SF RECAP: electric relaxation

07Oct12

Sam Flores Mural
A portion of a Sam Flores mural. He’s everywhere in SF

Last weekend, I flew myself to San Francisco for leisure. The last time I was in the Bay was a few years ago and I told myself I would visit again soon. I decided a few months ago that this year I had to make it happen. Besides, it’s an hour on the plane. No excuses.

I had no concrete plans on what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go but I knew I wanted to connect with a few friends I hadn’t seen in a while. There were the usual spots that I always go to while in SF and, of course, a few new places to try.

Waiting for food in SF is inevitable. I waited for EVERY eatery, bakery and creamery I visited. It wasn’t fun.

Overall, great relaxing trip. Going to return very soon…

FRIDAY – 9/28/12

I flew in Friday evening and my friend Nat was there to pick me up. We went straight to planning our night starting with a stop at her friend’s for a quick chat sesh. But of course food was on our mind.

Dumplings!

I needed some comfort Chinese food and Kingdom of Dumpling was wear we landed. We ordered your usual dumpling items – green onion pancake (picture above), pork and chives steamed dumplings (picture above) and xiao long bao (not pictured) aka pork soup dumplings.

Pass on the green onion pancakes (not good) and get ready for some thick ass dumplings. The skin of the steamed dumpings were so thick and chewy, it took away from the spotlight that is the filling, or lack thereof. I concentrated on chewing more than I did tasting. Despite the thickness, I enjoyed it overall, eventually developing a special kind of appreciation for it. The xiao long bao was good but nothing special.

After dinner, I headed to Ashleigh’s to hang out, only to helplessly fall asleep on her couch as she met Nat for the first time. Bad friend but I couldn’t help it. They got along well, I think.

Banana and oreos toast

The word “dessert” woke me up, though, and we found ourselves quickly entering a dessert spot. My memory is foggy and I forget the name of this place but it doesn’t matter.

We devoured their banana and oreos (thick) toast topped with cookies and cream ice cream and whipped cream. The middle section of the toast was diced into cubes with the crust unscathed. We didn’t have mercy on the crust. The plate was empty in minutes. We don’t play.

SATURDAY – 9/29/12

This was the day we dedicated to being in the city. We started with the one and only Brenda’s French Soul Food for lunch. To help us keep sane while waiting for a table (a long wait), we walked on over to Philz Coffee to try their MOJITO MINTED ICED COFFEE. Oh, yes.

MOJITO MINTED ICED COFFEE

CRACK. The wonders that mint has on taste. I’m not a coffee fanatic but I could drink this every day. Although on the pricey side ($4 for small; picture above), I’d pay for quality > quantity.

What seemed like forever, we finally get seated at Brenda’s.

Pulled Pork Benedict with Grits

Worth the wait. We immediately order the pulled pork benedict with grits (picture above), beignet platter (plain, chocolate, apple and crawfish; picture in gallery below) and their popular watermelon sweet tea (picture in gallery below).

The perfect benedict on top of oh-so-fluffy buttermilk biscuits. Yes. One word. Mouthwatering. Will order again next time and the time after that.

Be careful with the beignets. They are huge for appetizers. It was good but I wasn’t crazy for them. I’m no expert on this baked item nor a huge fan. However, the chocolate was pleasant.

Watermelon sweet tea. A must.

Upper Playground

Every time I’m in SF, I make a stop at Upper Playground to check out what’s new. Unfortunately, they recently took down the Jeremy Fish “Where Hearts Get Left” exhibition from their gallery space. Dah well.

Kofie
Artist: Kofie (next to Upper Playground)

The one thing I look forward to while walking the laid back streets of Frisco is the street art. I have a favorite intersection on Haight because it’s adorned with beautiful pieces from various artists. Last time I was there, it was not fully covered.

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Today, it proudly shows off a new face that reflects the people and culture of Frisco – crazy colourful.

Street Art

Street artist doing his thing outside Black Pancake Records on Haight St.

You cannot visit SF without making a stop at Golden Gate Bakery in Chinatown for their popular egg custard pastry.

Egg custard

Not realizing that moon festival was upon us, we were greeted with yet another really long line. While the egg custard is usually the main draw, this time everyone was waiting in line for their mooncakes. Why so special? Upon finally entering the bakery, I saw that they had GREEN TEA and TARO flavored mooncakes. I’ve never heard or seen such a thing. I understood the hysteria. These flavors were indeed special. I bought myself a green tea mooncake with one yolk (no picture). Yum.

Wanting to squeeze as much as we could, we headed straight to the Mission district for delicious ice cream at Bi-rite Creamery, one of the places I visit every time I am in SF. Their popular flavor is SALTED CARAMEL, which I had a scoop of. I also ordered a scoop of the seasonal balsamic strawberry (picture in gallery below)

I skipped dinner while Nat enjoyed some AYCE Korean BBQ, which was amazing. Amazing for the fact that she was able to continue eating while having already consumed the same amount of food as me in a short period of time. Trooper.

SUNDAY – 9/30/12

All of the original plans for Sunday in East Bay went to sh!t (our fault). But it was serendipitous and we were still able to hang in the area.

We picked Kitchen 388 in Oakland for lunch as an alternative to Bakesale Betty, since they are closed on Sundays. My friend Khanh, who lives in the city, joined us.

I had their chicken and waffles. The waffle was easily forgettable but the chicken was well seasoned. My glass of sangria was extra thick and weird. Decent spot but nothing to write home about. As long as the company was great, though, that’s all that mattered. Catch up session led to my first bloody mary across the street.

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We walked across to Bar Three Fifty-Five because Khanh raved about their bloody mary. Cherry popped. Great recommendation. It was delicious. Bloody mary on steroids. Look at that bacon! It was crazy good and I’m afraid I won’t find another here in LA that’ll match. Must return…

Hung out most of the day in Oakland with a fantastic view of the Marina.

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Zachary’s Chicago Pizza was the rebound for dinner. I’ve never been to Chicago so I cannot say I’ve had an “authentic” Chicago deep dish pizza but I can say that I’ve had a pretty damn good replica and Zachary’s was NOT the place. I think the crust is just as important as the contents of your pie. It’s what holds everything together and it’s usually the finish to a bite of a slice. The popular mushroom and spinach (picture above) pie lacked in all things flaky and buttery in crust form, which in turn made my experience lacking in awesome. I enjoyed the sauce (a bit chunky and tangy) and the mushroom and spinach was a good mix. But that crust. Oh, that crust. Zachary, please take some tips from LA’s Masa of Echo Park.

While walking to our dessert destination in Berkeley after dinner, we stopped at impromptu dessert destination #2, which became #1 – Tara’s Organic Ice Cream. Ice cream was thick, creamy and good but I cannot remember the flavors.

It probably was not a good idea having dessert before dessert but while on “vacation,” you have to do it up, right? Worst excuse to overeat. I’m guilty.

Dessert destination #2 Ici is known for their chocolate filled tip waffle cones and, apparently, Meyor lemon ice cream bars. Didn’t try the bar but ordered a waffle cone with my scoop of COCONUT TOFFEE and something ROSE (ha). The coconut toffee flavor was AMAZING. It easily overshadowed the forgettable rose. Found a winning flavor but the ice cream was too airy for me. Not only that, it melted fast due to this light consistency. Waffle was nothing special either. Reminded me of Drumsticks. I’d go again just for coconut toffee (picture in gallery below).

Sunday was funday. T’was great.

——————————————————-

Like with most of my trips, this one was food centric. No clubs. No parties. Just food and people.

Didn’t have plans. Planned a few leading up to. Then squashed from not responsibly planning. New plans worked out very well. With no expectations, how could one be disappointed? Until the next one, enjoy the rest of the pics below.

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