Cook's Day Off: San Francisco

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Minerva Orduño Rincón
The famous Tartine morning roll.

Welcome to Cook's Day Off, chronicling the food-centered wanderings of a Valley cook -- away from the heat, noise, and chaos of the kitchen. Just because it isn't a day in the kitchen, it doesn't mean it isn't a day about food.

In San Francisco, the hills are alive with the sound of cocktail shakers, sad-looking women drunkenly stumbling in inappropriately high heels, and, of course, those famous trollies. But it's not all clanging bells and unsteady heels on rollercoaster sidewalks. There's also the whoosh of those cocktail shakers as they craft a perfectly foamy and oh so popular pisco sour.

Here's where to eat, drink, and tipsily stumble out of in the City by the Bay.

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Look anywhere in San Francisco and you can find a top-notch eatery for whatever your stomach desires. Choosing where to seat yourself and indulge becomes a task in itself, one that thankfully, I got to leave in the capable hands of my friend and guide for the weekend's activities, former local chef and now San Francisco pastry slinger, Veronica Arroyo. If there's one thing to know about cooks on their days off, is we tend to stick together. Your average desk jockey is not willing to visit five or more restaurants in one day, offer to sell themselves to a sous chef to score a hot reservation, or wade through multi-course tasting menus, not without putting on the brakes on your gluttonous parade. Better stick to your own knife-wielding kind.

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Minerva Orduño Rincón
Milt on toast and blood sausage at Incanto.

There's no point in traveling to San Francisco and starting things out with an ordinary meal. Better to visit Incanto, the offal-centric eatery helmed by Chris Cosentino. The bespectacled charcuterie-loving chef was absent that night; a sad thing as the small dining room would have afforded plenty of opportunity for Fan Girl moments. Casual celebrity chef run-in opportunity lacking, we dove into the usual menu overanalysis likely to happen when obsessive, cynical, sarcastic kitchen types get together. Oh, dear, the menu says currents instead of currants. Sweetbreads with preserved Meyer lemon, sunchoke puree, and golden raisins . . . yes, please. Are we man enough to take down a "Leg of Beast" if we could talk them into serving it to our small party? Only if we planned on not eating for the next three days.

And then we saw it, the fancy toast. San Francisco's latest hipster food craze is the $4 slice of fancy toast; Incanto upped the game on that trend with the $14 piece of house-baked brioche toast topped with herring milt and roe. If there was one item on this menu that indicated Cosentino's lack of fear in getting intimate with his food, it was this delightfully textured -- imagine whipped cream tasting faintly of the sea with a side of pop rocks -- fancy piece of toast. If only the impossibly light blood sausage that followed could have been put on toast, the meal would have been beyond perfect.

It was at this point of the evening I learned two great truths about San Francisco: 1. The sidewalks might as well have Goodwill printed on them as unwanted items are left there for anyone to take: ski boots, books, jackets, small electronics. 2. Everything you ever need to get to in San Francisco will always be uphill. When slowly dragging yourself and the variety of animal organs you have eaten uphill to the car, those hills are not your friend, and my new life philosophy may be that nothing worth having can be found up a hill.



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