I Left My Stomach In San Fransico

San Francisco has more restaurants per capita than any other city in America, and many food trends fan out across the country from this West Coast dining destination. Thanks to SF’s fertile surroundings, local restaurants can source practically any ingredient they need from within 50 miles. The food-focused residents have turned local artisanal food purveyors, like Acme Bread and Cowgirl Creamery, into the city’s celebrities, granting them top billing on menus and giving restaurants that use their products instant gravitas. Here are 10 stops to fuel your vacation.

Zuni Cafe

The grand old dame of California cuisine, Zuni Café has been around since 1979, and cooking the food of Chef Judy Rogers since 1987. The Caesar salad and whole chicken roasted in a brick oven then served on bread salad are legend in San Francisco, and most of the ingredients are harvested sustainably from farms nearby.

Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market

Framed by the Embarcadero’s Ferry Plaza building, the Centre for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture’s thrice-weekly market, hosts small regional farmers and ranches selling fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, meats and eggs. Acclaimed brick & mortar restaurants like Tacolicious and Wise Guys Delicatessen set up stands here during market hours.

Hog Island Oyster Company

Head behind the Ferry Plaza building and pull up a chair on the patio of Hog Island Oyster Company’s flagship restaurant. For the past 32 years, this oyster farm has been the touchstone of the local merroir, providing the city with Tomales Bay bivalves. Don’t miss their famous clam chowder and grilled cheese!

Blue Bottle

This hipster hotspot has gone mainstream, but they’ve stayed true to their values. All beans are roasted in vintage machines in small batches, often of single-origin and brewed within 48 hours through a Poindexteresque laboratory of flasks and siphons before the joe gets to your cup. Ask for a Kyoto-style iced coffee, distilled into a floral, intense cup that you’ll sip as slow as it dripped.

Avital Tours

Sample the hippie-dippy flavours of Haight Ashbury on Avital’s newest food tour. Coined the “Eat Your Drink” tour, you’ll sip cocktails in a hidden garden where the bar sources its fresh ingredients, drink bacon Mexican hot chocolate and sip on a soda pop flavour designed exclusively for Avital guests. (You’ll also nosh on piroshkis and tacos along the way).


Short for north of the Panhandle, this rustic restaurant doubles as a neighbourhood bistro and a dining destination. They served over 20000 burgers a year, but the menu offers so much more. Sit behind the sandstone bar with a cocktail or watch the open kitchen plate New American cuisine, like avocado toast topped with pickled jalapenos.


If you’ve ever fantasised about being a vintner and drinking wine straight out of the barrel, Barrique (French for barrel) is your dream come true. The wine bar pours from oak casks acquired directly from the producers, meaning they don’t pass on the cost of packaging the wines or accounting for waste incurred from by-the-bottle service. Try a flight to get a taste of what you like, and pair it with a plate of artisanal cheese.

Soma StrEAT Food Park

One of the early adopters of the modern food truck movement, San Francisco took the mobile restaurant to a new level when Soma StrEAT Food Park opened in an abandoned parking lot. Now a hub that draws nearly 100 food trucks from around the city, including some of the city’s most popular, like The Chairman (Chinese fusion), Bacon Bacon and the “Grandfather of Gourmet Street Food”: Roli Roti. Thanks to a permanent wine & beer truck, Saturdays are known for bottomless Sangria and mimosas freeflow all day Sunday.


Taking the ferry across the Bay to Sausalito is a great vantage point for Golden Gate gaping, but it also takes you to the seafood-loving town of Sausalito. Get your fill of the sustainably-caught, Seafood- Watch-approved good stuff at Fish. Everything on the menu is seasonal, although their meaty West Coast take on a crab roll with sweet Dungeness is a mainstay – and for good reason.

Monk’s Kettle

A gastropub before restaurateurs started using that term willy-nilly, Monk’s Kettle started bringing together food and beer in 2007. There are 200 bottles and drafts available on any given day, and the suds have a way of finding their way on to the menu too. Chicken is brined in the stuff, salt fries get a hoppy makeover and pretzels are served with a cheddar ale dipping sauce.



Wining (And Dining) In Napa


It’s not surprising the word “Napa” has become synonymous with wine. The county is home to 487 wineries, and its history of commercial winemaking predates the California Gold Rush, making it one of the oldest in America. The industry was almost wiped out twice: once in the late 19th century when a phylloxera epidemic threatened vines worldwide, then again in the 1920s when Prohibition closed all the wineries save a few fermenting sacramental or medicinal wines.

Forty years later, Robert Mondavi revived the industry, opening the first big commercial winery since the ban on booze, and his legend can still be felt throughout the area. Every afternoon the traffic on Highway 29 in Oakville slows to a crawl known as the “Mondavi Slowdown” amongst locals. The traffic jam is courtesy of visitors to the Opus One Vineyard, a joint venture between Robert Mondavi and Baroness Philippine de Rothschild that produces a Bordeaux-style blend.

Today, most of the 100000 inhabitants of the Valley make their living through the vines, either by working at the vineyards or through the thriving tourism industry driven by oenophiles from around the world. Five million visitors flock to the region annually, but Napa manages to retain its quaint charm. It helps that the region boasts the most expensive farmland in the country. The running joke amongst locals asks “How do you make small fortune in the wine industry?” “Start with a big fortune”.

To help offset real estate cost (which starts at US$250000 per acre), most wineries charge a tasting fee. Opus One, for example, is by appointment only and runs a hefty US$40 for the privilege of tasting the 2010 blend by the glass. Guests can also join a tour plus tasting starting at US$75.

Smaller boutique wineries start their tastings at US$15, and usually waive the fee if guests purchase a bottle. If you’ve got limited time, avoid the queues at the larger, more expensive vineyards and try the boutiques, like Tudal Winery in Saint Helena. The family-owned vineyard is famous for the Cabernet grapes, and they should be. The same vines on the 10-acre parcel of land that first produced the brand in 1972 are still growing today, and they’ve been cultivated by three generations of the family. In addition to the cab, they also grow and blend Chardonnay, Zinfindel, Syrah, Merlot and Sauvignon varietals.

Also worth a visit is Hopper Creek, a small winery producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot on their sixacre property. Their fee includes an unpretentious wine tasting with a knowledgeable vintner who demystifies the wine tasting process and teaches you tricks of the trade that you’ll definitely whip out at your next dinner party.

Platypus Wine Tours
One of the dangers of Napa is the lack of public transport combined with generous tasting pours. Platypus Wine Tours takes the threat of drink driving away when they ferry you to and from tastings on their tours. The fee is worth that alone, but they don’t rest on their laurels. They’ve designed one of the best days out in Napa with well-curated tours that include four tastings stops at boutique, familyowned wineries and a delicious picnic lunch to pad your stomach for more vino.

Wine-loving Platypus guides share insider secrets and only take you to tastings that share their passion. You’ll get the VIP treatment at each spot as one of their guests. Besides one-on-one time with the owners and managers of each vineyard, they also provide you with special deals at certain wineries and shipping options on how to get your purchases home in one piece.

Web: www.platypustours.com