Memories, memories… Yes, they are what make San Francisco one of the truly great cities of the world. You simply cannot visit San Francisco without leaving your heart and taking with you wonderful memories. And it is impossible to think of San Francisco without remembering the tastes and sights captured in this marvelous book by Betty Evans.
My first real memories of San Francisco are from 1947 when, as a student on the GI Bill at the University of California, I would, on an occasional Friday night, venture into “the City” to visit my Uncle Albert. Uncle Albert had something of a reputation in my family, which made the prospect of seeing him and being in San Francisco all the more exciting.
Uncle Albert was a charming, gracious man who loved fine food and fine wine. And though he was always a bit vague when describing his livelihood to other family members, he was, in fact, a bag man for the gambling clubs that flourished throughout the city in 1947 under the protective eye of the San Francisco authorities. As a collector of gambling revenues, he would roam through the heart of the city after dark with a special bag strapped inside his coat. In this leather and wool strongbox, he deposited his employer’s “take”, a considerable sum.
The underside of San Francisco-every bar with a back room, every clip joint, every club where you had to know someone to get past the front door-this was Uncle Albert’s territory. But his real love was the elegant San Francisco.
Fortunately for me, he also loved to show this exquisite San Francisco to his starving student nephew. One Friday night it would be Jack’s or the Tadish Grill, another the 365 Club or the Temple Bar and on another, Ernie’s.
I learned much more about the really important things in life-wine, women, food—on one Friday night in San Francisco with Uncle Albert than in several years at the University.
It was at Ernie’s that I first learned that you must be dressed properly to be served properly at a good restaurant (or anywhere else, for that matter). It was at Ernie’s as well that I learned that if you want to play the part, you must be prepared to pay the price. For on one Saturday morning, Capitola and I were with another young couple in the Alexis Bar on Knob Hill. I phoned Ernie’s for a reservation and, summoning up my best Jimmy Stewart imitation, convinced Victor Gotti, one of the owners, that the star of “Vertigo” would be dining there that evening. Victor rearranged the entire dining room to accommodate this
Hollywood royalty. At the time, I had more than a passing resemblance to the actor, but though Victor realized immediately when he saw me that he had an imposter on his hands, he played along. “Glad to have you and your party as our guests, Mr. Stewart,” he said. “We have prepared all of your favorites.” Of course, Victor had the last laugh when I received the bill. It was the first time Ernie ever charged for water, napkins, a’nd silverware. But, believe me it was a superb meal and a splendid evening. It was at the 365 Club that I learned that it is best to sample the wine (or anything else, for that matter) before accepting it. Uncle Albert did indeed send it back on more than one occasion, but not before teaching me why he was sending it back. At Jack’s and the Tadich Grill I learned about the importance of tradition: how tradition and pride are ingredients in every dish served in San Francisco, right down to that wonderful sourdough bread that is so unique to the City, and how all in a San Francisco restaurant-chefs, maitre d’s, waiters, bartenders, busboys — work together to make San Francisco dining a unique, fulfilling, and memorable experience.
Even memories of the romantic San Francisco are rooted in the city’s culinary delights. Though I cannot remember who I was with that night, I can still remember hearing Tonny Bennett sing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” at the Fairmont. And I still remember my first drink (a Gibson!) at the St. Francis’s black patent walled Leather Bar (long since remodeled with boring oak paneling), bravely ordered while waiting one Friday evening for Uncle Albert to appear. And then there was the Temple Bar. To a college student, its location on a quiet alley was so romantic, perhaps it was just the beautiful and intelligent secretaries who showed up after work that made it seem that way.
Over the years, other memories of the City are associated with other stages of my life. I remember the tightness in my legs as I ran with a hundred thousand other Bay-to-Breakers nuts year after year. And, of course, the best memories of all: my daughter Tera graduating from the Culinary Academy of San Francisco, my daughter Deslie graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute, and my daughter Danelle graduating in architecture from UC Berkeley. And, oh yes! My marriage to Maryann shared with some of my closest friends (including the Evans) and family in the Ambrosia Room at Ernie’s. Who could have better memories? Especially since every one of them concluded with a fantastic dining experience.
Betty has so brilliantly brought together a bouquet of San Francisco specialties set among Gordon’s beautiful sketches—one taste and the memories, both old and new, will blossom forth. Just remember! A San Francisco experience is yours forever.
-Les Guthrie, a friend of the Evans for more than fifty years. April 1990
I was sixteen and it was summertime. My father owned an advertising agency. The Ice Follies was his big important account. They needed him in San Francisco for two weeks to write the annual press book. It was his idea to bring my mother and his two daughters with him. He thought it could be a kind of educational travel experience for our family. I absolutely did not want to go and leave my friends and our vacation fun times. There was another reason. My highschool sweetheart was far away in the South Pacific with the United States Marines. He wrote me love letters. The thought of them sitting unopened in our Los Angeles mailbox was unbearable. My sister did not want to leave her friends either.
It was with two slightly sulky daughters my parents boarded the overnight “Owl” train for San Francisco. Our first stop in the City was the Hotel Manz (now the remodeled Villa Florence). Our hotel room looked across to a bar on Powell St. It was active all day and at night, a sort of bedlam. Sailors on leave swaggered in and out. Some had ladies clinging to them. My sister and I watched this unruly scene from our window while our parents slept. After a few days at the Manx my mother decided it was too noisy. We moved to the Gaylord on Jones, where it was quiet and boring.
My special memory of the trip was my visit to the Top of the Mark. My mother wanted me to see this high view of the City. She carefully draped her fox cape over my shoulders, lent me her black hat with a veil and made sure I wore gloves. We took a taxi to the Mark Hopkins. I felt very grown-up. The elevator whisked us to the top. The moment we entered the maitre d’ came over and immediately asked my age. My mother explained this was my very first visit to San Francisco and she only wanted her daughter to have the experience of seeing the City from this famous room. He was kindly, but firm and said he could only allow us (because of my age) to stay a few minutes. I ordered a Shirley Temple and my mom had a highball. The view was fantastic.Like all visitors in San Francisco we rode the cable car and had crab in Fisherman’s Wharf. My parents took us to dinner at Veneto where I devoured more than my share of the Italian relish plate. Friends from the Ice Follies joined us. We had a big table and everyone had fun. My father especially enjoyed Bernstein’s Fish Grotto. The decor was imaginative nautical. The waiters wore sailor style outfits. There was a large aquarium with fish swimming around in circles. Two weeks passed faster than I could have imagined. When I returned home love letters were waiting. My friends had missed me. They wanted to know all about my trip.
When World War II ended my sweetheart came home and we married. San Francisco was one of the first vacations we took. Together we visited museums and parks, climbed hills and devoured delicious food. The City became our favorite place to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and have reunions with family and friends.
There is always a lure and fascination that tempts one to keep returning-new restaurants open, exciting art exhibits arrive, opera and ballet provide extraordinary sights and sounds. The pleasure of collecting recipes for this book has only heightened my affection for this city and asserted my feeling that San Francisco is certainly one of our world’s great treasures.
– Betty Evans Hermosa Beach, California 1990
Celery Victor, Pacific rumaki, North Beach relish dish, Guacamole, Washington Square shrimp toast, Columbus Street marinated olives
Fisherman‘s Wharf cioppino, Grant Ave. egg flower drop soup, French onion soup,
Foggy night Italian minestrone, Nob Hill artichoke soup, Albondigas soup
Chinatown shrimp butterflies, Bay Sand Dabs meuniere, Sole Veronique, Wharf deviled crab, Gobey‘s Saloon oyster loaf
North Beach chicken cacciatora, Fiesta chicken enchiladas, Chinese walnut chicken, Chicken Luisa Tetrazzini, Telegraph Hill lemon chicken, Chicken Jerusalem
Wine country Zinfandel beef stew, Russian Hill stuffed cabbage, Beef Stroganoff, San Franciso firemen’s chili, Pacific Picnic roast beef, Steam beer and onion savoury stew, Canton chop suey, Chinese barbecued pork, Basque Springtime lamb stew
PASTA, RICE AND EGG DISHES
Joe‘s special, Portsmouth Square eggs foo yung, Hangtown fry, Middle East rice pilaf (the original Rice–A–Roni), Rice with cheese and green chiles, Spaghetti Enrico Caruso, Lodging house macaroni, San Francisco sourdough bread
Mark Hopkins Hotel marinated vegetables, Creamed spinach, German red cabbage, Chinese stir fried asparagus
San Francisco Crab Louis, Cobb salad, Zesty cucumber salad, Palace Hotel green goddess salad and dressing, Caesar salad
Mama‘s North Beach cheese pie, Pacific sunset ambrosia, Bush Street cream puffs, Lemon snow bars, Balclutha oatmeal cookies, Strawberries Romanov, Chocolate rum pie
CHINESE STIR FRIED ASPARAGUS
A stroll around the streets and back alleys of San Francisco’s Chinatown is an exciting adventure. Peek in the tiny restaurants. You will see the Chinese cook stirring his woks. This efficient cooking pot was developed in China to quickly cook marvelous combinations of food.
1 lb. asparagus, washed
2 T. peanut or other cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 T. soy sauce Take each stalk in your hand and bend. It will snap off naturally between the tender upper half and botton woody stem. The bottom stem may be used for soup. Lay the upper stems on a cutting board. Cut them in 1-inch-long pieces on a diagonal.
Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the asparagus pieces, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Give a stir and cover. Shake the pan a few times as the asparagus is cooking. After two minutes lift the lid and stir the stems around. Cover and repeat the procedure for another 3 minutes. Uncover, add the soy sauce and give a final stir. Of course this may be cooked uncovered but by covering, you create a little steam which makes the asparagus tender inside and crunchy outside.
This will serve 3.
LODGING HOUSE MACARONI AND CHEESE
Lodging houses were popular in the early times in San Francisco. Most of the population was male. They needed a place to sleep and a hot meal. Macaroni and cheese was one of the traditional items on the lodging house menus. It was hot and filling. Prepared at home with a good quality cheese and macaroni this baked casserole is very satisfying.
1/2 lb. elbow macaroni
2 cups milk
4 T. butter
4 T. flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 green onion, minced
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 T. fine bread crumbs
paprika and parsley for garnish
Cook the macaroni in rapidly boiling, salted water until just tender. Drain and set aside while you make the sauce.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low flame. Add the flour. Blend well and cook together for a minute. Blend in the milk, onion, salt and pepper. Stir over a low flame. Add the cheese. Keep stirring until sauce thickens.
Mix the sauce with the macaroni. Place in a buttered 2–3 quart baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. The top should be bubbly and light brown. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley. This will make 4 servings. Sometimes sliced fresh tomatoes are layered in the casserole. This can be made ahead, and refrigerated until baking. Add 15 or 20 minutes to the baking time if cold.