The Spanish first settled the area known as Golden Gate in the late 1700s by building a fort and a mission named after Saint Francis of Assisi. By 1848, the Gold Rush turned the formerly sleepy San Francisco into a boom town. After the “Summer of Love” and a few other reinventions, San Francisco is now best known for its majestic Victorian “painted ladies” (colourful, period homes), breath-taking ocean vistas and some of the best food in the nation.

Experimental, playful, fresh, and always seasonal, here are some of the city’s most delicious reasons to visit the fog-laced city in which Tony Bennet left his heart.

Northern California Terroir
Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market: During the Gold Rush, the Ferry Plaza Building was the transportation hub for dreamers and gamblers alike. The stunning 1898 building is currently home to one of California’s most famous markets and some of the state’s best artisanal food producers. Area chefs source raw ingredients here to imbue their dishes with a sense of place, or terroir.

Food Network celebrity Chef Chris Cosentino’s sought after Boccalone Salumeria’s offerings are available inside the building’s hallowed halls. A “meat cone” gives curious eaters a chance to sample the shop’s famous “Tasty Salted Pig Parts,” as they call it. Not to be missed: the Orange and Wild Fennel Salami for any tasty pig part craving. 

You’ll also find James Beard award-winning Chef Traci Des Jardin’s Mijita taqueria for a hit of Mexican sabor around the corner from quality obsessed, organic Blue Bottle Coffee micro-roasters.

The outdoor farmer’s market is open to the public three days a week- Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The additional bonus on Saturday mornings is the à la minute breakfast options prepared by top-notch local chefs. Saturdays are the busiest, most farmer-populated market days; the wise rise early. You’ll find everything from Frog Pond Hollow Farm’s organic “Legendary Fruit,” freshly made tortillas, Hog Island oysters, clams, and mussels, award-winning Cowgirl Creamery cheeses and Acme Bread Company’s crumb-perfect loaves to name a few. Bring your appetite- eat breakfast first.

Wayfare Tavern:
If you’ve ever watched Tyler Florence’s “Tyler’s Ultimate” TV series and salivated at that thought of savoring one of his enticing creations, you just got your wish. The Wayfare Tavern is Florence’s new, flagship eatery that he’s striving to turn into “The Great American Restaurant.” Using local, seasonal ingredients blessed by the surrounding valleys fertile soil, warm days and cool nights, Tyler’s California-inspired Americana is lip-smacking through and through.

His menu is a modern update of local cuisine from the turn of the 20th Century, complete with Victorian-era cocktails (try the citrusy and balanced Darkness at Noon) set amidst a gentleman’s hunting lodge meets upscale tavern. The San Francisco cult favourite- the Hangtown Fry (organic eggs, crispy oysters, smoked bacon and watercress) sits on the menu next to the best buttermilk brined fried chicken you’ve ever had, as well as Hog Island oysters flash-broiled on the half-shell with a chorizo carrot butter. This will impress even the most jaded diner.

But it’s the peach pie that’s a true revelation. Florence tells me he uses butter and pork lard in the pastry to achieve that flaky, almost shattering quality. Inside, generous slices of Frog Pond Hollow’s peaches are topped by a gorgeous goat’s milk ice cream and sugared rosemary. Rosemary? “It’s a California thing,” he says smiling. And it’s absolutely spectacular.

Zero Zero:
Certified pizzaiolo (an Italian craftsman who makes pizza), noted Executive Chef and restaurant owner Bruce Hill is bringing quality Neapolitan style pizzas to the people. In San Francisco’s SoMa District, Zero Zero, named after the finely milled flour used by pizzaiolos, Hill and his team are crafting some of the best in the city.

A rotating roster of ten “Calipolitan” pizzas using luscious, area produce with Neapolitan techniques means you get a beautifully blistered pizza from the wood-fire burning oven in mere seconds (90 to be exact). Not content simply to use local produce, Hill also hand-stretches his own mozzarella daily using nearby Fromaggi de Ferrante’s curds and cooks his sausages sous-vide so that they remain juicy and don’t render their flavorful fat.

Small sharing plates, antipasti, house made pastas and Straus Dairy Farms organic soft serve ice cream are all on the menu reflecting Hill’s love of La Cucina Italiana with a sunny side of San Francisco.

Left Field Flavors
Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream:
100 flavors rotate every day for the kid at heart at this San Francisco hot spot in the Mission District. Rain, fog or shine, the denizens of this city are flavor obsessed, so it’s no surprise to find half-hour line ups at any time of the day outside the shop’s royal blue and white storefront.

Ice cream flecked with Boccalone’s Prosciutto, or made with Bourbon and Cornflakes (called “Secret Breakfast”) are two of the wild and wonderful flavors on offer. Former pastry chef Jake Godby uses Straus Organic Dairy as his base and then goes on a Willy Wonka journey of flavors.

The shop was written up in the New York Times, which means that now it’s become the go-to ice creamery for the food cognoscenti across the nation. This likely explains why next to us a couple from Manhattan is savoring three-scoop bowls, which include the McEvoy Olive Oil ice cream, the Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee and Eight Ball stout. The verdict, “Wonderful!” says the lady adding, “We get just about everything in New York City but we don’t quite have ice cream like this!” Her husband nods in agreement. Turns out they have great taste in ice cream.