Monday, September 05, 2016

65 turns around the sun

Birthday at Amy's: Mexican
Vanilla, Dark Chocolate,
and Whipped Cream
For me, birthdays are getting less and less exciting. But, still, it's a birthday, and though the celebration might not be exuberant, or widely announced, I'm still celebrating. This year, Dennis and I went to San Francisco for a long weekend. We thought we'd be escaping Austin's typically hot, humid and dry August, but actually, August has been a real delight this year. But, it's no San Francisco!

It would have been really hard not to be excited about, and happy to be in San Francisco. We lived there briefly, towards the end of the time during which I worked for Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro as a brand new attorney. It's always a nostalgia thing to visit again. But this time, it was like a whole new experience, because things have just changed a whole lot! Us and San Francisco.

Streetcar 1040, J Line, from Telstar Logistics

We stayed on Nob Hill, so every single trip anywhere included as a free bonus, a super-uphill climb to get back to our hotel. Nice! Oh, admittedly, we got Metro passes as soon as we could and took a Cable Car or a bus a lot of the time, but not every time. And then there was that nice long ride on the F Line Streetcar!

San Francisco has a fantastic collection of 1930's and 40's streetcars from all over the country, and even from Mexico and Canada. All of them are refurbished and look almost like new, but they're not. They're the real deal!

Dennis planned and executed the whole trip, as his present for me, so I just got to sit back, relax, and be amused! Naturally, we ate at wonderful restaurants and had great cocktails.

Boulevard's interior, with Bay Bridge
lights through the windows
Our first night, we visited Boulevard, which calls a Belle Epoch building, perfectly refurbished with gorgeous period aplomb, its home. Abe, our bartender, made us absolutely perfect drinks, and dinner was a delight. Off to a great start.

Boulevard is right down by the water, across the street from Ferry Plaza. The Oakland Bay bridge starts its span across the Bay right there, and through the front windows of the restaurant I could see a light show the bridge puts on throughout our dinner. So, after dinner, we walked across to the water and watched for awhile. With a full moon above, quite a scene.

The next morning, we returned to Ferry Plaza, but this time to visit the Farmer's Market. There's no mistaking where you are inside this market's covered section (Rancho Gordo, Blue Bottle, etc.), and outside, you're right along the Bay of course. I could have spent the whole day there.
Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market

Dinner Saturday night was totally different. We ate at Al's Place. It was a bit like Odd Duck, in Austin, but with a Michelin star, so wow! Lots of small plates to share, all fantastic. It was in the far south of the Mission District, and sort of like a NY hipster place. Well, we knew it was San Francisco hipster when our waitress told us that the chef suggested we eat our salad with our fingers. We did, of course, and you should have seen the look on the guy's face who sat at the table next to ours. He'd already confided in us that he was totally out of his element, that he was actually from New York, just not the hipster New York...

Sunday morning we hiked a few blocks down the hill to Taylor Street Coffee Shop for breakfast. This place always has a line, but we were lucky to arrive at a time when it didn't extend outside the very tight entry-way. Our wait was only about 15 minutes.

Taylor Street Coffee Shop, Roy Gregorio, Google Maps

The cafe seats about 20 people, and it couldn't be any more than about 12-15' wide, about the width of taco truck, and not a whole lot longer. Apparently run by a family of food stylists, Taylor Street turns out all the typical breakfast dishes you'd expect, tout suite, but presents them as gorgeously as if they were being offered on the cover of Bon Appetit. And they were just as delicious as they were gorgeous. Dennis went back the next morning, while I had a rendez-vous with my friend, Sandee, whom I'd met in April in Paris, where we both were studying French. More on that meeting, at Tartine, in a minute.

We spent the afternoon in Golden Gate Park, walking most of its length, visiting among other things the sweet little Japanese Garden. We came upon a delightful celebration of Hungary's 1000th anniversary as a country at a bandstand, and felt mysteriously compelled to eat hot dogs and ice cream while we watched the performances. And then there were the roller-skating folks with the capes flying. Not something I've seen lately in Austin. But, I haven't looked for it. Who knows?

Japanese Garden
Sunday nite we were back at Ferry Plaza, for another drink at Boulevard (Abe graciously obliged us) and dinner at Slanted Door, a sort of nouveau Thai place that really impressed! Totally modern, upscale interior, attentive waiters, and gorgeous appetizers and entrees. Unfortunately, we were too totally satisfied to try dessert. They're known for a gingery cotton candy affair.

Monday Sandee picked me up at the hotel and we drove down to Tartine for brunch, and to speak french for awhile. We've been meeting virtually to chat in french each week since we returned from France. Helps us keep up at least some of what we learned while we were there.

Tartine is famous for its artisanal loaves, as well as croissants, tarts, pizza and quiche. It's another place that seems always to have a line.

Tartine, photo from Shared Appetite, where Chris Cockren
posted a really nice piece about his visit to Tartine
This one was long when we got there, and only got longer during the time were were there. It was, as everyone says, well worth it. Perfect croissants. And a lot closer than Paris. Well, not close enough though. I doubt I'll ever have another. At least I've got No Se in Austin. Pastry Chef Amanda Rockman totally nails the Paris croissant, to say nothing of her fabulous Kouign Amann!

Monday evening, we headed to the airport and returned home on the red-eye. Nice trip! Nice birthday! Thanks Dennis.

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