I’ve always wanted to go to San Francisco. One of our good friends from the time we lived in Poland is from California and goes to grad school there. We got to see her after five years, and it was a wonderful reunion, like no time had passed. Cap and I sorely needed this vacation after a few crazy weeks at home. We were itching to get away and relax, and neither of us had ever been to northern California. The above photo is of the famous painted ladies of Postcard Row. I’ve always loved the idea of them.
We did lots of shopping in Hayes Valley, Haight, the Mission, and Fillmore Street. I got some artisanal chocolates from Cocoluxe, three types of dark-chocolate-covered goodies all locally sourced: spiced figs, pine-nut and sage toffee, and honeycomb. Cap, of course, spent several hours flipping through record bins at Amoeba and Aquarius. I enjoyed wandering around all the cute boutiques like BellJar, Needles & Pens, and Sunhee Moon (where I fell in love with this Dia de Los Muertos dress but didn’t buy it), and we inspected the peg legs and beard extenders at 826 Valencia, Dave Eggers’s writing center/pirate supply store. I tried French macarons for the first time, entranced by their bright hues and intriguing flavors like earl gray tea and violet cassis, but they looked better than they tasted. I guess I’m not really a macaron gal.
Our friends took us to one of their favorite restaurants, Suppenkuche, a Bavarian wirtshaus. White-washed walls, rustic pine tables, and a ceiling dangling with dozens of “radvogel,” or “bicycle birds,” sleek, metal birds in flight, seem spare at first but the addition of candlelight and jolly, red-faced patrons makes for a cozy and unique atmosphere. Most guests squeeze in next to strangers on the long benches, joining in the communal feeling, but we sat in a snug room on the back side of the bar, which was dark and mellow. They serve beer in half-liters but also in glass boots the size of The Captain’s calf, so of course he had to get one. I think it held two liters. I enjoyed an average-sized Schneider Weisse Hefeweizen. I am a wheat-beer kind of girl.
But it’s the food I must rave about. You wouldn’t think vegetarians would find much to satisfy them at a German restaurant, but Suppenkuche came through for us. Gemischter Salat (Mixed German Salad) came with four kinds of cold salads: shredded carrot, pickled beet, potato, and sauerkraut. If I lived in San Francisco, I’d pop into Suppenkuche all the time for salad and a beer. Very satisfying. All four of us shared the salads before digging into Cheese Spatzle with Onion Butter Sauce, which I am still craving a month later. Okay, if I lived in San Francisco, I’d be full of spatzle and beer. I have to figure out how to recreate that dish.
I had the best stout of my life at Magnolia Pub, a former apothecary on Haight Street. Stout of Circumstance was smoky, and The Captain’s seasonal ale smelled of apricots. A plate of local pickled vegetables made a good afternoon snack. Another favorite food/drink experience was the rosewater-cardamom ice cream at Bombay Ice Cream on Valencia. They had other exotic flavors (saffron, pistachio, basil seed), but Cap got rocky road for some reason. He could have at least ordered the banana rocky road, but he opted for the regular chocolate. We also had delicious burritos, noodles, and Ethiopian food, a cuisine we can’t get back here in Tennessee. And I can’t forget Samovar, a cool tea lounge, where we had Cherry Oat Scones with Devonshire Cream and Strawberry Jam alongside a steaming pot of Ocean Wisdom Herbal Blend created for His Holiness The Dalai Lama. The scones were flaky and hit the spot before a long day of shopping and sightseeing.
And there is so much green in San Francisco. It’s like a big city with a neighborhood feel. We wound our way through Buena Vista Park, cut through the trails of the Panhandle, and climbed up to Alamo Square to get a glimpse of the classic San Francisco view (in the photo at the top of this post). I hope all the walking balanced out all the eating.
On our last day, I picked up some breakfast from a farmer’s market and snagged some adorable Betsey Johnson dresses before the four of us picked up sandwiches and piled into the car for a hike up to Point Bonita Lighthouse and a picnic on Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands. Point Bonita offered a fantastic view of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge as well as friendly seals playing in the water. Rodeo Beach was pebbly and dotted with surfers and dogs. We relaxed on a blanket and watched the Blue Angels loop and roll across the sunny sky.
Unsurprisingly, The Captain now wants to move to San Francisco. Maybe someday. In the meantime, how can we turn our house into a painted lady?