So we are back from our CA trip and have had a full weekend to regress back to the BK grind. The stress leading up to the trip really made us appreciate our getaway – to most people 10 days is a long time, but we were so sad to leave and come back to our new apartment. And work, of course!
We ate a lot of really good things but I’ll just give you the most excellent highlights. Apologies to those of you who follow me on Instagram, as there are a few repeats. I need to stop doing that!
We stayed in a gorgeous bedroom in an old Victorian apartment one block from Alamo Square, which is about a 10-minute walk from Hayes Valley. So we hit Blue Bottle up for mochas. When BB opened in Williamsburg I was super excited – I don’t drink coffee but their mochas are delicious. However I was super disappointed in them – Wmsburg’s mochas are lukewarm, anemic, and bitter. I don’t know what they do to it. So I was really happy to have a cup of this on a foggy morning.
My cousin Andrea organized a mini reunion at Foreign Cinema for brunch. This carnage is my plate of poached eggs and duck confit. Really solid brunch here, and they make their own pop tarts! We ordered both the nectarine and plum, which came in flaky crusts. So good. It’s located right in the Mission, which was recently named more hipster than Williamsburg by Forbes of all sources. Yay!
The same night (Sunday) we had dinner at AQ. I wanted something that was quintessentially “California” but didn’t want the usual foodie traps like Chez Panisse or Cafe Zuni. Both are delicious to be sure, but I wanted something newer and less traveled. Plus this was a rec from Lynda, who I’m growing to trust more and more with food recs. 3/3!
The idea at AQ is local and seasonal (blah blah blah) but they do it really well, even changing the interior decor. When we went it was the end of summer. We started with the cucumber and scallop appetizer, which was topped with fennel foam. Our waiter suggested the grilled watermelon app to complement it, which came topped with a cannelle of iced buttermilk and honeydew. I can’t really decide which one I liked better but it was great alternating between sweet/refreshing and savory/creamy.
For entrees we ordered the BBQ pork, pictured above, which had two different preparations of pork, beans, and CORNBREAD FOAM.
Our other entree was the grilled seabass, served with heirloom peppers, chorizo marmalade, smoked eggplant, and poached egg yolk:
For dessert we split a small cheese plate that came with honeycomb. I swear I got it just for that honeycomb.
All in all a really delicious meal. Our waiter was great too – we asked him to take a photo of us against the wall (they had these awesome succulent planters behind me) but he instead led us downstairs to the wine cave and snapped a photo of us looking very full and unfortunately, very challenged. So that one will never see the light of day.
The following day was Monday, and we were scheduled to pick up our rental car. But we needed breakfast beforehand so we went to Tartine, in the Mission. Aside from their gourgeres, we also got a morning bun, which was fresh out of the oven. Warm, flakey, and GOOEY, tasting of cinnamon and sugar and a slight hint of citrus. I don’t eat many pastries or carbs in NYC but I chowed everything down like a champ.
We ate on a bench at the Dolores Park tennis courts – it was a really pretty day and the park was empty.
For lunch we met Lynda at Burma Superstar. This was our first time meeting face to face, after countless mass emails and stories via common friends. We ate the two famous salads – Tea Leaf and Rainbow, shrimp with Burmese curry, coconut rice, and garlic noodles with duck. I couldn’t decide which salad was my favorite so I’m going to cheat and say both were equally delicious.
Burmese curry to me is similar to Penang curry – very mild in the actual curry flavor but still super savory. There might be a touch of tamarind in it though? Something slightly tart and mouth-watery.
It was great to finally meet Lynda in person – she’s super sweet with stomach to match ours and an even bigger heart.
The next morning we said a sad goodbye to SF and were on our way to the rest of our vacation. I reserved a picnic table at Hog Island Oysters in Tomales Bay. For $5 a person, you are guaranteed a spot by the water. You purchase oysters there, and bring food and drink with you. There are shared grills in case you want to grill your shellfish (WHY???) as well. We were the first guests to arrive and we started off with a dozen each of kumamotos and small sweetwaters, Ryan’s and my favorites, respectively.
HIO provides all the shucking tools and toppings you need – different kinds of hot sauce (we preferred Crystal), lemon wedges, mignonette sauce. As we plowed through nearly two dozen oysters each, more parties began to arrive, most notably a larger party of 10+ which turned out to be a post-wedding celebration. First of all, awesome idea. But half the people there didn’t eat raw oysters. Friendship fail! Delete delete delete!! Just kidding but why would you do that to yourself/them?? Also, none of them had ever shucked oysters before. Which is fine, everyone has to have a first time, but why wait until you’re required to shuck oysters for a group of 10+ people?? ANYWAY.
We left soon after and took scenic Hwy 1 all the way back to the Bay Area, then headed due east to Burson.
I was taking Ryan to a farm.
I spent most of my childhood summers on a farm in Calaveras County. I used to ride horses competitively from ages 6-19 but that is a whole other saga – I’ve been to Mexico, Canada, all over Asia, Australia, New Zealand… Anyway this farm belongs to my childhood trainers Butch & Lu, who I’ve known since I was about six. I’d promised Lu that we would cook dinner for them so we stopped at Lockeford Sausages for a few links: apple, basil, bacon, and their bratwurst. We got seven sausages, totaling $10.54 – mind blown again! The Meat Hook in Brooklyn is comparable I guess, but we would have spent 3x that there.
We made an herb salad with dill, parsley, chives, red grapes, and pistachios. Also a tomato-onion-mushroom saute. With some white wine and baseball on TV, we stuffed ourselves silly.
Extra bonus: their son Guy came home for dinner that night too so it was another mini-reunion. Like having a real big brother, we used to beat each other up (okay he used to beat me up) and jump off hay bales into sawdust shavings, tear around paddocks on bareback ponies, ride his dirtbike around, and just generally goof off on the farm. So it was really great to see him again.
We also got a tour of the farm on a little four-wheeler. They’d bought a bunch of surrounding property and had turned it into paddocks for horses, cows, and bulls. As in, rodeo bulls. Click here to see a video of Butch and Pat working the sheep.
We drove up to wine country the following day to meet up with Ryan’s family. The whole purpose of this trip was to attend his sister’s wedding in Healdsburg, so we made a vacation out of it. Most of our time there was spent relaxing and hanging out with family. I got to meet a lot of extended members (TWSS <- click on that please) of the clan which was great. We took it way easy – mostly because I got sick after our first night there and spent the entire next day in bed, like a useless lump. Not sure what it was but I didn’t want to get too crazy before the big day.
The wedding was at Arista Winery and it was perfect. Carie and Robyn did a really great job of planning a small, intimate wedding from over 3000 miles away. There were thousands of details to keep track of, from wedding favors to herding guests, making sure the wedding party was accounted for at all times, itineraries, decorations, and keeping everyone on the same page.
There were beautiful flower arrangements at each table, which was also set with huge industrial-looking candelabras.
Our flight home was on Tuesday morning, so we drove back to the Bay Area on Monday afternoon to spend the night closer to the airport. On our roadtrip down, we planned to make a pitstop at La Michoacana in Sonoma, where we went last year. We were craving horchata and ice cream. On the way there Ryan said he really wished we’d been able to find good tamales at the farmer’s market, so I turned to Google and found El Molino Central, right on Hwy 12. It was literally a five-minute drive from where we wanted to go anyway so we stopped in and ordered tamales with cheese & green chile and entomatadas.
BOOOOOOOMMMM! That is the sound of my mind being blown once again. It was so good we’re banning ourselves from eating Mexican food for as long as possible. The entomatadas are basically enchiladas made with queso fresco and red sauce, served with refried black beans on the side. When we first sat down, we both attacked the tamales since that’s what we’d been craving. But once Ryan tasted the entomatadas he completely ignored the tamales so I knew they had to be good.
The beans were creamy from being slow cooked for hours, and flavored with pork. And the red sauce, which is tomato-based, was made with local Early Girl tomatoes. The tamales were steamy and soft, with gooey cheese and mild chile sauce. Everything was really fresh and good, and it was the simplest of dishes.
I walked back to the car happy and full, and we headed to La Michoacana where I purchased a Big Gulp-sized cup of the smoothest horchata.
I’d been dreaming of it since last year. Nothing in NYC comes close – it’s always too gritty, too watery, too sweet, not sweet enough. It looks and feels creamy but there is no dairy in it. Food magic!
For our final meal in SF I turned once again to Lynda, who suggested a whole list of places and dishes to try. We picked Fat Wong, which was close to our hotel in San Bruno. They’re famous for their rice noodle dishes, so we ordered one with dried shrimp and chives, as well as fried pork with sweet corn sauce and yuchoy with garlic.
Again this was really simple and good – after eating out for 10 days we were ready for some homecooking, and the two meals we ate on our last day really hit the spot.
Over all I had a great time back in my home state. The pace of life is more relaxed, people aren’t as selfish or rude. The produce and food is of a much higher quality, and it seems like there is ultimately more love and care that goes into food prep out there. And my god the seafood. Yes, I am moving back here. It’s been a long time coming but I think I’m finally ready to close the buffer zone. Don’t tell Mom.