Passport to Pleasure: Food Porn and Good Vibrations in San Francisco

Sure, there are many great restaurants in San Francisco—just as there are many San Francisco treats in the way of romantic and sexual things to do. So little time, and so much to do…so let me narrow things down for you with a suggested eating itinerary and few extras. Here are ideas for a memorable overnight in San Francisco, where we stamp this week’s Passport to Pleasure—a hedonistic quest for great food and good times for two, from nibbles to naughtiness.

ON THE MENU: DAY 1

Breakfast: Tartine Bakery

Lunch: Mission Chinese Food

Ice Cream: Bi-Rite Creamery and/or Humphry Slocumbe

Dinner: Commonwealth

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If you’re in early enough for breakfast, definitely stop at the fabulous Tartine Bakery. Good luck choosing between all the baked goods! Recommended: a morning bun and frangipane croissant.

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Kung pao corned beef at Mission Chinese Food. Also great are the Xian lamb cheeks, Szechuan pickles, and salt & pepper shrimp.

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Inside Mission Chinese Food. Quirky atmosphere, so-so service, and simply unique and delicious Chinese food.

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Bi-Rite Creamery, where you can cool off after eating spicy food at Mission Chinese Food.

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Salted caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite. Perhaps the top choice there.

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Humphry Slocumbe is another good option for ice cream after Mission Chinese Food. Choices include Jesus juice sorbet (with red wine and Coke Classic), Blue Bottle Vietnamese coffee, and the extremely popular secret breakfast (with bourbon and Corn Flakes).

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At Commonwealth: Radishes in various forms, goat’s milk butter, mache, sunflower seeds.

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Commonwealth’s marinated mackerel, wheatberries, yogurt, radish, cucumber, miner’s lettuce, sorrel.

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Commonwealth: Asparagus custard, sea urchin, beech mushrooms, chorizo, jalapeno.

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Commonwealth: Peanut butter semifreddo, chocolate ganache, frozen popcorn.

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Mission Chinese Food on the left, and Commonwealth on the right. Same ownership, far different cuisine, and both outstanding.


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I’M PICKIN UP GOOD VIBRATIONS

Day one has you down in the Mission District, which gives you the whole afternoon to go to the main Good Vibrations store.

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Good Vibrations is a sex toy business with four retail stores in the San Francisco Bay Area (there’s also one in Brookline, MA), as well as a strong online presence. Founded in 1977 by sex therapist and educator Joani Blank, it has a proud history of being a sex-positive, female-friendly enterprise. You’ll enjoy the tasteful displays, warm atmosphere, helpful staff, and maybe a display of antique vibrators. (What more would you expect from the creators of National Masturbation Month?)

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You’ll find whatever you can dream of and more at Good Vibrations. If you’re looking for something to read, there are sex books and erotica. If it’s videos you’re after, there’s a diverse collection—including educational films and feature flicks from Good Vibrations’ own “Good Releasing” division. Need supplies? There are condoms, gloves, and lubricants. And you can spend endless time exploring the toys, from Silver Bullet vibrators to Stella glass dildos, and from penis pumps and prostate stimulators. Plan to stay and play awhile.

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INSIDE (AND OUTSIDE) THE INTERCONTINENTAL

You’re spending the night in the SoMa (South of Market) neighborhood at the InterContinental San Francisco Hotel. You can’t miss the place, as it’s a towering splendor (32 stories) in translucent cool-blue. The hotel is the third largest building in the country that is a LEED Gold Recipient.

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Rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows that show off spectacular city and water views. They have a contemporary feel, with wood and marble finishes, stylish furniture, and high-tech amenities.

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Inside the hotel is a ten-room spa for all your pampering needs, as well as Michelin-starred Luce restaurant. Outside, you’re close to the Moscone Convention Center, the Westfield San Francisco Centre shopping mall, and Union Square. Best of all, the Good Vibrations store on Mission Street is just steps away!

ON THE MENU: DAY 2

Breakfast: Canteen or farm:table

Lunch: Il Cane Rosso

Chocolate break: Christopher Elbow

Dinner: Plum

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Chupacabra at Canteen: Soft scramble with spicy pork, beans, avocado, and salsa.

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farm:table’s daily toast: Marscapone, pears, and honey on brioche. Cute microcafe (and a bit pricey).

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Il Cane Rosso at the Ferry Building has a changing menu which makes for difficult choices. As everything’s delicious (using local ingredients), you might try for a soup, salad, and sandwich to maximize your opportunity. Here: Rutabaga soup with chile oil; roasted asparagus with shaved fennel, radishes, peppercress, black olives, and feta cheese; and a slow-cooked pork sandwich with red onion salsa, shaved fennel, and cilantro salad.

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Enjoy some of the best eating and drinking chocolates around at Christopher Elbow. The powdered chocolate is a take-home treat.

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Plum is well worth the effort of the easy BART train ride to Oakland. Starter: Fried smelt with mortared peas, hazelnut, and meyer lemon.

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Plum’s oyster & potato stew with parsley, frisee, and espellete. This is a truly spectacular dish.

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Wild nettle & green garlic soup with smoked potato and preserved lemon at Plum.

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Plum’s roasted beets with white strawberries, arugula rabe, goat cheese, and rose.

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Another amazing dish at Plum: Smoked farm egg with butter beans, peas, mushrooms, and radishes.

EXTRAS

  • Antojitos Salvadorenos Aminta
  • Dynamo Donuts
  • Blue Bottle Coffee Company
  • Burmese Kitchen
  • Burma Superstar
  • San Dong House BBQ
  • Shanghai Dumpling King
  • Bund Shanghai
  • Z & Y
  • Lers Ros
  • Chabaa Thai
  • Bocadillos
  • COCO500
  • Boccalone
  • Incanto
  • La Ciccia
  • Roots

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Atole at Antojitos Salvadorenos Aminta. A few varieties are available, and the workers will likely let you sample to find what you most love.

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Pupusa at Antojitos Salvadorenos Aminta.

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Dynamo Donuts offers a wide variety of interesting flavors. The chocolate star anise has nice bite to it.

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To go with that donut…how about some Blue Bottle coffee? Lots of locations in San Francisco, but you’ll love this one on Linden.

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Burmese Kitchen’s prawn & sour leaf.

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Burmese Kitchen serves reasonably priced dishes, including the hard-to-find (and not in Seattle) fermented tea leaf salad. And it might be more geographically convenient than Burma Superstar, which also often has a long wait. That said, Burma Superstar’s salad is better (it comes unmixed), and the setting is nicer.

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Spicy beef noodles soup at San Dong House BBQ, which serves up hand-pulled noodles.

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San Dong House BBQ’s xiao long bao. (These are okay, but my recollection is that they are better at Shanghai Dumpling King, which also has a delicious rice cake dish.

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Dan dan noodles at Bund Shanghai. Spicy!

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More xiao long bao, this time at Bund Shanghai. (Again, just so-so.)

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A try at dan dan noodles at Z & Y.

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Z & Y’s tiger skin chile peppers.

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Diverse menu of Thai food at Lers Ros includes boar, frog, quail, and smelt. Here: Basil leaves with chicken entrails (heart, liver, gizzard), along with a side dish of pork belly.

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You wanted a closer look at that stir-fried pork belly with crispy rind and Chinese broccoli, right?

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Another incredible Thai restaurant, serving food far from what’s available in Seattle, is Chabaa Thai. Here, from the “secret” menu: Pork neck.

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Chabaa Thai’s pork larb with pork skin.

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Bocadillos’ pigs trotters with fresh herbs and chopped egg salad. The tapas menu has an “innard circle” section with some good organ meat action.

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Some pickled vegetables are a perfect accompaniment to the trotters at Bocadillos.

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The famous fried green beans at COCO500, a great treat for happy hour.

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Incanto’s pork cheeks, cippolini, and polenta. If you like Incanto’s pork products, be sure to go to Boccalone in the Ferry Building to get a meat cone and perhaps some soft, spreadable salami.

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As much as you might like pork, you should also try these whole local sardines with kombu, capers, garlic, and chilli at Incanto.

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Roasted calamari at La Ciccia, a popular little neighborhood spot.

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La Ciccia’s linguine with tuna heart and ricotta salata.

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Risotto at Roots restaurant in the Orchard Garden Hotel, a green, boutique hotel close to Union Square.

Tartine Bakery on Urbanspoon

Mission Chinese Food on Urbanspoon

Bi-Rite Creamery and Bake Shop on Urbanspoon

Humphry Slocombe on Urbanspoon

Commonwealth on Urbanspoon

Canteen on Urbanspoon

Farm:Table on Urbanspoon

Il Cane Rosso on Urbanspoon

Christopher Elbow on Urbanspoon

Plum on Urbanspoon

Antojitos Salvadorenos on Urbanspoon

Dynamo Donuts & Coffee on Urbanspoon

Blue Bottle Coffee Company on Urbanspoon

Blue Bottle Coffee on Urbanspoon

Larkin Express / Burmese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Burma Superstar on Urbanspoon

San Dong House B.B.Q  on Urbanspoon

Shanghai Dumpling King on Urbanspoon

Bund Shanghai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Z Y on Urbanspoon

Lers Ros Thai on Urbanspoon

Chabaa Thai on Urbanspoon

Bocadillos on Urbanspoon

Coco500 on Urbanspoon

Boccalone on Urbanspoon

Incanto on Urbanspoon

La Ciccia on Urbanspoon

Roots on Urbanspoon

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