Hunters and fishermen have always tried very hard to use the bounties of the field, forest, and waters responsibly and to its fullest rather than waste anything that might be useful as food, clothing, or even tools. Nowhere is that more obvious than food staples like pot luck stew, gumbo, and a more recent culinary discovery of my wife, Cioppino.
Cioppino itself is a traditional Italian-American dish that originated in the North Beach region of San Francisco, where Italian fishermen, many of whom were from Genoa, Italy, created a type of seafood stew made up of the catch of the day. Crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels, and fish are combined with fresh tomatoes and a wine sauce to create an absolutely wonderful dish that’s perfect on a cold day. Throw in some sourdough bread and you’ve got the quintessential San Francisco meal which everyone with a taste for seafood should try.
My wife and I decided that we just had to sample some when we visited San Francisco because it’s supposed to be one of the signature dishes of the region, as much as Rice-a-Roni, and sourdough bread. We accomplished two of the three at restaurants right down on the waterfront close to Fisherman’s Warf where you can find just about anything touristy you can think of, along with some spectacular eateries.
We enjoyed our meal while sitting under the mid-day sun on the sidewalk at a restaurant called, you guessed it “Cioppino’s.” Their namesake dish proved to be as yummy as we were hoping and the atmosphere helped to make our lunch a truly special way to conclude our trip to the west coast.
Being on something of a healthy eating kick has required us to seek out recipes with a lot of fish and shellfish to supplement our pork, chicken, and beef dishes. Although squid isn’t normally something we eat regularly, it’s one of those seafood items that we really enjoy when done well. And boy do they do it right!
Vacations are wonderful times to get out there and sample the local flavor so try to break out of your shell (no pun intended) and look for something different on the menus when you stop for dinner. I don’t know if I have enough guts to go as far as Andrew Zimmern on “Bizarre Foods” but I have become a bit more adventurous over the past 20 years.
So do yourself a favor and step out of your food comfort zone while on vacation. Seek out local favorites and signature dishes instead of the same old burger and fries. You might just discover something you can add to your own recipe book.
Brian “Beastman” Eastman