I’m Always Drunk in San Francisco: Classic Drinks in the City by the Bay

“I’m always drunk in San Francisco,” goes the 1962 standard, a favorite of Bay Area crooners. “I always stay out of my mind. But if you’ve been to San Francisco, they say that things like this go on all the time.” Truer words have never been belted. From the whiff of marijuana on every corner to the famously booze-infused Bay to Breakers, to the partying in the streets of the Castro, San Francisco earns its moniker as Fog City for more than just the weather.

However, while a good deal of this imbibing isn’t the most discerning in nature, those with a palate for a finely concocted cocktail would do well to park their bar stools in the City by the Bay. “San Francisco is one of the best, if not the best, cocktail cities in the world,” says Jeff Hollinger.” Them’s fighting words, but Hollinger has the pedigree to back up the claim.

Author of The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired the Classics, Hollinger helped create one of the nation’s most esteemed cocktail programs at San Francisco’s Absinthe–home for another few weeks of Top Chef favorite Jamie Lauren–by serving up inventive, ingredient-driven cocktails. While he loves pushing the envelope (he’s recently been experimenting with mushroom-infused beverages), Hollinger’s real love is the classic cocktail. Such drinks have staying power, he says, because they “fall in the realm of simplicity.” He compares them to comfort food, explaining that these are the drinks that you’d pair with that infamous dying meal. His choices? A perfectly roasted chicken and a Manhattan. So taken is Hollinger with the classic cocktail that last December he stepped down at Absinthe to open a sister property, the Comstock Saloon, which he’ll run with Jonny Raglin, another Absinthe bar alum. Hollinger and Raglin have converted the massive San Francisco Brewing Company space into a bar and restaurant reminiscent of a turn-of-the century saloon. Slated to open May 20, Comstock will feature ragtime jazz piano, seafood cocktails and potted meats and a drinks menu finely focused on the old standards. “It’s almost as simple as you can get,” he says of the cocktails that will consist almost entirely of martinis, Manhattans, and negronis. “We’re getting away from trying to reinvent the wheel.”

And while he admits that San Francisco has a reputation for more culinary-inspired drinks, he insists that Comstock is part of a backlash against the perception that, unlike New Yorkers, San Franciscans don’t drink the classics. Below some other key Bay Area beverages that he’d include in his cocktail primer.

The Ginger Rogers and the Sacred Heart at Absinthe. Naturally, Hollinger starts at his former bar, which he says is still going strong, run by “cocktail geeks” like himself. Because it’s his old stomping grounds, Hollinger allows Absinthe two classics. The Ginger Rogers, created by Hollinger’s predecessor Marco Dionysus, is a mojito-like concoction of gin, ginger beer and mint and has been on the bar’s menu since day one, proving its classic potential by becoming a staple of the twelve-year old program. The Sacred Heart earns its spot in Hollinger’s pantheon because it was Absinthe’s first cocktail to include its namesake liquid when the green fairy was legalized. Unlike other absinthe-based beverages, this one is subtle and layered, combining with pomegranate infused tequila, limoncello, and a splash of lemon-lime juice.

The Manhattan at Bix. Classic in every sense of the word, this supper club, a city favorite since 1988, is tucked away on tiny alley in Jackson Square. The space immediately sends you back to the glamour of the speakeasy with waiters and bartenders in captain’s coats and a menu that highlights oysters, steak tartare, and a classic Cobb. “When I walk into Bix,” says Hollinger, “I immediately want to drink a whisky cocktail.” He usually goes for the Bix Manhattan, made with Maker’s Mark Bourbon and Carpano Sweet Vermouth. But it’s not the precise jiggering or a perfect shake that garners Hollinger’s praise. “The shape of the glass,” he says swooning over the curvy, delicate vessel into which the red-hued liquid is poured. “It’s a sexy glass.”

The Margarita at Tommy’s. When asked why the margarita at Tommy’s, a family owned Mexican stalwart in the Inner Richmond district, makes his list, Hollinger shakes his head and laughs. “It keeps me from drinking too many shots of tequila with Julio,” says Hollinger of the temptations of bar master Julio Bermejo’s world-class selection of tequilas. But Julio’s famous margarita, which has been mimicked around the world, isn’t just a less potent distraction from the hard stuff. “Julio reinvented the margarita,” explains Hollinger. “No cointreau. Just agave, tequila and lime juice.” And boy is there ever lime juice. Sitting at the bar, patrons are treated to a show, as bar backs, powerfully wielding manual juicers, work their way through seemingly endless crates of limes, to create an explosion of citrus in every glass.

The Sazerac at The Alembic. Part of Hollinger’s love for The Alembic stems from the awesome playlist constantly on rotation at this paean to American whiskey. “They play Nashville Pussy so loud you can’t even think,” he murmurs in awe. “That’s my dream.” Hollinger also praises the humble creativity shown behind the bar. “It’s a whiskey bar, but it’s not trying to make a big deal about it,” he says. “It’s simple and inventive.” Co-owner and mixologist Daniel Hyatt’s ballsiness extends past his willingness to blast lewd psycho-billy tunes. The Alembic incorporated absinthe into its signature Sazerac before the ban on the green fairy was lifted, an act that earns the New Orleans inspired cocktail a place on Hollinger’s list.

The Irish Coffee at Buena Vista. “It’s the only thing they do,” says Hollinger of the Irish coffees poured in this almost century old bar. In an unabashedly touristy part of town, with the sounds of cable cars rattling past and a view of Fisherman’s Wharf across the street, Bay Area visitors pull up seats at the long bar and watch as practiced bar tenders pour countless rounds of Tullamore whiskey, hot coffee and cream into the waiting rows of glass mugs.

White Manhattan at Nopa. Although Hollinger believes that the days of the sexy, uber-constructed cocktail may be numbered, he has faith that Neyah White, the man behind the bar at San Francisco hot-spot NOPA will persevere. When White is tending bar, Hollinger opts for bartender’s choice, sipping whatever concoction of house-made ingredients and selection of unaged white whiskies that White cares to make. But Hollinger calls NOPA’s White Manhattan, made with white whiskey, Dolin blanc, Benedictine, and orange bitters, “a simple stroke of genius.” “When I tasted it,” he says, “I thought, of course, why the hell wouldn’t you?”

And at the end of the day, er, night, it’s that sense of predetermined perfection that makes a classic and keeps it so.

It’s All About the Green at Denver’s Dankest Restaurant

Attentive waiters often try to guide first time customers to the ideal dining experience, inquiring about preferences and tastes in order to create the best possible meal. At one of Denver’s newest eateries, that waiter is named Joe, and as I tuck in at the bar, he politely inquires, “Are you looking to get absolutely wrecked?”

(‘DiggThis’)Welcome to Ganja Gourmet, billed as “America’s first marijuana restaurant.” Located in medical marijuana-happy Denver on a stretch of Broadway that boasts so many dispensaries it has been rechristened “The Green Mile,” “Reefer Row” and “Little Broadsterdam,” the establishment stands out, thanks to an enormous psychedelic mural painted on its exterior that gives the place a “happy dance around” vibe according to chef Jennifer Fowler.

Though pot dispensaries have been proliferating in the mile high city since 2001, few specialize in “edibles,” as weed-laced food is known. “There was a huge gap in the marketplace,” says Ganja Gourmet’s founder, 51-year old Steve Horowitz, who was personally disappointed with the refreshments that the other pot shops were offering. “People were selling four week old saran wrap brownies for fifteen dollars. I knew I was on to something.”

To eat at Ganja Gourmet, diners must present a state-issued license (hence the restaurant’s slogan, “Our food is so great you need a license to eat it,” seen below) and a medical marijuana card. The latter are relatively easy to procure (the majority are given to people with severe “chronic” pain), the former not so much. Since I’m not a resident of Colorado, I’m ineligible. I bring along a very willing taster, Max, who prefers that I only use his first name.

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We sit down at table that, instead of sweetener, boasts a ceramic sugar holder housing rolling papers, and consider the menu. Everything from pizza to hummus to cheesecake (above) is available, but Max opts for Ganja Gourmet’s version of the prix fixe, the Dinner Buzz Special. It comes with choice of entrée, dessert and a dinner joint, all for a very reasonable thirty bucks.

First out of the kitchen, however, is a complimentary appetizer, the ganjanade (below), served with crusty French bread. Clad in his tie-dyed uniform, Joe, our “budtender”, explains that the spread gets its kick from olive oil infused with cooked down herbal trimmings. Max diligently takes a moment to savor the flavors of the thick brown paste. “There’s no hint of marijuana,” he says, taking another bite for good measure. “It’s what you would think of as tapenade. With a real smell of olives.”

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When I ask Joe if the strain of pot used in the cooking affects flavor, he is matter-of-fact. “All ganja tastes the same when cooked,” he says. However, when it comes time to roll Max’s pre-prandial joint, he is more poetic, slipping into marijuana-sommelier mode. “It’s fruity and zesty,” he tells us, taking a long whiff of the dank herb. Locavores take note; all of the pot used at GG is grown in Colorado. This particular strain, Joe tells us proudly, as Max takes a hit, was grown on the Rockies’ Western Slope.

With his appetite whetted, Max digs into his entrée, the meat lasagna, or the LaGanja (below), as it’s known here. It’s based on Chef Fowler’s family recipe and the plentiful serving has the comforting appearance of home cooking, with a thick red sauce and feta topping. While Max wishes it had a bit more heat, when he praises its “good blend of herbs,” he’s referring to the relatives of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, not the marijuana. Joe suggests Max pay particular attention to the pools of red oil that collect around the lasagna. “It’s all in the oil,” he explains, in between hits off a water bong. “That’s the good stuff.” Fowler warns Mac that the high from the lasagna hits slowly, so Max should be prepared to feel it later. “It really builds up on you,” she says.

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Finally, comes dessert. Joe offers more advice. “If you have a sweet tooth, try the chocolate cups. You’ll like the high. It’s energetic from the caffeine,” he says of the mocha infused treats. He does warn, however, that with some of the desserts you can taste the pot, particularly with the triple dosed space cake. “There’s no way you can hide two grams,” he says.

Max, who by this point has gotten a bit giggly (“This is hilarious,” he whispers), opts against the super powered space cake in favor of a sticky raspberry brownie, topped with pink chips. Biting into the dense pastry, Max describes it as “rich, fudgy chocolate with pot undertones,” before sharing a piece with another patron who has saddled up to the bud bar. Max then offers up the rest of his joint to Joe (below), saying he’s high enough already. Besides he needs to get going as he needs to be off for the perfect post Ganja Gourmet outing – a matinee of Avatar.

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Gourmands—or more likely pot heads– looking for the full Ganja Gourmet experience should act quickly. The Denver City Council recently passed regulations banning onsite marijuana consumption that will go into effect in March. Horowitz, ever the optimist, insists that Ganja Gourmet will prevail – continuing as is or selling food to go. Besides, he says, narrowing the focus to carry out will make it easier to achieve one of his two main ambitions for the restaurant, expanding into multiple locations. His other goal is to receive a visit from his Howard Stern. “If he came,” says Horowitz, “My life would be complete. I think he’d really love the ganja ganoush.”

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Industry Insiders: Andrew Templar and Margaret Mittelbach, Lab Partners

Andrew Templar, co-owner of The Bell House, regularly draws huge crowds to industrial Gowanus with an impressive rotation of indie bands. Just as popular are the bar’s monthly meetings of The Secret Science Club, which Templar founded along with natural science writers Margaret Mittelbach, Michael Crewdson (co-authors of the taxidermy tome Carnivorous Nights) and radio producer Dorian Devins. SSC events, which feature Nobel laureates and other scientific luminaries, range from science-based film screenings to lectures on the genetics of longevity. But the group’s signature happening, which this year attracted 500 fans, is the annual Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest, in which artists, amateur taxidermists and groupies come out to sip on cocktails called “Wet Specimens” and to compete for the Order of Carnivorous Knights Grand Prize, for the best artfully stuffed dead animal.

What’s the Secret Science Club’s mission? Margaret Mittelbach: We’re trying to advance the public understanding of science, but we’re trying to do it in a way that’s fun and exciting to people. We try to fill it in with music. Cocktails. And we also try to make the scientists feel like they’re rock stars. Because normally at The Bell House, they have music, comedy, and we’re just trying to say, hey, science is part of the culture.

How do you make a scientist feel like a rock star? Andrew Templar: For people who are in the know, they are rock stars. The scientists are surprised by how many people are here and how eager people are to meet them.

MM: For example, we had Donald Johanson, who discovered Lucy, the primate bones from Africa, and a lot of people studied this in college. And also there is the big battle about evolution in schools, so people come in, and they’re like, “Evolution, yeah!” He was a total rock star. People were cheering, and he was really good about riding that. They are stars in their own ways and because the way the venue is set up, they get to be rock stars for the night.

How did the Secret Science Club get started? AT: Our first bar Floyd, NY on Atlantic Avenue has a bocce court. We had an eccentric bocce league team, named Dr. Strangeballs that gave us a piece of taxidermy for a gift. We heard that there was a taxidermy contest at a bar called Pete’s Candy Store that was being hosted by Margaret and Michael as a book launch event, and we entered on a whim and placed highly and met Margaret and Dorian and Michael.

MM: Dorian actually goes out unlike me and Michael, and she was at Floyd and heard you were opening Union Hall, and you said, “Hey, do you want to maybe have that taxidermy thing there?”

AT: We knew Union Hall was going to have a kind of like a gentlemen’s club motif, and we wanted to have this secret Masonic basement venue. We were going to have bands, but we thought it would be cool to supplement it with scientists, and Dorian said, “I think we can make that happen.”

Why did you move the Secret Science Club to The Bell House? AT: We were turning people away from the Union Hall events. The room downstairs only holds about 110 comfortably, or uncomfortably. For one event we had people lined up to 6th Avenue. It was a big deal to turn that many people away. People were disappointed. It felt like we kind of outgrew this place.

MM: [At Union Hall] the idea was it was kind of like a secret society, and we’re meeting in the basement. Down at the Bell House, I have the idea in my mind that science is on the margins. We’re forced to meet on the fringe in this old industrial lot. Sometimes in my mind, I call you the Bell House Labs.

Who comes to the events? AT: We have some regulars who are just classic Brooklyn city people who are just interested in everything. If they’re not at science night, they’re probably off at modern dance. It’s just a smart neighborhood.

MM: It’s mostly 20s and 30s. A lot of people in the audience are involved in film and art, but then you also get some people who are actual scientists. I think one of the reasons that this is popular is that there’s a kind of zeitgeist of curiosity. Because most of the events are free, you can be curious and come and check it out without losing anything and then most people find that they’re inspired by it.

Who comes up with the signature cocktails that you serve at the events? MM: I usually come up with the names, and then they come up with the actual concoction. My favorite drink name ever was the Double (Make that a Triple) Helix.

AT: I don’t know if you want to go public with this, but we think that the global warming enthusiasts drink the most.

MM: They drink the most beer. I don’t know if they drink the most liquor, but they definitely drink the most beer. They’re thirsty. It’s hot.

Where else do you go to see some good taxidermy? AT: Freemans is a very cool spot. Red Hook Bait & Tackle has a black bear and lots of birds and fish. I think taxidermy has had a real resurgence. You see it in places where you didn’t used to.

MM: Ryan Matthew [who won an award at Carniverous Nights] owns a clothing store that also sells taxidermy called Against Nature and Mike Zohn [another contestant] owns Obscura Antiques in the East Village, which is a really cool store.

All in the Brand: The Food Truck That the Media Built

Decisions about what to air during sweeps season say a lot about what the media thinks of the state of our nation. So when Good Morning America asked viewers to nominate their favorite street vendors as part of its national “Best Food Cart Challenge,” just in time for November sweeps, it was clear that, at least in the eyes of the media, America is food-cart crazy.

Not since Carrie and Miranda first turned the country on to the joys of the cupcake has a food trend garnered such a flurry of attention, and in New York, it’s a veritable media frenzy. From the New York Times (which has awarded the subject of street food with its own Times Topic) to the city’s most popular food blogs to the Tyra Banks Show to BlackBook’s own contribution to the hysteria by coining the term “vendrification”, there seems to be an endless fascination with the ways of the cart.

So how did the new generation of vendors become media darlings?

It started organically enough. Jerome Chang, a Le Cirque-trained pastry chef, launched his DessertTruck in 2007 selling high-end desserts like crème brulée and milk chocolate and peanut butter mousse, and the press responded quickly. In a city always looking for the next big thing, especially when it comes to food, this new gambit (which actually followed on the heels of the earlier Treats Truck) warranted attention. However, it wasn’t just that Chang and other early entrants into the nouveau street cart scene were doing something new — it was that they were also changing up something old. In the Times, Florence Fabricant wondered how the humble ice cream truck would respond to Chang and his partners’ mission to “elevate street food.” Part of the story was about how these new carts were taking something very familiar — eating food from a street cart — and transforming it into something new and fancier.

With a focus on the differences between the new carts and the older ones, a slightly uncomfortable quandary arose: what to call these new vendors. The press tried a variety of descriptors, from “high-end” to “upscale” to “gourmet” to “yuppie, each carrying with it vaguely uncomfortable class distinctions. According to Kenny Lao, whose Rickshaw Dumpling Bar truck was among the first new-school trucks to offer savory fare, this categorization created a false tension among food carts. He would prefer that the new trucks be referred to as “branded.” In other words, “Trucks with an actual name versus a chicken and rice truck with no name on it,” he explains. “I think it’s much more indicative of what we’re trying to do. Less discriminatory on the part of the press.”

While Lao himself admits to clashes with the proprietors of non-“branded” trucks over streetcorners and customers, he believes that a good bit of the tension is overblown media hype. “It’s because people like you need a story,” he tells me. “It’s easy for you to categorize us, to tell you the truth. You know, into high-end low-end; educated, non-educated; immigrant, nonimmigrant. It’s very, very easy to do that. It creates a good story. A crisis point. You know with conflict, blah, blah, blah.”

While the tensions between the old-school and new-school carts may have been blown out of proportion, there’s no doubt there have been sticky moments. Lev Ekster of CupcakeStop has reported confrontations with kebab vendors. “They’re intimidated by the newer vendors and think that they’re losing sales as a result of their presence,” he says. Streets Sweets Truck and Schnitzel & Things also ran into trouble with older vendors. These turf wars, of course, are nothing new — the city’s somewhat archaic zoning restrictions have long created struggles for streetcorners among the city’s vendors. However, the kind of blow-by-blow coverage given to the battles over space between the branded and non-branded trucks brought this long-term tension to the fore, keeping the new trend regularly in the spotlight.

Says Lao over the squabbles that resulted, “I was shocked this spring by all the bitching and all the moaning that happened in the public eye. As an industry, you guys, it’s making everyone look like a bunch of infighting bitchers and moaners. When we first opened the truck, if Eater came to us or some magazine came to us, I wasn’t going to sit there and bitch about the halal guy that I was going to have to deal with just to get some press.”

It did get press though. When the Schnitzel & Things truck twittered that it was being bullied by halal guys on 41st and 6th, Eater promptly included the incident in its regular “Turf War” listing, which recounts the latest street food scuffles. With each incident, a self-perpetuating cycle of media attention arose; the more squabbles, the more media coverage, and it would seem the more media coverage, the more cause for squabbles over the resulting surge of attention and customers.

A similar cycle grew up around tiffs between food trucks and brick-and-mortar restaurants. Although several studies show that street vendors actually increase patronage for stationary businesses because they draw in foot traffic, the attention garnered by the new trucks has drawn the ire of some permanent establishments. Lev Ekster reports that bakeries near his regular locations have repeatedly requested that he move his truck. “Traditional bakeries think that because we’re mobile, we have less of a right to conduct business, or we’re easier to intimidate into changing locations,” says Ekster. “I don’t think a traditional bakery would ever consider walking into another traditional bakery over one avenue away and demanding they change locations.” Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop, which also sells cupcakes, fought back in a decidedly old-school way. In a message aimed at Ekster, who often parks his truck near the 80-year-old store, the owners of the shop posted a sign reading, “Trucks from a cupcake? What will they think of next?”

While the Jason Bauer, owner of the popular cupcake bakery chain Crumbs, says that the truck trend itself has had “zero impact on the Manhattan bakery scene,” the notoriety and popularity that Ekster and his CupcakeStop have accumulated will soon change the city’s brick-and-mortar baked good landscape, as Ekster is investigating lease options for a stationary location. Dessert Truck, which fell victim to a lapsed vending permit over the summer, is slated to open a café around Thanksgiving, capitalizing on the press earned while running the truck. After having garnered attention not only for the apple puff pastries and brioche donuts, but also for the four-wheeled venue from which he was dishing them, Truck’s owner Chang says that he owes a lot of his success to the truck trend. “We could not open a brick-and-mortar place if we hadn’t had a truck.” That much of his press came from the fact that he was serving from a vehicle makes him nervous about marketing in this newest incarnation. “It will be a challenge,” he says. “We have to remind people that we were not just a clever truck,” he says. “We served top-notch food.”

Although he will disappoint the many Dessert Truck fans who have asked him whether the new bakery will be decorated like a lorry, Chang is hoping that some of the luster from his truck days will transfer. It remains to be seen. Another question that lingers is how the sudden surge of media attention will impact the vendors who are not part of the newer generation — those who have struggled with many of the tensions and challenges that have yielded the new guys so much press.

Rickshaw’s Kenny Lao hopes that changing the restrictions placed on street vendors is one of the lasting legacies of the media’s attention on the current food-truck craze. “I really hope that it gets easier to operate,” he says. “The more legitimate businesses out there operating on the street, the more demand from both sides, from all sides, and [the greater chance] for a more clean playing field.

Sean Basinski of the advocacy group the Street Vendor Project is hopeful that perhaps the new vendors will yield greater sway with the government. “I do believe,” he says, “it will be more difficult for City Hall to attack and scapegoat this new breed of vendors.” However, as he said in an email, this shift is in the distance. “There are still such a small number of these ‘upscale’ vendors that their combined impact on the street (as opposed to in the blogosphere) is tiny.” Even with media hype, you still can’t fight City Hall.

San Francisco: Top 10 Eggs Not for Breakfast

Absinthe (Hayes Valley) – While they’re only available at brunch, Absinthe’s deviled eggs are anything but traditional breakfast fare. Looking deceptively familiar with a dollop of egg yolk swirled into perfectly hard boiled whites, Top Chef alumna Jamie Lauren belies expectations by topping the potluck favorite with salty smoked trout, and as if that weren’t enough, a sprinkling of another kind of egg — osetra caviar. ● The Alembic (The Haight) – Known for its cocktails, Alembic divides its drink menu into “old school” classics and “new school” elixirs like the Strawberry Alarm Clock, which marries strawberry puree with whiskey, vermouth, and a dash of Tabasco. Libations like these require bold but not overpowering bar bites to accentuate the flavors of the fresh ingredients, and an order of pickled quail eggs fits the bill. These gorgeous pink orbs of briny lusciousness are smooth and rich, with the perfect amount of salty punch to whet your palate for another drink.

Sea Salt (Berkeley) – Sea Salt is known for using sustainable seafood in its fresh interpretations of old classics, with a menu that includes ahi tuna sliders and a vodka-laden oyster shooter. No devilled egg in this fish joint would be complete without an ocean delicacy involved, so Sea Salt has taken an oversized duck egg and topped it with a generous helping of Spanish anchovy, creating a happy marriage of land and sea. The little mermaid should be so lucky. ● Flour & Water (Mission) – Buzz continues to build around the crispy Neapolitan pies and housemade pastas at the uber-popular Flour & Water, but before launching into a carb fest, it’s always good to have a little salad. Lucky for the hedonistic among you, one of the best “salads” at F&W is a warm potato and lamb’s tongue salad, served with a poached egg and salsa verde. So feel no compunction about cutting into that perfectly cooked egg and allowing its runny yolk to spill onto the tender lamb and salty potatoes because after all, you’re being good and having salad first. ● MarketBar (Financial District) – Takes three of San Francisco’s most common culinary characteristics, swirls them all together, and stuffs them in a deviled egg. Representing the City by the Bay’s seafood savvy, a little Dungeness crab has been added into the mix. The area’s gastronomic French influence makes its appearance in the form of a rich aioli. And lest the emulsion have too strong a Francophile bent, it’s been seasoned with a nice helping of Mexican ancho chili. The three come together to form a truly San Franciscan take on a perfect eggy appetizer. ● Aziza (Richmond District) – Basteeya, a fragrant blend of minced chicken, almond and saffron stuffed into a flaky filo, is a destination dish at chef Mourad Lahlou’s temple to Moroccan flavors. But before biting into the tender puff pastry, try putting an end to the old chicken and egg question by beginning your meal with one of the best of Lahlou’s rich starters — a hen egg with the North African spice mix charmoula and a side of crispy beans. ● Samovar Tea Lounge (The Castro) – This bastion of relaxation pays homage to the tea rituals of many great chai-centric societies, including a classic English service, a Moorish medley, and a Chinese tea tasting. If your hot beverage mood is steering you to Russia with love, then the house-blend black tea goes brilliantly with Samovar’s devilled eggs, which takes the traditional Ruskie whole wheat blini topped with caviar and egg yolk and inverts it, instead stuffing the egg with caviar and serving alongside wheat crackers. ● Rose’s Café (Cow Hollow) – Given Rose’s rotating menu, you may or may not be able to begin your al fresco lunch at this California-Italian favorite with a bruschetta topped with a savory mushroom ragu and a poached egg. Pity. But not to worry, those in need of brain food can always add an organic egg to any of Rose’s thin crust pizzas. ● Bix (North Beach) – Fancy schmancy supper club Bix is so hip to the non-breakfast egg trend that it has ovum on offer for lunch and dinner. For the midday meal, prove that you’re a card-carrying member of the smart set by ordering the baby iceberg shrimp Louis (don’t you just love a salad with a first name), which comes with avocado, a farm egg, cherry tomatoes, and capers. In the evening, tap your toes to jazz while sampling the most elegant eggs in town — these little devils are stuffed with truffles. ● Chez Maman (Potrero Hill) – No list of eggs for dinner would be complete without mention of one of the dishes that started it all: the French classic, frisée salad with bacon, poached egg, and vinaigrette. The version at le tres petit café Chez Maman, is a perfect representation of this French salad and is a testament to the fact that the incredible edible egg was always meant for life after 11am.

San Francisco: To 10 Spots to Nurse a Killer Hangover

Mission Beach Café (Mission) – A favorite among hip neighborhood lushes for post-booze-fest brunches. Pretty young things, some still clad in their PJs, searching for comfort in decadent biscuits and gravy, Prather Ranch beef brisket hash, and of course pomegranate grapefruit Mimosas. ● Home (The Castro) – Bloody Mary preferences say a lot about a person. Do you take yours spicy or mild? With celery or olives?? Home’s Build Your Own Bloody Mary bar, which includes all of the standard accoutrement plus wasabi and a whole bevy of hot sauces, allows you to express your individuality while downing oversized omelets and crunchy cornflake French toast. ● Zazie (Cole Valley) – To compensate for the indelicacies of last night’s festivities, atmosphere of subtle French refinement can help you regain your sense of dignity. Shade your sensitive eyes under an umbrella in this small Cole Valley bistro’s back garden and sip on a cranberry or mango juice mimosa, forgetting last night ever happened.

Zeitgeist (Mission) – Maybe seeking your hair of the dog at a dive bar smacks of a self-perpetuating cycle. But this San Francisco institution, with its huge beergarten, wouldn’t open at 9am if it didn’t know its services were needed. Serving up some of the best Bloodies in town — housemade with a garnish of pickled beans and olives — Zeitgeist also has an outdoor grill with burgers and tasty spuds. Plus, if you sit around long enough, the Tamale Lady, is bound to stop by, selling her piping hot corn cakes stuffed with love. ● Ti Couz (Mission) – San Francisco is crepe crazy, but Ti Couz differentiates itself with a huge menu of varieties both savory and sweet. And what’s better for a hangover than sausage and cheese rolled up in a giant pancake? Oh, maybe a Bloody Mary, here served here with a skewer of shrimp for dunking into the perfectly spiced drink. ● La Mar Cebicheria Peruana (Fisherman’s Wharf) – Pisco, a kind of Peruvian brandy, is the poison of choice at La Mar, where you can get all of your morning-after needs taken care of in one of the cebiche palace’s signature cocktails. Require some vitamin C? Try the Cholopolitan, which in addition to the favorite Peruvian elixir, features cranberry, lime, and passion fruit juices. A caffeine jolt? The Earl Grey-infused pisco in the Flor might fit the bill. They even have a drink for the few among us who need a little octopus to suck us out of our hangover stupors — the Bloody Lorcho combines pisco and a housemade Bloody Mary mix with a serving of the eight-armed beasts. ● B Star Bar (Richmond District) – From the meatball jook (comforting Chinese rice porridge) to soft-shelled crab po boy to strawberry Nutella French toast, the brunch menu offers hangover-worthy options from all corners of the globe. This younger sibling of the ever-popular Burma Superstar also goes fusion with its drink list, helping you come back strong with options like a lychee martini, lemon ginger mimosa, or mango mojito. ● La Taqueria (Mission) – When your body is in need of an alcohol-absorbing food bomb, nothing delivers as quick and satisfying a jolt as a big chewy tortilla encircling cheese, beans, and meat. Skip the fussy knock-offs and head to La Taqueria for the real thing. For those in need of a liquid cure, they also have all of your favorite cervezas for cheap. ● Bacar (SoMa) Airily gorgeous open space to prevent headache-induced claustrophobia. Menu includes pork belly hash, fried jalapeno sandwich, and coconut rice pudding. And most importantly three kinds of bottomless cocktails, including the Wake-Up Mary!, which allows you to skip that irksome but necessary cup of coffee in favor of a caffeine-infused Bloody Mary. ● Farmer Brown (Tenderloin) This soul-food joint touts an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, spicy, fresh Bloody Marys from the mixologists behind some of the yummiest cocktails in the city, and live jazz to groove to once you’re feeling like yourself again.

Vendrification: Street Food Streetfights

Media coverage of New York’s food cart mania — particularly the surge of upscale food carts and trucks — has been building for months. This week’s “Under $25” column in the New York Times is the fourth cart-related piece in the NYT just in the past month. We haven’t even reached the apex of the street food season, climaxing in the fifth annual Vendy Awards, which Mario Batali has called “the Oscars of food for the real New York.” But that doesn’t mean the old-school hot dog & shwarma guys are excited about their glitzy new Twitter-fied competition.

In a city accustomed to gentrification, perhaps this new phenomenon could be described as “vendrification,” with more expensive, higher-tech carts and trucks sweeping in and shaking up the culinary terrain of the streets. Predictably, this shift has led to some tensions between the “traditional” vendors and the newer-style sellers, who often use heavily decorated trucks, rotating seasonal offerings, and regular Twitter tweets advertising their current whereabouts to draw in customers. For the kebab and hot dog vendors, who often stay in the same city-assigned location day after day, it becomes a question of market infringement. In late June, an exchange over turf outside the Metropolitan Museum between the fancy food truck Street Sweets and a few other vendors grew so heated that police were called to the scene. And the Schnitzel & Things truck has endured confrontations both with halal vendors and a Mister Softee truck.

Vendy nominee Lev Ekster, whose CupcakeStop truck has garnered lots of press and a loyal following with over 40 flavors of cupcakes, admits there is tension. “It’s a competitive business,” he said in an email through his PR representative — yes, this cupcake truck has a publicist. “Old school vendors believe they own a location just because they’ve been there for a longer period of time. They’re intimated by the newer vendors and think they’re losing sales as a result of their presence.” While he says that in choosing locations for his truck, which opened for business at the beginning of the summer, he always takes into consideration other vendors who work in the area, he too has had run-ins. “When we moved in the Flatiron District,” he recounts, “we had a problem with a certain shish kebab vendor.”

Over time, as Ekster made 5th Avenue and 22nd Street one of his regular Twitter-leaked locations, he says that the hard feelings subsided. But he does see a discernable difference between his business and the old-school carts. “Hot dog and pretzel vendors make impulse sales and may never see that customer ever again. Those vendors are expendable, and it’d be hard to distinguish one from another.”

Your corner hot dog guy might not agree — and he probably doesn’t consider himself “expendable.” With the growing competition among the ever-increasing number of carts, what old and new school vendors have in common is this desire to distinguish themselves from the rest of the market. However, for Ekster’s fellow Vendy nominee, “King of Falafel” Freddy Zeidaies, it’s the ways he differs from the newer generation of vendors that sets him apart.

Established on the same busy corner in Astoria for the last eight years, he is confident in his staying power. “My customers,” he says, “know I’ll show up every day. I’ll be there cold or hot.” While the increased media attention to his cart through the Vendy nomination (his second) has brought people in from Manhattan to sample his wares, he doesn’t rely on trend-driven foodies to drive his sales. The majority of his customers still come from the neighborhood, drawn in, he believes, by the personal service he offers. “I give people the full experience,” he says. “I do a dance. Tell a joke.”

This kind of attention is what he feels differentiates him from the new guys. “They’ll be around for a while and then what?” says Zeidaies. “If you don’t have steady customers, Twitter is not going to do you any good. If you’re not there for the second day, it’s not going to work.” The same is true of the heavily decorated carts and trucks versus the more traditional variety. “It’s what’s inside. Not everything is shining gold,” he says. “You can’t judge a book by its cover. You got to read what’s inside, and it’s the same thing for food carts.”

San Francisco: Top 10 Food Carts on Twitter

The only downside of gourmet food cart explosion is that it’s sometimes hard to find your favorites. Fortunately, more and more roving carts are picking up on Twitter as a way to broadcast their whereabouts. Here’s a rundown of the ten best in San Francisco, complete with Twitter feeds and a hints on their typical turf.

Crème Brûlée Cart (Dolores Park) – Clad in crisp chef’s whites — hat and all — the Crème Brûlée Man dishes up disposable ramekins of warm love with a perfect caramelized crackling top. With almost 6,500 Twitter followers, Chef Curtis sets the bar high, serving flavors like White Russian, vanilla bean, and the newly added “smores brûlée.” ● Left Coast Smoke (Sundays at 500 Club, 500 Guerrero @17th Street; Thursdays at Knockout for Bingo Night, 3223 Mission Street @ Valencia) – Down home pulled pork barbecue sandwiches make this cart a lush’s favorite at its rotation of regular bar stints. With mountains of meat piled high on toasted soft white buns and your choice of spicy tomato-based sauce or Carolina-style mustard sauce, these bad boys sell out fast, so be ready to run when the Twitter tweets. Note that due to the intensity of the aroma from Left Coast’s smoker, neighborhood complaints have made the cart’s schedule less than regular.

Spencer on the Go! (Wednesday-Saturday evenings starting at 6pm at Folsom Street @ 7th Street) – In this offshoot of the more sedentary Chez Spencer, Chef Laurent Katgely serves up classic French dishes like ratatouille, frog legs, and grilled sweet breads, all from this converted taco truck. You’ll probably have to wait in line, but these satisfying morsels of savory French fare will warm your belly and soul on a cool San Francisco summer evening. ● Sexy Soup Cart (Around the Mission, often at Dolores Park) – Nutritionist by day, Sexy Soup lady by night (and weekend), Chef Kristin dishes out cups of healthy organic soups throughout the Mission. Fan favorites include carrot ginger coconut, purple potato and leek, and curried cauliflower. Knowing that no cup-a-soup is complete without a side of carbs, diners receive a piece of crusty French bread for dipping. ● Magic Curry Kart (Around the Mission; behind McDonalds at 24th Street and Mission, and Mariposa @ Alabama streets) – The man behind the Magic Curry Kart not only doles out warm helpings of chicken or vegetarian curry and rice, but he also keeps his over 3,000 Twitter followers up to date on his astrological well-being with his daily Twittascope. Important to know when you’re debating patronizing his neon-adorned cart on a day when his stars indicate that he “may become less confident as the day wears on.” ● Wholesome Bakery (McDonalds at 24th Street and Mission; email {encode=”wholesomebakerysf@gmail.com” title=”wholesomebakerysf@gmail.com”} for next location) – Every item on offer from this bakery on wheels is vegan, high fiber, and low on the glycemic index. Often found rolling alongside the Magic Curry Kart, Wholesome Bakery’s bounty includes oatmeal cranberry cookies, lemon coconut cupcakes, and banana blueberry donuts. Occasionally savory pocket pies are also available, including a curry lentil quinoa version, which might be a nice complement to a chicken curry from the Curry Man. ● Carte415 (101 2nd Street in the Atrium Lobby, 11:30am – 2:30pm) – San Francisco foodies are thrilled with the recent arrival of Joshua Skenes’ Carte415, which offers up organic and local lunch options from his alternatively powered cart made from recycled and reused materials. Although the location is pretty set for now (new carts may be added to his arsenal at a later date), Skenes uses Twitter to fill hungry office denizens in on daily specials such as a framani charcuterie sandwich with gruyere, spicy greens, and quince jam and an Early Girl tomato gazpacho. ● Amuse Bouche (morning at 24th Street BART Station, evening at Linda Street @ 19th Street) – Frenchman Murat keeps commuters happy with chai, coffee, and a variety of freshly baked fruity muffins. His Bavarian apple strudel is also a favorite. In the evenings his savory options include red lentil kofte and chard and feta borek. With his occasional French tweets, Francophones can practice their ouis and mercies. ● Urban Nectar (Around the Mission; 18th Street and Dolores) – When you need something to wash down all of the pulled pork and crème brûlée you stuffed in your face, this cart provides fresh-squeezed juices to wet your whistle for round two. Watermelon, strawberry, and lemonade are regulars on the roster, and according to the owner, a tithe of each purchase goes to a Bay Area charity. ● Gobba Gobba Hey (Around the Mission; 4505 Meats Stall in the Ferry Building) – The name of this cart needs some interpreting. First, it’s a reference to the Ramones song “Pinhead,” which includes the refrain, “gabba gabba hey.” Second, for those not in the know, a “gob” is two cake-like cookies with sweet cream spread in the middle, like a whoopie pie. However, this ain’t your mama’s whoopie pie. Author-cum-baker Steven Gdula’s versions including black cherry chocolate with lime butter cream frosting and orange cardamom ginger gob with saffron frosting.