Weekly Travel Guide: I Left My Stomach in San Francisco with Alison Corbat

I'm happy to introduce our new weekly travel guide column by our latest addition Alison Corbat. For as long as she can remember, Alison has been passionate about food. She grew up traveling the exciting state of New Jersey with her family as they dined at various hidden gems that her mother had read about. She also spent her childhood begging to tag along on her parents' trips to the supermarket, and then proceeding to drive them crazy as she shoveled her recommended purchases into their carts.

Now, several decades later and with a more sophisticated palate, she has expanded her culinary journeys to circle the globe and is here to provide you with weekly guides on some of her favorite dining destinations around the country. Each week she will profile a different U.S. city, bestowing her recommendations on how to eat like a local, where to find interesting ethnic treats, and more. The column will also include photographs to tantalize your appetites.

Read Alison's first piece..

I began my recent San Francisco trip by straying from my preference of hidden gems and going straight for the city's iconic destinations. First, I pressed my face against the window of Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe's open kitchen. My eyes expanded in awe as I watched the bakers knead the century's old yeast into all sorts of fun shapes. Wafts of baking dough seeped out of the building, causing my stomach to growl. After the teasing performance, I stopped inside to sample one of the large, crusty rolls. I delighted in the tart, doughy center, but forced myself to vacate the building and move onto my next culinary adventure. I explored all that the tacky, tourist-packed Wharf had to offer - from a juicy burger with the house's special sauce at In N' Out (the celebrated fast food heaven of the West Coast) to a hearty seafood bouillabaisse at the old-school, Alioto's. Plus, how could I forget a visit to Ghirardelli Square, where I treated myself to a chocolate chip cookie as large as a baseball!

Once that silly, but essential, part of my food journey was completed, I spent a separate afternoon exploring the cultural areas of the city. I started with dim sum at Chinatown's City View Restaurant, where I snatched a variety of sweet pork buns, fried taro balls, various dumplings, and more from the passing carts. I later walked through the unique Japantown, which offered several markets and restaurants showcasing their fine culinary delicacies. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the Mission District, but I have heard that shops such as Taqueria La Cumbre serve burritos that are packed with up to two pounds of customizable, local ingredients.

When it came to dinner, San Francisco offered a fabulous array of refined, yet reasonable, restaurants. Kokkari Estiatorio, for example, was a beautifully decorated, rustic Greek taverna, complete with skewered meats cooking over a wood burning stove. The lively, trendy bar scene contrasted with the natural, authentic cooking styles of the kitchen, but the elegance of both created a seamless experience.  Simply roasted chicken breasts, pan seared fish, and braised lamb all reemphasized the theory that cooking does not need to be elaborate to be awe-inspiring. I also enjoyed a fabulous meal at Perbacco, where I was able to order an appetizer-sized portion of hearty pappardelle with short rib ragu, the perfect end to my day of glutinous snacking.

Lastly, I just had to check out the hyped Ferry Building Marketplace, a warehouse that no longer acts solely as a transportation hub. While a group of regional gourmets displayed their farmed products and epicurean snacks market-style outside of the building, the inside acted as a refined food court. I strolled around outside first, sampling everything from freshly-picked oranges to seasoned nuts. I also caroused through the shops within the space, delighting in bold coffee from the Blue Bottle Coffee Company, bread dipped in aromatic Stonehouse California Olive Oil, and countless other foodie delights.

It was hard for me to trim the tale of my epicurean voyage around San Francisco, because I really did tailor my trip around non-stop eating. The next time you make it to the city, take it from this "healthy" eater and customize an itinerary that allows you to fit it all in - from traditional ethnic fare to fine dining, and everything in between. Oh, and do not forget your fork.