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Famished: The Best Thing I've Eaten This Year

Sara Deseran | December 31, 2012 | Food & Drink Story Eat and Drink

2013 is introducing a few changes. Starting in January, I’ll be working as San Francisco magazine’s editor at large. This new roaming position will allow me to have more time to be out and about eating, not to mention time to devote to a cookbook I’m writing for Ten Speed and more. However, I will remain the editor of San Francisco’s Feast section and continue to contribute to the magazine as a writer. From where you’re sitting, it won’t appear that things have changed much at all.

I started at San Francisco magazine in the spring, and looking back at all my Famished blogs that I’ve written since then, it’s clear what a great year 2012 was for eating. Here are just some of the highlights from the new restaurants in San Francisco, though by no means all of them.

Shrimp tartine at Chocolate Lab
At chocolatier Michael Recchiuti’s little sweet-savory café, tartines rule. My favorite is the one made with tiny bay shrimp tossed with tarragon and crème fraiche. It’s simple, delicate, and irresistible.

Small beers at St. Vincent
As someone who hates nothing more than a massive pint of filling beer getting warm in her hands, St. Vincent’s 8-ounce beer option is much appreciated, especially when you can order top-notch beers from the likes of Craftsmen, Dying Vine, and Linden Street Brewery.

Cabbage with anchovy, walnuts, and bonito flakes at Namu Gaji
Josh Sens poetically described the bonito flakes on this humble, but delicious, dish as waving like triumphant banners. Order a bowl of the Massa rice blend to sop up the juice.

Farro salad at State Bird Provisions
Stuart Brioza demonstrated this dish at San Francisco’s Fall Fest and I thought it was amazing. Full of crunchy giardiniera (pickled veggies in olive oil), seeds and nuts, and topped with yogurt, it’s haute hippie. Because Brioza mixes up the menu constantly at SBP, you’ll be lucky if you get to have it. Call ahead and beg.

Fish curry at Gajalee
This Indian restaurant sits unassumingly in the middle of Valencia Street madness. Order their spicy but delicate fish curry for lunch as part of the thali plate.

Bagel from Schmendricks
After a carb-heavy taste test of pretty much every bagel in San Francisco, Schmendricks’ hand-rolled, Brooklyn-style specimen was deemed the winner. It’s got a crunchy yet chewy quality to it that cannot compare. Whether or not it’s worth the steep $3-a-piece price is up to you.

Hush puppies at Wexler’s Back
Yes the truck called Wexler’s Back is about barbecue. But this is the number one reason to come here. Made with a pate au choux dough, their hush puppies are not your typical, leaden fried balls of dough. In fact, they’re light as air.

Ceviche at Lolinda
Who ever thought to put a crispy, thin fried corn fritter as a garnish to this bracingly good ceviche is a genius. Enough said.

Smoked potatoes at Bar Tartine’s Sandwich Shop
Yes, the sandwiches here are artful, but the sleeper is the dish of boiled, smoked, and deep-fried whole creamer potatoes served with a pickled ramp mayo.

Saltine toffee by Sideshow
Salty-sweet desserts continue to be all the rage, but not all are created equal. And this toffee, made on top of actual Saltine crackers and showered with almonds, made by pastry chef Nicole Plue for her line called Sideshow, is something to write home about.

Soup Junkie veggie noodle soup
If I was a vegetarian, this bold and fragrant Vietnamese noodle soup topped with shiitake mushrooms from the Soup Junkie window in the Financial District would be my workaday go-to. In fact, scratch that—even if I wasn’t a vegetarian.

The smoked octopus salad at Liholiho Yacht Club
One of the most delightfully fresh menus I’ve had placed in front of me was at the Liholiho Yacht Club pop-up dinner. Cooked by chef Ravi Kapur, it included all sorts of cool, Hawaiian-influenced dishes including this awesome salad.

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