VANdal-SanFrancisco

An Adventure of the Culinary Kind in the City by the Bay

As our summer travels draw to a close, the long journey of 2,238 not-so-scenic highway miles loom ahead, creating a perfect opportunity to catch up on sharing some VANlife experience from the more memorable parts of the trip. Today’s post takes us back to late July.

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After the outdoor extravaganza of Tahoe and Truckee, we deemed San Francisco to be our gateway to a well-earned foodie feast. Though Bethany rocks the VANdal kitchen the majority of the time, healthy fare is far more the norm. We were due for a break from our athletic pursuits to throw down an adventure of a more culinary variety.

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After driving through San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf pier by pier (and determining we’d never stop there due to the extreme concentration of tourists), we stopped first at the St. Francis Yacht Club to walk the windy Chrissy Beachwith Katie Lou.

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Then we took VANdal on a more urban mountain adventure, venturing up San Francisco’s multitude of vertically endowed roads, and driving over the extraordinarily steep and terraced Russian Hill, home to some of SF’s peak real estate.

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We even managed an iconic (and tight!) drive down Lombard Street, San Francisco’s famously crooked street nestled between beautiful Victorian mansions. This, of course, made onlookers gasp with wonder if VANdal would make the tremendously sharp switchbacks (which it did…with precision) 😀

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Having completed that touristy silliness, we descended into the Mission District to placate our palate with the perfect pizza pie. For it is here in San Francisco that is home to the nation’s, and arguably the world’s, best pizza at Una Pizza Napoletana by the legendary Anthony Mangieri.

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Anthony, unlike the vast majority of celebrity chefs, has eliminated all the pomp & circumstance, reducing the art of pizza making to its bare essence. The restaurant has but few tables which surround the wood burning ceramic oven, hand-built by Anthony, which sits directly behind a visible five foot prep station showcasing where Anthony performs his magic.

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The only other employees in the restaurant are service staff. With no sous chefs, prep chefs, or assistants, he makes, bakes, checks, and approves each pizza. With great pride, his menu is limited to just a few pizzas with no substitutions, alterations, additions, or condiments. He may not quite be the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame, but he’s pretty darn close.

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The wait and 4,000 miles were well worth it to enjoy several of his pies with their organically produced and locally sourced ingredients — and, of course, the Holy Grail of Neapolitan style crusts:
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Crispy underneath, flecked with golden brown spots, resilient to the touch, and yet doughy in the center.
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Nearly toppling over from our overindulgence, we once again summited Russian Hill to find the perfect stealth spot atop one of San Francisco’s many precariously steep street hillcrests. With San Francisco’s loose overnight parking regulations, we found such a spot at Divisidero and Broadway overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay, and stunning homes valued at over $30 million.

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The next morning we continued our gluttonous gala at Tartine, a stunning replica of a Parisian bakery (sans the attitude), complete with delightful aromas and baskets brimming with pastry perfection that were consistently rotated on large trays from the kitchen so you knew you were getting the only the freshest loot. After reading about their world-class bakery in dozens of online reviews, we inhaled the aroma from where VANdal scored a sweet parking spot, immediately convinced that the dozens of other bakery-goers waiting outside the building couldn’t be wrong.

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With great difficulty, we settled on a smorgasbord: A delightfully flaky, chewy croissant, a fantastically fragrant frangipani croissant, a cheesy, airy and perfect gougeres, and carrot bread that would make Bugs Bunny jealous. Did we mention it was a gluttony gala? Well worth the wait (and the gluten bomb), indeed, nourishing us perfectly for the next jaunt in our trip as we left San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge heading up the California coast.

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