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Thursday, September 24, 2009

San Francisco in Four Days

I just returned from a whirlwind trip to the city that brought us Rice-A-Roni and Kimmie Gibbler. As is generally the trend with my trips lately (take as few days off of work as possible and smoosh as many activities in as possible; see: Ireland), I may have been a bit too ambitious. But really, by the time I got home at o'dark-thirty early early Wednesday morning, I felt fine, not too bushed, and like I got everything I wanted to get done done. And had that hey! I took a vacation and feel somewhat refreshed! feeling. So, wins.

I hadn't been to the bay area sine I was maybe... 8, so I tried to hit all the major must sees, and then some. General thoughts: it's a very cool city, but maybe not quite as "San Francisco" as I was imagining? I don't know how to really describe it, and I'm sure more time spent doing day-to-day things would give me a different take, but, it sort of felt mainly like New York West. Also: that city is like a fever. Hot, cold, sweating, shivering, scarf/sweater/jacket, tank top -- all in a matter of about 5 blocks of walking. Here's a super massive list of what I did on my trip.

Saturday: touristy San Francisco stuff
  • My aunt picked me up at the airport, cause she's awesome.
  • Brunch at Zazie. A recommendation from Capps, this place was TREMENDOUS. We expected a bit of a wait (thanks to forewarning and the huge crowd milling about outside when we arrived). But we didn't get one window-shopping stop away before they called our names. Which was good, as I was starving. We shared gingerbread pancakes with pears and delicious lemon curd (GO TO SAN FRANCISCO, GO TO ZAZIE, AND ORDER THESE IMMEDIATELY) and a poached egg dish with prosciutto and tomatoes and some heavenly sauce, and got vaguely sauced thanks to their mimosa menu. On a food-focused trip, those pancakes were the best thing I had the whole time.
  • Strolling around Amoeba Music. I was overwhelmed and didn't buy anything, but mainly just wish I lived near such a place.
  • Cable car ride. Yes, I know it's a total tourist trap, but it's also totally fun. Unless a truly stinky dude stands in front of you, holding onto the pole and leaning out, which happens to be at the perfect angle for the breeze to blow his swampy arm pit stink directly into your face. Actually, I guess the cable car was fun in spite of that.
  • At the end of the ride, we met up with Drew and Liz for...
  • Irish coffee at Buena Vista. It's renowned, and for a reason. Not quite as perfect as the one at the Jameson factory, but damn, damn good. I like the play of the cold cream on top with the perfectly balanced (and ass-kickingly strong) hot drink beneath. Good stuff. (Well, Liz had a soda. She is not in the coffee drinking way at the moment, Irish or otherwise.)
  • Sour dough from Boudin's. They've been using the same yeast for like a million years to make delicious sour dough. I got a loaf shaped like a turtle. It was awesome. I did not approve of the raisins in my bread, but hey, a turtle's gotta have eyes.
  • Ferry Building. The famed famers market was closing down, but we got to stroll through and I had foodie-gasm upon foodie-gasm. An entire MUSHROOM STORE?!?! The OTHER COWGIRL CREAMERY!?! A phenomenal looking butcher!?!?! We couldn't get our butts in seats at Hog Island for oysters before their last seating, so we made our way to the end of the building to Market Bar, for oysters and champagne. Ya know, a little snack.
  • After a short respite, we regrouped for dinner at Tropisueno. It was my first taste of Mexican food sine arriving on the west coast, and even from the chips and salsa I knew it was going to be good. Seriously, the salsas, they were so good I could cry. And my hibiscus/cucumber/lime/tequila cocktail was unbelievably good. The enchiladas were only ok, but I had a kickass taco. It's a bare bones taqueria by day and a sit down place at night. Go for the chips/salsa/cocktails alone and you won't be disappointed.
Sunday: coffee and football and drinking, oh my!
  • The next morning we went to one of Lana's coffee recommendations, Blue Bottle Coffee. It was great. The macchiato was pretty much perfect (though honestly, I think I prefer Big Bear's). I wasn't so thrilled by the Japanese-style iced coffee, but I think if I'd doctored it up it could turn into something I craved. But I am used to drinking my iced coffee black, so I kept it high-test, and it proved a little too much. Anyhow, I also had an UNBELIEVABLE grilled cheese (fontina, I believe) and prosciutto, served with some delicious and strong stone ground mustard and whole caper berries. I don't think I've ever had a caper berry before -- are the little tiny nuggets inside of them what turn into capers, or are capers just tiny little caper berries? At any rate, they were soooooo good, and the perfect, perfect companion to the sandwich. Big thumbs up to Blue Bottle.
  • Drew had told us about a place next to Tropisueno that sounded like pure heaven, so we made our trek to Beard Papa for some CREAM PUFFS. This whole place specializes in CREAM PUFFS, which they fill with the flavor of your choosing. Both of us were full from breakfast and didn't think we'd eat more than a bite, but wow. They were so earth shatteringly delicious that we each nearly devoured a whole puff.
  • Unrelated: I now weigh about 300 pounds.
  • Drew and Neil (Go Warhawks!) met us at the hotel and it was off to Candlestick Park to see the 49ers take on persistent Redskins ruiners, the Seattle Seahawks. My aunt is a big niners fan and long time season ticket holder. Thanks to her, they've always been my 2nd favorite team. And it was super fun to see somebody else's stadium. Candlestick is not fancy. It's probably less fancy than Scott Stadium at UVA. But it is LOUD. About about 1/20th capacity (before the game started and people were still milling in and about), the cheers were much bigger and louder than anything you ever hear at a sold out FedEx Field. (Note: thank you, Spencer, for all the text updates on the Skins game. Other commentary on that matter: withheld.) It was a GREAT game, incredibly exciting play the whole time, a well-earned niners win, and I even got to see Eddie DeBartolo enter the franchise's hall of fame at half time. Jerry Rice, Joe Montana and a whole bunch of other greats from their past were on hand to help celebrate the beloved owner. Wouldn't it be nice to have a beloved owner?
  • My aunt took off after the game, headed back to San Luis Obispo, and Drew and Neil and I went in search of food and booze. Food came in the form of some very tasty Thai food at a place in their neighborhood (as Drew pointed out, we were closer to Thailand there), and booze in the form of a wine bar just across the way. I tried Frenet (a big fad in San Francisco, as I was told. Not terrible, but that minty aftertaste is sort of a homicidal maniac to anything else you hope to taste for the rest of the night, so I let Neil finish mine.). I tried some locally distilled gin in a ginger-based cocktail (good enough to make me order two). And I tried some bubbly, though I don't think it was from California. I didn't pay nearly enough attention to drinking California wines while I was out there, but, really, I drink them all the time at home, so...
Monday: To Berkeley!
  • On Monday, a public transit escapade took me from SoMa out to Berkeley to visit the very studious Abby. Holy hell is that one beautiful campus! And, quite hilly. Very, very hilly. I found my way to a breakfast burrito, since I arrived in town before Abby's first classes were done. Then I made my way up, up, up said hills where we met for smoothies and dishing. She had to keep on learning things, so I found my way to her apartment (Abby is very good at drawing maps.), dropped off my bags, and set out to vintage shop and perhaps stuff a few pounds of magic down my gullet at the Cheese Board. Well, as it turns out, vintage shops and the Cheese Board are closed on Mondays. Do not go to Berkeley on a Monday. At any rate, I had a lot of fun exploring, and wound up sitting in the Berkeley equivalent of Bar Pilar (or as they call it, Cesar Tapas) drinking tempranillo and eating olives and marcona almonds, reading A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and chatting up locals about books for a few hours. Abby and I made our way to a dive bar that turned out to not have much in the way of food, but did have a touchie porn machine, so we diverted ourselves there for a little while. Then we went to the main drag in the undergrad part of town (the parts of Berkeley that have restaurants and shops in them are about 20x bigger than the parts that have restaurants and shops in Charlottesville), and had a pretty terrible dinner at one of those places that if it weren't overrun by duuuuuuuuuuuudes and chicken fingers would actually be a really cool set up for a restaurant. But of course, I had an awesome time catching up with Abs regardless of uncooked and shockingly flavorless pizza and bizarre soup and a wait staff that recognizes birthdays by doing car bombs with the birthday boys while other people sing happy birthday.
Tuesday: taquerillas and vintage threads
  • Tuesday was the final day of my journey. I made my way back to the city, specifically, to the mission. First stop: Tartine. Lana and Kate both raved about this cafe. I actually had a sort of lack lustre experience there, but I blame bad ordering decisions. My latte was fantastic, but the croque monsieur was sort of blah. I couldn't find the menus when I went in so I just sort of pointed at something and said "I'll have that." Whatever the berry-drowned baked goods on about 75% of the other tables were looked nothing short of heavenly, so next time, get whatever that is. But the pickled carrot that came with my sandwich was very awesome. And so was the crazy art on the walls.
  • From there, I vintage shopped my way through the neighborhood, hitting up the Community Thrift Store (no luck), Buffalo Exchange (SOOOOOOO MUUUUCH LUUUCK), and the Painted Bird (again, no luck). You see, thrifting is very seldom a fruitful experience for me. I am not a teeny sample size like so many of my friends, whose care-worn plaids and smocked dresses I stare at longingly on a regular basis. No, for me, finding something that actually fit my long limbs and totally reasonable but not so tiny chest in a second hand store is a miracle of the highest order. So to find THREE dresses at Buffalo Exchange, well, that was something else. Still, button downs evade me. Now and forever, I fear.
  • Shopping complete, I walked over to 24th & Mission to complete the final mission of my journey: eat my weight in tacos. I couldn't find the taqueria Kate recommended, so I went with Abby's favorite, Farolito. I don't know a word in English or Spanish strong enough to convey the sheer deliciousness of simple Mexican food done right by people who know what they're doing. My god, it was happiness. Pure, pure happiness in my mouth. It also may have lead to me puking all night when I got home, but, the jury's still out. Coulda been anything. At any rate: tacos. Oh, tacos. I will miss you so much out here in this land foresaken by proper Mexican food.
  • At that point, my arm was tired from lugging my bag around so many blocks, and it was time to head to the airport anyway. I was fat, happy, and thoroughly satisfied by my western sojourn. The end. I highly doubt anybody read this far! Fart! B00bs! See, nobody's reading anymore!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you check out The Smash Club? I heard Jessie and the Rippers put on a great show there.

2:18 PM  
Blogger ike said...

And your odds of getting food poisoning from a taqueria in the mission are only 1/10. Good seeing you!

3:09 PM  

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