We wanted to find some America's Cup madness, so headed to San Francisco for the weekend to check out the Summer of Racing in hopes of seeing multimillion-dollar catamarans with seven-story-tall masts zip around the bay. We did.
We also wanted to explore some restaurants and help you find your way to a few highly recommended tables next time you're in SF. Hey, you go to the city, you've got to eat, right?
As for the Cup: Essentially, there are only two craft competing in the Louis Vuitton challenger series (now through Aug. 30), the walk-up to the America's Cup race (Sept. 7-21). Italy's Team Luna Rossa is matched against Emirates Team New Zealand. Sweden's Artemis Racing hasn't had its craft on the water since it capsized in May; one crew member was killed in that accident. The winner of the Vuitton series will go head-to-head with Oracle Team USA for the America's Cup trophy.
This year's field is so narrow because so few global race syndicates could raise the millions to build the newly styled and controversial "wing-sailed multi-hull" craft. The entry fee alone was $100,000.
We spent many hours over two days at America's Cup Park at Pier 27/29, and America's Cup Village at Marina Green. Incredible world-class attractions await the curious. In a word: Go. Details and scheduled events and entertainment are at www.americascup.com.
Restaurant-wise, follow our lead and you won't be disappointed. Our first stop was the esoteric Nojo, specializing in reasonably priced Japanese yakatori (grilled food on skewers). In a city of 4,000 to 5,000 restaurants (for some reason, the exact figure is a mystery), this is a standout.
On our table: sea salt-flecked steamed edamame (soy beans in pods); sea urchin roe in noodle soup; octopus salad (pictured); crunchy heads-on prawns; grilled beef tongue and chicken on skewers; and poached peaches with sake-ginger granita.
Nojo: 231 Franklin St.; (415) 896-4587, www.nojo.com.
Yes, celebrity chef-cookbook author Martin Yan is an entertainer (we once saw him debone a whole chicken with a cleaver in 18 seconds), but he still can cook.
His gorgeous 180-seat M.Y. China - his first restaurant in San Francisco - features display kitchens where the action is nonstop. Sit at the food bar and watch in awe. Bring lots of money.
On our table: shrimp wontons; wild boar dumplings (pictured); pork-crab dumplings; shrimp-avocado dumplings; salt and pepper calamari; scissors-cut noodles; the city's best roast chicken; and creamy egg tarts.
M.Y. China: Westfield center, 845 Market St.; (415) 580-3001, www.mychinasf.com.
Breakfast is tops at Town's End, an Art Deco-y locals-centric place that understands the concepts of crisp bacon and dark pancakes (blueberry and cherry). The cooks in the open kitchen are a blur of motion, the aromas that fill the air are tantalizing.
On our table: White-corn tamale pie is more like a pudding, with cream cheese, eggs and honey, topped with queso fresco (Mexican white cheese) and drizzled with sour cream and house-made molé. Also: "messy" eggs scrambled with bacon, green onion, garlic jack cheese, with a side of bacon and crisp potato pancakes (pictured); and a luscious crab Benedict. We demolished a basketful of mini-scones and mini-muffins, and emptied the apple-butter jar.
Town's End, 2 Townsend St.; (415) 512-0749, www.townsend.drb.com.
We cruised inside Tony's Pizza Napoletana and squeezed through the crowd to surreptitiously examine what the patrons at the bar were eating for lunch. We spotted steamed mussels, a slice of stromboli, a crescent moon-shaped calzone, a pizza dripping cheese, a plate of Italian sausages with sauteed peppers.
"This is the best Italian restaurant in North Beach," said one lunch pal, a Sacramento foodie who spends a lot of her time restaurant-hunting in San Francisco. We'll be back.
Tony's Pizza Napoletana, 1570 Stockton St.; (415) 835-9888, wwwtonyspizzanapoletana.com.
Food Network personality, cookbook author and chef Michael Chiarello has expanded his empire with Coqueta, a Spanish-accented tapas restaurant in a beautifully renovated space on the Embarcadero.
We popped in for a looksee at his first San Francisco restaurant: open kitchen, huge windows facing the bay, high ceilings, wood floors, leather-bound chairs. The menu is as intriguing as the classy decor: Iberian cheeses; Serrano and Iberico ham; white gazpacho with Marcona almonds; wood-grilled octopus and razor clams; chorizo with roasted artichokes; duck and pork meatballs; and paella. Again: We'll be back.
Coqueta: Pier 5 on the Embarcadero; (415) 704-8866, www.coquetasf.com.