3 Amazing Places to Experience Truffles in San Francisco
Eat Like A San Franciscan: Little Tastes of Luxury Predicted to Continue in 2024, as Well as the Rise of the California Truffle.
In 2024 luxury foods should continue to trend. Items like caviar, 5A5 Japanese Wagyu Beef, Vintage Sprits and elevated cocktails are soaring in popularity, as we welcome 2024. Truffles, which are starting to flourish in California, should also start showing up more and more on restaurant menus. The highbrow/lowbrow food and beverage trends are still going strong as well. This, also, should continue throughout the year and in years to come. Caviar Bumps are being offered all over San Francisco now, which is, perhaps, the most popular manifestation of the high brow/lowbrow trend. The younger set and single socialites, in cities Like New York and San Francisco, want to enjoy the best life has to offer without putting too much of a dent in their wallets. Instead of full caviar service every weekend with Champagne, the in the know opt to enjoy a dollop of caviar, licked off the back of their hands, like salt for a tequila shot and wash it down with a perfectly acceptable brewski like a Budweiser or High Life or a domestic sparkler, rather than pricey Champagne. Last year, the New York Times reported that celebrities are getting in on these delicious little trends as well. Apparently Diplo, the popular DJ, who often spins in SF, was introduced to caviar bumps, while at a trendy Brooklyn Bar in 2023 and loved it. Truffles, like caviar, are beginning to manifest in innovative new ways on menus, which allow for the enjoyment of luxury items, without over spending.
The California truffle market has finally arrived. The difficult to grow tubers, which were first planted almost 2 decades ago in Napa Valley are starting to produce higher yields and quality truffles. More truffle hunting dogs are being trained for the harvesting of the most expensive fungus in the world. The early truffle growers are certain to be looked back on as the pioneers of a large successful domestic truffle industry in the decades to come.
Napa has the right soil and climate for growing the highly sought after truffle.And with all the agriculture in California, there is definitely a large population of people with the talents to properly cultivate them. The elevation, mediterranean climate, and volcanic soils all make for ideal conditions when growing truffles. Napa also has many Hazelnut and Oak trees, which are ideal host trees for truffles.
The pioneers of the Napa Valley Truffle industry have joined truffle growers from Tennessee, Virginia, Oregon, Washington and other parts of California as members of the North American Truffle Association. Recently the Napa “Truffiers”, as the truffle growers are called, have hosted an annual Napa Truffle Fest. The 2024 Truffle Fest is just around the corner, kicking off on Friday January 12, 2024 and continuing through Monday January 15, 2024. With Napa Valley Truffle Fest coming up, we at CrawlSF have been exploring truffle menus all over the city. Here are some of our favorite items:
The Famous Raviolo at Cotagna with the White Truffle Supplement
30 years ago, back in 1994, a young Michael Tusk took a trip to Bologna Italy. This trip would inspire his career and significantly impact the culinary landscape of San Francisco. It was on this fateful trip abroad that Tusk had dinner at a restaurant called, “America Dal 1934” in the town of Savigno. Savigno is a small town, in the hills of southwestern Bologna. It is a place known for truffles.Tusk ordered a meal that he would never forget that night, The dish was a raviolo. The Italian restaurant prepared the raviolo with a broth, porcini mushrooms and white truffles.
What is a raviolo? A raviolo, like a ravioli, is a stuffed pasta dish. The difference is that raviolo is one large stuffed pice of pasta that serves as its own dish.
Tusk immediately tried to recreate the dish after he returned to California. He eventually perfected a recipe that, after nearly 30 years has a cult following amongst foodies in the City of San Francisco. 30-40 of his, now famous, raviolo dish are ordered daily at his 3 Michelin Starred Restaurant, Cotagna, which he opened with his wife, Lindsey, in 2010.
The raviolo at Cotagna is a must have with the White Truffle supplement. Regulars there often order one for the table to share when bringing friends or family for the first time. You would be remiss to go to Cotagna and not order one raviolo, at the very least, for the table. The dish first debuted at Tusk’s restaurant, Quince, over 20 years ago.
490 Pacific Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
The “Boujee Tatchos” at the Left Door in Cow Hollow
Newcomer, Left Door, in Cow Hollow, is a swanky cocktail lounge, hidden above the Legacy Dive-bar, Bus Stop. The venue has made quite a first impression, already ranking among the “Top 14 Cocktail Bars in San Francisco”, according to the food writers at the SF Chronicle. The ambiance is sexy and somehow retro and modern all at the same time. It feels like a private Club in Manhattan or London, when you pass through the entrance and up the stairs. The entrance is unmarked, giving it a speak easy vibe. But the location is in the name. There are two doors on the right of the Bus Stop and the one on the left leads to the Left Door Lounge. You ring the bell and the bouncer will let you know, if there is room and grant you entrance. Of course, the guests are expected to dress appropriately for an evening out at SF’s Swankiest new haunt. The staff is usually dressed to the nines as well, including owner Joe Wallace, who is there throughout the evening chatting, imbibing and dancing with guests; playing the role of SF’s best party host. A DJ spins some great music Thursday through Saturday nights. After food service ends, everyone can’t help but dance and have a great time.
Many people do not realize that this amazing new cocktail venue offers an amazing bar food menu well. The menu offers small plates of all the trendy luxury items, including caviar bumps, 5A5 Waygu bites, and, of course truffles! While cocktails are certainly the star of the show, at Left Door, they have one of the most innovative bar food menus in the city. Chef Paul Toxqui, formerly on the culinary team at Aquarello, created a unique, modern menu of delicious bar snacks. Already a favorite among the staff and the clientele is a dish he calls, “Boujee Totchos”. It sounds a little strange but the flavors come together beautifully and people are raving about how well the flavors compliment each other. The dish starts with incredible, crispy, Russet Potato Hash Brown Cubes that are dressed in a Gorgonzola Dolce with White Truffle Oil and finished with shaved Black Perigord Truffles from France and Salmon Roe from Tsar Nikolai. They are flavorful, addictive and sharable. And, at only $27 an order, they definitely won’t break the bank. The food menu is a great way to pamper yourself, as there are a myriad in affordable luxury treats. Chef Paul, even offers an incredible house made “Choco Taco” that is dangerously delicious.
1905 Union Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
The White Truffle Martini at Bar Sprezzatura
The beautiful Financial District Restaurant and Bar, created in a collaboration, between Chef Michael Mina and Italian Mixologist Carlos Splendorini, delivers in every way. It is a hidden Oasis, that actually serves lunch, a rarity in the city today for sure.It is tucked away at 1 Maritime Plaza, on the second floor, to the right of the top of the escalators. The cocktail program is nothing short of spectacular. Their Espressotini made the CrawlSF best Espressotini List recently. We had one of the most decadent, luxurious and interesting riffs on the Martini Cocktail there recently as well; the White Truffle Infused Martini. It was beautifully presented with a side car, making it quite a large portion. I would say this incredible drink is definitely shareable. Made with vintage vermouth and served with a side of Prosciutto and figs, which compliment the flavor quite well, it was more of an event than a cocktail. It was definitely splurge worthy and food friendly, as the truffle flavor pairs well with their charcuterie, cheese, pastas and pizza. Rumor has it Carlos has added a Truffle Negroni to the menu. Don’t miss out on this one of a kind cocktail experience. It will not disappoint.
While most restaurants are still buying truffles imported from France, Italy and the newer Australian Markets, soon we may see more and more California Truffle offering on menus all over the Bay Area. Food and Wine Magazine has compared the early truffle growers in California wine country to the pioneers of the California Wine Industry in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It did not take long for California wine makers and grape growers to produce a product that held its own against the French, who were thought to produce some of the best and highest quality wines in the world at the time. Soon chefs throughout the Bay Area may be hosting wine and truffle dinners featuring California Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Sparkling Wines and locally grown truffles to boot. Maybe Chef Micael Tusks Raviolo will be offered with shaved California Truffles in the not too distant future.
In addition to truffle dinners, truffle dishes and truffle infused cocktails at restaurants, more and more truffle products are on the market and being sold at specialty food shops and upscale food retailers, such as Epicurean Trader, Wine Forrest Mushrooms, at the Ferry Building, and at, inner Richmond newcomer: the Pasta Supply Co. There are plenty of ways to add little drops of luxury to your home cooked meals, with truffle salt, truffle oil, truffle paste, truffle butter and truffle sauces. The California based hot sauce company, Truff, which launched in 2017 has been wildly successful as well and it has already developed a cult following. One thing is for sure, there are endless ways to enjoy delicious, aromatic truffles and now they are growing closer to home. 2024 is starting strong, with Napa Truffle Fest. It should be an epic year in dining for the Bay Area. Let us know what your favorite truffle dishes are in the Bay Area.
One Maritime Plaza, #100
San Francisco, CA 94111