Favorite San Francisco Restaurants

Apr 2013: For over 30 years the International Association of Culinary Professionals has been having annual conferences in various cities around the United States; and this year it was in San Francisco. My friends and I are now think of ourselves as the “old timers”of this organization; but we still have great fun going out to dinner every night and seeing our friends! So, where did I take Darina from Ireland; Paula from Dallas; and Nina from Boston?

First and foremost is always NOPA.  It is always great fun to sit at the counter watching them cook in the wood oven and over the wood fire and to watch the food coming out.  If you haven’t eaten the Rotisserie Chicken or the Grilled Pork Chop at Nopa, you must try them soon.  The best is to share since the portions are large.  The Flatbread is always fabulous; and I love the Beans cooked in the wood oven with Tomato Sauce and Feta; and of course, anything with their home-cured bacon.   This is an example of a restaurant serving rather traditional food.

For modern food, we had to head to COMMONWEALTH, where you can also sit at the counter watching the cooks.  Here is an example of modern food that, in my opinion, is well thought out and tastes great.  There are really no dishes that stay on the menu very long; so I say order at least three dishes per person and don’t share.  I think its best to savour your choices yourself.  Everyone is always warm and welcoming there.

So too, are the chef, cooks, and service people at STATE BIRD PROVISIONS.  We actually walked in a little before 11 p.m. after eating a whole dinner at Commonwealth, and had a whole other dinner.  What they do is bring the first courses around on trays so you can decide what you want like in a Dim Sum restaurant.  It is a fantastic concept.  Then, you can order your main courses.  Don’t miss the deep-fried quail (the State Bird, of course).  It is the best I have ever eaten!

With Laurraine from New Zealand and Barbara from Phoenix, we had a fun and delicious dinner at SPQR.  The food is very much a modern interpretation of Italian food and the wines are fabulous.  And, Paula and I had a hilarious ride up Market St. In a pedicab to meet Nina and her husband at HAKKASAN.  I really feel I must go back because we didn’t really get a chance to choose from the menu.  This brand new restaurant looking downtown and uptown is gorgeous and very popular with hip young people—can’t wait to try it again!

We saw a lot of our food friends at PARK TAVERN—love the appetizers and the meat courses.  It is lively and fun!  But, I have to say my new find is MICHAEL MINA.  Now, that Ron Siegel is running the kitchen at Michael Mina (next to Tadich Grill on California St.) the food is what I dream about!  I can’t wait to go back for the Tuna Tartare, and the Shabu Shabu, and all the fresh lively dishes with a slightly Japanese influence–not to mention the Red Velvet Cake which is like no other.

There are so many good restaurants in San Francisco, with new ones opening every day.  It would be really hard to take my cooking friends to all of them; so here, for you are a few of the highlights of my last couple of weeks of serious eating with a few photos!  Although it’s fun to go out, it’s still more fun to cook for friends at home.  So, please check out my Recipes and Videos on www.tantemarie.com/recipes.  Have fun cooking!