San Francisco

Apart from UX Week 2011, spending a week in San Francisco was quite nice. I had adjusted to Pacific Standard Time by Day 2 (I pretty much never really adjusted fully to Eastern Time), and overall, the lifestyle there seemed more laid back (could just be because my schedule allowed it to be): people were friendlier, and I felt like I could be a local. PT just said it’s hippier. Maybe that’s it!

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If I could apply good customer service to a city, I would say San Francisco just earned it – everywhere I went, people were charming and sweet. I stand in line, and the customer in front would make recommendations (Tartine Bakery); I go into a hotel (Palomar) asking for a taxi, and they would chat with you aside from business talk; and even the restaurant staff (Burma Superstar) seemed sincerely apologetic that they couldn’t get you a seat as they spoke to their patrons over the phone!

Inn San Francisco

The bed and breakfast I stayed at, Inn San Francisco, was charming! I would classify it more as an inn as you got privacy than most bed and breakfasts (less chatting) and it felt secure. The view on the roof was nice (see fog pictures below), and the feather bed was comfortable, and despite the not-so-glowing reviews of the Mission area, I felt safe, walking outside alone before dusk. In fact, Liza, one of the hosts mentioned that of the 37 years they’ve been there, not one incident had resulted (and I wasn’t about to be the first). Inn San Francisco also offered glasses of complimentary California sherry and port, hot tea, and sweet California fruit like plums, peaches, oranges and apples (does importing it to Ontario really make it less sweet because it’s not as ripe?!). Two square of complimentary ghirardelli chocolate squares greet you in each room – I didn’t even realize the company is from San Francisco! Breakfast was self-serve, but with the amazing assortment of pre-cut fresh fruit (pineapple, watermelon mango, papaya, strawberries), I was happy to eat that and a slice of either corn quiche or spinach quiche. The down side is that breakfast is pretty much the same selection of food everyday, although I did pass on items like cheese and hard-boiled eggs and cereal. Why? The conference I attended at UCSF Mission Bay campus had amazing croissants and pastries (to which their staff couldn’t tell me where it came from), so I made sure to have two breakfasts everyday :).

I admit, one of the reasons why I like to stay at bed and breakfasts because I get to meet people who we wouldn’t otherwise meet, and get a glimpse of their lives. Marty, one of the owners, told me about his son, Anthony Neely, who is a talented pop star in Taiwan! He had won a singing competition, and now he has quite the following – if I was his father, I would be quite proud of him too.

 

Tartine Bakery

Aside from some poorer reviews of the older neighbourhood, it’s in the heart of many, many good eats! The neighbourhood is known for some amazing Mexican food, and on evening 2, I ventured out to Tartine Bakery and made it in to order just as it was closing (less than a 15 min walk, which when you do walk, you will pass by a local graphic novel shop – one that features local artists, like Gene Luen Yang). The seasonal fruit fragpaine tarte (wild blueberry at the time from what I could tell) was amazing – it wasn’t too sweet, and the pastry just flaked off; it took me back to Europe momentarily. The customer in line in front of me told me that I should’ve ordered the coconut tart, but by then it was too late, and I was worried that it was going to be too sweet (though the customer insisted it wasn’t) – guess I must try it again next time! Dessert for dinner? Fine by me :)

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The week started with really warm and good weather, but it soon became very cold (12C/54F) especially at nights, and when the wind and fog just rolled right over. In fact, the fog was a funny phenomenon because it would be foggy in one area of the city, but sunny and warm in another.

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Off the Grid

My parents flew down to join me for the weekend (have the best parents!), and it turned out to be an atypical trip, as we bypassed many of the touristy activities, partially because I had done them in a previous trip many years ago. Instead, they happily accompanied me to Off the Grid at Fort Mason Center on Friday night, and we walked! Boy, was that a mistake – the weather seemed to have gotten a lot cooler and winder near the Wharf, and next time, I need to remind myself to bring a sweater. But, 30 food trucks in a parking lot? That was not to be missed. In fact, I first read about it on Serious Eats, and they just featured it again.

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Best options? I really liked Seoul on Wheels’ Korean BBQ tacos and Chairman Bao’s pork belly buns. It was nice to be asked if I was Korean, after ordering their galbi bbq taco without kochujang – because that meant my Korean classes sort of helped!

Ferry Building Marketplace

On Saturday morning, my parents accompanied me to Ferry Building Marketplace to check out the Saturday market. Yes, I admit, their fresh fruit were pretty steep, but the food was again, really good, especially the porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti. They roast it in the stationary food truck, and the oils from the meat just drip down on the potatoes that are roasting at the same time – and that equates to: YUM!

Pier 39

We took a break from food in the afternoon, and drove to the beaches near Lions Gate Bridge and Alcatrez.  And of course, the bridge was half-covered in fog, and it was windy. We made a stop at Cocoabella for some delightful chocolates, on a good recommendation of a colleague, and also spent some time at Pier 39, watching the silly antics of the sea lions and had a chower and shared a plate of fresh, steamed clams. I liked the clams, as it didn’t have the fishyness that sometimes we have with clams over here, but the broth was rather salty, and my stomach reacted to the chowder.

Burma Superstar, Genki

By the end of UX Week, I had met a couple of other food enthusiasts, one being , who recommended going into Inner Richmond for some Asian eats. And like most major cities with Chinatowns, many Chinese had actually moved into the suburbs. So, we ventured into Richmond, and my parents – the troopers that they are – waited with me for a seat at Burma Superstar for 2 hours. For a place that doesn’t take reservations, they do have a pretty neat system in that they will take down your mobile number and then call you when a table is almost ready. Alas, we didn’t have a local number so we waited around and had dessert first at Genki. Two “cuisines” I had in one night that I hadn’t yet tried until then: Burmese and Japanese crepe dessert (green tea, canned lychee fruit with whipped cream in a warm crepe cone).

By the end of the trip, I discovered that many of the brands I like comes from this area: Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese, Timbuk2 – sturdy messenger bags, AirBnB – an accomodation service that I just heard about this summer, and it’s home to some really good eats.

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