I Heart San Francisco.

It was that devil procrastination that made me take so long to un-draft this post. It’s been sitting pretty waiting to be posted and some finishing touches. But then the excuses came along (real ones, I swear). And the delay of our beloved monsoon has been fairly disquieting too. I’m sure it’s on everybody’s mind. So odd to go through the w-h-o-l-e  of  June with just drizzles, no ?

It’s been two months almost since San Francisco, and the time that has whizzed past has been a whirlwind of assignments, local travels and now I’m getting ready to go back to the lovely SF for a few weeks again. And before I snap away for another edition of my SF blog post it seemed right to post the FIRST one first :) So what follows is a photo essay of a few quick glimpses from a really interesting SF food trail. Hope it inspires you all to have a weekend filled with lots of good food, drinks and happiness.

Vietnamese at Bun Mee. A cuisine I love  for how it marries the garden fresh with zingy lemongrass, basil & fishsauce.

Simple strolling, a few hours of work(mostly post for the shoots completed here), making little sketches and notes, cooking or wolfing down good food and laughing with my husband and the hearty San Franciscans we met. My days in San Francisco were mostly like this with some hiking on the weekends. If I factor in the unpredictable wet days, then the strolling was replaced by people-watching from within a warm cafe or a wine bar.

What struck me about the food scene in San Francisco is the almost bohemian spirit of free flowing fusion of world cultures. The element of art ever present in the food as it is in most other things here. The chefs are artists who seek the local farmers to create the soulful food and the farmers seek the chefs in return with fine, nurtured produce from within a small radiuses of the city. The food experience at Outerlands was one of my favourites and it captures this essence well.

just-out-of-the-oven Outerlands loaf with big chunks of the divine artisan-made Pianoforte cheese.

San Francisco is a ‘big little city’ in a sense that it’s sea of global food experiences are packed into a fairly small area. Californians pride themselves on their culture of using freshly prepared food with local ingredients and in San Francisco this is particularly pronounced with an added international flair. There’s also some respite from the fast food chains and monstrous supermarkets because alternate choices are plentiful and have their place. This was obviously my big draw to the city’s vibrant and cultivated food culture. Given the San Franciscans’ love of harmony and green living, several eateries feature thoughtfully prepared vegetarian, vegan and healthy eating options. Every other thinkable food request is accommodated with a smile in most restaurants and it was always made me happy to see the strong inclination towards sustainable eating in almost every place we visited. Nopalito for one is a great sustainable Mexican eatery.

San Francisco boasts of some amazingly authentic Mexican Taquerias all over and particularly in the Mission district such as the cultish La Taqueria which are hard to go wrong with and serve up the perfect little Taco. Nopalito delivers it  to perfection with a tad more imagination and if you go there in the daytime there’s always golden SF sunshine streaming through, accompanying the Margaritas.

Fermented rice salad at Burma Superstar – a real STAR

A food lover’s life involves a vicious cycle of compulsive recurring hunger and the only fix is to eat to keep that belly quiet. I have no complaints because that’s how one gets to the next house of gastronomic delight. We’d heard of Burma Superstar which as the name suggests is hugely popular, and particularly for it’s Tea Leaf Salad. It was too enticing not to try so we braved the long wait times and jumped in. It’s rather odd that we travel the oceans accumulating big carbon footprints to eat food that is actually from your neighbourhood ? I totally enjoyed the Americanized Burmese fare as I do with Desi Chinese and would go back for the fermented rice salad.

The once-a-month open air Treasure Island Flea…I loved it for the world market-y vibe.Hundreds of Local artisans participate with their creations, homemade goodies, handmade soaps, and vintage everything – clothing, jewelry and you name it and it’s there at the Treasure Island Flea. It is one of those places that reflects the true spirit of it’s beloved city – unpretentious, freespirited and eclectic.

Plenty of San Francisco food trucks find their way here and it’s a happy sight to watch the people, kids and their pets strolling lazily  wondering what should make it into their bellies.

One may think that the time spent in San Francisco may not be complete without a dash to the wineyards. But what if all the wine makers of California gathered under one roof offering wine tastings where you can also buy on the spot. The San Francisco Vintners Market is exactly that and seemed  a rather commensurate option given our time constraints.

 Winemakers from California and across the country come together during this wine Mecca that happens twice a year at the vast Ft. Mason Center’s Festival Pavilion in San Francisco. We were lucky to have been there right in time for the Spring time festival and learned of it thanks to a local friend.

Honestly I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of the gathering. 4000 people or thereabouts had merged seamlessly into the deafening buzz of the chatter, clinking glasses and infectious wine laden energy. Similar to farmers markets, it allows consumers to sample the wines on display and buy them on the spot.

This is has to be the best opportunity for the wine connoisseur to taste wines flowing from the estates of America’s most famous winemakers to the boutique wineries from Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Mendocino, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Russian River Valley and other regional wineries plus imported wines from around the world. We lasted here about two hours and took the happy heady state straight into some oyster savouring at the Waterbar on Embarcadero.

The local Oysters at Waterbar were outstanding to say the least with the crisp, ice cold California Chardonnay to finish off each bite.

smells, sights and sounds near the Ferry building farmer’s market.

A short walk further up from Waterbar and along the Embarcadero is the Ferry building and the single biggest reason to go there is the incredibly famous expansive Ferry building farmer’s market. Breathtaking arrays of San Franciscan artisan food, and every kind of fresh produce imaginable show up at the market and it is near impossible to come home empty handed from this treasure house. Having said that, San Francisco is not short on farmer’s markets and almost every neighbourhood has its own little one. We had a local farmers market close to home and I always found some gorgeous produce to stock up the fridge amply.

UN plaza farmer’s market was also lovely set against the backdrop of the iconic SF building.

We were staying on upper Fillmore street, near California Avenue  where a boulevard of lovely boutiques, farmers markets and restaurants are happily situated. I had ‘my’ zones of gastronomic contentment in the wholesome sandwich bars, the cozy Boulangeries, the neighbourhood  bar Harry’s for the dirty Martinis and sweet potato fries, and particularly the tucked away gem of a wine bar called Fat Angel for the outstanding selection of wines and lean-but-mean menu(the way I like it). I literally lived between home and these places gazing into the blurring streets, taking long strolls between a meal and a coffee and savouring my minutes against time in a city that I could easily call home.

Fillmore street also happens to be the Jazz capital of San Francisco with lots of really talented artists–right from the famous to up and coming–performing in the neighbourhood almost every evening.

If there’s a city in the world that embraces the collective spirit of it’s diverse ethnicities, it has to be San Francisco. There’s a certain openness in the air of this big little city which one can almost always sense in the first few days of being there. The famous sights and sounds aside what stands out is this openness in the city’s warm embrace, laidback sunshine, colourful people and the food of course. You can understand why I am more than happy to go back. If only transporting my puppies was simpler. Sigh.

 “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

PS : Most of these photographs were shot with a 50 mm 1.8/f. A little project I gave myself to see how far one lens can go and I am not done yet.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Ayush Kejriwal July 13, 2012, 2:02 pm

    Ramya, they are beautiful!

  • Ramya Reddy July 13, 2012, 3:35 pm

    thanks ash <3

  • alan August 21, 2012, 10:51 pm

    Hi Ramya,

    An intersting read! I am off to SF next week for a couple of weeks and plan to do somethign foodie every day. I was there last year but wasn’t very organised. I’ve got myself a reservation at Chez Panisse which I am looking forward to.

    If you go back to SF do go to this modern Mexican restaurant in Mission. I wish I could remember the name but I can’t right now! They did the most amazing wafer thin octopus with a smokey paprikery oil – and many other fantastic things! I blogged about it about a year ago!..

    Anyway, I shall be checking out some of those palces!



    • ramya August 24, 2012, 12:12 am

      Hi Alan, thanks so much for stopping by…I am still discovering SF…back here now and exploring the hidden gems this time around :) Thanks for the reccos I love the Mexican places in Mission…let me see if I can locate the one you are talking about. Go to the Swan Oyster depot if you like oysters…if you haven’t been there yet.BTW I love your blog !exploring it as we speak. Lovely post about poaching a whole fish.

  • wire wrapped gift February 17, 2013, 10:41 pm

    Great blog you have here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

    • ramya February 18, 2013, 12:42 pm

      Thank you so much :)

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