San Francisco is well prepared for hungry hordes during the America’s Cup
THE America’s Cup will make San Francisco’s waterfront an international destination, says Napa Valleybased celebrity chef Michael Chiarello, who has just opened a new Spanish restaurant at Pier 5. With views of the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island, Chiarello’s very stylish Coqueta is one of several new developments set to enliven the broad Embarcadero when the sailing competition gets under way on July 4.
This food- friendly precinct is anchored by the historic Ferry Building, housing a collection of chichi providores and hosting a thrice-weekly farmers market stocked with the kind of larger-than-life produce you find only in California: fat asparagus, enormous, knobbly beef tomatoes and mauve radishes the size of eggs. As vintage trams — including a couple of old Melbourne rattlers — trundle along the road and a brisk breeze tickles the jaunty flower baskets suspended on the waterfront, we can expect yachties from around the world to enjoy promenading on this long, often chilly ( bring your windbreaker) thoroughfare round to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Along with new restaurants, there’s a 9000-seat pavilion at America’s Cup Park (Piers 27/29), hosting a summer-long program of concerts, and newly relocated to Pier 15 is San Francisco’s beloved Exploratorium, easily the world’s most exciting interactive museum.
Coqueta’s regional Spanish menu is designed around local produce, much of it sourced from the nearby farmers market (where the stonefruit and figs are some of the world’s best, Chiarello says). Waiters clad in gaucho vests and ‘‘salvaged denim’’ aprons buzz about the busy, rustic-chic dining room with its exposed beams, open kitchen, tapas bar and tables raised to take advantage of the lovely bay views.
Ask for a seat at the long bar in the glass-enclosed terrace, where Spanish-speaking office workers and elegant ladies who lunch down Spanish gin cocktails (try the ‘‘tariff’’, infused with jamon iberico and mixed with acorn and apricot tonic). Large, tea-towel-style napkins and chunky cutlery and plates in blue, saffron and ochre set a relaxed tone.
Start with the house-cured jamon or chorizo and some Iberian cheeses. The grilled duck and pork meatballs, with a tart cherry and tempranillo puree, are excellent, as are the patatas bravas (crispy potato and jamon nuggets). Olive oil-poached asparagus is daubed with a sangria hollandaise and jamon serrano sprinkles. Baby beets as sweet as candy are served with Sausalito watercress; slow-cooked rice is paired with scallops and peas. Inventive desserts include a delicious Manchego cheesecake and Spanish doughnuts served with drinking chocolate and berry powder.
Nearby, at Pier 3, acclaimed SF restaurateur Charles Phan has opened a new bourbon bar, Hard Water, with a small but very good New Orleans-inspired menu. The room is dominated by an enormous light fitting fash- ioned from a battered buoy and there’s a floor-to-ceiling collection of rare American whiskies (or bourbon), requiring intrepid barmen to scale a tall library ladder in order to retrieve bottles. Like Trick Dog in the Mission district, this bar is hot to trot in cocktail-savvy SF (where hand-cut ice and house-made tonic are mandatory), and workers from the nearby financial district begin queuing well before opening at 5pm.
Grab a stool at the window and allow plenty of time to peruse the list of 150-plus whiskies (for aficionados there are half a dozen flights), or try a bourbon-based cocktail while you ruminate. Served in a silver tumbler mounded with ice, the mint julep is so pretty it could be an extra on the set of The Great Gatsby.
The bustling open kitchen features a raw bar (Dungeness crab, gulf prawns, oysters) while bourbonfriendly snacks include cornmeal-crusted alligator and a delicious pork belly crackling. The fried chicken is wonderful, and a side of buttery cheese grits should prove sufficient to power any yacht across the line.
A vegetarian trailblazer located in a converted warehouse at Fort Mason with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge. More: greensrestaurant.com.
One block behind Pier 17, this rustic bolthole specialises in contemporary Basque cuisine prepared by French-trained owner and chef Gerald Hirigoyen. Highly recommended are the warm sheep’s milk