California – Octavia saves the day

I can’t tell you how excited I was about our trip to San Francisco, a real foodie capital so I’d heard. We had planned two weekends in San Francisco and the week in between exploring nearby Carmel, Monterey and wine favourite Sonoma getting around in our hired convertible mustang. I’ve never been so disappointed in my life. Don’t get me wrong it was a great trip and we did have some real food highlights but in the main, the food just didn’t live up to expectations and was generally very expensive.

Let’s be honest, Sonoma was never really going to be about the food – it was all about the wine! We did however have a great foodie experience in the Pangloss Cellars (KATER Score 8/10 – £80  for two inc. service) where we had one of our first wine tastings and were offered small treats of seasonal cheese and canapes designed to accompany the wines – it was the perfect start to our wine tasting. It was unfortunate then to realise that Pangloss were unique in their offer as none of the other wine houses offered so much as a cracker.

Carmel and Monterey were probably the most disappointing in terms of food. So many restaurants on offer yet sadly none that we tried were any good. The scenery around here though was absolutely breath-taking, so it’s well worth a visit regardless. Monterey did give as Poke Lab (KATER Score 8/10 – £22  for two) which was about as exciting as the food got here. Unfortunately I spent too many hours searching TripAdvisor; getting a little obsessed with trying to find the right restaurant (we’ve all been there).  I was left wondering who was leaving these restaurants good feedback and scores of 5 out of 5.

I soon realised that Carmel and Monterey are full of travellers and tourists of a certain age. Not wanting to sound ageist but it made sense, the food was generally very bland and boring. Not to mention large in portion size and incredibly overpriced.

San Francisco was a mixed bag – we had some amazing burgers and fast food experiences namely at Pearl’s (KATER Score 8/10 – £30  for two inc. serviceburger joint and the Ferry building marketplace – I particularly fell in love with their ‘wedge salad’ – such a simple dish of iceberg lettuce drowned in a blue cheese dressing, I’m literally salivating as I think about it! Not the best example below as I kept forgetting to take a snap – too busy eating!

We wanted more than fast food, so we checked out China town and came across Z&Y (KATER Score 10/10 – $65  for two inc. service) restaurant specialising in Sichuan cuisine. From our travels in China we became big fans of Sichuan food, particularly the dumplings and the hot and sour soups. Z&Y did not disappoint. After a 20-minute wait (you can’t book) we ordered all our favourites plus a whole seabass drowned in chilli oil. An absolute must visit if you’re ever in San Francisco.

We did a 10-mile walk from our hotel, across Golden Gate Bridge and onto to Sausalito which was fantastic. We had been recommended a restaurant in Sausalito and as we got there ahead of time, we went for a quick beer in the Barrel House Tavern which had a great vibe and views across the water. Our restaurant called the Spinnaker (KATER Score 5/10 – $95  for two inc. servicewas perfectly positioned on the waters edge giving a panoramic view of the bridge and the city. The food unfortunately was not as good. It was a bit old fashioned for our liking, carpet floor, linen on table and a trolley service for clearing the tables (you must know the type). The oysters and white wine were good but other than that it was sadly a deep fried fish affair. We should have stayed in the Barrel House Tavern.

We ended our 10-day trip at Octavia (KATER Score 10/10 – $130  for two inc. serviceMelissa Perello’s newest restaurant. We enjoyed a series of small plates which we shared and included oysters, pork loin and halibut. You can even take your own wine for a reasonable corkage fee. A great end to a fabulous trip.