My new favorite pizza

Our spinach and onion deep dish leftovers from Little Star Pizza.

This might even be my favorite pizza of all time. It just matches up with all my personal preferences.

First of all, the Little Star location nearest our house is always crowded, but not too crowded, and you can order your pizza while you’re waiting so it’s ready when you finally get a table.

Second, I love the decor. It’s full of salvaged wood, curvy hanging lamps, and antique-looking light bulbs. Whoever designed it really made an effort to make it feel modern but comfortable inside.

Third, the pizza is just damn good. The deep dish pies are smaller than most other places so you don’t feel like you’re eating your weight in bread. Plus there’s a ton of cornmeal mixed into the crust for extra crunch. There’s also plenty of cheese, and the sauce is just incredible. I hate to say it but it seems like there’s possibly something meaty in there adding to the depth of flavor.

Then on top they put a healthy sprinkling of powdered Parmesan cheese, which bakes into a crust. It’s just as good on day two, hot or cold, which is why we always get more than we need.

So there you have it, pizza love. Definitely try it if you’re ever in the area!

A foodie weekend

Pretty teeny flowers from our yard.

Mike and I kicked off our weekend on an awesome note when we decided to check another restaurant off our Top 100 list and went to Pizzeria Delfina in the Mission. The item we were supposed to eat was the Pizza Margherita, which looked amazing.

But we decided to have the Carbonara special instead, a white pizza with a runny egg yolk on top (perfect for scooping up with bits of chewy crust). We ate it so quickly I didn’t even get a picture.

Mike did get a shot of our artichoke/arugula appetizer with his iPhone.

We sat on the other side of the kitchen so we could see all the bowls of fresh ingredients, including a giant slab of Parmesan cheese that they scrape off with a vegetable peeler (just like I do!).

It seems like every restaurant should have an open kitchen like that. It’s so much more enticing to see the fresh ingredients than just a few lines on a menu.

The real reason I loved this place so much, though, was that like a lot of places in the bay area, they just try to do a few things really well. All of the ingredients are really high quality, fresh, in season, and so on. It seems like a lot of restaurants fail when they try to do too much.

After dinner we saved just enough room to have a treat at the Tartine Bakery down the block. We split a gorgeous lemon cream tart that was definitely the best tart I’ve ever had.

One of the women sitting next to us said we were making it look so good that she was tempted to go buy one.

We also got lattes in giant latte bowls. I was in total food heaven.

We explored some fun shops in the Mission that we had missed on other trips. They had some great furniture stores with drool-worthy mid-century finds. It was great eye candy.

Saturday morning we had a bunch of errands to run, so we decided to start our day with some fresh bread from Acme Bread in Berkeley.

We got a whole wheat levain loaf and a sweet baguette in addition to some breakfast pastries. The total for all of it was $9. I made a mental note to buy bread this good every week.

If you find yourself on a bread shopping spree like we have been, might I suggest making zucchini bread pudding?

Personally, I am in a bit of a bread coma, so I’ll be attempting to get back to normal!

Sampling Szechuan

One of the cool things about living in the bay area is how diverse the cuisine is, especially when it comes to Asian foods. When someone wants to go out for Chinese food, you start by asking, “What kind?”

We’ve found great Hunan and dim sum/Cantonese places in San Francisco, and some awesome noodle places in Berkeley and Oakland. Then this weekend we realized there is actually a pan-Asian mall (suburban Chinatown?) not too far from our house that has a big grocery store and a bunch of restaurants (Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.). We decided to try one that served Szechuan food, after spotting some yummy looking hot pots in the window.

I know Szechuan food is hot, but wow. We ordered a bowl of spicy fish and soft tofu, and it blew our faces off.

The fish was basically just floating in a pool of pure chili oil. It was really good though. The spice flavor is actually similar to pumpkin pie spice or something like that.

This weekend we also had dinner with a friend of Mike’s from high school. His wife tipped us of to a bakery in Chinatown that makes the tastiest sweet and savory buns. I am just totally overwhelmed by the options here, after spending my whole life in places with essentially the same menus (sweet and sour this, General Tso’s that). Which I love, don’t get me wrong. It’s just so cool to feel like I have a whole new world of food exploration.

When we got out to our car after dinner we found a paper menu stuck to the windshield for another restaurant.

It features the unfortunately named “cat ear like” dish.

And a host of other fascinating things.

I tend not to have an Andrew Zimmern-like palate, but maybe I’ll get there eventually.

After my mouth cooled off I decided that I deserved a little treat, both for surviving dinner and for putting in some tough hikes this week. We ended up trying Tara’s Organic Ice Cream, which I’d heard was really good.

Oh my, were they right.

All day long I’d been watching college basketball and seeing constant adds and sponsorship logos for Reese’s products, so I opted for a scoop of chocolate and peanut butter. Mike tried the garam masala and Mayan chocolate flavors. They were all out of salted caramel, which was what I really wanted. Next time…

It was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Plus, the scoops were tiny (and of course came in tiny compostable cups), so we didn’t even feel bad about indulging. It was the perfect little treat.

We only have about 50,000 restaurants left to try…

I am thinking about putting together a travel guide of my favorites here in case you want to know what to do/eat when you come visit!

Playing tourists

To be honest, I still feel like I am a tourist when I’m wandering around San Francisco. But I usually avoid Fisherman’s Wharf and other touristy sites at all costs because the crowds make me crazy.

This weekend, though, we decided that instead of taking a road trip, we’d explore a place locally that Mike and I hadn’t seen yet — Alcatraz.

We got up early on Saturday, took the (surprisingly crowded) BART across the bay, and started our day at the Ferry Building market. If you ever visit San Francisco, I highly recommend stopping there because the building itself is full of all these great local artisan foodie shops.

My favorites? Blue Bottle Coffee, of course. I had a cafe au lait, my first coffee in a long time. I decided I’m okay with some caffeine here and there. (Just no Diet Coke…) Next time we have to try Blue Bottle’s little handheld Belgian waffles. Have to!

(Side note: I love how disposable things like cups, lids, and plastic silverware here are all compostable, and there are separate bins for compost in public spaces. Also, Mike says a lot of coffee places give discounts for bringing your own cup. It’s just easy to be green.)

Also I fell in the love with the adorable Miette bakery. Resisting sugar was almost impossible there.

For breakfast we decided to have a mini rhubarb galette and a vegan yogurt/fruit parfait. I didn’t take a photo of the parfait, but it was really good. We also tried a vegan cheesecake made with cashew cream, which inspired me to make a similar recipe at home. I’ll share that with you soon.

We also picked up some of these dried orange slices to snack on later. (Which reminds me – the tangerines I wrote about the other day? Those were actually Shasta mandarins. Oops!)

I’ve never seen so many different kinds of dried fruits (and mushrooms, and cheeses, and lavendar-infused gourmet salts…). This definitely inspired me to go to farmers markets more often.

After breakfast, we wandered down the pier and just enjoyed the beautiful day.

Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill.

We were glad we remembered the previous night to check on tickets because they were sold out by Saturday morning. Can’t imagine what it’s like in the summertime.

After a short ferry ride we got to The Rock.

It is as daunting and crumbling and creepy as you think it would be.

Our tour guide sort of looked like Drew Carey but needed a little more practice at his stand-up.

I didn’t know about the native American occupation in 1969, so I was intrigued to learn about that part.

Inside, I just couldn’t believe how small everything was. I can’t imagine spending years and years trapped inside such a small building, let alone the microscopic cells.

The ironic part is that Alcatraz probably has the best view of San Francisco you can find.

Love all the sailboats near the Golden Gate.

By the time we finished our tour, the sky had turned gray and it was starting to get colder.

We checked out the birds, including these cormorants with their whiskery feathers, and some of the cool flowers.

After we got back, we decided to keep playing tourists. We stopped at Boudin Bakery and got a sourdough bread bowl with clam chowder. Mike said, “Isn’t that pretty much everything you don’t eat anymore?”

It’s true. But I figured since we split it and ate it with a huge salad after walking all day, I could make an exception.

We’re having visitors soon, so I’m sure we’ll get to play tourists again in the near future. I still haven’t been up to Coit Tower or seen the Telegraph Hill parrots, among other things. There is just so much to explore here. So. much. I love it.