A few weeks ago, I needed to get out of town.
As in, I needed to go somewhere. Just for a couple of days.
I had these Southwest credit card miles burning a hole in my pocket. Not enough of them to make a big trip, but something smaller. I decided upon San Francisco. Tickets were dirt cheap roundtrip and I have friends there. So, I went.
And now, I want to write about it.
My friend Jamie picked me up from the Powell Bart station and I settled into his new flat to regain some post-flight composure. Flying into a big city is always a bit much to take in. I enjoy settling for a bit, if I can. Helps me to digest a place.
We decided to hit up Japantown where we ate some gigantic bowls of ramen and some lovely dumplings filled with cabbage and pork, which I could eat by the pound.
I then decided to wander. Looking through the windows at different izakayas, sushi joints, and a few Japanese toy stores. It was major sensory overload, but I enjoyed it.
I was sleepy, after one might be when finishing a big bowl of noodles in pork broth.
I found myself bussing (read: walking a TON) to Sight Glass coffee roasters in Soma. I had been there last time and enjoyed it, so I knew it’d be worth my time. I ordered my tiny americano and a valrhona chocolate chip cookie. The process of nibbling and sipping. Small luxuries. But a luxury no doubt.
I wandered a bit longer, feeling in my belly that I needed food soon. Which I realized was how this trip was going to go down. I’d eat. Drink. Walk it off. Eat, drink. Walk some more. It was a rhythm I could get used to.
I met my friend Jamie at Mission Chinese Food and ordered salt cod fried rice, kung pao pastrami, and “Grandma’s Spicy Lamb Dumplings” which were just…sigh. Great.
We took a taxi back to his place, and I met my hometown friend Will for a few drinks.
He took me up to where the opening scene of Full House took place. I was feelin’ pretty good at this point and decided to come down a steep hill on wet grass and completely ate it hard. I laid on my back and laughed. One of those moments where you realize life puts you in these sort of places for perspective.
The next day, I slept in a bit as one does in San Francisco. I grabbed a few eggs at a local diner and made my way to Valencia. Since I knew Ritual was down that way, I posted up there for a bit to caffeinate my bones. Because when I travel to a place, I am looking for three important things. Good coffee. Good bars. Good food. SF offers more than their fair share, but I needn’t complain.
My boss told me to go to Zuni’s Cafe, one of the major dining establishments of SF. I popped in for some oysters. (Kusshi Bay, Marin Miyagi & Beau Soleil, to be precise.) Three perfect oysters with a healthy squeeze of lemon, mixing with their own salty brine. One of earth’s more perfect foods, and that’s a truth. I also had this tiny salad consisting of anchovies, celery, parmigiano reggiano, lemon and olive oil that was so acidic and salty and great. Also, some shoestring fries and a couple of amazing gin cocktails. Professional and prompt service. I felt underdressed and was a little worried they thought I was some vagabond. Upon asking where the bathroom was, the waitress replied, “Take a right at the oysters!”
Dressed down as I was, don’t worry, I left a good tip.
And then my night got a little more interesting. I follow the editor at large for Lucky Peach magazine. I’m not sure why. Anyways, I came across his picture of the Castro Theatre and along the letter board read this:
I was giddy. In a way that I felt I was maybe supposed to be there at that time. I had no idea. Y’all can look up Rene Redzepi if you’d like. In short, his restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark has been the world’s best restaurant the past three years running. He’s forward thinking (so they say) and definitely one of the more inspiring chefs out there. I knew I’d never have the opportunity again, so I got a ticket.
A bit dramatic, as these things are from time to time, but I really loved it, as any passionate cook loves listening to another talk about struggle and shi**y dinner services.
But also the love of food and how he processes a lot of life through food.
I feel very similar. I’m never going to be as good as this guy, or the folks that stage in his kitchen. But, I sat there and dreamed big. Realizing I need to push myself harder and harder if I want to get better. In fact it’s the only way to get better. You have to try, and what I loved most was him saying how important it is to fail.
Sometimes, things just don’t work and you’ll need to pack your things and try again next time.
I guess maybe that’s a little universal.
My night moved on to more drinks with my buddy Will and his girlfriend, who is quite lovely, and who I met for the first time. They were excellent hosts, as was Jamie. Southern hospitality moves wherever southerners go, it seems. Thankful for those connections and know deep down my time wouldn’t have been the same without them.
But as always, it is nice to return home. Or at least to something similar to it. Clean, cold air. Big trees. A mountain or two in the distance. And then, to the kitchen I get to call home for the time being.
Where I am refreshed and inspired,
ready to push myself,
and to fail.
Thank you San Francisco,
for allowing me to be me.
I’ve created a Facebook group for Southern Belly here.
I hope we can use it to dialogue more frequently, because sometimes, I just like talkin’ to y’all. 🙂