Brine din­ing

San Fran­cisco is well pre­pared for hun­gry hordes dur­ing the Amer­ica’s Cup

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - The Food Issue - CHRIS­TINE MCCABE

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

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