Saturday, May 19, 2012

Farm-to-Fork California Cuisine

San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area are geographically blessed. The sparkling waters of the Pacific frame gorgeous vistas at every turn, from pastel-hued Victorian houses and vertiginous city streets to the famous Golden Gate Bridge. The region’s cuisine rivals the setting, with innovative farm-fresh dishes to sample throughout the Bay Area.

A bird’s-eye view of California reveals a wave-battered coastline, towering sequoia forests, lush vineyards, peach orchards, and orange groves. California may have given the world Hollywood, but the grand outdoors is its true celebrity. The influence of nature also pervades California’s eponymous cuisine, which is rooted in the simple concept that ingredients should be healthy and homegrown.
It’s easy to be part of the San Francisco feel-good spirit: join the locals on the bike trails that crisscross the city or test your balance rollerblading along the shaded paths in Golden Gate Park. Try a walk on the breezy waterfront, from lively Fisherman’s Wharf (keep an eye out for its loudest residents – braying sea lions) to the sun-speckled Presidio parkland. North of the city lies Marin County – the birthplace of the mountain bike – where rugged Mount Tamalpais continues to offer the region’s most exciting two-wheel adventures.
The East Bay – and the progressive city of Berkeley – is also laced with green spaces, including Tilden Park.
Take a dip in Lake Anza; stroll the aromatic Botanic Gardens; and hop on an antique carousel.
The “farm-to-fork” culinary movement – in which fresh, locally sourced ingredients rule – began in San Francisco and the Bay Area. One heady whiff in an outdoor market – and a juicy bite into a tender white peach – and you’ll understand why. At San Francisco’s popular Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on the Embarcadero, you can sniff and sample local produce while enjoying views of the Bay Bridge. Equally impressive is the Berkeley Bowl, which has the largest produce selection in northern California. Here, you’ll see locals picking out organic pomegranates, hefting eggplants, and holding persimmons up to the light to choose the best of the best.
Many Bay Area chefs cultivate close relationships with regional growers, so what arrives at your table may have been pulled from the soil only hours before.
Fusing fresh seasonal ingredients with cooking skills honed in the finest French kitchens gives delicious perfection – dishes like roasted scallops with Belgian endives and lemon gremolata, and parsnip and apple soup, populate the menus of California’s gastronomic heroes, such as Alice Waters at her exceptional Chez Panisse .

French-inspired but thoroughly Californian, Chez Panisse has become a culinary institution

Best Places to Eat California Cuisine

Chez Panisse
With California cuisine, a dish is only as good as its ingredients. A juicy heirloom tomato picked off the vine or a sweet summer squash becomes the catalyst for the meal, the natural flavors enhanced by light dressings, such as a tart lemon vinaigrette. Chef Alice Waters founded Chez Panisse – and California cuisine itself – in 1971 on the belief that fresh, sustainable cuisine should be a right, not a privilege. At Chez Panisse the seasons reign supreme, and menus are developed around what’s fresh at the market. Summer warmth brings forth glossy berries, while the autumnal cool reaps broccoli, artichokes, and acorn squash. Typical dishes include mesclun salad studded with creamy spoonfuls of avocado, poached salmon drizzled with citrus vinaigrette, and guinea fowl in a Provençal tomato sauce. After a multi-course dinner here, you will believe in transformative culinary experiences.
1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; open for dinner (two sittings) 6–6:30 PM and 8:30–9:15 PM Mon–Thu; 6–6:30 PM and 8:30–9:30 PM Fri–Sat;

Fresh figs drizzled in honey sum up the essence of California cuisine – sustainably grown ingredients of the highest quality

Also in San Francisco
California’s most famous vegetarian restaurant, Greens (; moderate) has a setting that matches the cuisine. Built in a spacious warehouse constructed of reclaimed wood, the floor-toceiling windows offer views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin headlands. Greens opened in 1979 under the auspices of the San Francisco Zen Center, and it continues to uphold Buddhist philosophies while paving the way for vegetarian restaurants around the country. The seasonal menu includes mesquite-grilled brochettes of mushrooms, tofu, small potatoes, and white corn; spinach salad with red dandelion, feta, and croutons; and a rich summer squash ragout.
For a high-end night out, try Michael Mina (; expensive) where the eponymous celebrity chef showcases a creative menu based on organic ingredients, from diver-caught scallops with lemon-accented caviar to pulled pork with apple ravioli.
Also in the US
One of New York City’s first organic restaurants, GustOrganics (; inexpensive) serves superb Latino-inspired farm-fresh cuisine, with plentiful vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options from breakfast through dinner.
Around the World
Fresh, seasonal Italian cuisine is a staple at Il Bocconcino (; inexpensive) in Rome. The restaurant is popular with followers of the “Slow Food” movement, which, like California cuisine, places a premium on locally sourced, organic produce.

Three Days in the Bay Area

The Bay Area is anchored by the gorgeous city of San Francisco, with its world-class museums and impressive restaurants. To the east is the bohemian university town of Berkeley, and to the north, nature-filled Marin County.
DAY ONE : Explore urban nature at Golden Gate Park, followed by a bike ride across Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County. Stop by the lovely harbor town of Sausalito, filled with art galleries and cafés. Ease into the evening in San Francisco’s Italian North Beach neighborhood. Savor a grappa (or three) at Tosca Café, where you can enjoy the nostalgic atmosphere while listening to opera on the jukebox.
DAY TWO : Visit the Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), where the eye-catching building is as impressive as the art. Then shop till you drop at Union Square, which is ringed with boutiques and cafés where you can refuel over an ink-black espresso.
DAY THREE : Head across the Oakland Bay Bridge to Berkeley, home to the famous University of California, and stroll colorful Telegraph Avenue, packed with street vendors and bookstores. For a dose of cultural history, stop in to the Hearst Museum of Anthropology on the University of California campus.
Getting to San Francisco
San Francisco International Airport is 13 miles (21 km) from downtown. Get around on foot or by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) or Muni (San Francisco Municipal Railway).
Where to stay in San Francisco
The Greenwich Inn (inexpensive) is located in the Marina District.
Hotel Bijou (moderate) celebrates cinema history, with cozy rooms, red velvet curtains, and a small theater.
Claremont Resort (expensive) in the Berkeley Hills has leafy grounds, a splendid spa, and wonderful views.
San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau;

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