I love downtown San Francisco during the holidays. I have such fond memories of coming to the city with my family as a kid – ice skating at Embarcadero Center, gazing at the tree at Union Square, then grabbing a bite to eat at The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus after a day of holiday shopping. Now that I call San Francisco my home, I find I am less amused by the large crowds of tourists and holiday shoppers; however, I still get a warm fuzzy feeling when I see the festive decorations downtown, so Jack and I try to make a visit at least once every December.
This year we started our downtown visit with a couple of seasonal cocktails at Clock Bar in the Westin St Francis at Union Square (be sure to use your Starwood card for double points!) There were a lot of tourists admiring the giant gingerbread houses in the lobby, but we had no trouble grabbing a table for two inside the bar. Afterward, we walked past Union Square to get a quick glimpse of the Christmas tree, then continued on to Embarcadero along a less crowded street. The four buildings that make up Embarcadero Center are outlined in white lights this time of year, and they look like Christmas presents. We walked past the ice skating rink at Justin Herman Plaza and admired the beautiful view of the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge in the background.
I love me a good home cooked meal, especially on the food-centric holiday of Thanksgiving. But sometimes it’s fun to mix it up and eat Thanksgiving dinner out at a restaurant. I’ve done this a couple times over the years, and there’s something to be said about a Thanksgiving dinner without the muss and fuss. If you happen to be visiting San Francisco, there are plenty of restaurants from which to choose on this delicious holiday; here are a few that I’ve been wanting to try:
San Francisco Restaurants Serving Thanksgiving Dinner (2015):
1300 on Fillmore: www.1300fillmore.com 1300 Fillmore St. (415) 771-7100. “Thanksgiving Dinner with all the trimmings:” Three course prix fixe with optional sides ($9 each); $69 per person, $35 for children 12 years and younger. 20% gratuity added, 4% SF employer mandate, $25 corkage (750mL bottle). Menu.
Chou Chou Bistro: www.chouchoubistro.com 400 Dewey Blvd. (415) 242-0960. Three course prix fixe French dinner, optional sides ($7.95 each); $55.95 per person, $30.95 set menu for children. 18% gratuity added. Menu.
First Crush Restaurant & Wine Bar:www.firstcrush.com 101 Cyril Magnin. (415) 982-7874. Three course prix fixe Thanksgiving dinner; $65 per person, $35 wine pairing. 20% service charge. Menu.
RN74:www.michaelmina.net 301 Mission St. (415) 543-7474. Three course prix fixe dinner; $85 per guest, optional caviar doughnut ($50 supplement), optional Alba white truffle raviolo ($75 supplement). Menu.
Have you eaten Thanksgiving Dinner out at a restaurant? Tell me about your experience.
Yesterday we hosted my family at our home in San Francisco for a belated Thanksgiving Day celebration. Jack and I served Williams Selyem’s Holiday Cioppino with roasted seasonal vegetables (butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and carrots). For dessert I served a homemade almond cake with vanilla ice cream from Bi-Rite Creamery. My family members contributed a delicious cheese and charcuterie platter, good bread from Della Fattoria, and a delicious lactose-free pumpkin pie (made by a certain lactose-intolerant family member who will remain nameless). And all day long we enjoyed our favorite wines from Williams Selyem, Kosta Browne, and Bacigalupi.
Jack and I have been wine club members at Williams Selyem for several years now, and one thing we always look forward to with our biannual wine pickup is the seasonal recipe that is included. We always make a point of trying out these recipes, and they have yet to let us down. Each recipe also includes a recommended Williams Selyem wine pairing.
The first (and favorite) recipe we tried was for Holiday Cioppino. Cioppino is a fish stew that originated in San Francisco’s North Beach (“Little Italy”) in the late 1800’s by Italian fishermen (mostly immigrants from the port city of Genoa). It is traditionally made from the “catch of the day,” which typically includes Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels, and fish (all from the Pacific Ocean). The seafood is combined with fresh tomatoes in a wine sauce and served with toasted bread (preferably local sourdough).
Jack has made this Holiday Cioppino on several occasions: Thanksgiving for the two of us (when I had to work), dinner parties with friends, and (just yesterday) Thanksgiving dinner for my whole family (nine of us total). Jack has made modifications to the recipe over the years, but the base of the soup has stayed pretty much the same. It’s a great treat on these cold winter nights!
Today is one of my favorite holidays: Thanksgiving. I have so many fond memories of sitting around the dining room table with my family and enjoying the traditional feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce (the kind that “slides right out of the can”). Over the years, this tradition has evolved as school, work, and living across the country led to many nontraditional celebrations of the holiday, including “Friendsgiving” (potluck-style Thanksgiving with friends), eating Thanksgiving out at a restaurant, and “Thanksgiving for Two” with just my husband.
One Thanksgiving that really stands out in my memory is from ten years ago. My brother Mike and his wife Kelly were living in Washington, D.C. and they took the train up to visit me in NYC, where I was attending graduate school. On the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, Mike and Kelly joined me at the Patagonia store on the Upper West Side, where I was working at the time. The store is located on Columbus Avenue, across from the American Museum of Natural History. We gathered upstairs in the store with several of my coworkers and watched as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade floats were being inflated and prepped outside for the next day. What a sight to see! The next day, we had a traditional Thanksgiving meal at one of the cozy restaurants on Cornelia Street in the West Village. It really was a wonderful and memorable Thanksgiving.