Let's Go Pho Soho
Channeling MFK Fisher in Sonoma

San Francisco Dining Before or After the Ballet

My Womantraveler pal and I have a routine before and after the San Francisco Ballet matinees on Saturday - food, like dance, is at the center.

For brunch we arrive by 12 noon (no later than 12:30 pm) at Monsieur Benjamin (451 Gough Street, 415.403.2233), a bustling French bistro in Hayes Valley, a few blocks from the War Memorial where the ballet begins promptly at 2 pm. Chez_Benj IMG_1143It's really smart to book a reservation at this neighborhood spot, although if you're lucky you can squeeze in at the counter. The scene is entertaining like any other French bistro - and especially one in San Francisco. The food is dreamy. At the bar, we observe the care with which a simple cafe latte is designed. At the table, the frisee salade with a delicate poached egg and lardons jumps with subtle color. It's tempting to forget about the ballet and keep ordering...

Where can you dine at 5 pm when the ballet is done? We like to get out of town - out of downtown, that is - and in 20 minutes are away from the crowds and into some fabulous dining out in Presidio Heights, our special faves are Garibaldi's, Nico or Le Sociale, or down in Cow Hollow at A16 on Chestnut Street. We're written about Nico elsewhere in this blog, and we're frequent travelers to Garibaldi's, an upscale, cozy neighborhood restaurant where the food and service are high class. And Sociale, a sophisticated, intimate Italian-infused restaurant a few blocks west on Sacramento Street, is consistently a delight. Secluded off the street in a courtyard, it's reminiscent of the small but charming West Village places I regularly visit in New York when I want to have a memorable meal in a white-table cloth setting with wonderful food and wine ideas prepared and served with genuine passion and originality.

A16 is advertised as a pizza place but it is much, much more - and terrific for its food-wine pairings, house-cured meats and the extensive wine list from southern Italy and Sicily. We settled in with a Schramsberger Sparkling Rose. With our appetizers (calamari and burrata) we paired a white Enza la Fauchi "Case Bianche" and a red G. Librandi Gravello. With our main courses salads, meats and pastas we enjoyed a delicious Palari di Salvatore Geraci "Rosso del Soprano" (from the Messina region of Sicility) 2010 (whom you can read more about here) and a beautiful deep ruby red Italian G. Nifo D'Erasmo. In the Bay Area, where California and Oregon wines dominate, it's a treat to have European grape selections that match the variety found in Manhattan's.