Adventures to San Francisco & the Bay
Recently, three members of The Nyman Group had the opportunity to head to the San Francisco and Bay Area for meetings, events and tastings, experiencing quite a few elements that the area had to offer.
Desiring to embrace a classic San Francisco restaurant landmark, we ventured over to Swan Oyster Bar at 1517 Polk St. (no website and they don’t answer their phone, fyi). – a seafood haven founded in 1912 that is cash only, you wait on line for the 16 bar stools and sit elbow-to-elbow with locals and tourists alike. Every fish and bivalve served are extremely fresh and completely delicious. We sampled an oyster platter and then the mixed seafood salad, mounded with Bay Shrimp, Dungeness crab and Prawns, which was then served with an olive oil and vinegar dressing, mixed with some of the back fat of the Dungeness, in the shell. WOW!
Needing some caffeine to charge us for the afternoon, we stopped over to see our good friend, Nick Floulis, at his 27-square foot coffee bar (yes, really), Hole in the Wall, located in North Beach at 524 Union Street. Hole in the Wall only serves pour-over coffee (very cool and impressive), in three distinct roasts – Blonde, Brunette (lovingly known as North Beach) & Redhead, right on Union Street. They’re fully embraced by the local community and a great spot for a damn good cup of joe.
We then moved along to one of our main reasons for the visit, heading to the ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) Experience Trade Tasting, being held at the stunningly beautiful venue, Bently Reserve. Zinfandel is commonly referred to as ‘America’s Grape’, even though it is not native to our country, it has been fully embraced as American in flavor and palate appeal. Tasting through the over 75 wineries, our favorites were definitely Turley, Klinker Brick, Gamba and Brown Estate.
Needing sustenance and wanting another San Francisco classic food and beverage venue, we made our way to NOPA in the NoPa (North of Panhandle) neighborhood. Established in 2006, NOPA is more than a restaurant, but a gathering point for the local community for good eats, a lively bar scene and late night dining. We were able to swap standing room only into seats, ponying up to the bar and holding down that area with the buzzing activity around us. The Half Roasted Chicken was tremendous in flavor, having been brined and basted in an herb butter, and the Country Pork Chop with Brussels Sprouts, Cara Cara Oranges, Mustard and Sesame was divine.
Next stop on the tour was to The Independent, one of San Francisco’s premier live music venues, to take in a performance by Kamasi Washington. The jazz saxophonist was in town as part of the 2016 Noise Pop Festival and came under critical acclaim in 2015 for his album, The Epic. The show proved to be just that as Kamasi and his band (which at times included his father!) laid down a 90-minute set filled with jazz, funk and a room full of mesmerized fans. To witness this is a room that holds just 500 people was truly special. Following the show we headed just up a touch of Divisadero St. to swing into Bar 821 for an amaro to finish the evening. Upon arriving, we looked at the wall of the bar where to amari and digestivos were listed and, we were all immediately and completely in awe of the variety they had available. There were at least 30 amaros and another 20+ digestives, with tasting flights and bottles from Italy, the U.S.A., Switzerland and France. We were able to sample a great variety, including Brovo #4, an American amaro from Seattle, Washington, which we never knew existed!
Wrapping up the evening, we had decided to rest our heads at the recently renovated The Buchanan Hotel, in Japantown, right on Buchanan. This Kimpton property had clean and spacious rooms, friendly staff and a perfect location for our trip. We would gladly recommend the hotel to any travelers, business or leisure for your next visit to the Bay.
Friday morning we hosted a breakfast meeting at Sweet Maple, located right now the street from our hotel where they are focused on fresh ingredients, gigantic portions and fun combinations of flavors. We were able to sample one of their signature items, the Millionaire’s Bacon (which was featured on the Discovery Network) – thick, free range bacon baked with brown sugar, cayenne, red and black pepper. Damn good!
After some meetings and exploration, we headed over to Union Larder, a neighborhood joint at the corner of Union & Hyde that refers to itself as a Cheese, Wine & Charcuterie Bar. Our afternoon stop was perfect timing, as it wasn’t too busy and allowed us to sample the menu, most specifically their House-made Charcuterie and Uni Pate with Fruit Mostarda, a really cool concept of pate.
Venturing further down into the city, toward the Financial District (FiDi), we went to see our friends at The Hidden Vine, a wonderful wine bar in the shadow of the TransAmerica Building, complimented by their regulation size Bocce court. They are great supporters of our Director of Operations’, Labor Wines wine project, featuring the Pinot Noir by the glass.
Next on the Bay adventure was a quick BART trip to Oakland for the Vance Joy/Elle King concert at the Fox Theatre. On this warm February night, it was a breath of fresh air to see Oakland so alive and bustling with activity as patrons entered and exited bars and restaurants. Glancing into the windows of hustling hot-spots and seeing folks eating and drinking, smiling and conversing reassured us that Oakland is continuing to rise again, city-wide. Just a couple years ago people would have called you crazy to paint a picture of the scene on this night. The Fox was one of the venues that really led a change for the neighborhood and with shows like Vance Joy, a diverse, happy and fun-loving crowd invaded Oakland in a great way.
Saturday morning, we stopped over to the Fillmore Farmer’s Market, which is small but has a nice collection of vendors, purchasing some heirloom carrots, salmon jerky and fresh pastries. A really fun treat to enjoy a piece of the area’s local flavors.
Escaping the city, we were taken to a classic restaurant for lunch, Max’s in Palo Alto at the Stanford Shopping Center, which has been open for over 25 years and is run by our good friend Dennis Berkowitz. His restaurants are truly run for their customer’s pleasure and enjoyment, and happily boasting, ‘everything you’ve always wanted to eat.’ Max’s menu is vast and full of deliciousness, and we sampled too many dishes! Having the chance to taste their Corned Beef (Nitrate-free!) and Pastrami, was a heavenly experience.
Capping off the trip, we had the pleasure to get a full tour of Max’s Commissary, located in the shadow of San Francisco International Airport. Being shown around this massive facility was quite the perspective, seeing all that they produce for their various operations, located around the bay. We were given a Chocolate Covered Macaroon that was the size of our fist, truly unbelievable!
All told, our 2 very full days in the Bay Area, were tremendous. Mixing our meetings in with pleasure, we came, we saw, ate, drank, listened to music and caught up with some great people. Can’t wait to be back there!