Always hard to leave San Francisco on a sunny day, especially after walking The dog with Susan in Golden Gate Park, shimmering as green as Ireland after yesterday’s mist and rain. But I will be back. and maybe someday to live here. Susan drove me north yesterday through Marin to Sonoma County to check out the relatively rural, affordable town of Sebastopol (relative to San Fran) but the beauty of the area was obscured by mist and rain. What little I saw made me wonder what kind of life and community we could build in a place with both a young counter culture vibe and an older casual California moneyed chic vibe, since we belong to neither tribe. We did have the best grilled artichoke I
Susan, parking spot park, Outer Sunset
have ever tasted (and there is a lot to be said for that) at the rustic-cozy Hopmonk Tavern. It was marinated in vinegar, oil and seasoned, cut in half and grilled then served with a grilled but still juicy lemon and a creamy white dressing. Susan’s tomato soup was full of flavor and had little cream, another plus. My small pulled pork sliders on little homemade Tasting buns was good. We stopped en route in San Rafael at Shunzi, a favorite clothing store of Susan’s, full of comfortable California chic clothes (I am still working though the guilt of the money I spent there.) In San Francisco, we had pasta and sautéed Brussels sprouts at Bacco in Noe valley, which was good but having spent two weeks recently in Italy, I am a tough customer. We walked along the main drag in Noe valley, windowshopping, the tiny shops closed but lighted, peddling an often idiosyncratic selection of wares, or as Susan observed, a hyper curated collection of overpriced stuff. Other things of note: – Urban Putt, a very inventive indoor miniature golf course in the Mission. – See’s lollipops, sold near gates 82 and 68 at the San Francisco airport.
The unapologetic motto of Boccalone, a meat producer with a retail outpost in San Francisco’s foodie mecca, the Ferry Building, is “Tasty Salted Pig Parts” and when I first spotted this slogan on someone’s T-shirt somewhere in Hawaii I thought “ick.” Even though I love pork. But Boccalone, like many others in Hawaii, tells it like it is. Instead of dressing up pig meat as “pork” it simply calls this yummy meat what it is: pig.
From a marketing standpoint, hard to know if this is a wise idea. It doesn’t do much for me. And as I mentioned, I really like pork — it seems like either I or my husband always chooses Short Ribs when dining out, in part because pork is guaranteed to be bursting with flavor. At Boccalone, the meats were cured – and we got a trendy little $5 “cone of meat” that included three selections from a wide variety of “artisan salumi hand made in small batches with pasture-raised heritage-breed pork.”
A little too precious perhaps but the meats – a lonza (sort of like prosciutto), salami and sopressata – were delicious. The description does remind me of an episode of the TV show Portlandia I heard about (but alas have not yet seen) where two foodies ask so many questions about the chicken they’re eating (What’s his name? Where did he roam? How many acres did he roam on? Did he have friends?) that the waitress says “Hold on, I’ll go get Colin’s folder.”)
Of course here in the pig capitol of the U.S., we have our own award-wining domestic artisanal salumi maker – La Quercia – which produces prosciutto, pancetta, coppa, speck, lonza, guanciale, and lardo.
Made it home with little difficulty today – think it helps to fly on a holiday, which I unwittingly did both there and back on this trip. The road to the airport at 6 a.m. this morning in San Francisco was almost empty (the cab ride still cost $52 with tip) and airport was pretty quite. Still, in Houston, during my layover, Continental was offering $300 flight vouchers, plus hotel and meals for people to fly a day later because they’d overbooked. By the time I got on the tiny airplane (at the absolutely end of the airport – or so it seemed) the offer was up to $500 and I was tempted but didn’t fancy an overnight in Houston. (Honolulu? sure thing!) No one else seemed to take the offer – which was made because the flight was allegedly overweight – and we flew on (which made me wonder how the airline handled the weight issue.)
Yet again, I checked my bag at the gate in San Francisco free of charge – did this both to and fro. So got around that irritating charge. My favorite snafu of this trip is when the United flight from Honolulu got to San Francisco early so its originally scheduled gate was occupied. The gate the airport found for us turned out to be a Continental gate – which the United crew couldn’t figure out how to operate. Even our pilot was exasperated and said after explaining the situation something like “welcome to the new merged Continental/United airlines.”)
So we walk into a cheese bar (Mission Cheese) in the Mission District of San Francisco and there, sitting the bar, is the owner/operator of The Cheese Shop, a cheese and wine bar that just opened in my neighborhood in Des Moines. I had just been telling my friend S. about it. How strange is that? Apparently there is a “good food” event going on here – a trade show for foodies – so maybe that’s why he is here. We said hello and wen toff to our respective cheese plates.
Also on or near Valencia Street, we visited Paxton Gate gift shop, Bi-Rite Creamery (for ice cream), Cafe Tartine. We also walked past an old favorite, Delfine pizza.
Yesterday, we went to the Ferry Building for the farmer’s market and strolled by the stalls inside. Produce is far pricier than my friend’s neighborhood farmers market near the Sunset district ($3.50 vs. $1 for a pound of satsumas ) but can’t beat the scenery (overlooking the bay vs. a mall parking lot.) Next stop, Potrero Hill area – had coffee, popped in and out of various shop including Christopher’s book shop (where I got an advance copy of a new nonfiction book I’ve wanted for $1.) Also walked down the Vallejo steps in North Beach – beautiful.
I’ve lucked into beautiful weather in San Francisco where I have already made one shopping trip in the Chinese neighborhood near my friend S&E’s lovely house in the Sunset neighborhood. I’ve bought a few cheap Chinese ceramic bowls to replace the ones I bought when I was last here four years ago (that broke) and bought my favorite dried apricots from the market at 22nd and Irving. Also picked up some hummus at the Sunrise Deli, a terrific middle eastern place on Irving.
Imagine walking your dog every morning in Golden Gate Park. I live vicariously by joining S on her morning walk of her sweet mutt.
Last night we went for Indian food – very good – at Bistro Roti in West Portal neighborhood.
I’m going a bit nuts trying to squeeze clothes for 16 days – for two destinations with different weather – into a carry on bag. But there are worse problems in the world. I’ve got casual clothes primarily for warm weather in Hawaii – one quasi-nice outfit for Hawaii that will be completely wrinkled when I unearth it from the bottom of my bag. And very few colder weather clothes for San Francisco but hoping I can borrow some things from my friend there if need be. Someone from the Obama campaign just called: “Sorry won’t be here for the caucuses,” I replied.
Meant to comment on a story the other day in the NYT about efforts by San Francisco tourism folks to make The Tenderloin – a notoriously seedy downtown area – a tourist attraction. The story even mentioned a possible attraction akin to the Tenement Museum, which we passed by during a stroll through NYC’s Lower East Side two weeks ago. The Tenement Museum is an interesting and popular attraction – I visited it several years ago with friends from London. The Tenderloin attraction would be a visit to a up-and-running flophouse – the difference being that flophouses are still very real in The Tenderloin (which lays claim to the world’s largest collection of historic single-room occupancy hotels) while the tenements in the gentrifying lower east side are going by the wayside and the Tenement Museum is now just that – a museum, not somewhere that people live anymore.
Not to sound too puritanical, but The Tenderloin attraction sounded in bad taste – or like a bad joke, akin to a fake news story in The Onion. (“We can bring people into an SRO (single-room occupancy hotel) and show them where people are living now,” a Tenderloin tourism guy was quoted as saying. “And that’s a real plus.”)
To be honest, it sounded like a place I’d like to see – although, as a relatively affluent tourist, I’d feel awkward popping in to witness someone else’s misery.