Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, San Francisco

An unexpected bonus of a travelling north in winter is catching a second taste of summer. Just as the fruit and veg at home starts getting dreary, along comes another hit of sun blushed abundance.

Late spring in San Francisco dished up all-you-can-eat cherries, asparagus and artichokes. We also gorged on fresh dates and beautiful beetroots. The Rainier cherries in particular were a burst of sunshine in each mouthful. At $7 a pound for organic, they were also way cheaper than at home during our short cherry season.

I only made it to the smaller midweek market at the FerryPlaza, the Saturday one is much larger but was suitably wowed by the variety and quality of the produce. 

Blue Bottle Coffee (they also have a permanent stall inside) sufficiently caffeinated me to Melbourne levels. Toby had given me a heads up to look out for them in the US and their cafes are liberally sprinkled throughout San Francisco and New York.

There were liberal opportunities to taste the market goodies; I just wished I’d left room for the hot tamales. Once we’d had our fill outside, there were the wonders of the ferry building itself to explore. You can read omni blogs about the infamous Cowgirl Creamery and the shop specialising in ‘tasty salted pig parts’ but it was Far West Fungi that had me drooling. Their array of wild and cultivated mushrooms had me crying out for a kitchen but I almost howled at having to forgo experimenting with fiddlehead ferns.

I got over my woe with cleansing ale at MarketBar, one of a number on upmarket restaurants in the building, then jumped on the Sausalito ferry (it is a commuter terminal after all) to escape the madness of downtown San Francisco. Like all great cities, a little distance never hurts to help you enjoy it, just a little bit more.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Greens: simplicity in San Francisco

Five days in San Francisco without an agenda is an interesting prospect. Well that’s not true. We had one. My sister’s only request was a meal at the stalwart vegetarian restaurant Greens

We embarked on the journey to lunch on a beautiful spring day. From the heart of Union Square, awash with panhandlers and  the cheerful ding of the cable cars, we instead took ‘streetcar’  to Fisherman’s Wharf. Sure the cable cars are fun but not if you have to wait an hour to hop aboard. The old trams from around the world (including Melbourne) run down Market Street from the wharf to the Castro. Each car is different and equally as character filled. Each trip an adventure in itself.

Once we headed beyond the Embarcadero, directions to Fort Mason were sketchy. While the map, on paper at least, showed a clear route down Bay Street, on the ground it was illusive. Instead the footpath lured us over the hill to the marina, through the small National Park. The ascent was bolstered by spectacular views of the bay and the Marina on the other side welcomed us. The sprawling Green Meadows Park felt a million miles away from the homeless in the city centre. But it still took us a considerable amount of time to find the restaurant once we’d made it to the suburb on the other side.

With literally five minutes to spare before the end of lunch service we finally arrived at Greens, relieved to be welcomed to a table at 2.30pm. The stress evaporated as we sat in the light-filled converted warehouse, watching yachts bob outside in front of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. The view is complemented by a spacious interior fit out in mostly reclaimed timber, high ceilings and large artworks.

My only hesitation about Greens had been the menu belying its 70s vego roots. To be honest, perusing the website, none of the few dairy-free offerings seemed that inspiring but I shouldn’t have been concerned. By mid-afternoon and the hike, anything would have tasted good! The food at Greens though simple was the freshest I tasted on my holiday.

My sister’s Spring Sampler sounded a little dull but the plate was ample, the just picked veggies popping with taste.  

So too my Mesquite Grilled Brochettes – vegetable and tofu skewers smothered in a tasty green chimichurri sauce, served with a spicy slaw and red/brown rice. The organic baby potatoes and chunks of pale corn were most flavoursome that I’ve ever eaten. 

Even the octogenarian omnivore enjoyed his cheesy pizza.

The ambience at Greens enhanced the experienced. While only a couple of diners remained so late in the service (an elderly pair celebrating an anniversary and a middle aged guy the spitting image of all the ‘barefoot millionaires’ I’d met in Oregon on my previous visit) the staff didn’t hurry any of us, as if understanding the importance of atmosphere on digestion.

I’ve mentioned before that Australia doesn’t do high-endveg*n dining well. Without fuss, Greens is beautiful yet relaxed, with a million dollar view, laid back but efficient staff and every sense catered for. It ticks all the boxes with style and good taste.

Much to our surprise, the octogenarian who’d struggled over the hill on the inbound journey wanted to amble back through the sculptures of Green Meadow Park and take in the views of Alcatraz, Fisherman’s wharf and the bridge once more. Without the pressure of time and unknown geography and relaxed from a satisfying lunch washed down with an organic beer, we could relax into the beauty of the small National Park.

Greens is worth an excursion, so close to the hackneyed San Francisco tourist sights but a million miles away from the urban tension. Choose it for the sheer simple flavours of the produce, inspiring natural design of the restaurant and the iconic views. But most of all Greens is a spa for the senses, proving simplicity of flavour wins over culinary trickery every time.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

New York highlights

Dogs – in Macy’s, on the street, in boutiques…
Pregnant women – especially at the Brooklyn markets, it’s a fecund borough
Frozen yoghurt – where our current epidemic started, let’s hope we find a cure…fast
Children playing in fountains on hot days
80s Brit pop – playing in stores and cafes, including quite a few indie bands from my youth, nostalgia city
Bipolar weather – either a chilly all day downpour or sunburn
Subway buskers – the best ever, amazing voices, strings and brass
Ten dollar psychics – on every street corner

Subway art – lovely surprises, including the subversive Tom Otterness Life Underground  bronzes in the nooks and crannies of ‘our’ 14th St station.

Museum Mile – annual 5th Avenue street festival where 10 blocks are closed and museums open free for three hours. Visited the Guggenheim, The Met (including the Punk exhibition), listened to DJs, watched buskers and gasped at the glory of Central Park at sunset.

Murals in the lobby of the Chrysler building (and you thought all the deco loveliness was on the outside?)
Dia:Beacon – perfect rainy day trip up the Hudson to Connecticut. For lovers of modern art only, this place is like entering the Tardis (“it’s a lot bigger on the inside”) Richard Sera, Warhol, Sol Le Witt all standouts as well as the most comfortable sofas ever experienced in an art gallery. Check out the Metro North Getaway Package for a reduced price train trip/museum entry.
MoMA PS1 worth a trip to Long Island, more modern art than you can poke a stick at, the eco themed Expo1 studded with gems from Meg Webster’s Pool to classic Ansel Adams prints.

Like the weather food is equally polarized. Equal number of vegan and porcine themed eateries, food stalls and products.
Markets – visited the Fort Greene and Union Square farmers markets, gobbled our way through the Brooklyn flea food stalls barely leaving room for a late afternoon trip to Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. 

Food trucks – Van Leeuwen’s vegan ice cream was our fave.
So little time, so much amazing food to choose from - will share more soon.

The Empire State and Chrysler buildings around almost every corner. Viewed from Williamsburg, the Hudson, the Highline and all places in between.
Grand Central Terminus – best view from the mezanine Apple Store (tip: free wifi) at rush hour, watching all those busy little ants below and the star map above.
Frank Gehry’s IAC building – from the High Line, the Hudson, during the day, the magic twighlight zone when it’s see-through and at night.

Ceilings to remember – Rose Main Reading Room and the NY Public library, Bethesda Terrace in Central Park and off course Grand Central.

…and speaking of the High Line, it deserves it’s own post (here it is!). We stayed two blocks from the start and walked 5 lengths of it during our stay. We were wowed during the day, loved it as a pedestrian express route uptown, a spot to drink an excellent morning coffee from Kava but it was on a summer’s night that it totally blew my mind and senses.

Parks and gardens
While the High Line is a 21st century Central Park, it’s the pocket gardens the breath clean air into most neighbourhoods.
Jefferson Market Garden - a standout Greenwich Village green spot, lovingly tended by volunteers.

Washington Square – for buskers, the fountain and food trucks.

And also
Happy Hour – what a wonderful institution. Cheap drinks, cheeky bartenders, chatting with the locals. Margaritas at Mole worth a detour. 
West Village – woke up to birdsong every morning, great neighbourhood bars and restaurants, espresso and a potential ‘Little Melbourne’ (can we start the trend and call it ‘LiMe’?) with Crumpler and Aesop around the corner. Plus the usual $10 psychics, healthfood stores and dogs.
Summer fruits, flowers and Tropical Storm Andrea.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

totes cool

I'm back!

San Francisco and New York was totes cool. Will share the deliciousness when my brain no longer feels like jelly.

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