Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Har gow and tacos and chaat, oh my!
My friend Lina asked me recently if I’d gotten tired of my blog. I protested that I hadn’t, but I think I had, just a bit. But I recently spent a long weekend in San Francisco and got reinspired. I didn’t have any culinary epiphanies, despite the city’s reputation. In fact, I got seriously annoyed that my favorite bakery, Tartine, is no longer a place to have a quiet breakfast with a paper on a weekday morning. I think it was having an intense, packed weekend of opportunities to share good food with people I love, who I hadn’t seen in so long. One of those friends even ended up taking me on an all-afternoon eating tour of the East Bay.
"Zizou" (as she prefers to remain anonymous) did preliminary research, and as you can see, provided a full write-up as well. So I’m not going to repeat everything she said, just highlight my most lasting memories.
1) We went to eleven places!
2) We only ate at eight. The remaining three, we picked up food to eat later.
3) Zizou packed a cooler for stop #3, the meat counter at Café Rouge. She always carries a cooler, “just in case.”
4) I had ice cream that rivaled Il Laboratorio del Gelato and I do not say that lightly. The Catalan flavor at Ici, started by the pastry chef from Chez Panisse, was so good, I didn’t want it to end. It had a curious flavor that I didn’t recognize immediately, a mixture of anise, lemon, and something else that made it special and absolutely inimitable. I ordered it in a cup, to which Zizou said, “What! You want the cone. She’ll take the cone,” turning to the laughing ice cream scooper. She was right. The hand-rolled cone had a nugget of chocolate at the bottom.
5) Vik’s Chaat is as good as I’d hoped all that time I lived in San Francisco and never went there. I especially loved the chapati that came with the hyderabadi fish special—simple, flavorful, chewy, everything a flatbread should be.
6) Tao Yuen in Oakland’s Chinatown had crispy, not at all greasy, tofu skin rolls that I would never have believed could come out of a take-out dim sum place. I think they were 50 cents or something equally obscene.
7) We found at the Cheeseboard a bigger, pizza-only place next door to the cheese shop, with an elderly musical trio performing and young, happy Californians spilling out of the restaurant and just sitting on the grassy median in the middle of the busy two-way street. Pizza as excellent as ever. I love San Francisco when it just does its own thing and doesn’t worry whether its pizza crust lives up to some NY/New Haven ideal.
8) Taco trucks are the best, always.
I did eat dinner afterwards. I told Anne I had to eat vegetables, and she, former Midwestern carnivore, suggested we go to Greens, where I had a very simple and refreshing salad of greens, celery root, cheese, and butter beans. I was embarrassed that the waiter might think I was the kind of woman who only orders salad, but he praised my choice, saying, “Beautiful! That’s my favorite salad!” I was in such a good mood, I only giggled quietly and was thankful for all that the Bay Area had bestowed upon me that day.