Not long ago I was talking about how difficult it is to really get bored, no matter where you are. If you can't vary the places you go to, you can vary your interests, vary your company (in this case, it changed from last year to mostly just me, without my mom and my brother), or vary your activities. And always, always (unless you never plan on coming back) leave something for next time. When it comes to San Francisco, you'd have to be a dead fish to finally run out of things to see or do, or you're just one of those people who don't like what San Francisco stands for. Above is a pic I snapped of the Caltrain terminal between Mission Bay and SoMa. (There's no logic in the optics of this one-- the lens blur was applied in post because my camera can't achieve depth of field well.)
I mean, just look at the cheeky shops you can see on Castro! Even the restaurants seem to have joined in on the fun. (That, or I'm just that filthy.) Under One Roof is a great shop filled with little gadgets for the home and furniture, and their proceeds benefit AIDS research.
Since I was in San Francisco for Saint Patrick's Day (AGAIN!), I was able to witness quite a bit of craziness. I chanced upon people participating in the pub crawl known as Brides of March, though I got confused by 1) lazy-ass college students wearing a white sheet as a toga (get a real wedding dress!) and 2) your garden-variety "Adam and Eve" protesters (see blurred sign in background). I had no idea what was going on at the time. Anyway, it reminded me of the movie The Bachelor, which incidentally was also filmed in San Francisco.
Online travel guides can also be a big help. This year I was able to start riding the bus, MUNI and bart systems (I should've last year, but that's what happens when you travel with family, sigh). A few blocks from the 24th Street and Mission bart station, you'll see an alley full of murals: some uplifting, some thought-provoking (some frightening).
I also got a better taste of the culture. As I really needed a drink, I stopped by Cafe Flore, also in the Castro district. I can't comment on the food as I didn't have any, but it is one of those very charming places where you can hang out alone (free Wi-Fi, w00t) or with friends. I really love this picture I took-- reminds me of the calmness and warmth of the quaint cafe.
The reason why I insisted on going to San Francisco during my interview period (even with all the other plane rides I had to take) was because I wanted to finally catch Allen, one of my favorite bloggers (and people as well, heh) before he left for Vancouver. He told me that I was exactly like how he'd imagined me, so make of that what you will. Grr. Dinner with Allen and Joe was so much fun and I felt like I'd known him for ages, like a (not much, heh) older brother. Also, they were super-cool and forgave a whopper of a faux pas I committed as we said our goodbyes, which is too embarrassing to share here. (Also, I wanted to spend time with my super-cute cousins, and I did end up babysitting for quite a while, so mission accomplished!)
Neither of us were actually staying in San Francisco, so we ate at La Boheme, which Allen probably suggested as he and nearly everyone who knows me knows, I want a good dessert. We had escargot on brioche toasts, which I think Allen ate for the first time. We also had sauteed scallops, and I had the caramel ginger glazed sea bass with honey-balsamic reduction. Which was utterly de. licious. For dessert, we had a Reine des Neige (white chocolate mousse with raspberries), millefeuilles fraise, and black and white chocolate mousse cake.
This was also the trip where I FINALLY got to eat at Tartine. I actually went twice! In contrast to Cafe Flore, Tartine was frantic, but still awesome in its own way. I had the Devil's Food Cake made with Valrhona (heaven) and a brioche bread pudding. The latter wasn't really to my taste: it seemed a little wet and eggy, whereas I like my bread pudding sweet and firm. Lisa is going to attempt this, so watch out for her blog post next week (and I hope you liked it more than I did)! As it was winter, the summer pastries were unfortunately not being made, except for the odd strawberry tart. However, you could still get desserts such as banana cream pie, coconut tart, lemon meringue cake, and of course, their huge quiches and tea cakes.
If you remember last year's post, I had dismissed Miette because I thought it was too plain and ordinary, and Jen quickly set me straight, but too late. This year I did try it, and man, was I ever wrong about skipping it. The gingerbread cupcake still lingers on in my memory as one of the best I've ever tasted (especially since I later tried to get gingerbread in New York, also in a famous bakery, which sucked!). Those who follow my tweets know that I still crave it, months later. That's strong stuff. If ever a cookbook comes out, I'm going to be first in line to get one.
Before I went to Tartine, I made it a point to go to what is reputed to be San Francisco's best ice cream-- Bi-Rite Creamery. It was sinfully delicious (and all I had was BANANA!), but it's hard to declare it definitively the best, because the US has a pretty fantastic track record when it comes to ice cream production. Anyway, I had banana because we don't have that flavor here. Even though we export tons of it. Apparently, it's just too common for people to crave in an ice cream?
I also met up with one of my favorite blogger/people (and don't just throw around the word "favorite", just so you know), Marvin, who was in town on business. (Not only do us male food bloggers have to stick together, but it goes double with Marvin because he's Filipino!) We went to L'Osteria del Forno, located on San Francisco's North Beach, of course. It's among the 100 must-try restaurants in San Francisco. He had the Pizza San Francisco (ham and artichoke hearts, yum!) and I had the Gamberi Adriatic style.
After that, we talked about life and allergies over some pretty tame gelato flavors (okay, we're wimps! But I did try the cactus pear, among others. Tastes like pear) at Naia.
With my extended family, we ate at tons of places, but this particular dish at El Toro Loco, a Mexican/ Peruvian restaurant on Pacifica, stood out for me: it's mussels with a relish of sweet corn, pepper, and tomatoes. Awesome.
My aunt (cousin to you Americans) knew I loved food, so she was stressing out over what restaurant she should take me to impress. All her office mates said Burma Superstar, and they made absolutely the right choice. (You just can't go wrong with Southeast Asian food, can you? ;) We had the tea leaf salad (which you can sea being mixed above), Nan Gyi Dok, Burmese Samusas, and something that's bound to be one of my favorite dishes of all time: Fiery Chicken with Tofu. Check out that glorious, steaming pic! I want to have it right now! Drool.
After lunch, we headed to Schubert's Bakery, where the display case seemed to have warped in from the eighties, but the cakes are no less delicious. I had a princess cake (oh, shut up, I've never had one), which I thoroughly enjoyed. Each bite I took had to have a bit of whipped cream, jam, cake, and marzipan!
Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this re-visitation of San Francisco as much as I have (though it has made me considerably hungrier). But it's not over yet! There's a Part 4 still to come (maybe next month)! Plus, still some New York and New Jersey!