I know it’s been a while but it’s been crazy around here, and right now I’m so happy.
I just got home from the most wonderful girl’s weekend with my sister Polly and Charlotte (and a few friends and family who were able to clear their schedule last minute for this weekend).
Polly needed to fly out with her youngest son out to meet our Dad and brother Dave for his big 10 year birthday trip; every grandkid gets a trip of their choosing, and Christian wanted to go to a Dallas Cowboys football game and visit San Francisco.
I took advantage of my sister’s relative proximity and bought tickets for us gals to go down to SF for a quickie weekend. It was sort of last minute-ish and a bit of a whirlwind, but I knew that once there, we’d pack it in.
72 hours — how much could we do/see/eat/experience?
I’ll show you.
Now keep in mind I’ve lived in S.F. for 15 years but it’s been almost that long since I moved to Portland (and Polly has been away for even longer). We’ve both done a number of the big hits before (Exploratorium, MOMA, cable car, Golden Gate Park, etc.) on previous visits, so this trip was all about revisiting old favorites and being open to whatever crossed our paths.
With that in mind, if you’re headed that way with girlfriends in tow,
Here are my TOP SEVEN THINGS YOU MUST DO IN SAN FRANCISCO.
ONE. Go to the Ferry Building.
Located on the water, this food hall extraordinaire is always jumping, and on Saturdays the place is surrounded with even more outdoor vendors who sell everything from cheesecakes to shrubs and walnut loaves and small-batch honey.
Polly, Charlotte and I had an incredible time threading our way through the aisles outside and I bumped into this lovely guy I knew a long time ago.
I used to buy his products for my shop when I was a food buyer in S.F.
He remembered me and gave me a number of his amazing products — oh how I wish these products were available in Portland.
Marin Gourmet makes various kinds of hummus, chimichurri, smoked eggplant puree and baba ghanouj and more — and they are all incredible.
We had so much fun buying treats at both the market outside and in the shops inside.
We bought a lot of fresh bread: the Acme Herb Slab plus a Walnut Loaf,
various cheeses at Cowgirl Creamery,
plus strawberries, apples, pears, olives, salami, cheesecake, cookies, Kombucha and juices.
Come to Ferry Building hungry as there is so much you’re going to want to sample, whether later or if the weather is nice like it was for us, just eat it outside with a view of the Bay Bridge.
Here are the must-stop stalls inside the Ferry Building.
Blue Bottle Coffee.
Miette, the stunning pastry, ice cream and confection shop.
Cowgirl Creamery and Acme Bread.
Plus The Gardener — a mini bookstore/home goods/outdoor gear boutique.
We took all that fabulous food we bought and met my dear friend Melinda for a picnic at a nearby park.
The Ferry Building is Ground Zero for all things delicious.
TWO. Shop, shop, shop.
San Francisco has all kinds of amazing retail and boy did we take advantage of it.
We hit so many stores in 72 hours that it’s a bit of a blur.
With Melinda we went consignment clothes shopping in Pacific Heights, and we all found fun things at Crossroads and Goodbyes.
Charlotte found a Kate Spade dress in her size that was spectacular.
It’s brand-new with the tags still on it, and she snagged it for a steal: a $780 dress marked down to $76 at the latter consignment shop, and she’s never had a dress she’s loved so much (it has the most adorable patent leather piping and bow in the back and looks like something out of a Richard Avedon shoot or Audrey Hepburn movie).
We also walked into a shop on Polk Street called Belle Cose.
I was amazed that this shop (with its inspired collection of both vintage and new clothes, jewelry and accessories) was still there after all these years and we found some retail luck there, too.
Theresa, the owner, and I recognized each other from 17 years ago (!) and it was such a kick to introduce her to Charlotte and find a very chic little soft puffy jacket for her.
Every neighborhood has great retail.
Here’s another favorite shop we went to (and shopped hard at).
Tantrum has great kid’s gifts and clothes, home goods, and knick knacks — and the packaging is superb.
And on another afternoon, my friend Tracy and I joined us for shopping in Japantown.
We hit Daiso (one of my favorite Japanese exports)
and some really interesting specialty stores in Japantown.
Tracy shared with Charlotte pics she’d saved from ten years ago — one of the last times she saw her when she brought her kids up for a visit.
San Francisco shopping is fantastic and I barely fit all my treats in my suitcase.
THREE. Eat as much Asian food as you have time (and stomach space) for.
We had Steamed Pork and BBQ Pork Buns at the Ferry Building.
I love how they’re pillowy outside and slightly sweet and spicy on the inside.
In the Richmond area of the city we had Crispy Szechuan Chicken
and Beef Chow Fun
and another time on Clement Street we hit a Vietnamese restaurant.
We had Imperial Rolls and Noodle Bowls and Five Spice Chicken-– all so delicious.
I could eat in S.F. for a month straight and not even scratch the surface of the fantastic Asian cooking here, but little tastes of this and that were happily enjoyed.
FOUR. Spend some time at Crissy Field.
This is one of the places Polly and I love most in the city.
Crissy Field is a gorgeous expanse of park and wide open beach that looks out at both the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, and it’s one of the few places that you can see dogs romp freely.
A few swimmers (both canine and human) braved the cold water on this 75 degree day and my nephew Christian was so happy to just throw the football around.
I stumbled upon a school competing in a sand castle making contest that focused on Greek or Roman temples, and it was fun to see teamwork and simple enthusiasm in this lively group.
How fun is that school project?
In a city of huge construction, sky-high construction and prices and just too many people, the open air and breathtaking views from here can’t be beat.
Go here with your girlfriends and enjoy a leisurely walk or rent bikes, but bring a snack as you’re going to want to hang out here a good long while and close-by food options are somewhat limited.
FIVE. Try something you’ve never eaten before.
San Francisco is such a vibrant food/drink city and even in our very limited time together, every one of us seemed to try something new to us.
Matcha lattes. Vietnamese vermicelli with steak. Artisanally made, small batch chocolate almond milk.
Fresh pomegranates. Chimichurri. Smoked eggplant puree. Walnut bread with Asian pears and fresh ricotta.
And while in Japantown, Dragon’s Breath.
We were walking around with my pal Tracy when I noticed a mom and adult son walking around with smoke coming out of their mouths, laughing all the while.
I walked over to them to talk to them and asked them what was going on.
Turns out there is a place named Chocolate Chair that soaks cereal puffs in liquid nitrogen and then serves them up in small cups.
I was intrigued, and they offered me — and Charlotte– a taste and we jumped on it.
It was beyond weird. I popped that puff in my mouth and it was like a cold, wintry fog had suddenly taken residence in my mouth, and there was just the whisper of fruity cereal.
Five seconds later, there was no trace of either. Just giggles and amazement.
What haven’t you yet tried? Some kind of interesting cocktail?
Burmese food? Mochi?
San Francisco has it all — and then some.
SIX. Get thee to Tartine or Tartine Manufactory.
I remember having some fantastic pastries at Tartine about a dozen years ago but it’d been that long since I’d tried anything from them, so when Polly’s and my friend Kate suggested we go to the relatively new Tartine Manufactory on Harrison, I was all over that.
Tartine is one of the most famous bread and pastry shops in the country, and I was so excited to dive in.
Once we found parking (yikes, almost 30 minutes later), we bellied up to the counter to take in all the marvels.
We ordered a number of their pastries to have alongside a couple of their breakfast sandwiches.
There was a brioche and jam bun
and a Morning Roll with layers of orange sugary short dough goodness which looked kind of nondescript but was surprisingly addictive.
We all freaked out over the Almond Croissant, quite possibly the best one any of us have ever had with a thick, marzipan-like filling, generous amounts of crispy shaved almonds and infinite layers of flaky, buttery dough.
The Valhrona Chocolate Croissant was also delectable and then we ordered lattes and a couple of other treats from the sit-down menu.
We ordered a couple egg sandwiches on soft, brioche like buns.
The rolls were so interesting as they had an ethereal crumb but valiantly held together the copious ingredients within.
And perhaps the most luxe of all was the Salmon Tartine.
It was made with their signature Country Bread, slathered with full fat cream cheese and then smothered with a heavy blanket of velvety lox and finished with raw onion, dill and candied lemon peel.
It was divine.
I bought a loaf of this bread for both Kate and me to take home
and I’ve been eating it nonstop, making various tartines of my own.
Which brings me to
SEVEN. Bring an empty bag — and a little cooler bag — to bring food home.
Just say yes to chocolates or cheeses or salami or whatever you fancy.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Or some other fab food you might find at a market or store.
And don’t forget that Tartine bread.
It may just be your favorite souvenir yet.
And here’s my last piece of advice.
Be prepared for the unexpected.
San Francisco is like a string of neighborhood-villages and you never know who you might bump into…
Like your stepson and your kids’ big brother.
We were walking around the Marina when all of a sudden a firetruck stops outside our parked car and I hear Charlotte squeal: “MOM! Daniel’s here!”
What an amazing surprise, and it made me all the more excited to host him and his lovely girlfriend at Thanksgiving.
SO that’s our 72 hours shopping/eating blow-out.
Thanks so much to my phenomenal family for making this time so special.
Thanks to my brother and Dad for giving my nephew such a memorable trip.
Thank you, Polly, for spoiling us at every turn and a big shout out to her lovely sister in law Hendy who hosted us all at her gorgeous Presidio home.
And to my San Francisco friends, come visit us in Portland — it’s my turn to spoil you.