Funny how a recurring theme can start to happen in the matter of a day. Dining in San Francisco has always been one of favorite things in this divine city. The humble but glorious egg yolk the recurring theme on my culinary adventures. Above on pasta at Zuni Cafe and below on prime beef tartare at Wayfare Tavern. Breaking open magically creating this most amazing sauce. Natural beauty.
Wine & Dine Wednesday is about a place I most certainly would deem a classic in every sense, Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. I have written in the past of my love for this place where the memorable meals are indelibly marked in my memory. The taxi dropping me off last week and the moment I stepped out of the car, the unmistakable scent of firewood burning in their wood oven wafted over me like a warm embrace from an old friend. The service always impeccable and always incredibly friendly, which seems rarer & rarer these days. You feel like you are sitting in someone’s comfortable home. Comfort both in environment as well as food is where Zuni excels. Quite possibly one of the finest roast chickens on the planet, cooked to perfection to order, that has been imitated the globe over by other restaurants. A burger so perfectly done you could shed a tear. What is in season reigns supreme, so you are assured the vegetables are going to be sublime. A hearty bowl of polenta, which seems so basic and simple, is quite possibly the most perfect comfort food. Until the heaping, overflowing bowl of shoestring potatoes is delivered to your table. Fish so fresh and cooked with fresh herbs you will dream about it later, I promise. All housed in a setting on Market Street where the large glass windows allows a bit of San Francisco to pass you by. If you find yourself in the Bay Area, a Zuni lunch or dinner on the agenda will be a highlight of your trip.
I was asked by a few folks at the shops about some of the places I visited while I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago. It really is such a special city. When I had my showroom, I used to exhibit at the show there twice a year. Spending a week there at a time, I feel like I got to know it well. There are so many “classic” spots that I stop at each trip, and then there are new places I hear about that I have to check out. I wrote 24 to 48 hours in the heading, because you really can see so much in just a day or two. Which I think makes it such a cool city for a quick, inspirational trip. Here is how this trip rolled.
Good food, no make that great food plays such a big part in the enjoyment of SF. The first evening I had dinner at the Cavalier with our friend Grant K. Gibson. You might remember a past post about his photography we carry at the shops. His full-time job is interior designer. The Cavalier was his recommendation and it did not disappoint. With interiors by Ken Fulk, it is as yummy to look at as the food–and the food was pretty darn tasty. Highly recommend. It is actually just a few blocks away from the Four Seasons, which is on Market Street, which is where I stayed. Such a lovely hotel, with such gracious service, and centrally located so it makes getting around a breeze.
If you have one choice to dine on a quick trip to San Francisco, by all means grab a reservation for lunch or dinner at Zuni Cafe. My ritual on a SF trip is I have lunch there on the day I later fly home. I have done this always, and I always fly home happy. Zuni is one of my all time favorites. Simplicity on so many levels. Just good, good food simply prepared that will knock your socks off.
My other memorable meal was at Farmshop at the Marin Country Mart with my new friend Tolan Florence. I was familiar with Farmshop in the Brentwood Country Mart in LA. This is their newest venture, and the meal and the space were just stupendous. Again, not fancy, just the best ingredients simply prepared to perfection. You take a walk-on ferry to Larkspur, and then it is just a few minute walk to the Mart. It is filled with sweet shops to peruse as well as a lovely bookstore. You catch the boat at the Ferry Building. You will want to arrive quite early, as you will want/need to spend a bunch of time at the shops here too. The San Francisco Ferry Building is really such a gem. Go hungry, as there are so many sweet spots to pick up things to nosh on.
Shopping plays a big part in the SF plan. Bell’occhio is a must see. I have been going there for over 20 years. It is just magical. You walk in the door and you are just transported to a slower, more genteel time. I have gotten to know Claudia and her husband Tom over the years. If you stop in, tell her Ted sent you. It is about a 30 second walk from Zuni, so they always go hand and hand on my visits. Then there is a stop at Wilkes Bashford, Gump’s, Hermes, and Burberry–all just a few blocks from one another in the Union Square area. Hayes Valley is another fun area to walk around and shop at small shops. A quick taxi or Uber takes you to Sacramento Street for more shopping at Sue Fisher King, March and Hudson Grace. Then to Fillmore Street to Nest and a walk around to other shops on this busy and entertaining street. I used Uber quite a bit on this last trip. I was having the hardest time hailing cabs, so the Uber app was called into play often. We are really such fans of the service. It is also such a great waking city. I could just walk and walk and walk and people watch. The architecture is stellar. Remember to look up and to look down. So much to see and do in this most wonderful of cities, San Francisco.
Travel is so wonderful as it gives you experiences to remember and relish over a lifetime. I like to have little tokens of trips scattered here and there in my life as little remembrances. It can be as small and as simple as a ticket stub from a play we saw in London that I use as a book marker. These little pieces of ephemera just take me back to the time and place, if only for a second. But it is a really glorious second. Same is true for corks from special bottles of wine we share on trips. I was so fortunate to have a special studio tour of artist Denise Fiedler while I was in San Francisco earlier this week. What a magical space. Look for a full post of it in the coming week. After the tour we went and had lunch at one of my favorite places in the world, Zuni. We shared a bottle of Domaine Tempier Bandol rosé. It was such a special morning touring her work space followed by a memorable lunch with someone I am so fond of–saving the cork from the bottle becomes a small reminder of the experience. I tucked it into a bowl I have on my desk at the shop. It will be such a lovely reminder as I glance at it from time to time.
It is funny how certain foods from certain places just stick in your memory. The last few days in Seattle have been cold and rainy, and a warm bowl of polenta with Parmesan from Zuni Cafe in San Francisco keeps popping into my mind. The large bowl of polenta topped with large pieces of fresh cracked black pepper is one of the most comforting & satisfying things I have ever eaten. Plus, I love the simplicity of it. If you don’t know Zuni, please let me introduce you. It is located on Market Street, a quick taxi ride from the city center. I know that taxi cab ride well. I have been going to San Francisco each year for buying trips for at least the last 15 years. There has never been a time I have been in San Francisco that I have not had a meal at Zuni. It is a non pretentious, incredibly comfortable place to sit and watch the world stroll by. I have never had a single item that did not knock my socks off. Everything is simply prepared, but prepared incredibly well. I have had pork chops there that were close to a religious experience. The roast chicken for two is always worth the wait.
Some people take photos of landmark sights when they visit places–I take photos of the amazing things I have eaten. Looking at this overflowing plate of shoestring potatoes just makes me happy. Many times I eat there solo, as I am ending my trip, and am then heading to the airport. TPS and I have celebrated special occasions there. If I love a place, I keep going back. Zuni is just that kind of place. www.zunicafe.com