DAY 3 — Take your pick—steak or sushi, chowder served in hollowed out sourdough loaves, Vietnamese or Thai…Peruvian.
Welcome to San Francisco beloved by foodies no matter what their ages or likes. The city is home to 3,500 restaurants–more per capita than any major city in the US. San Francisco is also at the epicenter of the farm-to-table movement.
We eat dinner one night at a downtown restaurant Farmer Brown (www.farmerbrown.com) that focuses on southern food and donates money to local farms. Another night, we have a stand out Vietnamese meal at the Slanted Door (www.slanteddoor.com) in the restored Ferry Building that showcases the abundance of produce as well as ecologically farmed meat, game and poultry found at farms around the San Francisco Bay Area. Our last night, we dine on exquisitely prepared seafood that has been sustainably caught at the Waterbar (www.waterbarsf.com) overlooking San Francisco Bay. The menu details exactly how the seafood was caught, how it was caught (line or net), where and often by which boat.
The restaurants at the California Academy of Sciences (www.calacademy.org ) — the greenest museum in the world which since its move to Golden Gate National Park in 2008 now draws some 1.5 million visitors a year — practice what the museum exhibit on climate change preaches — how we can reduce our carbon footprint with what we eat. Did you know food is 25 per cent of your carbon foot print?
There are plates of all kinds of plastic food (kids love this). You pull a lever at each plate, it turns over and tells you how you can reduce your carbon footprint by making better choices — the plate of fruits (eat what is in season!); steak (choose free-range grass-fed beef rather than beef from industrial farms that create a lot of emissions). I pick up a Green Guide that tells us how to make better choices to protect our planet’s future — from substituting chicken or seafood for beef (industrial farming of livestock is responsible for more carbon pollution than the entire transportation industry, I learn) to buying seafood that has been harvested sustainable (www.calacademy.org/seafood) to choosing local restaurants rather than chains.
I don’t think there is anything you might want to try that you can’t find in San Francisco. Last night, we sample a restaurant on the Embarcadero, about a block from the restored Ferry Building home to the bustling farmers market selling and explaining their local goods.
We are at the popular and hip La Mar Cebicheria Peruana (www.lamarcebicheria.com) which is an example of how much the Embarcadero area south of Fisherman’s Wharf has evolved. We eat on a heated patio overlooking San Francisco Bay.
The food is amazing—varieties of cerviches, the national dish of Peru made with the freshest fish briefly marinated in lime juice and peppers. We taste causas — tiny trios of whipped potatoes topped with seafood or vegetables, grilled octopus skewers that we learn are typically served at food carts on Peru streets. We have a Peruvian stir-fry and one with sea food. For desert there is sorbet, chocolate crepe with orange sauce and orange glazed chocolate beignets with banana and passion fruit ice cream.
Another night, we are down the street at the modern Vietnamese Slanted Door. The place is hopping on a Friday night. I’ve never tasted such delicious spring rolls, such tender bok choy. It’s easy to see why a reservation here is hard to get.
Food, I discover, can also be a way to teach visiting a kids a little San Francisco history — at Boudin on the Wharf, the flagship of San Francisco’s historic Boudin Bakery, world famous for its Sourdough bread made with the same Sourdough Starter used since 1849 and rescued in a bucket by Louise Boudin after the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906 when the bakery was burning to the ground. www.boudinbakery.com/at-the-wharf
Yes you can buy the distinctive crusty and tangy bread here — even shaped like alligators or crabs. But take a few minutes to go upstairs to the museum (just $3 for adults, free for kids) where you can not only watch the bakers at work (they turn out 10,000 or more loaves seven days a week) but you will learn why the sourdough bread here tastes different than any other in the world (the microclimate) and how the Gold Rush contributed to the success of this company (miners loved the taste) as well as others like Ghirardelli chocolate, the Wells Fargo Bank, Levi Strauss and Del Monte.
Kids can take a computer quiz to see what kind of bread they are (I’m an olive bread) and play an online game to see if they’ve got the stuff to get the breads in and out of the oven as quickly as necessary. There is a fog machine to demonstrate how the climate impacts the starter and the taste of the bread, making it different than sourdough bread from anywhere else in the world.
We watch the dough “drop”—300 [pounds at a time and the bakers shaping the loaves by hand. Each one is a little different, the museum docent tells us.
We learn there are other famous foods that were first made here too—popsicles, mai tais, chop suey and fortune cookies.
We end our visit with lunch at the Boudin Bistro—lots of crusty bread , chowder and Fresh cracked crab. Yum!