San Francisco is the foggy metropolis that vies with the Big Apple to be the de facto titleholder as America’s culinary mecca, with the imaginary trophy shuttling between the West and East coasts depending on the cities’ latest food scenes.
“Every couple years, you hear about New York, and every couple years, you hear about San Francisco,” said Oscar Lee, manager of convention services for San Francisco Travel.
Using 2010 Census data, Trulia compiled a list of the top-10 cities with the most restaurants and bars per capita. According to that list, there wasn’t even a competition: San Francisco came in with 39.3 restaurants per 10,000 households, although the next three spots went to New York metropolitan areas, including Fairfield County in Connecticut and New York’s Long Island and New York City.
To pack that many restaurants into the 47-square-mile San Francisco and to have more than 40 of them with Michelin stars is quite a feat, Lee said.
According to the 2017 list of Michelin-star restaurants, the Bay Area now has as many three-star restaurants as New York. Three stars, according to the Michelin rating, means a restaurant serves “exceptional cuisine” that is “worth a special journey.” The city is also teeming with James Beard-nominated or -award-winning chefs and a slew of ethnic eateries, sometimes in the same restaurants. The Slanted Door is a Vietnamese restaurant that, after several nominations, took home the 2014 Outstanding Restaurant Award from the James Beard Foundation. San Francisco is one of the few cities that provide such a range of fare from around the world.
“Our culture is such a melting pot here in the city,” Lee said. “You look at the Michelin-star and James Beard winners, and they’re cooking fusion and ethnic foods.”
In a city with such an impressive culinary pedigree, the difficult thing is figuring out how to sample it all. For groups, these experiences showcase San Francisco flavors and offer specialty classes that can’t be found anywhere else, except maybe New York.
The Cheese School of San Francisco
Not every city can claim they have a cheese school. But San Francisco is, clearly, not every city. The Cheese School of San Francisco offers groups the opportunity to take cheese classes, whether tastings and pairings or hands-on cheesemaking experiences. Classes include opportunities to make mozzarella and burrata; mascarpone, chevre and ricotta; fromage blanc, creme fraiche and feta. Groups can learn to make washed-rind and wax-sealed cheeses. A pizza-making class gives students the chance to make their own crispy, chewy, thin-crust pie in the school’s wood-fired oven. Tasting and pairing classes teach guests how to choose cheeses for various beers, wines, champagnes, chocolates and salami. “It’s not a cooking class,” Lee said. “This is really refining your palate; this is something that kicks it up a notch.”