I was attending a conference last week in San Francisco and Art decided to join me on the trip since it is one of our favorite cities. I would attend the conference and we would spend a couple of days exploring some places we hadn’t been to before. Art had never really stayed around the Union Square area so this was a new territory for him and as fate would have it my son was in the same area on business too – so we had some opportunities to get together during our stay.
We arrived in the early evening on a Monday and were starved but didn’t want to go too far from where we were staying. Our first room at the Hotel Donatello was less than stellar but we were promised a new room the next day so didn’t really unpack. Instead we headed downstairs to the Zingari Lounge where jazz is played every evening and Happy Hour bar appetizers are half price from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm daily and from Sun – Thurs from 9 pm till closing. Art and I shared crab cakes with paprika aioli, Prince Edward Island Mussels sautéed with Roma Tomatoes, Garlic White Wine & Grilled Country Bread, and we each had a plate of Fried Calamari. During Happy Hours there are also $5 wines, beers and cocktails. My son joined us a little later for a beer and we enjoyed the sounds of the jazz bass and piano in an intimate yet friendly atmosphere. Not a bad way to start the trip.
The next day was a busy work day for me but Art had the opportunity to join an old High School friend for lunch at Cafe de La Presse. This turned out to be a great place and we went back there together later on during the week. In the meantime I joined a business associate of mine for a fantastic lunch at the Waterbar on the Embarcadero. This place really has a great view of the Bay Bridge and the food was excellent. Not cheap by any means, the restaurant featured professional yet friendly service and a reasonable variety of lunch entrées. We decided to sit in the bar area for the view but the menu is the same no matter where you sit. The quote on the top of the menu caught my attention, ” We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are,” ~ Adelle Davis. It helped to set the tone for a memorable meal.
As it happens we both ordered the same entrée, Grilled Bavette Steak with fingerling potato hash, grilled asparagus, and truffle aioli. The presentation and the dish were magnificent. For dessert I had the Meyer Lemon Soufflé Cake with crème chantilly and candied thyme shortbread. It was light and fluffy with the just the right balance of sweet and tart to end the meal. My dining companion had the Chocolate Oatmeal Walnut Ice Cream Sandwich with vanilla ice cream and cocoa nibs. A little messier to eat but just as enjoyable.
It was back to the conference which ended with a reception, where I got to down a couple of white wines before meeting Art back at the Zingari Lounge where he was having a martini. After a lot of texting and phone calls we got back together for dinner with business associates of mine. My son joined us at a place called Scala’s Bistro. There were 7 of us at the table (including the person I had lunch with earlier in the day) and with a quick reservation made by the concierge at the Grand Hyatt we were able to get in. The others with us picked the place because it was within easy walking distance for those of us staying in the Union Square area and it came highly recommended by the concierge. The place was packed and we were not disappointed with the choice.
Not long after we were seated our waitress took a sidelong glance at Art and said “Didn’t I serve you at lunch?” She apparently works at Cafe de La Presse during breakfast and lunch and at Scala’s for dinner. We all teased Art about that since he was being seen with two different women on the same day. Here we were greeted with another quote at the top of the menu, “One Cannot Think Well, Love Well, Sleep Well, If One Has Not Dined Well” ~ Virgina Woolf. I was beginning to think this would become a regular tradition at local restaurants.
Bread with olive oil was set on the table and we all enjoyed what we ordered. Some people ordered appetizers and salad. I shared an order of Mussels with Art and my son ordered Bruschetta with a fennel pureè, poached prawns, squid ink aioli, and fennel pollen. One word about squid ink – black. My son’s mouth was black and black ink could be found on the table and on the napkin. He had to exchange it for a new one. Be careful when you eat that dish.
The special for the night was a Lamb Shank with Risotto and Art, along with a few others, ordered it. It was a huge portion of food. I ordered the Linguine & Clams consisting of small manila clams, garlic, roasted tomato, white wine, and Calabrian chilies. The dish was also fairly large and somewhat spicy. The linguine was a perfect al dente. I decided to skip dessert since I had one earlier in the day but Art ordered the Bergamot Orange Granita / Tangerine Sorbet. Expecting a small scoop in a small bowl, it was a real surprise to be presented with a large vertical oblong bowl with a significant amount of tangerine sorbet. That was more dessert than expected. We all left the restaurant full and happy.
So far, we’d only been in San Francisco for 24 hours and we already had some memorable meals and had the chance to meet with friends and family in one of our favorite places. It doesn’t get any better than this. Or, does it?