Today was a ridiculously nice day in the city. It was September weather at the beginning of February! While the rest of the U.S. is being shutdown by ice and snow, people in the Bay Area were sporting shorts, sailing ships, and enjoying the summer-like sun. My wife and I usually spend two to three Saturdays a month traversing the city streets in search of new watering holes and delicious bites to snack on. We rarely eat an entire meal, prefering to taste as many different dishes as possible. Living in such a culinary wonderland, we have a responsibility to enjoy it and spending an entire day walking and eating will only scratch the surface of what's available in San Francisco, let alone the rest of the Bay. On a day like today, one should have been ashamed to stay indoors.
If you've never spent an entire morning/afternoon gourging on unhealthy food and intoxicating liquor, then we're probably not going to ever be close friends. My wife and I, while both having a long, extended backgrounds working with children, have no desire for a child of our own - we love kids, just other people's kids. We have no desire to own a house or any other financial burden because all of our free time and money would be better spent on traveling and eating at new places. Anything that would detract from doing so would only result in our common resentment of that barrier! Is it possible to spend hours upon end ingesting calories in an enjoyable fashion, one might ask? Yes, and as long as you exercise you shouldn't gain a pound! Here in this blog post is a how-to guide for constructing such an outing, should you decide to in the future. To make this great day even more enjoyable, we brought along fellow culinary adventurer and lover of all booze, Luke O'Brien. He too had a list of destinations to check off, so at 10:30 sharp we hit the road.
First stop was the Jasmine Tea House to settle a bet between Luke and my wife about which Chinese restaurant has the best pot stickers. We are big fans of San Mateo's Hot Wok Bistro so it was going to take a spectacular effort to win us over. Luke, however, is a man to be believed and the above picture should illustrate perfectly the crispy outside of the doughy, pork-filled dumpling. Dim sum is a great way to start your day in order to line the stomach with the necessary booze-accomodating oils and fats. "Just pot stickers?" the waitress asked confusedly. No time for more food, unfortunately, because stomach space must be conserved for the sake of future consumption. A spot of tea, a few soy sauce-soaked bites, and we had to make our way over to the Ferry Building.
The Embarcadero is an amazing place to sip and sample due to the proximity of many boutique fooderies and the wonderful Slanted Door bar. The cocktail menu is always full of exciting options and the drinks are almost always impeccably mixed. We all ordered the Rhum Agricole Punch, a tasty blend of agricole rum, canne syrup, lime, with dashes of Angostura bitters and all spice dram, dusted with grated nutmeg on top. On a warm day like today, you need constant refreshment and scenery only helps to enhance your mood. The restaurant over looks the Bay Bridge on the water and makes the drinking experience more stimulating. Discipline is key, however, because the drinks go down quickly and there is no time to waste ordering another. We had to get up and move into the Ferry Building foray.
Boccalone Salumeria is pure pork heaven and is located just a few doors down from the Slanted Door. The establishment is another project by the guys behind Incanto and they offer some great quick snack options for those of us on the move. The Salumi Cone sample is about $4 and offers a salty, meaty treat that can be ingested on the go. The meats were packed with pure pig flavor and each cut was as diverse as the next – a fantastic way to try before you buy. The location is dangerouly close, however, to the Cowgirl Creamery and its side-station that has a grilled-cheese sandwich of the day. Of course, if you've saved the requisite stomach space as earlier advised, fitting both into the agenda should be no problem.
While Luke and my wife wolfed down their sandwiches, I went over and got some sliced samples from the cheese stand. The knowledgable staff (headed by the brother of my co-worker Zach) is like the K&L of cheese. You go and ask questions, you sample, and in the end you decide on a selection. I was in the mood for something sharp so the girl helping me suggested a fantastic cheese from Wisconsin that fit the bill. We stood in the main entrance and ate an immense amount of dairy in one quick sitting. As if that wasn't enough milk fat, we walked over to an artisan chocolate stand and got a selection of sweet niblets that we chewed on as we walked back to the car. When engaging in such an activity, it is important to alternate drinking and eating consistantly, so the next step had to be booze. I had never been to one of the oldest bars in the city and had been eager to visit, so we drove over to Fisherman's Wharf.
The Buena Vista has been operating in SF for 125 years and is reportedly the creator of the now ubiquitous Irish Coffee. Set right on the wharf with a view of Alcatraz in the distance, it's a fantastic place to get a little local history as well as enjoy a beautiful view. The tourists packed the streets outside and everyone was enjoying the incredible weather on the square. We plopped down at a table and ordered three of their specialty - the waitress yelled, "Make three please!" to the bar staff, without any need to clarify which drink she meant.
I almost never order caffinated cocktails, but in this case one needs to let the venue dictate procedure. It's important to be open in the moment and let the specialities of the city come to you! The Irish Coffee is wonderfully creamy and sweet on the entry with a splendid richness on the palate and warm burn on the finish. The Buena Vista definitely has this beverage down, and it didn't take long before we had them down as well. The waitress had barely served us our coffees before we asked her for the check and headed back south of Market for some more food.
Zero Zero was the next destination for a quick margarita pizza and some well-crafted cocktails and beer. Luke had been eager to try their crust, and he was not disappointed. The dough is softer and chewier than the typical pie and the sauce is light and creamy. One of a now growing number of pizza/cocktail parlors in the city, these guys do both very well and the best part is you can sneak into the bar between lunch and dinner, without a reservation, and order food there. We chatted with the friendly bartenders and enjoyed a Pimm's Punch and Negroni Bianco from their extensive drink menu (including Van Winkle bourbons and a nice single malt supply) before heading back to the Mission for dessert.
Luke told us that there was no way we were going home without trying out Humphry Slocombe, a wacky little ice cream shop on Harrison St. in a very Brooklyn-like part of town. The weather was so warm that people were out sitting on the stoop and the abundance of tattooed hipsters with their young children transported us to a Williamsburg flashback as the bearded and moustached faithful lined up to get their cones. The flavors were options such as black sesame, "secret breakfast" – a bourbon and cornflake concoction, and thai lime chili. We tried all three and all three were outstanding. The curious selection left me dying to try more, but the sun was setting slowly and Luke had to get back home to his honey, so we hit the freeway back south.
After dropping Luke off, we headed over to Martin's West for some meat products and a quick Moscow Mule before heading home for the night. A walk up to the top of the hill above downtown San Mateo cleared our foggy heads and lightened the load in our bellies. On an evening like tonight we could see the lights on the Transamerica Building clearly while the planes circled above the airport in the foreground.
The day was well-organized, well-enjoyed, and well-spent. We talked about the salads we would be eating tomorrow as we walked home and began planning our outing for next Saturday, when we would do the same thing all over again. Eating and drinking are two of the greatest pleasures in life (if not the greatest) so make sure you make time to enjoy them properly! Until next weekend...