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San Francisco ’11 – Part 8

Let’s wrap up the San Francisco leg of this dual destination travelogue series, beginning with a visit to Ghirardelli Square at the far end of Fisherman’s Wharf, specifically to check out their chocolate factory museum.

Ghirardelli Square used to be the location of the company’s chocolate factory. However,  they’ve since moved manufacturing operations to San Leandro, California, a suburb of both San Francisco and Oakland. Ghirardelli Square is now predominantly an outsourced upscale shopping complex, including various boutique stores, shops, restaurants and Fairmont Heritage Place, a private residence club.

The focus for Ghirardelli at the Square now is primarily their Ice Cream Shop and Gift Shop next door..

Here now is the vintage chocolate manufacturing equipment museum they have on display at the back of the Ghirardelli Ice Cream Shop in Ghirardelli Square @ Fisherman’s Wharf….

Our candy makers will be happy to answer any questions you have regarding our chocolate making process. They produce our hot fudge sauce and chocolate toppings served at the soda fountain. We hope you enjoy our visit to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Manufactory.

1. Coco Bean Roasters – The outer shell of the bean is roasted, leaving behind the kernel, also called ‘nibs’. These nibs are then roasted, thus developing their unique flavor.

2. Chocolate Mills – In three tiered mills, a combination of grinding and friction heat melt the cocoa nibs into a liquor called Chocolate Liquor, or Unsweetened Chocolate as we know it today.

3. Melanger – Granite rollers then mix the chocolate Liquor with selected ingredients. They include whole milk powder, sugar, vanilla and additional cocoa butter in varying amounts, depending on the type of chocolate being made.

4. Conche – Conching is the final step in the chocolate making process. It smooths and aerates the chocolate, developing its flavor and texture. The chocolate is then tempered and deposited into various size models.

Note, that’s real melted chocolate running through the equipment, tempting any chocoholic to want to dip their hands in it for a taste, hence the plexiglass barricade.

Ghirardelli currently doesn’t offer public tours of their manufacturing facility in San Leandro, but my best guess is the modern, higher volume equipment in there looks nothing like what we see here. Probably works the same though.

Next door to the Ice Cream Shop is Ghirardelli’s Original Chocolate Shop…

Which was surprisingly cramped and small considering how HUGE the rest of Ghirardelli Square is, practically making its namesake stores appear to be somewhat of an insignificant afterthought. Go figure.

While there, they were handing out samples of these limited edition Milk Peppermint Bark Squares, which were quite delicious…

The combination of Ghirardelli’s renown silky smooth, toned and refined milk chocolate, combined with their also excellent buttery white chocolate and zip from the peppermint speckles totally works, where I think they should consider making this flavor a permanent addition in their Squares™ line-up.

Ghirardelli is such a revered brand in San Fran’, even luxury hotels such as the Hyatt offer it as part of their guest room amenities…

San Francisco’s F-LINE Streetcar transit…

There’s a famous street act in the Wharf area of San Francisco known as the “Bush Man”, who apparently was on break when we passed by…

Not to fret, as here’s a video someone posted on YouTube (one of many) of the Bush Man in action, including an interview with him…

We’ll name this one “Octobushy”…

We now come upon Pier 39 West Marina, famous for its population of California Sea Lions…

The sea lions camp out, often in large numbers at Pier 39 due to a plentiful supply of herring, available dock space and the marina’s protected environment, especially from Great White Sharks that prefer the open ocean. Each winter, the population can increase up to 900 sea lions, most of which are male. During the summer months, the sea lions migrate south to the Channel Islands for breeding season, but in recent years a small group stays year-round at PIER 39’s K-Dock. Those are probably the stragglers we encountered during the early part of November.

There’s definitely a social structure, especially regarding who’s “boss”. If you look in the distance at the last row of barges, there’s one lone Sea Lion appearing to either have alienated him or herself, or was banned from joining the rest of the community. Awe, poo’ ‘ting. lol

What’s funny is that Sea Lion swimming in the water in front, plus a few others that jumped in the drink from the two side barges soon after, kept trying to get on the center barge that’s the most crowded. but none of them chillin’ on the center barge would have that, and kept shoving the “outcasts” back in the water, while barking loudly in protest. It’s as if that was “the cool barge” in the center, and no one else was welcomed to join the club. “ARRH ARRH AOURRH ARRH AOURRH ARRH ARRH”. lol

The distance from the water’s surface to the top deck of the barges is quite a leap of I’d estimate at least 2 feet, which the hulking sea mammals are able to get on by diving deep to gain momentum, then breach out of the water and onto the deck in an almost desperate attempt. It’s a lot of body mass that sort of clumsily blubbers on board. Fascinating and funny at the same time.

Later in the evening, the population grew to more than double…

After reading a few reviews after-the-fact, I sure WISH we had booked a sunset dinner at Forbes Island just across the way…

Believe it or not, Forbes Island is actually man-made, being constructed out of a barge, so it floats on the water’s surface in the Sea Lion safe haven of Pier 39.

As you see, this floating “island” includes a lighthouse, plus a little “beach” with palm trees on the surrounding “deck”, while inside there’s a cozy dining room and sunken dining room with bar, complete with underwater portholes and very ornate, yet elegant and romantic mariner’s theme to the decor. I SO would have dug dining there! Looks like I’ll have to return to SF just to experience Forbes Island!

Alcatraz wear…

We spent our final night in San Francisco with family and friends for dinner at Crustacean, a very popular eatery in the Nob Hill neighborhood…

Crustacean is part of a family of restaurants established and operated by the very successful An family who immigrated from Vietnam.

Let’s have a look around before we get seated…

Crustacean’s menu…

Download a PDF of Crustacean San Francisco’s current menu here.

First on the table, a couple ‘a apps, starting with some Fried Calamari with a Spicy Remoulade…

Lobster Roll in crispy filo wrapper, accompanied with strawberry and kiwi vinaigrette…

More Calamari, this time marinated ‘n grilled in a spicy peanut mustard sauce…

Time for the main course, starting with Crustacean’s famous Garlic Noodles…

I swear, my Canon S95 camera‘s ISO and aperture settings were SO OFF in this dark-lit setting, yet I all but REFUSE to use flash. Oh, well, we’ll just make do with what we’ve got.

Another angle of the Garlic Noodles…

OK, I take that back, I did use flash on this Braised Beef dish…

Shaken Beef flambéed in Chardonnay, sautéed green beans, cherry tomatoes and red onions…

Ultimately what it’s all about at Crustacean, their also-famous Roast Crab…

According to Crustacean’s menu, the Roast Crab is an entire dungeness crab roasted to perfection with garlic and spices.

Also on their menu is the Drunken Crab, an entire dungeness crab simmered in a broth of three wines, cracked black pepper and scallions, as well as the Tamarind Crab in a sweet and sour sauce of tomatoes, fresh dill, Vietnamese chili, Quoted Price and fresh herbs.

We went with the most popular (according to our server), the Roast Crab.

Looks like we’ll need some specialized tools to get into this…

That, and a good pair of working hands will do the trick…

So how is Crustacean’s famous Roast Crab? What do you think? It’s FRIGGIN’ AWESOME! CRUSTAZY-TASTY! Very tasty is all I can really say, as I couldn’t really detect any particular standout spice or flavoring component. It wasn’t particularly garlicy, however that may have been because we were eating it with their already “garlicy” garlic noodles along with it.

In a nut shell… or should I say crab shell, the best way I can describe Crustacean’s famous Roast Crab, is it’s juicy, succulent, fall-apart tender, fresh and full-flavored, being decadently savory with a hint of sweetness in the meat. It’s certainly a treat to the senses, especially in its tangibility, meaning the sensation of holding and feeling the rugged Dungenous Crab shell, cracking it open and rewarding yourself with the fruits of your Crustacean labor.

The dipping sauce tastes like a combination of butter, white wine, vinegar and garlic..

As for the dipping sauce, personally I would have preferred simple drawn butter over the one they provided that had what tasted like vinegar in it (must be a Vietnamese thing), but still, it worked.

Hey, speaking of Vietnamese, I wonder how a Crab Banh Mi would taste? Bet’s on it would TOTALLY ROCK! I’ll defnitely blog “Project Dungeness Crab Banh Mi” in a future Tasty Island post!

One might say it’s pricey, at $43 each dish of Roast Dungeness Crab, yet Crustacean is considered “fine dining” in the House of An’s restaurant chain empire, so that was expected, and about what you’d pay for a prime cut of ribeye at an upscale steakhouse, so I suppose it’s justifiable. Especially considering the crab and garlic noodles are cooked behind locked doors in a “secret kitchen” within their regular kitchen, so that the recipes and cooking methods remain a well-kept secret within the An family. Smart!

As for Crustaceans famous Garlic Noodles… delicious. No, delicioso. Sorry, I can’t get that Kahlua commercial out of my mind. And my name’s not Robert, it’s “Roberto”. lol Seriously, they’re certainly “garlicy”, yet not overpowering, with just the right level of garlic “kick”, along with a distinctive buttery flavor. The noodles had a size, texture and flavor profile similar to Filipino Pancit Canton, the thicker noodles (Pancit Bihon is the thin one). I did notice they were somewhat sticky and glutenous compared to Italian pasta, yet in a good way that made it unique.

I looked up if anyone tried replicating Crustacean’s Garlic Noodles, and it says there’s Fish Sauce in it (like Patis). So I tried making it at home recently, and it turned out pretty dang close! That time I used Fetuccini noodles, but next time I’ll try making it with Pancit Canton.

Anyhow, 5 SPAM Musubi for Crustacean’s Garlic Noodles. So simple, yet so, so ono.

Everything else was fantastic as well, as I got to try a little of the braised beef, while the 3 apps were off the charts, especially that Lobster Filo Roll. What’s not to love about that!

Crustacean is certainly dong things right, as they’ve won a number of critical acclaims

When we arrived, the place was just starting to fill up, and by the time we walked out, every table in Crustacean was taken. Service was friendly and attentive, with our order arriving in a timely manner, while the ambiance is low lit and romantic, with a Eurasian theme going on, albeit a little on the loud side, as far as neighboring guests.

Summing it up, solid 5 SPAM Musubi for the House of An Crustacean in San Francisco.

For “dessert”, we walked right down the street on Polk to our friends’ favorite doughnut shop over at Bob’s Donuts

And how was it at Bob’s Donuts? The Apple Fritter (the last two pictured above) is always my favorite, and Bob’s was no question up there with the best. Big chunks of tender, flavorful cinnamon-laced apples all wrapped in a chewy-yet-flaky dough and toffee-flavored glazed crust all brought their A-game. 5 SPAM Musubi winnah! Especially with a hot cup-o-joe that accompanied it. Everyone raved about the various doughnuts and pastries they ordered.

Well, that wraps up coverage of our trip to Las Vegas and San Francisco this past November. All four plus six days of it, respectively. Time to head to the airport…

Goodbye crispy-cool 48ºF north California temperatures, and hello again to low 80’s in Honolulu, which by comparison, feels like summer.

Cool. Like the flight to LAS from HNL, looks like we again get a new Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330-200 for the flight back home from SFO to HNL…

Let’s see what they serve us for our inflight meal this time…

Good Lord, this just SCREAMS microwaveable frozen dinner. They might as well keep the box closed, with a “stylized” photo of what’s inside, which as you know, like frozen tv dinners, it almost NEVER looks like the picture on the box, but at least you hope so. lol

Let’s open it up…

Actually, this is breakfast, as our flight departed SFO at 8:50am. Breakfast Burrito that is, along with a Guava-Passion Fruit Muffin. Sheesh, that’s great; as if we don’t have enough carbs from the flour tortilla, throw in a muffin to wash it down with while you’re at it.

Let’s try this Hawaiian Airlines issue Breakfast Burrito…

While admittedly exaggerating a bit, it wouldn’t be far off from wondering whether these were packed on the aircraft not frozen, but in a shrunken, vacuum-packed dehydrated state, akin to MRE’s on a Space Shuttle mission. Where the flight attendant adds hot water to rehydrate it, then microwaves it to heat it up.

As a result, it had this off-putting mealy, bland texture and flavor, if at all you could use the term “flavor”. Meh.

So’s the same for that HORRID Guava-Passion Fruit “Muffin”, which could have easily qualified as “controlled crumbs”, with a poor excuse of sweetened artificial flavoring trying to pass itself off as tropical fruit. Far from it.

Seriously, if I chucked that muffin and breakfast burrito out the aircraft, I highly doubt even the fish or bottom feeders would bother eating it.

Sorry Hawaiian Airlines, I love you and always have, but please go back to the drawing board on this one! HA Breakfast Burrito & Tropical Fruit-flavored Muffin = BLECKH!

Thankfully the Orange Juice was good, if that’s any redemption….

Further redeeming themselves, the flight back home to Oahu on Hawaiian Airlines was super smooth and pleasant, with friendly, Aloha-spirited, very attentive Flight Attendants and minimal turbulence. I still despise those 2×4 lumber cushioned coach seats on the new Airbus though, yet that again is further redeemed by the personal digital media screens with the USB charging port on each seat back, enhancing/occupying time of your personal flight experience.

To get to and from the airport from our house, we used the relatively new Speedi-Shuttle, and their service was SUPERB as well. They have a 24 hour dispatch that you can stay in touch with to make sure they’re there to pick you up on time for your flight.

Well that was a fun vacay’ off “the rock”. No it wasn’t just fun, it was FANTASTIC! Or should I say “Fantastico!” Hope you had as much fun reading and checking out the pics of this travelogue series, as I did experiencing and sharing it with you.

It’s good to be back home though. HAWAII NO KA OI!

Kaukahi – Life in these islands


25 thoughts on “San Francisco ’11 – Part 8

  • January 8, 2012 at 4:16 am

    Pomai, sorry you did not enjoyed airline food but some reason I like all food serve in airlines and never had a problems with it. It look good to me but after eating in all the great eateries it is hard to adjust back regular food stuff.
    What did you brought back to Hawaii in gifts? No beef jerky I guess.

    • January 8, 2012 at 7:32 am

      Amy, regarding omiyage, a bunch of fun snacks from Trader Joe’s in Las Vegas, and Sourdough Round Bread from Boudin. The latter of which took up most of the capacity in my carry-on.

      No more comments on Hawaiian Airline’s inflight meal in coach. I’ll let you know when I fly first class. lol

  • January 8, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Hey Pomai, did you see the big donuts at Bob? They well known for it at 5.50 ea large enough for one cake box. They only one that make that big. There one place in San Francisco also known for giant size hamburger that take about four people to eat it. Sorry I can’t remember the name.

    • January 8, 2012 at 7:28 am

      Kelike, yes, we seen Bob’s big donut (that doesn’t sound right lol). It’s just like Safeway’s giant-sized “Texas Doughnut”, which is essentially a basic glazed doughnut that’s been oversized. According to the guy working there, if you can eat Bob’s giant-sized doughnut in 3 minutes, you win the prize, but I forget what exactly that prize is.

  • January 8, 2012 at 5:15 am

    Goodbye crispy-cool 48ºF north California temperatures, and hello again to low
    30 dgrees Oregon. Wine country, fine restaurants and a college football game.
    Our team lost but there’s always next year. Oregon 2012

    • January 8, 2012 at 7:41 am

      I was just talking with a coworker who grew up in Ontario, Canada, where he said the weather “up north” can reach as low as MINUS 30ºc. SERIOUSLY SUB-ZERO! Keep in mind, the freezing point of water is 0ºC/32ºF, so we’re talking ICE CUBE COLD!

      It can get so cold up there in Canada, frost bite sets in on your exposed face within minutes. So cold, car engines need electrical-sourced heater units just to start it. So cold, if the extension cord used to plug in your car engine’s heater unit isn’t rated for those sub-zero temperatures, it basically turns into a frozen STICK! Now THAT’S cold! NUTS!

      How ANYONE lives in sub-zero weather is beyond me. Them Canadians seem to do it.

  • January 8, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Though everyone loves the crab and noodles at Crustacean, they were a little too buttery for us (maybe we’ll try the beef next time though that’s like ordering fish at a steakhouse). Chai is the corporate chef for Haw’n Air though it seems that’s mostly just a title. Me likes their $16 half bottle of La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir with food that I bring on board (like a La’venida or Gordo’s carnitas burrito).

    • January 8, 2012 at 7:59 am

      Ryan, Crustacean’s Garlic Noodles weren’t too buttery at all, in my opinion. A bit sticky, yet as noted, in a good way.

      Next time I’ll spring for that $32 bottle of La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Sounds worth it, especially to help “absorb” that 2×4 of a seat! Thanks for the tip!

  • January 8, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Ahhh. The dreaded breakfast burrito. The same as the stewardess (an Hawaiian has the best) told me she would starve before another passed her lips.
    They have got to get rid of it.

    • January 8, 2012 at 8:00 am

      Pat, word sister, word.

  • January 8, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Pomai, yeah the beef jerky on 1201 Jackson St. and Jones is the best ever. It from Jackson Market which been there for years mom use to shop there when I was a kid for it now I head to there when in San Francisco for it too. It the oyster sauce and other seasonings use in it make it taste so good and grill burnt on the jerky meat give it the taste that awesome.
    Not sure you could mail order it but so many Islanders head there for it when in the city.

    • January 8, 2012 at 10:14 am

      Aaron, now you have me thinking of trying Oyster Sauce in my next batch of smoked meat. Sounds promising. I also wanna’ try adding some Miso in the marinade. Imagine Miso Smoked Meat and/or Miso Smoked Marlin. Whoah!

  • January 8, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    My kids love to watch the sea lions at Pier 39, and whenever we go there they ask to get a bag of those mini donuts from the kiosk near the front– they’re sooo good, especially as they fry them on the spot.
    Okay, and sorry but I have to mention the new food on Hawaiian Airlines. I’ve been flying Hawaiian for years now, and the new “complimentary” food is really bad. I never waste food, but I could not eat what they gave me the last few of times. This past summer we bought the $10 upgrade for a hamburger and it was worth it.
    And as always it’s a pleasure to see and read about all the food at home and your adventures!

    • January 8, 2012 at 7:19 pm

      Lori, at this point from all the comments, it sounds like there’s a consensus that HAL needs to take their “complimentary” inflight menu back to the drawing board and offer an at least palatable meal. Losing the $25 first baggage fee would be nice, too. If not, just charge whatever the operational cost is for these basic services into the final ticket price to make it right for the satisfaction of all passengers (customers). A wishful thinking no-brainer. Heh.

  • January 9, 2012 at 2:40 am

    Pomai, I think it Haili’imaile General Store Bev Gannon that behide the food for Hawaiian Airline. Maybe drop her a line on how the food going on the airline. Should created more a island menu on it or have people submit recipes to her and airline to make it better. I do not want to make a fuss about thing but do something about it in life if it not right to me.

  • January 9, 2012 at 3:10 am

    Aloha Pomai, welcome back. Been reading this entry and saw the breakfast you had on the plane. It need to be revamp to crepe instead of burrito. It same filling but into crepe seem more chic looking and make passegers feel they having a nice breakfast too. The Hawaiian Airline should look at their menu and see in changing it without adding more cost to it also. Just revamping it making it more chic to give food more a classy look without the extras cost to it.

  • January 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Having worked as a cook at an airline caterer (years ago when the earth cooled and dinosaurs roamed the earth :)) many economy-class airline meals these days are ‘pop-outs’ – precooked and then flash frozen before being packed into the serving carts. They get a final warming in the aircraft galleys before serving.

    If I’m flying Hawaiian, I’ll spend the extra money for an upgraded meal. These days, unless you’re flying internationally you don’t even get a meal unless you pay extra for it! Ya might as well grab something at the airport and take it with you!

    • January 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      Pomai-san… no have MREs on the Shuttle crew meals! :) The days of squeezing out food out of a toothpaste tube is long gone.

      Most of the chow that is served in space today is pretty close to normal Earth-bound grindz; only exception is bread and other food items that leave crumbs (no good in zero-gravity freefall). Tortillas serve as the bread substitute.

    • January 9, 2012 at 7:53 pm

      Someone here mentioned springing the $10 upgrade price for the Hamburger with all the fixinz’ meal upgrade, which they said was pretty good. That’s what was offered both going and coming home on our flight. Actually, to be honest, the inflight meal isn’t that important to me on a 5 hour flight. Besides, we had our own snack pack handy, which included Nori Maki Arare and Wasabi Peanuts. Just that and I’m good.

      Andrew Zimmern did a segment on his show recently where he sat down with a bunch of NASA astronauts to tasteand review potential dishes for future missions in NASA’s test kitchen. IIRC, there was a beef steak that was dehydrated in a vacuum-sealed bag, and needed water to rehydrate it back to life. I’ll stick to M&M’s.

  • January 10, 2012 at 1:38 am

    Pomai, I like to bring some sushi and dim sum on flight to California and some pastries too. Sometime a Zippy box meal is good .Food seem very little on coach so that the reason. Now I know from you the chef is different guess Bev Gannon step down. Alan Wong also does for some other airline sure would like fly on that one that serve his food.

  • January 10, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Pomai. First off, love your blog. Anyway, I believe the Chef inspired meals are for the first class passengers. For those of us regular folks in steerage class we’re stuck with the usual Sky Chef garbage and the only input from Hawaiian is how cheap they can get it and what the packaging looks like. I was served a cheese frittata thing the last few times I flew and it was like third world prison food. I also heard that the burgers and sushi were surprising good.

    • January 11, 2012 at 5:59 am

      Wally, well, this is what it says right on HA’s website, “Now you can also experience his cuisine at cruising altitude. As Hawaiian Airline’s new Executive Chef, Chai will design our in-flight meal program for First Class and Coach Class passengers. Says Chef Chai, “I’m excited about the challenge of offering customers a new selection of menus that will make the flying experience to and from Hawaii even more enjoyable.”.

      However, in reality I think you’re right. The “sardine class” gets the venerable Sky Chef “stuff”.

  • January 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    But be honest, how did you REALLY feel about the airline food? Heh. If I’m leaving HNL, I usually do a Zippy’s bento for the flight.

    Man, those doughnuts looked good — and I’m still full from lunch. Now excuse me while I go catch up on all your other posts.

  • January 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Pomai, chef Chai cooking is in Thai food so what in the world he doiing with western food? He take ideal from Mcdonald and other fast food places to use in airline menu show he lack any ideals in western food. If people want Mcdonald or other fast food they will bring it on board to eat instead.

    The guys from New Kahai Kitchen in Kaliha are better in doing it than him


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