Bay Tripper: Tony Bennett may have left his heart there. But if you're escaping to San Francisco this summer, be prepared to leave your wallet behind, too.
It's always good to have a fat bank account, and the city by the bay is an especially wonderful place to be flush. But if, like me, you vacation here with champagne dreams and a beer budget, don't despair.
Two people can do some wonderful feasting and still get change back from a $50 traveler's check. San Francisco is full of great cheap eats.
Actually, in Chinatown, a couple can get plenty of change back from a $20 traveler's check. Two recommendations:
D.P.D. Restaurant, 901 Kearny: It's not much more than a hole in the wall, but all thoughts of ambiance disappear once your meal arrives. The place specializes in Shanghai cuisine, something you won't find here in the Valley. Try the Shanghai dumplings, filled with pork and cabbage. Soups are breathtaking, and the weather's cold enough to enjoy them. Check out the salted-cabbage pork noodle model. Shanghai is well-known for its thick noodle dishes. D.P.D.'s version of chow mein, tossed with chicken and spinach and cabbage, is a wonder.
Taiwan Restaurant, 289 Columbus: It looks nondescript, but when it comes to ethnic food, appearances can be deceiving. This place emphasizes Taiwanese fare, another variant of Chinese cooking you'll rarely find locally. Start munching on white-turnip cakes or the sweet rice in a crock. The petals-of-pork soup is extraordinary, pork balls stuffed with shrimp paste, in a sublime broth swimming with thick rice noodles and lots of veggies. Vegetarians will appreciate the dry braised green beans, while adventurers can nibble on cold pork ear, boneless duck web and five-spices tripe.
In North Beach, the Italian section, we had a head-spinning meal at L'Osteria del Forno, 519 Columbus. There's room for about 20 diners, and, at prime eating hours, folks line up outside the door. It's worth the wait. How about an appetizer of grilled endive wrapped with prosciutto? Or an inventive nibble like patate stufate, cubes of roasted yam, potato and carrots tossed with rosemary? The kitchen features lovely thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizzas, with a variety of fresh toppings. There are also daily specials, at eye-rubbingly low prices. Heavenly roasted organic polenta smothered with Gorgonzola goes for $5.95, while $8.95 gets you crespelle, a crepe filled to bursting with wild mushrooms and ham, coated with a creamy bechamel sauce. A wickedly rich Belgian-chocolate mousse ($3.75) brings dinner to a triumphal conclusion.
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Home Vacation: The Arizona Biltmore replaces the Ritz-Carlton as the featured hostelry in this summer's Uptown Dine Around. On weekend nights through September 7, the program includes appetizers at Christopher's Bistro, entree at RoxSand and dessert at Wright's, the Biltmore's swanky restaurant. Then you get to go upstairs to sleep the meal off. The $235-per-couple tag also includes a cooking class with one of the three restaurants' chefs, and a continental breakfast.
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