Farewell, SF!

With little more than hours remaining on our honeymoon trip, we had to make some tough choices.  Where could we go for breakfast with all of our luggage?  What foods needed to come home with us?  How much could we realistically stuff in our suitcases?  And where would we get our last cups of coffee?

Answer: Blue Bottle. Blue Bottle. More than we did. And Blue Bottle.

The Ferry Plaza farmers’ market runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, so we decided to see if we couldn’t get one last perfect sandwich out of the trip.  The Roli Roti stand hadn’t arrived when we rolled in with all of our luggage, so we settled inside at the Blue Bottle counter, cappuccinos and ACME rolls in hand to tide us over.

Blue Bottle Ferry Building
Photo by niallkennedy

An hour’s a long time to wait when you have a perfect sandwich on the brain. We finished our coffees and wandered in and out of the stands as they opened, buying a bag of Amaro Gayo Washed (which gave me the most lovely coffee buzz every time I opened my bag for the rest of the day), Rancho Gordo beans, fancy granola for our car-sitters, and a very fresh Pliny for Shane’s lunch.

Roli Roti Porchetta Sandwich
Photo by wonggawei

One last perfect sandwich, this one consumed sitting on a bench in perfect weather while Shane sipped his Pliny from a paper cup. The same crispity skin, flavorful meat, and crusty bread. No doubt: this was the right choice. With another hour until I had to leave for the airport – and some room left in our stomachs after splitting the sandwich, we hopped on a bus to the Mission, where we would part ways for a day while I flew home and Shane followed on a separate flight. What better way to go out than with ice cream from Bombay Ice Creamery:

jamine tea ice cream
Photo by Jason Schlachet

With at least 2 dozen exotic options and only 2 samples allowed per person, we had our work cut out for us. I had the young coconut – sweet but not overwhelmingly so – and before you ask, I have no idea what differentiates young coconut from regular or old coconut. Shane had a scoop of pineapple-something – maybe pineapple coconut? – which he found to be too pineappley for his tastes.

I can think of no better way to end a vacation than with a drippy ice cream cone and my sweetheart. Thanks for a really great time, San Francisco. We’ll be back as soon as we can.

If you go:
Bombay Ice Creamery
552 Valencia St (between 16th & 17th)
San Francisco, CA 94110-1115
(415) 621-1717

Choose your samples wisely, but make sure to get something out of the ordinary. No point in getting Cookies & Cream when STAR WARS is on offer.


(Last) Evening in Hayes Valley and SoMa

A visit to Rare Device was at the top of my list – on par with Shane’s trip to Treats – so we headed there after our lunch at Monk’s Kettle. I’ve been internet friends with Rena, one of the owners, since sometime in the early aughts, back when I was a bored customer service wage slave and spent a great deal of time reading fun blogs from internet strangers. (Hmm, sounds familiar.) Anyway, it was wonderful to finally meet Rena and to see the cute SF store – I’d been to the late Brooklyn location, but had missed her on that trip.

Rena asked if we’d been over to Hayes Valley yet – we hadn’t, and were immediately convinced to make it our next stop by her mention of Miette, a sweet candy store a short walk away.

Miette, Hayes Valley
Photo by tastingsf

After careful scrutiny, I came away with a wee bag of salty Dutch licorice and an Idaho Spud, one of the candy bars discussed in Candy Freak, which I recently read and enjoyed. The licorice was fantastic, with a much broader range of flavors and salts than I expected. The Idaho Spud was kind of like a Mounds bar, except with a weird agar-agar texture. Not unpleasant, just odd.

While I was in candy heaven, Shane sought out a bathroom and caffeine at Boulange de Hayes. I found him with an espresso and a few wee macarons – the next big thing in the dessert world, but still a bit of a novelty for us. We both liked the size and crunch of the cookies – we tried coffee, pistachio, and one other that I can’t recall.

I feel I would be remiss in talking about our wanderings in Hayes Valley if I didn’t mention two important things. First, we bought matching backpacks at Timbuk2. $40 each, really sturdy, a great deal! Second, I met an awesome corgi named Zoe while Shane looked at glasses. Zoe was just hung around letting me scratch her ears until someone mentioned cookies, at which point she started doing hilarious pirouettes. You earned that cookie, Zoe.

We had some time to kill before our dinner reservation, so we after an in-depth map consultation, we headed towards City Beer Store. It was a fair walk in blustery weather with our new backpacks strapped on, so we were happy to take a load off with a great beer.

City Beer Cuddles

City Beer Store is tucked away off the beaten path – the sort of place you’d never spot unless you were looking for it – which makes it ideal for a quick drink after work or before an evening engagement. We dug in the cooler – with some help from the bartender – to find another Summer Solstice for me, while Shane debated whether or not to buy a 2 day old bottle of Pliny (he didn’t). We could’ve comfortably hung out and drank for an hour or more, but seafood awaited us!

Anchor & Hope
Photo by magerleagues

Anchor & Hope came highly recommended from Bon Appetit, among others, so we decided that it would be a perfect splurge for our last night in town. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the possibly the most disappointing dining experience we had on our trip.

We were seated right away, and after some time with the menu, our server took our order, suggested wine pairings – and then went home sick. Time passed, and no server or wine. Another server arrived with our entrees: seafood risotto for me, and a seared ahi tuna for Shane. No wine.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a tentative seafood eater. I can do most shellfish, and am working my way up through meaty white fish. I had carefully checked the menu before ordering, and so was surprised to have four sizeable chunks of salmon in my risotto. Salmon! My food kryptonite! I ate one piece, then ate around the rest as it quickly went cold – not how you want to be eating when you’re paying $25+ per plate. Shane enjoyed his tuna, but liked the accompanying sausage and beans even more. Our wine finally arrived, but only after we’d flagged down another server. Honestly, the highlight of the meal for us was the Blue Bottle milkshake and wee maple macaron that we split for dinner, both of which were sweet and delicious without making us feel guilty about the indulgence.

I’ve subsequently been told that Anchor & Hope can be hit or miss – and I received a very apologetic email in response to my complaint – but I still can’t shake the disappointment of that last special meal.

If you go:
Rare Device
1845 Market St (between Laguna & Guerrero)
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 863-3969

Sweet housewares shop and design-y gallery spot on Market.

Boulange de Hayes
500 Hayes St (Hayes & Octavia St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 863-3376

Busier than the Noe Valley location, but excellent macarons!

Miette Confiserie
449 Octavia St (between Linden & Hayes)
San Francisco, CA 94101
(415) 626-6221

Magical candy store with big jars of all manner of sweets.  Don’t even think about your dental bills.

Timbuk2 Store
506 Hayes St (near Hayes & Octavia St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 252-9860

Timbuk2’s first retail location, full of fun bags and lots of heavy stuff with which to test the bags.

City Beer Store
1168 Folsom St (between Hallam & Langton)
San Francisco, CA 94103-6028
(415) 503-1033

Tiny beer counter tucked away on a busy, somewhat industrial-looking street.  Great selection – a few beers on tap, and they’re happy to open anything you buy from the case or the shelves.

Anchor & Hope
83 Minna St (between Shaw Alley & 2nd)
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 501-9100

Highly rated seafood spot downtown, but our experience was meh.  Probably not worth your money, though the lobster rolls looked pretty epic

(Last) Morning in the Castro and the Mission

After a long day of beer and coffee and driving, neither of us were really up for a big dinner, much less going far out of our way for dinner. Ed gave us a few recommendations in his neighborhood, and we ended up just walking down 24th and checking out menus until we found something that looked good. Maybe we should’ve walked further, but on a blustery night, gnocchi with five hour braised wild boar sounded comforting. We shared the gnocchi and a zucchini salad with truffle oil and black olive crostini at Lupa Trattoria – nothing too fancy, just simple Italian bistro fare that warmed our insides. A short walk back to Ed’s and we were out, cuddled up under a fluffy duvet.

With one full day left in SF, we had a lot to do! Or a lot of nothing to do – a whole day with no agenda except wherever our feet and stomachs would take us. Ed lives in the Noe Valley, a cute neighborhood not unlike Del Ray – full of cute restaurants and shops populated by young families with dogs. We stopped for cappuccinos at La Boulange de Noe, where we also tried our first canelé, a French custard pastry baked in a mold so that the outside is golden but the inside is a little runny.  We were underwhelmed by the canelé but not by the giant jar of Nutella on the condiment bar. Boulange de Noe, please forgive us for being gauche, but that spoonful of Nutella was too good not to share.


Full of sweets, we walked down 24th into the Castro, then spent the rest of the morning wandering around. After an hour or so of walking and talking, it was time for our second cup of coffee of the day – this time at Ritual. Comet often has coffees from Ritual, so while the beans didn’t have the same draw as those at Four Barrel or Blue Bottle, we were still looking forward to trying them. We killed some time with a double rainbow macchiato (me), a cappuccino (Shane), and our books. Ritual isn’t as intense as Four Barrel or as aesthetically pleasing as Blue Bottle, but they did make a damn good cup of coffee.

Counter at Ritual Roasters | San Francisco
Photo by ldandersen

One of the day’s top priorities was a stop at Treats, frequent source of parts for Shane’s myriad mopeds. Treats HQ isn’t really set up as a storefront, but the guys let us in and Shane perused the wares, coming out with a set of handlebars and a few other things. No Treats, though.

After a bit more wandering around, we were starting to get hungry and tired, so we made our way to Monk’s Kettle for lunch.

Taps at Monk's Kettle
Photo by Premshree Pillai

Monk’s Kettle has a seriously impressive beer list – but alas, I wasn’t really in the mood. I know, I know. Who goes to a fantastic beer bar and doesn’t get a beer? Me, apparently. Regardless, they have five page beer list with a wide range of all kinds of excellent things, and Shane was pleased with his pint and his cup of soup. I had a great cup of vegan chili, though my experience was soured a bit by the non-stop new media sales pitch going on at the next table. I suppose this is one of those irritating SF things that you don’t realize is going to drive you crazy until it’s everywhere. I’m not prone to violence, but I was tempted to punch the guy in the mouth. Good thing we were just having a quick lunch instead of several rounds of drinks or I seriously might have.

If you go:
Lupa Trattoria
4109 24th St (between Castro & Diamond)
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 282-5872

Nothing really exceptional, but a nice place for a simple but hearty Italian dinner if you’re in the area. We split the gnocchi and the insalate di zucchine – plenty for the two of us. Two entrees would’ve been too much

Boulange de Noe
3898 24th St (24th & Sanchez)
San Francisco, California 94114
(415) 821-1050

Bay area bakery chain – Kiya raved about their bread, and we enjoyed our cappuccinos here and espressos at the Hayes Valley location.

Ritual Coffee Roasters
1026 Valencia St (between 21st & Hill)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 641-1011

The folks behind Ritual were previously affiliated with Four Barrel, so you can expect a similar caliber of coffee, though the space is less intimidating and you might be able to plug in your laptop.

440 Treat Ave Ste 103 (between 17th & 18th)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 255-8957

Not really set up as a retail location, but your go-to spot for assorted moped parts in SF.

Monk’s Kettle
3141 16th St (between Albion & Valencia)
San Francisco, CA 94103-3334
(415) 865-9523

Fantastic beer list, less fantastic food. The space is pretty small, so go for lunch or a beer in the afternoon, or be prepared to wait a while in the evening.

Russian River Daytrip

I’m the wrong person to write a post about Russian River. I really am. I can’t do it justice, and for that, I’m sorry. I can, however, tell you that the Russian River brewpub is located on a quiet street in a cute downtown area – quiet and cute in the middle of a Tuesday, that is.

Russian River

As promised, it was considerably warmer in Santa Rosa than in SF, so we were happy to enter the cool and dim interior, and to face down an intimidating board of options. On the left, the sour Belgian-style ales with religious names befitting the seriousness of the beers:

One of Everything

On the right, everything else, including Pliny the Elder, rated the #2 beer in the world by Beer Advocate (Pliny the Younger is #3):

One of Everything

What to do but to have one of everything? OK, we never would’ve been able to get back to SF had we actually done that – but we did make a fair pass at the Belgians – sour and boozy, perfect on a hot afternoon. And oh, did you notice the prices? $3.75-6.75 for a pint of the Belgians. Outrageously good prices for outrageously good beers.

Beer Mecca?

Food was really necessary, and Kiya said that we had to try the pizza bites. Basically: take a pizza of an undetermined size. Chop it up into bite size pieces, toppings and all. Serve with a wee cup of marinara to happy drinkers. Nibble an dunk your way into a happy greasy pizza coma.

Like I said – I can’t do Russian River justice, but perhaps Shane will weigh in with more information about the beers. That said, he was in a jolly place when we left, so perhaps he can’t do it any more justice than I can.

A Man in his Element

After Russian River, the remainder of our daytrip hardly bears mention. We stopped for an espresso at Flying Goat on our way out of town, then stopped for adequate beer at Moylan’s in Novato. As we drove back into the city, Kiya asked if they could take us to just one more place, and so we ended up at Bender’s, a grubby dive-y bar reminiscent of the Galaxy Hut – which, if you know us at all, you know is a high compliment.

Among the things not allowed at Bender’s are fisticuffs:
Bender's doesn't put up w/shit
Photo by The Mitzikin Revolution

Among the things on offer are a damned good Bloody Mary – including a beef stick! – and Fernet, which we all inexplicably tossed back while Shane and Kiya played pool. It was a great way to end a great day.

If you go:

Russian River Brewing Co
725 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 545-2337

There’s only one reason you’d make the trip here from SF, and that is the beer. Fortunately you can get a damned good pizza (or calzone or basket of pizza bites) while you’re there.

Flying Goat Coffee
10 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 575-1202

An out of the way little coffee shop in downtown Santa Rosa. A good place to sober up with a single origin espresso after your lunch of pizza bites and Pliny.

Moylan’s Brewery & Restaurant
15 Rowland Way
Novato, CA 94945
(415) 898-4677

Not really worth the trip unless you need another beer after Russian River. Which you probably won’t.

806 S Van Ness Ave (between 19th & 20th)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 824-1800

Grubby, dive-y neighborhood bar of the best possible sort. I hear they have good food, but their Bloody Mary was nearly dinner enough for me.

Four Barrel

Kiya had quite the day planned for us, and it went something like this: Coffee. Driving. Beer. Coffee. Driving. Beer. He and Demitra picked us up at 8:15, swearing that the surprisingly blustery weather would let up as soon as we got out of the city, but before we could get there, we needed coffee.

Four Barrel Coffee
Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Four Barrel Coffee is seriously intense. Located in a former Hell’s Angels clubhouse, Four Barrel features the sort of custom work that indicates they’re seriously intense about their coffee. For example, this beautiful piece of equipment sits on a table that can be raised, lowered, or rotated 180 degrees depending on the height and preferred working location of the barista:

Four Barrel's custom-designed three-group La Marzocco Mistral
Photo by Premshree Pillai

There’s a separate counter exclusively for pour-over coffees:

Four Barrel Coffee
Photo by niallkennedy

And on the other side of the main counter is the roasting equipment. I wish I could tell you specifically which coffees we tried, but remembering things that happened before I’ve had coffee can be difficult. I can, however, tell you that our Dynamo donuts were a real knockout. I had the chocolate spice – a doughy chocolate donut with cinnamon and chipotle – and Shane had the orange blossom, which rated as the highlight of the day for him, despite the rest of the culinary adventures to follow. If we could merge the flavor and character of these donuts with the crispity crunch of Washtenaw Dairy donuts, well, we’d both weigh 400 pounds.

probat, macc, dynamo
Photo by tonx

Four Barrel embodies the “Unplug, Drink, Go” approach to coffeeshops recently described in the New York Times. There’s seating, but it’s not super comfortable. There are tables, but they’re not wide enough for your laptop and books and stuff. Which works out well, because there are no outlets for your laptop anyway. What’s that on the wall? That’s a stenciled-on outlet. Just try to plug in your laptop.

Fully caffeinated, we hopped in the car and headed to Russian River – but that’s a story for another post.

If you go:
Four Barrel Coffee
375 Valencia St (between 14th & 15th)
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 252-0800

Have a donut and an espresso and leave happy.

Hog + Rocks

Back in the day, a very long time before I knew Shane, he was really into electronic music.  I’m not sure if his devotion to electronic music reached the same heights as my devotion to a certain Canadian band, but I do know that he was similarly involved in online communities related to his musical passions, most specifically the IDM mailing list.  His work trip to SF last fall provided the opportunity to finally meet Kiya, one of his friends from the IDM list – as well as a fellow aficionado of fine denim, good food, and good beer.  Calling Kiya a denim aficionado is a bit of an understatement.  He and his wife own amazing denim stores in SF, New York, and, most recently, Los Angeles.  He’s a dangerous – or fantastic – sort of friend to have when you are a gentleman of discriminating denim tastes.  Long story short: we were looking forward to hanging out with Kiya and his wife, and were delighted when they suggested dinner Monday night.

After a full day of walking and driving and photo taking, we were exceedingly happy to be picked up – along with our luggage – by Kiya and Demitra and whisked off in the direction of the Mission.  Our first stop for the night was Zeitgeist, an intense bar featuring the best Bloody Mary in the city.  As we walked in, Kiya told us that the bar goes through more beer than any other bar in the city, which I would believe based on the hipster population density on the patio.  True to form, my Bloody Mary was excellent – though a bit spicy for me – and packed to the brim with snacks:

bloody mary ..
Photo by fatniu

Alcohol blankets in place against the cool SF night, we were off to our next stop: dinner at Hog and Rocks. We were interested in having some good seafood while in SF, and Hog and Rocks specializes in ham and oysters, so it seemed like a perfect spot.  Hog and Rocks has only been open since mid-summer, and I’m guessing this interesting and moderately-priced spot is going to be a lot harder to get into by the time we get back to SF.

We were seated at the bar and directed to three menus: dinner, ham/oysters, and shot/beer. That’s right – shot and a beer. And not in the Irish car bomb sense – more like a pairing of a shot and a beer. All were priced at around $8 – an outstanding price in Ann Arbor, much less in an up-and-coming spot in SF. I had a shot of a very floral gin along with a Sam Adams Light – the ladies’ choice, obviously.  On to dinner, and to a serious consultation of the ham and oyster menu. We decided to order two small plates each, giving us lots of delicious things to sample over the course of the evening. My two came from the ham menu – an Italian speck served with melon, and a Spanish jamon serrano with olive oil, saba, and a nutty mahon cheese. Both were delicious and just the right size for a few bites each. From the main menu:

  • Ham and cheese corn fritters – a little too doughy, but good dipped in a spicy mustard.
  • Sea scallops crudo – didn’t realize that ‘crudo’ meant ‘basically raw’ – the plate wasn’t all that appetizing when it arrived, but the basil and citrus came together nicely with the jiggly scallop.
  • Cast iron octopus – I’d had my cephalopod fill at Flour + Water, but this looked intriguing and apparently tasted even better.
  • Chicken wing confit – the name was enough to convince Kiya that this might be the dinner of his dreams.  The wings were good, but not dream-worthy, though they did feature the house hot sauce.
  • Cavatelli pasta with English peas, egg, and ham – really the stand-out dish for both of us – pure comfort food without the weight you’d expect from a pasta dish.  Along with last night’s succotash, I’m newly convinced that you can make a simple and lovely pasta the centerpiece of a meal without having to feel guilty and/or run a 5K the next morning.

I pocketed the ham menu to see if we can recreate some of the dishes for future snack dinners, though I doubt we’ll be trying the oysters at home.  With plans made for the next day’s Russian River trip, Kiya and Demitra delivered us to our Airbnb room, and we slept the sweet sleep of the tired and full.

If you go:

199 Valencia St (Valencia and Duboce)
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 255-7505

Get a Bloody Mary, if that’s your thing. Demitra also highly recommended the tamales sold by the tamale lady on the patio.

Hog and Rocks
3431 19th St (19th & Mission)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 550-8627

Get a shot and a beer and some really excellent ham.

Golden Gate Park

Labor Day dawned beautiful and sunny, and after checking out of our hotel and having another excellent breakfast at Blue Bottle, we hopped on a bus in the direction of Golden Gate Park.

If you look at a map of San Francisco, Golden Gate Park (hereafter GGP, too long to type each time) is a giant thumb of green tucked in the middle of an urban sea. Nearly 25% larger than New York’s Central Park, GGP houses a number of museums, dedicated gardens, playgrounds, playing fields, paths, and a century-old lawn bowling club.

San Francisco Lawn Bowling Club

We had no set agenda for our explorations, and so felt free to linger by the lawn bowling field, where a helpful volunteer explained some of the nuances of the game. It is not the same as bocce or pétanque, and the balls are neither strictly round nor intended to be hurled in the air. Instead, ladies and gentlemen of all ages civilly roll the ovoids down the manicured green in an attempt to get closest to the “jack”. The gentleman pictured below has been a member of the club since 1964.

San Francisco Lawn Bowling Club

After a bit of wandering around, we made our way to Crepevine in Inner Sunset to meet Nate and Sharon for lunch. Crepevine reminded me a bit of Aroma or Kopi – neighborhood-y places to grab lunch and a cup of coffee with friends. We were hungry but not enough to commit to individual dishes, so we split a quality tuna sandwich and Caesar salad and drank a lot of water and lemonade to rehydrate before more park exploration. Nate and Sharon tried to show us the Japanese Tea Garden and the Fine Arts Museum, but it was too nice out to stand in lines and pay money to be inside. They did, however, convince us that we had to see the Golden Gate Bridge up close, for which we are thankful.

E & E
Look! I’m irrationally excited about a sign with my name on it!

Golden Gate Bridge
This looks too perfect, right? I mean, when is the sky EVER that blue? Especially in SF?

Nate & Sharon
Nate & Sharon

E & Shane
Cool bridge, u guys!

Despite having generously driven us around not once but twice, Nate and Sharon were up for a final adventure with us: ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery, whose salted caramel is supposed to be out of this world. Unfortunately, so is the line, often stretching around the block, especially on a gorgeous day when everyone’s off work. The trick, apparently, is to go to Bi-Rite Market just down the street and buy a pint – but when we got there, the freezer cases were cordoned off, pints of salted caramel taunting us from behind glass panes and a big tape X. Fortunately there was one more option: a walk-up window for the bakery, where you can ALSO get ice cream. We zipped over there and picked up two pints – one for eating, the other as a thank you for Nate and Sharon – of frozen gold. I’m not sure how to describe the flavor of salted caramel if you’ve never had it – but the texture was like the finest soft serve you’ve ever put in your mouth – smooth and creamy, with a hint of salt. I’m glad we tried it, though the runaround necessary to obtain it stressed all of us out.

salted caramel, brown sugar ginger caramel swirl
Photo by roboppy

Many thanks to Nate and Sharon for a fun afternoon of adventure!

If you go:

Golden Gate Park
Bounded by Great Hwy (west), Fulton St (north), Stanyan St (east), and Lincoln Way (south)
San Francisco, CA

Plan to spend at least an afternoon, but more likely a whole day, depending on how much of the park you’d like to see – and if you make it to the Buffalo Paddock (or Bison Enclosure), send me photos.

624 Irving St (between 7th & 8th)
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 681-5858

I wouldn’t go out of your way to go here, but if you find yourself on this end of the park and are looking for a inexpensive yet filling and tasty lunch, Crepevine is right for you!

Golden Gate Bridge
US Highway 101
San Francisco, CA

Definitely worth seeing. There’s a visitor’s center on the SF side where I imagine you can buy all manner of Golden Gate Bridge ephemera.

Bi-Rite Creamery
3692 18th St (between Dolores & Oakwood)
San Francisco, CA 94110-1531
(415) 241-9760

The salted caramel was incredible. I can’t vouch for any other flavor, but I intend to try as many as I can when next we’re in SF.

The Haight, Sandwiches, and Farmer Brown

I’ll admit it: I was a wanna-be hippie in high school and college. I wore tie-dye and had Jim Morrison posters on my walls. I even have photos to prove it:

My First Dorm Room

Like every kid of my ilk, I had fantasies of packing it in and moving to the Haight, of bathing in patchouli and growing my hair long, of breezy sundresses and good vegetarian cooking. I’ve long since grown out of those dreams, discarded along with the ill fitting tie-dyed t-shirts, the books of Morrison’s poetry, and the nag champa incense (though I did buy A Whiter Shade of Pale on vinyl over the winter), so I’m not sure what I expected when we caught the bus from the Sutro Baths in the direction of the Haight. Lunch, I guess, and to see the sites that I’d imagined had held sway over me at 17.

These days the Haight is kind of like Disneyland for hippies: washed up, sold out, and packed with tourists. The streets are full of shops – ranging from cute boutiques selling lingerie and retro fashions to hip menswear stores to the obligatory headshops – and shoppers, all of whom moved at a glacial pace. We hit Amoeba Music, an epically huge record store near Golden Gate Park, and Shane had a tough time not buying records to bring home. I’m only being minorly hyperbolic when I say that they might have every album released ever. It was intense.

Equally intense the was the bar at The Alembic, our lunch destination, whose awesomeness was matched only by our hunger after a morning of hiking around.

The Alembic

Now THAT is a bar. I ordered a Corpse Reviver #2, partially because it sounded refreshing and partially because it’s what Foursquare told me to do. It did not steer me wrong. Shane ordered a beer which wasn’t memorable enough for me to remember it at the moment, but he enjoyed it. And then lunch: another epic sandwich and two kinds of tasty chips:

Mushroom Bánh mì

Mushroom bánh mì – spicy, nutty, complex flavors tucked in a perfectly crispy baguette – served with cassava chips, also subtly spicy. We neglected to notice that we’d be getting chips with our sandwich, and so shared sumac dusted potato chips with a zesty yogurt dip. San Francisco has seriously spoiled sandwiches for us. There’s not a chance we can go back to the occasional Five Dollar Footlong after this. Not a chance.

After a thoroughly satisfying lunch, we wandered around the Haight for a few hours, picking up a few gifts for ourselves and others, then continued in the direction of Toronado, in the Lower Haight. Shane had committed to at least two trips to Toronado, so this fulfilled the quota. Unfortunately this time it smelled terrible, and I was getting tired and cranky and definitely didn’t want beer – so while Shane got his beer and picked up a fantastic grilled sausage from Rosamunde Sausage Grill next door, I walked down the street for more lemon cookie ice cream from Three Twins.

By the time we finished our snacks, we were both wiped and not feeling motivated to find anything else to do, so we headed back to the hotel and the confines of our very comfortable bed. Shane perused the TV listings, all of which contained curiously concise and helpful descriptions (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: “Boy wins tour”) for a while I napped a bit, waking up hungry at 8pm.

Our late dinner options were limited by the hour and the fact that it was a Sunday night before a Monday holiday, but fortunately Farmer Brown – recommended by Heather – was open and serving up pretty fantastic soul food just a few blocks from our hotel. After a day of walking and talking and shopping and snacking, it was nice to just take a corner table, share a thyme-infused lemon cocktail, and be quiet together. I was craving vegetables – sunny, light, delicious veg – and found them in the form of a summer vegetable succotash served over creamy polenta. Shane had some equally delicious pulled pork sliders on the house made biscuits. I hear their brunch is amazing, and I’d believe it based on the wonderful late night meal that we shared. Definitely one to check out next time we’re in town.

If you go:
The Alembic
1725 Haight St (between Cole & Shrader)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 666-0822

Do yourself a favor and get a cocktail. We split a sandwich, so I can’t vouch for the rest of the menu, but everything we had was delicious.

Amoeba Music
1855 Haight St (between Shrader & Stanyan)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 831-1200

All the records in the history of records. There’s another location in Oakland, I think.

Rosamunde Sausage Grill
545 Haight St (between Fillmore & Steiner)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 437-6851

Limited menu – sausages – but everything smelled amazing, and Shane’s weisswurst was outstanding. Buy a sausage here and take it to Toronado next door. You’ll thank me as long as you aren’t sitting somewhere stinky.

Farmer Brown
25 Mason St (at Market)
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 409-3276

Seriously good soul food sandwiched between the Tenderloin and the Financial District. Don’t be skeeved out by the location at night. It was surprisingly delicious.

Sutro Baths

At the turn of the 20th century, the wealthy former mayor San Francisco opened an elaborate pleasure complex at the far western end of the peninsula. As with many of the delights featured at the Musée Mécanique, the Sutro Baths represented a cultural shift – the dawning of an era where leisure was accessible to more than just society’s upper crust. The complex went through several incarnations until they were demolished in 1966. In 1980, the entire property was incorporated into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the Baths are now part of a complex of parks that wraps around the western tip of the peninsula.

After breakfast at Blue Bottle, we hopped on the Geary bus and took it allllllll the way west, then spent an hour or two of an incredibly beautiful day climbing around and taking photos. Exploring the Sutro Baths is like climbing through the pieces of a forgotten time.  You can’t quite picture from the ruins what the place was like in its heyday – it has in many ways been reclaimed by the elements.  Say what you will about ruins porn, but this is somewhat different than the exploitative way that ruined buildings are used as societal commentary in cities like Detroit.   This ruin feels deliberate, not sad, and like it is curiously in harmony with the crashing waves.

Sutro Baths

Sutro Baths




If you go:
Sutro Baths
Point Lobos Ave
San Francisco, California 94121
(415) 386-3330

Take the 38 Geary bus. You’ll be on it for what seems like forever, but for $2, it’s the cheapest and easiest way to get out to the baths. Bring a picnic lunch or at least a water bottle and snacks, as you’ll probably get thirsty and maybe hungry from all the walking around.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Obsession

Let’s not talk about the cocktails we had in the hotel bar last night, or about the quantity of chili almonds that I ate while drinking those (bourbon) cocktails. Suffice to say that I woke up this morning feeling toxic and in need of coffee and greasy breakfast – but a goood greasy breakfast. While Shane was in the shower, I concocted a plan for the day, and we stumbled down the street in a hung over haze in search of breakfast at Blue Bottle’s Mint Plaza shopfront. Little did we know that we were about to encounter a coffee dreamworld.

A $20,000 syphon brewing system, where water heated by a halogen lamp rises up through the grounds to make a perfectly smooth cup of coffee:

Syphon Pot

An iced coffee system that redefines slow brewing: water passes through the grounds one drip at a time over the course of eight hours. Eight hours!

Kyoto Iced Coffee

And, of course, perfect pour-over coffee and espresso drinks made with care. Such was our infatuation with this place that we actually had breakfast here two days in a row – but I’ll spare you two posts’ worth of drooling and instead give you one overly-enthusiastic one.

Blue Bottle Breakfast #1

Breakfast #1: a grilled ham and gruyere sandwich for me and a fabulous frittata with goat cheese, sweet corn, and red pepper puree for Shane. I coveted that frittata. I dream of that frittata. Fortunately he shared a few bites, and we shared two syphon pots of Amaro Gayo and Guatemalan Guya’b, enjoying the former much more than the latter. As we were sitting in the front window enjoying our breakfast, we spotted the owner of one of our favorite Ann Arbor coffee spots standing in line for his own breakfast. What are the chances?!

Shane's first cappuccino

Breakfast #2: less hungry and less hung over, so we shared the dreamy frittata and thick slabs of ACME toast, along with two beautiful cappuccinos – Shane’s first!  His tastes in espresso drinks previously leaned in the vanilla latte direction, so this was a revelation, and the beginning of a beautiful obsession.


If you go:
Blue Bottle Mint Plaza
66 Mint St
San Francisco, CA 94103-1800

Go for brunch on Sunday or to just admire the beautiful coffee equipment – while drinking amazing coffee, of course.