It was my first time exploring San Francisco and I LOVED it. The food, the nature and the whole northern California vibe was top-notch. Los Angeles may have its beaches, celebrities and tasty Mexican food, but there’s something different about San Francisco and its surroundings.
After college, just about everyone debated which city to move to and for the vast majority of people, the choices came down to New York City or San Francisco. Although NYC was always the city in my mind, I can understand the pull of San Francisco after this visit. NYC is undoubtedly a financial hub, attracting the investment banker and hedge fund types while San Francisco feels more laid back as a hoodie-wearing techie hub. It sure brought out the inner nerd in us as we enjoyed spotting tech companies in and out of the city. We even drove around to Mountain View to stalk the Google HQ (people really do ride colourful Google bikes and play around outdoors during work hours!) – what a dream place to work at. We weren’t nerded out yet, so we drove to Menlo Park to stalk the Facebook offices (if only I could press their huge Like sign). This part of California is really paradise to nerds like us.
We stayed at the Grand Hyatt conveniently located in Union Square and enjoyed this amazing view. Looking out the window was like looking at a 3D map, making it easy for us to plot our shopping route. It was getting late and stores would close around 9pm, so we had to be efficient if we wanted to hit stores like Macy’s, H&M, Anthropologie, Victoria’s Secret and drool-worthy homeware stores like Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel.
The next day we went to Alcatraz Island, a must-see tourist attraction. Alcatraz Island houses the infamous, now-defunct Alcatraz Prison just a short ferry ride from San Francisco. The cells were tiny but actually, not that unliveable (I think). We listened to some pretty ingenious and impressive tales of prisoner escapes, such as using regular spoons as drills to slowly but determinedly drill through concrete walls and escaping through the shafts, proving that if there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s definitely worth a visit if you get a chance.
When we got back to the city, we headed straight for the Ferry Building Marketplace located on the Embarcadero. It was past noon and our stomachs were rumbling.
The Ferry Building Marketplace is home to some popular foodie companies like Blue Bottle Coffee, which we were told is arguably San Francisco’s best coffee, Ciao Bella Gelato and specialised artisan cheese, meat and bread companies. There was also one of my favourite stores, Sur La Table which sells lovely kitchenware. Something about the artisan vendors and foodie hipster vibe at the Ferry Building Marketplace reminds me of New York’s Chelsea Market, which is quite the playground to any foodie (and that includes my sister, A and I).
After a touristy morning at Alcatraz, there was no way we could have anything else for lunch but touristy clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Our clam chowder was lighter and less creamy than we expected/were used to, but it was super savoury and tasty. Somehow eating soup out of a crusty sourdough bread bowl makes it taste that much better. My sister even liked it so much she wanted to return for seconds on our last day in SF.
Until now, we had Mexican food, clam chowder, burgers, Chipotle (above, our favourite fast food Mexican grill), diner food and just about every “American food” we could think of, all except SOUL FOOD. Artery-clogging-but-so-tasty soul food has always been a favourite of ours, but thankfully we only get to eat it in moderation. So we jumped on Yelp to find a place in San Francisco that had great reviews and found farmerbrown, a trendy restaurant that serves “farm-fresh soul food”.
Since starting my pescetarian diet a couple of years ago, I always said that I will allow myself a cheat day every 6 months or so just to get my fill of my favourite meaty delights. That works out because I find the strength to keep up pescetarianism for another few months before another craving strikes. And I quickly learned that I get the best bang for my buck by saving up my cheat days for when we’re on holiday because a) everyone is on a ‘holiday diet’ anyway and b) I get to try foods I won’t get back home. And so it was at farmerbrown that I had my first cheat day since a tasting dinner at Wooden Spoon restaurant many months ago.
We each got a glass of refreshing sweet iced tea and complimentary jalapeno-cheddar cornbread. For my main, I got these delicious, sticky BBQ ribs with steak fries…
… while A got his favourite fried chicken and waffles. My sister got southern fried chicken with mustard greens and mac n’ cheese.
While driving out to see Facebook and Google, we stopped at a restaurant for a humble Philly Cheesesteak. Given that we were on the west coast and Philadelphia was all the way on the east, we weren’t expecting to have such delicious cheesesteaks for breakfast. But boy were they good and satisfying.
We’re not really done with the food we had in San Francisco yet, and rest assured we’ll be blogging more about it but the nature is too good to ignore. Here’s proof that we did more than just eat in SF – we visited the beautiful Lake Tahoe area, as well as Yosemite to feel at one with nature.
We enjoyed a simple picnic of sandwiches and fruit while watching a flock of geese waddling carefree into the water. Life is good in this part of California.
Want more San Francisco? Read Part II here.