Saturday, January 16, 2016

San Francisco Lives

If I could move today, I’d relocate to San Francisco. I have a long-time curiosity with the city by the bay. In October, I visited for the fourth time. The first time I ventured west, I was nineteen. At that time, I was convinced that I had a previous life in San Fran. I felt at home there; it was as if I had been there before. I couldn’t drink, barely knew good food, rode a cable car, and ate too much Ghirardelli chocolate. While I don’t necessarily believe in previous lives anymore, I still adore San Francisco. With each visit, I love it a little bit more.

Lands End Park
I made many new stops, but did revisit a few places. I ate at State Bird Provisions again; it didn’t live up to the first visit, two years ago. I went to Russian River Brewery; always great, even though the food is very suburban, middle-of-the-road, safe. And, I stopped at Lagunitas for a fresh Lagunitas Sucks; I like their outdoor beer garden and am convinced that the beer tastes better closer to the source.

In my new ventures, I had one of the best meals of my life at Saison. For this incredible meal, I spent more money, not surprisingly, on one dinner than I ever have before. I’ve been very #blessed to have the means, friends, and time to eat at several Michelin star restaurants. I will never forget my first: Alinea, in 2009. Alinea set the bar for restaurant “experiences.” To quote myself, Alinea is “a completely indulgent escape from your everyday life.”[1] This rather theatrical dining performance has only been matched by Eleven Madison Park. There is something encompassing and experiential about these restaurants. 

I had no expectations for Saison. I avoided over researching. The twenty-course meal was beyond anything I could have imagined. The food was sleek and clean: simultaneously simple and complex. The service was also lovely, familiar, and polished. I have never smoked a cigarette in my life, but I considered doing so after this meal.

Marin County Civic Center - Frank Lloyd Wright
Otherwise, I enjoyed slightly less indulgent dinners at Mission Chinese Food, Ramen Shop in Oakland, and Ippuku in Berkeley, coffee at Four Barrel on Valencia, Saint Frank, and Blue Bottle in Oakland, pastries at Tartine Bakery & Cafe, Craftsman & Wolves, B. Patisserie, tacos at La Taqueria in the Mission, and beers at Monk’s Kettle and Toronado. Needless to say, there was no hunger on this trip.

Aside from Saison, the other dinner highlight was Ippuku. This rather authentic feeling (so I’m told) Japanese place was very cool. I ate something that most of you will cringe at. When I tell people about this, in person, I say it with a sense of embarrassment. I feel bad writing it down. I ate chicken tartar. Served with a raw quail egg and nori, it was actually very good. The rest of the meal was also excellent. The entire experience was something you can't find in Philadelphia.

In the midst of all this eating, I visited the DeYoung Musuem, the Marin County Civic Center, saw Todd Barry in Oakland, and practiced yoga a few times. I still feel something in San Francisco. There is a familiarity and possible happiness about it. People seem content. The weather is enigmatic and not unpleasant. The food is endless. Perhaps I wasn't wrong about the previous life, or perhaps it's something about a future life.

Rebel Within - Craftsman & Wolves
Morning Bun - Tartine
Kougin-amann - B. Patisserie
Sea Urchin Liquid Toast - Saison
Black Sesame Spicy Tantanmen - Ramen Shop
Tori Yukke - Ippuku
La Taqueria

[1] Talley, Gina, “Chicago! Part 2: Alinea,” accessed January 9, 2016,

1 comment:

Bryan Kolesar said...

Awesome to hear from you again; glad I left you in my Feedly feed! This topic/destination hits real close to home for me, having visited dozens of times through the years to the point I totally concur with the state of mind that you describe when visiting.

I can vouch for many of the places on your list and could add many more, but will mention just one that seems like it would round out a day's nutrition quite well - Humphrey Slocumbe for ice cream in the lower Mission at 24th/Harrison (also now downtown in the Ferry Building too)