San Francisco definitely has a charm to it. The Victorian style homes sit shoulder-to-shoulder on rolling hillsides. There are beautiful bridges and bounties of delicious food. Who could forget trolley cars, light rail and a commuter train- public transit for the local traveler. To our benefit, Carmen and I were able to once again return to San Francisco, we visited some of our favorite eateries and sat in the sun enjoying the few moments of heat that we could get.
A recommendation to any tourist in SF: bring a jacket, always. So many believe that because San Francisco is in California that it will be warm, that there is actually a summer, but it is always cold. I too forgot and I clung onto the one long sleeve and jacket that I brought for the two weeks. A jacket is especially necessary if you are visiting San Francisco’s most spectacular piece of architecture, the Golden Gate Bridge. It spans the mouth of land that confines the SF Bay closing off the enormous Pacific Ocean which means it is often covered in fog. Another favorite architectural sight is the city hall sitting prominently with a magnificent dome.
We did find time to lie in the park. Dolores Park is large and filled with people that try to soak up the mid-afternoon warmth before the fog seeps in over the hills. We read, people watched and turned away the magic truffle salesman. The sweets we had in mind were: ice cream. Bi-rite is at the far north-east corner of Delores Park. A mile away is another glorious ice cream institution named Humphrey Slocomb. We ate at both (on separate days). There was basil and olive oil infused at Bi-rite and sesame seed and Szechuan strawberry sorbet at Humphrey Slocomb.
We spent a handful of days visiting consulate offices in San Francisco. It is amazing how many Visas are needed to be secured before traveling for seven months. China was definitely the most scrupulous, but to celebrate we ate Chinese, twice! We went to San Tung for best chicken wings and Kindom of dumpling for you guessed it: dumplings.
And then we ate more Chinese. I didn’t realize it fully when we left the Bay Area, but many of our favorite places pulled the spicy, oily flavors of Asia right onto our doorstep. Our first stop was Dol Ho that serves some awesome hole-in-the-wall dim sum. Then Mission Chinese for fiery meats and vegetables. One of our favorite Chinese barbecue places is called Cheung Hing; juicy meat hangs in the window and fried suckling pigs are wheeled out to families preparing for a party.
We made time for street food. San Francisco has a blossoming street food culture with delicious food trucks and mobile eateries. One of the best things in the Bay Area in recent years is the advent of Off The Grid. This organization has been organizing food truck circles and street markets all around the Bay Area. Carmen and I would attend a 10 truck one in Berkeley on Wednesdays, but the mother of all events is the Friday scene in Fort Mason with almost forty trucks. Our favorites were Chairmen Bao’s tofu steamed bun, Happy Dumpling, Azalina’s Malasian banana balls and copious amounts of Magnolia beer.
The next day we decided to get even more of the action at the annual Street Food Festival in the Mission neighborhood. This conference and festival is fun because trucks and restaurants mix to provide a “small item,” “large item” and drink. Our favorite was a mushroom phở roll at Rice, Paper Scissors. From sambusas, bread pudding and pão de queijo; this event had it all.
One of the best places on this planet for baked goods is Tartine. There is something wrong with how good everything is at this place. We went a couple times, but our favorites are the bread pudding, croissant, and their country bread loaf. We also had a toasted almond and pecorino sandwich that was so rich that we needed to take a nap afterwards. One night we cooked with some friends and re-created their lemon almond tea cake, very easy to make and absolutely delicious.
Another favorite is Suppenküche, a fabulous German restaurant to die for (and die by). Their cheesy spätzle is one of our favorite dishes alongside one a German beer from their long list of taps.
All that food was nothing in the enjoyment of seeing all of our wonderful Bay Area friends. We stayed in multiple houses and apartments. We camped, slept on floors, couches and air mattresses, but the real fun was spending time with some of the people that know us best. There were long nights drinking, dinner parties cooking up feasts, and casual lunches, brunches and late night dinners. We truly have a family of friends in San Francisco and they will surely be missed.