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Serendipity in San Francisco – June 2013

Our food & beer adventures in SF! There’s so much to do there, we’ll have to go back soon! This trip was all about having too much on our list to do, but being relaxed and open-minded enough to just let things happen and take chances when they come up!

Places visited:


We stayed in the Lower Haight area (courtesy of Airbnb), and the houses aren’t really houses as we know them in BC. They’re more like walk-ups you see sometimes in Toronto, all squished together. Some people get precious garage spaces. Tiny garage but still, parking is a premium here. We saw cars parked on the street sooooo close together. I guess it’s a fact of life in SF.

Bar Crudo

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Our first food stop! Bar Crudo, a sorta seafood tapas kinda place.

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Dogfish Head Noble Rot Saison!! Spicy, yeasty saison aroma…also get white grapes, apples. Love the light straw colour. Tastes pretty light for a 9% beer. Smooth, drinkable, delicious!

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Our happy hour oysters and mussels. The oysters were diminutive with just a whisper of flavour. Good with the mignonette though. Mussels tasted ok. Good for happy hour but otherwise meh.

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Shishito peppers with white anchovies. The peppers really needed the anchovies for salt and flavour. Kinda oily. Wouldn’t get it again.

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Damn good chowda! It had chunks of smokey bacon which we could smell and taste in the soup.

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Look at all this! FRESH seafood flavour. The “butterfish” in it was amazing. They use whatever fresh fish they have on hand to make the chowder. It was packed. Spicy finish. The best thing we ate there.

Bar Crudo on Urbanspoon

Rice Paper Scissors

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Serendipity #1: We came across the Vietnamese pop-up we saw on Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover! It was located across the street from The Independent, a music venue which was hosting Austra (Toronto band) while we were there. Unfortunately we tried to buy tickets at the box office to save the processing fee but they had sold out the day before!!! Grrrrrr >:( But whatever, we stumbled across this so something good did come out of this!

The Rice Paper Scissors pop-up was in a bicycle cafe/shop. Really cool. We wouldn’t have gone into this area if it wasn’t for us trying to buy Austra tickets. Luckily this was just a 10 minute walk from where we were staying.

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Their menu changes all the time. Today we settled on the Ca Ri Ga (chicken curry) and the Bun Cha (vermicelli with sausage).

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This place is a cafe and they have some great beer! I saw Lagunitas everywhere in SF. I was surprised to see Hitachino.

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But I had to go with a local beer on tap, the Moonlight Brewing Death & Taxes Black Lager.

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Cafe in the front, bicycle shop in the back. The space looks big in this photo but it was actually kind of a tiny shop.

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Dogs out in front! In fact, dogs everywhere in SF.

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Moonlight Brewing Death & Taxes Black Lager (5%). Roasty coffee aroma, nice roasty dry finish. Plenty of flavour but light body.

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The curry was delicious! Great zing, balance, okra, taro, sweet potato. This was one of the owners’ stepmother’s recipe. More shishito peppers on top. This town loves shishito peppers.

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Comes with a fancy bowl of rice! Cute sprig of dill and roasted baby carrots.

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That’s homemade sriracha on the pork patties. You dip the vermicelli into the light tangy broth as you eat. We’ve never had banh hoi served like this before. It’s a Northern Vietnamese dish. The cook went to Vietnam and ate this dish and adapted it here.

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Vietnamese Yogurt Panna Cotta with Strawberries. Wendy loves Vietnamese-style yogurt and this made it even better.

It was really fun and delicious eating at Rice Paper Scissors. I’d do it again!


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I’ve sorta heard of Bi-Rite before, but once we walked in I loved it! It’s like a nicer, more community-minded, less frou-frou Whole Foods. They had a small but great selection of beer and they also have an ice cream counter!

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We were so full from Rice Paper Scissors…we’ll have to come back later!

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I dunno what this was about. Some reality-based game?

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I saw this view while walking from Lower Haight to Mission district.

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All those apartments you see are pretty much how residential living is like in SF. We only saw a few detached houses, and only in the richer areas.

Tartine

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Tartine! They don’t even have a sign. But everyone knows where it is. Lineups all the time.

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Le menu.

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Lineup :(

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The display case.

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$60 for 12″ of cake? Better be good…

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Hazelnut Chocolate Tart.

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We decided on one of these…

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…and one of these!

Almond Croissant at Tartine.
Almond Croissant at Tartine.

Almond Croissant at Tartine.

Very similar to Thomas Haas’ double-baked almond croissant. Wendy sez, “I love anything with almonds but like the Thomas Hass’ croissant, the pastry was just too dense and heavy. Still, the almond filling was yummy.”

Pain au Chocolat at Tartine
Pain au Chocolat at Tartine

The Pain au Chocolat was delicious! Extra rich and flaky with generous chocolate. One of the best pain au chocolats that Wendy’s ever had. As rich as Beaucoup’s version but puffier/airier/flakier, with more chocolate.

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Coconut Cream Tart. We were expecting coconut pie with custard but it’s actually mostly whipped cream. And the crust had a chocolate base that was really hard to cut into. A few days later, we walked by Tartine again and saw some girls stabbing fruitlessly the same Coconut Cream Tart. You really need metal utensils to eat this, but even then it was hard to eat. Wendy wanted more eggy coconuttiness. Disappointing.

Tartine Bakery on Urbanspoon


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Hey, another Farina!

Dandelion Chocolate

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Dandelion Chocolate. Awesome chocolate place. They make their own chocolate, from bean to bar!

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This way to chocolate heaven.

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To make it even better, Dandelion Chocolate hosts different patissiers each week. This week it was a company we heard of, Three Babes Bakeshop. Unfortunately we didn’t end up trying ANYTHING because it just didn’t work out. Too much food, too few stomachs.

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Stuff looked great though! Wendy wanted to try their Salted Honey Walnut Pie but we didn’t get a chance.

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The Dandelion menu.

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Wendy tried a few chocolate drink samples. Most people in SF were really friendly.

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SF loves their pop-ups and collaborations.

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One of the Three Babes girls recommended her friend’s brewery Almanac. I’d end up trying a few Almanac beers during this trip. They do great stuff!

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They make the chocolate way in the back. Wendy adds, “You can do a chocolate tour for $75 where they show you how they make their chocolate. They also offer a pie-making class for $50. I like chocolate and pie but not THAT much.”

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Ginger-Lemon Iced Chocolate with complimentary (kinda dry) mini-madelines. The iced chocolate drink was great! Not too sweet, cold, gingery, refreshing!

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I dunno what you’d do with it, but it’s there if you want it.

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While we were there, this guy wheels in huge bags of what I assume are cacao beans.

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We bought some bars to bring home. Tried some 70% dark last night and it had this great combination of richness, just enough sweetness and melt-on-your-tongue-iness. :P

Dandelion Chocolate on Urbanspoon


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Stumbled across this headphone/speaker/home decor store that was selling these cool portable speakers built into old suitcases (http://theboomcase.com/). Horribly expensive though. This one was $700!

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Those cat clocks!

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Guess what kind of place this is…

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It’s a craft beer and pizza place called Pi Bar! Get it? They open at 3:14 every day. Get it?

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Another place we went into but didn’t have an opportunity to actually try. There’s so much in SF, we’ll be back…

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We saw a few of these public spaces in SF, either public seating on the sidewalk just outside of businesses or open performance spaces like this. Very cool.

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This store in Hayes Valley carries samples! Wendy ended up buying a vintagey-looking gold print dress.

Lers Ros Thai

Thai food at Lers Ros Thai. This was the nicer location in Hayes Valley, not the Tenderloin one ;)

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New Belgium Fat Tire. Classic American amber ale. Beers like this helped create the craft beer scene as it exists today.

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Deep fried garlic frog! YUM! Really does taste like chicken. Went great with my beer.

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Pad Thai. Looks alright. Tasted some. Good not great.

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“Steamed fresh sea bass with chopped chili and fresh lime juice”. Wendy loved it. Reminded her of Vietnamese hot ‘n sour fish soup. I was just ok about it. Wendy sez, “I would pretty much consume this entire fish myself over the next few days. The fish was so fresh and the flavours really suited my Southeast Asian palate.”

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Another dish where we differed: “Stir-fried pork belly with crispy rind and basil leaves”. I was expecting tender pork belly with crispy outside, but it was more fried until the meat part got kinda dry. But in the sauce it tasted good and Wendy loved it. I enjoyed it more as leftovers a couple days later ;)

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Spicy salted egg fried rice. Really enjoyed this one but we couldn’t figure out the raw eggplant on the side. How does a person eat it? Kinda hard and crunchy to bite into…and also RAW.

Lers Ros Thai on Urbanspoon

Turtle Tower

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Braving the Tenderloin district so we could eat at Turtle Tower Vietnamese. Apparently this is a new location. No wonder it was so clean inside! They specialize in Ha Noi (Northern) style Vietnamese food. Their pho is only served with lemon and hot chilies. No bean sprouts, basil or hoisin sauce.

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They even have a certificate signed by Nancy Pelosi!

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The cleanest table in a Vietnamese restaurant EVER!

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After last night’s eating, a nice chicken pho sounds great!

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We got sucked into ordering one spring roll. Kinda overpriced and just tasted ok. At least they used rice paper wrapping instead of egg roll wrapping.

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Pho Dac Biet (house special beef pho). Tasty.

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Chicken pho with giblets. Excellent. Hit the spot. They use only free range chicken. I think it makes a difference! Plus they use the wider Ha Noi style rice noodles instead of the usual Pho noodles. Recommended!

Turtle Tower Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Lee’s Sandwiches

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Checking out a Vietnamese bakery, Lee’s Sandwiches, after our great lunch at Turtle Tower.

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Quite a huge selection of Vietnamese snacks. But they do such a HUGE variety of stuff, the quality and flavour are just meh.

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Lady squeezing the life out of that sugar cane.

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Wendy’s sugar cane juice. Hmmmm, it just tasted weird. Underwhelming. The best fresh sugar cane juice has a bit of calamansi in it. Santa Ana had way better Vietnamese snacks and drinks.

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We also tried com dep, which is pressed glutinous rice with coconut milk and pandan, but it was dry and flavourless. Pretty disappointing. Wendy sez, “Another nostalgic taste. I’ve tried making it myself before and it tasted better than this.”

some bar

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Back to Hayes Valley. I spent some time in this neighborhood bar while Wendy was shopping. Even a humble dive like this has some great beers on tap. The bartender actually spent some time in Vancouver, so we chatted about that and beer. Later, I was yoyoing while waiting for the washroom and some dudes playing pool were blown away by it. You’d think I’d have to beat the girls off with a stick when I show off my mad yoyo skills, but it never happens. Luckily I got married before I got into yoyos.

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Drakes 1500 Dry Hopped Ale (5.5%). Big grapefruit aroma, sweet grapefruit taste. Served super cold though :( in a chilled glass to boot. Halfway though, there was less grapefruit, more pine and a bit of dank. OK. Wouldn’t get it again.

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Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA (9%?). Sweeeeet, malty, BIG ipa. Drinkable??? Mmmm…I dunno. Probably would go well with some robust food though. Licorice, sweet roasted malt, too rich and sticky for me to drink regularly.

Monk’s Kettle

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Monk’s Kettle! A great bar in the Mission district.

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Prairie Hop Saison (6%). A bit “sessional” (ie. light ‘n watery), very different from other saisons, almost toned down. A bit of lemon in the finish. I smell the saison yeast after swirling the glass though. Pretty laid back saison.

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Fried oyster! Crunchy cornmeal coating. I love these kinds of small bar snacks.

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So these two girls sitting next to me started talking to me. They were very nice and shared some of their beer and food with me! Luckily Wendy was still shopping ;) The mussels tasted great.

They were originally from Taiwan but were pretty Americanized I guess. We talked tons about food and where to eat in SF. My mind was blown and couldn’t handle all of the info. I’ll have to come back next year.

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Coronado Brewing Islander IPA (7%). Delicious fruity grapefruit aroma. More hoppy on the tongue, bit of malty sickly sweetness. Alright.

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The girls’ mushroom risotto. They thought the rice was too hard. I tried a bit and it was meh. But there’s plenty of other food on their menu to try out next time! Must come back!

Monk's Kettle on Urbanspoon

Memphis Minnies

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I got some bbq takeout for dinner from Memphis Minnies cuz it was really close to our place. I read about this place online but their van and outside are CHEESY!

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Deschutes Fresh Squeezed Hop IPA. I thought it’d be more “wow” for a citra and mosaic hop beer. Driftwood Sartori Harvest is still king of the fresh hop beers.

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Pork ribs from Memphis Minnie’s. I like smoke ring, but this is ridiculous! Waaaaaaaaaay over-smoked, within an inch of its life, and super dry. Gah.

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They called this Southern Style Fried Chicken, but it’s not true Southern unless it’s cooked in a skillet (I think). I saw the guys flour the chicken and dump it into the regular deep frier. At least it was fresh. So anyways, they smoke the chicken first then deep fry it, so I got some smokiness. I liked the thin crispy coating. And I tasted the same spices they use in their rib rub. But overall it was an ok-to-why-bother?

Memphis Minnie's on Urbanspoon


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Previous few days were clear and sunny. Next few days would be like this, more typical June SF weather. Ah well.

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Cloudy view of Delores Park.

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See? You can get Lagunitas everywhere!

Arizmendi Bakery

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Dog outside of Arizmendi Bakery.

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We really enjoyed it here.

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We got this…

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…and this! For breakfast!

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Chocolate Thing at Arizmendi. The only thing I can compare this to is maybe a slighty sweet Mexican or Filipino bread with chunks of dark chocolate in it. Very good.

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Bread puddin’ at Arizmendi.

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Mexican hot chocolate on the left, steamed milk on the right. We LOVED the mexican hot chocolate! Perfect level of sweetness, rich chocolatiness, and a spicy kick. I think we said, “the perfect drink for right now”.

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Wendy enjoyed the bread pudding thing even though it had rosemary in it. She usually hates the rosemary/thyme/sage “western herbs” but she enjoyed this.

Mexican hot chocolate at Arizmendi.
Mexican hot chocolate at Arizmendi.

Mexican hot chocolate is so good! Does anyone know where we can get this kind of hot chocolate in Vancouver?

Twinkienic sez, “Thomas Haas sometimes has Mexican or Aztec hot chocolate. I think Thierry has a drinking chocolate with chilli that might be close. Or call up other places with drinking chocolate — maybe CocoaNymph or Chocolate Arts?”

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We’ll have to come back for their pizza!

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Their mission statement.

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We loved Arizmendi!

Arizmendi on Urbanspoon


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This was the beer selection in a Vietnamese supermarket! Awesome.

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Wicked.

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Walking around 24th Street area, which is heavily Mexican/Latin. Tons of Mexican restaurants and Latin stores. I saw a place selling 3 varieties of chicharron and I died a bit inside cuz I was just too full to enjoy it.

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I’ll miss happy hour…

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Some Jewish deli. Very busy.

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More food we couldn’t enjoy.

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I love it when animals cook each other.

Mission Cheese

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I love these signs. Mission Cheese, a cheese bar in Mission.

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The menu. Straightforward. Looks promising.

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Starting with Mac ‘n Cheese and Drake’s Alpha Session Ale. A bit pilsnery. Prominent dank Simcoe hops. Great review of this beer here, courtesy of New Brew Thursdays (the bestest beer show on the net).

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Salad.

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The mac ‘n cheese has cheddar and washed rind cheese in it. Toasted top. Moderate cheese flavour without being salty. Wendy liked the savouriness. Minimal cream sauce component. She adds, “I actually LOVED this and I normally don’t like mac ‘n cheese cuz it’s usually too creamy with a bland oniony flavour.”

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Not sure if I love this style of mac ‘n cheese but it got better as I ate. I think I prefer super rich, cheesy, salty and creamy mac ‘n cheeses versus drier mac ‘n cheese.

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The “Monger’s Choice” cheese flight with an Almanac Farmer’s Reserve No. 4 (6.8%). Wild ale, winey aroma, smells tart, lemon aroma. Tart but not bracing! Acetic plus citrus tartness. Beautiful golden yellow colour. Great stuff!

The cheeses were: Camembert wrapped in spruce bark (creamy, mild); goats milk (aged, hard, nutty, rich, not salty, deeeeelicious!); and Rogue River Bleu wrapped in pear leaves with brandy (semi-firm, not crumbly, just ok).

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The accompaniments. Crunchy cornichons, pickled beets (not shown) were mildy crunchy and not too tart, dried apricots and figs were good, the bread had good structure and decent taste. I miss that deep flavour from breads that undergo a long slow fermentation.

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I had an ok time at Mission Cheese but I spent most of the time batting away flies. They have a cleanliness problem here! Also, the service was a little cold and unfriendly. I wanted to feel more welcome and comfortable here. It’s cheese! And bread! And beer! It should be more happy and communal! Their signboard on the sidewalk always shows a sense of humour (you can see more of them on their Facebook page) so it’s weird that that feeling doesn’t carry over inside. Ah well. I bought their t-shirt, which I love.

Mission Cheese on Urbanspoon


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A standalone location of Bi-Rite ice cream shop, with a lineup going down the block!

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I had every intention of trying Rosamunde Sausage Grill, which was only a block away from where we were staying, but it just didn’t work out. I’m always coveting juicy grilled sausages with snappy casings. :(

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Same with the famous Toronado…I just didn’t have the opportunity to try it, even though it was so close. Next time!

Beer & Ice Cream from Bi-Rite

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Some beers from Bi-Rite. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Pretty Things beer! That ginger ale was for Wendy’s throat.

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Mikkeller AK Alive (8%). Foamy, sweet with hoppy citrus. Spicy yeast. Very drinkable. A bit of funk/brett. Reminds me of Duvel in its effervescence and funkiness. Very long-lasting head. Also reminds me of Green Flash Rayon Vert.

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Toasted Coconut Ice Cream from Bi-Rite. Awesome breakfast. Just a classic ice cream made with fresh milk.


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We were recommended this place in Little Russia called PPQ multiple times but never got a chance to try it. They’re famous for their roasted crab. Ah well.

Bambu Desserts & Drinks

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Fusion of Vietnamese dessert and bubble tea at Bambu Desserts & Drinks.

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Can you identify all the bits?

Wendy sez, “Those red things are supposed to be like pomegranite seeds. It’s chopped up bits of water chestnut coated in a red jelly. The green strips are pandan jelly and there’s mung bean and then I had to add taro cuz I love taro. I’m such a sucker for Southeast Asian desserts.” Basil seeds in there too.

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Nice selection of drinks and having free add-ons is great. Can’t get anything like this back home.

Burma Superstar

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Burma Superstar, an excellent Burmese restaurant with a few locations around SF. This was their Richmond location. This was a recommendation from our host. We weren’t going to try it but we were in the area and took a chance and loved it!

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I think we’ll try their famous Mo Hinga, a fish chowder with noodles and ground catfish.

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Cute logo.

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The Mo Hinga! It looks strong but it was actually mild and easy to eat BUT with a huge depth of flavour. I loved the crunchy deep fried lentil fritters and how they soaked up the soup. I will crave this from now on :(

Ginger lemonade in the background. It was good.

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Chicken and shrimp casserole, which is the Burmese take on biryani. Almond and raisins in there too. Lots of big shrimp and chicken. Hearty and tasty.

If you thought Burmese food was like a mix of Chinese, Indian and Thai flavours, you wouldn’t be far off the mark!

Burma Superstar on Urbanspoon

Magnolia Gastropub

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Got a chance to try this brewpub in Haight/Ashbury. Meh.

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I’m glad I tried it cuz it made everything else I drank so much better. I’ve never had a Porter that was so overly roasted and burnt-tasting before. The rest of their lineup was so watery. I know they specialize in session beers, but still the flavour was lacking. No thanks.

Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery on Urbanspoon


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Another shot of Delores Park. Best view in the city.

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Looking up the hill at Delores Park. You can see the clouds/mist in the hills.

Abbot’s Cellar

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Trying an extravagant tasting menu at Abbot’s Cellar, a fancy place in Mission that specializes in beer and food pairings. I went whole hog with their $75 tasting menu with beer pairings!

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Feels kinda fancy in there, with fancy service to match.

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The menu is built into the table! It just slides in and out. Wicked idea.

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High prices to match the high level of service.

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I got a frickin’ amuse! This gives you an idea of what they’re trying to achieve here…fine dining meets beer. Do they succeed? Hmmmmm.

This was salmon tartare with a pils. Not bad opening.

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Roasted beets with Magnolia Long Break Bitter. Oh no, it’s that crappy Magnolia Brewery again. Great salad but weak, too-warm beer. Nice aroma but watery. I could’ve used a bigger first course beer, but I see what they’re trying to do.

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Holy moley they take their sweet time with the food here, even though it was a Monday night and not busy! ARG… Anyways, here’s the 2nd course: Sweetbreads with cauliflower puree paired with a dutch brown ale. Nice pairing! I was getting dark fruits from the beer. Tasted great with the fried sweetbreads and cauliflower. Those orange things were “pluots”. Couldn’t remember how they tasted other than “mildly fruity”. Probably my favourite pairing of the night, unfortunately.

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Sea bass paired with Saison Dupont Cuvee Dry Hopping 2013. Herbal finish. I didn’t get much of the typical Saison Dupont funk though. Those red things are amarosa potatoes from some boutique potato farmer. This was a pretty subtle entree to pair with the saison. I could’ve gone more robust like a pork or chicken dish…ah well.

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Wendy enjoyed her halibut.

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It’s really fancy in there!

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4th and final course: Four berry buckle with coconut and oat crumble. Apparently a buckle is like a fruit crumble. Why didn’t they just call it a crumble?

The beer was Sierra Nevada Ovila Saison with mandarin and peppercorns. The waiter said it was malty for a saison. I didn’t get a huge saison aroma though. Fruity. Good to try but I wouldn’t but it if I saw it in the store.

Very pleasant dining experience but sloooooooooow with the food. I’ll probably stick with their sister restaurant Monk’s Kettle from now on.

The Abbot's Cellar on Urbanspoon

Craftsman and Wolves

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Nice bakery/cafe in Mission called Craftsman and Wolves.

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Near the end of the day…not too much stuff left. We got one thing to take home:

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Coconut Matcha Cake from Crafstman and Wolves that we bought the night before, served with more Toasted Coconut Ice Cream from Bi-Rite! Another kick-ass breakfast! The cake looks dry but wasn’t. Scrumptious!

Craftsman & Wolves on Urbanspoon

On The Bridge

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Checking out Japantown. This was inside one of the malls. It’s called “On The Bridge” Japanese restaurant. I was drawn to the cartoon cutout.

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They specialize in “yoshoku” style food. Basically the Japanese take on Western food.

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Coedo Beniaka – sweet potato lager, light body, looks like coke or root beer, sweet, malty, not bad.

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In person, the pasta looked underwhelming but tasted good. Bits of “wild vegetables” in there. Wendy sez, “The dark green leafy vegetables were salted/pickled. Otherwise, this would’ve been one bland dish.”

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I got the beef curry. Very different from those curry roux blocks you can buy in Asian grocery stores. Very rich. I got the “spicy” level, which is mild/medium to me, but had lots of salty/savoury flavour. Smoky. Wendy thought there could be coffee or chocolate in it. I wouldn’t doubt it.

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Tender chunks of beef. So good.

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We enjoyed it this much!

On the Bridge on Urbanspoon


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Hotel Tomo in Japantown, the original place where we were going to stay before we chose Airbnb. Couldn’t be happier with Airbnb. Lower Haight is a more convenient, central location I think.

Japantown.
Japantown.

Benkyodo

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Mochi/manju in Japantown, from this place called Benkyodo which has been run by the same family for over 100 years!

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I liked that donut one on the right rolled in sugar. Wendy liked the blueberry mochi one (top).

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Apple one was ok. We probably wouldn’t come back to Japantown just to eat this again though…

State Bird Provisions (Attempt #1)

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Serendipity #2: The girls at this clothing store called Asmbly Hall told us about this “Best New Restaurant of 2012″ down the street called State Bird Provisions that serves California cuisine dim sum style. I was intrigued! We had to check it out and see if there was in fact a 2 month waiting list for reservations!

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So Wendy walks into State Bird Provisions and this friendly guy comes up to her has talks to her at length about how the restaurant works and about reservations. They reserve 1/3 of the restaurant for walk-ins every night. BUT people start lining up 1-1.5 hours before they open! Big chance of being turned away, and some people have to wait 3 hours before getting seated!

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This guy turned out to be the owner, Stuart! State Bird Provisions is run by a husband/wife team. He handles the food, the wife handles the desserts. He was such a nice, humble, non-pretentious guy! We were amazed. He let me take some photos even though we didn’t eat there that night.

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I dunno what these were for. I saw them again the next night and still couldn’t figure out what they were for. Later I figured that they might be for this dish.

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They have a section on their menu with these pancakes. We’ll have to try them some other time.

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Busy place! Love the open kitchen. We will return later…

To Hyang

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We’d actually made plans to eat at To Hyang that night!

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This place is famous cuz Anthony Bourdain went here on The Layover.

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And I would’ve sworn I saw Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) feature this place too but I can’t find the exact episode.

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Some specials. We wanted to try the braised fish head, but at $35 maybe next time!

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Nice selection of side dishes. The taste was ok. Some were too salty. But I appreciated the variety. I don’t see this too often in Vancouver. Maybe I’m not going to the right Korean restaurants…

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You’d never realize this place was famous. It’s so unassuming and almost dirty.

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Boneless chicken feet! Delicious. Strong, punch-in-the-face sweet/spicy flavour.

This is what a boneless chicken feet look like.
This is what a boneless chicken feet look like.

Since they buy the chicken feet already deboned, they don’t need to cook it as long as fung jow (phoenix claws). So we enjoyed the firmish gristly-ness. :) One of Wendy’s favourite dishes from SF.

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Oxtail with prunes. These were the dried prunes common in Asian cooking. They gave the dish a bit of a medicinal quality which was interesting and comforting.

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I loved this fermented bean paste tofu soup. To Hyang is the only place in North America that makes their own fermented bean paste. I could really smell and taste the deep, rich, arresting funkiness.

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Of course a Korean beer. This stuff goes right through me, it’s so light. Quite an enjoyable meal but it’s such a humble, unassuming place. I’m a bit amazed that it’s so famous.

To Hyang on Urbanspoon


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Taking the ferry to Oakland. For some pie.

Cowgirl Creamery

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Cowgirl Creamery wasn’t quite open yet that morning.

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If we came here at the beginning of our trip, I would’ve bought tons of cheese to enjoy in our room. Ah well, next time!

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Next to Cowgirl is their “Milk Bar”.

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They have a small counter where you can eat some cheesey food or order some milky drinks.

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Wendy tried an “egg cream” which actually doesn’t have any egg! It’s basically half soda, half chocolate milk. Good to try but wouldn’t get it again.

Boccalone

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Chris Cosentino’s Boccalone!

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Their special panini of the day.

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I went with the Muffuletta: “Prosciutto Cotto, Nduja & Mortadella with Olive Tapenade & Provolone”. I ended up bringing half of this back home to Vancouver with me in my backpack :) decent sandwich. Could’ve used a bit more of a saltier component though. But it’s my first ever Muffuletta, so I didn’t know what to expect.

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I got this lovely shirt!

Boccalone on Urbanspoon


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View of SF from the ferry.

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Very long bridge.

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Funny.

Pietisserie

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We came to Oakland for Wendy’s pie fix at Pietisserie.

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They operate out of the corner of this mid-range Mexican place called NIDO.

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Today’s pies!

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Lemon Blueberry.

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Spiced Apple.

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Chocolate Cream Pretzel.

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Blackbottom Walnut.

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We got an Okinawan Sweet Potato. Wendy loved it. Just rich and sweet enough.

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Strawberry lemonade.

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We had to try the Blackbottom Walnut too.

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The bottom layer looks like chocolate cake. It was fine. I enjoyed the cake layer. Cool idea!

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Goodbye Pietisserie! We’ll miss you!

Pietisserie on Urbanspoon

State Bird Provisions (Attempt #2)

Back to State Bird Provisions! (Read about Attempt #1 if you haven’t already.)

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I lined up at 4:00, as suggested by the owner. This place opens at 5:30. That means 1.5 hour wait. This was a shot of the lineup at 5:03. I was first in line :D

I talked with other people in line. Pretty friendly, even though most people at the front of the line were from out of town. You gotta be a serious foodie to even consider lining up here. One guy I talked to while in the lineup later commented to me that the food was really interesting here because they were flavouring foods with other foods. Neat observation. I think the Pork Belly Peach Salad dish down below exemplifies this.

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This was the last night of our trip. I’m so glad we were able to try this place! Tonight they had a special menu inspired by a friend chef Edward Lee (Top Chef Season 9) who just released a new book. We didn’t end up ordering anything off that special menu though. Too much other stuff to enjoy!

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This is how they serve the food here! You get to see EVERYTHING and THEN decide whether you want it or not, DIM SUM STYLE! How wicked is that?

There were also other waitstaff carrying trays of food from table to table too, so it’s not all on a cart.

There was food coming out of the kitchen all night, and most stuff went quickly, so there was a good enough turnaround so that temperature wasn’t an issue. Fantastic concept and execution!

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I had to try an oyster. I was so excited, it took me a while to calm down and actually enjoy everything. The oyster was just ok. With a spicy kohlrabi kraut on top.

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Scallops. Flash boiled in a curry broth with whipped avocado and toasted sesame and quinoa. 7/10

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Good dumpling. Good broth. Kinda went by too quickly. I did like the texture of the wrapping. Duck meat and shitake inside.

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Chips and steak tartare with black trumpet mushroom ranch. Definitely needed the ranch dressing.

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Almanac Honey Saison. Yummy! Restrained yet present. Gentle saison aroma. Delicious with the chips and tartare.

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Grilled octopus with chick peas and tomato salsa. TENDER octopus but with enough crunch too. Smokey. Awesome! One of our favourites!

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A view of the action. That’s our bartender Forrest :) He was so nice and a fine lookin’ American boy (according to Wendy). He comped us some drinks for Wendy cuz he noticed that she couldn’t partake in alcohol. That’s the kind of friendly and attentive service you get here.

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It’s actually a pretty small restaurant. No wonder they’re booked 2 months in advance. (NOTE: they’ve since expanded.)

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Coronado Islander IPA. Same beer I had at Monk’s Kettle but this time on tap! And I really enjoyed it! It really makes a difference with what kind of food your pair with your beer, and if it’s in bottle or on tap.

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Another standout dish: Pork Belly Peach Salad with a Vietnamese style vinaigrette and herbs. The peach complemented the dish perfectly. The pork belly had tender fat, crispy outside, the meat had good tension, not totally mushy. Great stuff! Imagine the sensation of crispy fried cubes with oozing fat and tender-yet-chewy meat inside. You want it, don’t you?

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First comped drink: Wendy’s shot of root beer syrup with soda. Nice cleanser! Root beer essence without the syrupy sweetness.

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Second comped drink: chocolate cherry soda. Yum! All about the flavour, not the sweetness.

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This is their namesake dish, CA State Bird with Provisions, which is a quail done fried chicken style. Crunchy outside and juicy inside. Lighter-coloured meat than quails that I’ve eaten in Chinese restaurants.

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The action is fast ‘n furious.

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Tonight’s dessert selection.

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More pork belly in dessert form!

Just kidding, this was the “chocolate ‘ice cream’ sandwich, walnut-black sesame fudge, figs”. The cookie part is actually chewy macaron! The ice cream part is semifreddo. We loved the walnut-black sesame fudge part. It all combined wonderfully in the mouth. Big portion, enough for both of us, but we could’ve eaten more of it!

Wendy sez, “One of the best #@$#% desserts I’ve ever had! A sophisticated dessert an adult can enjoy. Of course, I enjoyed the black sesame fudge as an Asian component to the dish.”

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Home run! Our favourite meal out of the entire trip!

Wendy is smitten with Forrest, especially after he comped us a couple shots of “‘world peace’ peanut muscovado milk”. Rich and creamy with a peanutty finish. Excellent cleanser! Tasted great with the dessert. (Sorry, no picture cuz too busy being smitten.)

Even if you miss stuff (like we did) there’s always more stuff around the corner!

We enjoyed State Bird Provisions (our last restaurant in SF) SO MUCH and we didn’t even know it existed! That’s SF for you, there’s so much to do, really vibrant food scene, tons of people to talk to about food…opportunities just spring up from the ground! Even if you miss stuff (like we did) there’s always more stuff around the corner!

State Bird Provisions on Urbanspoon

Beer & Ice Cream for Breakfast from Bi-Rite

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Last jaunt around our neighborhood. Here’s the famous “Painted Ladies”, an unassuming row of houses next to Alamo Park.

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Buying some boozy breakfast at Bi-Rite before our flight out.

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Alesmith X Extra Pale Ale. The perfect beer for the moment. With Acme Sour Baguette, Olympic Provisions Chorizo (with sweet and hot paprika) and some Dutch beer garden cheese. Tons of fruity aroma in the beer but with a light body and low alcohol. Damn good.

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Wendy couldn’t resist the Award-Winning Ginger Snap Ginger Ice Cream Sundae! We waited for Bi-Rite to open at 9:00am so we could buy this! So good. The ice cream tasted like pure homemade ice cream. Not candied ginger but a strong ginger taste in the ice cream. The ginger snaps had some nice sea salt on the outside. Chocolate sauce on top.

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This is the same milk that Bi-Rite uses to make their ice cream. It’s non-homogenized, so that’s why you see some floaty bits of cream on top. Wendy took the chunks out to butter her bread :)

Thanks San Francisco! We’ll be back!

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