When my husband and I lived in San Francisco, now 10 years ago, we would search out the latest and greatest in food and neighborhoods. Sometime this led us to some not so safe or clean areas. We didn’t mind. It was always an adventure and part of the experience. One such neighborhood was the Mission District. 20 years ago we would go directly to our Mission destination restaurant (usually the original Slanted Door) or bar (Blondie’s or the Elbo Room). Not wanting to stray too far from the crowds. Some restaurants had valet which was great. Or we’d try to park near the police lot. Certain blocks were shady and even scary to walk through to get to your car. Over the fourteen years of us living in SF this changed and more and more restaurants and shops moved into what was predominantly a neighborhood of taquerias and furniture stores. Unfortunately Slanted Door moved to bigger and more tourist digs at the Ferry Plaza. Since moving to Marin 10 years ago, we’d still go to the Mission now and again to dine at our favorites such as Foreign Cinema and Luna Park. But we weren’t discovering anything new.
Last weekend we did. I gave my husband a gift certificate to Edible Excursions, a company started by a dear friend of ours, from back before we had children. After working at Gourmet Magazine, Edible Excursions owner Lisa Rogovin traveled the globe searching out cooking schools and culinary adventures. Once back home, she brought her culinary expertise and connections to lead culinary walking tours throughout San Francisco and East Bay (Berkeley, Temescal) neighborhoods to discover and share delicious tastes, local artisans and community treasures that you may or may not have heard of (neither from tour books or even living in the city). Over the years she has added tours, such as Japantown, as well as guides, called Epicurean Concierges. These individuals run the gamut from chefs to cookbook authors to food purveyors and teachers.
Here’s a little peek at our tastes…
And when I say tastes, I mean yummy food and lots of it. Come with an appetite. My only complaint would be my belt was too tight at the end. Not sure if that’s the tour’s fault or my will power – not to eat every morsel. After wine and cheese, chocolate and a lovely courreges, we were served a tasty beef sopa plate, followed by a delicious pork taco and then a rich ice cream. I could have skipped the pork taco. Although you needed something to go with the tequila tasting. Maybe this stop could have been a lighter item, such as ceviche.
Our tour guide Karen, was very knowledgeable and even lives in the neighborhood. She introduced us to everything from a small batch chocolatier to a farmer’s market food stand and a non-profit off shoot of the famed Bi-Rite Market. On the way we saw new playgrounds full of kids, the newly refurbished murals at the Women’s Building and small mini community gardens only as long as a car length. My husband and I couldn’t believe we were in the Mission. Specifically we spent lots of time on Valencia Street. And there are still bars on the shops a few blocks over. But it wasn’t shady. Overall the area was colorful and jovial and felt like a real community.
There were 6 of us total on the tour. Five of us were locals of the Bay Area. Two lived in SF. And one was from St. Louis. The tour was a surprise for everyone – locals and tourist. My husband and I enjoyed ourselves so much we made plans to eat at a new restaurant, The Abbott’s Cellar on Valencia Street a few nights later. Thanks to our friend Lisa, and Edible Excursions we’ve rediscovered a great hood. By the way Lisa started the business 10 years ago! I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to participate in a tour. Funny our son is almost 11. I guess that’s what happened. We swapped culinary adventures in hip, shady places for parenting adventures in safe spots. I’m looking forward to bringing them together again.