Sunday, December 13, 2009

Musings from the West

Hello all!

I realized it has been almost 2 months since my last post - my, how time does fly! I am celebrating today because my internet connection was finally set up at home - thus making blogging about food, fun and life on the West Coast much easier. I have missed keeping track of my creations and also my delicious meals out (which I have had a number of since moving out to the San Francisco Bay Area in November). So this will be somewhat of an eclectic entry, part a catch-up entry, part reflection, and all enough to make my stomach growl audibly, as it is right now!

Fresh Food Delights

You all know my love for farmer's markets, so it's no surprise that I have sought out a few in my time here already. I work about 3 blocks from the Ferry Building (a foodie mecca on the SF bay, outfit with dozens of gourmet restaurants and food shops that you can afford only if you promise them your first born child...) As you can imagine, walking through the Ferry Building is a certain kind of heaven for me (especially as a break in the middle of a busy day), but the best part is that on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturday's they have a beautiful farmer's market outside.

It's interesting to me how much of an institution farmer's markets have become, especially in San Francisco. When I first started going to farmer's markets (the small summer market in Norwood MA and the fantastic fall market in Poughkeepsie on the Vassar campus), the markets felt more like a hidden gem than a way of life. Here, the market almost takes on the form of open air markets in Europe - they happen with such regularity and offer so much (right now the persimmons are in season and in abundance!) that you can easily plan your whole week's shopping around the market (or shop a few times a week for the freshest ingredients.) I love that shift in lifestyle, and also the fact that it's December and I am still shopping at fully stocked and luscious markets that seem interminable, in a great way. I also had the pleasure of visiting the Berkeley farmer's market last Saturday (which was a beautiful fall day). In the spirit of the season I invested in a number of root vegetables, with the intention of roasting them. I still have to make the time for that - maybe today! At any rate, I am loving the idea of making farmer's markets even more a part of my year round life and shopping here in Berkeley/SF.

Gourmet Delights

Eating out has been a central part of my experience here so far. I've felt this pull between wanting to shop for local food and cook it in my new beautiful kitchen, and also indulge in all of the amazing restaurants around here. So far it's been a pretty good compromise of the two, although perhaps weighted a little towards eating out, as you'll see in my long list of experiences below!

I have not had a bad meal yet in California. I've been discussing with my friends whether that is in fact even possible - with the wealth of amazing restaurants in this area, how could one survive if they served subpar food? It boggles my mind. In the interest of time, I'll list out many the places I've eaten out since I have been here (I have been wanting to keep track, so here goes- I left off a few that were either take out, or slightly less memorable, although by no means not delicious)
  • Chaya (Asian Fusion restaurant/bar on the bay in downtown SF - went there on my 2nd day of work for a happy hour with my coworkers - beautiful scenery, pretty good sushi roll)
  • Salt House (Amazing gourmet restaurant with a southern flair - took a client there on my second week of work, and had a delicious meal that included perfectly cook halibut, and an amazing Canadian delight called Poutin - basically french fries with cheese and gravy - soooo good!)
  • Jupiter (fun pizza and salad place in downtown Berkeley - good pizza, great beer selection (microbrewery) and fun atmosphere - lots of outdoor tables, just make sure you find one with a heat lamp! Best enjoyed with a group of good friends)
  • Cheeseboard Collective (a Berkeley institution, this place's reputation certainly preceded it, as it was recommended to me by virtually everyone I know who knows Berkeley dining. Each day, they have one pizza and one salad - it's all vegetarian and all made with fresh, local ingredients. Seriously delicious and crave-able)
  • The Slanted Door (One of the few sit down restaurants in the Ferry Building, this Vietnamese place definitely has one of the best views in the city - and amazing food of course. It's a huge restaurant with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Bay Bridge. We got tofu, mushrooms, jumbo prawns, the works - the most memorably was the lemon cake for dessert and the elderflower spritzer I had with dinner)
  • Gregoire (Gourmet French take out restaurant in North Berkeley, founded on the premise that gourmet French food should be affordable and enjoyable on a regular basis. Known for their potato puffs above all else (which are little crispy bites of heaven), and the menu changes monthly to reflect seasonable dishes and foods. Bonnie and I love Gregoire and it will definitely be a regular indulgence. Mmmmm - getting hungry just thinking about the potato puffs!)
  • Poleng (Asian fusion restaurant in the NOPA/Western Addition neighborhood of SF. Went for dinner last Saturday night - everything was delicious but the most memorable was their tea selection. They have amazing tea blends, and they give you a little box with samples of each so you can smell them all before choosing. It was like doing a tea paring with our food!)
  • Delica (One of the Ferry Building standards, this is a Japanese take out place that has all kinds of interesting salads - I got a bento box with rice, tofu and two really interesting salads - one had lotus root and something called "mountain potato" and the other had black shiny seaweed and edamame. Both were delicious)
Wow - I could actually go on and on with this list, but in the interest of time and the fact that writing about all of these meals has made my stomach growl audibly, I think I will leave my reviews to a later date. To summarize, it must be quite obvious that I am thrilled about the food life out here- it has all been delicious. But most importantly (and I think thankfully, given that I have only been here a month), I feel like each meal I listed above and the others that I didn't even have time to write about were shared with wonderful, interesting and dear people, from all stages of my life, and that is what has really made them memorable. (I have been blessed with a few visitors from home, wonderful existing friends who live here, and some new ones that I can't believe I've only known for a month- or less!)

I think one of the things that makes San Francisco such a special place is that not only is the food delicious but that the people who live here are grateful for it, and are also so excited to share it together. I've been talking to a lot of people - friends and new acquaintances alike, about what makes San Francisco and the Bay Area such a unique place to live. The conclusion that I have come to so far is that most people who live here have in some way chosen to be here for a common reason - everyone is looking for a place where people are welcoming, open minded and eager to be themselves and let others thrive as well. That ethos penetrates everything in the city and makes it a place that is so easy to fall in love with and feel like home in. As you can probably tell - I'm thrilled to be here.

And of course, to eat the food.

More soon.....