American food - fried fries and vegetables with gherkin

No breakfast at the hotel so Rich and I head for a wake-up wonder at the ubiquitous Starbucks – and do our best to order like the locals; you know the drill – “two grande skinny cappuccinos to go!”, “Oh say that again Honey, your accent’s to die for!” – no one has ever said that to me, or possible any Essex boy before, so I indulge her adding a touch of Bond Villain/Hugh Grant into the mix. It works, two complimentary coffees!

The jetlag means we are running late for our first filming, so we skip brekkie and head straight to Bar Jules, run by the beautiful Jessica Boncutter. Jessica is a friend of Jamie’s and worked at London’s River Café.

Her café is more of a bistro, based in a gorgeous part of the City – Hayes Valley – the steep-hilled San Francisco of Hollywood – with neighbouring French bakers and bars and that clean-cut American idyll of yesterday; but now today.

Jessica and her team welcome us in and she shows off her amazing grill from Texas, a big ratchet wheel raises and lowers the grill over a wood fire and Jessica gets cooking our burger. A generous ball of local beef, rare on toasted rolls, with a green salad. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well that’s kind of the point. The restaurant, named after her dog, serves up fresh, local produce with maximum focus on the natural flavours.  But it’s not all protein as warm salads and beautiful vegetables pervade the menu.

We say our farewells and head back to the quintessentially Frisco Union Street to hook up with Annette, owner of Nettie’s Crab Shack, which we had seen twinkling to a thousand fairy lights the previous night.

It’s a big, bright restaurant with a major focus on seafood, so head chef Brian gives us an oyster-shucking lesson, crab-cracking tips and then a cioppino – fresh Mediterranean-influenced fish stew of crab, halibut and clams with a subtly spicy tomato base supposedly invented in SF. It’s gorgeous and moreish, so we polish off the lot. Then we are treated to a Crab Roll, their house speciality. A massive helping of buttered crab meat inside a brioche-style roll – amazing but we are now completely stuffed.

A bit of tourist fun is had driving over the Golden Gate bridge then on to Pier 39 – a Disney-fied seaside fantasy complete with sea-lions, pelicans and a view of the prison island Alcatraz.

Dinner is a pan-Asian restaurant Betelnut, again on Union Street. This is a cleaned-up wealthy area, with film star homes on Pacific Heights running parallel to it. No veterans pushing trolleys full of recycling here, oh no.

We enjoy artisan beer – an amber and a pale, really good – and dive into pork and spices in lettuce cups, a goreng chicken noodle dish, to papaya, grapefruit and shrimp salad and an amazing roti – Indian bread – with a curry dip. All-in-all pretty darn good!

Weaving back to our hotel we again pass the lonely and hungry, sad and neglected, lining up to claim their hand-outs from volunteers at a food station. The divide is more real today after our rather gluttonous adventure – but it was ever thus, and possibly unresolvable. This land of opportunity works for those with the necessary skills and ambition, of course it does, but ‘under rug swept’ is a different story.

Big drive tomorrow, so we hit the sack early…..


Fish, Mains, Meat