Yes, a white Christmas can be nice. What’s better? Champagne brunch at Cliffhouse. While most of you were enjoying your presents and chestnuts and what have you, I was sipping Champagne (and a bloody mary) five hundred feet above the crashing waves of the Pacific ocean. It’s become a sort of Christmas tradition to spend the holiday in San Francisco. This vacation was meant to be a fun and relaxing cultural experience, what it became was a 96 hour eat everything in sight amazing culinary Odyssey through NorCal. Heading to the Bay Area? Print me out and throw me in your carry-0n! But, you’ll probably be checking bags on the way back….keep reading to find out why.
Lunch: The Cheese Board Pizza Collective
1512 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley, CA. 947095
Only in Berkeley do communists and high temperature ovens mean something good. At Cheeseboard pizza, a worker-owned cooperative venture, friendly and good-looking pizza makers serve up the best slice I’ve had in a really long time. The trick is that they only have one kind each day. Today was curried potato with lemonjuice and cilantro, which I have to say sounded a little gimmicky. Curried potatoes should be seen and not heard next to pilau rice and perhaps a good vindaloo, not fresh mozzarella and pizza dough. But HOLY S*** was that pizza good. I mean, really good, so good I’m still dreaming about it good. Slices are 2.50 each and come with a little “taster slice” on top about an inch wide, so cute.
1686 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley
In high school I flirted with the idea of Macrobitotics, which is basically a japanese version of veganism that promotes eating whole grains and produce in harmony with the seasons. It made it impossible to eat out in restaurants, so I ditched it (and my amazing natural energy levels and glowing skin) for my love of eating out. HOWEVER, Cha Ya is one of those vegan restaurants that make you question why you even need steak at all. Delicious vegetarian sushi and seaweed based soups are their specialty. Lots of fried vegetables with sweet sauces. I once ate at Cha Ya for lunch and dinner three nights in a row (I have witnesses).
Lunch: Cheeseboard (really)
After checking out Berkeley’s answer to a Bikram Yoga studio (The Funky Door) I was starving and wanting something delicious, yet healthy. Naturally I was dying for more cheeseboard. This time I opted for one slice and their delicious side salad, ohh and an artisan beer for $2.50 (which is basically free for someone used to New York prices).
Dinner: Sunflower Room
288 Connecticut St (between Mariposa St & 18th St) San Francisco, CA 94107
I BARTed across the bay to San Fran where it was a perfectly chilly Christmas eve. Being Jewish and in the company of other Jews, the natural choice was chinese and a movie. I wasn’t really in the mood for Chinese, so naturally the next choice was Vietnamese (duh) on Potrero Hill. Sunflower is cute and more importantly delicious. So here’s a quick play by play: Garlic noodles, fried pork rice bowls, spicy prawns and beef in rice paper wraps…amazing.
Day 3: Christmas
Brunch: The Cliffhouse
This will be my second Christmas at the Cliffhouse, but certainly the more memorable of the two. The cliffhouse sits atop rocky bluffs two hundred feed above the ocean and as you enjoy your bloody mary’s you can watch the waves crash and even a few brave surfers try their luck. We were pleasantly surprized when we were led down into the fancier of the two dining rooms…complete with harp player and white table cloths. We were in for a surprize champagne brunch! The buffet was ridiculous, the highlights being hot popovers, butterscotch pots de creme and smoked salmon.
Dinner: Trader Joe’s Boxed macaroni
After all you can eat at the Cliffhouse, trying to beat it seemed pointless.
Don’t bother going anywhere else for coffee and pastries in San Fran, just don’t. Tartine is the best, hands down. There will probably be a line and you will probably have to hover over someone for ten minutes before they give you their table, but it is soooo worth it. Deffinatley get a latte because it’s served in an adorable bowl and try a morning roll if you like orange hints with your pastry.
Lunch: BiRite to Go
3639 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110-1531
Literally next door (well after Delfina Pizza) is BiRite grocery. Fresh produce and great organic goods line the shelves and ready-made salads and deli items really give Whole Foods a run for its money. But today I’m concerned with bread and cheese. Well, I’m in Frisco, so I’ve got to do sourdough and a nice crusty think baguette will do just fine. Instead of trying something new, I opt for two old favorites: Humboldt Fog and Petit Basque. Humboldt fog is a soft-ripened goat cheese with a distinct black stripe through the middle and Petite Basque is a firmer sheep’s milk cheese that is a bit like soft parmesan. Mmm bread and cheese go nicely with wine…
Afternoon Tea: Napa
1075 Bouchli Station Road. Napa, CA
Off the beaten path and quite a small and delicious operation.For $15.00 (which became $0.00 when we actually purchased wine) you can taste five of their wines around their nicely decorated counter. The wines were good, especially the Shiraz at the end. There was also the ridiculously sweet Chardonnay dessert wine at the end, which I had to have a bottle of (hence the needing to check bags).
8300 St.Helena Hwy Rutherford, CA 94573
Private tasting room, recipe cards, glasses to keep: this place is the real deal. For a small fee of $25.00, you can tour their cellars (and stand next to the vats and barrels you see on TV) and taste seven exquisite wines in a beautiful room with a private guide to tell you what you should be tasting in the wine. If someone tells me I should be tasting chocolate, than that’s what I’ll taste. Ohh well, I have a whole lifetime to develop my “palate”.
Dinner: Burma Superstar
309 Clement St.
Lots of driving and traffic and rain coming back across the bay. I am dying for Burma Superstar…which is Burmese cuisine. Burma,(note: it has a new unpronounceable capital because of a recent military coup: Naypyidaw) officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is the largest country by geographical area in mainland Southeast Asia or Indochina. The country is bordered by China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest (thanks wikipedia). So let’s review, a cuisine that is influenced by Chinese, Indian, and Thai…hello YUM. We had a chinese like spicy chicken, tofu and green bean dish, a thai-tasting coconut rice dish, Indian samosa soup and a Burmese lamb curry. Holy **** it was good.
1701 Stockton St. San Francisco, CA
Delicious omelettes and coffee cakes, but you’ll have to wait two hours. Worth it? Yes! Although at that point I would have been happy with anything at that point.
Dinner: Bi Rite Creamery
Ice cream for dinner. This is not ice cream…it’s a slice of heaven. Their flavors are a bit hard to swallow…but trust me, you can’t go wrong with salted caramel and honey lavender.