San Francisco: The City by the Bay

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Our food walk day. 🙂

We went to Mama’s for breakfast. We were there by 8:30 and only had to wait in line for IMG_2643an hour! Mama’s is a must visit when we’re in SF. The portions are generous and the food is delicious. I had the Florentine Scramble which is scrambled eggs (they must be delicious, since I don’t do eggs, and I reallllllly don’t do scrambled eggs), with spinach, bacon, red onion, and cheese. Also potatoes, and a toasted sour dough baguette. I barely made a dent in all that food. To the extent that the waitress asked if I likedIMG_2645 it when she took away my plate. I assured her it was very good!

After breakfast, we went back to our hotel, took a little rest, then regrouped for the next foray. We rode the bus down to the Sutro Baths. We had visited there a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t able to walk around and see everything up close and this time was my opportunity. The area has some amazing history attached to it.

After exploring and being wind blown, we made our way to the nearby Cliff House where we shared some snacks as a late lunch. Then we rode the bus back to the city center, walked to Lemonade for … what else? some lemonade!

Then to the Marriott Hotel for our usual visit to their View Lounge.  It used to be called the Sky Lounge, (or Skyy??) but now it’s the View. Our waitress there was awe. SOME! She took excellent care of us and was charming and fun! We can’t wait to go back just to enjoy her company. Anyway, drinks, more snacks, and watching the construction of the building nearby took some time. It was fascinating to watch the crane operator. That also necessitated debating and looking up crane operator salaries in San Francisco.

Back to our hotel then. We had leftovers from Luisa’s and snacks from our first night that we put out, but let’s be honest. We’d been snacking all day. No one was really “hungry.” After we ate, we went to the hotel’s restaurant and enjoyed some live music. A jazz group was playing.

We decided to sleep in the next morning, Wednesday, and go to Dottie’s True Blue Cafe, another staple of SF visits, for breakfast. And it’s a good thing I decided to look at the menu first thing Wednesday morning, because I discovered that they’re closed on Wednesdays.

Quick change of plans and we instead went to Lori’s Diner, where we had a coupon for 20% off. The food was good and hearty, the service excellent, but it just wasn’t Dottie’s.

After breakfast, our destination was the Walt Disney Family Museum. Another first for Dave and me. We rode a couple of busses to get there. It’s on the grounds of the old Presidio. It’s phenomenal. We spent several hours there. It’s truly a museum dedicated to the origins of Walt Disney and his family. It begins with his ancestors’ migration from France and Ireland. It’s laid out and organized extremely well. I loved it. I soon gave up trying to read everything, because there is just so much detail. I didn’t realize that Walt was only 65 when he died. What a loss to the creative world …

IMG_2585Another bus ride and we were closer to the Fisherman’s Wharf area and we stopped at the famous Buena Vista Cafe for Irish Coffees. Tony had started a group text before the trip with a link to an article about the cafe and their coffees and the bartender who’s served five million of them.

The experience did not disappoint. We all enjoyed the coffee and shared some fries as sustenance before we walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner at Boudin’s on Pier 39. Dave and I shared clam chowder in a bread bowl and it was as delicious as expected.

Then our little group headed to the highlight of the trip which was a wine tasting bay cruise. Such a fun evening! The cruise was two hours long. IMG_4291It included 5 tastings, plus a bonus “welcome aboard,” taste. The weather was pretty windy and chilly, so we didn’t spend much time outside on the deck. The first 30-40 minutes were pretty rough as we sailed toward the Golden Gate. But once we reached the bridge and turned around, everything was delightful! The water smoothed out. People could walk to the bar for their additional pours. (Instead of having to stagger from post to post, grasping their glass, afraid to let go of either.)

The crew was personable and fun. The customers could join the captain and take pictures behind his station.

From the Golden Gate, we then sailed to the Bay Bridge, to Oracle Park and McCovey Cove. There are blankets on board, if it’s really cold. The whole cruise was wonderful and I highly recommend it!

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We docked at 9:00, walked to a nearby cable car stop and waited for our turn to ride back to the stop near our hotel. By then, we only had about half an hour to enjoy the last of the

night’s jazz musician’s in the hotel restaurant, but it was a great ending to a wonderful day in San Francisco.

And alas, it was the end of our trip. We had to fly out of Fresno at 4:00 the next day,Thursday. Which meant we had to be at the airport by 2:30, leaving our house by 2. We had to do laundry and I had some work to do, so we needed to leave by 7:30 the next morning.

So we said our farewells Wednesday evening, after the jazz musicians finished their set. (Quick interruption–one of them came over to chat–asked us where we were from–turns out he plays sometimes with the Sons of the San Joaquin–Fresno’s pre-eminent cowboy singing group.)

We had a wonderful three full days and two partial days in San Francisco. We loved every minute and we’re so grateful to our generous friends for sharing their lodging with us.

I’m almost up to real time now! I’ll try to get caught up tomorrow. Or the next day …

 

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The Adventure Interlude: Home and SF

July 30 – Aug. 7, 2019

We got home on the 30th and kept busy with laundry, my work, and household stuff. We celebrated a family birthday and got to see the grandkidsIMG_2496. We had hired a lawn service and the guy decided we live too far away and quit, so we scrambled to find someone else. Which we did. Whew! My mom and I took in a presentation of Calamity Jane, starring Louise Mandrell. Dave and I hosted a family gathering on IMG_2503Saturday, August 3rd. Our niece, Katie, and her daughters were visiting from Maryland, so we got to see them and get caught up.

Then Sunday August 4th, we left again. This time for a personal vacation in San Francisco with two couples, both longtime friends. Wally and Deb are moving out of state soon, and they generously shared their timeshare points with us so we had very nice accommodations near Union Square.

We went to church Sunday morning, then we had a bit of tidying up to do around the house from the day before, so we didn’t get away as soon as we’d hoped. Let’s just say Dave made up for the late start by driving like he couldn’t with the trailer behind him in Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota. We got to SF about 5, checked in, found our friends, and settled in with drinks and snacks and catching up and stories and laughter.

Monday was a day of fabulous firsts. We went to Sears for breakfast. I’ve already mentioned my issue with eggs. I ordered one egg, over hard. This was the best restaurant cooked egg I’ve ever had. It was perfect! A first! I neglected to get a picture, because the thing with eggs is, they have to be eaten while still hot. There’s a very slim time margin. But trust me. I’m a very picky egg eater. This one was perfect.

After breakfast, we headed to the Ferry Building, then walked to catch a ferry to Alcatraz. Dave and I had never been there. Another first. It’s a fascinating place, with so much IMG_2525history. It was quite breezy out there and Dave’s audio tour/headphones got out of sync, so he missed some parts, but it was still a great experience. We spent a couple of hours wondering the island.

After coming back to the city, Tony researched restaurants. A mention on the tour of spaghetti in the dining hall had several of us wanting pasta for dinner. Tony found a place with great reviews and we headed there. We found it, but there was a problem … they served no alcohol. After walking 10,000 steps, we needed a glass of wine to go with our spaghetti!

The staff there directed us to their second location, which was more of a sit down place, since their’s was more take-out. We conferred. No one wanted to walk the additional half mile. Luckily, we were in North Beach, which is rich with Italian restaurants. I pointed across the street and squinted. The sign said Luisa’s … Something or other. 

We crossed the street. A lit sign in a window said Pizza. Two men sat at a table on the sidewalk. There were lights on inside, but no other indications that they were open. Now we could read the name of the place: Luisa’s Ristorante.

Little did we know the treat awaiting us.

One of the men out front wore an apron so we asked if they were open. He said yes,  stood, and we entered.

A woman was sitting at a table. We asked again if they were open. A waiter said yes,  gestured to us to choose a table, any table. The woman stood, gathered her papers, and shuffled off. The waiter gave us “menus.” Three sheets of 9×12 papers, stapled together.

IMG_2545The woman shuffled back, sat at our table, and introduced herself as Luisa, ninety-one years old, the owner and chef. She proceeded to show us pictures of celebrities who had dined at her restaurant in the past, including Sophia Loren and Guy Fieri. Her accent was thick, her hair very dark (for ninety-one years old), and her attitude presumptuous. I asked what Guy had eaten and she told me he loved her gnocchi.

On the menu, the gnocchi was listed as, “Gnocchi ***** Yelp” followed by a brief description and the choice of sauces. (I figured out that meant the gnocchi has a 5 star rating on Yelp. We also learned later that she’d recently relocated the ristorante to that North Beach location. SF leases and landlords being unreasonable and all that, you know.)

Tony and Dave asked about the wine selection and Luisa reached for a bottle of red, announced it was her own blend and it was an excellent choice, even if the alcohol content was a bit over what was strictly legal-wink, wink. Tony ordered a bottle for the table. Since I stick to white (red gives me leg cramps), Dave ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio for the table as well. It was realllly good. Deb started with a glass of the red, but she switched to the white after she tasted it.

Then. We attempted to order our dinners. As the first person ordered, Luisa not-so-gently corrected their order. “No. You want that with the pappardelle. I make that. I don’t make the spaghetti.” By the end of the ordering, each of us was looking at Luisa for approval. Dave ordered a Napalese pizza. That passed fine. I ordered the gnocchi. Instead of the four or five sauce options on the menu, she gave me a choice of two: the pesto or the vodka sauce. I chose the vodka, a light pink sauce. IMG_2543Wally chose Luisa’s sauce (pancetta, peas, and a few other ingredients) with his pasta and he said it was excellent.

I’ve ordered gnocchi before. I like it. I always think it’s going to be better than it is.

Until Luisa’s.

I will never order gnocchi anywhere else, ever again.

Ah. May. Zing.

Light. Velvety. Delicious! The sauce was perfect with the gnocchi. I don’t care if I ever eat gnocchi again, because I’ve had them as perfectly as they can ever be made. Another first!

Luisa is a true character. While she sat with us, she shared some of her stories. She zeroed in on the men in our party. (Talk about a flirt!) She knew Tony was a salesman. He’s also Italian, so they traded stories about the old country.

While we were eating and chatting, a young woman bounced in, handed Luisa her resume, and bounced out, in about twelve seconds. She wasn’t out the door three seconds before Luisa ripped the resume in half and tossed it aside. Our table hooted. Kim and I exchanged glances and whispered consultations. That was not the way to go about applying for a job with Luisa.

Another customer came into the restaurant. He sat near us. Listened. Ordered. Luisa paid no attention to him. Another young woman came in with a resume. She did sit and chat with Luisa before leaving. Her resume did not get torn up.

Kim and I watched the other customer order and eat. Remember, this was a Monday. And early in the evening. I’m 90% sure he was a chef. He dined alone. He knew who Luisa was. When he was done, he approached her, introduced himself, chatted for a moment. I wasn’t near enough to hear their conversation, but he was invited to sit. They talked for several minutes. I’m quite sure he was either scoping out the competition or applying for a job. And he knew how to go about it, not like the first young woman with the resume that got torn up.

We finally left to catch a cable car back to our hotel. Our whole experience was wonderful. And all because the takeout place across the street didn’t have a liquor license.

I have two more days in San Francisco to talk about and two travel days to Des Moines to catch up on. We are safely in Des Moines. After some delays and excitement in Denver. But this post is already too long. I’ll continue to post and catch up in the next few days. Thank you for reading!!

 

 

 

Food Talk Friday: San Francisco Eateries

I’m writing this a few days before we head to San Francisco. It’ll be posting the day after we get home.

I’m so conflicted.

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I know there are great restaurants in the city that we will try. In fact, I know there are far more great restaurants in the city that we will be able to try.

Sigh.

 

For sure on our agenda is Mama’s. We’re going with friends who have been raving about this place for years. Literally, years. So I’m excited to see what the fuss is all about.

When we watch Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, I make note of places that sound especially yummy and are in cities I might visit. My San Francisco list is pretty extensive.

Sigh. Again.

Next week, I’ll write about where we went, what we ate, and what we thought. And what we’re sorry we missed and what we’ll be going be back for.

Because you know we’ll be going back.