Eat here: Tartine Bakery, San Francisco

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero St, San Francisco
http://www.tartinebakery.com/

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There actually weren’t a heap of food places I had on my “to eat” list in San Francisco, but Tartine was number 1. As a sugar fiend, I’d heard all about it; it topped just about every “sweets to eat in America” list I’d seen online, it appeared in the guide books, on travel TV shows, and peppered my social media feeds.

We rolled up not too long after opening time on a very overcast and rainy weekend morning, hoping that we wouldn’t be in for much of a fight for seating – we half swam there it was raining so hard!! Anyway, much like Melbourne, the rain doesn’t put anyone off a good coffee and pastry at their favourite café; the place was packed to the rafters! I guess we got lucky – as we walked in, a small table for two vacated, and I dove on it! Once we were settled, I left husband to hold the fort while I joined the line. It was long, like out the door long, but it actually moved pretty quickly!

One of the things I noticed that really impressed me were the number of people placing large orders (I’m talking a few cakes, loaves of bread, cases of croissants) being told they’d be ready in an hour or so – “no worries, I’ve got a few other things to do, I’ll be back!” No frustration at the wait, apparently the food was good enough to warrant it!

As I edged closer to the counter, I was still a little undecided about what I wanted to try, but it seemed every second person at least was walking away with a croissant, so I took a frangipane almond cream croissant (USD$5.00), tea for me, coffee for husband.

I was pretty stoked to see that I had options of both soy AND almond milk rather than the coffee and lactose laden full cream stuff everywhere else offered, so the tea was great! Husband’s coffee came out in a “cup” the size of a small fish bowl, which had him buzzing all afternoon, but he said it was amazing – if it wasn’t, I don’t think he’d have finished it all! The croissant was worth the wait, the walk in the rain and the sardine-tin seating situation. It was perfect – golden and buttery, light and flaky, and the almond frangipane business was incredible… best croissant I’ve ever had, easily!

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If you’re in San Francisco, it’s worth the trip out to the Mission District – aim for earlier in the morning near opening time when you have the best chance of getting a seat and your pick of the fresh pastries. It’s a gorgeous café, I loved the wooden floorboards and furniture, and the staff were actually super friendly considering how under the pump they were. I’d also recommend taking something home with you – wish I’d thought of that when I’d ordered, the line was wayyyy too long (out the door and onto the sidewalk) by the time we’d finished!

 

Tartine Bakery on Urbanspoon

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Alcatraz part 2, San Francisco

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Back at Alcatraz today for another set of photos, this time taken within the prison and grounds themselves. And some random facts about the island which I found out from the absolutely brilliant audio tour while I was there and from …

– The food at Alcatraz was considered to be the best in the entire prison system.

– There were only 28 deaths on the island – 5 suicides, 8 murders and 15 deaths of natural causes/illnesses.

– Alcatraz held 302 prisoners at it’s peak capacity, and an average of 260.

– Even after a prisoner had died, their lifeless corpses were still chained and shackled for removal from the island.

– The families of the guards that lived on the island had surprisingly good facilities on hand, like a gelateria, bowling alley and convenience store.

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Through my eyes: Canteen menu at Alcatraz

On the anniversary of the closure of Alcatraz, allow me to present to you the final menu of the penitentiary known for serving the best food in the system.

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Alcatraz part 1, San Francisco

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Alcatraz Island. The Rock. The last stop. I’ve always had a strange, macabre fascination for places like this. Places of confessions and suffering, of crime and secrecy, of war and death. It was only natural that Alcatraz captured my imagination and was one of the biggest reasons behind our visit to San Francisco a few weeks ago.

I thought today would be an appropriate day to share the first of three posts about the island; on this day 52 years ago, The Rock saw it’s last prisoners depart and finally closed down, due to extremely high operational costs associated with running the rapidly deteriorating facilities on the island.

The first group of photos I wanted to share were of the heart achingly beautiful view from the island across the bay. The view that was enjoyed by the families of the guards staffing the island. The view that tortured the men imprisoned on the island. The view that drove 36 attempted escapes (of which 23 were re-captured, 6 were shot dead, 2 drowned and 5 were missing, never to be seen again). That view in the winter morning sun, which I won’t ever likely forget…

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Shop here: City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco

City Lights Bookstore
261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco
http://citylights.com/

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As you may have noticed last week, I love my books, and am taking great pleasure in filling my book nook. And filling that space has been a culmination of visits to a lot of bookstores around the world; here’s another one I’ve visited. City Lights is an interesting combination of independent bookstore and publishing house, living on the edge of San Francisco’s Chinatown, and next door to Jack Kerouac Alley. Having been expanding continuously since it’s founding in 1953, City Lights now has three floors worth of books to browse through, with a heavy emphasis on world literature, poetry, the arts and political reading. The store also achieved infamy in the 1950’s when founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti was arrested after publishing Allen Ginsberg’s Howl & Other Poems on obscenity charges, which you can read a little more about here.

Politics aside, I really like this place; it had a warm, cozy feel, more books than you could poke a stick at, and staff who actually really knew their stuff and were ready to point you in the right direction. A must visit for fellow book nerds and literary lovers – while you’re there, you can also visit Kerouac’s favourite café, Vesuvio, and the Beat Museum!

Shake Shack vs In-N-Out

Shake Shack versus In-N-Out. East coast versus West coast. Burger versus burger. Let’s not stuff around with this; the time has come. Let’s compare.

 

IN-N-OUT

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Order: double double animal style with a side of fries.
Location: 7009 Sunset Blvd, LA
Wait time: over 30 minutes
Notes: Animal style was a winner. Double patty was a necessity. Nice crust on the patties. Choice of lettuce was incompatible. Crappy fries.

 

 

SHAKE SHACK

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Order: Shack burger and fries
Location: Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.
Wait time: 5 minutes
Notes: good sized patty which was cooked well (not over cooked, still a little pink inside), great flavour. Shakesauce FTW. Most appropriate choice of lettuce. Surprisingly good fries.

Bonus points for the killer frozen custard which I completely destroyed, lactose intolerance be damned (double bonus points to the Lacteeze tablets which cushioned the blow).

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VERDICT:
Seriously? Are you kidding me? This is not even a competition, as far as I’m concerned – Shake Shack had In-N-Out completely covered! The patties were tastier, the cheese was better, the lettuce choice made more sense, the special sauce dominated. Also, the fries were a ton better; no one likes average, undercooked fries with their burger. It’s just cruel. And I felt like the Shake Shack burgers were prettier and more Instagram ready. Makes life easier as a blogger, just saying! Danny Meyer, kindly bring your burger game to Melbourne – we’re ready for it!!

Now, let’s open the floodgates… what team is everyone else on?!

Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco

You guys should have worked out by now that I have a serious and legitimate chocolate problem. It’s not my fault; I inherited it from my dad. Anyway, when I was researching our trip to America, Ghirardelli chocolate seemed to be pretty popular and kept popping up – Union Square in San Francisco, Disneyland, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, Hollywood Boulevard… but the one that caught my attention was Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco (I also totally loaded up like the sugar whore I am at the Hollywood Boulevard store. And maybe the Chicago store, too…). This, my friends, is the original Ghiradelli chocolate factory, as established by one Domenico “Domingo” Ghirardelli back in the mid 1800s.

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Mr Ghirardelli, clever, enterprising Italian man that he was, made his fortunes like so many others (think Mr Levi Strauss, and Mr Wells & Mr Fargo, to name a few) during the California Gold Rush of 1848 – 1855. You can read more about how the company came to be on their website, but visiting it is a lovely way to spend an hour in San Francisco. The enormous store does everything from ice cream sundaes to freshly made chocolate bars, and it’s seriously delicious chocolate.

You can shop, too, with little boutiques dotting the square. And they host a ton of events, everything from children’s book readings to wine festivals, and a chocolate festival in September! If you’re visiting San Francisco, make a little time for Ghirardelli Square – it’s a gorgeous complex with all the original and restored buildings, and it’s a great place to take a break from your sightseeing and carb/sugar-load for the rest of the day.

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