I went to San Francisco on a mini vacay to visit my dear friends Ashley and Jason. I had heard so much about this amazing “City by the Bay” and couldn’t wait to experience it for myself! My to-do list was endless and as they had recently moved to San Fran, we set off to discover the city together…good thing they like to eat as much as I do!
I'm going to break my trip down into several food-filled posts for you guys...let's just say San Francisco more than lives up to its foodie reputation!
Day 1 (part 1): Fresh off my Virgin America flight, we decided to hit the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, a groundbreaking architectural paragon featuring a living roof which was completely rebuilt in 2008 and boasts a Planetarium, Aquarium, Natural History Museum, and a beautiful 4-story indoor rainforest…but first things first, we needed to feed our bellies! It was 12 noon and we had yet to eat a thing!
We passed up their impressive Academy Café which featured seemingly limitless food options…because there were also limitless screaming kids running around. However, tucked beneath the Academy Café with an almost hidden staircase we found this little gem called the Moss Room. A classy, ethereal restaurant surrounded by ponds filled with Asian River fish, douglass fir tables, hand-blown glass pendants that hover overhead like giant fireflies, and a living fern, moss, and stone wall. It was unreal...like dining in the Secret Garden or Pan's Labyrinth! Moss Room also holds the honor of being voted one of the Top 100 best Bay Area Restaurants.
Moss Room's modern Californian cuisine focuses on fresh, seasonal, organic, and local ingredients...so the menu does change (and I think that's great because each time I go back I can try new dishes!).
We were greeted with thick slices of warm Salted Sourdough Bread and butter...and they disappeared quickly considering our current state of hunger. As an appetizer, we shared the Roasted Beet & Gravalax Salad with horseradish creme, hearts of palm, and banyuls vinaigrette (banyuls is an appellation for the unique sweet wines from a small area in France...who knew). I've had many a beet salad and this one was without question the most flavorful, well-rounded, party-in-your-mouth type beet salad I have ever tasted! I feel like restaurant's usually go a little too light with their dressing choices when it comes to beet salads causing them to taste single noted...in this one you can taste all the great earthy flavor of the fresh beets but being paired with the horseradish creme and banuyls vinaigrette brought out this really interesting saltiness that completely enhanced the beets overall flavor and left each of us licking our lips.
Our main courses were all over the board...Ashley chose the Moss Burger which is ground daily and served with house made potato chips and as we soon found out, house made fresh sweet pickles as well...(I don't think I can ever buy store bought again!) They serve up a very tasty burger...Ashley couldn't stop raving about the bun and the potato chips were light as air!
Jason went for the Braised Long and Bailey Farms Pork Sugo with house made pappardelle, spinach, grana padano..that's a mouthful, I know, but basically it's pasta with meat sauce. I will credit Ashley and Jason with introducing me to the appreciation of homemade pastas...there really is nothing like it. This tasted as if someones Italian mom had been out at the market all day long carefully selecting ingredients and putting them into a little wicker basket then toiling for hours over a hot stove in order to produce the perfection that is this Pork Sugo.
I'm a HUGE seafood lover and knowing that it's one of the things San Francisco is known for...I had to get the Crab and Soft Scrambled Egg Tartine with chervil, cherry tomato and black pepper. The dish more than met my expectations...the eggs were cooked just as described (Alexis, you would have loved them!) creating a moist and herbaceous blanket topping the toasted slice of rye bread and every single bite had a huge chunk of sweet, luscious crab.
Look at the picture...do you see that crab!! I'll tell you why I can appreciate this...I recently visited a promising new LA restaurant and ordered the Salmon entree which featured "jumbo lump crab mashed potatoes" and was devastated to find not one trace of crab meat, nor even a hint of crab flavor in those mashed potatoes! To prove my point I decided to flatten out the potatoes in order to locate these so called "jumbo" crab pieces...zero!...only a few tiny strings of "crab meat" here and there. So I told the manager he should consider renaming the dish as there were clearly no lumps of anything and the inclusion of actual crab was questionable...(my friends hate when I do things like this...but come on! It's false advertising!).
Moss Room has renewed my hope that restaurants can produce dishes as promised...and they didn't even have to use the words "jumbo" or "lump" in the title...goes to show, actions speak louder than words.
We were so full but the dessert offerings sounded divine! Ashley and I almost didn't order...until Jason told us he wouldn't be sharing his with us (!!) We all wanted the Sugar Pie Pumpkin Flan but decided to throw in the Lemon Cheesecake for some variety...and then the Chocolate Pecan Tart (at our servers urging and Jason's commitment to leaving no stone unturned!).
One bite of the Sugar Pie Pumpkin Flan with horchata cream and spiced pepitas and memories of Thanksgiving, cool weather, apple cider etc come shooting through you...it's like a little hug from Fall! In cracking open the shell of the Chocolate Pecan Tart, the center is filled with decadent, rich caramel and fleur de sel sea salt. This was our servers favorite and for good reason as each bite was sublime!
Now this is where my moment of insanity began...I confess, there are unique occasions where the intense flavor of the food I'm eating becomes so overwhelmingly delicious that I start to express it outwardly. This could include humming, jumping, jazz hands, a little skip, wild facial expressions, and in this case placing my hands on either side of my head and shaking it. I can't explain it...the urge comes out of nowhere and since screaming how amazing something tastes isn't acceptable at most restaurants, I guess this is my body's answer to confirming supreme awesomeness in food...who knows!
The catalyst to my crazy, otherwise known as the Lemon Cheesecake with huckleberries and house made graham, was literal heaven on a plate! YOU NEED THIS CHEESECAKE! Smooth, tart cheesecake with the perfect pucker effect enhanced by the nectarous huckleberries...o m g! Even with the other great choices at the table, I found my spoon constantly drawn back to this little wonder. I could have just died and been happy right then and there...wow, speechless...still!!
Trust me, you can't go wrong at this place! At Moss Room the courses just kept getting better...and to think that we almost passed on dessert!
Oh and here's a little tip: You don't have to purchase museum admission in order to enjoy Moss Room...during museum hours, just go to the museum's "Members Entrance" and guest services will escort you to the restaurant. After the museum closes at 5pm, you can enter through the West Garden patio gate at the building’s northwest corner.
55 Music Concourse Drive San Francisco, CA 94118
As a little treat...here are some random fun pictures from our adventures inside of the