after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Napa/SF: Day 5

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t says: Alrightie-then. Our third-to-last day!! We started off our Saturday in SF as every single guide-book to SF suggests: Ferry Building Market. We hiked on over to check out what is apparently the combination of a food mall and an outdoor farmer’s market. Overall, it was a rather interesting food-centric attraction, however, I’m not sure if it was the end-all be-all of awesomeness. I was expecting something that could not be described by words – but there it is – I described it. Now, I will say that if we had more time in SF, like if we were visiting some friends and cooking a meal together, then yes, the Ferry Building would have been far more fun because we could have indulged in shopping for the various produce and meats and things … next time …

As we walked around, we got kind of hungry. But we had an inside tip: cm told us that we had to go to Blue Point Oyster Company for their New England Clam Chowder. It was going to be unlike any clam chowder that we had ever tasted and would completely blow our minds. So we were ready to have our minds blown … except that we couldn’t find it. There was a “Hog Island Oyster Company” – but surely this is not what he had meant because aside from “Oyster Company”, the two names bear zero similarity. Perhaps this was some sort of imitation and Blue Point was the “real deal”, while this one would suck. So, we decided to skip it and instead went for what I felt was a somewhat oxymoronically named vendor:

There was this stand there which was run by a small army (family) of Spanish-speaking people (minus the two thin white girls who gave you your food – not sure if they were somehow related, or just the hired eye-candy). There was a line about 6 people deep. And every book on SF food kept talking about chilaquiles – we had never had one before, but we figured this would be a good place to at least find one representative sample. It was actually quite delicious. The combination of egg, tortillas that were fried and cooked in some kind of tomato-based mixture, beans, cheese, and sour cream. Simple, satisfying, and fried – what a great way to start the day.

So, where to next? Fisherman’s Wharf of course! We got on a cable car, took our seats, and waited as more people boarded. Then, alluvasudden, a group of “kids” came on and said …
Girl: “Hi – we’re here for a college trip doing a scavenger hunt. One of our missions is to get people on a form of public transportation to sing our dorm song.”

Girl: “It goes like this – ‘When I say ‘Who’s house?’, you say C’s House … Who’s house-”
Disgruntled passenger: “SHUT UP”.

Yea, that’s right. The anthem ended right then and there. You see, there was a rather disgruntled passenger on board. She had been cursing at random people (including the voice of the car operator) just before the kids had come on. She did not appear to be a tourist, rather, an SF local. Judging by her appearance, I’d say that she was one of SF’s homeless population, but maybe she was just really really unkempt. She apparently did not want to join in the dorm song. Thank goodness. I didn’t want to sing it, either, but she gave us all a reason not to not say a peep. We rode in complete silence from that point on … except for the random shouting at fictitious people from the disgruntled lady.

We rode the cable car the 4 minutes it took to get to Fisherman’s Wharf and realized that there were a lot of tourists there. We simply wanted to go just to say we went, but we really didn’t know what else to do. So we did what all tourists do … we booked a tour of the city! It was some of the best money we spent on the trip! The tour took us all throughout SF (including Golden Gate Park and the Bridge and Presidio and a bunch of other places all around the city) on a converted cable car. Our guide had a sense of humor and kept altering the route so he could avoid traffic … but then, because of construction, he’d have to double-back and just go the original route, anyways. The result: a bonus hour of touring! But it was great because it gave us an overall view of the entire city and exonerated us from having to spend the time to get to and visit places that would have been interesting for approximately 15 minutes (looking at you, Presidio). Definitely a great tour, operated by Grayline, but not that double-decker bus one.

After the tour, we felt obligated to eat some Dungeness crab at the Wharf – so we did. We went to Tarantino’s … for no other reason than we saw an open door and suspected that there was proper seating (i.e. a calm lunch vs. the chaos of the Wharf). Actually, the place turned out to be a fairly relaxed atmosphere to enjoy lunch with nice views (on the second floor) and rather dated decor. I had the crab and clam chowder soup and g went for the crab salad sandwich. Nothing super-remarkable about the food, but for what we wanted, which was a quiet place to break away from the madness that is Fisherman’s Wharf, it was splendid. It was also pretty reasonable as far as the cost of Wharf food is concerned.

Next, we set out for Ghirardelli Square. g and I have an honest question to ask anyone who is contemplating taking children to Ghirardelli Square. Why/How would that ever be a good idea? There’s absolutely nothing good about it for your family. It is packed – there’s no room! There’s really not much to see/learn, as it is a giant sugar-filled tourist trap … meaning that children will turn into absolute animals covered in chocolate and ice cream, therefore driving their parents insane. Couple all of this with the obligatory price increase of visiting/eating in a tourist trap, as well as dealing with the children running around that aren’t your own … To quote my mom, “This is not a vacation.”

But wait … why did we go? Two words. Kara’s Cupcakes. Yeah, that’s right. I found me some more Fleur de Sel chocolate cupcakes. I bought one to eat there (and a banana caramel one for g – she’s not into super-rich chocolate like I am), and I bought two more to take back to the hotel [for me … for later … when g’s asleep]. They … were … so … good. Just yesterday I had a Brown Betty’s PB and Chocolate cupcake (and some of the Red Velvet cupcake), and it’s just no contest: I miss Kara.

We eventually got back to our hotel (we took a cab back – a cab that was accosted by someone else who wanted to hail it who didn’t realize we were sitting in the back, so he just thought the cabbie didn’t want to drive him) and relaxed/recharged. Dinner was coming …

We went to Kiss Seafood for dinner. This place is run by the absolute cutest Japanese couple. Go ahead and call them up right now and listen to the answering machine with the husband on it – it’s so cute! But man is his place tiny. It fits like 12 people, total. Actually, when we got there 5 minutes before our reservation, we were told by the lady that there was no space for us. g mistook her and thought that she had meant, “oops, we’re overbooked for tonight – get out”, but I understood that she actually meant, “could you occupy yourselves for 5 minutes and come back?”. And that’s what we did. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much to do in that part of Japantown at 8pm – so we just walked around the block and looked at the houses. We contemplated picking up some wine, but knew that it wouldn’t be the right temperature for dinner. Darn.

We returned to Kiss Seafood and our table was ready. We didn’t score a seat at the sushi bar, which would have been cool (so we could watch the husband do his sushi thing), but we did enjoy how we could see the entirety of the restaurant. It was tiny, bright, open (you could see into the “kitchen” behind the sushi bar), and it was absolutely 100-percent spotless. g remarked that if my parents had a restaurant, this is what it would be like. Nothing flashy – just minimalist, and clean. I noted that if my mom ran a restaurant, that that’s the way it would be … dad would somehow manage to stick “Native American heads and vintage coke machines” in it (inside joke).

How was the food? Well, I went for the omakase, while g went with the sushi (she was a little full still from lunch and her cupcake). Now, I didn’t just go “omakase”, I went for their premium omakase, which included toro. The fish we had was absolutely sublime. It has actually made me a little snobbish about sushi lately – as places that I used to think were “pretty good” before are now under the “only ok” column. Yes, the other food at Kiss was very good (and a unique experience, including this one concoction that was layered from top to bottom with a scallop, a broth, an egg custard, and some kind of poached fish), and the omakase was a wonderful experience, from the pickles in the beginning to the orange slices at the end (this place doesn’t do dessert … thankfully, I had a cupcake at the hotel, so I was ok with that), but it was the raw fish that demonstrated supreme deliciosity. If there’s a next time, I’m getting one chef’s special sushi platter and one chef’s special sashimi platter, because the raw fish there was the most mind-blowing raw fish I’ve ever had (up there with that one piece of eel sushi I got from Morimoto. The toro was obviously delectable – there’s something about the fattiness and the taste that you just can’t really get in another fish. But, there was one sea creature that tasted even better [to me]. Baby sea bass. That’s it. Baby sea bass. Nothing fancy. But it was creamy and mineraly and fishy (not in a bad way) and clean, with that perfect amount of give as you chewed – it was that ideal of piece of fish that other fish want to be. I had it once as sashimi and once as sushi throughout the meal. So good. Actually, it was so good that it wins the “t’s San Francisco’s Best Bite Award”, as it was the single best bite of food I had on our entire trip.

All in all, this was another superb day of our trip. We got to see the city, taste something new, taste something obligatory, and taste something old done extraordinarily well. Fantastic!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

6 November 2010 at 8:51pm

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