Farm-Fresh Eats Across the Bay Area
A tour of Northern California's seasonal produce and the best places to buy and enjoy it.
Plus, irresistible Greek in San Francisco and more dishes our editors can’t get enough of.
WHILE ALL OF our lives revolve around food in some way — it literally sustains our existence — I’ve come to realize that, as I get older, my life increasingly orbits around food — not so much the eating of it, but more the talking about it, thinking about it, and plotting just where, when, or how I will access it. The “What should we have for dinner?” conversation that my partner and I have been having for the better part of 15 years now starts a little earlier each day: about 30 seconds after we finish eating breakfast. Our travel is planned largely according to proximity to specific foods and culinary recommendations, and past meals have become my primary memory signifier. When trying to recall a trip taken over a decade ago, I may no longer remember the names of towns or hotels, but I can instantly recollect the ceviche we had by the beach, the homemade bread that was so good I took some home in my bag, or the exact flavor of gelato we ate after getting hopelessly lost in Rome.
As the summer heats up and my travel itinerary becomes increasingly packed, my pulse races when I think about all the food yet to be eaten. In fact, my only problem with dining these days is that I feel a kind of paralysis when faced with so many good options. That’s why I love these editors’ letters. Whether it be Greek food in San Francisco, a glass of biodynamic wine from Napa, a perfect French brasserie in New York City’s financial district, or all the endless Brooklyn barbecues on the horizon, this letter is about being spoiled for choice. — T. Cole Rachel
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After moving from San Francisco to Berkeley, I left behind my go-to restaurant — Souvla. The Greek hotspot founded by Charles Bililies, with multiple outposts around the city, is sought after for its simple yet addictive salads and sandwiches, making it the very definition of fast-casual cuisine with an upscale twist. I lived within a five-minute walk from the original Souvla in the Hayes Valley neighborhood — and it fed my soul multiple times a week (I swear I hit a record at some point). Now that there’s an actual bridge between us, it’s harder to satisfy my cravings on a weekly basis. But in a lucky turn of events, the online grocery service Good Eggs’ recently collaborated with Souvla. The famous chicken salad comes in a box with all of the necessary ingredients, including their famous “granch” dressing. You can also order their pre-prepared savory pastitsio casserole and avgolemono egg-lemon soup. All the goodness of Souvla without having to go out. — Elissa Polls
I recently had the chance to visit The Sea Ranch Lodge on the Sonoma Coast of California, and the Lodge’s dining room was so remarkable that I felt it warranted its own write-up. Let’s start with the striking architecture by the famed California firm MLTW. The windows are the focal point of this vaguely Scandinavian design, with good reason: The restaurant overlooks the stunning Northern California coastline and is the perfect place to take in the Pacific Ocean’s hypnotic roiling. When I was there, the couple at the table next to me had gotten engaged earlier that day, and while they were posing for a table-side engagement photo, a whale surfaced behind them. No one batted an eye. You can’t make this stuff up — the place is that reliably atmospheric. Now for the food: The restaurant is helmed by Chef Eric Piacentine, who serves California cuisine that is both fresh and hearty. My group particularly enjoyed the sole in a crab bisque and the lamb loin with goat-cheese polenta. Though the menu is already hyperlocal and seasonal, there are ambitious plans in the works to up the ante. Before my dinner, I toured the lodge’s farmstead with farm manager David Hillmer, who showed me the lambs and cows raised on-site, as well as the farm’s impressive crop of vegetables. Not all the food comes directly from the farm yet, though I am told that is the eventual goal. I can’t wait to see what The Sea Ranch Lodge is up to next. — Laura Smith
I went to Capri recently. Well, not really, but it felt like it. The newly opened bar Alba Accanto is located beside its sister restaurant Cucina Alba at the base of the ambitious Thomas Heatherwick-designed residences beneath the High Line. (Lots of geography, but stay with me, and you too can escape to the Amalfi Coast smack in the middle of Manhattan!) The bar’s vibrant interiors are bursting with flowers under the honey glow of brass lamps and feature colorful ceramics and persimmon-orange seating. Alba Accanto’s cocktails and crudos are bright and tangy, as joyful and scrumptious as the surroundings. I recommend taking a sunset walk along the Hudson River, then heading to Alba Accanto and eating and drinking your way to a full, and festive, dinner. — Sophie Mancini
When I first moved to the Hudson Valley from Brooklyn, it was a bit of a shock to adjust to rural coffee culture. Living in Park Slope and Ditmas Park meant I was always footsteps from an artisanal pick-me-up. Living in the woods, although stunning, means I’m a 15-minute drive from a cafe; and while I adore my local coffee shop, Black Dot, I’ve had to get a little more creative at home. In addition to embracing my early morning brewing, I’ve been filling my fridge with Minor Figures Oat Lattes. They are just the right amount of sweet, are vegan, and pack a punch. Plus, the company's branding is delightful. Each can features a character enjoying one of life’s little pleasures: reading a book, blowing bubbles, or playing the piano. CEO Stuart Forsyth says of the illustrations, “They are all expressions of life rather than expressions of ‘success,’” adding, “We’re more funk than punk.” — Hailey Andresen
There’s a large navy tapestry with a white U hanging in the window of a small West Village establishment. The U stands for Ueki Sushi, which is the neighborhood’s latest addition to the omakase scene. Their sushi, offered over a nearly three-hour experience, features exquisitely presented cuts of fish: golden-eye snapper, king yellowtail, and blackfin seabass, with delicacies including flame-kissed firefly squid and buttery cubes of A5 wagyu. Two delightful moments came toward the end of the meal: a hearty miso soup topped with lumps of lobster and, for dessert, a Shizuoka crown melon. Each melon is the lone fruit of its tree, making it the singular recipient of all flavor, sweetness, and juiciness. Unbelievable. — Sophie
Howell Mountain’s distinct terroir makes Adamvs a more accessible biodynamic wine that will have any skeptic asking for a refill.
If you have friends or family who turn their noses up at wine labeled natural, organic, or biodynamic — introduce them to Adamvs, and you may yet change their minds. The boutique wine label’s vineyards are located on Napa County’s famous Howell Mountain and are all certified organic and biodynamic. Adamvs specializes in three varieties of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, each one bursting with unique flavors from grapes spread across five vineyards with elevations up to 2,000 feet. Founded by Denise and Stephen Adams, who are known for their French 100% biodynamic wines, Adamvs represents their foray into California winemaking. The couple was intrigued by the region's challenges and saw great potential when they purchased the land in 2008. Howell Mountain’s distinct terroir makes Adamvs a more accessible biodynamic wine that will have any skeptic asking for a refill. — Elissa
NYC’s Financial District can feel a bit desolate in the evenings. But I’ve discovered a little enclave of French brasserie magic. La Marchande is tucked into the newish Wall Street Hotel, and their main restaurant’s menu features more than a few standouts. I recommend their oysters, but also the mignonette sauce accompanying it — a salty, piquant acid bomb. Their French-onion dumplings, packed plump with truffles and gruyere, and swimming in a savory mushroom consomme has all the flavor of the soup that inspired it, but elevated to new heights. And in a total departure from French cuisine, their Vietnamese-inspired summer rolls must be on order as well (try the ones stuffed with blue crab). — Sophie
Wandering around the 11th arrondissement on a sweltering afternoon, my family happened upon this small inviting restaurant. Owners Chef Kumpi Lo and her husband Richard Venturi couldn’t have been more gracious and genial, immediately offering chilled limonatas to the hangry 10-year-olds. While Lo is not a formally trained chef, she grew up cooking for her many siblings, and, unsurprisingly, the restaurant feels like an extension of a warm and sophisticated home. The menu is a blend of East Asian and Mediterranean influences, from the Japanese gyoza filled with bok choy, eryngii mushrooms, and soybeans to the mikaté croquettes inspired by Portuguese salt-cod fritters. It’s all unfussy and very fresh. The vegetarian lasagna was so delicious and served with such care that the kids literally licked their plates clean (please don’t judge). I was pining for a second visit during our week in the city, but, sadly, schedules would not allow it. But do yourself a favor next time you’re in the neighborhood: Stop by for a lovely meal and give my best to Venturi and Lo. — Alex Brodsky
T. Cole Rachel is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and teacher with over 20 years of experience working in print and digital media. He is currently an editor-at-large at Departures.
Elissa Polls is the head of production for Departures. A producer who typically stays behind the scenes, she has worked with creatives from around the world, helping bring their ideas to life. Polls has over 15 years of production experience and lives in Berkeley, California.
Sophie Mancini is an editor at Departures. Born and raised in New York City, she holds a degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and has a background as a writer in brand and editorial.
Laura Smith is the deputy editor of Departures. Previously, she was the executive editor of California magazine and has written for the New York Times, the Guardian, the Atlantic, and many more. Her nonfiction book, The Art of Vanishing, was published by Viking in 2018.
Hailey Andresen is the guides editor at Departures. A New York–based writer and editor, she founded the digital lifestyle publication Household Mag and has spent more than a decade in the hospitality industry.
In addition to her work with Departures, Alexandra Brodsky is a filmmaker and photographer. Her films have been screened at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the American Film Institute. Recent photography publications and exhibits include Index Magazine, Pearl Press, Humble Arts Foundation, Too Tired Press, and Charcoal Book Club’s Chico Review. She is an alumnus of the Screenwriters’ Colony in Nantucket, the Film Independent’s Screenwriters Lab, and a Fulbright Scholar. She is also a founder of Quality Pictures, with Mary Stuart Masterson and Cassandra Del Viscio, a Hudson Valley–based production company making quality entertainment for social impact.
Jess Rotter is a Los Angeles–based illustrator and artist. Rotter’s work has frequently featured in the Washington Post. Her clients range from Natalie Portman to Questlove.
A tour of Northern California's seasonal produce and the best places to buy and enjoy it.
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Terra Kaffe’s espresso machine elevates your morning ritual with the press of a button.
Raised around the city's tables, our editor shares her most beloved spots to eat and drink.
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