Back in November, I went on a three day trip to San Francisco to attend the 2013 North American Chowzter awards (btw South Buffalo’s own Nine Eleven won an award). Without a doubt, it was one of the coolest things I’ve done since starting Buffalo Eats. In fact, when they first reached out to me I thought it was some type of scam or joke. But it was indeed legit and I was left with 48 hours to try and enjoy as much of San Francisco as possible. Luckily, I was able to share a bunch of these meals with some really cool food bloggers from all over the country. If you find yourself in these cities, I suggest you check out these food blogs: Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, Charleston, Orlando, Toronto and Vancouver.
We had several meals already planned ahead, but I still got in a couple extra meals here and there. Here are some of the highlights from the trip…
The Ferry Building. When I asked all of my friends for San Francisco recommendations, the Ferry Building was almost a unanimous suggestion. This building has everything. Great coffee, charcuterie, Vietnamese, oysters, markets, beer shops, etc. I arrived to San Fran, dropped everything off at my hotel and headed straight to the Ferry Building.
My first stop was Boccalone, Chef Chris Cosentino’s (Incanto) meat shop dedicated to all things salty and porky. It’s not really a restaurant but since I was there in the early afternoon, I decided to grab one of their four seats. They have sandwiches and catering options but I went with the ‘Large Picnic Platter’ (choice of five meats) for $20. When I told the cashier that I would be eating it there and by myself, he seemed horrified and impressed at the same time. I tried out the Prosciutto Crudo, Soppressata, Lardo, Capocollo and Wild Honey Salume. They were all delicious, the lardo was cut thick but still melted in your mouth, the proscuitto was outstanding and the wild honey salumi really blew my mind. We’ve become big charcuterie fans over the last two years and these were some of the best I’ve ever had. I’ve spent a lot of time lately looking at their shop page and wondering how I can justify buying $200 worth of salumi online.
I then made my way over to Hog Island Oyster and grabbed the last table on the patio, ordered a half dozen of the variety and a nice light wheat beer on draft. I’m still an oyster n00b but these all had a really fresh flavor and if I had more time and money, I probably could have eaten two dozen by myself. It was a little cold outside but sitting on a pier on the San Francisco Bay, drinking a beer and having some oysters was pretty much perfect.
I loved this building so much that I went back on Saturday and checked out the market outside with Yvo from New York. I grabbed a very tasty New Orleans Iced coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee and somehow managed to avoid making an ass out of myself. Everyone who loves coffee told me I had to try this place out but I’ve also heard the baristas can be fanatics, luckily I didn’t mess anything up. Yvo introduced me to Roti Roti’s Gourmet Porchetta Sandwich from their mobile truck. It was insane. The rotisserie porchetta was juicy as hell, caramelized onions helped provide a little sweet and the bits of crispy pork skin inside added delicious fat and crunch.
Crustacean. Our first proper meal as a group was Friday night at Crustacean. I had done a little research about the restaurant before hand and noticed they known for being one of the first ‘Asian fusion restaurants’ in the United States. That scared me a little but I trusted the Chowzter folk and their plans. After standing around the bar, ordering some small plates and enjoying some drinks, we finally made our way to our tables. Our hosts decided to order a full Roasted Crab and an order of Garlic Noodles for each person (there were about 20 of us) and let us add anything that we needed. This was my first dungeness crab experience and damn was it awesome; the thing was huge. I ripped into it and managed to get every piece of crab that I could. Unfortunately, the garlic noodles took a back seat. The egg noodles were coated in a strong garlic sauce and tasted really good, but my preoccupation with crab didn’t allow me to really enjoy the dish.
Mikkeller Bar. This was a recommendation from my buddy Ed that really worked out. After our crab feast I managed to convince a couple people to follow me to this newly opened craft beer bar. With 42 beers on tap and most of them special releases from Mikkeller, I knew I was going to love the place immediately. We lucked out and the bar was half empty when we arrived and were able to grab a spot near the bar and didn’t have to wait to order a beer. The bartenders were more than happy to help us figure out what we’d like. If you love craft beer, I can’t think of a better place to stop when you’re in San Francisco. Also I felt pretty cool after Eater named Mikkeller Bar one of the 23 Hottest Craft Beer Bars in America the following week.
Mission Chinese Food. I’ve wanted to visit Danny Bowien’s pop-up restaurant since I saw him on No Reservations a couple years ago. He’s become quite the culinary figure since, going from a late night pop up only restaurant to a full service place with a second location in NYC and a newly opened Mexican place. On our trip to NYC in October, my brother Tom and I tried to visit but they were closed due to a rat issue. Luckily the original location was on our itinerary for Saturday afternoon.
The 15 food bloggers took up most of the restaurant’s dining room and we were given free range to order whatever we wanted off the menu. All together we ordered 20 of the 27 dishes on the menu. It was insane. I managed to try as much as possible and got my hands on the delicious crab/pork fried rice, pork belly with coconut, kung pao pastrami (pictured above), Szechuan pickles, schmaltz rice and tea smoked eel. Most of the dishes were interesting interpretations of Chinese classic dishes and were hits at the table. The crab and pork fried rice and kung pai pastrami really impressed me and I’ve been thinking about them on a daily basis. I’m currently counting down the days til Danny Bowien comes out with a cookbook or I visit NYC again. We walked around the Mission afterwards and tried some burritos and tacos which were very tasty but honestly I was a walking food zombie at that point.
SOMA StrEat Food Park. Our final food adventure took place at the 2013 Chowzter North American Food Awards which was held at the SOMA StrEat Food Park. On a chilly Saturday night there were about a dozen food trucks parked there, some covered seating and a live DJ. First thing I noticed, several of the food trucks had beer on tap and one WAS JUST A BEER TRUCK. I understood that cities like Portland and Austin had some pretty progressive food truck legislation, but I never knew beer trucks were a thing.
After I composed myself, I finally checked out the Bacon Bacon and Lil’ Burma trucks, although it was a hard decision. I ordered the bacon fried chicken sandwich because, duh. It was a piece of panko fried chicken with some bacon, bacon mayo and coleslaw. It was alright, a little too dry but still loaded with bacon flavor (as one would guess). Then I tried the Tea Leaf Salad from Lil’ Burma and I can say that I think the version at Sun’s kicks its ass, there was virtually no tea leaves on this salad and instead just a bunch of pine nuts and cabbage. The food wasn’t bad but not particularly exciting. I probably should have tried a couple other food trucks but I was preoccupied with the beer on tap and award show.
The entire experience was surreal. If you would have asked me what my goal for Buffalo Eats was in 2009 I might have said something about getting free chicken wings at Duffs. Never did I think I’d be getting flown out to San Francisco to hang out and dine with food bloggers from all over the country. I can’t thank Chowzter enough for sending me out and for awarding Nine Eleven Tavern at the ceremony. I’m looking forward to creating more content for Chowzter in the future and I highly encourage every to keep track of their Buffalo section or download their app on iTunes or the Android Marketplace.