Dim Sum, Sourdough Gnocchi and Eatin’ Pants
Man cannot live by bread alone. For my family, food is an integral part of any vacation or trip away from home. I love good food. My daughter began her toddler adventures with solid food immersed in a multicultural family of doctoral students who fed her curried eggs, biryani, latkes, and the best of Northern Italian cuisine which contrary to the American idea, does not rely on pasta. But we married a man who as a child, refused to eat spaghetti sauce on his noodles, balked at most things green, and thought salt and pepper was all the spice the world needs. We’ve converted him. He even eats artichokes now.
Last week I had the chance to attend a conference in San Francisco. Man cannot live by bread alone. Unless it’s sourdough. Joe decided to tag along and entertain himself while I worked so we could spend the evenings together exploring the city. Our hotel was across the street from the Chinatown Gate so as soon as we stored our bags at our hotel, we went in search of souvenirs. No. We went in search of food. Of course there was no shortage of Dim Sum restaurants. I admit, we did no research, didn’t ask our concierge or anyone on the street, we just found a place that looked good and took the stairs to a second floor room and had a seat. Steamed potstickers, har gao (shrimp dumplings) , char siu bao ( steamed bbq pork buns) and my favorite jin deui, sesame balls filled with red bean paste. We left just before having to loosen our belts but not before we had to lean back in our chairs and sigh deeply. We spent the rest of the day and most of the evening walking and exploring, finding a great bookstore and Larry Flint’s Hustler Club by accident. Our energy was just about to peter out when we stopped at the Moscone Center to check in at the convention to attend the opening reception and keynote address. I was passed out on our hotel bed by 9 p.m. local time. My body said it was 11 and I’d been up since 4 a.m.
The walk from our hotel to the convention center sent us through the Yerba Buena Gardens and past La Boulange Bakery. On our first morning in town we stopped for cafe au lait and breakfast. I opted for a vegetable omelet and potatoes while Joe decided on the french toast and fruit. He loved it so much, he had it again the next day for breakfast while I tested their salmon quiche.
Later that night we went in search of dinner. We wandered from our hotel to North Beach hoping for Italian. We finally decided on a restaurant but once inside it was so loud we couldn’t hear each other and the tables were so close together it was uncomfortable. So we left. And went to a place we heard was “touristy” but the menu appealed to us. The Stinking Rose specializes in all thing garlic. We indulged ourselves in roasted garlic, garlic encrusted baby back ribs and garlic meatloaf while seated under a roof of hanging chianti bottles and corks. Then we waddled all the way back to our hotel via the long way around, taking us through the late night bars and uh, specialty dance venues.
After a morning of lectures, networking and viewing displays of many other people’s research, I met Joe near the convention center to catch a bus trying to get to Golden Gate Park in time to see some of the California Academy of Sciences and the Japanese Tea Garden before they closed. I’m sure our adventure in the park will be part 3 of this story. But since this is about food I have to mention that we sat in the lovely tea house in the Japanese Gardens for a snack. We didn’t make it in time for the tea ceremony demonstration but it was a cold afternoon and there were many patrons enjoying a hot cuppa in the chilly air of the early evening. We loved the gardens and those photos will have to be part of the Golden Gate Park post.
Exhausted from a full day of work and an evening of exploring, we chose to stick close to our hotel and have dinner and drinks at The Irish Bank housed in the alley just behind our hotel. They had our favorite beers on draught, and our favorite pub food: fish and chips for the man and a juicy reuben for me. The chips were perfectly crisp outside and tender inside. My reuben was stacked high with lovely corned beef with housemade dressing.
We had a relaxing evening in a lovely alleyway pub with good food and when one of my colleagues joined us, we had good friends to go with it.
On the day I had the most time to spare from work, we went for a bike ride across Golden Gate Bridge. We cycled well into the evening hours after our late start and as it was our final evening in San Francisco we were looking for a place that would be somewhat quiet, had great food and service and maybe even a view. We found all of it in The Bistro Boudin. We had walked by the bakery and watched the bakers at work earlier in the day. I wish we’d had time to spare, the bakery had a tour and the line just to buy bread was long, the cafe was packed, so we thought their full service restaurant would be a safe bet.
We had a sunset view of the bay, Alcatraz and the sun disappearing behind the Marin Headlands.
We had a lovely waiter named Clark who took very good care of us and had great suggestions for dinner. We started with a lovely crab and artichoke dip and a beautiful bottle of wine. Joe had the wild caught halibut with crispy polenta and tomato broth.
I couldn’t resist the bread. I had the sourdough gnocchi al pesto with lobster.
And we were enjoying ourselves so much we decided to try the bread pudding. Being from the South, I’ve tried a lot of bread pudding. It was a dense pudding and the sauce was more caramel than a Southern rum or whiskey sauce but the taste was magnificent and the presentation was pretty good too.
By this time we were totally relaxed and very full. We should have been wearing our eatin’ pants.