San Francisco

We went to San Francisco. I did, in fact, wear a flower in my hair, if only briefly.

Whenever my dad goes away, he sends his family witty e-mails, almost daily, to tell us what’s happening on his trip. I didn’t do that, but I thought I’d do a post, and send it to him. Hopefully I can get somewhere like 80% of his amusingness quotient.


Our flight was at 7 am, meaning we had to be up at 4 am. That would be ungodly enough, but Zoe, who fell asleep in the car on the way home from Hebrew School Wednesday evening, refused to go back to sleep until after 10 pm, and then woke me up at around 3 am, just to cuddle. Which is adorable, of course. But exhausting.

We are now flying United/Continental pretty exclusively, and it’s not only so that we’re in the terminal that has a Frontera Fresco, but it might as well be. We got sandwiches. We were delighted. The flight was mostly uneventful. Jason conked out the minute we were in the air. I tried to conk out but Zoe wouldn’t let me. But eventually she did go to sleep, on Daddy’s chest, allowing me to stretch out and get in a little nap, too.

We got in and took a taxi to Tara and Gabrielle’s place. They live in Bernal Heights now, which is just an adorably perfect neighborhood, and their house is adorable, too. There’s basically one main drag with restaurants and shops and bars and whatnot, and then houses go up the hill from there. Their house is adorable, too. It’s a bright blue and has a lot of space and a window seat and a fireplace. After showering and unpacking and searching somewhat panicked-ly for the cat (who was sensibly hiding under the bed, where she stayed for most of the trip), we got lunch at Progressive Grounds and then picked up overpriced groceries at Good Life Grocery. Then we went home to drop off groceries and Zoe decided she was not leaving the house again. She needed hydrocortisone so I headed to Walgreens myself (and got reacquainted with the concept of “hills”) and then, when she still didn’t want to leave the house, I went by myself to the bakery Tara and Gabrielle had recommended in the book they keep for home-sharing purposes and then decided to get my nails done at the place that was offering manicures for $8, where I had a lovely conversation with a woman who had lived in Bernal Heights her whole life. And the stuff from the bakery was good, especially the Melon Pan, which was just a little roll, very light, that had been made with melon something or other to make it sweet, but it wasn’t a filling like a jelly or something, which I would have hated. It was just sweet, light, melon-y bread.

Tara and Gabrielle got home from work – much to Zoe’s delight – and then started preparing dinner. They were having their group of friends from church over. It was very lovely  and their friends were very cool. Gabrielle made chicken in her clay pot and one of their friends brought lime brownies and it was all very good. And one of their friends announced her pregnancy. Wahoo!

Once the friends left, I was completely wiped. Tara was going to set up the aero-bed for me but I said that would take too long (less than five minutes, but too long) and grabbed a pillow and blanket and conked out on the floor.


Tara and Gabrielle had taken off of work. We had a leisurely morning. Gabrielle made crepes. Then we plotted our Napa Valley day. We decided to go to the vineyard with the gondola ride and tour (Sterling) and thought we’d either seek out lunch in Yountville (where French Laundry is, but we did not expect to go there) or try the cafe at the Culinary Institute of America.

Only the thing is, there is no cafe at the Culinary Institute of America. There’s one in New York, and they’re building one in Napa, but there is none now. So we had to (sigh!) settle for the actual CIA restaurant. Sacrifices, sacrifices.

For some reason, in my head, I had pictured the CIA being very chef-modern. White, stainless steel, glass. Very cutting edge. It wasn’t. The buildings look sort of castle-like, and the restaurant was very Tuscany-by-way-of-California – stone walls, copper lighting, big wood tables. The food was, obviously, delicious. We got the basket of bread with the white bean puree (which was good, but Thursday night Gabrielle made this garlic spread that was just raw garlic and a little parmesan cheese and oil and crushed red pepper and salt and pepper in the blender and that was really, really delicious). We got the bread in part because we thought Zoe would eat some. She would not. Jason got butternut squash soup, of course, which had pomegranate seeds and molasses which was really surprising and delicious. We girls shared Prince Edward mussels in a spicy broth. Very, very tasty. I think the entree winner was Gabrielle with a crispy confit chicken thing over a salad with bacon vinaigrette. Jason and I shared the duck and the lamb. Very, very tasty. My lamb had this perfect crackle. And Jason’s duck was sublime. I feel I should learn to cook duck. I don’t know where I’d get duck, though. And Tara had a lovely cod with vegetables and romesco, and Zoe had quesadillas, which she actually ate quite a lot of once she positioned them so she couldn’t see the char marks. We decided to forgo dessert because a) we were stuffed, b) the dessert menu was a little boring, and c) Zoe had had quite enough of attempting to behave herself.

So we headed out to Sterling. It was a little wet outside but not detrimentally so. Zoe was nervous about the gondola ride at first but got really into it. Then they did a thing where they set up stations through the winery and you toured and tasted. Zoe seemed to enjoy herself. She got a cork and at the end there was grape juice for her. (Just boxes of Juicy Juice. Jason was disappointed. He thought it would be special grape juice from their own grapes, like we get from Navarro. I didn’t.) It was cool seeing (and smelling) everything and the winery and the views were beautiful. My favorite was the Petite Syrah. Everyone else’s favorite was the dessert wine. I thought it was too sweet, but then I did have a craving for dark chocolate, so I guess it worked.

The drive home was long and traffic-y and dark, so we couldn’t see the beautiful views like we could on the way there. When we got home we were all pretty tired so we had some snacks and watched some TV and went to bed.


Saturday morning, we went to the farmer’s market by Tara and Gabrielle’s house. It was pretty crowded, which made me nervous, but it was nice. They had permanent concrete booths for the sellers, which I thought was cool. And very good tamales, as promised. Zoe got extremely intrigued by the kale because Gabrielle and Tara told her that they always find a caterpillar in it.

After the market, we headed to Oakland to go to Fairyland. We were meeting our college friend Leslie there with her partner Iris and their baby Joe. As excited as Zoe was for Fairyland (which is an amusement park built for kids in the 2-7 range, with fairy-tale and nursery-rhyme and children’s-story-themed attractions), Zoe was much more excited about the baby. She had fun at Fairyland itself, too. She liked the Alice in Wonderland tunnel a whole lot, and the wishing well, for some reason, and the puppet show. (It was Velveteen Rabbit. I hadn’t read that book since I was, like, six. What a depressingly weird thing to read to small children.) She also climbed up the rope net thing to the crow’s next on the pirate ship – and then couldn’t figure out how to get down and got very upset. But mostly she liked Baby Joe. And Baby Joe liked her.

It was really good seeing Leslie again. She seems very much like Leslie. And her partner is a lovely woman, too. We had a really nice time.

It was Jason’s birthday, so when we got home we ordered the pizza he’d been craving since the last time we were in San Francisco – Zante’s Best Indian pizza. (You didn’t know there was more than one Indian pizza, did you?) And we had some wine and some ice cream Gabrielle made and watched a movie. I think it was Jason’s favorite birthday.


We hustled as quickly as this group is able to hustle (not very) to Brenda’s for New Orleans brunch. There was a wait, as they’d warned us there would be, so Tara hung back and the rest of us went to Philz for coffee. Despite the doofy “z”, this is very serious coffee. You pick from, like, fifty different roasts and then tell them how sweet/creamy you want your coffee and they do it all for you. (Me: a little sweet, not at all creamy. For those of you who need to know how I like my coffee.) I chose a dark Arabian roast and it was quite tasty.

Brenda’s was very busy but totally delicious. We had beignets, some of which were stuffed, one of which was stuffed with crawfish. I really liked the crawfish one. Zoe really liked the powdered sugar. So much so she licked the plate. Watch for the video of that on Facebook. And then we each had about half our meal and were too stuffed to move.

We went home and Jason futzed some with Tara’s electronics and Tara and I took a walk up Bernal Heights Hill, which was a challenge but rewarding with views of the entire city and also cute dogs playing. Then Tara showed me her favorite house in Bernal Heights and we walked back. Gabrielle had to study so the rest of us headed to John Muir Woods. The drive was beautiful but made Jason sick. The woods were unbelievably gorgeous. They look like those woods in fantasy movies that contain creatures who are not exactly eager to rip your throat out or anything, but won’t necessarily stop a creature who does want to do so. Know what I mean? Half the trails were closed and Zoe was seriously cranky and of course there were lots of other people there, which I hate, but we managed to have a lovely walk anyway. I really liked it.

For dinner we got In-N-Out Burger because Jason was wild to try it. My take? It’s better than a McDonald’s hamburger, sure, but so are lots of things.

They put on Crazy, Stupid, Love, which, despite my feelings, I would have watched again, only Zoe needed to be taken upstairs and snuggled to sleep and then I got pretty sleepy and went to bed myself.


Despite everyone being up by about 6:30, we still barely squeaked out of the house in time to make it to the Japanese Tea Gardens during the free hour. (If we had been traveling with my dad, we would have arrived in plenty of time only to discover that this Monday was not free, despite every other Monday being free, just because that’s how things usually work with my dad.) It was lovely there (despite the presences of other people). We especially liked this cool arched bridge you have to climb up. And Zoe spent a long time putting leaves, one by one, in the basin of a waterfall.

We took a walk through Golden Gate Park afterwards. We saw all sorts of waterfowl in the lake, including one bird I’ve never seen before that made an impressive noise. We walked Zoe to a playground, where she swung for a few hours or so. Then we picked up lunch at Tara and Gabrielle’s favorite sandwich shop, Ike’s, which was quite tasty. Then Jason spent the afternoon napping or futzing with Tara’s electronics. I took Zoe to the new candy shop in the neighborhood, which was quite pricey but of course tasty. Then Tara and I took her to the Bernal Heights Public Library, which has a playground. Zoe and Tara played on the playground for quite some time. Then we went to the cute little shop down the street from Tara’s house where Zoe got some stickers and Pop Rocks and then we went home. When Gabrielle got back from work, I realized – crisis! – that I hadn’t been to Humphry Slocombe yet! So we quickly made reservations for Pomelo so that we’d be done with dinner in time for our ice cream.

Pomelo did not seem to feature any of its titular fruit, more’s the pity, but it did feature a very San Fran menu. By which I mean, it was all local, organic, and seasonal, and some items were Asian, and some were Latin-influenced, and some were sort of vaguely Tuscan-by-way-of-California. I had a “seasonal” bread salad with Brussels sprouts, persimmon, and Asian pear – delicious – and half of Jason’s curry stew – also delicious. Zoe had a bowl of white rice and then tried to go to sleep on the bench.

Humphry Slocombe was just as good as I thought it was going to be. After tasting several flavors, I settled on one scoop of Black Sesame and one scoop of Chocolate Sea Salt. Oh my goodness. The chocolate one was decidedly salty and the sesame was full of toasty sesame goodness. I also got a package of Brown Sugar Fennel caramels which we ate at the airport.

I thought I’d stay up to watch an episode of the Wonder Years with everyone when we got home. I failed to do so.


Well, Tara and Gabrielle were off to work, so we packed up and got ready to go. If Kay is Uncle Mark’s disciple, Jason is Dad’s in terms of what time we should get to the airport, so we were there about three hours before our flight was to take off. The taxi came on time, the drive to the airport was all of five seconds, checking our bags and going through security was a breeze, and then we . . . waited. Well, we had lunch and waited. I went to the bookstore and for reasons having to do with my cultural masochism I peeked at a Tucker Max book. Now I will never be able to un-know these things.

Flight uneventful. Got home. Had a great deal of trouble placing a To-Go order at Tom and Eddie’s. Did a little unpacking and laundry and went to sleep.

Zoe woke up this morning saying, “I want to go to San Francisco!”



2 thoughts on “San Francisco

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