couches adorn the lounge, bar, and dining room. For dinner we sipped on cava and shared vegetarian “pork belly” (tofu) in clam shell buns, crispy sautéed kale with fermented black beans and ginger, dan dan mein noodles, and a confection platter. All were tasty – a good balanced of flavors and spices.

Two new experiences – two new restaurants I look forward to dining at again!