A couple of weeks ago we took a quick trip to San Francisco to visit my good friend Gordon for a few days. Who knew that a weekend of eating, hanging out, and eating some more could yield so many good memories (and yes, tons of photos). I’m going to have to split it up into several posts, so here are some of the highlights from the first couple of meals.
Our first evening in the sopping-wet city, we headed out to Contigo, a little tapas restaurant in Noe Valley.
Highlights were definitely the queso fresco, lomo iberico, patatas bravas, and churros con chocolate, though I have to admit that most of our enthusiasm for the food was tempered by a ridiculously long 45 minute wait past our reservation, since the party occupying our table were in no hurry to leave. Bad, bad Contigo.
After an endless downpour throughout the night, we were gifted the next morning with beautiful, sunny skies! Time for some breakfast.
Gordon took us to Dynamo in the Mission for some doughnuts. With about a dozen flavors to choose from, the crowd favorite was the maple glazed bacon apple. Um.. bacon, need I explain more? (We also got a passionfruit milk chocolate for good measure.)
With a box of doughnuts in hand, we made a quick jaunt to Philz. Though I’ve had their coffee (beans) before, Gordon assures me that I need to try their made-to-order poured coffee.
Philz has a real bohemian vibe. No test tubes, beakers, La Marzoccos, or Clovers here. Just straight-up, handmade drip coffee. Now that’s love in a cup!
A steaming cup of Jacob’s blend + maple glaze bacon.. this is killing me. I really shouldn’t write these posts late at night.
Next up, off to the Ferry Building!
Dynamo Donuts and Coffee
2760 24th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
3101 24th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Over the summer I finally made it out to the much lauded Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. While the market lives up to its reputation for having some of the best produce and artisanal food stuffs in Southern California (a popular stop for LA chefs), I found it somewhat lacking in the instant gratification department: not enough food stalls! Ogling over eye-poppingly fresh fruit and veggies does work up quite an appetite, so when we came across Carlsbad Aquafarm’s little stand selling freshly shucked oysters, we figured it would be the perfect snack to tie us over till sitting down somewhere for lunch. A half dozen to test the waters disappeared within a few lip-smacking slurps, and we were soon back for another round. Though they traveled a 100 miles north from sleepy Carlsbad that morning, I think it would be safe to say that they were the freshest, tastiest oysters to be found anywhere in Los Angeles.
These sweet, briny mollusks eventually drew us to the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, where Carlsbad Aquafarm sets up on Sundays. the HFM instantly became our favorite; it still had a great line-up of vendors (some of the same from the SMFM), more food options, and it’s less crowded to boot! Getting a dozen of these babies on the half shell became a market ritual, along with a few pints of Carmela’s excellent ice cream (to take home of course), and some delicious and cheap pupusas salvadorenas from Delmy’s.
This past weekend we arrived early enough to the HFM to make sure there were plenty of oysters to go around (note to late risers like me, sometimes they sell out before 11:30 or so). Unfortunately the market ‘police’ had made their rounds, someone had forgotten their permit, and no shucked oysters were to be had at Carlsbad Aquafarm’s stand. Not much arm-twisting was needed to grab some to take home, and at $10/dozen it’s quite possibly the steal of the century.
Not wanting to feel like absolute gluttons after grazing at the market, we arrived home with a mere dozen of Carlsbad Blondes. The shells were immaculate; not a barnacle, spot of mud, or critter to be found, which speaks volumes about the detail and attention paid to the farming of these oysters. If my memory serves me correctly, the oysters go through a finishing process in filtered or purified sea water to remove any silt, grit, or nasty stuff. Which leaves you with an unadulterated taste of the sea.
My only other experience with shucking oysters involved a very filthy bag of razor-sharp oysters and a questionable borrowed knife at a oyster farm in Tomales Bay (just north of San Francisco). Needless to say, getting those things opened safely and cleanly was not an easy affair. Luckily, working with these oysters was quite the opposite. A quick but gentle easing of the knife (I don’t have a shucking knife, but a butter knife works well enough) into the hinged end, and the lid pops open. Running the knife between the lid and oyster removes the hold of the abductor muscle, and the lid is released to reveal the beautifully plump flesh below. Another quick movement of the knife under the oyster dislodges it completely from the shell; left to rest in a bath of crisp, clear brine.
These blondes beg for no more than a scant squeeze of lemon. Mild, sweet, with a splash of the sea. Paired with a crisp beer or cold bubbly, it doesn’t get much better than this. If you’re anywhere near the Hollywood or Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, or even better yet Carlsbad, go get a few dozen these (and the other varieties they also raise). You won’t be disappointed.
Santa Monica Farmers’ Market
Arizona Ave & 3rd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
4600 Carlsbad Boulevard
Carlsbad, CA 92008-4301