As you fly into San Francisco airport, it can seem as if you are landing in the midst of the mere ocean, as the runway rests in the middle of the Bay. It’s a breathtaking experience, even though you haven’t even discovered what is really astounding about the city resting beneath you- the food and culture! I’m here to assist you on your journey to the foggy city and to tell you some things you cannot leave here without.
As you walk along the infamous Embarcadero Fisherman’s Wharf, you will smell an array of scrumptious ocean bites. Amongst these addicting whiffs, your nose buds will settle upon San Francisco’s recognized Boudin Bakery where you cannot leave without munching on the clam chowder floating in their famed sourdough bread bowls. This bakery has been using its own signature starter for its bread since 1849. “The starter uses the natural fog of the city to set the bread and gives Boudin its signature sourdough bread taste,” explains the demonstration baker behind a 30-foot observation window located directly from the sidewalk.
As you resume your walk down the Embarcadero, you will come across another mouth-watering aroma. You’ll be delighted to know that it’s dessert time every minute at Ghirardelli Square! Here you can find the original soda fountain and chocolate store that Domingo Ghirardelli and his sons bought as the Old Woolen Building, now known as Ghirardelli Square. The store still contains some of the original chocolate making equipment. If you don’t consider yourself a chocolate fan, rest assured, the factory includes 15 different kinds of sundaes as well as old fashion shakes, floats and cocoa. Yvo Smit, Vice President of Restaurant and Retail Division states, “You can’t beat our World Famous Hot Fudge Sundae. The combination of vanilla ice cream with an abundance of our freshly made hot fudge, real whipped cream, chopped almonds and the finishing cherry is hard to resist.”
If you head one mile south of chocolate dreamland to Fort Mason, treat yourself to Off the Grid food trucks, which operates in this location seasonally on Friday nights. You will partake in live music while you explore the 30 plus Street Food vendors. Avital, owner of Avital Tours, an authentic behind the scenes exploration of the San Francisco culinary world recently featured on the Travel Channel explains, “Off the Grid Friday night brings together some of San Francisco’s best food and drink mobile vendors in one place.” This new food adventure is available Friday nights in the Fort Mason Center parking lot. Enjoy foods from Curry Up Now, Kung Fu Tacos, Crème Brulee Cart, Chairman Bao and many many more. “I like to snack here and there to create a full meal,” states Avital. To view days of operation and locations visit http://offthegridsf.com
If you’ve done some traveling across the US, you’re aware of the indigenous foods across the country: the deep dish pizza in Chicago, the massive Vegas buffets, Texas’s smokehouse BBQ and here in SF we like to call ours, the Cioppino soup. This soup consists of anything left over from the days catch- crab, clams, shrimp, mussels, scallops or fish. Avital recommends trying Soto Mare in North Beach which claims to have, “The best damn Cioppino!” The soup was featured in Saveur Magazine in December 2011.
Hotels are not only a place to rest your head after a long day riding cable cars and walking across the Golden Gate Bridge; they’re also home to some amazing signature dishes such as Bourbon Steak in the Westin St. Francis. The Westin also has a signature Tuna Tartare dish. Avital further explains about the unique cart they bring around with a trio of Hudson Whiskies in which food items are torched to aromatize the glass and then whiskey is poured into the snifter so that it imparts the aroma into the flavor of whiskey. Sipping on some whiskey sounds like a nice way to end a day filled with chocolate sundaes, clam chowder, cioppino soup and food trucks galore!
If you can fit all of the above food items and places into your busy schedule, your tummy and wallet won’t be dissatisfied.
A big thank you to Avital Tours for providing one of a kind culinary knowledge of what not to leave San Francisco without. For more information visit http://avitaltours.com. Also, a big thanks to the teams at Ghirardelli and Bourbon Steak San Francisco for providing us with wonderful photos.