I Heart San Francisco

“Do you know where this would never happen? In California”

Whenever anything I don’t like happens (it doesn’t matter what, bad weather, unfortunate events, etc), I would pose this rhetorical question to Ben or anyone else who’s nearby. Then I sigh and long for home. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been away or what my tax forms say where my official domicile is. In my heart, California is always home. I wax poetic about California with a zealous fervor that can only drummed by those who truly believe. I love California and leaving California 8 years ago hasn’t diminished my love for her. If anything, I’ve become even more stalwart in my love for the Golden State.

I particularly miss the San Francisco Bay Area, so I’ve been looking forward to this trip for a while. Though I’m only here for a short time, I’m making the most of it.

First: Lunch

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Chicken enchiladas. NY has nothing over CA when it comes to Mexican food.

Next: Dessert

20130516-200402.jpgHoney Lavender and Toasted Coconut from Bi-Rite Creamery

Yes, Bi-Rite lives up to its hype. Being a foodie I’ve long heard of Bi-Rite from my friends who still live in SF and from my traveling foodie friends. Living in NY, it’s not like I don’t have access to artisanal locally-made ice cream, but that doesn’t make me yearn any less to taste and experience what’s available elsewhere. Bi-Rite makes their own ice cream in small batches with organic milk and cream. This is what they say about their ice cream (from their website)

Early on, we became obsessed with making the most intensely flavored ice cream possible; we felt that all too often, ice cream didn’t taste enough of whatever it was supposed to be. We believed that lemon ice cream should be really lemony, butter pecan should taste like butter and pecans, and chocolate should be intensely chocolatey.

They have some classic flavors all year around, but the seasonal flavors are truly special. I got a small cone, which is two small scoops. I had to get their famous honey lavender ice cream and toasted coconut for my second scoop. The honey lavender tasted like sunshine and California. The rich honey melded together beautifully with the fragrant lavender. The redolent scent of lavender evoked memories of warm summer afternoons out on a patio. I polished off the cone in a few minutes and then I was promptly sad that I didn’t get a larger scoop. I enjoyed the ice cream at Dolores Park. I wasn’t the only person enjoying myself on a lovely spring day. Several other people around me were also sitting on the grass licking their own cones from Bi-Rite.

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Sunday Afternoon at Dolores Park

I had an “interesting” experience at Bi-Rite, which reinforced into me just how long I’d been away from California.

There was a bit of a line to get into Bi-Rite (it’s popular!). Although I had stared at the menu while waiting, I hadn’t quite made up my mind by the time I got to the counter. There were so many wonderful flavors! Rather than being impatient, everyone around me was really happy to wait and absolutely understood why I hadn’t made up my mind yet. In NY, everyone behind me would have been annoyed that I hadn’t made up my mind yet. It’s all about go, go, go in NYC.

Then when I ordered, as the server was scooping and shaping the ice cream, she asked me how I was doing.

I didn’t think much of this at first. To me, it was all a part of idle chatter that people do in the name of good customer service.

“Good,” I absentmindedly answered. She looked up at me expectantly. She peered at me and nodded her head much the same way you would to a little kid or a recalcitrant student to encourage them to elaborate. I told her that I had just arrived from New York and was in the area for my sister’s graduation. She beamed with delight and began actually conversing with me. Not making small talk or the polite nothings to say to strangers, but real conversation.

I was startled and taken aback at first because this type of interaction doesn’t really happen in NYC. People don’t really talk to strangers in this context. We’re too busy. We’re on our way somewhere or we’re already talking to someone else (or rather texting someone else). We’re engaged in something else other than what is right in front of us. And yeah, we don’t smile and act friendly a whole lot.

I remember when I was in college and regularly met people who were from places other than CA, how they would comment about how friendly, happy, and nice everyone was in California. I shrugged my shoulders and didn’t think much of it because I hadn’t ever lived anywhere else before. I had no other frame of reference, so Californian behavior was, to me, how people always behaved.

Coming back I realize now just how discombobulating this can be when you’re used to more standoffish behavior.

I hung out in the Mission District for the rest of the afternoon. It’s changed a lot since I left. When I was there, the Mission was a grittier and far unsafer neighborhood. Walking around I can see how much gentrification has taken place. I passed by several cafes, upscale restaurants, quirky bookstores, and cute little boutiques. Not to mention all the hipsters. Several years ago I could not have imagined myself wanting to live in the Mission, nor walking there late at night, but now I can see that the streets are perfectly fine. I loved walking around and exploring and could see myself living here.

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This is a real hill.

I had dinner and spent the night over at old friend’s place. He had to leave rather early because he was flying somewhere for work. I had go the Expo to pick up the race bibs for me and my sister, but the Expo didn’t open until 11. So I decided to kill some time by walking to Dynamo Donut from his place. I always scoff whenever NYers complain about hills in either Central or Prospect Park. Those are not hills. No one in SF would even notice them. The photo I have on the right is what we call HILLS. And I walked several of them on my way to Dynamo Donut. I think NYers would just see the hills in SF and keel over and die. Having lived in the Bay Area for 10 years, this is what I think of when I think of hills. Anything less than this and I call it flat.

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Cars can’t be parked parallel to sidewalk on the steep hills.

I crossed this pretty blue footbridge on my way to Dynamo. I was charmed. I really do love bridges.

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Breakfast of Champions: Donuts

20130518-200418.jpgI have one particular friend who really loves their donuts, so I really had to try one (or three).

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Several delicious flavors

They offer several wonderful flavors and they make the donuts fresh every day.

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I loved that customers had a great view of them making donuts just behind the order counter.

20130518-200452.jpgAs nice as the donuts are at Dynamo, I love their backyard patio even more. Several tables, along with umbrellas for shade, and a long bar at the back provided plenty of seating. Flowers grew wildly and luxuriously. It was the perfect setting for drinking coffee and writing poetry as one guy did. The rest of us, drank our coffee and ate our donuts.

The donuts were fresh. The flavors were interesting and inventive, but in the end, I think I have to give NYC the edge on donuts. It’s really hard to beat the Doughnut Plant, when it comes to yeast donuts. Still, I would love to come back just to drink coffee and sit in the lovely patio.

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Coconut, Spiced Chocolate, and Maple-Glazed Bacon Apple Donut

I loved my brief time in SF.

Til next time!

2 thoughts on “I Heart San Francisco

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