SAN FRANCISCO - There are few things in the world as wonderful as fresh Dungeness crab, and few places to enjoy it as much as this town.
As folks around here know, you can only find fresh crab in SF (don't call it Frisco!) in months that have an R in them. Which means if you show up here from May to August you will not only likely get more fog than you'd like but a lot less crab. We had fresh cracked crab (usually the store will crack and clean it for you but my Dad and I did it ourselves this time) last week. Nothing with it except lemon and some melted butter for those who wanted to dip. My mom used to make a version where she'd soak it in vermouth for a few hours but none of us has the recipe so we usually just have it plain.
It's wonderful, but the best I've had was on the weekend when we stumbled onto Nettie's Crab Shack on Union St. We were there mostly to do some shopping - there's a Ralph Lauren Rugby shop and some other, cool places - but needed some lunch and it looked good.
They have tables out front of the restaurant in good weather, and Saturday was about 18 degrees in brilliant sun. They serve a terrific clam chowder with chunks of clams, potatoes and bacon (nice addition) and an enormous caesar salad; the size of which you'd never find in Canada. Best, however, were the enormous spicy prawns that they grill on a barbeque right on the front patio, and the crab. They take Dungeness crab legs and roast them on the barbeque for just a few minutes, giving them a terrific, smoky flavour. And then they give you chili oil to dip the meat into, and it's absolutely fabulous. Top it off with a carafe of California Sauvignon Blanc and some sourdough french bread and you're in heaven. At least I was.
My kids never used to care much about scenic views (not unusual for kids), but now that they're all older they got a kick out of snapping photos of the California coast and the Golden Gate Bridge. We started chatting about the bridge and how dramatic the location is between two big headlands. It's a stunning location, but I agree that if the bridge was silver or dull grey it wouldn't have nearly the impact. So a toast to the guy who opted for deep orange/red. The tourist board thanks you.
We tried to get a place to park in North Beach for a group cafe latte but the only parking we found was for a half hour, so we ended up using the time to kick around the famous City Lights Bookstore on Columbus; the former home of Jack Kerouac and the beat writers. A great store, with books piled everywhere, including small closets. But a bit overwhelming.
We also snuck in some shopping at the San Francisco Shopping Centre on Market Street, which was a madhouse. But lots of good stores you can't always find in Toronto. And the Fifth and Mission parking garage was offering two hours free parking for cars with four or more passengers, and how California is that?
Anyway, onwards and eastwards. So back to the grindstone tomorrow.
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