I went in with high expectations, but they were completely blow away. This was honestly one of the best meals of my life. I cannot recommend Chef Francis Ang and Pinoy Heritage enough. Be sure to follow them on Instagram or check out Feastly to go to one of their other meals. If interested, you can use my referral code, which will get you $10 off your first meal: http://fst.im/s/c0ad1e09.
I recently wrote a post about some of my favorite SF bakeries, but San Francisco is teeming with pastries that are just waiting to be eaten. One of my new favorite places is Vive La Tarte (1160 Howard St.) in SOMA. Filled in a light and airy warehouse, Vive La Tarte is a great space to hold a meeting or hunker down and work. They offer classic croissants, pain au chocolat and almond croissants, as well as filled ones like strawberry shortcake and banana ginger. If the croissants weren’t enough to tempt you, there’s slices of pizza, quiche, tarts and cheesecake!
I stayed focused on the croissants and tried the strawberry shortcake, banana ginger, pain au chocolat and almond croissant. I’ll be honest and let you know that the filled croissants, while very Instagrammable, are not that good. I found that with the filling, the croissant becomes soggy. There also wasn’t enough strawberry or banana flavor. Stick with the classics like pain au chocolat. While I did enjoy the taste of the chocolate filling immensely, I wish there were two chocolate batons instead of one. The amount of pastry surrounding the chocolate is huge so there are many bites that are chocolate-less. Let’s face it; those are sad bites. I do highly recommend the almond croissant, which was completely filled from top to bottom with almond goodness (very impressive). It had that perfect marzipan taste and the filling oozes out with every bite. I’m quite confident that this is my favorite almond croissant.
If the pastries aren’t enough for you, grab a cup of the Sightglass Coffee. I love how cute the space at Vive La Tarte is with actual tables, bench and counter seating. I can’t wait to go back and work my way through some of the tarts and cheesecake.
I’m in the minority here, but I didn’t love Arsicault (397 Arguello Blvd.), which Bon Appétit crowned the best new bakery in America in 2016. Arsicault hosts a small menu with plain croissant, pain au chocolat, kouign amann, almond croissant, almond and chocolate croissant, ham and cheese croissant, morning bun and cookies. Everyone that works there is super friendly and helpful. I know the lines can be over an hour on the weekends.
I tried the croissant, kouign amann, almond croissant and almond + chocolate croissant. The plain croissant had plenty of butter but it was very dense, not light and airy, which I prefer. The almond croissant did not have the marzipan flavor that I adore so much and I didn’t find the almond flavor to be very strong (plenty of filling though). I did like the taste of the chocolate in the almond and chocolate croissant. I also greatly appreciated how the pain au chocolat come with two chocolate batons. My favorite was actually the kouign amann. It’s not quite as crispy as b. patisserie, but the outer edges are crispy while the inside is softer. There’s still the wonderful sugar crust on top. If I ever went back, that would be the one item for me!
I write about brunch a lot. In San Francisco, brunch is practically a religion. While I do love a good brunch, I can’t stand waiting 2+ hours for food. I thought I’d write a quick and dirty guide of some of the best places to brunch in SF and what is and isn’t worth your time.
One of the most exciting openings of 2016 was when renowned Tartine Bakery (600 Guerrero St.) opened a 2nd location at Tartine Manufactory (595 Alabama St.). Finally, Tartine’s bread could be available to the masses and not just at 4pm onward in the original Mission location. Tartine Manufactory is in a bigger airy space, complete with a full-service bar. While the offerings are different at Tartine Manufactory compared to the bakery, there are plenty of choices to delight your fancy.
It is worth the trip to Tartine Manufactory solely for the porchetta and fried egg sandwich. I kid you not. It is that good. On a beautifully toasted brioche bun, you’ll find layers of rich, thinly-sliced porchetta, a slightly runny fried egg, fresh watercress and crunchy pork rinds. The pork rinds make the sandwich by adding extra texture that complements against the runny egg yolk. This is heaven in a sandwich. If the thought of eating a porchetta sandwich is going to put you in a coma for the rest of the day, there are plenty of lighter choices. I highly recommend whatever their open-faced sandwich is for the day. I’ve had mind-blowing smoked trout on a healthy, hearty bread, as well as mascarpone, homemade apple butter and apples on their country bread. Their coddled egg is also a great alternative for a lighter brunch. It comes topped with trout roe and 3 pieces of the country bread (my favorite of all the Tartine breads) with za’atar spices.
Plow (1299 18th St.) is the perfect place to hit during the week if you can. Weekend lines can be 2+ hours. If you are lucky enough to snag a table, you must order the buttermilk biscuit, which comes with life-changing honey butter. I also recommend their signature brunch dish, the plow. I always struggle at brunch because I usually want both savory and sweet dishes, but don’t want to order two entrees. The plow is perfect because it comes with two eggs, house made pork sausage patties, mini lemon ricotta pancakes and plow potatoes. Their sausage patties are full of flavor, without being too oily. I love anything lemon and their lemon ricotta pancakes are light, fluffy and wonderfully zesty. The corn muffin is a total pass (save your calories for the biscuit) and while the French toast is solid, I’d rather eat the pancakes.
Zazie (941 Cole St.) is another SF brunch institution (I’m telling you… people take their brunch really seriously here). I don’t know why Zazie had never been on my radar, probably because I never go to Cole Valley. But apparently, Adele likes to brunch at Zazie so my friend and I had to try. Similar to Plow, expect long waits on the weekend, so try and come during the week if you can. What I liked most about Zazie is they let you customize the quantity of your order. For the eggs Benedict, you can order just 1 and the same goes for their pancakes. I love any restaurant that let’s me order multiple dishes (again, I’m into both savory and sweet for breakfast).
I ordered the eggs Benedict with avocado, bacon and cheese and my friend ordered a scramble. We decided to split Sarah Jane’s flight, which comes with 1 buttermilk pancake, 1 ginger pancake and 1 French toast. If you come to Zazie, you must order eggs Benedict and get the home fries (screw ordering the salad, people). Their Hollandaise sauce is absolutely perfect, creamy without being too heavy and having a wonderful citrus flavor. Zazie’s home fries are the best home fries I’ve ever had in my life. They are roasted in a way where the outside is crispy but the interior is still soft and chewy. Zazie roast their home fries with garlic, which gives their potatoes an extra layer of complexity. They are to die for. Out of the flight, the French toast and buttermilk pancake did not impress me. I would order the ginger pancake again, primarily because it’s topped with fresh lemon curd (love me some lemon) and a poached pear. It even tastes amazing cold the next day!
San Francisco is full of amazing bakeries (hello, Tartine), but I wanted to write about three well-known ones: 1) Neighbor Bakehouse, 2) Mr. Holmes Bakehouse and 3) b. patisserie.
Hands down, Neighbor Bakehouse (2343 3rd St #100) wins for best croissant in SF. Located in the Dogpatch, Neighbor Bakehouse has the best croissant dough I’ve tasted outside of Paris. Their dough is buttery and flaky, not heavy or waxy. When you take a bite into a fresh croissant, there’s an audible crunch! It’s no wonder that practically all their pastries are made out of this dough. I’ve literally tried their entire menu and have ranked it for you.
- Everything Croissant. Their most famous croissant is a must order. Their croissant is filled with cream cheese and chives and the filling is generous, not a tiny sliver. They then top it with everything bagel seasoning: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic and onion flakes. It’s the best of an everything bagel in a croissant.
- Sauerkraut Smoked Cheddar Peppadew Tart. Don’t get confused by the term “tart.” It’s basically a hand pie in croissant dough. While the thought of sauerkraut in a savory hand pie may turn you off, give it a chance. Their sauerkraut isn’t very sour and this tart is filled with cheese and piquanté peppers. I love the contrast of the sweetness of the peppers with the brine of the sauerkraut. This is one pastry not to miss.
- Cinnamon Almond Bostock. I didn’t know what a bostock was when I ordered it. Now, I know it’s day-old brioche topped with almond frangipane. I freaking love frangipane and all things marzipan and this cinnamon almond bostock tastes like custard French toast filled with almond paste. It’s one of the few items in the baked goods section that isn’t made out of croissant dough and I love it.
- Ginger Pull-Apart. Giant croissant dough ball brushed with a bright ginger syrup. Pull apart with your fingers and enjoy!
Things I did not enjoy at Neighbor Bakehouse. Don’t waste your wallet or waistline on these because I’ve already done the work for you:
- Twice-Baked Croissant. I’ve tried two flavors and have not been impressed with either. The pistachio and blackberry didn’t have much pistachio or blackberry flavoring and the croissant becomes denser and flat.
- Doughp Buns. I’ve had both the chocolate and passionfruit doughp buns. The fillings were tasty, but the ratio of bun to filling was too high. These were also really dense and did nothing for me. I ended up scraping out the sweet nectar of the filling and tossing the buns.
- Apple Hand Pie and Guava & Cheese Pastelito. Both are these are basically turnovers. Unfortunately, I don’t like the dough. Unlike the croissant dough, their turnover dough isn’t flaky and doesn’t have a ton of flavor. I was really disappointed that the apple hand pie didn’t have a stronger apple and cinnamon flavor.
- Smoked Fish Cream Cheese Croissant. A croissant filled with salmon cream cheese and topped with sesame seeds. While not bad, the everything croissant is so much better. There’s not enough salmon in the filling and the everything croissant is more flavorful thanks to the garlic and onion flakes.
- Ham and Cheese Morning Bun. Again, not a bad pastry, but it’s definitely very heavy between the ham, cheese and all the butter in the croissant dough. It’s very one-dimensional. You’re much better off getting the sauerkraut tart.
I can wax on about Neighbor Bakehouse, but I think it’s only fair to compare it to Mr. Holmes Bakehouse (1042 Larkin St.), which is infamous for their cruffin. Marketed as a “croissant muffin,” the flavors change daily and are posted on their Instagram account. Mr. Holmes Bakehouse often runs out of cruffins by 10am and they limit how many each person can buy (2/person). The day that I went, I stood in line for the pina colada cruffin. I was impressed with how much cream was filled inside. However, the cruffin was a total letdown. While I actually really enjoyed the cream and could tell it was high quality, there was zero coconut or pina colada flavoring. The only coconut flavors came from the macaroon and it definitely wasn’t reminiscent of a pina colada. I’d be curious to try a different flavor because I think the cruffin has potential.
I did also order the churro croissant and it’s a croissant filled with dulce de leche cream and topped with cinnamon sugar. Considering how good their cream filling is and how much I love churros, this was quite delicious. I also enjoyed Mr. Holmes Bakehouse take on a savory croissant, the California croissant. This croissant is filled with smoked salmon, pickled ginger, wasabi and nori and then topped with more seaweed and sesame seeds. When I bit into it, I was not expecting a big piece of salmon and I loved the combination with the pickled ginger. It even comes with a packet of soy sauce, which I don’t think is needed.
I tried SO many pastries at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse. I really wanted to love them and I just couldn’t. The croissant dough at Neighbor Bakehouse is definitely superior. Items at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse that I do not recommend:
- Matcha Croissant. How disappointing. I love green tea and this croissant has no green tea flavor. It’s dipped half in a white chocolate coating and so just tastes like waxy white chocolate.
- Apple Pie Pull-Apart. This is not a pull-apart, people. This is similar to a dense bread pudding. While I actually enjoyed the apple, cinnamon flavors (and raisins), I think the ginger pull-apart at Neighbor Bakehouse is better.
- Filled Donut. Bah, the fillings are good (again, they rock at that cream filling) but the donuts are oily and dense.
- Cornflake Cookie. This is advertised as a brown butter toffee, cornflake cereal cookie. There is no brown butter taste and not enough toffee. The brown butter cookies at Bi-Rite are better.
b. patisserie (2821 California St.) has been on my list forever because I’ve been dying to try their kouign amann. Kouign amann is a pastry originally hailing from Brittany. It’s basically a caramelized croissant with a beautiful sugar crust on top. I totally understand the hype at b. patisserie. When I cut into the kouign amann, it could hear the crunch of all the crispy flakiness. Even cut, I could see layers upon layers of beautiful buttery goodness. The sugar crust on top adds a perfect amount of sweetness. It is worth going to b. patisserie just for the kouign amann. The only other item that I tried was the passionfruit poppyseed madeleine, which I also really enjoyed. Their tarts look absolutely divine and I’ll definitely have to make another trip soon!
I can’t even begin to extol the virtues of visiting the Pacific Northwest when it is not raining. With all the rain throughout the year, cities like Vancouver really blossom when the sun shines and all the plants are green and lush. If it was like that all year, I think everyone would want to live there!
Besides the proximity to nature (the beach is in the center of town and the mountains are 30 minutes away), Vancouver is bustling with an amazing food scene. I could live there for a month and I wouldn’t make the slightest dent on my things-to-eat list. I did my best in a short amount of time. For novelty ice cream, look no further than the liquid nitrogen treats at Mister (1141 Mainland St.). Their most famous flavor is the coconut ash, which complements the black ice cream cones, but I actually like and recommend the crème brûlée (complete with a crackable sugar top) or s’mores (toasted marshmallow!) more. If you get your ice cream in their signature black cone, expect a massive amount of ice cream. It’s enough to share among 3 people (seriously). Flavors change daily so there’s always a surprise in store.
If you’re looking for a more traditional ice cream experience, head over to Rain or Shine (1926 W 4th Ave #102), close by Kitsilano beach. You can indulge in flavors like coffee toffee and salted caramel. Right next to Rain or Shine, you can grab a bite to eat at Fable (1944 W 4th Ave.). They have one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever tasted (thick-cut bacon and cheese are extra) or you can eat more healthy with local British Columbia salmon and kale.
Speaking of local salmon, BC salmon is absolutely incredible. Darker and redder in color, the flesh is flaky and ever so creamy with all the rich fish oil. My first stop in Vancouver was the Granville Island Public Market (1669 Johnston St.). The whole island is full of cute boutiques and small art galleries. The highlight is definitely the public market where there is a plethora of lunch choices at different stalls. I had to order the deep-fried salmon and calamari at Celine’s Fish & Chips. It was the first time in my life I’ve ever seen fish and chips with salmon and now that’s all I ever want to eat.
When in Vancouver, you have to eat sushi. With fish that fresh, it’d be a travesty if you didn’t. At Minami (1118 Mainland St.), you can try the famed aburi sushi. This flame-seared sushi has an extra touch of magic because the chefs sear the fish with binchotan (Japanese bamboo charcoal). I’d never seen anything like it before in my life! That extra bit of charcoal adds a whole new level of smokiness and complexity to your palate. The salmon oshi sushi (pressed BC wild salmon, jalapeno, Miku sauce) is hands down probably one of my favorite bites of food. Don’t miss out though on the tuna tartare, ebi fritters or Champagne roll (scallop, salmon, cucumber, uni, rolled in golden tobiko, Miku sauce).
I seriously cannot think of a better place to sell poke than Vancouver. At The Poke Guy (420 Richards St.), you’ll find local Hawaiians (shout-out to Reno!) serving poke with a twist, including toppings like mango and corn. One of their star dishes is the Loco-Lomi salad. Reno was great at explaining that lomi-lomi is a salmon salad with tomatoes and Maui onions. Their salad has smoked lomi-lomi, albacore poke, avocado, house yuzu slaw, kani, mango, peashoots, masago, crispy onion and furikake on a bed of lettuce. While I also loved the Poke Guy’s traditional poke, the loco-lomi salad is definitely unique and worth trying.
I find it incredibly hard to believe that I’ve been living in Shanghai for the past three years. I know it’s terribly cliché, but it seriously passed by in the blink of an eye. I’ve always wanted to live and work in Shanghai and it was my ultimate goal post-MBA. I’m incredibly happy and grateful for the experience and will miss this city. After being abroad for four years, I’m heading back to the U.S. and returning to the Bay Area.
The food scene in Shanghai is intense and it’s always changing. Due to the competitive restaurant industry (and also changing city laws), places are constantly opening and closing. Despite living here for several years, I feel like I only barely scratched the surface. Before leaving a city, I try and create a food guide, much like my 100 Things to Eat in San Francisco Before You Die, 50 Things to Eat in Paris Before You Die and 25 Things to Eat in Hong Kong Before You Die. In continuing with the tradition, I drafted a list for Shanghai.
In no particular order, I present to you: