Welcome back to Where in the World Wednesday! Last week was... well, very hectic, so I wasn't able to post. But we're back on track and this Wednesday, we are flying from beautiful Miami to one of my favorite cities, San Francisco. Our tour guide today is the wonderful LouAnn, the author of the Oyster Food and Culture blog. LouAnn provides interesting and insightful commentary about food and culture from around the world. Definitely take a stop by her blog, leave your thoughts, and enjoy chatting about food!
A little bit about LouAnn: I've lived in San Francisco for a total of 4.5 years, and am loving every minute of it. I live in a wonderfully culturally diverse part of town called the Richmond, not to be confused with Richmond, CA a city across the Bay. Previous to San Francisco, I lived all over; San Diego, Washington DC metro, Iowa, London, England. My top 5 food cities... Just 5, this is very tough: Besides, SF, Tokyo, Singapore, Milan, Dijon, and Auckland, NZ, I really have a hard time stopping at 5, and if you ask me tomorrow, the list might be different.
Thank you so much LouAnn for offering us so many fantastic San Fran foodie insights... I am personally jealous of your eating adventures around San Francisco, especially after reading through your answers below. :)
Now, for our tour around San Francisco!
(1) How would you describe food in San Francisco in 10 words or less?
Fresh, Innovative, Passionate, Diverse, Extreme, Creative, Cultural
(2) Do you find that the food in San Francisco has been greatly influenced by certain cultures/ethnicities/religions? If so, which ones?
In my neighborhood alone, there is a second Chinatown, so tons of Asian restaurants. Also the Richmond was home to a lot of Russian and Eastern European Immigrants so some really good Russian food, pastries and delis to be had. It also has one of the most innovative Moroccan restaurants, AZIZA that I've tried. Love that place. The Mission has tons of great Mexican and an increasing influx of some tasty Indian/Pakistani places. North Beach is about Italian. Japan town, well, I think thats obvious.
(3) If you were putting together a food gift basket representative of San Francisco for a friend that was visiting you from somewhere else, what would you include in it? (Feel free to include perishable items!)
Chocolate (by any one of the wonderful chocolatiers that call the Bay Area home), wine from Napa and Sonoma, charcuterie, incredible fresh produce from the Farmers Markets, baked goods from Tartine and Arizmendies, ice cream from Humphrey Slocume and Bi-Rite, cheese from the local diaries (Harley's goat cheese, Cow Girl Creamery, Point Reyes Blue) [My commentary: They actually have a Cowgirl Creamery now in DC! I have it on my list for places to try...]
(4) Is there anything about food in San Francisco that you think would surprise people that have never been there?
While it has an incredible selection some food is not as easy to find - Greek, Turkish, Persian - don't get me wrong, they do have them, but having lived in DC its just not as easy to find. I miss my Moby Dick's. [LouAnn, I love Moby Dick's... I think I must eat there at least once every two weeks!] People are passionate about food here and everyone has an opinion, so its an easy conversation starter.
(5) Do you have a favorite secret foodie spot? If yes, where is it and what do you love about it?
It would not be a secret now would it? I'd say in general, do not overlook the simple mom and pop places to hit the white table cloth restaurants, some of the best food is in the neighborhood joints. U-Lees in Russian Hill, for example, is a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant with some of the best pot-stickers around. Last time we were there, it was a bit later in the day, and the cook was at a table across the room from us dicing up the ginger and mixing the batch for dinner. They are fresh, delicious and huge! [Sounds fantastic... I'm a sucker for good pot-stickers so I'll have to try these out the next time I'm there!]
(6) Say that you’re taking me around San Francisco and I'm only there for one day. What would we have for breakfast?
Breakfast at the Cliff House - good food, but the view is killer. Its the reason to go. This place is history and the location cannot be beat. You are on a cliff with a 180 degree view of the ocean, this place is an institution and a favorite break. After breakfast a walk along the beach or Lands End.
Lunch? Ferry Building, or course, hopefully your visiting on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday when we can also sample the delights of the of the Farmer's Market and some of the killer food that's available.
Dinner? It really depends on who I am with, but a lot of out of towners like the not too fancy but delicious and fun visits to North Beach for Italian, Chinatown for Chinese, or Japantown for a big bowl of noodles, and then the option to walk of dinner with a nice exploration.
Late night eats? Its the Mission, baby, grab a taco, get something from one of the food carts that have multiplied like nobody's business. The options of plentiful.
Both the Ferry Building and the Cliff House or musts.
(7) San Francisco is well-known for being a food mecca! Are there any fun food events that take place there or in the area that you've enjoyed?
The cheese school is not really an event, but if you get a chance to take a class its loads of fun. There are always wine events, chocolate events. Its wonderful, just check the calendar. In the Mission District there is an incubator for food related start ups that does some neat stuff - its not all high tech start ups around here. =)
(8) Each neighborhood in a city often has their own "food vibe" -- which is your favorite neighborhood and what food do they serve up?
Man, these questions are killing me, its so hard to pick one neighborhood as the diversity is the best thing about the place and I do not feel like I am comparing apples to apples. One of my favorite neighborhoods in North Beach, its the first neighborhood that my hubby took me to when I visited and I loved the European flare with all the Italian restaurants and coffee houses. It's great to walk around and explore and get off the beaten path and check out the coffee houses and boutiques. But in the blink of an eye you can cross the street and you are in Chinatown.
(9) If you could pick one food that is traditionally or originates from San Francisco to have with you always, what would it be?
(10) What was your last amazing meal in San Francisco and what did you have?
Every meal is amazing, seriously its darn hard to compare. I just had some Szechwan that took me back to some incredible meals in HK.
(11) Given the current economic times, where would you for a meal and a drink for $15 or less?
All the neighborhoods have some great places. I haven't mentioned the Sunset District yet, (right next to Golden Gate Park) but you can score some good food there, and they have Arizmendi's a coop bakery that has some baked goods that are meals in themselves, and their veggie pizza (they only do veggie) is some of the best I've had. Take it and make yourself at home in the park. You can also grab a burrito. In the Inner Richmond and outer Sunset, we love to grab takeout dim sum, and you can gorge yourself for under $5 and that leaves you $10 for the drink.
(12) If you had to put together your "last meal" based on San Francisco restaurant eats, what would you have?
You do not ask easy questions, do you? A good place to start would be this list, Big Eat SF - 100 Things to Try Before You Die which I am about half way through. Serious, I love COI, it's a nice upscale place and I really appreciate the creativity of the cooking. But it's so hard to go wrong here. I've had to really bump up my running mileage so I can keep my clothes size.
THANKS AGAIN LOU ANN!