San Francisco En Route to Paso Robles Wine Country

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I have loved San Francisco since I first visited there in 1969.  Its physical beauty, elegant charm, amazing food and wine, and the presence of some very good friends continues to draw me back there.  Last week it also served as a base for a three-day jaunt to wine events in Paso Robles.  Here is the best of three days in the City by the Bay.

In recent years I usually go to the Ferry Terminal when I am in San Francisco.  They have some fine shops, and a few days a week, an excellent farmers market, too.  This time I stayed in a small hotel across the street from the terminal, allowing me to make multiple visits and to deposit my purchases quickly in the room before going off to my next stop.  The hotel also provided great views of the Bay Bridge that afternoon and at sunrise.

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It was a busy first full day:

  • market from 10:00-11:30 AM
  • lunch with a friend 12:30-2:00
  • Berkeley from 3:00-4:30
  • dinner at A16 back in SF at 7:30 PM

Ferry Terminal Market

The fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers market looked very good, but I had no kitchen on this trip, and it was a Thursday, with lots fewer vendors than on Saturday, so I concentrated on wild mushrooms, smoked fish (as a gift for friends), and some of the street food vendors.

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The highlight of my street food was from Sow Juice, a maker a fresh, organic, made-to-order juice drinks of fascinating (and salubrious) compositions.  The two founders/owners/workers (Louisa and Derek) do an outstanding job, so if you are in that city on a Thursday or Saturday morning, give them a try.  I had the Octet, and I loved it.

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Before noon I rented a Zip Car for a few hours.  I met my good friend, Price, for lunch and reminiscences of our work together 25-30 years ago.  We were in Presidio Heights, a lovely neighborhood.  On my return to the parking spot I had found, I took a couple of quick snapshots to show the great views of the bay from those high points.

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While this is a classy area, some of the garages are quite small, as you can see from the way this old Cadillac with huge tail fins does not quite fit in its space.  My bet is that it’s a 1962 Coupe deVille.  That’s when mpg was really gallons per mile.

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After lunch I drove to the East Bay, had a short but delightful visit with Hank Olson — the College classmate and friend who first showed me around San Francisco when he settled there in the 60’s — and then browsed through Kermit Lynch’s wine shop in Berkeley.

Dinner at A16

Dinner that night was another visit to A16, a great dining spot featuring the foods of Campania and the wines of Southern Italy — all among my favorite things.  I was cheerfully greeted by hostess Di, who made me comfortably ensconced in Seat 29 at the end of the counter, so I could watch the chefs work so deftly, sliding dishes in and out of the wood-fired ovens all evening.  The experience was both instructional and delicious.

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I had a first course of braised, oven-roasted octopus with fingerling potatoes, peppers, black olives, parsley and purslane.  After a small salad, I ordered the squid ink tonnarelli, with braised baby squid, senise peppers, garlic, parsley, lemon and fried breadcrumbs.  As you probably know by now, octopus and squid are the two non-vegan foods I eat most often, and the preparation at A16 makes them irresistible.

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The wines are always amazing.  Owner and sommelier Shelley Lindgren has a terrific selection of wines from all parts of the south of Italy.  My server, John, helped steer me to some very good choices.  What I remember best was one outstanding red: 2011 Vestini Campagnano, ‘Kajanero’ from Terre del Volturno, an IGT zone in Campania, north of Naples.  It is a blend of Pallagrello Nero, Casavecchia and Aglianico — not to be missed.

Campania Reds


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