I’ve only been back in Seattle for two weeks, after spending 2014 in Europe, only to find myself touring the elite restaurants of San Francisco with 11 other Seattleites for my best friend, Andrea’s, surprise birthday. Her husband, Dante, planned out a foodie weekend for us all, strategically grabbing reservations months in advance for our large party then cancelling the previous one once he secured something better, not stopping until he had the best. He should write a book called “How to Throw an Out of Town Surprise Party for 12 Foodie Friends and Not Die of a Heart Attack”.
Our dining agenda was planned to a tee by Dante. All of Andrea’s friends had the assigned task of getting to San Francisco from Seattle then to the restaurant that evening, unnoticed by the birthday girl. It wasn’t an easy mission considering one of us was on her same plane and three of us, on another flight, had to hide behind a pole because, as fate would have it, we were assigned the gate next to hers. Our Friday night surprise dinner took place in the back room of the Michelin starred restaurant, Luce.
Luce 888 Howard St, San Francisco, CA (415) 616-6566:
Luce, serves Italian cuisine with a local California flare. The restaurant Manager, Erica, went beyond the normal call of duty as she and Dante coordinated every detail from the coursed out menu to the lucious red roses adorning the table in our private room. When we met Erica in person, her attentive nature and anticipatory grin made it obvious she was fully invested in this surprise.
If I had to sum it up in terms of what would be the most memorable aspect of this dining experience it would be the impressive service. I’ve never seen a service staff flow so well with our large group; adjusting accordingly as our boisterous party constantly moved seats. The courses were perfectly spaced out, all dishes came out at the right temperature; miraculously delivered to the correct person. Granted the only dish that was a choice was the entree… The waiters even managed to keep a non-judgmental face, though slightly blushing, as they passed through the room while Andrea was explained the anatomical usage of a curious looking ‘toy’ during gift opening.
As for the food, everything was cooked as it should be, tasted fresh and presented elegantly. There wasn’t anything mindblowingly innovative on the menu, contrary to our discoveries at State Bird Provisions the following night, but there is something equally as lovely in simple but tasty cuisine that leaves one feeling energized and content.
Bar Tartine 561 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA (415) 487-1600:
By the following morning we had fully digested our Luce dinner; ready to see what San Francisco had to offer for Saturday brunch. Our destination was the reputable Bar Tartine in the Mission where everything is made in-house. Due to the size of our group we were given a set menu with several dishes presented family-style.
Soon after settling into our seats the waft of nutty carbs captured my attention drawing my focus to the spread of bread with its paired butters recently set on the table. At this moment I realized #1) That I pick the right friends #2) We were all in for a treat
The first course of tart homeade yogurt topped with fresh fruit and sweet date compote garnished in peppery greens excited my palate for more. The following courses progressively raised the bar, surpassing any previous expectations I’ve had for brunch. Surprisingly, outside of the recap on the previous evening’s highlights, the conversation didn’t deviate much from the food in front of us.
The meal finished with a moist, not too sweet, cider molasses pound cake sitting in a light crème anglaise sauce.
The unique thing about this brunch is that it was more than fluffy eggs and moist biscuits. Bar Tartine proves that it isn’t a restaurant simply tolerating the brunch crowd so that it can market its flavors toward the higher revenue-generating dinner seating. Bar Tartine fully invests itself in creating a delicious brunch and our group appreciated the experience.
The rest of the day was spent walking off these calories (over 25,000 fitbit steps) to prepare us for the proverbial cherry on top that evening – State Bird Provisions. For those not aware of its current reputation, it’s a feat to get a reservation at this 2013 Jame Beard Award Winner for”Best New Restaurant”, not to mention for a party of our size, but Dante worked his gastronomic magic once again.
State Bird Provisions 1529 Fillmore St San Francisco, CA (415) 795-1272:
This meal was also served family-style composed of several dishes, presented for each of 4 courses, ending up as 17 different dishes overall. The carefully selected flavor combos that went into each taste exhibited the incredible talent of chefs Stuart Brioza and, his wife, Pastry Chef, Nicole Krasinski. My photos don’t do the food the justice it deserves but below is the visual journey of a few of my favorite dishes:
The staff did a fantastic job with our large party. The only criticism I had was that the food came out so fast that it was almost a chore to keep up with the new plates being set down. It was either for this reason or that there were a few too many dishes (probably a combo of both) that many of us felt full before the main protein courses even arrived, only to put us in an uncomfortable food-coma by dessert. I put myself in the chef’s hands when I dine, from start to finish, and how I feel afterward does reflect on my overall experience. Regardless of the minor tummy ache, this meal was a delicious finale to top off our San Francisco foodie weekend. I feel blessed to be able to eat such exquisite food and create unforgettable memories enjoying it with friends.