Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Month of Meals from the Atlantic to the Pacific: Part 2.1 – San Francisco - Scoma's Cioppino

super helpful cheese lady!
From Milwaukee, I flew straight to San Francisco (OK, I had a brief layover in Denver where I got some FroYo), for another conference for work.  I got in late Saturday night, checked into my hotel, and passed out.  I woke up early Sunday morning eager to explore!  I'd never been to California and I knew I'd LOVE San Fran.  Well, I did.  I met up with a coworker early Sunday and we walked from my hotel in Union Square down to the Ferry Building, where I discovered... you guessed it... another CHEESE shop! Cowgirl Creamery was awesome!  All the labels had pictures of the animals that supplied the dairy and the woman who helped us was super knowledgeable about cheese.  She answered all my cheese-related questions with a smile and let us sample anything we wanted to try.  I'm a huge fan of pecorino and all varieties of sheep's milk cheeses and I wanted to try ALL of them but there were so many.  I tried a couple and based on what I like, super knowledgeable cheese lady gave me more to sample.  Needless to say, I tried about 10 cheeses and bought 1/4 lb each of two... one sheep's milk and one raw cow's milk.  Mmmmm cheeeeeese.... breakfast of champions.  I grabbed some crackers and Amanda and I headed outside to eat our cheese and soak up some rare San Fran sun.  A friend of Amanda's met up with us to partake in our waterfront breakfast of cheese and crackers, after which we worked our way back through the Ferry Building, sampling gourmet olive oil, cake, and other yummy things as we strolled through the cute shops.

Needless to say, my coworker quickly noticed my obsession with books about food (I had to force myself not to buy any more!) and said something along the lines of “So not that we (referring to my wonderful coworkers) don’t love you and all, but why aren’t you marketing books about food?”  Now don’t get me wrong… I love my job… but Amanda kinda had a point there… and it’s certainly something I’ve thought about.  But I just started with my current company and I love it, so we’ll file that comment into the “food for future thought” category (pun intended). 

Amanda had to head back to Boston, so I struck out on my own after our adventure to the Ferry Building.  I grabbed a map at the front desk and mapped out a route that took me to the water through some great neighborhoods.  I strolled through Chinatown, checking out all kinds of shops.  There was this really cool tea “bar” that had dozens of varieties of loose leaf teas for sale by the pound.  I’m just discovering the wide world of tea and thought it would be a great learning experience, so I popped in and got schooled.  Vital Tea Leaf was awesome.  There was a young woman from China who told me all about the different varieties of tea and their respective health benefits and how to steep them.  I bought four varieties (a Jasmine, a Pu-erh, a rose, and a lychee black tea) as well as a strainer.  Then I got the brilliant idea to hunt down a bubble tea to hold me over till dinner.  Man did that bubble tea hit the spot.

Next was North Beach, where I specifically sought out City Lights to buy a book referenced in Eating Animals.  I found it and picked up a signed copy of a great little cook book called Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating, written by a Bay Area author Lisa Jervis.  Then to Vesuvio for a few cocktails and to chat up the locals (one worked for another division of my company and one was a schizophrenic) before dinner… Good times.

My plan was to head to Fisherman’s Wharf in time for sunset… but those cocktails had something else in mind and I didn’t get down to Pier 39 until well after dark.  I walked around a bit and got a delicious dark chocolate raspberry (my favorite flavor combination) truffle.  Then I set out for the best Ciopinno in the city and I think I found it at Scoma’s!  I tried to order it at the bar but was told they don’t serve food at the bar at this fine dining establishment (located a short walk from Pier 39 on Pier 47).  So, I got myself a table.  This was, after all, going to be the meal of a lifetime, according to the concierge at the hotel!  I don’t even think my description could do this dish justice, so I’m just going to leave you with the recipe straight from Scoma’s website:

Scoma's Lazy Man's Cioppino
(Serves 4 - 6 people)
Prep time: 30-45 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic
1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 cups fish stock or clam juice
6 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
1 lb rock cod cut into 1" cubes
1.5 lbs Manila clams
12oz prawns (deveined and peeled)
1 lb cooked crab meat
8oz bay shrimp
12oz scallops
Salt and pepper

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat and cook garlic for one minute.
  2. Add the onions and let them sweat for two or three minutes.
  3. Turn heat to high and add the wine to deglaze. Cook for 2-3 minutes (or until reduced in half) then reduce heat to medium.
  4. Add fresh oregano and basil.
  5. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil.
  6. Slowly add fish, shellfish, and shrimp meat.
  7. Bring the cioppino back to a boil and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until all the seafood is cooked.
  8. Add cooked crab meat.
  9. Thin the cioppino to your liking with fish stock or clam juice.
  10. Adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper.
  11. Serve in a large bowl with fresh sourdough bread and enjoy!
This dish is a natural with most kinds of pasta such as linguine, angel hair, fettuccini or penne.

Oh, and one parting thought.  I finished reading Eating Animals while in San Francisco.  I knew going into it that it might sufficiently scare me away from fish and while I haven’t sworn sweet pesce off just yet, just looking at my GIANT bowl (it took me 3 days and I still couldn’t bring myself to eat it all) of Cioppino was enough to make me cut down on my fish intake considerably.  This dish was as far from sustainable as it gets.

PS: This wasn't technically the end of San Fran.  I've got another post to write about a sake brewery tour and a review of Gather, a locavore restaurant in Berkeley.  Stay tuned.