If You're Going to San Francisco
I moved to Vancouver knowing no humans. I was aware of a couple. Friends of friends I went on blind dates with. Blind friend dates are basically the worst. It's like a regular date, but without the possibility of making out and you have to pay for your own drinks. What?
Then I met a great one. She was cool, smart, delightfully mean, from my city (Toronto, don't forget me!) and brand new just like me. Ready for adventure and all the best trouble. Our first night we ate pizza, drank good wine and talked about life and boys and vancouver and the rush and pains of starting somewhere new.
Before our second meeting she asked if I wanted to come to San Francisco. That afternoon using the wifi at my closest pho restaurant - still having no furniture or internet or bowl - I booked my ticket to travel with a stranger and stay with another stranger, a friend of hers I had never met and knew little about. Who does that?! It is insane! Traveling with people is so hard! And yet, as an outsider, I am all about yeses and San Francisco is cheap and close and seemed beautiful and what was the worst that could happen. #murder
Since then we have hung out all of the times: eating and drinking and hiking and eating more, so that when we met in the airport lounge for overpriced New Zealand Pinot and the worst "Gamay" that has ever passed my lips - all stale candy and spoiled milk - she wasn't a weird stranger at all, but boy could things have gone the other way. I love that.
San Fran is less than 3 hours from Vancouver. The flight was a dream. Leaving after work and arriving for dinner, full of bad wine and strangers' perfume.
That night we stayed with her friend, the head of a tech start up living in the mission - San Francisco's coolest area. He took us to a busy taqueria and we drank Albarino from Rias Baixas between large mouthfulls of guacamole and hormone-free sustainably-raised beef tacos #newamerica. As an aside, this is one of my favourite regions for consistently great restuarant wine plus so fun to say: ree-ass by-shas. It is aromatic and crisp and salty and hard to go wrong.
Here are some tips and all of the photos because SF is so pretty and you should probably go.
Start: at Tartine Bakery. Get the croissant and the bread pudding and the breakfast roll and two coffees each. Pick at these baked goods slowly. They are the croissantification of the goddess of butter herself. Move slowly and bow down. Get there early and be prepared to wait. Make a face about the line. Wait anyways. Watch the buzz of the bakery behind you as you salivate over the daily offering and order 35% more than you could ever eat.
Befriend someone in the tech world. San Francisco is home to all of the techy start ups and many of them are manned by single awkward men, totally looking for new friends so your chances are pretty good. Memorize some stats about video games and MIT professors and where Mark Zuckerberg summers and your chances just improved another 30%.
Visit them in their beyond stunning dream like studios. Wonder if you are in the wrong career. Pose in front of their office, as if on break from a particularly onerous coding session and yes you did #wakeuplikethis.
Go with them and their impressively large, young, attractive if not poorly dressed staff to one of SF's most famous restaurants Mission Chinese. You will arrive and think it is the wrong place because it looks like a total crap hole. This is intentional. Go inside. Go hungry. Order the fresh rice noodles, Ma Po Tofu, Rice Cakes & anything else you can fit into your body. Down it with big bottles of Mexican coke and nod your head because the wind is likely blowing and this will definitely warm you up. Walk through the kitchen to use the bathroom avoiding the chefs with big knives and giant pots of cooking rice.
Afterwards, explore the touristy warf to walk off the salt cod fried rice and lamb ribs. If you are more organized than us, Alcatraz is supposed to be actually not lame and touristy, but genuinely badass and cool, though you'll need to book ahead.
Stop by the Musée Mechanique, an impressively large collection of antique games that still work and will make you wish you lived in the 1920s.
If you have a couple of days and one is sunny, you should drive to Big Sur along California's famous Highway 1. It is one of the world's most famous highways, snaking from Carmel River in Monterey County south to San Luis Obispo Country and offering the craziest outlooks along the away. Stop at all the places and if you are organzied and have good shoes do a hike. Say hi to the other tourists because they are definitely tourists, probably friendly and you need someone to take your photo.
Arrive home super tired and full of colour and texture and inspiration and road side mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches.
Realize it is Saturday night and every single restaurant in the mission has a 3 hour wait. Go to North Beach because it is fun and cool, only to realize that it is fun and cool and everything also has a 3 hour wait. In a moment of sad desperation go to the shitty, giant looking Italian place where the waiters are all men in suits and be escorted to their cavernous basement strangely adorned in Christmas lights. Tourists are everywhere and the waiter asks 3 times if you know what Burrata is.
Instead of being pissed, resolve to have the best time ever. Order Chablis - another restaurant list go to. We ended up talking wine quite a bit and I was asked why I loved Chablis - what it is, where it comes from and why it is so delicious...
Chablis is Chardonnay from cool-climate northern Burgundy. It is typically unoaked and made with a ton of lees stirring. Backkkk up: when wine is produced the sugar in grapes is converted to alcohol and C02 by yeast (that can be ambient yeast in our environment or added commercial yeast for greater control of the final product, but maybe less expressiveness of place). These yeast cells then die and can be removed easily as they settle to the bottom of tanks. Many winemakers choose to keep the lees and stir them occasionally (bâtonage) in tank or barrel to create texture and complexity. The lees-y characteristics are super easy to spot if you're looking for them as they taste like yeast and baking bread and brioche and can have a nutty quality. Chablis is full of lees contact. So is Champagne. So is Sancerre. These wines are bright and high in delightfuly sharp acidity, but with such complex mid-palates. Compared to a simple white wine that tastes lemon-limey and neutral and pleasant, these wines have layers and finish and something to chew on. They are great with so many foods, but especially fish or light fare or bad moods. Does that make any sense? Yes? No? Maybe? Isn't wine fun! Anyways: always order Chablis it is the best. Even bad Chablis will be pretty good and great Chablis is the stuff of revelations.
Wake up with the sun on your last day to coffee and a great book and the best SF view.
Before you go bike the Golden Gate bridge. It is touristy for a reason and so so beautiful. Afterwards eat burritos, drink Sancerre (more fresh, complex white wine - notice a theme) and be ready to return to the rain cause what a weekend.