I think Tony Bennett might have been on to something. This past weekend marked my last trip "out west" for the year, and after 6 hours without complimentary food (really, American??), limited movie choices, and a pair of long legs cramped into a grouchy shape, I found myself looking at 3 days in sunny and wonderful San Francisco. It's my firm belief that this town can do no wrong. Ever since my first business trip 5 years ago, the hilly streets, azure bay, and crooked houses have reached across the country to pull me west as often as possible. And after each trip, I'm convinced - I'm in love.
I'm in love with the friendly runner who smiled and said "good morning" to my squinted face as I passed her blinded by sunlight along the Embarcadero on Sunday morning.
I'm in love with the coffee, oh the coffee! Peet's, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf... shoot, even Starbucks tastes better "out there." I could drink a Peet's vanilla soy latte with its perfect froth for days with no other sustenance but a Coffee Bean Mocha Ice Blended for dessert. To. Die.
I'm in love with the one-way streets that drove me in circles and incited many horn-honks from the natives (and maybe a scratch on my rental car) but also lead me to neighborhoods I'd never seen with row houses in every color and surprising hints of green.
I'm in love with the food. There isn't another North American town more foodie-infused outside of New York. With chef's like Daniel Patterson, Michael Tusk and rising star Jessica Boncutter (I'll get to Bar Jules next trip) the food is top notch. Chez Panisse - nuff said.
I'm most ardently in love with California wine country. I think one of the most genuinely happy memories of my life was winding through Sonoma on a warm spring night with the convertible top down, wind in my hair, and nothing but Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel in my belly. And with fields of grapes only an hour from the city, restaurant wine lists are relevant, timely, and always perfectly paired.
I'm in love with the views from every neighborhood. From the top of Russian Hill. From Crissy Field. From Grace Cathedral. From the mighty Golden Gate herself. It's a city that looks good from almost any angle, and she's got a bunch of them on the 7 x 7mile hilly landscape.
I know (somehow I just know - do you ever feel that way about a place?) that I'll end up out there to explore the wild west - it might even be my next adventure. So as much as I love New York, this is my baking ode to San Francisco:
SF is famous for lots of things - earthquakes, fog, and fresh/locally sourced produce among them - but instead of re-creating the incredible fennel and arugula salad from dinner at Beretta last Saturday night (how can something so simple be so good??), I decided to use one of San Francisco's most known attractions outside of Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz as inspiration for a Thanksgiving Potluck dinner this week - Ghirardelli Chocolate.
This tart is easy to make and looks amazing when it's done. And, the San Francisco chocolate melted so easily for me that I'll take it as a sign that maybe, just maybe... My love waits there in San Francisco / Above the blue and windy sea / (and) When I come home to you, San Francisco / Your golden sun will shine for me.
Chocolate-Glazed Chocolate Tart
9 chocolate graham crackers, finely ground (1 cup) - I used chocolate Teddy Grahams
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
9 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped - I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Baking Bar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 3/4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped - I used Ghirardelli "Twilight Delight" 72% Cacao
1 tsp. light corn syrup
1 tbsp. warm water
Preheat oven to 350 F with rack in the middle. Stir together all ingredients and press evenly onto bottom and 3/4 inch up side of 9-inch round fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack 15-20 minutes.
Bring cream to a boil, then pour over chocolate in a bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth. Whisk together eggs, vanilla, and salt in another bowl, then stir into melted chocolate. Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until filling is set about 3 inches from edge but center is still wobbly, 20-25 minutes. (Center will continue to set as tart cools.) Completely cool in pan on rack, about 1 hour.
Bring cream to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in chocolate until smooth. Stir in corn syrup, then warm water. Pour glaze onto tart, then tilt and rotate tart so glaze coats top evenly. Let stand until glaze is set, about 1 hour.