Thursday, April 24, 2014

Boudin Bakery - San Francisco's Oldest Continuously Running Company

Our most favourite thing to do in San Francisco is eat. And each time we visit we try to chose one special food place to go to. One year, when we owned a fine dining restaurant, we went to Chez Panisse in Berkley.

Chez Panisse opened its doors in 1971, founded by Alice Waters and a group of idealistic friends. A neighborhood bistro, it is named after Honoré Panisse, a character in Marcel Pagnol’s 1930s movie trilogy about waterfront life in Marseille (Marius, Fanny, and César), as an homage to the sentiment, comedy, and informality of these classic films.

From the beginning, Alice and her partners tried to do things the way they would like them done at a dinner party at home, with generosity and attention to detail. The restaurant, located downstairs, is open for dinner Monday through Saturday, by reservation only. The fixed dinner menu consists of three to four courses. The menu which changes every night is designed to be appropriate to the season and composed to feature the finest sustainably-sourced, organic, and seasonal ingredients including meat, fish, and poultry.

Alice Walters is considered to be the "Mother of California Cuisine" by all in the restaurant industry.

We booked a table months in advance and then decided to use public transportation (tram car then the BART) to get from our hotel in the Marina District to the restaurant in Berkeley. We were told the trip would take an hour - it took an hour and a half so we arrived late for our reservation. And, as it was before the age of the cell phone, we could not call them. 

The way the restaurant works it that everyone coming for dinner that evening is seated and served at the same time. So, when we arrived, we found everyone seated and and waiting for us to start dinner. "Oh" the maitre d' said, "we knew you would be here". Wow! A class act.

Another time we went to The Fog City Diner:
Another legend in the restaurant industry. Don't you love the name?
This time we decided on Boudin Bakery at Fisherman's Wharf;

From a tiny, old-world bakery on San Francisco's Dupont Street, Boudin has evolved to the state-of-the-art facility you see above - and is San Francisco's oldest continuously running company. 

In 1849, the Boudin family struck culinary gold. They discovered that the wild yeasts in the San Francisco air imparted a unique tang to their traditional French bread, giving rise to “San Francisco sourdough French bread.” Today, the Boudin family's initial recipe lives on in the hands and hearts of their expert bakers, with a portion of the original mother dough still starting each and every sourdough loaf they make.

As you walk by the bakery location at Fisherman's Wharf you can see the bakers at work through a huge viewing window:
This man makes these little teddy bears all day long
And, once inside, you can view the bakery from above:
The baked bread is delivered to a sales area downstairs:
Via this ceiling trolley:
A trolley, how San Francisco is that!?
Also upstairs is a museum that tells the history of the bakery and a bistro that serves a full dining menu. Downstairs there is a casual cafe and patio where you can sit after ordering and picking up your food at a service counter. And a shop where you can purchase many food related gadgets, books, etc.

We chose to eat downstairs on the patio:
I had my favourite, homemade tomato soup, and Arch ordered the clam chowder and a half roast beef sandwich. The soups were served in a bread bowl - of course! 
It was a lot of food and I ended up carting Arch's sandwich around in my purse for the rest of the day. He had it for lunch the next day.

I love homemade tomato soup so here is an easy recipe for it.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
3 carrots, diced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced
4 teaspoons minced garlic
3 cups diced (1-inch) sourdough bread cubes (remove crust before dicing)
2 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock (I use vegetable but you may prefer chicken)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the bread cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

Remove from the heat and beat the soup with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the Parmesan and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot sprinkled with toasted sourdough bread croutons and chopped fresh basil.

If feeling ambitious, you could buy some small round loaves of sourdough bread to serve the soup in.

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This and That About San Francisco

This was not our first visit to San Francisco. I think it was our fifth. So we know the city well and debated taking the time and money to visit again. But it's pull was great. So, when we were staying in Sonoma we decided to drive in to Larkspur and take the ferry across San Francisco Bay to the waterfront area.

It was a great trip:
The Golden Gate Bridge from the ferry
The San Francisco Skyline Behind Arch
Arriving at the Ferry Terminal
We decided to walk from the ferry terminal to Fisherman's Wharf - about 2 1/2 miles. There was so much to see we hardly noticed the distance :)
The Boat Tour to Alcatraz
We've already been to Alcatraz. Good thing as the tour was sold out for today. This is a really interesting tour (at least it was 20 years ago) so I would suggest buying tickets in advance if you want to go.
Lunch Time Entertainment
When we biked the Big Sur Coast we spent 3 days in San Francisco biking around and getting accustomed to the hills. One day we rode down Market St and ended up at this restaurant.
This Restaurant Brings Back Memories
A lot of cyclists were already there with their bikes resting against the rail around the patio. We decided to do the same. Only, when I went to rest my bike on the rail I somehow knocked several bikes over – what chaos that caused as everyone rushed to save their bikes. In the confusion we quietly took our bikes and left.

Eventually we arrived at Fisherman's Wharf:

A busy, happening spot with lots of restaurants - most selling some form of crab:
I thought my lobster fisher friends would be impressed by this "at the wharf" price for crab.
This man was shelling crab while you waited.
We had lunch at Fisherman's Wharf but that is a story for another blog. After lunch, to get a new look at the city, we took a bus tour. And learned a great deal that we did not know. I was very impressed to hear that the city imposes a 2% tax on hotel rooms with all the revenue going to purchase and maintain street art. And art seemed to be everywhere. I loved these two pieces:

Several years ago the city commissioned many artists to paint hearts that were located around the city. A few are auctioned each year with the funds raised going to a local hospital. This heart is in Union Square.

And Tony Bennett (get it? - “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”) was asked to paint a heart – which is also in Union Square:
Tony's heart is not for sale
The Lobby of the Hyatt Hotel, across from the ferry terminal, was a work of art in itself.
All rooms open onto a walkway that overlooks the lobby
This young man was practising the art of tight rope walking in a park by the ferry terminal.
Not a busker, just practicing
And the ferry terminal contained several little food shops where busy commuters could grab supper, or the makings of supper, before heading home.We joined the fray and picked up:
Bread from the bakery
Really great cheese from a shop operated by a local creamery
Fresh veggies for a salad
And a great bottle of California wine
A delicious and simple supper. And one of our favourites. And the perfect end to a wonderful day.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

California Coast - Part 2

We know the central coast of California well. Twenty-four years ago, for Arch's 50th birthday, we bicycled from San Francisco to Santa Barbara down US 1 and we drove it several times. But US 101 thru California's farming valleys was new to us so that is the route we took from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, with side trips out to the coast. Also, since US 1 is narrow, with tight turns, few shoulders and steep climbs it seemed the prudent thing to do. Considering we are 58 feet long when you combine the length of the Adventure Bus, the dolly and our car.

First stop, after we left our friends and family in LA, was Oso Rancho camping preserve, a Thousand Trails Resort, located in a very remote spot north of Santa Barbara:
Our campground is down in those mountains somewhere!
After driving 7 miles on a twisty, narrow, hilly road we arrived:
It was indeed a ranch, with horses, cowboys, a chuckwagon for Sunday breakfast, etc. But it had no Verizion service which meant, to us, no telephone or internet. And there was no TV reception, which meant, to Arch, disaster.

We planned to stay for 4 days but stayed only two then headed out to the coast at Morro Bay, famous for its beach and big volcanic rock in the ocean:
The rock is huge and looms over the town
They call it America's Gibraltar but ,we've visited Gibraltar, and I would say it is about 1/10 the size. While in Morro Bay we drove up US 1 (The Pacific Coast Highway) partway through Big Sur. Such spectacular country:
On the way we saw a large group of people stopped at a look-off. So we stopped to see what was happening and this is what we saw:
The beach was covered with sea lions. Apparently this is normal for this time of year. They come ashore to rest and for the females, to have their babies.

After this stop we moved on to another Thousand Trails Campground in Morgan City, about 80 miles south of San Francisco. The location was wonderful, about 20 miles from the coast, in wine country. But, again - it was situated in the mountains so no TV and very little internet or cell service. So, because we loved the location and as we were getting a little Verizion service we stayed for 4 days. For those of you with TT memberships we would not recommend this park - it was not very well run, was dirty and a lot of the tenants appeared to be homeless people.

From here we headed out to the coast to visit Monterey and drive the Seventeen Mile Drive around the Monterey Peninsula. On the way we drove through huge fields full of artichokes waiting to be harvested:
Can you see the artichokes - I've marked a few with red Xs
Artichokes are a member of the thistle family and grow on very strong stems.You eat only the meat on the base of the leaves and the choke. (see recipe below)

So the first stop was a great vegetable stand along the way to buy fresh artichoke:
This market sold every veggie you could imagine. And lots of artichokes:
and at a great price
Then it was on to Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey for fresh crab:
Then a drive around the Monterey Peninsula with a stop at Pebble Beach.
That is the 18th hole behind Arch
Again, no golf for us. Cost was $485 a round + $85 + tip for a caddy. Times 2 - that is almost enough gas money to get us almost back to Nova Scotia.

So home we went to have our artichoke and crab, accompanied by some good California wine, for supper

Crab Stuffed Artichokes


4 large artichokes
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 fresh black pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs, dried
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup grated Swiss cheese, preferably Gruyere
1 cup crabmeat (you can used canned)


Trim and clean the artichokes by removing the lower 3 to 4 rows of outer leaves, and leaving 1/2-inch of stem. Trim the sharp tips off the remaining leaves with kitchen shears. Rub with half a lemon to prevent browning.

In large pot, boil or steam artichokes 30 to 45 minutes, or until knife easily enters the base of the leaves. Remove from pan and let cool.,

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In medium mixing bowl, mix mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. When smooth, season with salt and pepper, to taste. Mix in bread crumbs, tarragon, scallions, parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, cheese and crab meat until well blended.

Remove centre leaves from cooled artichokes, and scoop out prickly choke inside, leaving the heart intact. Generously fill artichoke with crabmeat mixture (approximately 3 to 4 tablespoons per artichoke - I like to pack a lot in), until a small mound is present in each, Drizzle each lightly with olive oil.

Bake stuffed artichokes for 20 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned. Or, we wrap these in foil and heat on the barbecue (grill to my US readers) for about 20 minutes.

Serve immediately.

To eat: Remove the artichoke leaves, one at a time and dip them in the crab mixture. Then turn the leaf so the hollow side is against your lower teeth and scrape off the crab filling and the bit of artihoke meat that is there. Discard the remainder of the leaf. When you get to the centre and all the leaves have been scraped clean you will find the artichoke heart. This is the best part – cut it into pieces and enjoy – I hope you saved some of the crab filling to eat with it :).

And finally, a little smile:
As seen in Monterey Bay
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Saturday, April 12, 2014

The California Coast - Part 1

I think the easiest way to catch you up on our travels in California is to do it in three parts as we moved up the coast.

About a month ago we joined the Thousand Trails Campground network by purchasing the southwest and northwest divisions for $545 - a really good deal that we hoped would cover our overnight costs as we made our way back to Canada. We used it to stay 4 nights in Palm Desert and were very pleased. The RV spots were small but the resort was well run and well located for what we wanted to do and see.

Then we moved over to Menifee, south of LA and closer to the coast. Again a excellent location halfway between LA and San Diego in the heart of California's wine country. From here we set out to explore the area around San Diego.

The city was pretty confusing - lots of people and a lot of construction along the waterfront area. so we found an interesting spot along the waterfront for lunch:
 And then headed north along the coast. First stop:
Located in La Jolla, this course is the home of the Farmer's Insurance PGA Tournament each year. It is a public course owned by the city and only costs $30 for residents of the county to play. But $150 a round for visitors, so we moved on. But not before taking he requisite photo under the Rolex sign:
This area of the California coast is very built up with beach access limited to laneways and narrow streets that run between homes and businesses. We stopped to check out several beaches - all very beautiful, but the water was a little cold for swimming. Great for the surfers tho:
Our final stop at the day was at Rockin' Baja Lobster Coastal Cantina in Oceanside - a spot highly recommended by Steve and Kay whom we met in Yuma. It was indeed a rockin', happenin' place:
The food - sort of Mexican seafood - was excellent. And there was an all-you-can-eat salsa bar at no charge. A choice of 7 different salsas and warm tortilla chips. Yummy.
And a great vegetable sizzler dish that I really appreciated:
An interesting bathroom is always a great feature in a restaurant. I got a kick out of the little signs posted in the lady's. These two are a sample:

Thanks Steve and Kay for the great recommendation. Incidentally, on our last night in Yuma we went to a neat little restaurant there - Juliana's Patio Cafe - also recommended by Kay - she has great taste in restaurants. Friends Becky and Lonnie and, of course, Steve and Kay joined us that night:
Steve (standing) Kay, Lonnie, Becky
Safe travels home folks.

And here is a recipe for a great homemade salsa from my favourite recipe source: Chef Michael Smith. I really recommend his cookbooks if you like simple delicious food that is easy to prepare in a RV kitchen.

spicy fresh salsa

A jar packed with freshly tossed salsa, full of juicy ripe tomatoes and aromatic flavours, is easy to make and easy to enjoy. Sweet tomatoes, sour limes, aromatic herbs, salt and spicy pepper all balance each other in a vibrant harmony of tastes. A good salsa doesn’t ruin your day with too much spicy heat; it brightens it with just enough.
Serving: Makes about 2 cups


2 or 3 ripe local tomatoes, finely chopped
1 chili pepper, minced
1 bunch chopped cilantro
1 or 2 limes, zest and juice
a big splash best olive oil
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
a sprinkle or two salt 


Toss everything together in a bowl until well combined.

Garden tomatoes have the most flavour—when they’re in season. If they’re not, look for organic or vine-attached types, take them home and ripen them for a few days on a sunny windowsill. In a pinch, a small can of whole tomatoes is more flavourful than a few hard unripe ones and will add lots of deep, rich tomato flavour.

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