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‘If you’re going to San Francisco be sure to wear some flowers in your hair,’ goes the Scott McKenzie song.
But if you travel to the state famed for fog, redwoods and a certain bridge don’t be surprised to find flowers in your food as well.
During my time in the land in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge I discovered culinary treats from pupusa flavoured with lorocco flowers to lavender ice cream.
While it’s hard to stuff all the possibilities into just one article (sorry, China Town), here are some options to try on a foodie tour of San Francisco.
Soft, nutmeg and cinnamony pumpkin spice with dark chocolate chunks (Picture: Yvette Caster/Metro.co.uk)
I had one of the best ice creams of my life at Lush Gelato – an incredibly, soft, nutmeg and cinnamony pumpkin spice with dark chocolate chunks that tasted vaguely of coconut. It was $5.75 for a two-scoop cone.
A few doors down, XOX Truffles sold smooth dark chocolate truffles, $15 for 20 or $3.75 each.
Original Joe’s served up a stunning chicken parmigiana (breaded fowl with excellent marinara sauce and Monterey Jack cheese) for $26.95.
Dark chocolate truffles from XOX (Picture: Yvette Caster/Metro.co.uk)
Those not worried about snogging anyone any time soon might like to try The Stinking Rose, a restaurant dedicated to all things garlic that even serves up garlic wine.
Meanwhile, film fans may appreciate Cafe Zoetrope – an Italian cafe owned by Francis Ford Coppola which sells wine grown in his vineyards.
Or try Vesuvio Cafe – a colourful bar famous for its patrons, who have included Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan.
Try chowder in a bread bowl at Boudin (Picture: Yvette Caster/metro.co.uk)
Always bustling with visitors, this is a good place to try some of the seafood that makes San Fran great.
Specialities are Dungeness crab and clam chowder soup served in a bread bowl. I had the latter for $9.99 at Boudin – you’ll smell the sourdough before you see the place. The chowder was very thick, with lumps of clam and potato, and complimented the bread.
The Mission District
Curry Up Now’s samosa is a delight (Picture: Yvette Caster/Metro.co.uk)
Less touristy and more rundown but established as a top food destination is the Mission District, where you’ll find classic Mexican food and a crop of hipster eateries.
There’s Mission style burritos, wrapped tighter than others, with no rice, sour cream or guacamole, tacos and quesadillas. Taqueria La Cumbre claims to be their birthplace.
Meanwhile Panchita’s, a Salvadorean restaurant serves up $5 pupusas – pancake-like creations made of cornmeal. I tried one stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese and the aforementioned lorocco, which tasted like nothing I’d had before, although perhaps it could be likened to a floral asparagus.
Curry Up Now, formerly a food truck and now established on South Maple Avenue, serves up top notch handmade samosas with tamarind and cilantro sauces – $8.50 for two.
Make sure to have The Rebel Within at Craftsman and Wolves (Picture: Yvette Caster/metro.co.uk)
Craftsman and Wolves bakery does a fine line in breads and desserts. It’s known for The Rebel Within, an $8 savoury muffin with Asiago sausage, green onion and a whole egg. The thick, cheesy and lightly-spiced creation would make for a tasty, unusual breakfast or lunch. When I visited, pill desserts were all the rage too – tablet-shaped delights flavoured with peach and earl grey.
Mission Cheese is cool and quirky, serving cheese flights, grilled cheese sandwiches, racklette and mac and cheese. Their tasty $12 California Gold sandwich featured San Joaquin Gold cheese, chèvre and fig preserves.
A s’more at Dandelion (Picture: Yvette Caster/Metro.co.uk)
You can find lavender honey and black sesame ice cream at Bi-rite Creamery, while Dandelion is an unmissable stop for chocoholics. Here, you can watch chocolatiers create the king of sweets from scratch and enjoy hot chocolates, cold chocolate drinks, mochas and a delightful range of desserts including a brownie bite flight.
I tried their $4.50 Ecuadoran s’more – salted dark chocolate and blow-torched marshmallow on biscuit. Although the marshmallow was not as melted as I would have liked, this was an unusual, tasty treat.
The Ferry Building
You’ll need to have a fresh oyster (Picture: Yvette Caster)
This place is bursting with top independent stalls and, on Saturdays, there’s also a farmers market outside. I tried California oranges and homemade chocolate, and bought alpine strawberries.
I had brunch out in the sun at MarketBar at the end of the building. Their $19 eggs Benedict were great, fresh with a hint of coriander, mild pepper salsa and pomegranate.
A few stalls of note in the building include Hog Island Oyster Company’s – their shellfish is some of the best I’ve had.
Cowgirl Creamery attracted long queues for their grilled cheeses (from $8.75), while Brown Sugar Kitchen, serving American favourites such as chicken and waffle, was also popular.