Monday, November 8, 2010

The Coast, Conference, and Cuisine-- Bouchercon Part 3: Cuisine

A great meal shared or enjoyed in solitary reverie creates an enduring memory. I pretty much ate my way through the San Francisco Bay area while I was there attending Bouchercon 2010. And what a place to indulge. 

Soundtrack: KFOG

A trip to San Francisco is not complete for Charlie and me without a visit to Tadich Grill. Established in 1849, it's San Francisco's oldest restaurant. We like to sit at the long wooden bar, leaning against the wall behind it with a drink while waiting for seats to open. Seats eventually do appear and so does a white-aproned waiter who sets down sliced bread that has a thick dark brown crust that's nearly burnt. Completely addictive. I ordered cioppino.  I always order cioppino.  I must have had cioppino 20 of the 30 or so times I've been to the Tadich. I even make it at home as I have the Tadich Grill book that includes the recipe. Charlie had littleneck clams steamed in a buttery broth which he sopped up with that bread. The waiter brought us paper bibs. I dig paper bibs.

Also waiting for a seat at the bar was an older man in a well-tailored business suit. He sat beside us, didn't look at the menu, and ordered glass of cabernet and a slab of rice pudding that came with a little pitcher of bourbon sauce. He poured the sauce around the pudding and ate slowly, with focus and pleasure. Then he paid and left. Clearly his Tadich tradition.

The Random House party was held at Water Bar in their upstairs room where a patio overlooks the Bay Bridge, spectacularly lit at sunset. I was a fan girl, chit chatting with Lee Child, Laurie King, and Karin Slaughter. A friend and I blissfully polished off most of a platter of ahi tuna tartar served in porcelain spoons while raw fish-averse buddies wrinkled their noses.

One afternoon, I explored the Ferry Building near the conference hotel, my shopping bag in hand with a goal of buying goodies for our family dinner as later I was heading on BART to the East Bay to spend time with my in-laws.

The first thing I bought was a Mo's Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar. 'Nuff said.

I loaded my bag with sheep's milk feta from Cowgirl Creamery, a small bag of the crispiest, most delectable chocolate chip cookies from Miette, and a baguette, cinnamon rolls, and a round of walnut/cranberry bread from Acme Bread Company. Back at the hotel bar, friends said the baguette wouldn't survive my trip to the East Bay intact. They were right. By the time I disembarked, the crusty end was toast (bad pun... couldn't resist!).

On Sunday in the East Bay, we went to a farmer's market to shop for our family dinner that night. We bought lots of wonderful produce for a big pot of stew, but the star was grass-fed local beef from Alhambra Valley Beef. I've eaten grass-fed beef before and to me it tasted like, well, grass. This beef was so flavorful. Words that come to mind are fresh and light. 

While browning the beef, I recalled lessons learned from Julia Child. "Don't be afraid of the fire" (get that pan and oil hot) and "don't crowd the beef as you'll steam it and not brown it."  (Add Julia's trilling voice). Ah, Julia. How can there be people who don't know who you are? (Read to the middle of my Big Sur post). My farmer's market stew was a success.

We had lunch with family and friends at The Dead Fish in the bayside city of Crockett. It's a charming restaurant with a funny name, hilarious menu, and great food. It was a rainy day.  We sat by a window overlooking the Carquinez Straits (gotta love the name). I had crab cakes--crisp panko breadcrumbs on the outside and succulent inside.

The next day, we made PB & J sandwiches for the drive home. Thanks for the delicious memories, S.F.