First Impressions: A Month in San Francisco

First impressions are just that - instant generalizations that will change, grow or vanish with time. My first blanket statement comes from firsthand experience. Californians are bad drivers - but in the nicest way possible. They'll let you go ahead of them, give you time to parallel park, and never ride your bumper. But they will also wait to excel at a stoplight until after they light their cigarette. Stop in the middle of the road if they spot a free parking spot. And rear-end your car to give an ambulance sufficient space to pass by. But afterward, they'll be really very sweet about it. And so I sit here with a sore lower back, a whip-lashed neck and a banged up car. And I'm not even mad about it! California must be rubbing off on me.

This next point should come as no surprise: San Franciscans are very accepting people.  Whatever your cause, religion, culture, sexual preference, language or choice of attire, San Francisco is home to all and accepting of everyone. Do you like to dress up in full armor and throw knives at invisible combatants? Feel free to do so in Golden Gate Park. Is your calling in life to sing silent karaoke on the corner of Market Street? While you may not have an audience, you are welcome to stay...all day, every night. What if you have a point to make, but it's in a language known to only you? Scream away, buddy. Scream it out. After a month of thinking I must 'just be on the wrong block', I've concluded that San Francisco is indeed the Capital of Crazy. We have the burnouts from our parents generation to thank for that. So really, Just Say No. For I have seen what happens when you always say yes.
"The coldest winter I've ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Mark Twain wasn't kidding. While all of my comrades back East have been enduring one of the hottest summers to date, I have been battling one of San Francisco's coldest. Under the impression that I was moving to sunny California, naturally I packed all my warm clothing in storage. Never really needing an excuse to shop, I was forced (forced I tell you!) to to buy some new duds to bare the windy, foggy, 40° weather - everyday. Now that I am properly clothed, I have also had to master the art of layering. Every morning involves some combination of a t-shirt, long-sleeve, sweatshirt, windbreaker, and of course, comfortable shoes -  these hills are no joke. I've had to put my heels away permanently, which I unfortunately learned rather quickly.

Once I realized I wouldn't be in a bikini any time soon, I dove face first into San Francisco's famed culinary scene. My first breakfast consisted of an enormous sourdough baguette and a huge cup of coffee from Four Barrel Coffee. I was a pig in poop. I knew there was more to offer than their famed fermented carbohydrates, so I moved on to a genre that's a bit lacking on the East Coast - Mexican food. Taqueria's can be found on almost every street corner in many neighborhoods, and everyone seems to have a favorite, which they follow with cult-like fervor. I am willing and able to pound the pavement and find mine. So far Taqueria CanCun in the Mission District holds first place for their Burrito Mojado - a beautifully crafted belly bomber that's covered in three types of condiments - the key to my heart. An $11 dinner for two, which also doubled as a late night snack, is reason enough to return - though I may opt to wear a bulletproof vest next time - sketch.

My next Mexican meal was in a much nicer setting - the lovely seaside town of Sausalito.  After a 10mi bike ride around the city and across the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, our group was in need of nourishment. We stopped in at Sausalito Taco Shop for some fish tacos and margaritas. Situated on their front deck on our first beautifully sunny day since arrival (hallelujah), we were quite content. So content in fact, that we missed the last ferry back to city and had to bike back over the bridge...another 10miles...uphill(both ways)...in the oncoming fog and wind. Did I mention we had just eaten Mexican? It was not pretty. The first hill had me keeled over on my side on the shoulder of the road, heaving and laughing uncontrollable (it was the margaritas). Maybe I'm not a Cali girl just yet.

Besides increased exercise and a decrease road rage, San Francisco has had another positive impact on my health - I now love fruit. I have never had much of a sweet tooth, and unfortunately that means that fruit often falls to the wayside. As a child, the only way my Mom could get me to eat fruit would be to arrange it on a plate as a face, which in retrospect seems a little Silence of the Lambs for a four year old, but hey, it did the trick. Now that I consider myself a mature adult, the only time I eat a full serving of fruit is in a frosted glass with a shot of Patron. I blame my aversion more so on the availability of fresh, seasonal fruit in New York. Only three months of fresh fruit and then I'm back hulling tasteless Driscoll strawberries to add to the blender. Out here, the fruit tastes better. And restaurants use it in everything! I'm learning to grill it, use it as a substitution in recipes, add it to savory dishes, and, get this, eat-it-whole! Quite the transformation.

My best discovery yet came from a wonderful dinner at a restaurant in SoMa called Marlowe. Recommended to me by a friend back East, Marlowe hinted at my old neighborhood Tribeca, with it's industrial feel and exposed wrought-iron beams. With cozy, minimal seating we were served a plethora of amazing dishes. Brussels sprout 'chips' (you know those lovely little burnt leaves you pick at when you roast them?) came drizzled with sweet Meyer lemons and a dusting of sea salt - like healthier, heartier potato chips. The dish that has forever changed the role of fruit in my life was a new take on  caprese salad. Substituting ripe peach wedges for tomatoes, creamy burrata cheese for regular mozzarella, flaked smokey sea salt and chili peppers for basil and a lavender infused olive oil, this salad was perfection. That Saturday at the Ferry Building Farmers Market - my heaven on Earth - I gathered all the necessary ingredients to recreate the salad. I am on a burrata cheese waiting list if you can believe it - so I used mozzarella until my number gets called - sigh. I recommend splurging on flaked sea salt. It has a really unique texture - sort of like a salty snowflake - that will give your food a little something extra. I love the smoked varietals if you can find it. As for the olive oil, I personally don't care for lavender, so I opted for a high quality extra virgin. If you can find it, either a basil infused or citrus infused oil would be awesome.

Peach and Burrata Salad:
(serves two)
2 ripe peaches of any variety, sliced
1 ball of burrata cheese, cut into similar sized chunks as the peaches
1t. flaked sea salt
1/4t. chili flakes, roughly chopped
1/4 cup or less of good quality olive oil

Arrange fruit and cheese artfully on a platter, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and chili flakes. Serve immediately.

Real Cali girls bike in the nude apparently - I'm not quite there yet (thank god).
The Capital of Crazy.
- The Heat

1 Comment:

e.frances said...

ok. so i know it's not HOT here. but this summer has been the worst and coldest by far in a long time. i promise! :) and i TOLD you it's the land of the layers!!!

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