Partly cloudy overhead. A slight breeze in the air. As I wafted the distinct scent of the shore, I looked up into the skies.
I was home.
It’s not very common for a child to be born in California and move all the way across the country to Pennsylvania in a matter of a few months. For me, it’s what made my 2014 summer trip back to San Francisco, my birthplace, so special. Over the course of one eventful week, I saw a new way of life, experiencing beautiful views, enjoying new attractions, and most importantly, indulging in fantastic food.
A meal that I still remember to this day is one I consumed at a local deli and bakery in downtown San Francisco named Boudin: a signature west coast clam chowder, served in a fresh sourdough bread bowl. At first skeptical about the quality of a clam chowder not from New England, the first bite I consumed could not have been more influential. The base of the soup was thick and creamy, a perfect contrast to the fresh chopped clams. Boudin also seasoned the soup with fresh herbs, adding to that contrast.
Perhaps the best part of the chowder, however, was the bread bowl it was served in. The bread was right-out-of-the-oven warm, and was baked to perfection. The outside had a nice crust to it, but the fluffy and soft inside was perfect for sponging up the chowder, infusing it with its flavor. As a result, the chowder was best eaten by tearing off pieces of the bowl and dipping them in the soup itself. It was quite the sight to look around the room and see nearly a hundred customers enjoying their soup the same way. The experience, not only just the dish, was one I’ll keep with me forever.
As we walked through the restaurant after eating, we stumbled onto the most amazing sight. In addition to baking baguettes and bread bowls, Boudin also baked “novelty bread” – bread in the shapes of turtles, crabs, and even an alligator sat on the shelves above us. It was here that I reveled in a new culture, one which takes pride in its location and harnesses it to produce some of the most incredible food in the country.
Food as a whole plays a pivotal part in making San Francisco the cultural hub it is. Though dubbed as a land of hipsters by many, it is ironically the legacies of family and tradition which help run many of the eateries there. Fisherman’s Wharf, a section of the town which is located by the bay, runs almost entirely off family-run seafood stores which serve up specialties such as popcorn shrimp and beer-battered cod. Seafood and marine life, understandably, is what keeps San Francisco buzzing with excitement.
Even fast food locations have their own west coast twist to them. In Pacifica, just a short drive outside of downtown San Francisco, lies one of the most scenic Taco Bells in the country. Locals can shell out a couple of bucks to enjoy their food in front of crashing waves and a beautiful sunset.
San Francisco has something for everyone, and so if you’re looking for something new (food-related or not), I’d highly recommend checking out the city, or even the West coast in general. The lifestyle differences will broaden your horizons and allow you to appreciate what a diverse country we live in.