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Sunday, 03 May 2015 13:12

San Francisco Hits Culinary Homer

Benu.StreetView.EricWolfinger PicmonkeyA peek through the window at Benu

TASTE News Service May 3, 2015 - It's been a banner year for San Francisco, and not just for the World Series Champion Giants. The city has received high praise for its restaurants from a variety of esteemed sources.

Travel + Leisure

In Travel + Leisure magazine's November survey of America's Favorite Cities, San Francisco came in first for Wine and second for Wine Bars. According to the editors, “A culinary scene to rival New York City's, eye-popping design, and a laid-back, outdoorsy ethos are just three reasons to visit San Francisco right now.”


San Francisco's reputation for great dining was again confirmed in October as Michelin awarded two of its restaurants with its highest rating in its 2015 eating guide. Benu and Saison in the city's SoMa district joined the French Laundry In Yountville and the Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa in the top three-star category for "exceptional cuisine."

Michelin rates restaurants in 24 countries and its stars are an internationally recognized sign of quality dining. There are just over 100 restaurants worldwide with the three-star distinction. Michelin, which has been reviewing restaurants in San Francisco and the Bay Area for eight years, handed stars to a record 40 restaurants in San Francisco and the Bay Area after its reviewers sampled 46 types of cuisines at 474 eateries. Michelin placed six San Francisco restaurants in its two-star "excellent cuisine" category with Acquerello joining the roster in its latest guide. The other two-star restaurants included Atelier Crenn, Baume, Coi, Manresa and Quince. The one-star restaurants in the city of San Francisco alone are Ame, Aziza, Boulevard, Campton Place, Gary Danko, Keiko à Nob Hill, Kusakabe, La Folie, Luce, Maruya, Michael Mina, Sons & Daughters, SPQR, Spruce and State Bird Provisions.

EsquireTosca Cafe Picmonkey

San Francisco seemed to be everywhere in Esquire's 2014 Food and Drink Awards. The list of Best New Restaurants in America included Tosca Café (especially the summer minestrone with Jerusalem artichokes, favas, english peas, basil pesto which was on Josh Ozersky's All-Star Dinner) and The Commissary.   The Best New Food in America included the beef-tallow fries at The Cavalier; the crispy hazelnut and sea salt candy bar from Nuubia Chocolat, and the smoked almond brittle from Craftsman + Wolves, all of San Francisco, plus the Buffalo Milk Gelato from Petaluma's Double 8 Dairy and New Orleans iced coffee from Oakland's Blue Bottle.

Trip Advisor

Also in October, three restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area were named in Trip Advisor's list of Travelers Favorite Fine Dining Restaurants in the United States, Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco was third on the list of 25, The French Laundry was named at number 18 and Chez Panisse in Berkeley came in at number 22.   San Francisco received more mentions than any other U.S. city except New York.


The readers of Saveur, the definitive culinary and culinary-travel magazine, voted San Francisco the Best Culinary Destination, Large Domestic in the second annual Saveur Culinary Travel Awards in the September issue.


Later in October, La Taqueria in the Mission district was declared to have America's Best Burrito by ESPN's FiveThirtyEight.

The James Beard Foundation

Chef Charles Phan PicmonkeyCharles Phan of Slanted DoorThe James Beard Foundation named Charles Phan's The Slanted Door the Outstanding Restaurant in the country in May. Daniel Patterson of Coi was named Best Chef for California, Nevada and Hawaii. Quince was honored for Outstanding Service.

How long can this winning streak run? As long has San Francisco has the most talented chefs working with the freshest local, seasonal ingredients in an environment of diversity and innovation, it could go into extra innings.

Editor’s Note: Good resources for those planning to visit San Francisco for a culinary holiday include the city’s official marketing organization http://www.sanfrancisco.travel and the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel, where you’ll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Wineries and Craft Beer Purveyors.


Whether grown from the fertile earth or harvested fresh from the sea, Sonoma County's eateries embrace an eat-fresh philosophy that offers visitors a true taste of wine country.

Sonoma Co wine at picnic tableDining has close connection with the land.

Venture out beyond your resort's borders to discover a food lover's paradise: 500-plus restaurants ranging from Michelin- and Zagat-rated to casual wine country cuisine use freshly harvested, locally-grown produce.

Pay attention as you explore the lush countryside; the bounty you see today may be on your plate tonight. An abundance of fruits, vegetables and herbs blanket the countryside. Cattle, sheep, and pigs graze the landscape, chickens and turkeys scratch in the pastures, and goats and cows offer up fresh milk and cheese. Dungenesss crab, salmon and briny oysters expand menu choices.

While the "locavore movement" is changing the way the nation eats, here it’s been that way for hundreds of years. Sonoma County Farm Trails is evidence of this rich heritage. It's a culinary charm bracelet of more than 200 orchards, farms, ranches and vineyards throughout the county, offering everything from apples to zucchini.


Some notable restaurants to visit would include:


Santé Restaurant is the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn's (www.fairmont.com/sonoma) premier dining room and has earned a national reputation for its outstanding food. Literally meaning “to your health,” the restaurant is a celebration of innovative California cuisine and good taste. Recipient of a prestigious Michelin Star as well as the AAA Four Diamond award, Santé is the only restaurant in the Sonoma Valley to receive these accolades.

Guests enjoy a seasonal menu, in a warm and casual yet stylish setting. Designed to exude the California wine country experience, Chef Andrew Cain showcases the region’s abundant local products and world-famous wines. Only the freshest local produce, meats, poultry and seafood are used to create elegantly simple dishes that let the natural flavors of the food speak for themselves.

The Farmhouse

Located in the small town of Forestville, California in the Russian River Valley Region of Sonoma County's famed wine country, the Farmhouse (www.farmhouseinn.com) represents the finest level of Sonoma inns, restaurants and spas - where sublime guestrooms, farm-fresh food and seasonal body treatments come together in one unforgettable experience.

Nestled in the heart of the Russian River Valley wine region, the "country-chic" Farmhouse is a Michelin-star, top Zagat-reviewed restaurant for the San Francisco Bay Area and has been a San Francisco Chronicle's Top 100 Restaurant four years running. Chef Steve Litke offers "sublime" seasonal California-French cuisine showcasing local, artisan ingredients. The restaurant's signature dish is "Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit," rabbit prepared three ways, all delicious.

Viola Pastry Boutique & CafeBy opening Viola Pastry Boutique & Cafe (www.violapastryboutique.com), Jennifer McMurry celebrates her grandmother, Viola, who was the heart and soul of her family. McMurry has always wanted to share her grandmother's love of food and cooking with others. Cakes, cookies, pastries and cupcakes head the pastry menu.

Want something savory, a full menu for breakfast includes eggs Benedict, breakfast sandwich or burrito, chillaquiles, huevos rancheros, and veggie hash. Sandwiches, soups, paninis and more are lunch and dinner fare. Did we mention pastries?

Applewood Inn

This Sonoma County restaurant, located in the Russian River Valley, is highly regarded for its exquisite cuisine, soothing atmosphere, polished guest services, and its mellow earthy ambiance. The cozy restaurant was built to recall a French barn, yet gives one the feeling of being at a fine Italian villa. The restaurant is part of Applewood Inn (www.applewoodinn.com), a Sonoma County bed and breakfast boutique hotel.

Jackson's Bar and Oven and Petite Syrah

Diners rave about popular chef Josh Silvers’ two Santa Rosa restaurants - Jackson's Bar & Oven (www.jacksonsbarandoven.com)and Petite Syrah (www.petitesyrah.com). Both in historic Railroad Square, Jackson's is a more casual, family-friendly eaterie, with a menu that centers on dishes from the kitchen's wood-fired oven. Petite Syrah, created from Silvers’ elegant Syrah Bistro, offers small plates in a wine country casual atmosphere.

Jeffrey's Hillside Cafe

Chef Jeffrey Madura, former head chef at the epitome of wine country restaurants John Ash & Co., has opened the doors to his own cafe. Jeffrey's Hillside Cafe (www.jeffreyshillsidecafe.com) sees Madura moving away from elegant evening service to a hot breakfast, lunch and brunch spot.

After 20 years as executive chef at John Ash & Co., Madura left in 2008 to spend more time with his family. He realized he loved not working nights, but he missed the creativity of cooking. Now, if you want to sample his fare, be there early. The cafe is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.


(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in Sonoma County and other North Coast areas can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.


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