Thursday, August 23, 2007

Eating San Francisco

Calories don't mean anything on vacation. I learned this very early on from my Mother, and I have followed this rule my entire life. You can eat anything and everything you want while traveling, and it won't cause you to gain weight, raise your blood pressure, or lead to type two diabetes. Of course, this might be attributed to my Mother's other rule of travel: no where is too far to walk on vacation. As a child I remember going on what basically would be considered forced marches by the United Nations human rights committee. But it didn't matter, because at the end of every march I knew we would eat. March, eat, march, eat.
For two weeks before we went to San Francisco I scoured every corner of the Internet looking for wonderful places to eat. I mean, it is one of the great culinary cities on the planet. And I'm not talking about that bread bowl of chowder for 12 bucks on the wharf. I'm sure that has it's place -- just not in my stomach. So, I went over restaurant reviews, top ten lists, foodie blogs, gourmet websites and wrote down everything that sounded even remotely good. Then, realizing even I couldn't eat that much I narrowed it down. Yes, it sounds obsessive, but this is dining dammit. I wasn't going to leave something to chance and end up eating soggy pasta.

The restaurant I was most excited to try sadly turned out to be the one big disappointment. All of the reviews for Dosa praised it's signature dish of savory bread stuffed with delicious Indian delicacies. However, none of the reviews mentioned the bread was made from lentil flour. Yeah. Nothing should be made with lentil flour. Also, it wasn't really bread, more of a crepe. I hate crepes. Even if they aren't made of lentils. I will give them this though, the stuff inside the wrap was some of the best Indian food I have ever eaten. Of course,
Salt Lake really only has one Indian restaurant, so I'm easily impressed.

We missed out on a whole day of eating because of the concert. Yes, we could have been working down my list, sampling some of the finest food in the world, but instead we subsisted on pizza, hot pretzels and a really awful ten dollar burrito. At one point Tara texted me to say she and Kent had found a wonderful Italian place and were enjoying a lovely dinner and nice bottle of wine. I've never liked her.

Sunday was all about making up for lost time. First stop: dim sum. One of the things I love about the
world is that every culture has it's version of doughy goodness stuffed with something. Think about it. The burrito, the turnover, the empanada, the pirogis; all are just variations on a central theme. But no culture does it better than the Chinese. And Yank Sing does it perfectly. The minute we sat down we were surrounded by waiters pushing steam carts urging us to try buns, egg rolls, dumplings, short ribs, green beans and other assorted morsels. And all of it was delicious -- even the tofu.
\I want this cart to follow me around all day.

One of the best things we ate at Yank Sing was, surprisingly, jello. I don't know what they did to it, but this was not the jello of my childhood. It came out in wedges, in an orange peel, and had a flavor that actually tasted like fruit. Tara tried to avoid it, turning her back on her Utah roots, but I finally convinced her to try at least one bite. She didn't spit it out, so I'm assuming she liked it.

Mmmmm.. Jiggly.

We spent the rest of the morning in Golden Gate park, admiring the gardens, looking at the people, enjoying the cool weather, and waiting to eat again. Then we were off to North Beach. Time for Italian. We weren't going to eat right away. Tara and I wanted to check out the shops, Ryan wanted to go to City Lights bookstore and Kent, well Kent was just up for anything except for going to the pet boutique with the incredibly cute and ridiculously expensive collars and leashes. Luckily he was saved from this fate when a vicious sidewalk cafe jumped out and dragged us into it's chairs, forcing us to have drinks and some very tasty bruschetta. Our appetizers turned into a movable feast, and we went to a restaurant down the block for dinner. I had a pasta dish that can only be described with guttural, Homer Simpsonesque moans of pleasure. It had tomatoes, onions and bacon. I wanted to bathe in it. I actually found myself taking extremely small bites in order to savor it longer. And I never take small bites of anything.

We went to bed sated, and arose the next day ready for round two. I started things off with a small breakfast, because I really don't think it's the most important meal of the day. I mean, if it were why would
it feature eggs so prominently? Eggs are only acceptable in baked goods -- end of story. After breakfast, and a stop at Pier 39 to see the sea lions, Tara and Kent left us to head back to LA. At least that's what they said. I just don't think they could eat any more. Ryan and I spent the morning climbing to Coit Tower and exploring China Town, and then it was once again time to feed.

I think, no, I know I would have eaten at The Monkey even if it hadn't been on several "best of" lists. I mean, a restaurant with monkey in the title can't be bad -- unless they are actually serving primates. This place just served some of the best Thai food I have had. Ryan and I decided to stick with appetizers, and most were fried morsels of bliss. But the best thing we ate was a salad. I have never left a meal thinking the salad was the bes
t thing I consumed, but this was amazing. It was mangoes and onions and cilantro and coconut milk all balanced perfectly. Heaven, and good for me too. Because I enjoyed the salad so much I decided that we must have had a "light lunch" and therefore could walk over to Ghiradelli square for ice cream sundaes as big as our heads.

Ice cream -- and a Diet Coke.

The ice cream called for more than just a "normal" walk so Ryan and I hoofed it up the hill to Grace Cathedral and then over to the hotel. Yes, we may have stopped for beers along the way, but that was just to keep our strength up. And by the time we got back to our room -- I was hungry again. But little did I know I was about to have the best meal of my life.

We decided to go in search of the Italian place, Pesce, Tara had raved about on Saturday. She didn't do it justice. All of the dishes were severed in small portions so you could sample many different things, each better than the other. The best was a linguine tossed with crab, garlic, wine and butter. If it had been legal I would have divorced Ryan and married this dish. And I think he would have understood. But as soon as I had pledged my eternal love to the pasta another dish came along to steal my heart. Apricot bread pudding with vanilla bean gelato. If I left Ryan and married the linguine, I would have to cheat on the pasta with this dessert. I can only think of one thing that would have made it better, but I can't say it, because my mother reads this blog.

You would think after two days of such debauchery Ryan and I would be ready for a plate of greens and a nap. But there was still a very important part of the city to explore, and devour -- Japantown. While we were in Asia Ryan and I really enjoyed having rich noodle soups for breakfast, and we wanted to relive the
experience. We found a wonderful noodle bar with reasonable prices and tucked in. It was just as good as what we ate in Tokyo. Sweet and salty broth with slippery won tons, surrounding by chewy noodle. Eating scrambled eggs to start the day seems obscene to such a feast.

After eating we started walking through the rest of the area and discovered we had violated a cardinal rule of eating on vacation: we had picked one of the first restaurants we saw. Inside a mall across the street there were rows and rows of bustling restaurants, with every kind of delicious Japanese food imaginable. Then we saw it: the sushi boat restaurant. Suddenly we knew, no matter how full we were we had to eat there, even if it meant walking all the way back to Utah.

As lunch goes floating by...

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept the sushi boat restaurant is just like a normal sushi joint, only instead of ordering you just grab plates as they float by you on a moat. Ryan and I discovered the concept on our first vacation together, and we have always been especially fond of it. This was some of the best we've had. Although we only ate a few pieces (even we have a limit) everything we ate was fresh and well sliced and delicious. It was definitely worth the bloated, uncomfortable feeling I had afterwards.

I departed San Francisco in a blissful almost dream state, and wearing my fat pants. But it doesn't matter. If I had to do it all again I would eat everything, and maybe a few more things. After all, we did skip Saturday...


cate said...

Of course there are no calories in food when you are on vacation. I am under the impression that is the only reason mom and dad used to take us places.

mom said...

Why do I get a bad rap here? I taught you the "fine-ness" of vacation eating--beginning with McDonald's and ending with Wendy's--and walking is educational, healthful, and good for the soul

Lizzy said...

Wow what a great trip. I am headed to San Fran in a couple of weeks and I think I'm going to check out some of your recommendations. Thanks!