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This post is overly due, mainly because I was too lazy to hit the publish button…

Many, many weeks ago, I made an impromptu trip to San Francisco. Nearly everyone who you talk to who’s visited will gush about how awesome San Francisco is- the temperate weather, all the awesome food, the unique characteristics of each part of the city and the vibrant culture.  The bar was set pretty high; despite gusty winds and a downpour for the first day, I fell in love with the city.


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Transamerica Pyramid– I need a wider lens!

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Chinatown

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Day 1– This was a very hands-off-the-camera trip. Most of the wandering was done on foot, helped by a couple of friends who were gracious enough to take me around to their favorite sights and restaurants. But there were some moments when I just couldn’t resist taking out that camera. The first was when we arrived at Swensen’s. It was an unexpected visit, but we happened upon this popular ice-creamery as we were walking to the cable car.

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There were enough intriguing flavors to make you stop and seriously think- I mean, bordeaux cherry? turkish coffee?! almond chocolate malt?! I ended up sampling the turkish coffee, which reminded me of Starbuck’s Java Chip ice cream but less sweet and slightly more bitter, as well as the swiss orange chip.

Holy cow.

Swiss orange chip. Talk about a perfect harmony of rich and velvety chocolate cut through by the acidic orange.

It was to die for.

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Swiss Chocolate Orange Chip– 1 scoop for $2.95

This is a must try for any chocolate/orange lover!


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About a ten minute walk from Swensen’s was the cable car stop by Lombard St (home to the most crooked and windiest street in the world). Shielded by a barrier of trees is actually a public tennis court that offers majestic views of the bay, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Ghirardelli Square.

Day 2– After brunch with a friend at Samovar Teahouse, I was determined to explore the city on foot. By the time I reached the wharf, I was exhausted but I knew the real prize was ahead- Ghirardelli Square. I mean, I could sacrifice my feet for some chocolate, yeah? Of course, I had no idea what was in the Square- I figured there had to be some chocolate.

I get there and I realize that there’s a GIANT line for the cafe. That’s out of the question. Then I see a little cafe with no line. Why? Cause it sold ice cream.

Low 50 degree weather with whipping wind. Do I get ice cream?

Then I look up and the heavens smiled at me. CUPCAKE SHOP!!!

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I practically glided to the entrance with glee. Inside there was an assortment of red velvet, chocolate velvet, passion fruit, banana caramel, passion fruit, meyer lemony lemon and fleur de sel. It was such a tough choice, choosing between the last two. I finally opted for the lemon, given that I had just consumed a giant loaf of sourdough bread at Boudin’s and was craving for something fruity.

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Meyer Lemony Lemon Cupcake ($3.25)

To be honest- it was the filling that saved the day. The frosting was very light (which is good as it wasn’t terribly sweet) but the cake itself was on the drier side. I think that Sprinkles triumphs Kara’s with the cake but Kara’s wins frosting and filling.

HOWEVER, Howard had been raving about Blue Bottle Co., and lucky me, Kara’s carried it! The lady at Kara’s spent a bit of time explaining to me that the coffee is made through a drip process and Blue Bottle offers classes to its distributors to teach how to properly brew the coffee. She also offered me decadent heavy cream, which I graciously took. That cup of coffee is by far the best filtered coffee I’ve ever had!

A 12oz coffee is $2.00

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Overlooking Ghirardelli Square and the Bay

As I marveled at just how rich and creamy that cup of coffee was, the weather started to change and tiny drops began to rain. In the process, the wind picked up, and with my inability to multitask, balance a camera, and carry my shopping bags, I spilled a good chunk of the coffee. Sadness.

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Interestingly, just as fast as the drizzle came, the sun peeked out again. The sky went from blue to blinding yellow, just like that.

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On the first day, I went to GOTTs, which serves a MEAN burger. I didn’t get a chance to go back until the morning of my last day. In my attempt to get one last burger before I left, I neglected to consider that few people eat burgers for breakfast. Luckily, Gott’s had a breakfast menu, which although sparse, has items to fill that grease pit in your stomach.

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Southern: Buttermilk fried chicken tenders, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese & charred jalapeno mayo ($5.99)

Really, if you’re going to put buttermilk fried chicken on the breakfast menu, why can’t you put down a juicy burger too while you’re at it?! In any case, this thing was fulfilling and left me with guilty conscious.  There was nothing particularly glorious about this sandwich- it tasted the way you’d expect chicken tenders to taste. The chicken isn’t particularly crispy but is a definite upgrade from Wendy’s chicken nuggets. The egg is fluffy and the cheese overflowed, dripping beyond the borders of the crust. The sandwich could have used a bit more of that jalapeno mayo, but I’m sure my blood vessels beg to differ.

You can’t see it, but I also got some Hash Browns (crispy, golden potato triangles, $1.99), which were unfortunately, short of anything exciting. In fact, they were quite disappointing. Not that I expect hash browns to taste spectacular, but Micky D’s has better hash browns.

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Within the Ferry building (which is where Gott’s was), there’s a bunch of small one-off vendors. It’s here that I got some awesome Weck Jars. People have been contacting me to ask where I got them- there’s a Heath Ceramics in the Ferry Building. If I recall correctly, the jars were under $2.00

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There are also a few other places worth mentioning in terms of good eats.

  • RN740- this is an urban wine bar and it’s a beauty. A bit on the pricier side, but I had my first bone marrow here. The Herb Roasted Marrow Bones, served with Fattoria Bread and Bacon Marmalade was $12.00.  As the great Cat Chao would like to say, bone marrow is essentially human butter. My gracious hosts let me choose two appetizers and while the thought of eating bone marrow sorta freaked me out, I figured it was then or never. Luckily, I got over the thought and actually enjoyed it. The second app was the Maitake Mushroom Tempura, served with Scallion Mousseline and Yuzu salt for $11.00.  What a hit! A must for those who are less adventurous. The restaurant also serves a very good Artic Char (think salmon-like color and taste) for $27, served over gnocchi, which was actually the best prepared gnocchi I’ve ever had. (website, menu)
  • Samovar Teahouse– a real gem of a place, en-capsuled in tall glass windows  in the Yerba Buena Gardens. Reeks of Zen. Anyhow, the Ginger Quinoa Waffle, served with fresh fruit and housemade vanilla infused palm nectar (Available until 3 p.m.) for $12 is a definite must.  Doesn’t taste that much different from regular waffles but it’s the after-feeling. You don’t feel bloated or guilty.   (website, menu)

Kara’s Cupcakes
MAP IT
900 North Point
San Francisco, California 94109
P 415 563-2223

Swensen’s
1999 Hyde St
(between Union St & Warner Pl)
San Francisco, CA 94109
Neighborhoods: Nob Hill, Russian Hill
(415) 775-6818

Gott’s Roadside
1 Ferry Bldg
Marketplace Shop 6
San Francisco, CA 94111
Neighborhood: Embarcadero
(415) 318-3423