San Francisco plays host to quite possibly the most famous bread in America: Sour Dough. According to Wikipedia:
Sourdough was the main bread made in Northern California during the California Gold Rush, and it remains a part of the culture of San Francisco today. The bread became so common that "sourdough" became a general nickname for the gold prospectors. The nickname remains in "Sourdough Sam", the mascot of the San Francisco 49ers.
One bakery,Boudin Bakery, in San Fran has been using the same "starter" mother dough for it's loaves for over 150 years....since the California Gold Rush. Boudin explains the process as follows:
...Our secret is in our mother dough, a unique combination of indigenous natural yeast and lactobacillus "caught" from the air and cultivated with a mixture of water and flour. Surviving only in our fog-cooled climate, our mother dough imparts a flavor and texture unlike any other bread in the world. Today, we bake a slice of history into every loaf of our Sourdough, starting each day's bread with s portion of the original Gold Rush mother dough, which has been divided and replenished with flour and water each day for over 150 years.
It was because of this history that Bry and I decided to check out Boudin for some morning bread. Luckily, there was a Boudin right over by our hotel in Fisherman's Wharf. The bakery by 9am was already bustling with activity. It was a big open inviting space. To the right was a long counter and behind it were shelves lined with a plethora of different types of sour dough breads. Some were traditional, some had raisins and chocolate, others were in the shape of turtles, teddy bears, alligators, crabs, and lobsters. Bry and I ordered a traditional small loaf as well as a chocolate and raisin one. It could have been the fact that it was just baked or it could have been the fact that the starter dough they use is over 150 years old but this was the BEST (American) sour dough I ever have tasted to date. If you are in the area, it's 100% worth your time and money to stop by to pick up a loaf. The dark-golden crunchy crust, soft chewy center, and distinctive flavor are a slice of Heaven.
For supper, we decided to dine at The Stinking Rose, a restaurant specializing in garlic that is located in San Fran's North Beach neighborhood. We have had it on our radar for a while, and were very excited to finally make it there. Upon notifying the hostess that we had arrived, she took us back to a booth for two in the chianti room. The room was dark--but in a good way; the walls were covered with old photos, and the ceiling was bedecked with chianti bottles hanging en masse. Candles were burning from wine bottles on each table; it was a very fun atmosphere.
Our waiter came, and we ordered the 'bagna calda' and a piticher of Anchor Steam beer. The 'bagna calda was basically a pan-full of roasted garlic bathed in olive oil to spread over bread. It was fantastic--especially with a sprinkle of salt.
Probably my favorite part of the meal was our dessert--it was just so different! We were not even going to get dessert until we saw that there was garlic ice cream on the menu. We knew we couldn't leave without trying it, so we ordered one to share. It came topped with a nice caramel mole sauce. We ate every bit. At first, the ice cream didn't really seem too garlicky, but as we ate, we felt it. The waiter described it as 'sneaking up on you,' and I thought that was clever and a nice way to describe it. Peter described the taste as 'garlic bread dipped in chocolate.' Now, maybe that doesn't sound too appetizing, but do believe us that it is definitely worth giving a try--you ARE at a garlic restaurant, for goodness' sake!